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Bora’s Picks (November 2nd, 2012)

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


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Q&A: The science of feather forensics by Naveena Sadasivam:

Birds have become rather well adjusted to urban settings, which is in itself an evolutionary feat. But add it to the fact that the number of airplanes has also increased, and you have a recipe for an aerial disaster….

Astronomers spot leftover light from ancient stars by Nadia Drake:

Light from the universe’s very first stars still lingers in space. Now, astronomers have a new way to catch it: Distant, ultra-bright galaxies that act as cosmic beacons, capturing relict photons in a blaze of gamma rays….

Food Fight by Kate Yandell:

This election season has brought up some scientific issues that have been painfully clear-cut. Human papillomavirus vaccines do not cause mental retardation. Women who are raped can become pregnant. Climate change is caused by humans and is reason for concern. But California’s upcoming Proposition 37, which would mandate the labeling of genetically engineered foods, might have a few voters scratching their heads. Is it a victory for transparency in an age when large corporations control our food system? Or is it, as some have claimed, based on an anti-science premise with few practical benefits?…

Flying fish fossils hint at ancient evolution by Hannah Krakauer:

ANCIENT flying fish could make waves in our picture of prehistoric oceans. Fossils recently found in southern China suggest that these winged wonders evolved millions of years earlier than previously thought….

If You Eat Too Much Silver, Your Skin Acts Like a Black-and-White Photo by Rachel Nuwer:

For the first time, researchers have figured out how silver can permanently turn a person’s skin into a striking blue-grey color, causing a condition known as argyria. Scientists have known for years that argyria somehow related to silver since they often find silver particles lodged deep in the skin of people who have the condition, but until now it wasn’t clear how the element changed people’s skin blue. Not surprisingly, a complex chemical reaction is behind the change of hues, which often results after people partake in alternative antimicrobial health remedies involving silver nano particles….

Man’s true best friend? by Christine Kelly:

Do you have any idea how many times per day you come into contact with bacteria? I mean, aside from the ones making their homes in your gut, on your skin and nearly everywhere else you can think of. I’m talking about the ones in your pillow, on your toothbrush, in the yogurt you eat for breakfast, on the subway pole you hang onto for dear life, on your office phone, on your keyboard and mouse. They are everywhere. Freaky, isn’t it? Let’s look at some of these omnipresent little buggers….

How to Tell If Your Kid Will Become a Great Artist by Rose Eveleth:

Every parent thinks their kid is the best at everything: the best soccer player, the best singer, the best artist. The world would be full of Grammy-Award winning Olympic medalists who win Nobel Prizes, if parent’s dreams came true. But there is a way to spot artistic talent in your own kid. It’s hard – but here are some strategies to start….

What is the true measure of a storm? by Aatish Bhatia:

As Hurricane Katrina surged towards New Orleans, people faced the unthinkable prospect of abandoning their homes and finding shelter. Worst affected were some of the city’s most vulnerable citizens, the poor and the elderly, parents with young children, people without cars, and people living in flood-prone areas. Among those who stayed back, many were old enough to remember Hurricane Camille, a category 5 storm that devastated the region in 1969. Many homes were spared from flooding then, so it stood to reason that they should hold up to Katrina, also a category 5 storm that was demoted to a category 3 by the time it hit land. Sadly, they were mistaken, as the category rating of the hurricane was not the best measure of the raw destructive power of the storm….

Sustainable tilapia farm comes to Baltimore by Alexa C. Kurzius:

There are some new fish in Baltimore, and they don’t come from the Chesapeake Bay. On October 5th, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future launched an aquaponics farm in the city. By raising about 400 tilapia and harvesting hundreds of pounds of organic vegetables, the organization hopes to sell these goods at local markets and inspire local entrepreneurs to copy their model….

Felix Baumgartner: Unwitting Role Model by Amy Shira Teitel:

Two weeks ago, Austrian daredevil and skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped 120,000 feet from a balloon. It was neat, but that’s about it. It was a stunt funded by RedBull. My opinion on the jump as a whole can be found in full here…

Fracking- beyond the sand by Kate Prengaman:

Sometimes, I feel like I’m swimming in sand. Since the spring, my work for WCIJ has been focused primarily on covering the implications of the growth explosion in Wisconsin’s sand mining industry. The good news is that the coverage we produced has been really well received, and a couple of organizations recently asked me to speak to groups about the state’s frac sand boom. It’s really cool, but it also makes me nervous, so tonight I went to check out the first session of the Nelson Institute’s Community Environmental Forum on Fracking: The Wisconsin Connection, to see what I had signed on for….

Triangle Land Conservancy has new leader by Kelly Poe:

The Triangle Land Conservancy has a new executive director. Chad Jemison was hired to lead the private nonprofit organization, which conserves open spaces to preserve clean drinking water, wildlife habitats and local farming. Jemison started Monday, replacing Kevin Brice, who resigned in April after more than eight years in the position…

Counting the Fish in the Sea by Gabriel Popkin:

The 2010 US census workers had a tough job, but at least they were on land, counting residents with home addresses. 2010 was also the year a group of marine biologists completed a much tougher assignment: a global canvass of ocean residents who don’t fill out forms, live in some of the most remote places on the planet, and often move thousands of miles in a single year. The first study of its scope, the Census of Marine Life has added thousands of new species to the books, and has shown, in the words of project director Jesse Ausubel, that “the ocean’s even richer in diversity than anybody had known.”….

The science is the message by Arielle Duhaime-Ross:

Getting your art featured on the cover of an international publication while still an art student is a big deal. So when artist Joana Ricou‘s depiction of a mouse hippocampus, the region of the brain located in the medial temporal lobe that deals with memory, made the cover of the Journal of Neuroscience in 2005, she took that as a sign that the universe was giving her the go-ahead….

How To Win an Argument with a Climate Skeptic by Alex Kasprak:

Climate science is an extremely complicated discipline. Climate change skeptics and deniers, I believe, thrive on this complexity. They highlight what is not known or not agreed upon to suggest that the discipline as a whole is flawed. The best way to combat such an argument is with simplicity. In that light, I present a simple, four-point argument demonstrating the reality of anthropogenic global warming….

Shortage of Georgia Public Health Nurses at Crisis Level by Lacey Avery :

Lorri Tanner arrived at work the Friday before Memorial Day with thoughts of a long weekend on her mind, but by the time she settled into her office at the Walton County Health Department, her plans had drastically changed.

Tanner, a registered nurse and the county nurse manager, learned there was a potential active case of tuberculosis (TB) that if confirmed she’d need to address immediately. Walton County has had fewer than five cases in the last two years.

Emergencies like this are not unusual the Friday before a holiday, Tanner joked….





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