Neil DeGrasse-Tyson wades into the GMO debate, finds common sense lacking

It is a sad statement on the condition of our discourse in this country that every topic that has two possible opinions necessarily gets taken up by our political polls for the purposes of raising campaign cash, but so it goes. There is no topic – be it fracking, GMOs or paper-v-plastic – on which we cannot polarize along completely insane lines.

So NDT discovers when he decided to weigh in on the debate over Genetically Modified Organisms, a phrase that generally means organisms that have had their genetic structure modified by scientific rather than natural means. He points out that breeding is also a form of genetic modification, albeit a slower process, from which a reverse is not possible. The result is suggestions that he’s either for or against GMO’s, depending on which side the shrilling blog falls on.

He’s right: most of the weeds in your garden started out as things humans somewhere along the line attempted to domesticate. Meanwhile, corn is a crop so modified, science has had difficulty determining what the wild antecedent species was.

But don’t tell that to those carping at a scientist for pointing out some basic scientific fact:

Today’s Top-Lines: Clinton over Christie in NJ, Moreland not a factor in NY

Instead of just tweeting out a bunch of pollster numbers today, I thought it would be more fun to summarize a few that seemed the most interesting to me.

Today’s selection is, above all, an interesting exercise in Northeastern power politics. In particular, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham-Clinton takes the prize for President in a head-to-head match up against NJ Governor Chris Christie in his own home state. The Washington Bridge debacle keeps getting worse for Christie in a state that trends Democratic in the first place.

On the other hand, Governor Andrew Cuomo appears to be sailing to re-election in New York, with very few voters saying the Moreland Commission have any particular impact on their vote. Cuomo is probably lucky that this story is getting started so close to Election Day, actually: it may take a while for people to really start hating him for it. The trouble is that, should he seek the presidency, this is just the kind of scandal people outside the Northeast will view as typical politics here. They may not be ready for such a leader.

Elsewhere, Americans seem not to be buying the idea of Middle East peace, with Marist showing 62% of Americans don’t believe peace will be lasting and Gallup showing their support for the “justifiability” of Israeli action in Gaza quite evenly split.

Duke University study suggests lowered testosterone may have led humans to civilization

I’m going to do my best to eschew any hockey or lacrosse references, but no promises. A study from Duke University uses the analyzed skulls of 1,400 human skulls from ancient to modern, and suggests that major changes in facial construction linked to testosterone occur regularly just before the adoption of civilized society.

Because testosterone affects how bones are produced, scientists can see how common higher forehead ridges and more angular faces are across a large span of time. And according to this study, the major changes in facial structure occur and just the right time for civilization.

What’s funny is: less testosterone means less aggression, which leads to more civilization. But domesticated dogs also seem to have descended from less aggressive, less suspicious wolves. So it seems that perhaps this is yet more evidence of just how important our wet-nosed companions are to our evolution?

This is why music is awesome. AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, bluegrass style

There are only eight notes and thirteen tones in any key. The musician actually works from an incredibly limited palate of colors, unlike a writer or painter. The difference between one song and another – between one performance and another – is really a question of instrumentation and more importantly, of personality.

Check out this Finnish band playing a bluegrass version of Thunderstruck, complete with an actual anvil and spoons. It’s note-perfect recreation, and yet it couldn’t be more different from the original:

Jupiter’s moon, Io, explodes into massive volcanic eruptions

Gravity can be an awesome thing. Io, one of Jupiter’s many moons, is a great example of this. On Earth, “tidal current,” is the interaction between the sun, moon and Earth that causes the tides to go in and out over the course of a month. But tidal forces on Io are something else, entirely.

Because it is so close to it’s parent planet and because it’s neighboring moons pass so close by, the tidal current there causes the rock it’s made of to constantly bend back and forth. The result is an incredible amount of heat and a near-molten surface that constantly erupts with volcanic activity. Researchers at UC Berkeley are just now beginning to understand just how common – and just how epic – volcanic eruptions on this alien world can actually be.

NASA tests Spacecraft Orion recovery missions in Pacific Ocean

Everything that’s old is new again. NASA has, after decades of working with the awesome-looking-but-not-very-efficient Space Shuttle craft has reverted to it’s roots with the Orion mission. While the Shuttle could safely land on a runway like a glider, all that mass was a lot of weight to carry up into space and therefore severely limited the Shuttle’s usefulness. The solution has been to abandon Shuttles in favour of good old fashioned parachute-guided mission capsules.

Of course, these aren’t your daddy’s mission capsules and they’re certainly not your daddy’s parachutes. After missions to Mars, safely landing Rovers, NASA has learned a lot about such landings.

It’s Monday. You may need this: 6 Nonverbal Ways To End A Conversation

We’ve all been there. Your coworker just keeps talking, and talking and talking about whatever interests them about their awesome weekend on a Monday morning. With the Park Ave Fest just wrapping up, you may unintentionally elicit an in-depth discussion of it’s many gustatory options or “that guy wearing that thing.”

Helpfully, BuzzFeed has your solution, with a series of non-subtle, non-verbal tactics to extricate yourself from such prosaic office banter:

My kid would be in heaven: a 50-foot Space Shuttle replica, made entirely of balloons

I don’t know that this is necessarily the most reliable craft for reentry – the heat shields seem a bit flimsy. But on the up side, there’s no worry about O-rings in the solid rocket boosters.

Our friends over at Airigami send us this video from a project they did for the Houston-based Donate Life Transplant Games of America:

Giant Balloon Space Shuttle:

30,000 Qualatex balloons were used in the construction of this 65-foot tall sculpture built for the 2014 Donate Life Transplant Games of America. The sculpture was completed over a span of four days with an Airigami crew lead by Larry Moss and Kelly Cheatle that included Todd Neufeld, Lisa McIntire, Brian Asman, Drew Ripley, Suzanne Haring, Richard Hughson. Thanks to Melissa Vinson, Teri Stokes, and Pat Crosland for assisting. Thanks also to the hundreds of volunteers that helped build and parade pieces to the launch site.