This Christmas, It’s ‘Firmageddon’ as Climate Change Hits Oregon

This story originally appeared in The Guardian and is part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Scientists have discovered a record number of dead fir trees in Oregon, a foreboding sign of how drought and the climate crisis are ravaging the American West.

A recent aerial survey found that more than a million acres of forest contain trees that have succumbed to stressors exacerbated by a multiyear drought. Images released by the US Forest Service show Oregon’s lush green expanses dotted with ominous swathes of red.

“It is stunning,” said Daniel DePinte, an aerial survey program manager with the Forest Service who led the agency’s Pacific Northwest region aerial survey, noting that this year saw the highest mortality rate for firs in this area in history. These evergreen conifers are less able to survive in drought conditions than other heartier trees that line the landscapes.

He and his colleagues scanned

How to Use Physics to Tell If That Steph Curry Video Is Real

A few weeks ago, Sports Illustrated tweeted this video of Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry that instantly went viral. It shows him taking a shot at the basket—from the far side of the court. The ball goes in. OK, I can believe that. He’s a famously great shooter. But then he turns around and grabs another ball and takes another shot … and makes it. And then again. And again. And a fifth time.

So is it real or fake? Let’s use statistics and physics to find out.

Basic Probability

Physicists don’t usually jump right into the most complicated version of a problem. Instead, they do a rough estimation, often called a “back of the envelope” calculation. So let’s make some approximations about the probability of making five full-court shots in a row.

We can start with a simple experiment that you can try at home—you just

Vertical Farming Has Found Its Fatal Flaw

In June, a vast new vertical farm opened on the outskirts of the English town Bedford. At a swanky opening event, members of the UK Parliament heard that the gleaming facility would one day produce 20 million plants annually. It was the latest opening for Infarm, a European vertical farming company that had raised over $600 million in venture capital funding, promising a future where vegetables are grown in high-tech warehouses stacked with LED lights rather than in open fields or greenhouses.

But now the future of the Bedford farm looks less than gleaming. On November 29, Infarm’s founders emailed its workforce to announce they were laying off “around 500 employees”—more than half of the workforce. The email detailed the firm’s plans to downsize its operations in the UK, France, and the Netherlands, and concentrate on countries where it had stronger links to retailers and a higher chance of eventually

The Mystery of Nevada’s Ancient Reptilian Boneyard

Berlin, Nevada, is a treasure chest for paleontologists. Just down the road from now-abandoned gold and silver mines, a rockbound collection of bones hints at an even richer past. The Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park is teeming with dozens of fossils of ancient marine reptiles. That bone bed is so abundant and weird that researchers have been scratching their heads over it for decades.

“There are sites with way more dense occurrences of ichthyosaur skeletons, including places in Chile and Germany,” says Nick Pyenson, curator of fossil marine mammals at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. “But this place, Berlin-Ichthyosaur in eastern Nevada, has really escaped explanation for a long time.” In one particular quarry, at least seven individuals from the genus Shonisaurus—a bloated, bus-sized dolphin with four limb-like flippers—lay essentially stacked atop one another.

Previous hypotheses largely focused on physical or environmental reasons for the cluster of fossils. One

How to Use Google Health Connect

Just about every major health and fitness category is covered, including activity, sleep, nutrition, body measurements, and vital statistics like blood pressure and heart rate. Users get full control over which categories of data are pooled and which aren’t, and everything is stored locally on their devices (rather than in the cloud) and encrypted for additional security.

Using Google Health Connect

Apps can be set to take priority over others.

Google via David Nield

Get the beta Health Connect app installed on your Android phone, open it up, and you can start deciding which of your fitness and well-being apps are allowed to interface with it. Health Connect isn’t an app in the traditional sense, and it won’t appear in the Android app drawer: You can open it from its Play Store page, from Apps in Settings, or from the Quick Settings panel.

On the main Health Connect screen, you’ll