Abstracts: Eclipses, Emojis, Heat Waves, and More


• A deadly heat wave dubbed “Lucifer” hit parts of Europe last week, fueling wildfires, harming crops, and killing at least two people. Temperatures have regularly crept above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Serbia, Romania, Croatia, and regions of Spain, France, and Italy, with some areas getting no relief even in the evenings. (New York Times)

A total solar eclipse will be visible across the United States on August 21. Visual: Takeshi Kuboki/Flickr

• Thanks to emojis, computers can now pick up on sarcasm. Using over a billion tweets containing popular emojis, researchers successfully trained an algorithm to recognize sarcasm, which also enabled it to identify hate speech more quickly than humans. (MIT Technology Review)

• During previous solar eclipses, some observers have noted unusual animal and insect behavior as the sun goes dark. In anticipation of the upcoming solar eclipse that will hit much of the continental United States, scientists are encouraging observers to take photos of strange animal behavior using an app to help them understand this elusive phenomenon. (Washington Post)

• When drug costs are high, patients are often told to ask pharmacists for a cheaper generic version. But some pharmaceutical and insurance companies have been making it impossible for consumers to buy them, forcing them to pay extra costs. (ProPublica)

• A week-long hearing began in Nebraska on Monday concerning the future of the contentious Keystone XL pipeline, which was rejected by Obama but approved by President Trump after he took office. The price of oil has fallen dramatically since the project was first proposed in 2008, meaning that the tar sands oil that the pipeline would transport is now less economically viable. (InsideClimate News)

• Public agencies have long advocated for the suppression of forest fires. But some scientists argue that that these efforts harm plants and animals that thrive in recently burned forests, and that the economic costs of fighting forest fires — not to mention the lost lives of firefighters — are not worth the supposed benefits. (New York Times)

• Members of the Obama administration’s science staff, the vast majority of whom have been replaced by President Trump, have formed an informal network pushing the previous administration’s science agenda. The group of former staffers has been holding strategy sessions and continuing to advise Democratic lawmakers. (STAT)

• And finally, as the United States prepares for the upcoming cross-country eclipse, astrobiologist Caleb A. Scharf explains how the phenomenon plays out on Mars, where partial solar eclipses occur almost every day. (Scientific American)