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Khalil’s Picks (29 March 2013)

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


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This week we have the science of The Walking Dead, dinosaur embryos, a reminder of why spring is awesome and more. Of note, I can get a little hyper when talking about dinosaurs.

Raw in! (Too much? Yeah, too much…)

Kyle Hill embraces his inner geek mode yet again this time diving deep into AMC’s hit show The Walking Dead. In his post for Scientific American’s Guest blog, Kyle looks at the science of zombification.

The Komodo Dead: What Really Kills in The Walking Dead

You don’t need a gun. You don’t need a knife or a machete or an axe. If you find yourself in a post-apocalyptic world filled with shambling swallowers of human flesh, what you really need is good hygiene. The resurgence of zombies into pop culture has tickled our morbid curiosity, but has also sparked many nerdy debates about viruses and disease. Arguably the most popular zombie narrative today, The Walking Dead takes place in the wake of an airborne virus or pathogen that has enabled the dead to walk among the living. [...]

It might not look like it judging by the snowy and freezing conditions in Europe, but spring has nearly arrived in the northern hemisphere. And with spring comes “grand show of rebirth.” In her piece for Smithosonian.com’s Surprising Science, Rachel Nuwer looks at some particularly stunning rebirths.

Sea Monkeys, Ferns and Frozen Frogs: Nature’s Very Own Resurrecting Organisms

As Easter draws near, we begin to notice signs of nature’s very own annual resurrection event. Warming weather begins “breeding lilacs out of the dead land,” as T.S. Elliot noted, and “stirring dull roots with spring rain.” Where a black and white wintery landscape just stood, now technicolor crocus buds peak through the earth and green shoots brighten up the azalea bushes.

Robert T. Gonzalez, at io9, distills the misconceptions that surrounds GMOs, arguing that critics mostly miss the point. He then leads us to what he believes the main issue should be.

GMOs are one solution to an ancient puzzle

Genetically modified organisms are not the enemy. They’re not even the problem. In fact, our ability to tweak the genetic code of crops and other organisms is a new approach to solving one of humanity’s oldest puzzles: how do we feed ourselves? And how do we do it safely?

Suzi Gage on her Guardian blog, Sifting the Evidence, asks whether it is ethical for doctors to prescribe placebos to their unknowing patients. This discussion is not new but Suzi adds to it by looking at a recent large-scale study.

The ethicality of prescribing placebos

According to a recent study, doctors sometimes prescribe treatments they don’t have any evidence for. Is this ethical? Almost all UK GPs have at some point given a patient a treatment they don’t need. This is according to the results of a survey of 783 of them across the country, conducted by researchers at Oxford and Southampton, and published in PLOS One recently.

Dinosaurs are cool. Dinosaur embryos are even cooler. Especially when they entail discovering something new about dinosaurs. By Jon Tennant on his EGU blog Green Tea And Velociraptors, which is all about dinosaurs. (Yes, I do love dinosaurs.)

Slicing up dinosaur embryos. For science.

Birds are living, breathing, tweeting dinosaurs. That is scientific knowledge backed up by overwhelming evidence, but the evidence basis for it grows strong all the time. We know that they are related from a host of morphological evidence from the last 150 million years or so. Our understanding of the origins of feathers and flight are developing too – each new finding is a piece that slots into a puzzle, where we already have a pretty good idea of what the picture we’re trying to recreate is. The evidence is mounting too with each new discovery – findings from China are rewriting the way we think about the evolution of feathers and flight, and the evolution of early birds from their dinosaurian ancestors.

A few more:

Have a nice extended weekend, y’all.

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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