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Weekly Highlights #7 – Danielle Venton

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Danielle Venton (@DanielleVenton on Twitter) came from the UC – Santa Cruz science writing program (after she worked at CERN for a few years) and has been writing a lot at Wired over the past few months. Here are some recent highlights:

Huge Group of Polar Dinosaur Tracks Discovered in Australia:

The discovery of a group of more than 20 three-toed dinosaur tracks in Australia is the largest and best-preserved collection of polar dinosaur tracks found in the Southern Hemisphere. The tracks were found on the rocky coast of Victoria, Australia, in rocks that are around 105 million years old, paleontologists report in the journal Alcheringa Aug. 9…

Mother Nature as Engineer: 9 Design Tricks Borrowed From Biology:

For elegance and efficiency in design, Mother Nature takes gold. Compared with our technology, Nature’s solutions are often less wasteful, longer lived, self-maintaining and typically stronger, faster and lighter. Engineers looking for new ideas have found inspiration in nature’s designs. Biomimicry, or “life imitating,” is a time-honored route to innovation, stretching back at least to the 15th century, when Leonardo DaVinci studied birds to create plans for flying machines…

Scientists Want You to Track Ants in Your Neighborhood:

Ants seem common and ubiquitous, especially at summertime picnics. But the names and types of ants crawling around city parks and streets are largely unknown to researchers. The School of Ants project is recruiting ant-gathering citizen-scientists for help creating detailed lists and maps of ants living in urban areas, particularly around homes and schools. “The diversity of ants, even around your home, is pretty high,” said Andrea Lucky, project leader and ant specialist at North Carolina State University. “They’re fairly charismatic, compared with other insects, and we don’t know that much about them…”

Our Social Nature: The Surprising Science of Smiles:

All hail the powerful smile. The right smile, at the right time, wins friends and calms enemies. The smile held for too long, not long enough, flashed too intensively or too dimly, arouses suspicion, fear or anger. Far from being a straightforward show of joy, the language of smiles is filled with subtlety: a meld of our inner state, surroundings, social training, conscious and unconscious…

NASA Releases Full Map of Antarctic Ice Flows:

Vast rivers of ice flow from Antarctica’s inner regions out to the coasts, as shown in an animated map released by NASA. The map offers glaciologists and climate change researchers a full view of the speed and direction of moving ice on the continent, and reveals several new features…

Why Some Seconds Seem to Last Forever:

Though our perception of time can be stunningly precise — given a beat to keep, professional drummers are accurate within milliseconds — it can also be curiously plastic. Some moments seem to last longer than others, and scientists don’t know why. Unlike our other senses, our perception of time has no defined location in our brain, making it difficult to understand and study. But now researchers have found hints that our sense of time stems from specialized units in our brain, channels of neurons tuned to signals of certain time lengths…

Scientists Want Your Help to ID Creatures in Your Home:

The next time you hunger to see wildlife without leaving the city limits, save yourself a trip to the zoo, and take a peek inside the refrigerator. Places inside your home, like the fridge, water heater and bedroom pillows, contain more wild and unknown species than any nature reserve. A project to collect and identify the little-studied flora and fauna of our homes, with our help, was launched Aug. 21 by ecologists at North Carolina State University (the same biology department organizing the School of Ants project). The Wild Life of Your Home project will collect samples from rural and urban homes in all 50 states…

NASA Satellite Finds Coldest, Darkest Stars Yet:

Stars as cool as the human body found by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer offer astronomers the chance to study star formation and the atmospheres of planets like Jupiter, away from the light of more dazzling stars. The WISE satellite, decommissioned this year, returned data revealing 100 new brown dwarfs, sometimes termed “failed” stars. Six of these are classified as cool Y’s…

Check more of Danielle’s work over at Wired.



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