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Ask Dr. Universe: Why do we need the sun?

Right now, the sun is shining through my window. It feels warm on my muzzle.

I talked about the sun with Guy Worthey. He’s a professor of astronomy and physics at Washington State University.

He told me that our lives depend on the sun.

“The sun keeps you warm and powers everything,” Worthey said. “Without it, Earth would be a frozen nightmare.”

The sun is a yellow dwarf star. It’s made of super-hot gases. Since it isn’t solid, the part of the sun we call the surface is really its inner atmosphere—called the photosphere. If you could stick a thermometer into the photosphere, it would read 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. But the sun’s outer atmosphere—called the corona—reaches a whopping 3.5 million degrees.

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Ask Dr. Universe

Why do we change our minds?

As a science cat, I’ve changed my mind a lot over the years. I used to wear a fancy neck scarf called a cravat all the time. Now I’m comfy in my lab coat.

I talked about that with my friend Makita White. She’s a graduate student in the psychology department at Washington State University.

She told me that we change our minds when we get new information or insight that tells us we need to make a different choice.

It turns out that we have lots of opinions and beliefs. They’re also called attitudes. We have attitudes about what we like to eat or wear. We have attitudes about other people and how the world should be.

White told me that having attitudes helps us out.

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Ask Dr. Universe

Tim Kohler to deliver Cordell Lecture

SFI External Professor Tim Kohler (Washington State University) will be delivering the Linda S. Cordell Lecture through the School for Advanced Research (SAR) on April 28, 2024, at the New Mexico History Museum.

In his lecture, Kohler, who recently co-led an SFI working group on “Inequality over the long-term,” will offer an archaeological account of wealth disparity worldwide, including the pre-Hispanic Southwest. His talk, “10,000 Years of Inequality: The Archaeology of Wealth Differences,” draws on new data from his Global Dynamics of Inequality (GINI) project.

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Sante Fe Institute

If Alexander the Great had invaded Rome, would he have won?

Alexander the Great conquered a massive empire that stretched from Balkans to modern-day Pakistan. But if, Macedonian king had turned his attention westward, it’s possible he would have conquered Rome, too, feasibly smiting the Roman Empire before it had a chance to arise. So why didn’t Alexander the Great try to conquer Italy ? The answer may be that he died before he got the chance.

Some ancient texts suggest that Alexander the Great was planning a military campaign in West that involved conquering parts of Italy, among other locations along the Mediterranean. Roman historian Quintus Curtius Rufus, who lived in 1st Century AD, claimed that Alexander the Great had planned a series of conquests that, if successful, would have expanded his empire all the way to what is now Strait of Gibraltar. Alexander planned to build 700 ships to support this invasion, Rufus noted. Other ancient writers made similar claims. “Romans were convinced that Alexander would have attempted the conquest of Rome, but for modern historians, it is impossible to say,” Nikolaus Overtoom, an associate professor of history at Washington State University.

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Archeao Histories