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Khalil’s Picks (15 February 2013)

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


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Some surprising stuff this week: dinosaur DNA, on the most abundant organism on Earth, non-stinking sweat and more. Also, some fiction related news this week, as Jonah Lehrer gets a couple of mentions.

Oh, did I mention dinosaur DNA?!

One more time: DINOSAUR DNA GUYS! By Jon Tennant on his EGU badass-titled blog, Green Tea and Velociraptors.

Dinosaur cells identified with possible dino-DNA!
The discovery of extractable dinosaur DNA is many a scientist’s dream. The idea of finding DNA within extinct animals has an air of mystery and discovery that is just ridiculously appealing, whether you’re 5, 50, a teacher, palaeontologist, or cab driver. I think this is part of human nature, where we always seem to have a longing for what we can’t have, and one thing we’ll never have are the things that have been lost to ages long past.

The latest issue of The Economist has a piece by Akshat Rathi about the most abundant organism on Earth. It’s just been discovered too which clearly shows why we should fund science!

Flea market: A newly discovered virus may be the most abundant organism on the planet
What is the commonest living thing on Earth? Until now, those in the know would probably have answered Pelagibacter ubique, the most successful member of a group of bacteria, called SAR11, that jointly constitute about a third of the single-celled organisms in the ocean. But this is not P. ubique’s only claim to fame, for unlike almost every other known cellular creature, it and its relatives have seemed to be untroubled by viruses.

Suzi Gage starts off her Guardian blog with a superb post about people who don’t stink when they sweat. She also wonders why those people still buy deodorant.

Are you wasting money on deodorant? The answer can be found in your ears
There really is ‘a gene for sweaty armpits’, but new research suggests that the lucky people who don’t have smelly sweat still use expensive deodorants.

Pete Etchells‘ guest blog post at Discover’s The Crux is about mental illness in the digital age. My summary mostly repeats the post’s title because I can’t describe it in a more intriguing way than the title already does (kudos Discover editor!).

Treating Mental Illness in the Digital Age
The Internet is a wonderful, terrifying thing. On the one hand, it gives us instant access to literally all of humanity’s collected knowledge, and connects us to those that we know and love. On the other, it all too often exposes an awful side to people who shroud themselves in anonymity in order to hurt others. When it comes to mental health, this darker reflection of the Internet can cause lots of serious problems. Thankfully though, an increasing number of people are exploiting the positive potential of the web, using digital tools in innovative ways to help both patients and professionals.

The Rockefeller University’s The Incubator has some really neat content. I really liked this one by Emily Jane Dennis about why snowflakes are “shaped” the way they are.

Snowflakes are pretty
The basics: Snowflakes/crystals are made of water molecules. They begin forming when water vapor gets cooled down quickly, forming droplets with dust. As these droplets freeze, they bump into other water molecules and droplets, and grows and grows (or doesn’t). Each snowflake is made of roughly 1,020,000,000,000 water molecules! (check  my math here- assumes a 3mg flake ) Lots of snowflakes are identical, but the more complex ones are very unlikely to have a twin.

The journalism community was horror struck this week when it was revealed that fiction writer Jonah Lehrer received $ 20,000 to apologise for his turning-wishes-into-facts and plagiarism talents. Taylor Dobbs has an open letter to Lehrer published on this network’s guest blog that you should read.

#ProveitJonah: How Jonah Lehrer can prove his apology wasn’t a sham
Jonah, The first thing I asked my dad when I got to ScienceOnline 2011 was “Is Jonah here?” You weren’t but I spent the next few days with a group of people that truly wanted each other to succeed. I learned then that the community of science writers I was immersed in were both extremely talented and extremely generous. As I told Bora Zivkovic after the conference, the best aspect for me was being in a group of people with the experience and know-how of veterans in the journalism world but the enthusiasm of a startup.

More more more and even more:

Have I missed anything? If so, post a comment below. Read well.

Khalil A. Cassimally About the Author: Khalil A. Cassimally is the Community Coordinator of The Conversation UK. He's also a science blogger. He hails from a tropical island and is a happy geek. Subscribe to his updates on Facebook and Google+. Follow on Twitter @notscientific.

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





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  1. 1. emilyjanedennis 11:12 am 02/15/2013

    Hi Khalil! This is Emily Jane Dennis from Rockefeller’s Incubator. Thanks so much for the shout out! One small thing: could you fix the misspelling of my name? Thanks! Just trying to build up my internet cred’ :)

    Keep up the great work! Love your content here at Scientific American!

    Link to this
  2. 2. notscientific 6:38 am 02/16/2013

    Hi Emily—My sincere apologies for the misspelling! I hate it when people misspell my name. It’s been fixed now. Sorry again.

    Link to this

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