The Sciences

Saturday links

Not Exactly Rocket ScienceBy Ed YongMay 22, 2010 5:39 PM


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As you’ll probably already know, the big news this week is Craig Venter’s work on Synthia. Some say he’s created life; I think he’s merely plagiarised it (albeit in an admittedly very complicated way). Some of the best pieces on the work are as follows: Nature has eight glowing reactions; one of the scientists who worked on the project took questions from Reddit readers; the New York Times has a more reserved take; Ars Technica decides to focus on the paper’s technical achievements; Mark Henderson has a measured commentary in the Times; and Carl Zimmer argues that “it is life, ultimately, that recreates life from life”. The Daily Mail wrote some guff about I Am Legend, but I’m not linking to them. Wired has some incredible reporting about a watershed case in the use of brain-scanning evidence in courtrooms. Laelaps covers a study that confirms how thresher sharks use their massive tails to stun their prey. 600 light years away, a sun is eating a planet. OM NOM NOM. The Bad Astronomer has the story. “WHAT... is your favourite colour?” Neurotopia covers a cool paper on colour preferences. “I'm not sure if I'd be too pleased to wake up after a serious brain injury to find someone pouring milk in my ears, but then again, I'm not an Ancient Egyptian,” says Mind Hacks. Law and Order shamelessly rips off the Henrietta Lacks story. Abel Pharmboy is quite rightly peeved. Is organic food preferable to non-organic food? Not according to wild birds, who prefer protein-rich non-organic seeds, as covered in Ars Technica. Earlier this year, I wrote about slime moulds simulating the Tokyo rail network. Now, the same trick has been used for America’s roads. Forbes has an excellent piece about foods that masquerade as drugs, from supplements to probiotic drinks. Andrew Wakefield: the Graphic Novel! Look for Wolverine to guest-star in a future issue, slashing credibility with his adamantium claws. The New York Times wonders if an obsession with search engine optimisation will kill the clever headline. It starts, unpromisingly, by talking about the Huffington Post but there’s some sensible stuff in the closer. Wired tells us that dementia caregivers more likely to develop dementia themselves. Odd. The mechanism isn’t clear. The Times discusses the first press conference from the UK’s new science minister, David Willetts. He’s not a climate change skeptic and he supports blue-skies research. That’s a bare minimum standard for acceptability and somehow, I’m disproportionately happy that it’s been met. Journalism students are apparently desperate for jobs in mainstream media, says the Guardian. Er, why? More interestingly, talks about the portfolio career COSMOS hilariously describes a trained turkey vulture, used to find the corpses of missing people and fitted with GPS as ‘low-tech’. Pest numbers rise around farms growing genetically modified strains of Bt cotton. God, the Telegraph’s science reporting is appalling. Once more with the evolutionary psychology. And finally, Zooillogix considers the mechanics of death by rectal swamp eel. No, really.

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