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July 28, 2013: Riding Horseback From Canada To Brazil, Walking Silently For 17 Years, and More

This week, we ride from Calgary to Brazil, relying on the kindness of strangers, then we forego motorized vehicles for 22 years while maintaining a vow of silence, and finally, we get some hiking tips from the best hiker in the world.

Top 10 Headlines Today: Urine-Powered Phone, Fossil Treasure Trove, and…

The top stories on National Geographic’s radar today: Scientists have apparently created the world’s first phone powered by urine, a fossil “treasure trove” has been discovered in Australia, and…

Geography in the News: Death Valley’s Dangers

By Neal Lineback and Mandy Lineback Gritzner, Geography in the NewsTM Death Valley’s Dangers One of the most inhospitable places on earth claims lives frequently. Death Valley, Calif., is a desperate place to be, never more than this year, as temperatures have approached the world’s record. Forecasts are for the daily high temperatures to reach…

The Hot, Powerful Water Beneath Glasgow

The city of Glasgow sits above old caverns filled with hot water. Could it be used to heat homes?

Hot Enough For You? Here’s Why

For Americans sweating it out around the country, the news won’t come as much of a surprise: the first five months of 2012 have been the hottest on record in the continental United States. This past June 164 all-time heat records were broken or tied, and July is off to a sweltering start. What’s causing the latest heat wave?

Extreme Heat and Drought in Fire-Stricken Colorado River Basin: This Is What it Looks Like in 2012

As I write this, the air outside is hazy from the fires raging up and down Colorado’s Front Range, including the Flagstaff fire, pictured above, as seen from my office window in Boulder, Colorado. Some of the smoke is what’s left of nearly five hundred homes that have burned in communities to the north and…

Europe Asks If It Can Probe Uranus

This past September the giant planet Jupiter made its closest approach to Earth since 1951, briefly becoming the brightest object in the night sky, aside from the moon. And not too far from that brilliant dot, sky-watchers with even modest binoculars could easily spot one of Jupiter’s distant relatives: the icy gas planet Uranus. Uranus’…

Pac-Man on the Moon

Saturn’s moon Mimas must be a fan of 1980s pop culture. Not satisfied with being labeled the “Death Star moon,” Mimas has now decided to host an interplanetary game of Pac-Man. paku-paku, paku-paku Scientists working with NASA’s Cassini orbiter yesterday released the highest resolution heat map to date of daytime temperatures on the icy moon.…

It’s Official: Opportunity Found a Meteorite on Mars

—Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University Dubbed “Block Island,” the conspicuous space rock is now the largest confirmed meteorite found on the red planet, NASA announced today. The Mars rover Opportunity snapped the above portrait of Block Island on July 31, as it moved in closer to touch the meteorite. Opportunity’s examinations revealed that the two-foot-wide object…

Definition of a [Habitable] Planet?

Ever since Pluto got voted off the island, most astronomers have defined a planet as a body orbiting a star—dead or alive—that is a) massive enough to be rounded by its own gravity, b) not massive enough to ignite itself into starhood, and c) domineering enough to have swept its neighborhood clean of smaller planetary…

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot Experiences Shrinkage

It’s kind of like a wool sweater that’s been put through the dryer. Except the sweater is a hurricane-like storm as wide as three Earths, and the dryer is Jovian climate change. —Image courtesy NASA/JPL/University of Arizona From 1996 to 2006, Jupiter’s Great Red Spot shrank by about 15 percent, according to researchers at the…

Mars Volcanoes’ Watery Tales

Is it mold on a bathroom wall? A close-up of a Dalmatian? The results of a tragic toner-cartridge accident? —Image courtesy NASA/JPL/University of Arizona In fact, it’s a Martian volcano in the process of defrosting. The ancient cauldron is part of a group of volcanoes that rings the Hellas impact basin on the red planet’s…

What’s Inside Saturn?

What’s going on inside a gas giant? Sending spacecraft in to investigate is a risky proposition—the deeper you go, the higher the heat and pressure, so you’d be burned up and/or crushed before you got far enough to record much. But thanks to various probes and telescopes operating at safer depths, we know a good…

Venus Is Boiling, Odd Dark Spots Suggest

Unless you live underground or in a very cloudy part of the world, it was pretty hard to miss the crazy conjunction of Venus and Jupiter Monday night that, when joined by the crescent moon, smiled on one side of Earth while frowning on the other. But as millions of skywatchers reveled in that display,…

Live Long and Prosper, Says Star With Two Belts

Just about every house has a room where projects go to die. The old computer that you were going to refurbish and give to charity, that set of fabric swatches that were meant to be a quilt, your brief and ill-advised fling with oil painting—all the remnants of things that could have been, but were…