Top ten picks
Piece of the week: “In the eery silence that followed Mary Stastch quietly strangled her infant.” Eric Michael Johnson has a superb piece in Scientific American on why mothers kill their kids. David Dobbs has an insightful reply too.
Coolest story of the week: here’s a guy who uses electric fish to make music. The best bit about this is that it was posted at Discover’s Science Not Fiction blog, just hours after I posted my piece on electric fish. And my post was about convergence, where two species evolve the same traits independently of one another!
Strange deaths have been linked to unregulated stem-cell therapies. “The latest cases highlight the difficulty of policing these therapies or determining their safety, because some companies are setting up operations around the globe, taking advantage of loopholes in other countries’ regulations.” Awesome story by David Cyranoski at Nature.
The Rock Stars of Science campaign in GQ has launched a flurry of controversy. Martin Robbins isn’t happy, saying that “if you have to resort to rockstars make science cool, you’re really not very good at communicating science.” SciCurious weighs in and brings some cheerleaders into the mix too. “Rather, it’s because, to make science cool, you can’t just associate scientists with cool or popular things, like cheerleaders or rock stars. You have to make it cool to DO SCIENCE.” Chris Mooney hit back with a great retort of his own (“To which the American public responds “!#$@^ you, I liked The Da Vinci Code” and returns to watching Dancing With the Stars.”) Gimpy has a sharp analysis of GQ’s demographics: “making science cool to educated, white men with high incomes.” And I probably like John Pavlus’s comment best of all.
The Houdini fly inflates head to break walls. It breaks down barriers! And has an inflated head! It’s like a blogger, only it breaks down barriers!
Carl Zimmer pens a wonderful portrait of Columbia’s virus-hunter Ian Lipkin in the NYT
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No it’s a.. FLYING SNAKE! They don’t need planes…
A major trial shows that men can reduce their risk of HIV infection by taking routine doses of AIDS treatment drugs. Maggie Fox at Reuters has a good write-up and FAQ. Maryn McKenna has an excellent analysis with important caveats, and the New England Journal of Medicine has a thorough comment piece
Flashers lit by bacteria flashes. This art installation has shots of naked people photographed by light of luminous bacteria
“It is proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder: Major affective disorder, pleasant type” This is satire, but brilliantly so.
“Sparsely arranged barnacles grew penises… that allow them to stretch farther, like an accordion or a bendy straw.”
“Women played a far more important role in the development and dissemination of science than had previously been thought.” Richard Holmes’s follow-up to Age of Wonder is about forgotten Victorian female scientists
Would you want to try catching and eating a scorpion called a “deathstalker“? Bats do.
“Our science is among the best in the world partly because, despite only having 1% of the world’s population, we can attract the best researchers from around the globe.“ Imran Khan writes in the Guardian about how an immigration cap will harm UK science.
“Physics is physics whether you’re a pterosaur or a sailing boat.” Wind Tunnel Tests Reveal Pterosaurs Could Soar for Hours
Tackling neglected diseases improves children’s minds and brains, says Dorothy Bishop in the Guardian.
Science’s biggest facepalms. Big scientists pick science’s biggest mistakes.
Lost: one massive lake. Last seen 250,000 years ago in Egypt.
Save the tiger, says the world. “This is the first time that world leaders have come together to focus on saving a single species” Grrrrrrreat.
What can microbiologists who study human bowels learn from those who study the bowels of Earth? Lizzie Buchen reports at Nature.
The NYT continues its anecdote-led series on how technology is ruining our minds. Well, might be. Probably. Maybe. Who knows? WHO? KNOW? Language Log isn’t having any of it.
“Montagnier is preparing a research project that combines these eccentricities and adds to them extraordinary ethical breaches.” Gimpyblog on an unethical autism trial.
The problem with the attention-span discourse is that it’s founded on the phantom idea of an attention spa… OOH SQUIRREL!
“It almost certainly will raise those fears, but it shouldn’t.” Is Wi-Fi killing trees? No, says arch-debunker Tom Chivers.
Are lab animals facing an obesity epidemic? This was an interesting paper with some pretty dodgy conclusions. I chose not to cover it. Nature did, and there’s some great analysis about half-way down with the paragraph that starts, “However, Jaap Seidell…”.
Emily Anthes on the genomes of your Thanksgiving supper.
Brian Switek on a collision between art and fossils.
US doctors should assume skin and soft tissue infections are MRSA unless tests say otherwise. DOOM!
It’s a retractothon! “Misleading authorship, plagiarism, data manipulation. And let’s not forget tampering with email.” Ding ding ding ding!
Guatemalan syphilis exposé inspires Obama to order major ethics review of federal research.
Scientists come closer to Doc Ock harness, under pretence of developing “robotic elephant trunk”
Richard Dawkins reads his own hate mail.
Awesome Star Wars typographic posters.
Diagrams that changed the world
A sunspot that looks like a sunflower and is as big as the Earth
Beautiful Gigapan images of tiger beetles
Frank Swain writes about glowing trees, engineered with a gene called luciferase. On Christian forums, some people believe it’s the work of the devil.
“A lot of people seem to think climate science is based on looking out the window.” I love the Daily Mash.
Rupert Murdoch continues with plan to flood the world with niche newsletters. Scott Rosenberg analyses why the iPad daily will be DOA
“There is a world out there beyond the “Submit now” buttons on journal websites.” DoctorZen on science outreach. Jerry Coyne also says, I can hardly make a post in which I don’t learn more than I teach.
“See you tomorrow, paedophile friends,” says Sarkozy to room full of journalists. Despite the logical validity of his analogy, this is why people need media training…
Lucas Brouwers forces his non-scientist parents to read one of my harder posts. The fiend! See the results.