Recommended Reading: A year later, the CRISPR babies are still a mystery

Why the paper on the CRISPR babies stayed secret for so long Antonio Regalado, MIT Technology Review A year has passed since Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui presented work on editing the DNA of two girls while they were still embryos. Ethical issu...

NASA’s closest-ever Sun flybys reveal how solar wind works

As promised, NASA has presented the first results from the Parker Solar Probe -- and they're already providing a treasure trove of insights regarding the Sun. Most notably, the solar wind doesn't behave entirely like scientists expected. There are fl...

X-ray lasers can spot elusive electron motion

Scientists can track the movements of an atom's nucleus relatively easily, but electrons have proven elusive -- they move so fast that they tend to be reduced to blurs. Now, however, those movements could be crystal clear. Researchers at the SLAC Nat...

Astronomers find stellar black hole so large it shouldn’t exist

Just because there's a picture of a black hole doesn't mean astronomers have figured out how they work. Chinese-led researchers have detected a stellar black hole in the Milky Way with a mass so large that it breaks current stellar evolution models....

Seismologist Suggests Using Crowdsourced Cat Data to Detect Earthquakes

Scientists will tell you that no human or animal can accurately predict an impending earthquake before it starts. However, certain animals are far more sensitive to seismic activities than humans. With that in mind, one seismologist has tossed out a wildly impractical but amusing idea for an early earthquake alert system – using cats.

PhD geophysics student Celeste Labedz posted her idea in a multi-part Twitter thread last week, and it’s well worth a read. She hypothesizes that since cats are more sensitive than humans to the weaker P-waves that happen when an earthquake is starting, that we could harness unusual cat behavior to create an early warning system. The same idea could theoretically work with dogs, but they have a tendency to be more active than cats, which could result in more false positive readings.

Labedz proposes the name PURRS (Pet-based Urban Rapid Response to Shaking) for her system. The idea is that millions of cats would be equipped with Fitbit-style Bluetooth sensors, which would detect when kitties are acting abnormally. A centralized system would take that sensor data and look for common patterns among multiple cats in the area, and should a certain threshold be reached, it could issue an alert that an earthquake is imminent. Such a network would provide many more data points and density than current early warning systems, and way more cats.

Celeste fully acknowledges that her idea would be incredibly difficult and costly to implement, but that’s why it’s merely a concept. I still love the idea of crowdsourcing pet-based data for something, since they do seem to be more sensitive to certain stimuli than humans.

Thanks to my rocket scientist friend Susan for tipping me off to this wonderfully entertaining thread.

NASA renames Kuiper Belt object following controversy

NASA's nickname for the distant Kuiper Belt object 2014 MU69, Ultima Thule, has been more than a little contentious. While it has innocuous meanings, Ultima Thule is also the term white supremacists use to refer to a mythical homeland. The agency i...

Watch a herd of MIT’s Mini Cheetah robots frolic in the fall leaves

MIT wants to show that its Mini Cheetah robots aren't just solitary creatures. The school's Biomimetics department has posted a video of nine of the bots frolicking in the fall leaves, showing just what these pet-sized quadrupeds can do. The remote...