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PCB Contamination, Space Flowers, and Python Removal

The six most distant known objects in the solar system with orbits exclusively beyond Neptune (magenta) all mysteriously line up in a single direction. Also, when viewed in three dimensions, they all tilt nearly identically away from the plane of the solar system. Batygin and Brown show that a planet with 10 times the mass of Earth in a distant eccentric orbit anti-aligned with the other six objects (orange) is required to maintain this configuration. The diagram was created using WorldWide Telescope. Image by Caltech/R. Hurt (IPAC)

Listen to this episode of Science Friday on January 22, 2016 from 2-4pm on WSQX.Polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, have been banned worldwide for the past 30 years due to environmental concerns. According to a study in the journal Scientific Reports, high levels of the toxic chemical have been detected in the blubber of whales and dolphins off the coast of Europe. Rachel Feltman from The Washington Post discusses this story and other selected short subjects in science. Then, Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times describes an unusual Floridian contest—the 2016 Python Challenge Burmese Python Removal Competition.Most New Yorkers go out of their way to try to avoid the bacteria with which they share their daily subway commutes. Not Craig Ward. Inspired by the urban legend that “using the handrails on the subway is like shaking hands with 100 people,” the typographer and illustrator set out to capture the subway’s tiny denizens: bacteria lurking on subway poles, seats, and windows. Ward sampled the microbes on subway lines throughout the city, photographing his findings. The results are striking and unconventional “portraits” of NYC commuters.