Abstracts: Asteroids, Trump Nominees, and More


• A three-mile wide asteroid named Florence flew past Earth on Friday, the largest asteroid to fly near us since 1890. Only 4.4 million miles away from Earth, Florence was close and bright enough for scientists to view it through a telescope for a few nights. (New Scientist)

An asteroid named Florence is the biggest to fly close to Earth in more than a century. Visual: Andrzej Wojcicki/Getty

• President Trump announced his picks for several prominent positions in various departments, including the administrator of NASA and the assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Trump’s NASA nominee, Oklahoma Representative Jim Bridenstine, has attracted bipartisan backlash due to his limited science background and denial of man-made climate change. (Science)

• Since 2000, the Netherlands has transformed the way it produces food, reducing water usage for important crops by up to 90 percent, nearly eliminating chemical pesticides for plants grown in greenhouses, and more recently, drastically cutting the use of antibiotics for livestock. Despite the small size of the country and its relatively limited natural resources, it devotes more than half of its land area to agriculture and horticulture to produce “twice as much food using half as many resources.” (National Geographic)

• As rescue and rebuilding in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey continue, commercial drones are joining the relief efforts in Houston, helping assess damage and determine whether residents can return to their homes. This is one of the first times that drones are helping out after a major natural disaster since the Federal Aviation Administration started approving their use last year. (Wired)

• Scientists studying ISIS fighters have identified factors that lead people to die for a cause: an intense commitment to the “sacred values” of a group, a willingness to prioritize that group over family, and a perceived “spiritual” strength within their group or community. The findings could provide useful policy implications to combat extremism. (The Guardian)

• Archaeologists in Colorado just began the first excavation of a 900-year-old Chaco village, which could provide new insights into Native American history and culture in the four-corners regions of the United States. The project is specifically examining the ruins of the “great houses” on the site. (New York Times)

• The first “intermediate-sized” black hole — the younger version of supermassive black holes — has been discovered in the Milky Way. Scientists believe this could help them better understand how the galaxy formed, as supermassive black holes are thought to be crucial for the development of galaxies and stars. (The Telegraph)

• And finally, a new study reveals that infant mammals cry as a survival instinct, and that the same brain cells that dictate breathing also give babies the ability to cry. (New York Times)