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Scientists have confirmed a 200-year-old hypothesis that Earth’s entire atmosphere vibrates like a giant bell. Using data from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts to examine atmospheric pressure worldwide on an hourly basis from 1979 to 2016, they showed that the vibrations produce waves travelling in both directions around the globe. This creates a ‘checkerboard’ pattern of high and low pressure that matches theoretical predictions from the early 1800s. The findings are “a beautiful example of fundamental theory confirmed in observations – something not very common in a complex system like the Earth’s atmosphere”, says climate scientist Ted Shepherd.
Features & opinion
A popular theory about the origin of language is that it began with gestures, rather than speech. Before children can talk, they learn to point, nod and wave. Could the development of language in our ancestors have followed the same sequence? Cognitive scientist Kensy Cooperrider explores the gesture-first and speech-first origins of language, and explains why the ‘hardest problem in science’ could be one of the most tantalizing.
In a new book, mathematician Eugenia Cheng applies her branch of pure maths — category theory — to the under-representation of women and other groups in science. In x+y, she argues that, instead of trying solely to recruit women or minority groups into hostile environments, we should train researchers to create an inclusive system by encouraging behaviour that is ‘congressive’ — collaborative, emphasizing community and interdependence.