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This week’s cover is awesomely designed—and terrifying. Will asteroids destroy earth? Professor of theoretical physics at CUNY Michio Kaku is the cover story author, diving deep into the impending asteroid apocalypse (pro tip: keep your calendars free for the year 2036).
Maybe Chicken Little was right after all.
It was an amazing spectacle, a rapid succession of giant asteroids blazing across the sky. First, on February 15, Russia was hit with the biggest asteroid in 100 years. Barely a few hours later, an even bigger one made the closest approach to Earth ever recorded for an asteroid of its size. Then the residents of San Francisco, Cuba, and south Florida looked up and saw meteors streak across the sky, rattling their nerves.
It was a historic display of nature’s cosmic firepower, something I never expected to see in my lifetime. Mother Nature was showing Hollywood who’s boss.
The city of Chelyabinsk in Russia bore the brunt of the celestial fireworks. A piece of rock, about 50 feet across and weighing more than 7,000 tons, came crashing to Earth. Traveling at a blinding speed of over 40,000 miles per hour, it created a sonic boom and shock wave that shattered windows across the city: 1,200 people were injured, mainly by the flying pieces of glass, and 52 were hospitalized, 2 of them in serious condition. Chelyabinsk, once known as one of the most polluted places in the world due to its storage of nuclear waste, will now be known as “meteor city.”
The asteroid packed a huge punch, the power of 20 Hiroshima bombs. It was a “city buster,” capable of flattening a modern metropolis and reducing it to rubble. It was a miracle that the asteroid exploded roughly 10 to 15 miles above ground: had there been a ground burst, it would have caused tens of thousands of casualties. If that asteroid had hit just a few seconds later, it would have created a tragedy on Earth.
While Russia was still reeling from the shock of this meteor impact, just a few hours later, 17,200 miles in space, an asteroid three times larger than the Russian one came within a whisker of hitting Earth. Called 2012 DA14, it actually sailed about 5,000 miles closer to Earth than our communications satellites (which orbit at 22,000 miles). If the asteroid had arrived just a few minutes earlier, it might have hit Earth, with truly cataclysmic consequences.
To see what might have happened in the case of a collision with DA14, one can study the 1908 Tunguska impact, which hit Siberia with the force of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs, giving Earth a black eye. That meteorite was about the same size as DA14, i.e., the size of an apartment building. The energy of the impact was so great that it devastated 830 square miles of Siberia, including 80 million trees. Pictures of the area show millions of trees lying on their sides, as if a giant hand came down and flattened every tree in sight. The impact was so spectacular that the blast was heard hundreds of miles away, and strange lights were seen as far away as Europe.
Fortunately, the 1908 and 2013 asteroids that hit Russia missed hitting a major metropolitan area like Moscow. However, because of the similarity with nuclear blasts, one can imagine what might happen if such an object had hit, say, New York.
Asteroid Apocalypse, Newsweek
Tracking the presidential groundgame
As the two presidential campaigns launch into their final throws, we wanted to see who had the biggest footprint of campaign headquarters across the country. The map above ran with the resulting story showing Obama with a large advantage, especially in swing states. We thought getting from idea to map / chart would be as easy as checking the candidates’ websites or calling their press offices to request a full list. Not quite.
Finding Romney’s offices
Finding Obamas’s offices
President Obama has offices in many more states than Romney so going state by state is more of a hassle and his campaign’s website doesn’t have the same convenient state-by-state maps. Instead, you input your zip code and it gives you a map of all locations within forty miles of you.
We’re excited to show-off our newest Tumblr: NewsBeast Labs! As we write in the description, we’ll be giving you a peak at notes and images from our ever-growing digital newsroom. So if you’re into journalism, maps, data, pretty colors, etc. you should definitely follow.
What’s more dangerous: a nation full of science illiterates or a nation with one less aircraft carrier?
ADDICTED TO INTERNETS, Y’ALL!
(But srsly, think this whole thing is making us a little nuts? That’s our cover this week: How “connection addiction” is rewiring our brains.)
Questions about the Internet’s deleterious effects on the mind are at least as old as hyperlinks. But even among Web skeptics, the idea that a new technology might influence how we think and feel—let alone contribute to a great American crack-up—was considered silly and naive, like waving a cane at electric light or blaming the television for kids these days. Instead, the Internet was seen as just another medium, a delivery system, not a diabolical machine. It made people happier and more productive. And where was the proof otherwise?
Now, however, the proof is starting to pile up. The first good, peer-reviewed research is emerging, and the picture is much gloomier than the trumpet blasts of Web utopians have allowed. The current incarnation of the Internet—portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive—may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways.
I don’t know how I feel about this. As a person who has been diagnosed by several psychiatrists as manic depressive (or bipolar, whatever), and has been hospitalized for it more times than I can count, I don’t know if we should compare the effects of going online to actual mental illnesses. Admittedly, I haven’t read the article in full yet — and I’m not sure that I will based on the excerpt, frankly — so I could be misjudging it.
The thing is, not only does this sort of comparison trivialize the pain experienced by people who are actually mentally ill, but it also invites people to self-diagnose and incites panic. I can’t count the number of times I’ve read things, even in the New York Times, that claim that such and such a food or medication causes cancer or dementia. Then nothing comes of it; the study was probably just faulty, you know?
Unless done with extreme rigor, see, I just don’t buy into this sort of shit. And it’s really difficult to do studies on things like the effects of internet usage sufficiently scientifically. I have a degree in mathematics, and I’m the daughter of a research scientist; consequently, I tend to be very skeptical and, unless I can see the methodology and actual, you know, statistics in an actual scientific journal, I don’t trust this sort of new development.
Totally feel ya. But for real, give it a read. Those two excerpted paragraphs don’t do the piece justice. Our reporter put a lot of time into reviewing the findings from more than a dozen countries and says the answers are all pointing in a similar direction. We’re not trying to claim the sky is falling or anything here, but the science seems to be suggesting more than just a “OH LOOK TREND.”
Because you were wondering, you know you were.
Anyone else remember going to a science museum as a kid and being weight on the “space” scales? Was that Liberty Science Center? Man, that was great.
We lookin’ good on Mars.
NASA will be live-streaming this awesome Venus “transit” that’s happening within the next hour or so. Don’t look at the sun! You’ll go blind. Just watch this.
Fran Visco, president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition (which has hundreds of organizations and thousands of individual activists focused on fighting cancer), says money raised for breast cancer should be given to science—specifically, through studying how the cancer develops and metastasizes—and not to give every woman a mammogram. We could screen every woman in the world and we would not have stopped breast cancer,” she adds. “I am not saying to stop funding for screening; however, we cannot afford to make it a main focus.”
Conservative trust in science just keeps going down, and down, and down, and down.