People share fake news online even when they can tell it’s not true

fake news

We spread fake stories even though we can detect them

Thomas Trutschel/Getty

The spread of fake news on social media has been a problem for years. But there may be a simple solution to stop people sharing inaccurate information.

Gordon Pennycook at the University of Regina in Canada and colleagues have found that people can identify fake news easily, but may unwittingly share misinformation on social media because they aren’t thinking analytically.

The researchers presented more than 2500 people from the US with real headlines and images taken either from mainstream news stories or from a cache of stories that …

General election 2019: Who is strongest on climate change action?

Protesters at the YouthStrike4Climate student march pass through Oxford Circus on April 12, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. Students are protesting across the UK due to the lack of government action to combat climate change.

Climate change is rising up the political agenda

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Channel 4 News has confirmed that the world’s first ever TV election debate dedicated to climate change will go ahead this Thursday, giving voters the perfect opportunity to see who has the most credible plan to cut carbon emissions.

But while the leaders of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and the Scottish National Party have promised to attend, Boris Johnson of the Conservatives and Nigel Farage of the Brexit party are still yet to commit. Channel 4 News have said they are willing to “empty chair” leaders who do …

A blue whale’s heart beats just twice a minute when it dives for food

blue whale

The blue whale heart beats slowly when the animal feeds

Image courtesy of the Duke Marine Robotics and Remote Sensing Lab

We have checked the pulse of a wild-living blue whale for the first time, and discovered something remarkable. When blue whales dive for food they can reduce their heart rates to as low as 2 beats per minute. This is well below the rates the large animals were calculated to have. Previous predictions were that the whales would have a resting heart rate of 15 beats per minute.

The finding is particularly extraordinary given that whales have an energetically demanding feeding method, says Jeremy Goldbogen at Stanford University, California. During lunge feeding, a blue whale engulfs a volume of prey-filled water that can be larger than its own body.

From a large inflatable boat in Monterey Bay, California, Goldbogen and his team used a 6-metre pole to attach heart rate monitors to a single blue whale. The monitors were held in place with suction cups. The researchers were then able to monitor the whale’s heart rate for almost 9 hours. They detected heart rates of just 2 to 8 beats per minute hundreds of times.

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The whale dived for as long as 16.5 minutes at a time, reaching a maximum depth of 184 metres, and stayed at the surface for intervals ranging from 1 to 4 minutes. The whale’s heart rate was at its lowest when it was diving for food and shot up after it resurfaced, reaching a peak of 37 beats per minute.

The reduction in heart rate during dives enables whales to temporarily redistribute oxygenated blood from the heart to other muscles needed for lunging, says Goldbogen. Whales then recover upon resurfacing by dramatically increasing their breathing and heart rate, he says.

These results demonstrate “the quite extraordinary level of flexibility and control that these diving mammals have over their heart rate and blood flow”, says Sascha Hooker at the University of St Andrews, UK.

Recent technological advances have enabled these kinds of readings to be collected from free-living whales, says Hooker. “These are opening the door to a much greater understanding of how these animals are able to perform some quite amazing feats of diving and exercise,” she says.

Journal reference: PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1914273116

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Jupiter’s Great Red Spot is healthy despite looking like it’s dying

Jupiter red spot

Jupiter’s Red Spot is in better shape than we thought

NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Kevin M. Gill/CC BY 3.0

Jupiter’s giant storm, the Great Red Spot, may not be dying any time soon. It seems to have been unravelling for decades, but this is probably down to the movement and shredding of clouds rather than a sign that the storm is abating.

Concerns have been mounting that the Great Red Spot might disappear. Once it was big enough for almost three Earth-sized planets to fit inside it – now it can hold little more than one. Although we know the iconic storm has been shrinking since 1878, the pace of this seems to have picked up since 2012, leading to reports that it could be nearing its demise.

What’s more, photos of Jupiter captured earlier this year by the spacecraft Juno showed red “flakes” measuring 100,000 kilometres across breaking off from the Great Red Spot.

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But this flaking isn’t actually a sign of the storm breaking apart and dying, says Philip Marcus at the University of California, Berkeley, who presented the findings today at a meeting of the American Physical Society in Seattle.

The health of the Great Red Spot has been previously inferred from images of the clouds that sit above its central swirling vortex – shrinking clouds are thought to indicate a shrinking storm. But although the clouds probably affect the vortex, they aren’t crucial to maintaining the storm itself, says Marcus.

Using computer models, he and his colleagues found that the flaking captured by Juno was in fact the effects of a rare event: cyclones that are common in Jupiter’s atmosphere had collided with lumps of cloud that hadn’t yet been pulled into the storm as they passed by. The impact “shattered” the clouds, which appear red because they sit above the storm and are therefore exposed to more of the sun’s UV radiation. This gives the impression that parts of the Great Red Spot are coming apart.

Marcus says he was surprised by how easy it was to simulate the flaking, which “cried out for explanation”.

“It’s wonderful to see serious attempts at numerical simulations being brought to bear on this complex topic,” says Leigh Fletcher at the University of Leicester, UK. We should be careful about making assumptions based on photos alone when we still don’t fully understand the storm’s environment, he says.

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