We made it! Christmas Day has come and gone here in the States, and as the Holiday season wraps up, we wondered: how did people around the world spend their holidays?

And because we’re a speculative blog, that question in turn led us to wondering: how did people not on this world spend their holidays?!

So, a-searchin’ for answers we went, and we found some fun facts about how Christmas is celebrated in Outer Space …

Continue reading “THE HOLIDAYS IN SPACE”

Do You Smell That? … It’s Broccoli Gas

For as long as we’ve gazed up at the heavens and attempted to count the stars, that often posed, age-old question has continued to linger in the minds of our scientists and our SF authors …

Continue reading “Do You Smell That? … It’s Broccoli Gas”

Earth’s Next Mass Extinction Might Be 400 Years Away

With all the stuff in the news about solar flares, rising sea levels, and asteroids zipping by Earth, a lot of people are probably getting pretty nervous about the end of times. 

And there are certainly a lot of ways it could go down. A powerful geomagnetic storm could render our communications and electronics useless, leading to mass hysteria. Or, an asteroid could put us right next to the dinosaurs. 

But the future doesn’t have to be all fire and brimstone. New studies have shown that the timeline for Earth’s next mass extinction is quite a long ways away, and contradicts some of the other climate crisis predictions. 

This isn’t to say that we can slack off right now and continue on our path–we certainly can not–but it gives a bit more time to course correct. 

Rising Temperatures Write Our Future

Climate scientists in Japan have come up with new data that suggests that Earth’s next mass extinction might not take place for another few centuries. 

Kunio Kaiho, a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at Tohoku University, has been studying the events that led to the previous mass extinction events in Earth’s history in hopes of better understanding what the future holds. 

His findings have suggested that for intense climate change events, temperatures had to drop by 7 degrees Celsius or rise by at least 9 degrees Celsius to spark an extinction-level event. 

For context, the previously accepted average temperature rise to trigger a mass extinction was 5.2 degrees Celsius. Kaiho’s estimates certainly give us a much broader timeline than we previously thought. 

But even though we might have a breath of fresh air for a few more years, that doesn’t mean we’re not quickly approaching the next big, worldwide natural disaster. Let’s take a look at the past extinction events so we can see what’s potentially in store:

Sixth One Is The Charm

In all of Earth’s history (or what we are able to assume about Earth’s history), there have been five major extinction events. 

According to the American Museum of Natural History, the five mass extinctions can be identified as follows:

  • Ordovician-silurian extinction – 440 million years ago
  • Denovian extinction – 365 million years ago
  • Permian-triassic extinction – 250 million years ago
  • Triassic-jurassic extinction – 210 million years ago
  • Cretaceous-tertiary extinction – 65 million years ago

The last extinction, which occurred more than 65 million years ago, is thought to have eradicated 50% of all plant and animal species that were alive at the time. And in total, all extinction events have destroyed upwards of 99% of all life, from plants and animals, to insects and single cell organisms.

Most of these extinctions were the result of a few things. Drastic changes in temperature caused sudden ice ages or sweltering heat waves. Other phenomena also played a part in a few mass extinctions, stuff like meteorite strikes or super-volcano eruptions. 

Kaiho and his colleagues believe that the upcoming sixth extinction will be quite hot, with subsequent sea level changes due to melting ice caps. But, their estimation puts the 6th event sometime in 2500, which is far enough away that we’ll never live to see it. 

Timelines Can Change

But, just because our children and grandchildren might not live to see the world end, doesn’t mean there won’t be a build up to the main event. 

Loss of biodiversity is the first big indicator of upcoming extinctions. Data gathered from thousands of different sources suggests that there are more than 40,000 different species threatened with extinction right now, and another 900 that we’ve already lost since the 1500s. 

Things that we grew up knowing and caring for, like Monarch butterflies, might be a thing of the past by the time our grandchildren are old enough to care. 

Kaiho’s prediction of 2500 gives us less than 500 years to right our path, and far less than that if we stay on our current trajectory. In his study, he claimed that the Earth’s temperature is already set to increase more than 4 degrees Celsius by the end of 2100. 

And isn’t that what climate scientists have been saying for years? That our Earth is at a saturation point with pollution, greenhouse gasses, and other human-made problems. 

So even if Kaiho is right, and we have much more time than we thought we did, we can’t slack off now. The next few years are critical for the future. Humanity might survive until 2500, but what will those 470-some years look like? Hot, dry, and filled with plague?

We see so many science fiction stories that portray stark white, technologically god-like societies, or the opposite side, with bleak, dystopian politics and barren wastelands. 

What we really need is a goal, concrete and attainable. Personally, I think Solarpunk presents that goal for now–and while it might not be the end-all-be-all, it’s certainly a start.

NFTs That Exchange Novelty for Utility

Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) aren’t a new invention. They’ve been around in one capacity or another for a couple of years now. But they’re really getting popular now because of mainstream news outlets and investors on social media.

We’ve talked about some of the problems of NFTs before, but recently, there’s kind of been a shift in the way we think about NFTs.

A lot of the popular collections that have made press in mainstream media are purely artistic collectibles. They have no inherent value or purpose other than being a digital asset with a prescribed value.

When compared with cryptocurrency in general, these collectible NFTs serve far less function than a lot of people realize.

With Ethereum, you can purchase goods and services from online vendors (and some in-person places, too), hold onto it as an investment, or stake your ETH for interest.

With a collectible NFT, like a Bored Ape, you’re pretty much just holding onto it as a clout item or trying to flip it for profit. There’s not much else you can do with it.

That’s where many creators and crypto enthusiasts get caught up. Outside of the hype for these projects, what do they have to offer? And that’s where utility NFTs come into play.

Understanding NFT Utility

Where collectible NFTs have real no function other than being a novelty used by flippers to make a profit, utility NFTs come with some kind of inherent value or use outside of simply turning it around for a quick buck.

As a hypothetical explanation, let’s say you have a video game that relies heavily on weapon selection over real skill. The better gear you have, the better you are at the game.

We talked about how Counterstrike skins are like NFTs in the last blog, but they fall into the collectible NFT section. Other than adding cosmetic value, they don’t do anything else.

A utility NFT for a video game would be something you buy that has a use in-game that’s non-cosmetic. It could be a sword with reduced weight for faster swings, or a gun that has a higher rate of fire and more accuracy. These elements are what make the NFT useful, and that’s why people will buy them. Not only can they still look cool as a collectible item, there’s a functional purpose for owning them.

Additionally, some utility NFTs today provide more than just a digital asset. Some of them, like Jigen, provide an article of digital clothing for the Metaverse, as well as a physical edition of the clothing. You’re buying the NFT, but receiving both a digital and physical asset.

Why Adding Utility Solves Some NFT Problems

A lot of people that are serious about the NFT community always complain about the pump-and-dump schemes. Creators will hype up a project, profit off sales, and disappear, leaving buyers questioning the whole purpose of the project in the first place. The same goes for crypto tokens that started popping up after Dogecoin and Shiba Inu took the Internet by storm.

Utility NFTs solve this problem by providing users with a value other than an investment opportunity. With collectible NFTs, your use for them is controlled solely by market factors, much like a stock or other investment.

But with Utility NFTs, chances are you bought it for its functional purpose, and aren’t as concerned with the monetary potential in flipping it. This, overall, levels out the concerns a lot of people have with the NFT market.

Are we in a bubble right now? Will NFTs faze out in a few years when the novelty wears off? Maybe, but with an inherent use that gives value to users, NFTs will be a lot harder to rule out as a viable method of transferring goods and services.

Applications for Utility NFTs (In a Sci Fi Sense)

You might be wondering how many NFT projects actually have applications for the sci fi enthusiast, and it’s a reasonable question.

In a world that’s looking wackier and more dystopian every day, some utility NFTs can seem like they’re breaching privacy, weakening economic structures, and pulling the wool over the eyes of buyers.

Here are some examples of how utility NFTs are changing the digital landscape for good:

Nebula Genomics – This company is using blockchain technology to provide complete genome sequencing for people across the world. Where their counterparts collect and store DNA data—doing who knows what with it—Nebula Genomics makes their process 100% anonymous with a “blockchain-enabled multiparty access control system”. And, they’ve even shown they have the capability to turn complete genome sequences into NFTs, with their auction of Professor George Church’s genome data as an NFT. – Where Nebula Genomics provides a service to the general public, Molecule is dedicated to provide top-tier research to medical and scientific professionals. On their website, Molecule states that it specializes in “funding, collaborating and transacting early-stage biopharma research projects”. Molecule allows researchers to connect with investors who will receive NFT data, and it facilitates the transfer of research between professionals in a decentralized marketplace.

Snapshot Snapshot provides a secure, tested location for blockchain project owners to engage with their communities. Snapshot employs a gasless, blockchain-backed voting system, where members in the community have clear access to poll statistics about the future of their backed projects. This service assures full transparency for community-driven projects.

The Future of Utility NFTs is Bright

While there the market is still rampant with collections and projects that don’t have a clear end goal in mind, the NFT world is starting to develop a coherent purpose.

While not all NFT art collections are bad—like this street-art preservation project—utility NFTs are opening up the community for more scientific and purposeful projects.

Who knows, maybe in the future we’ll see NFTs change digital reading, online subscriptions, and other high-traffic industries.

For now, it’s safe to say that projects that exchange collectability for utility are bound to see more success than those purely invested in the novelty of the format.

Can Science Fiction Solve The Renewable Energy Problem?

One of our society’s most pressing issues is the creation of a universal renewable energy source or the widespread adoption of an existing renewable energy solution.

Energy experts from Stanford estimate that our supply of natural gas will run out in the next 40 years, and coal won’t last much longer after that. It’s clear that the clock is ticking, and if we don’t find a solution soon, billions of people around the world will be without power.

That means no electricity, no Internet, no heat (more accurately, no AC), and a hundred other things will no longer be possible.

But why are governments and corporations so hesitant to play hardball with energy reform? A lot of people claim that the renewable energy problem is to blame.

What is the Renewable Energy Problem?

While not a super-accurate term, the renewable energy problem refers to the fact that our current green energy sources aren’t equipped to always be producing power.

When the sky is cloudy or its nighttime, solar power is out of the question.

When the wind doesn’t blow, wind power is out of the question.

So that leaves us with nuclear power and hydroelectric. But what happens when our water sources dry up or nuclear power plants become overworked?

That’s the renewable energy problem. It’s fear.

The fear that if we integrate existing green energy sources to our power grids, we become more susceptible to nature-driven power outages and grid failure.

And sure, our atmosphere is becoming more and more unpredictable, who knows if solar power will be a viable energy source in the future.

But there are already multiple cities—and countries—across the world that are implementing close to 100% clean energy.

Scotland, for example, was operating at 97.4% clean energy in 2020. And a report from the Sierra Club in 2019 showed that many cities and towns across the US were implementing clean energy strategies, regardless of political or social rulings.

Enter Science Fiction

So, to solve the renewable energy problem, what must we do? I think it’s clear that even though renewable energy sources are capable of powering entire cities, they might not be viable in the future.

Naturally, we turn to science fiction for ideas. Pretty much since the invention of the genre, science fiction has been influencing real-world scientific endeavors, and in the realm of clean energy, we have a lot of ideas to sift through.


By far the most common solution to the renewable energy problem is a reliance of fusion power.

Simply put, fusion is the act of harnessing the energy from the combination of two atomic nuclei. Fusion is not be confused with fission, which is the act of splitting an atom into two different atoms.

Science fiction has idolized fusion power for decades, and the power source has appeared in all kinds of stories, from The Expanse to Star Trek.

renewable energy problem fusion reactor

But how close are we to achieving nuclear fusion as a viable energy source? Well, Chinese scientists just ran a test on their $1 trillion fusion reactor and it managed to reach temperatures of 158 million degrees Fahrenheit. That’s 5 times hotter than the sun.

If we can successfully tap the power grid into a resource like this, I’d say most of our qualms about renewable energy would disappear.

Sodium-ion Batteries

One of the biggest questions people ask when considering the renewable energy problem is how will our vehicles be powered?

Electric vehicles of all kinds are rapidly hitting the mainstream, but a problem remains – batteries. Lithium-ion batteries have become the norm for electric transportation, as well as many other consumer electronic items, like smartphones and laptops.

But lithium-ion batteries are difficult to produce, are hard to recycle, and provide less-than-ideal power storage.

Thankfully, we have science fiction to help us, and this time, we go way back to the early days. In Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne describes the idea for a sodium/mercury battery that powers the Nautilus.

renewable energy problem sodium ion batteries

In chapter twelve, Verne writes, “Mixed with mercury, it forms an amalgam that takes the place of zinc in Bunsen cells. The mercury is never depleted. Only the sodium is consumed, and the sea itself gives me that. Beyond this, I’ll mention that sodium batteries have been found to generate the greater energy, and their electro-motor strength is twice that of zinc batteries.”

The sodium needed for these batteries is extracted from seawater, as Verne later explains. His idea, while not nearly as fleshed out as it needs to be for actual execution, has influenced many scientists working to create an alternative to the lithium-ion battery.

And prototypes of sodium-ion batteries are not only better at holding a charge, the resources needed to create them are much more readily available. Sodium-ion batteries might be years away from consumer use, but they’re certainly presenting a viable alternative to wasteful battery practices.

From Fiction to Reality

Obviously, there are countless other examples of renewable energy sources found in science fiction. Stargate, in particular, experiments quite a bit with alternative energy. Solar flares, black holes, hydrogen fusion—all kinds of energy methods make it onto the show.

Other renewable energy sources seem like they’re straight out of sci-fi but actually hit closer to home. An article published in Wired describes the process of using gravity to generate enough power to supply over 1,000 homes with renewable energy.

I guess at the end of the day, anyone who cites the renewable energy problem for why they don’t support green power really hasn’t done the research. Or, they haven’t read enough science fiction to know that the possibilities are endless.

NFT Digital Art Is a Currency Right Out of Science Fiction

Right now, there’s a lot of talk about NFTs, non-fungible tokens, and NFT digital art; they’ve kind of taken the world by storm.

As someone who is mildly up-to-date in the cryptocurrency scene, the popularity of NFTs came as a bit of a surprise. And it sparked my imagination, too. Watching pieces of digital art being sold at exorbitant prices for clout made me think about the future of our currencies, physical and digital.

Before money, barter and trade was the primary means for getting the goods you needed to survive. A bushel of apples for a flank of meat. It was simple, and a system soon appeared, where certain items would be valued higher than others, based on abundance, time and labor investment, etc.

I originally thought that NFTs might be a futuristic barter and trade system years from now, if we ever came to a global currency fallout. But I soon realized that possibility wasn’t feasible for NFTs in their current state, and I’ll explain why.

But first, let’s break down how NFTs and NFT digital art works.

How Do NFTs Work?

An NFT is a digital asset that operates on blockchain technology, the same infrastructure used for cryptocurrencies.

Many creators create digital art and sell them as NFTs. There are all kinds of NFTs on marketplaces like OpenSea: graphic design art, music, trading cards, video game skins, etc.

As I mentioned, NFTs are non-fungible tokens, which essentially means that one NFT is not equal to another.

A fungible currency is where a single amount is exactly the same as another amount. Like a $1 bill. It’s $1, and no matter how many times you trade that $1 bill for other $1 bills, you’ll always have $1.

Cryptocurrencies are fungible tokens. A single Bitcoin is the same price as any other single Bitcoin.

NFTs are different because they cannot be exchanged for other NFTs. Each NFT has a unique digital signature, making it a one-of-a-kind asset.

Is There Money in NFT Digital Art?

The idea of the NFT baffled me when I first learned about it, and to be honest, it still does. Why would people pay exorbitant amounts of cryptocurrency to buy a piece of art, like a song or a collage, when they could view that art online for free?

Well, the blockchain NFTs are built on provides a traceable ID and transaction history, which essentially means when you buy an NFT, you obtain ownership of it. As opposed to paying a streaming service like Spotify, which you a license to listen to music, buying music as an NFT solidifies you as the owner of it.

Like if you were to buy a famous painting at an auction, but gone digital.

Initially, this practice seemed like nothing more than a flex, a show of wealth. After all, NFTs aren’t tradeable, meaning you either own it for life, or have to find someone willing to pay you for it, sometimes less than what you got it for.

So how is it the NFT market is so big, and yet, seemingly have no clear purpose? Apparently, NFT trading is quickly becoming a popular means of making money, and creators are benefiting.

NFTs, the New, Dystopian Currency?

The concept of NFTs has been around since about 2014, but it experienced a large uptick in popularity in 2021. People are trading NFTs—buying highly sought-after pieces and reselling them at a premium.

The problem with NFT digital art trading, though, is that it’s not driven by any economic principles. It’s purely market-dependent. So, if you spent $2.9 million on an NFT of Jack Dorsey’s first tweet, you better hope someone out there wants it more than you do, or you’re down $3 mil.

But creators are reaping the benefits of NFT trading.

Every time an NFT they created is sold, they receive a kickback from that sale. So if a gif they made as an NFT gets traded around multiple times, they’ll make a percentage of that on top of however much they sold it for in the first place.

No one knows how long NFT trading will be around – the demand for them might die out in a few months, or they could become the future of traceable, authenticated currency.

When I think of a dystopian, cyberpunk worlds, I usually think of cityscapes ruled by tech moguls. The industrialists that sell the tech the world is built on, getting filthy rich at everyone’s expense.

But with a few modifications to the NFT idea, it could become the barter and trade currency of the future. And the richest people of all would be the artists.

How to Make NFTs a Viable Currency

For NFTs to be a viable currency of the future, they’d have to be able to be traded for other NFTs. Smaller NFT tokens could be used for goods or services, and then could be traded on a digital marketplace for more expensive NFTs.

A good example of this concept in action is the Counterstrike: Global Offensive marketplace on Steam. CS:GO is a first person shooter, originating back in the 1990s and early 2000s. In-game weapon skins have a real-life value, a dollar amount.

You can buy skins online directly from the Steam marketplace, and they often retain their value or increase in price as they become more desirable. You can trade skins with other players, increase the value of your skins by adding expensive in-game stickers, trade lesser-grade skins for more high-quality ones, etc. etc.

If NFTs operated like the existing CS:GO marketplace, then they would become much more viable as a currency. Just like the bushel of apples for a flank of steak example, a handful of smaller NFT tokens for a more valuable, larger token. You could trade a small gif NFT for apples, and a Snoop Dogg album NFT for a flank of meat.

It’s a really weird concept, that art could essentially become the lifeblood of a society. Because people always say, ‘oh, the art and culture are what makes a society great’ but in this case, art is literally the means of survival.

Problems with NFTs

One of the primary problems with using NFT digital art as currency in the cyperpunk future is the environmental impact.

Most NFTs run on the Ethereum or Bitcoin blockchain, and those cryptocurrencies use a lot of power. So much so that cryptocurrencies are causing a serious problem for the environment.

A recent report from CNBC found that Bitcoin mining creates 35.95 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. More than half of the world’s cryptocurrency mining takes place in China, a country that still largely uses coal as a source of electricity.

Bitcoin uses about 707 kWh of electricity, whereas Ethereum uses about 62 kWh. And the output of emissions from Ethereum mining should decrease with the implementation of Ethereum 2.0, which will decrease power consumption to about 1/10,000th of the current rate.

The widespread use of NFTs or crypto on a societal level would be catastrophic for the environment. Without significant improvements to the blockchain and hardware technology, digital currencies could bring about a dystopian future. And not the cool kind, either (pun intended).

For now, NFTs stand as a neat method for digital art, and if you’re lucky, some profit too. But there needs to be significant change for it to become a popular, futuristic barter and trade.

Latest Science News: Larger Brains, More Intelligent? Not the Case

One of the most prevalent conventions of human thought is “Bigger is Better”, whether that’s referring to buildings, cars, bank accounts, etc.

And the same concept applied to brains, too. For a long time it was thought, the bigger the brain, the more intelligent the creature.

But, new studies show that the correlation between brain size and intelligence isn’t really much of a correlation at all, and the age-old idea that increased size = increased [insert variable here] has been blown out of the water.

A team of 22 international experts in human and animal biology have studied approximately 1,400 brains of extinct mammals. The idea was to compare information about their brain masses with the rest of the body in each sample.

Latest Science News Says: Big Brains Aren’t Big Enough

All this biology news looks like science fiction, but it is not. The study, published in April 2021 in Science Advances, is the result of years of research on brain size and intelligence.

The species known to be the smartest on our planet have very different proportions:

  • Elephants amaze us with their size, but their brain development is much greater
  • Dolphins tend to shrink their body size over the years and mutations across the species, but the brain grows larger with each generation
  • Monkeys have a wide range of sizes and seem to follow a pattern when it comes to body and brain
  • Humanity follows a trend similar to dolphins, where we become smaller and with greater intellect.

Kamran Safi, a lead researcher from Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, said that “Using relative brain size as a proxy for cognitive capacity must be set against an animal’s evolutionary history and the nuances in the way the brain and body have changed over the tree of life.”

Studying the Past

The researchers discovered that the biggest evolutionary changes to brain size occurred after cataclysmic events in the earth’s history. Think events like meteor strikes and massive climate shifts.

The first point analyzed was the mass extinction 66 million years ago at the end of the Cretatian era. During this period, dramatic changes were found in rodents, bats, carnivores, and some animals recognized as direct survivors of dinosaurs.

Likewise, between 23 to 33 million years ago, at the end of the Paleonege era, profound changes in the structure of seals, bears, whales, and other primates were also found due to a brutal change in the planet’s climate.

Based on this information, who’s to say that other events in the future won’t spark evolutionary changes too? Like the eruption of a supervolcano or widespread nuclear fallout.

Humans Cognition and Their Developed Brains

Talking about evolution concerning our own species in this aspect needs the support that the research from the University of Vienna carried out in 2015.

After more than 8,000 individuals were studied nearly 90 times, the result says that it is not the size but the structure of our brain that gives us greater intelligence.

Although the result is not 100% compatible because they have tested IQs, it is accepted that what makes someone more or less intelligent than others is their ability to rationally understand the world around them, their memory, resolutions, and logical capacity.

Another project, published in the Royal Society Open Science in 2016, supports the thesis that brain stucture, not size, is indicative of intelligence.

An experiment used to test brain function has subjects collect food in a container that has two entrances. Once the specimen learns both entrances, a transparent block is added, and if it remembers the alternate path to the food and does so, it is considered to be more intelligent than another species that insists on the shortest path.

Many of the test subjects (which varied in size and species) demonstrated the same performance, which again shows subjects with different brain sizes are capable of reaching the same end goal. It’s all about structure.

All of this research leads to the question: have humans evolved to unlock the full potential of our brains? Or will cataclysmic events in the future lead to evolutionary changes in the human brain?

It also raises the question: what does this new science mean for non-earth species?

Alien Science Meets Earth Science

A common stereotype about aliens is that their hyper-intelligence comes from their massive brains, which is reflected in the oblong-shaped heads.

But, if alien biology follows the new developments in Earth biology, it’d be more likely that aliens have slighter frames and smaller heads. It’s all about brain structure, not size, so the massive heads common in depictions of the green men don’t seem as realistic.

What do you think? Have cataclysmic events altered evolutionary patterns for non-Earth lifeforms, just like they have influenced human and animal brain size/structure? And what’s next for the human evolutionary pattern? Let us know in the comments!

Lightning is the Coolest Way to Decrease Greenhouse Gas

We have seen many different ways to prevent and reduce greenhouse gas, such as recycling, using sustainable energy, switching to electric cars and even changing our diets.

And although we have our sustainable ways, somehow, nature always has its own ways of beating us to the point, in almost every aspect.

Maybe you’ve already heard about its capacity to regenerate the ozone layer, which is a cool enough fact, but in this article, we’re going to talk about how lightning bolts can decrease greenhouse gas.

The Nature of Lightning

Lightning bolts have sparked (pun intended) a lot of myths and legends over the years. Thor, Zeus, the thunderbird, etc. Overall, lightning bolts are usually associated with ethereal beings, and were a thing of mystery.

But, as science progressed, we made progress decoding what lightning actually is. For starters, Ben Franklin flew his kite with a pointed wire attached to the apex near a thunderstorm. Although it was a very dangerous experiment, it helped us discover electricity and how it can be conducted.

Fast forward to present day, William H. Brune, a meteorology professor at Penn State University, attached an instrument to a plane flying from Colorado to Oklahoma during a thunderstorm to study lightning. What did it prove? Well, it showed that lightning is beneficial to the health of the atmosphere.

Initially, Brune thought something was wrong with the instrument, since it was receiving a massive amount of signals found in the clouds. So he removed the signals from the dataset and shelved them for over 5 years, planning to study them later.

A few years ago, he took out the data and with the help of an undergraduate intern and a research associate, they realized that the signals received were actually chemical radicals such as hydroxyl (OH) and hydroperoxyl (OH2), and then linked these signals to lightning measurements made from the ground.

And that’s where it gets weird.

Cleaning with Lightning

Lightning occurs when the heavy mix of warm clouds and cold clouds meet. Water droplets in warm clouds collide and “rub” against frozen particles present in cold clouds, forming an electric discharge. This linear discharge can descend to the earth, as lightning, or remain in the clouds, often called heat lightning.

That was basically the information we had until now. Today, we know that this electric discharge is responsible for producing nitric oxide (NO) due to its rapid ‘hot n’ cold’ activity.

When combined with the oxygen of the atmosphere, it creates nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which later on decomposes into hydroxyl radicals (HO2) and ozone (O3) in sunlight. A strange, yet unique form of cleaning out air pollution.

So to sum up this chemical dilemma, each lightning bolt concentrates a heavy amount of air pollutants in their electric discharges, so that they can be released and later on transformed into air oxidizers.

Lightning, Greenhouse Gas, and Climate Change

Okay, maybe lightning itself isn’t the pancrea for global warming, but it’s definitely working against it.

Most greenhouses gasses are created naturally and have been around since the beginning of time. However, fluorinated gasses are what we should worry about, which are all gasses that are synthetic, byproducts of humanity. These gasses create a layer of heat in the atmosphere called the greenhouse effect. This greenhouse effect is what leads to global warming. Here are some of the greenhouse gas components:

  • Carbon dioxide
  • Methane
  • Water vapor
  • Nitrous oxide

Some studies point out that climate change directly affects the frequency and rate of lightning bolts. Global warming has shown to increase the activity of thunderstorms, producing more potent and more frequent lightning.

Is nature somehow trying to “alleviate” itself or even defend itself from a massive atmospheric breakdown?

Hydroxyl radicals and ozone are primary oxidation components that help clean the atmosphere and eliminate greenhouse gases. And as we now know, lightning creates these radicals.

While lightning won’t solve all of our global warming problems, perhaps this discovery will lend itself to other ways to decrease greenhouse gasses.

Lightning factories like in Legend of Korra? Creating raw electricity with renewable energy? Imagine finding a way to shoot bolts of lightning into the atmosphere, powered by wind and solar power.

How else could the lightning discovery help us combat global warming? Let us know in the comments!

Interested in other interesting science news? Check out our blogs about intestinal breathing apparatuses and atomic bomb testing sites!

Genetic Mutation & Human Evolution in the Future

Genetics can be a fascinating thing. What makes our eyes blue instead of brown? Our hair straight versus curly? Sometimes these answers are determined by the genes our parents pass down; some are determined by mutations, the tangible evidence of human evolution in the future.

More often than not, mutations are random, and so many can be negative. 

It’s no surprise that most people, when they hear the word “mutation”, attribute a negative connotation to it (which is no surprise, given what we just saw in the video above). However, not all mutations are bad.

For example, if you click on this page, there is a description of four beneficial evolutionary mutations humans have developed. You will find out there is a mutation that lessons heart disease, prevents broken bones, makes you a lot more immune to malaria, or, as quoted below, even gives women–yes, apparently only women–the ability to see the world in more colors.

Tetrachromatic Vision

Most mammals have poor color vision because they have only two kinds of cones, the retinal cells that discriminate different colors of light. Humans, like other primates, have three kinds, the legacy of a past where good color vision for finding ripe, brightly colored fruit was a survival advantage.

The gene for one kind of cone, which responds most strongly to blue, is found on chromosome 7. The two other kinds, which are sensitive to red and green, are both on the X chromosome. Since men have only one X, a mutation which disables either the red or the green gene will produce red-green colorblindness, while women have a backup copy. This explains why this is almost exclusively a male condition.

But here’s a question: What happens if a mutation to the red or the green gene, rather than disabling it, shifts the range of colors to which it responds? (The red and green genes arose in just this way, from duplication and divergence of a single ancestral cone gene.)

To a man, this would make no real difference. He’d still have three color receptors, just a different set than the rest of us. But if this happened to one of a woman’s cone genes, she’d have the blue, the red and the green on one X chromosome, and a mutated fourth one on the other… which means she’d have four different color receptors. She would be, like birds and turtles, a natural “tetrachromat”, theoretically capable of discriminating shades of color the rest of us can’t tell apart. (Does this mean she’d see brand-new colors the rest of us could never experience? That’s an open question.)

And we have evidence that just this has happened on rare occasions. In one study of color discrimination, at least one woman showed exactly the results we would expect from a true tetrachromat.

Imagine seeing the world, quite literally, in a different way to most humans on Earth.

There are many other kinds of mutations (including several of the ones listed above), that show us that humans evolution in the future is happening now, that we do to adapt to our climate. The webpost even mentions that certain individuals even have rare mutations that don’t necessarily help themselves, but definitely help others:

“Golden” Blood

While most of us are aware of the eight basic blood types (A, AB, B, and O—each of which can be positive or negative), there are currently 35 known blood group systems, with millions of variations in each system. Blood that doesn’t fall into the ABO system is considered rare, and those who have such blood may find it challenging to locate a compatible donor when in need of a transfusion.

Still, there’s rare blood, and then there’s really rare blood. Presently, the most unusual kind of blood is known as “Rh-null.” As its name suggests, it doesn’t contain any antigens in the Rh system. It’s not that uncommon for a person to lack some Rh antigens. For instance, people who don’t have the Rh D antigen have “negative” blood (e.g. A-, B-, or O-). Still, it’s extremely extraordinary for someone to not have a single Rh antigen. It’s so extraordinary, in fact, that researchers have only come across 40 or so individuals on the planet who have Rh-null blood.

What makes this blood even more interesting is that it totally beats O blood in terms of being a universal donor, since even O-negative blood isn’t always compatible with other types of rare negative blood. Rh-null, however, works with nearly any type of blood. This is because, when receiving a transfusion, our bodies will likely reject any blood that contains antigens we don’t possess. And since Rh-null blood has zero Rh, A, or B antigens, it can be given to practically everyone.

Unfortunately, there are only about nine donors of this blood in the world, so it’s only used in extreme situations. Because of its limited supply and enormous value as a potential lifesaver, some doctors have referred to Rh-null as “golden” blood. In some cases, they’ve even tracked down anonymous donors (a big no-no) to request a sample.

Those who have the Rh-null type undoubtedly have a bittersweet existence. They know that their blood is literally a lifesaver for others with rare blood, yet if they themselves need blood, their options are limited to the donations of only nine people.

So what does this tell us? That we’ve not only evolved from apes (so to speak) to become who we are today, but we’re still evolving to become something else in the future! Maybe we won’t develop mental powers like the mutants depicted in the X-Man franchise, but we already have our very own X-men in real life–and that is pretty darn amazing.

Meet humble Australian James Harrison. Because of his blood, and donating over 1100 times in half a century, this one man’s blood has saved over two million human lives–precious new born lives. He quite literally is a hero.

If you liked this article about human evolution in the future, perhaps you’d be interested in some or our other science-based articles: