Why Aren’t All Rivers Straight? The Answer Is Kind Of Mind-Blowing.

Isn’t science great?

Rivers, y'all. There's so much about them I didn't know.

1. Rivers only *seem* tame and lazy.

Mountain streams are corralled by the steep-walled valleys they carve. Their courses are literally set in stone. Out on the open plains, those stoney walls give way to soft soil, allowing rivers to shift their banks and set their own ever-changing courses to the sea. Courses that almost never run straight, at least not for long, because all it takes to turn a straight stretch of river into a bendy one is a little disturbance and a lot of time.


2. What makes a river bend?

Say, for example, that a muskrat burrows herself a den in one bank of a stream. Her tunnels make for a cozy home, but they also weaken the bank, which eventually begins to crumble and slump into the stream.

As more of the stream's flow is diverted into the deepening hole on one bank and away from the other side of the channel, the flow there weakens and slows. And because slow-moving water can't carry the sand-sized particles that fast-moving water can, the dirt drops to the bottom and builds up to make the water there even shallower and slower. And then it keeps accumulating until it becomes new land on the inside bank.

Meanwhile, the fast-moving water near the outside bank sweeps out of the curve with enough momentum to carry it across the channel and slam it into the other side, where it starts to carve another curve and then another and then another and then another.

3. Rivers can do math. Sort of.

Measurements of meandering streams all over the world reveal a strikingly regular pattern. The length of one S-shaped meander tends to be about six times the width of the channel. So little, tiny meandering streams tend to look just like miniature versions of their bigger relatives.

4. But it doesn't mean they're very smart about it.

As long as nothing gets in the way of a river's meandering, its curves will continue to grow curvier and curvier until they loop around and bumble into themselves. When that happens, the river's channel follows a straighter path downhill leaving behind a crescent-shaped remnant called an oxbow lake.

Learn more:

Heroes


Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

Keep Reading Show less
Packard Foundation
True

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Amy Johnson

The first day of school can be both exciting and scary at the same time — especially if it's your first day ever, as was the case for a nervous four-year-old in Wisconsin. But with a little help from a kind bus driver, he was able to get over his fear.

Axel was "super excited" waiting for the bus in Augusta with his mom, Amy Johnson, until it came time to actually get on.

"He was all smiles when he saw me around the corner and I started to slow down and that's when you could see his face start to change," his bus driver, Isabel "Izzy" Lane, told WEAU.

The scared boy wouldn't get on the bus without help from his mom, so she picked him up and carried him aboard, trying to give him a pep talk.

"He started to cling to me and I told him, 'Buddy, you got this and will have so much fun!'" Johnson told Fox 7.

Keep Reading Show less
Most Shared