See these weird circles? Do you know what they are?

Image from Thorsten Becker/Wikimedia Commons.


They're big, circular patches of bare ground surrounded by plants. When I say big, I mean big — they can get up to 50 feet in diameter and can be seen for miles along desert grasslands.

They're called fairy circles.

A fairy circle in Namibia. Image from Thorsten Becker/Wikimedia Commons.

"Ohhhh it's fairies! Case closed!" you might be saying.

But, no, I'm sorry. As much as we all love Tinker Bell, fairies just aren't an accepted scientific hypothesis, no matter how much we'd like them to be.

Fairy circles only appear in certain, special places like Namibia. But recently, they've been spotted in Australia.

Image from Kevin Sanders/UFZ.

Scientists have known about Namibia's fairy circles since about the 1920s. But as of 2014, we know they appear in the dry, remote Pilbara region of Western Australia, too.

(If you want to have a bit of fun, they're visible on Google Earth in Namibia and in Western Australia.)

Fairy circles have baffled scientists for a long time.

Image from Stephan Getzin/Wikimedia Commons.

Some people thought they might have been created by termites, or carbon monoxide from deep within the Earth, or plants poisoning the ground. Tour guides in Africa have apparently been telling people it's because of a mythical dragon's incredibly awful breath.

But one idea seems pretty promising: It has to do with water, or a lack thereof.

Dr. Stephan Getzin of the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Germany and other colleagues analyzed the soil in the Australian circles.

Here's what they think happens:

When a bare, plant-less patch of soil dries out, the sun bakes it into a hard, impenetrable crust. Once the crust is formed, any rain that does fall on it either runs out to the edges or just evaporates. At the edges, however, the plants prevent the soil from baking as much, so the water drains into the dirt.


Image from Stephan Getzin/UFZ.

It's a kind of natural balancing act. Over time, these circles naturally grow and shrink as conditions change.

Getzin did caution that the process in Namibia may be different, however, because Namibia has a different, sandier kind of soil, but that fairy circles in both areas depend on water to form.

"The details of this mechanism are different to that in Australia," Getzin explains in a press release. "But it produces the same vegetation pattern because both systems of gaps are triggered by the same instability."

Getzin believes more undiscovered fairy circles may lie in other remote parts of the world.

If he is right and these fairy circles really are tied to water shortages and cycles, it's possible that these magical circles will spring up in other dry, desert areas as climate change alters weather patterns.

It's just a cool reminder about how much there is still left to discover in the world around us and how much we can learn about what the Earth is telling us about its needs if we just know how to understand the signs.

Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy asked his Senate colleagues the questions millions of Americans have after a mass shooting.

Another school shooting. Another mass murder of innocent children. They were elementary school kids this time. There were 18 children killed—so far—this time.

The fact that I can say "this time" is enraging, but that's the routine nature of mass shootings in the U.S. It happened in Texas this time. At least three adults were killed this time. The shooter was a teenager this time.

The details this time may be different than the last time and the time before that, and the time before that, and the time before that. But there's one thing all mass shootings have in common. No, it's not mental illness. It's not racism or misogyny or religious extremism. It's not bad parenting or violent video games or lack of religion.

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Man uses TikTok to offer 'dinner with dad' to any kid that needs one, even adult ones

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud.

Come for the food, stay for the wholesomeness.

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud. His TikTok channel is dedicated to giving people intimate conversations they might long to have with their own father, but can’t. The most popular is his “Dinner With Dad” segment.

The concept is simple: Clayton, aka Dad, always sets down two plates of food. He always tells you what’s for dinner. He always blesses the food. He always checks in with how you’re doing.

I stress the stability here, because as someone who grew up with a less-than-stable relationship with their parents, it stood out immediately. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at Clayton’s consistency. I also noticed the immediate emotional connection created just by being asked, “How was your day?” According to relationship coach and couples counselor Don Olund, these two elements—stability and connection—are fundamental cravings that children have of their parents. Perhaps we never really stop needing it from them.


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