MySci Round-Up, July 22: Everything is Illuminated

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A MySci  birthday shoutout to Edward R. Farber, born on this day in 1914, who from an early age was fascinated with lighting. As a teenager in Milwaukee, he began making neon signs, and started a company with a friend to market them to churches and businesses near the drugstore that his father operated. When a local electricians’ union tried to put him out of business, Farber got a local Boy Scout troop to picket the union’s headquarters, carrying illuminated signs made by Farber. The electricians were so amused that they made Farber an honorary member of their guild. Farber went on to study at the University of Wisconsin, and then got a job as a photographer for the Milwaukee Journal. It was there, in 1937, that he invented the first portable, battery-operated strobe flash unit for cameras. Portable flashes not only made it possible to shoot good pictures at night, but also enabled news photographers to use fast shutter speeds and capture high-resolution photos of action. And here at MySci, we’re an action-loving bunch. So without further ado, here are the MySci stories of the day.

Colorado’s yellow-bellied marmots are getting fatter because of climate change. The furry creatures are coming out of hibernation earlier and eating more, causing them to become unnaturally plump.

The Air Force wants to develop robotic cargo that loads itself onto planes. The intelligent robo-pallet, as they call it, could eliminate a lot of heavy lifting for humans.

The biggest star in the cosmos?  Newly-discovered R136a1 has a mass about 265 times that of our Sun.

The sky isn’t falling, but it IS shrinking. The thermosphere, the largest portion of the Earth’s atmosphere and the last part that you go through before reaching space, has shrunk by 28 percent over the past 11 years. Scientists are at a loss to explain why.

Does eating fast food make us more impatient?  A new psychological study suggests that thinking about McDonald’s or KFC makes us more inclined to seek quick rewards from other things.

A tree protein may dramatically increase memory of computers.  Israeli scientists say molecules of the substance, found in poplars, can be combined with silicon nanoparticles to make smaller memory chips.