Researchers suggest adding uncertainty to catastrophe models may help predictability

(—A small team of researchers with members from Universidad de Granada and Princeton University has found that adding some uncertainty to computer models meant to predict catastrophes such as stock market crashes, rapid desertification of a region, etc. can help make the models better. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes how they employed mathematical models that allow for adding in randomness to catastrophe prediction models and what they found by doing so. —> Read More

New Research Says Anne Frank Likely Died A Month Earlier

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Teenage Jewish diarist Anne Frank likely died of typhus in a Nazi concentration camp about a month earlier than previously thought, the Amsterdam museum that honors her memory said Tuesday on the 70th anniversary of the officially recognized date of her death.

Anne likely died, aged 15, at Bergen-Belsen camp in February 1945, said Erika Prins, a researcher at the Anne Frank House museum. Frank’s diary about hiding from the Nazis in the occupied Netherlands during World War II was published after the war. It became an international best-seller and made her an enduring symbol of Holocaust victims.

The new date of her death changes little about the tragic lives of Anne and her sister Margot, who went into hiding with their family in an Amsterdam canal house but were eventually betrayed, sent to Nazi concentration camps and died in the Holocaust along with millions of other Jews.

“It was horrible. It was terrible. And it still is,” Prins said.

But she said the new date lays to rest the idea that the sisters could have been rescued if they had lived just a little longer.

“When you say they died at the end of March, it gives you a feeling that they died just before liberation. So maybe if they’d lived two more weeks …,” Prins said, her voice trailing off. “Well, that’s not true anymore.”

Allied forces liberated the Nazis’ Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on April 15, 1945.

The earlier March 31 date of Anne’s death was set by Dutch authorities after the war, based on accounts suggesting she and her sister died sometime in March. At the time, Dutch officials did not have the resources to establish an exact date.

The new research studied existing eyewitness accounts, documents and archives, including at least one new interview. Witness accounts said Anne —> Read More

Do mobile devices in the classroom really improve learning outcomes?

Mobile devices as teaching tools are becoming a more and more common part of the American education experience in classrooms, from preschool through graduate school. A recent Pew Research Center survey found that 58% of U.S. teachers own smartphones—10 percentage points higher than the national average for adults. Those teachers are building that tech-savviness into their lesson plans, too, by embracing bring-your-own-device policies and leading the push for an iPad for every student. In 2013, an estimated 25% of U.S. schools had BYOD policies in place and it’s reasonable to assume those numbers have risen in the past two years. —> Read More

Real-Life ‘Tatooine’ Planets With Two Suns May Be More Common Than Previously Thought

tatooine planets

Luke Skywalker’s home planet, Tatooine, may exist only in the make-believe world of Star Wars, but astronomers have long known that planets with two suns exist in the real world too.

So far, mostly gas giant planets have been observed orbiting twin stars. But a new study suggests that rocky Earth-like planets can form in binary star systems — and are likely quite common in the universe.

Tatooine sunsets may be common after all,” study co-author Dr. Ben Bromley, an astrophysicist at the University of Utah, said in a written statement. “For over a decade, astrophysicists believed that planets like Earth could not form around most binary stars, at least not close enough to support life.”

(Story continues below image.)

In this acrylic painting, Bromley illustrates the view of a double sunset from an uninhabited Earth-like planet orbiting a pair of stars.

Astrophysicists had speculated that the uneven gravitational pull of twin stars would prevent orbiting rocks and dust from coalescing to form Earth-like planets — and even send planet-forming material on destructive collision courses.

“Planets form like dust bunnies under your bed, glomming together to make larger and larger objects,” study co-author Dr. Scott Kenyon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said in the statement. “When planets form around a binary, the binary scrambles up the dust bunnies unless they are on just the right orbit.”

The researchers used computer simulations and mathematical models to show that Earth-like planets could indeed form in a binary star system — that is, if the planet-forming material orbits its host stars in a concentric, oval-shaped orbit. And the resulting rocky planets may be able to survive for tens of thousands of years, The Telegraph reported.

The takeaway, according to Bromley, is that it’s just as —> Read More

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