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Happy Chinese New Year 2015!

A woman poses with a sheep display in Hong Kong, which like many cities has put up colorful lunar New Year's decorations.  Image via Agence France-Presse.

A woman poses with a sheep display in Hong Kong, which like many cities has put up colorful lunar New Year’s decorations. Image via Agence France-Presse.

Over a billion people in China and millions around the world are celebrating the first day of the Chinese New Year on February 18-19, 2015. It’ll be February 18 according to U.S. calendars, and February 19 in Asia. It’s the most important of Chinese holidays, kicking off a celebration that lasts for 15 days. Each year is associated with one of 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. For 2015, it’s the Year of the Sheep (Goat, Ram).

When space expanded faster-than-light

Artist's illustation via scienceblogs.com

Artist’s illustration of cosmic inflation via scienceblogs.com

New maps from the Planck mission support the theory of cosmic inflation, the idea that, in the moments following the Big Bang, space expanded faster than the speed of light. George Efstathiou – a leader in the Planck mission – explains more to the Kavli Institute’s Kelen Tuttle.

Lifeform of the week: Armadillos

I’ve been living in Texas for over six years now and blogging about animals for four of those years. And yet not once have I written about armadillos, a shameful omission which I will remedy today in this latest installment of Lifeform of the Week. Join me, dear reader, as there is much to learn…

For you, Valentine: Top 10 reasons we fall in love

The lovely and loving Adrienne Haschke. Used with permission.

When I was young, it seemed as if I fell in love a lot. Looking back now, more than 50 years from my first crush, I remember the dizzying feeling of new intimacies, emotional boundaries crashing down, two hearts thumping, two hands touching, the whole huge magical adrenaline rush of it. And if the prince turned out to be a toad, or geography nixed the relationship, well … I turned my thoughts to working hard and living a happy life. On this Valentine’s Day 2015, I want to share with you what the world of science suggests, from the perspective of one who has loved long and a lot, about the mystery we call love.

Lifeform of the week: From cacao tree to chocolate valentine

Image Credit: EverJean

Image Credit: EverJean

Though it wasn’t even manufactured in solid form until the mid 19th century, chocolate has become the go-to gift for Valentine’s Day. Originally bestowed upon Maya and Aztec civilizations by the Theobroma cacao tree, chocolate would later be re-gifted to European conquerors. It’s undergone some changes since that time, but its popularity hasn’t waned a bit.

This date in science: Chuck Yeager’s birthday

Yeager in front of the Bell X-1, which, as with all of the aircraft assigned to him, he named Glamorous Glennis after his wife.  Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Yeager in front of the Bell X-1, which, as with all of the aircraft assigned to him, he named Glamorous Glennis after his wife. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

February 13, 1923. Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier, was born in Myra, West Virginia on this date in 1923. Yaeger enlisted in the Army Air Corps in September 1941, at the age of 18 …

Amazing Mercury close up

Image via NASA / JHU / APL MESSENGER spacecraft.

Image via NASA / JHU / APL MESSENGER spacecraft.

The MESSENGER spacecraft acquired this image of Mercury on January 23, 2015, at a time when this part of Mercury was near sunset. It’s one of the highest-resolution images yet obtained of Mercury.

The 2015 Great Backyard Bird Count starts February 13

Common redpoll. Image Credit: Seabamirum via Flickr.

Common redpoll. Image Credit: Seabamirum via Flickr.

This year’s Great Backyard Bird Count runs from February 13 to February 16. It’s free and easy to participate. Find out how here.

This date in science: When a spacecraft destroyed a sundog

The coolest space launch ever! Watch what happened when a spacecraft launch destroyed a sundog, in the process bringing to light a new form of ice halo. Full story inside.

New half-life for iron-60 gives astronomers a better clock

Artist's illusration of a supernova via SmithsonianScience.org

Artist’s illustration of a supernova via SmithsonianScience.org. The new measurement for the half-life of iron-60 relates to the dates of certain cosmic events, for example, nearby supernovae.

Australian researchers get a new, more accurate half-life for iron-60, thereby making immeasurable time less so.