Here’s your weekly science stuff!
Number 1 is a bit of depressing news on the global warming front. We may see a complete collapse of the Arctic sea ice shelf within four years.
To cheer you up a bit from that, number 2 is a look at several plants in an MRI. Very awesome!
Number 3 is a story about how we may find a better pain killer in the most unlikely place, a black mamba’s mouth. The world really is just awesome.
In number 4, French bees invade a Mars factory, eat some M&Ms and then produce blue honey. No, that’s not fiction, I promise.
Number 5 is all about how yo momma was a Neandertal.
Special bonus link, because we’re all about the books here: a list of can’t wait for science fiction and fantasy coming out in October from io9. The list includes a new suburban fantasy by Jacqueline Carey that I’m really jazzed about and a new Cory Doctorow book about the copyright apocalypse, just to name two.
Look, not an astronomy link in the bunch. *Snoopy dance*
Let’s get right to the science.
1) Some of you may remember my rant from last year denouncing the Council of Europe’s stance on wireless emissions (if not, here’s a link). Today’s first story from ScienceDaily is yet another study that shows no correlation between wireless and the supposed health problems some people say they cause.
2) A bit of cool mad sciencery that will hopefully help explain how life came about on our pretty blue marble.
3) Enjoy this stunning time lapse video of Joshua Tree National Park that was posted at io9.
4) Warp Drive? Why yes, I’ll take one. Gizmodo had a story this week about NASA working on development of a real-life warp drive. I don’t know how much is wishful thinking and how much is practical, but it’s all-around awesome.
5) A new astronomical toy called the Dark Energy Cam is all the rage. They will use it to gather data on cosmic acceleration that will hopefully allow a accurate estimates of the motion of our Universe. Heavy stuff.
That’s all the science news for now. Check back next week when I promise there will be slightly less astronomy… maybe.
PS – A bonus entry that’s more science fiction than science, a very cool space short film by the name of Grounded.
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these but some recent news has convinced me that I should start it up again. When Curiosity landed on Mars I stayed up way too late into the night to make sure the cutest little laser-wielding robot ever landed safely.What I remember most was what one of the folks in the JPL said right after they confirmed a safe landing, “Let’s see where our Curiosity takes us.” Cheesy as hell, sure, but it gave me goosebumps.
I’m not sure if I’ve said it on here, but to my mind curiosity is the most underrated human trait. I simply can’t understand people that don’t want to learn random stuff whenever they can. I. Just. Don’t. Get. It. I meet people all the time that are amazed about the random useless stuff I know and they want to know how I picked it all up. I read. That’s all. I sometimes want to shout at people who can’t see past the tiny speck of their own lives to the marvelous wonder that is the universe. Use that big brain for something, will ya?
Sorry about the mini-rant… Anyway, as part my own battle against mental atrophy I’ll share some of the coolest and most awesome stuff I read in science news every week.
Uno: This first piece comes from my latest obsession. I haven’t shared it on here yet, mostly because I wasn’t sure anyone who came here looking for my writerly blog would be the slightest bit interested in aquariums. However, if that’s not the case let me know in the comments and I’ll share more about aquariums than you’ll ever want to know. I promise. Anywho, here’s a story about some male snails that have it pretty rough. Not only do they have to play Mr. Mom to the prospective brood, but they can even get stuck watching baby snails that don’t even belong to them.
Dos: From a new obsession to an old one: horses. Recent research has determined that specialized gaits in horses can be tracked to a single gene. Gene DMRT3 is used in the production of neurons in the horse’s spine, and thus can alter the way the horse’s limbs are controlled.
Tres: Astronomy news, just because it’s one of my favorite topics. The discovery of a possibly habitable planet in a binary star system has all the astronomers aflutter.
Quatro: You knew there was going to be some Curiosity news in here somewhere, didn’t you? The first human voice heard on another planet is officially Charlie Boulden, the administrator of NASA.
Cinco: More astronomy, just cuz. An interesting paradox regarding the most widely accepted theory of how the moon came into being.
That’s all for this week, kiddies. I hope you enjoyed your scientific snack. More to come next week!
Another unthemed edition of Science Affliction for you this week.
1) Livescience.com has an article about how the internet is changing how we remember things. I find this really fascinating. In essence, the studies suggest that people who frequently reference the internet remember locations of information rather than the information itself.
2) Filed under really freaking cool is a post about glowing mushrooms at io9.com. What I thought was neatest about these shrooms is that they glow constantly, unlike animals that only fluoresce periodically.
3) If you’re at all the biology nerd that I am, you’ve probably wondered how sex came to evolve. We might have an answer! An article at ScienceDaily.com explains why we probably have parasites to thank for sex. Sexual reproduction trumps asexual reproduction in environments where parasites are prevalent. Combining genes allows descendents to be more parasite-resistant.
4) One of the many unanswered questions regarding evolution is how simple chains of organic molecules became the complex chains of DNA that exist now. A study summarized in an article at arstechnica.com showed how new bases can be attached to lengthen small RNA chains that are immobilized, without the aid of enzymes.
5) This is a special one for Jimi! A new type of virus is shown to species hop between animals and humans in this article at nature.com. Adenoviruses were not previously thought to hop species, but studies surrounding an outbreak in monkeys in 2009 showed that the virus infected humans as well.
Extra bonus tidbit: Check out the photos of four new species of Jewel Beetles and if you haven’t read it before, go read my flash fiction story, Beetle Juice which features a black jewel beetle.
Next week I’ll unveil another of my science crushes and do a themed episode on astronomy! Guesses on the identity of my science crush are welcome.
For Science Affliction this week, I’m going to broach only one subject. The big, beautiful hunk of gray jelly called the brain. Here’s why: I have a science crush on David Eagleman. I was first introduced to him a few months ago via a TedTalk he did. (It’s 22 minutes long, but so worth a watch or listen when you have the time. He talks about what’s in between everything and that’s really all I can say without rambling for a long time.)
Mr. Eagleman is a neuroscientist who has a ton of interesting stuff to say about the jiggly bits between your ears. Recently, he posted a long article at The Atlantic called “The Brain on Trial”. If you want a quicker synopsis, you can find one at the blog Reading by Eugene. What he’s saying isn’t a new idea, by any means. He suggests that criminal behavior has much more to do with brain chemistry than most people want to admit. He challenges judicial systems to change in order to accommodate what we are finding out about how our brains work and how that impacts our behavior. Eagleman doesn’t say that biology leaves criminals blameless, but he does posit that free will is more an illusion than fact. His argument isn’t that we should just shrug and admit defeat, but that we should use what we learn about the chemistry of the brain to help these people control their impulses.
Time for your weekly romp around the internet for tasty science tidbits!
1) ScienceDaily.com has a fascinating article on a study regarding the possibility that social pressure creates false memories.
The most outstanding feature of the false memories was a strong co-activation and connectivity between two brain areas: the hippocampus and the amygdala. The hippocampus is known to play a role in long-term memory formation, while the amygdala, sometimes known as the emotion center of the brain, plays a role in social interaction. The scientists think that the amygdala may act as a gateway connecting the social and memory processing parts of our brain; its “stamp” may be needed for some types of memories, giving them approval to be uploaded to the memory banks. Thus social reinforcement could act on the amygdala to persuade our brains to replace a strong memory with a false one.
2) First it was Pluto. Then the Triceratops. Now they want to get rid of pi. Livescience.com has a post about why mathematicians might want to change the well-loved constant.
3) This photo posted on i09.com looks like some sort of cartoon alien, but it’s really a one-eyed fetal shark. Creeeepy!
4) Could antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria in humans be caused by the use of antibiotics in agriculture? There’s one study discussed in this article on arstechnica.com that seems to support that.
5) Some intrepid bacteriologists engineered E.Coli that uses 5-chlorouracil–a synthetic and toxic substance–in place of thymine in its DNA. They started out with a strain of bacteria that could not synthesize its own thymine, built up generations that had a tolerance for the 5-chlorouracil and then removed thymine from the substrate. Interesting and scary all at the same time.
6) Extra, bonus entry this week, because I thought this was a neat story. Ed Yong explains why pruney fingers evolved.
Ryan’s Word of the Day is malefic, an adjective meaning evil.