Saturday links

By Ed Yong | May 29, 2010 12:00 pm

Listen to a fascinating debate between Alan Rusbridger of the Guardian and John Witherow of the Times about whether paywalls with save journalism.

These photos of Saturn and its attendant moons from the Boston Globe are astronomically beautiful.

Male topi antelope scare females into staying for sex by feigning alarm calls. This will features in a sex advice column somewhere within months.

Baby sloths. Like adult sloths, only smaller and younger.

British poll shows declining interest in climate change, supposedly due to Climategate, indecisiveness at Copenhagen, and a spate of cold weather.

Dr Petra gives us a thoughtful analysis of a new “abortion ad” causing controversy in the UK, and dissects a lot of the media myths around abortion.

There’s more on Craig Venter’s synthetic life breakthrough. Venter himself debunks some of the hype around the study at the Wall Street Journal. Meanwhile, Charlie Brooker wins the internet at the Guardian. “Bits of yeast and E coli… eventually knitted the strand into a complete million-letter-long DNA sequence, which you’re probably incorrectly picturing right now.” And more superb satire here: journalists create world’s first artificial news story.

Science journalist Christine Ottery has started a new blog called Women’s Mag Science that analyses science coverage in women’s magazines and tries to better it.

“It’s not quite as easy as putting thermometers under their tongues and waiting 30 seconds, but scientists have discovered a way to measure the average body temperature of animals that lived millions of years ago.” Michael Price at ScienceNOW describes a new palaeothermometer.

A wonderful report by the Pew Research Center showed that between January 2009 and January 2010, science accounted for 10% of news stories on blogs but just 1% in traditional press. Science was the 3rd most popular news topic on blogs and the 23rd most popular in traditional press.

Carl Zimmer describes the world’s ultimate ultra-marathonner – the bar-tailed godwit, which flies 7,000 miles non-stop without a single pretzel. I love how his NYT piece and his blog post complement each other (and have slightly different writing styles).

In the NYT, Andy Revkin discusses a study claiming that a warming world won’t have more malaria in it. The author of the paper responds in the comments.

My name is DarWIN, not DarLOSE.” Dana Carvey actually made me laugh.

10% of sharks are luminous, and some can effectively use their lights to turn invisible, according to Discovery News.

An awesome feature by Steve Silberman in Wired, on the problems of human tissue storage. Science writers take note: this is how you do it.

Schoolchildren review the UK’s science curriculum. Worth a read.

XKCD has a legendary survey about how people perceive and name colours. The list of disproportionately popular colour names by gender is hilarious, as is the final list of colour descriptions.


Comments (8)

  1. I loved all these links except the one pointing to the Dana Carvey sketch. It had a couple of decent moments but the guy is just not funny.

  2. I think the palaeothermometer story is the most interesting for me, though as they say, it’s yet to be seen if it works on dinosaurs. I wonder if the method would verify the cold-blooded mammal story from 2009 (which is one of the most interesting 2009 science items that I never saw mentioned on any blog).

    The “Women’s Mag Science” link is broken. Very broken – looks like a copy & paste error. I think it’s a good policy to click on all links in one’s own blog posts at the time of publication.

  3. Thanks for the link to my Wired story, Ed. You’re a continuing inspiration.

  4. zackoz

    Thanks for the Saturn link.

    Wonderful pictures (but get a load of the comments!)

    Good timing – coincidentally the BBC series on The Planets is showing on Australian TV, and I had just seen the episode about Saturn.

  5. @zackos

    As far as I can tell, the planets series on Australian TV (the one on Thursday nights) has nothing to do with the BBC. Here is a link which states that the series is Australian-made.

  6. SimonG

    A particularly fine selection this time. Steve Silberman’s article was especially interesting and as you said, an excellent piece of science writing. A problem I’d never even considered, clearly explained.

  7. OMG the sloth video was too cute. Thanks for the links. Yep, think you are right about the antelope article showing up soon as a post and I really enjoyed the snaps of the shark senses.

  8. Joseph Ting

    The stellar distances travelled by several tracked feathered flyers are truly astonishing and inspirational (7000 miles non stop, and no pretzels. Carl Zimmer May 24th 2010). In my trips to the Antarctic, I would marvel for hours at the albatrosses that effortlessly glided on the winds generated by the ceaselessly turbulent southern ocean, following in our ship’s wake. Maybe we are seen as fishing vessels with the prospects of discarded fish and squid. To add import to the flying feat of birds, it is worthwhile mentioning that albatrosses have also been tracked to fly the phenomenal distances alluded to in Carl Zimmer’s article. Their continuous journeys however have been without respite at any intervening land mass in the circumpolar southern ocean, a feat aided by expertly using the updrafts generated by stormy ocean waves. I wonder whether smaller non sea going birds are similarly attuned in using jet streams to aid their gargantuan journeys-to physiological adaptation for marathon flights add attunement to, and intelligence in using, nature’s helping hand.


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