A furtive moth slurps up this sleeping bird’s tears

Caught red-handed.
Caught red-handed.

Image: Leandro João Carneiro de Lima Moraes/ the National Institute of Amazonian Research/Youtube

Deep in the Amazon jungle, ecologist Leandro Moraes filmed a moth sucking the tears out of a sleeping antbird’s eye. 

The delicately-performed nighttime feeding is a rarely seen event, wrote Moraes in a report about the experience, entitled “Please, more tears: a case of a moth feeding on antbird tears in central Amazonia.”

The short clip depicts a moth carefully dipping its tubular mouth into the bird’s closed eye. For a brief moment, the antbird opens its eye, but doesn’t seem to notice the large insect perched on its back — nor the tube resting in its eyeball.

Consuming the tears of other animals is called lachryphagy, and has previously been witnessed in bees and butterflies consuming the tears of formidable predators: crocodiles. 

Stealthily sucking another animal’s tears is apparently a risk worth taking. In an intensely-competitive natural world, tears are a rich source of salts and nutrients. Sleep carefully.

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The best gift ideas for horror fans

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Surprise! These gift ideas will spook the horror fan in your life.
Surprise! These gift ideas will spook the horror fan in your life.

Image: warner bros

Everyone has a friend who knows not to run upstairs when they should be running out the front door.

I’m talking the horror movie fan in your life, who’s so similar to Randy Meeks from Scream or Marty Mikalski from Cabin in the Woods they’ll never, ever investigate a basement or deep, dark forest with you. 

This is the friend who knows “the rules” — they will tell you not to pick up the phone, not to have sex (“sex equals death”), never drink or do drugs, and never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, say “I’ll be right back.” 

You won’t be back.

So they’ve saved your ass a few times from a rampant serial killer during a senseless bloodbath. Time to get ‘em a gift! Here are a few ideas that’ll make them happier than a creep calling from inside the house.

A red balloon

Leave that floating sucker near a storm drain and your horror-loving friend will absolutely love It.

A Hereditary-style dollhouse

Want to really impress your modern horror-loving pal? If they’ve seen the unforgettably disturbing Hereditary, why not scare the hell out of them with a creepy dollhouse? You can pick up dollhouses from toy stores, both online and off, and take the opportunity to fashion a little true-to-life scene or two within its haunted halls. 

A Ouija board

OK, so Ouija boards have single-handedly kickstarted countless nightmares from The Exorcist to Paranormal Activity, so why not bring those demonic, murderous pals into your own existence? 

A good, old-fashioned security camera

Want to catch ghosts blasting through your cupboards, leaving little witch crosses outside your tent, and possessing your girlfriend? Nothing better than the gift of a security camera to record your own supernatural demise. Keep them going all night long — you won’t want to miss the moment when one of your family members gets dragged into a cellar by an unseen shadowy thing. Right? Action!

A television set that doesn’t ever find reception

Hey, everyone loves a flickering television screen, especially fans of The Ring. So why not find an old television set that doesn’t quite get reception, except for when you hit play on a mysterious, freaky, arthouse-looking VHS tape that’s been left here. Weird. Put both of your hands on the screen for a real Poltergeist of a ride.

A cup of tea

Cheapskates can make their giftee a lovely cup of tea. Just keep stirring it, and stirring it, and stirring it, and stirring it until boom — the Sunken Place.

A mysterious book. It’s just a book, right?

Gather ye round for a whale of a tale, that’ll probably result in you being impaled! But seriously, a mysterious book, say, of a fun-loving pop-up romp starring your ol’ pal The Babadook, will float any horror lover’s boat. Just don’t let them read the last page, or you might find a less than happy ending.

A weekend away in a cabin in the woods

Breathe in that fresh air, enjoy that lack of phone signal, and relish the fact that no one will hear you scream! Book your stressed out giftee a casual weekend away in a quaint, isolated cabin in the woods, where the chances of prime relaxation, a flesh-eating virus outbreak, a homicidal spirit attack, or a machete-wielding hockey mask-wearing killer visit are super high. It’s the gift of a clear mind, and brain! Seriously, their brain may not make it back home.

A tricycle

Most efficient way to roll around hotel hallways, avoiding freaky twins and blood-filled elevators.

A creepy, old-timey doll

They’ll be your giftee’s friend forever and ever and ever and ever …

Three Bloody Marys, requested looking into a mirror at midnight

You know how this ends.

A Goosebumps board game

This is just a really good gift, guys.

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Kanye West stays on brand with a naive pro-Trump rant on ‘SNL’

Image: Brent N Clarke/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Kanye West was the musical guest for the Season 44 premiere of Saturday Night Live. He brought his MAGA hat along.

It was originally supposed to be Ariana Grande, but she cancelled. So instead we got West, performing three songs (not SNL‘s usual two): A debut of “We Got Love,” featuring Teyana Taylor, along with “Ghost Town” (from West’s June 2018 album, Ye) and “I Love It,” featuring Lil Pump.

Those who attended the show’s live taping were also treated — maybe not the right word to use here, but just go with it — to another Kanye West trademark: An impassioned rant.

“They bullied me backstage. They said ‘Don’t go out there with that hat on.’ They bullied me.”

OK, Kanye.

It happened after “Ghost Town,” which closed the show. Normally, SNL episodes end with that week’s guests appearing on the main stage with the main cast for an informal goodbye, but that’s not how things went down on the Season 44 premiere.

Instead, West invited the cast up to the stage as he ran down his final performance of the night. For viewers at home, that’s where the show ended. But West didn’t relinquish the stage. Instead he sounded off on the same talking points he’s been spouting since he entered the “I support Donald Trump and fuck you for telling me not to” phase of his career.

He called for his haters to “try love” if they want to “move the world forward.” He cited a data point, seemingly fabricated on the spot, that “90 percent of news are liberal,” and that makes it seem “like it’s so, so, so one-sided.”

He also reiterated his previously stated plan to run for president in 2020. After that, West — a man whose fame is based in large part on his penchant for ranting publicly with no filter — said “we need to have a dialogue, not a diatribe.”

OK, Kanye.

Footage from the unaired portion of West’s performance made its way to social media. The above clip, from producer Mike Dean, shows some of it. There’s some more below, plucked from an Instagram Story that Chris Rock shared.

Midway through Rock’s assortment of clips, you can hear the comic audibly chuckle and whisper “Oh my god.”

Oh my god indeed. For all his “try love” talk, the reality is that West consistently uses his platform to incite and divide. He frames his critics as bullies and dismisses rational arguments against his naively rosy view that it’s possible for everyone to just drop the baggage and come together.

Kanye West doesn’t have a damn clue what he’s talking about. That’s never been more true than it is right here.

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Scientists make artificial Martian dirt, will sell it to you for $20

Scientists don’t expect to get their hands on Martian soil anytime soon, so they’re making their own.

Created by University of Central Florida astrophysicists, this red soil, called Mars “simulant,” is designed to give researchers a useful approximation of the actual, far-off extraterrestrial soil. This might be especially relevant for testing the growth of crops, or how exploration equipment might fare on the surface.

At $20 per kilogram (2.2 pounds), NASA’s Kennedy Space Center has already placed an order, according to the university

Mars simulant in a bowl.

Mars simulant in a bowl.

Image: University of Central Florida

“The simulant is useful for research as we look to go to Mars,” said Dan Britt, a researcher in the University of Central Florida’s Planetary Sciences Group, in a statement. “If we are going to go, we’ll need food, water and other essentials. As we are developing solutions, we need a way to test how these ideas will fare.” 

The artificial Martian soil is modeled upon the iron-rich volcanic ground that blankets the red planet. The researchers published their results in the planetary science journal Icarus. 

Like any world, Martian soil comes in all sorts of varieties — clays, sand, and salty dirt — and the lab plans to use standardized methods to produce consistent simulants, so those preparing for space exploration can run reliable experiments. 

It’s not just Mars soil that’s in demand. The lab also sells both moon and asteroid dirt.

But there’s no potential human colony as far off as Mars, which on average is about 140 million miles from Earth. Brazen colonizers will almost certainly have to produce their own food, and perhaps make use of Martian soils and minerals to get that job done. 

“You wouldn’t want to discover that your method didn’t work when we are actually there,” said Britt. “What would you do then? It takes years to get there.” 

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‘Armageddon’-style asteroid will now not destroy human race, sorry

This post is part of Science of Sci-Fi, Mashable‘s ongoing series dissecting the science (or lack of science) in our favorite sci-fi movies, TV shows, and books.

Some days are so damaging to your faith in humanity, you may find yourself idly wishing for the cleansing global firestorm that would follow an impact from the kind of asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

If that’s the case, then astrophysicist and planetary scientist Michael Busch has some bad news. Over the last couple of decades, telescope-watchers like him have done such a good job of detecting and tracking the orbits of all possible extinction-level rocks out there that we can now say with confidence that none will hit us, at least not in the next 860 years. 

“We think we’ve discovered everything out there that’s larger than 1 km across,” Busch, who has been tracking asteroids since 2005, told me from his office in Mountain View, California. “Anything smaller than a kilometer would only cause regional destruction.” 

For comparison, the dinosaur killer that landed in Mexico was a whopping 10 to 15 kilometers wide.

C’mon, really, everything has been logged? Well, Busch concedes, “it’s possible there may be one or two behind the sun” where we can’t see them with current telescope technology. But the rocks would have to have been hiding there for the past decade, which is highly unlikely.

And what do we get in 860 years’ time? A puny rock called 1950 DA, which is a mere 1.1 kilometers across, and according to NASA models has at best a 0.3 percent chance of hitting the Earth in 2880. We don’t know exactly where yet, because climate change is altering the Earth’s rotation by tiny amounts — and on a timescale of 9 centuries, that change matters.

The next frontier for scientists like Busch is finding all space rocks larger than 100 meters in diameter — the kind that “if it fell on a city, there’s no more city,” he says. 

But even if a potential city-buster lurks out there in the darkness, that still means we have to reset our cultural expectations of total planetary apocalypse — which have been stuck in the same place for the last 20 years, largely thanks to Hollywood.

In 'Deep Impact', astronauts attempt to plant nuclear bombs aboard a comet heading for Earth --  utterly unnecessary, according to experts.

In ‘Deep Impact’, astronauts attempt to plant nuclear bombs aboard a comet heading for Earth —  utterly unnecessary, according to experts.

Image: paramount pictures/Getty Images

Old-school end of the world

In 1998, two asteroid disaster movies collided on the screen at roughly the same time. First came Mimi Leder’s Deep Impact, which we might best describe as blue-state America’s vision of an impact event. It was the somber, serious version, starring an MSNBC reporter and lots of government officials, including President Morgan Freeman. 

And then there was Michael Bay’s Armageddon —  an asteroid movie for the red states. Ignoring science, Bay casually devastated New York and Paris with a meteor shower (take that, liberal elites!). The rest of the movie focused on Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck and a couple Space Shuttles’ full of roughnecks, who blast off to kick some asteroid ass with an all-American H-bomb. 

“Every time I give a public talk about asteroids, someone jokes about Bruce Willis.”

This was so unrealistic that Bay had to add a disclaimer in the credits that though he had consulted with NASA, the space agency did not endorse his story. Many years later, scientists calculated that for the movie’s plot to work — the H-bomb splitting the Earthbound asteroid in two with enough energy to completely change the course of the two chunks — it would have to be a billion times more powerful than the largest H-bomb ever built.  

Not surprisingly, it is the unserious Armageddon vision that persists in our cultural imagination. 

“Every time I give a public talk about asteroids, someone jokes about Bruce Willis,” Busch laments. 

When it comes to deflecting those smaller city-busting asteroids, it turns out, an H-bomb can be a useful tool. But “blowing an asteroid in half is not how it’s done,” Busch says. “It’s a poorly-controlled process” — you wouldn’t be able to designate where the chunks of rock went.

If you’re going to make a fusion bomb do the work of predictable asteroid deflection, what you want to do is detonate it near one. Because it isn’t about the explosion, it’s about the waves of radiation that come in its wake. “What matters for an asteroid is the X-rays,” Busch says. “They’d vaporize one whole side of the asteroid, just turn it into a cloud of gas” — and nudge the bulk of the rock off course. 

But nobody’s going to make a Hollywood thriller about the sensible method of bending asteroid orbits to our will

That’s kind of a last resort option. Busch’s preferred method for asteroid deflection is what he calls a “gravity tractor.” If you simply park a spacecraft near an object like 1950 DA, then over a number of years the weak gravitational pull of the spacecraft itself would change an asteroid’s course enough to save the Earth. 

But nobody’s going to make a Hollywood thriller about the sensible method of bending asteroid orbits to our will, Busch laments: “A gravity tractor wouldn’t look that exciting, because you’re basically sitting there with the motor running for 10 years.” 

Morgan Freeman as president announces an extinction level event, which now unfortunately will never happen. Also unfortunate: Morgan Freeman is not the president.

Morgan Freeman as president announces an extinction level event, which now unfortunately will never happen. Also unfortunate: Morgan Freeman is not the president.

Image: paramount pictures/Getty Images

Space rocks, the next generation

The fact that Busch is involved in the anti-asteroid effort at all says a lot about how we got to this terribly safe juncture. Technically he works for the SETI Institute, the goal of which is to use telescope time to look for alien signals from the stars. 

But at a certain point, everyone’s just looking for stuff from the sky. And there’s been so much cross-pollination of asteroid science and research around the world in the last couple of decades, so much telescope-sharing, that it’s hard to say exactly how many people are involved in the effort to log and track dangerous rocks. 

Back in the Armageddon years, there were “fewer people working on this full-time than work in the average McDonald’s,” Busch says. These days, “there’s a large international effort that happens to be below the radar of the daily news.” Some of it even recruited members of the public, as in the game-like project known as Asteroid Zoo

A big part of that effort, and a lot of the funding behind it, came in 2013. That was the year a meteorite hit Russia, landing near Chelyabinsk, 930 miles east of Moscow, and injuring 1,000 people. You probably remember the viral dash cam videos of the meteorite’s path across the sky. 

Most of the injuries were caused by a shockwave of shattered glass after impact — which is why the smartest thing you can do if you happen to see a rock streaking through the sky is to get away from the windows. 

The Chelyabinsk rock was a mere 20 meters wide. Which helps to make Busch’s point that the rocks that remain still pose a threat, even if they aren’t going to be ending human civilization any time soon.

In fact, he thinks it’s high time Hollywood made a more realistic film — perhaps one about a 100-meter-wide city-killer landing on a major metropolis. “If we can get someone interested in that, I’m happy to advise,” Busch says. 

Your move, Michael Bay.  

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