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Category: Whatnot (Page 1 of 5)

How to make the perfect cup of coffee – with a little help from science

Jamie Foster, University of Portsmouth and Christopher H. Hendon, University of Oregon

Have you ever wondered why the coffee you make at home tastes different from the drinks you buy in cafes? Or why coffee from the same place can taste different throughout the week? You may be quick to blame the barista for changing the recipe, but our recent study, published in Matter, suggests that this variation is down to an inherent inconsistency of common brewing methods.

Luckily, we believe to have discovered a path to making a great espresso – to your taste – every time.

The quality of a cup of coffee depends on the coffee’s variety and origin, its roast and the water chemistry. The brewing method also plays a critical role in determining the overall flavor. Espresso is certainly the most complicated brewing method because it requires precise measurements. However, espresso also happens to underpin all coffee menus, as it is the basis for lattes and cappuccinos. Continue reading

100 seconds to midnight » Doomsday Clock moves closest ever to midnight

I long been fascinated, and just a little terrified, by the Doomsday Clock that is updated every January by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

It had last been set at two minutes to midnight. However, the symbolic countdown that represents the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe was reduced by 20 seconds, and now sits at 100 seconds to midnight thanks to the “existential danger” from nuclear war and climate change.

Civilization-ending nuclear war—whether started by design, blunder, or simple miscommunication—is a genuine possibility. Climate change that could devastate the planet is undeniably happening. And for a variety of reasons that include a corrupted and manipulated media environment, democratic governments and other institutions that should be working to address these threats have failed to rise to the challenge.

The Doomsday Clock, created at the University of Chicago by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in 1947, is intended to metaphorically alert mankind to our march toward nuclear Armageddon.

Originally set at seven minutes to midnight, it retreated as far away as 17 minutes from global catastrophe following the signing of the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the US and the Soviet Union along with the break-up of the Soviet Union. It had reached just two minutes to midnight in 1953 at the height of the Cold War.

“The former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, said »

We are 100 seconds from midnight and the planet needs to wake up.

In a statement on the change, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists President and CEO Rachel Bronson said:

As far as the Bulletin and the Doomsday Clock are concerned, the world has entered into the realm of the two-minute warning, a period when danger is high and the margin for error low. The moment demands attention and new, creative responses. If decision makers continue to fail to act—pretending that being inside two minutes is no more urgent than the preceding period—citizens around the world should rightfully echo the words of climate activist Greta Thunberg and ask: “How dare you?”

More » Wikipedia, Ars Technica, BBC

Canada ranked 2nd best country in the world

Canada has been ranked as the second best country globally, according to the 2020 Best Countries report by US News & World Report.

This year’s rankings are:

  1. Switzerland
  2. Canada
  3. Japan
  4. Germany
  5. Australia
  6. United Kingdom
  7. United States
  8. Sweden
  9. Netherlands
  10. Norway
  11. New Zealand
  12. France
  13. Denmark
  14. Finland
  15. China
  16. Singapore
  17. Italy
  18. Austria
  19. Spain
  20. South Korea

Canada climbed one spot from 2019’s ranking, where we were ranked third behind Switzerland and Japan.

Switzerland has held the first place in the annual ranking for fourth consecutive year.

Read the whole US News & World Report.

Ukraine International Airline jet crashes killing 176, including 82 Iranians and 63 Canadians

Another Boeing 737 jetliner crashes. This one only 3 years old.

Ukranian owned. American built. Departing from Tehran, Iran. Headed for Kyiv. No Russians or Americans on board.


Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 to Kyiv went down just minutes after taking off from Tehran’s airport at 06:12 local time (02:42 GMT).

The majority of passengers were from Iran and Canada.

Ukraine’s Tehran embassy initially blamed engine failure but later removed the statement.

It said any comment regarding the cause of Wednesday’s accident prior to a commission’s inquiry was not official.


Among the victims were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians including all nine crew, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Britons and three Germans, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko said. Fifteen of the dead were children.

In a press conference later in the day, Prime Minister Trudeau revealed that 138 passengers on Flight PS752 from Tehran to Kyiv were connecting to Canada.

More » CBCThe Guardian, ReutersAssociated Press

For people with atrial fibrillation (Afib), cutting out alcohol may be beneficial

Gene Emery, Reuters »

Eliminating most alcohol consumption dramatically cuts the number of episodes of the potentially-deadly heart rhythm disturbance among moderate and heavy drinkers, according to results of a six-month Australian study of 140 volunteers published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

While atrial fibrillation (AF), or Afib, reappeared in 73% of the people who averaged 13 drinks per week, the rate dropped to 53% among patients in the abstinence group – who weren’t supposed to drink at all but, on average, consumed two drinks weekly.


The findings are not completely surprising. Population-based research had suggested that every drink (12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or a 1.5 ounce of distilled spirits) increases the risk of atrial fibrillation by 8%. The new randomized trial was designed to be a definitive test.

Related » Alcohol Abstinence in Drinkers with Atrial Fibrillation » The New England Journal of Medicine

Nearly half of American adults will be obese within 10 years

Brian P. Dunleavy, UPI »

Researchers at T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University, who will have their findings published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, also suggest that more than half of the population in 29 U.S. states will be obese.

Currently, the analysis estimates that 40 percent of American adults are obese, with 18 percent severely so.

“Prevention is going to be key to better managing this epidemic” of obesity,” lead author Zachary Ward, programmer/analyst at Harvard’s Center for Health Decision Science, said in a press release.

Migrating Russian eagles run up huge SMS data roaming charges


Russian scientists tracking migrating eagles ran out of money after some of the birds flew to Iran and Pakistan and their SMS transmitters drew huge data roaming charges.


The SMS messages deliver the birds’ coordinates as they migrate, and the team then use satellite photos to see if the birds have reached safe locations. Power lines are a particular threat for the steppe eagles, which are endangered in Russia and Central Asia.

They are currently tracking 13 eagles. The birds breed in Siberia and Kazakhstan, but fly to South Asia for the winter.

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