September 14, 2012 | 1
This week we have brain parasites, wasps who hunt deadly spiders, skin turning into sperm and more. Oh, and Bora pitches in with his list of awesomeness too!
Ready, set, go…
Brain parasites guys! So creepingly intriguing. Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato has a terrific blog post in Scientific American’s Guest Blog about patient, Sara Alvarez, who had to undergo brain surgery to get those parasites removed. It’s a really great read. Plus there’s a video (you’ve been warned).
Sara Alvarez was afraid. The doctors told her she needed surgery — brain surgery. Operations on such a complex organ are never simple, but this procedure was exceptionally difficult. There was a high risk of complications, of debilitation, of post-op problems. Alvarez might wake up paralyzed. She might wake up legally blind. Worse still, there was a chance she might not wake up at all.
Douglas Main in OurAmazingPlanet kills it with a fantastic piece about wasps who hunt deadly spiders. Those things happen in Australia.
Throughout Australia, a tiny wasp stings and paralyzes redback spiders before laying an egg that develops into a larva and slowly devours the dangerous arachnids, Australian researchers have announced.
Scientists have turned skin cells into sperm cells. And this is great. But has this been hyped a little too much (and misleadingly so)? Ada Ao investigates on Scitable’s The Promethean Cell blog.
The report of sperm cells created from skin cells may appear amusing at first blush. I was certainly guilty of a reflexive guffaw, which was promptly replaced by shame as I realize what it meant for male infertility caused by cancer or chemotherapy. I cannot stress enough what a significant step this is in stem cell biology because making germ cells in a lab has been notoriously difficult, and is even harder to prove.
Students don’t like know-it-all teachers (and probably those who pretend they know-it-all). As it turns out, they don’t like know-it-all robot teachers either. But unsure robots might just work, as writes Douglas Heaven in New Scientist.
The best way to learn is to teach. Now a classroom robot that helps Japanese children learn English has put that old maxim to the test. Shizuko Matsuzoe and Fumihide Tanaka at the University of Tsukuba, Japan, set up an experiment to find out how different levels of competence in a robot teacher affected children’s success in learning English words for shapes.
Kate Shaw, in Ars Technica, tackles our perceptions of sex and gender in the animal kingdom. We’ve set social boundaries in our human societies but animals are much more… open, shall we say.
Sex—one small word with huge implications. To most humans, being male or female implies a certain set of inseparable biological and sociological characteristics, but the natural world around us is rarely so black and white. For every characteristic that we associate with a particular sex, the animal kingdom harbors at least one surprising exception; concepts that we believe are inextricably linked are uncoupled, and even reversed, in other species.
Nadia Drake, in ScienceNews, writes about exoplanets. Exoplanets are cool so I shouldn’t have to convince you to go read the piece.
On a bright June evening, residents of Anchorage packed the theater in Cyrano’s Off-Center Playhouse, ready to sample some otherworldly dispatches. The messages were beamed to Earth by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, which circles the sun spying on planets orbiting distant stars. Planet-hunting members of the mission’s science team, in town for an American Astronomical Society meeting, served as translators for the evening, telling tales of far-off worlds that put a twinkle in the spacecraft’s eye.
BONUS! Because he’s awesome, Bora sent in some links to a number of great pieces by early-career science writers as well. Yep, the weekend is going to be fantastic. Enjoy!
The Question of Code, Erin Podolak blogs about a conversation which also includes Bora, Rose Eveleth, Kathleen Raven and Lena Groeger.
On alcohol and loyalties in medical journalism, Kelly Poe.
New genetic analysis narrows HIV vaccine targets, Kathleen Raven.
Why I support the New York City soda ban, Audrey Quinn.
Stacking Up the Administration’s Drone Claims, Lena Groeger.
The Great Hermit Crab Migration, Hannah Waters.
How to Make A Fruit-Salad Tree, Ashley P. Taylor.
Meet the World’s Newest Monkey Species, Rachel Nuwer
Kennedy’s Public and Private Thoughts on Apollo, Amy Shira Teitel.
Why Hurricanes All Look The Same From Space, Tanya Lewis.
A model on an eco-mission, Susan E. Matthews.
The feminist neurotransmitter, Kathryn Doyle.
How Curiosity brought us together, Miriam Kramer.
You can find early-career science writers on Twitter on this list.