About the SA Blog Network

The SA Incubator

The SA Incubator

The next generation of science writers and journalists.
The SA Incubator HomeAboutContact

Bora’s Picks (February 8th, 2013)

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

Email   PrintPrint

Brown eggs and ham: Colorblind children encounter unseen challenges in the classroom by Joss Fong:

As a kindergartner at Green Acres Elementary in Lebanon, Ore., William Jeffrey Harding failed a scholastic aptitude test and was placed in special education. His parents, having observed their son’s abilities, asked to see the test and discovered that the questions were color-based: “How many green crayons are in the picture? How many red?” But William is colorblind….

Sorry, Malcolm Gladwell: NYC’s Drop in Crime Not Due to Broken Window Theory by Rachel Nuwer:

The “broken window theory” has had its day. This criminological theory, which argues that keeping urban environments neat and tidy deters would-be criminals, first popped up in social science in 1969, with a famous experiment detailing the fates of two different cars left out on the street in the Bronx and in Palo Alto with their hoods open and license plates removed. (Spoiler: the car in Palo Alto fared better—until the researcher broke its window, after which it was quickly stripped down.) The theory gained popularity through the ’80s, when The Atlantic first covered it, and ’90s, when New York City used it to design policing strategy, before, in 2000, it helped journalist Malcolm Gladwell make his career with The Tipping Point. The book earned the author whopping $1 million advance, and introduced to the theory to a much wider audience—many readers remember most vividly the broken window section of Gladwell’s best-seller….

Magnetic Memories May Guide Salmon Home by Nadia Drake:

After years at sea, sockeye salmon returning to their freshwater homes may be guided by an early memory of the Earth’s magnetic field, encoded at the site where natal streams empty into the Pacific Ocean, according to a study published today in Current Biology. “Lots of folks have been wondering for decades how salmon and other animals, like sea turtles or seals and whales, go out in the ocean for a couple of years and then return with remarkable accuracy back to their home,” said study coauthor Nathan Putman, a marine biologist at Oregon State University. “The magnetic field is an important part of the [salmon's] migratory decision.”…

How do “fish of a feather” shoal together? by Anne-Marie Hodge:

“Birds of a feather flock together,” as the old saying goes, and that simple axiom raises many fascinating questions. Do animals really choose to associate with conspecifics that closely resemble themselves? If so, how do they even determine, without the either aid of mirrors or cognitive abilities that enable self-recognition, who is “of a feather” and who is not? Why would once choose to be “just a face in the crowd,” or even a member of a crowd at all? These strategies must have adaptive advantages, as they are displayed in so many different species—from schooling fish to migrating geese to herds of ungulates on the African plains. But what are the mechanisms involved?…

Refusing to die by Akshat Rathi:

SUICIDE is a part of life. Whenever any of the 100 trillion or so cells that make up the human body malfunction, which happens all the time even in healthy tissue, they are programmed to provoke their own death. The mechanism hinges on a protein called TRAIL, which is produced by the damaged cell and binds to receptors on its surface, causing inflammation. That is a signal for the immune system to sweep in and, through a process called apoptosis, break down the damaged cell and recycle its parts to feed healthy ones. If this self-destruct is subverted, however, the result is a tumour….

Patent examiners to strike over ‘shambolic’ pay system by Penny Sarchet:

Patent examiners will strike on 8 February over a pay freeze and overwork due to staff shortages, the Prospect union has announced. The union balloted its members on 1 February. Ninety per cent voted in favour of a strike on a 65 per cent turnout. Prospect members will strike for half a day from 12:30pm. The strike will be followed by work-to-rule for the rest of February. Prospect members say they will stop working overtime, and will spend more time on each patent…

Force for nature: Len Soucy has spent his life caring for injured birds by Kate Baggaley:

“I’m retiring or dying, one or the other. Maybe both,” says Len Soucy between doctor appointments. Founder of one of the largest wild bird rehabilitation centers in the United States, Soucy is in his 80s, and wears worn brown loafers and a crewneck sweatshirt decorated with images of owls and hawks. As he speaks, the glow from the living room fireplace reflects from his glasses…

Cooking up a twitter storm. Or: What not to do about the gender divide in science by Suzi Gage:

Today, an article appeared on the Guardian website, not in the science section (it was on the US news blog), but tweeted by @guardianscience and containing the word ‘science’ in the title. About girls and science, its headline claimed to explain ‘why the gender gap exists and what to do about it’….

3-D Cybertaxonomy: Fascinating Virtual Dissections That Will Freak You Out by Nadia Drake:

A glowing orange worm appears in a darkened sea – and then quickly begins to peel itself apart, revealing a labyrinth of internal organs. Just as quickly, the worms zips itself up, again appearing as a bristled ribbon suspended in an inky ocean. Scientists hope to someday build a digital library of such visualizations – perhaps one for every living organism – and marshal the resources of cyberspace to help zoologists study and identify life on Earth….

The astronomical data explosion by Naveena Sadasivam:

Back in 2011, when Robert Gagliano first noticed a dip in the brightness of a star that was almost 5,000 light years away, he marked it down and shelved it. He had simply been doing what thousands of other amateur astronomers around the world were doing — looking for signs of extrasolar planets by sifting through raw data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope posted on a newly launched planet-hunting website called….

Scientist of the Month: Rebecca Wragg Sykes by Erin Podolak:

Hello first graders! I’m so excited to introduce you to our February scientist of the month Dr. Rebecca Wragg Sykes. Becky is a palaeolithic archaeologist (I’ll let her explain what that means). Like I did with our other scientists, Penny, Philipp, Anne-Marike, and Pete I asked Becky some questions to find out more about what she does. I hope you will enjoy learning more about her and her research. Below you can read our interview, and if you’d like to ask her any questions, be sure to leave them in the comments!…

Don Stanley interviews Erin Podolak:

Best Science and Engineering Visualizations of 2012 by Nadia Drake:

Beautiful, ominous, and surprising, these are the winners of the 2012 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge. For 10 years, the competition — sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the journal Science — has celebrated the creators of visually striking, informative, and original art. The 2012 winners were announced today. From glowing corals to spiky seeds to neural networks on a chip, these images speak more clearly — and louder — than any report ever could….

Medics May Be Able to Save Soldiers by Injecting Foam Into Gut Wounds by Rachel Nuwer:

Internal bleeding on the battlefield often proves deadly for soldiers hit by bullets or shrapnel. But the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has just announced a new type of injectable foam that could save lives by molding to organs to stop hemorrhaging, Scientific American reports. If trials work out, field medics could use the foam as a way to buy time for soldiers on their way to medical facilities….

In Mysterious Pattern, Math and Nature Converge by Natalie Wolchover:

In 1999, while sitting at a bus stop in Cuernavaca, Mexico, a Czech physicist named Petr Šeba noticed young men handing slips of paper to the bus drivers in exchange for cash. It wasn’t organized crime, he learned, but another shadow trade: Each driver paid a “spy” to record when the bus ahead of his had departed the stop. If it had left recently, he would slow down, letting passengers accumulate at the next stop. If it had departed long ago, he sped up to keep other buses from passing him. This system maximized profits for the drivers. And it gave Šeba an idea….

Clinical research: Attention deficit forecasts autism traits by Laura Geggel:

Children with attention difficulties early on may later show signs of autism, such as trouble holding a conversation, says a new study published 14 November in Psychological Medicine. The study, a survey of typically developing children, is potentially important because it suggests that treating early signs of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may prevent autism traits, the researchers say….

What Causes Lou Gehrig’s Sticky Masses? by Emily Underwood:

Globs of protein clustered in the neurons that control muscles have long been the hallmark of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the fatal neurodegenerative disease also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Now, a study of the most commonly found mutant gene in people with ALS reveals an unexpected origin of some of those sticky masses, a finding that may offer drug developers a new target for treatments. …

India and endosulfan: A bitter harvest by Akshat Rathi:

Endosulfan, a pesticide, has been poisoning villagers in India over the past two decades. Its use has caused physical and mental ailments among thousands of children and adults and deaths of many hundreds. In 2011 India agreed to ban endosulfan, and, more recently, it offered compensation to its victims. But now it is falling short to keep both those promises….

Rights & Permissions

Add Comment

Add a Comment
You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.

More from Scientific American

Email this Article