Smell the Rain

Have you ever smelled the aroma that lingers after it rains?

Scientists call it “petrichor,” and since the 1960s, they’ve believed it comes from oils and chemicals that are released when raindrops hit the ground.

Now, for the first time, scientists at MIT have used high-speed cameras to show how that “rain smell” gets into the air, just check out the video for a look at their footage:

For the research, Buie and post-doctoral researcher Youngsoo Joung filmed raindrops as they hit a variety of surfaces, including 16 different soil samples. They also varied the intensity and speed of the “rainfall”–from light to heavy–by dropping the water from different heights.

They found that when a raindrop hits a porous surface, tiny bubbles form inside the droplet. These bubbles grow bigger and float upward–like bubbles in a glass of champagne. When the bubbles reach the surface, they burst and release a “fizz of aerosols” into the air.

They also noticed that light and moderate rain, which falls at a slower rate, tends to produce more aerosols compared to the heavy rain–which explains why petrichor is more common after a light rain.

The research was published on Jan. 14 in the journal Nature Communications.

Salon Writer Goes #FullMcIntosh on Charlie Hebdo Solidarity

It turns out that if you’re standing in solidarity with the slain staff of Charlie Hebdo, you’re engaged in an unconscionable act of white privilege.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, allow me to show you the tumblr trigger-fit thrown by Salon’s Brittney Cooper as a result of her watching the Golden Globes:

“As I watched multiple white celebrities don the stage and stand in solidarity with the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack and other innocent bystanders, I marveled at the privilege that they had of being specific. Even though some people of color were casualties of the attacks in Paris, by and large this was an attack on white French satirists whose bread and butter was the routine disrespect of the Muslim community. Attacks on largely white victims received a huge and committed show of solidarity, while the Black Lives Matter Movement that has consumed our news cycle for the last four months was apparently not even worthy of mention.”

Here we have a recurrence of the false narrative that satirizing a long-dead “prophet” is tantamount to a “routine disrespect of the Muslim community” as people, which has been a depressingly common theme with twitter. Cooper calls it the magazine’s “bread and butter,” demonstrating that she has no familiarity whatsoever with Charlie Hebdo.

As an internet social justice activist, Cooper is uniquely trained to spot racism, even where none exists. Note how she acknowledges that the Black Lives Matter movement “has consumed our news cycle for the last four months,” which would seem to indicate the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in Staten Island (where Cooper erroneously thinks the Statue of Liberty is located), and Tamir Rice in Cleveland have in fact been at the forefront of the national discussion.

Those killings, however, happened in August and November, and the most recent major news related to them was the non-indictment of Garner’s killer and the massive protests that ensued. That was over a month ago, a century in terms of the news cycle. The attack on Charlie Hebdo, however, happened a mere five days before the Golden Globes, which is one reason why it was on the celebrities’ minds.

Another reason it was on those celebrities’ minds can be summed up in one word: art. The cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were killed for practicing their profession as artists, which is what the actors, directors, musicians, choreographers, and others recognized at the Golden Globes are.

Whether or not Cooper liked the work of Charb and the other murdered Hebdo cartoonists is irrelevant. They died because they drew pictures, and that’s an unsettling idea for any artist or performer. Hence the solidarity, about which Cooper proceeds to say:

“The attacks on Charlie Hebdo are absolutely devastating. But the Je Suis Charlie movement among white American liberals is nothing short of disingenuous. It represents an attempt to displace black people from the center of a political moment that has been about state-sanctioned terror against black people. The fervor of white celebrities to speak of their white counterparts abroad while managing not to say even one word about the movements for racial justice happening here at home strikes me as being part and parcel of liberal white dishonesty on questions of race.“

Cooper has never met me, but since I am a “white American liberal” she knows my thoughts. Since she’s been studying social justice for so many years, which entitles her to draw conclusions and make sweeping generalizations about me and other white people. And that’s why she knows that when I say, “Je suis Charlie,” that I am engaged in an attempt to “displace black people” like Brown, Garner, and Rice “from the center of a political moment.”

It’s not because I want to stand up for the right to free speech; it’s not because I think cartoonists shouldn’t be killed for what they draw; it’s not because I think writers such as myself and Cooper shouldn’t be threatened with violence for what we write; it’s not because I resent the totalitarian nature of radical Islam; but it’s because I am a racist who wants to push black issues aside, out of the limelight so that I may help perpetuate the institutional oppression that my race has been perpetrating on people of color for centuries.

But wait, there’s more:

“White celebrities saw no issue with standing in solidarity with a newspaper that routinely antagonizes Islamic communities under the auspices of free speech. Freedom of speech is, of course, fundamental to creative practice, and defense of it is warranted. But failure to stand for freedom of speech, without also acknowledging the ways it has been used by Charlie Hebdo to antagonize Muslims is absolutely egregious.”

Cooper then says, “I’m not saying blame the victim,” immediately after blaming the victim.  It’s astounding that social justices activists reserve so much  more vitriol for the murdered cartoonists and their defenders than they does the killers. In fact, Cooper doesn’t mention them at all.

What Happened to the Rapa Nui?

What really happened to the native Polynesians who lived on Easter Island?

Researchers have argued that the Rapa Nui, as the islanders were known, died out after using up the natural resources on their 63-square-mile speck of land in the southeastern Pacific Ocean. Others say the island’s population collapsed after Europeans brought foreign diseases and took many survivors as slaves.

New research suggests another possibility: that harsh environmental conditions on the island, from variations in rainfall to declining soil quality, caused a decline, but not a total collapse, in the native population before the Europeans arrived in 1722.

The researchers analyzed and dated 428 obsidian tools and flakes of obsidian rock found at various archaeological sites on the island. By dating the tools and rocks, the researchers were able to determine when and how the ancient Rapa Nui population used land and natural resources in different parts of the island.

What did the researchers find? Land use and resources varied across the island, moreso reflecting environmental constraints than an abuse of the environment.

The researchers note in their paper that their work could be useful in the study of other prehistoric societies that experienced sudden collapses.

The paper was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on January 5.