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Bora’s Picks (May 3rd, 2013)

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


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Working to save the mystery antelope that’s little bigger than a pet cat by Lacey Avery:

Little is known about the silver dik-dik (Madoqua piacentinii) population that roams the dense coastal bushlands of eastern Africa, but experts are working to learn more about the mysterious species….

Deaths triple among football players, morning temperatures thought to play a role by Kathleen Raven:

Heat-related deaths among football players across the country tripled to nearly three per year between 1994 and 2009 after averaging about one per year the previous 15 years, according to an analysis of weather conditions and high school and college sports data conducted by University of Georgia researchers….

Can Synthetic Biology Keep Your Food Safe? by Julianne Wyrick:

On a hot summer day, nothing spells refreshment quite like a slice of juicy, orange cantaloupe. But in summer 2011, cantaloupes reached plates with an unwanted addition: listeria. In the deadliest foodborne illness outbreak since 1925, cantaloupes contaminated with this bacterium killed 33 people….

#sci4hels Question Time #4 – How Should Science Journalists Deal with Breaking News? by Rose Eveleth:

Last week was sort of a nightmare for everyone. Between the Boston marathon bombings and ensuing man-hunt, the explosion at the fertilizer plant in Texas, the earthquakes in China and Iran, the bombs in Baghdad, and whatever else I’m missing. Oh, did I mention the elvis impersonator who mailed ricin to the president? Yeah, that happened too, and nobody paid attention because we were all too busy wondering what had happened to the world. It was that kind of week….

Why the Anatomy Lab Remains a Fixture of Medicine by Tanya Lewis:

For hundreds of years, physicians have been dissecting the dead to learn about the inner workings of the human body. While the subject matter itself hasn’t changed much, the study of anatomy has been steadily advancing — both in terms of the tools available to clinicians and the ways in which educators and students approach the material. Yet amidst these changes, there’s no replacement for the hands-on experience of the anatomy lab, physicians say….

History, Science and the History of Science by Emily Eggleston:

Oxford radiates prestige. The city boasts more than a thousand years of learned history and is one of few British locales with a royal coat of arms. The university glows with momentous locations, such as the place where Robert Boyle discovered Boyle’s law in the seventeenth century and the track where Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile in 1954. …

Angelman syndrome drug shows promise in mouse study by Laura Geggel:

Two weeks of treatment with a cancer drug called topotecan boosts expression for a year of the gene that’s deficient in Angelman syndrome, according to unpublished research presented 20 March at the New York Academy of Sciences….

‘Time Crystals’ Could Upend Physicists’ Theory of Time by Natalie Wolchover:

In February 2012, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek decided to go public with a strange and, he worried, somewhat embarrassing idea. Impossible as it seemed, Wilczek had developed an apparent proof of “time crystals” — physical structures that move in a repeating pattern, like minute hands rounding clocks, without expending energy or ever winding down. Unlike clocks or any other known objects, time crystals derive their movement not from stored energy but from a break in the symmetry of time, enabling a special form of perpetual motion….

Photographer Captures Dramatic Battle Between Orcas and Sperm Whales by Nadia Drake:

If killer whales lived on land, we’d be in trouble. Highly intelligent and social, the black-and-white marine mammals hunt in packs, launching coordinated attacks on other whales and sharks, and even wave-wash seals off Antarctic ice floats….

Devil Dispatch: MHC the Key to Contagious Cancer Vaccine? by Anne-Marie Hodge:

The contagious cancer currently ripping through Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) populations has captivated public attention and imagination. The reasons for this are understandable. First, in a world where cancer kills 7.6 million people every year, just the idea of tumor cells that can be passed along between individuals like a cold or flu is a horrific notion to contemplate—a concept straight out of a cheap thriller novel. Also, the irascible Tasmanian devil has a sort of anti-charisma—fearsome temper, frightening countenance (even before infection with deadly facial tumors), and a name with sinister connotations . . . how can we help but love it?…

Plan B Must Be Available OTC For Women And Girls Of All Ages, Federal Judge Rules by Francie Diep:

A federal judge ruled today that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration must make emergency contraception—often called the “morning after pill” or by its brand name, “Plan B”—available over-the-counter for girls and women of all ages. The administration must comply within 30 days, Judge Edward R. Korman of the Federal District Court said….

Infographic: Urinary tract infection by Susan E. Matthews:

Recognizing symptoms, getting the right treatment.

Check Your Privilege by Tania Browne:

As a leftie feminist who follows many other leftie feminists on Twitter, the phrase “check your privilege” has been popping up rather a lot recently. I’m no intellectual theorist but to me, it seems to be about realising how lucky you are in many ways even if in others, the world is against you. Those “lucky” parts might affect how you see others or speak about issues, and you should be careful not to assume that everyone sees the world through your eyes. For instance, I’m a woman. It’s still a disadvantage in the world for millions. But also, unlike many women I am white, I have no disabilities, I identify as a woman and was born in a woman’s body, I am the mother of a typical nuclear family in a wealthy rural part of the UK. My husband is a pleasant chap I chose myself and doesn’t seek to control me, either economically or through violence…

Flying High – 54th Annual Drosophila Research Conference (#dros2013) by Eric Sawyer:

From April 3 to 7 I attended the 54th annual Drosophila Research Conference in Washington DC, my first fly genetics conference. I began working in my college’s fruit fly genetics lab last semester as an undergraduate project and have come to enjoy using flies as a powerful tool for answering fundamental questions about developmental genetics and cell biology…..

Measles – how was a preventable disease allowed to kill again? by Emy Martyn:

Recent headlines have put measles back into the public perspective, but what’s behind the recent outbreak? How was a treatable disease allowed to kill again? Many headlines in Britain’s top news reporting websites, from the BBC and Guardian to the Metro, have been bearing the news of the recent outbreak in Wales. Since November, nearly a thousand people have been infected, 83 people hospitalised, and reportedly one man has died. The NHS is supplying the MMR vaccination to 4000 pupils in the Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion areas. But how come these teenagers and children require the vaccine? Why were they not already vaccinated when they were infants? And even if they weren’t immunised, surely measles wouldn’t cause such large rates of infection due to its very low infection rate over the last few decades….

The battle to end polio by Alice Tobin:

Vaccination has saved children across the globe from the crippling effects of polio. Now, a final push aims to eradicate it entirely by 2018. We have an unprecedented opportunity to rid the world of polio. Last year, just 223 children worldwide were paralysed by the disease, the lowest it has ever been, and only 19 cases have been recorded so far in 2013. Global eradication of polio is tantalisingly close….

The Happy Planet Index, East meets west by Georgina Martin:

Developed countries like to think they have everything sorted when it comes to quality of living but there are a few ways in which developed countries don’t do so well and in some cases worse than their poorer counter parts, specifically in regard to happiness. Happiness is a complicated thing to measure, much like intelligence and personality there are many variables that encompass happiness, some of which may differ depending on culture, age or creed. The happy planet index (HPI) however, endeavours to measure happiness and create a spectrum of countries from most to least happy. The HPI defines a happy country as: “The extent to which countries deliver long happy, sustainable lives for the people that live in them”….

Robotic Housefly Buzzes to Life by Rachel Feltman:

Flying insects are a pain this time of year, but Harvard researchers couldn’t be happier about the bug buzzing around their lab. A study published in Science today announced the world’s first controlled flight of an insect-size robot, the result of a decade-long project by the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard….

Don’t Horse Around With Back Pain at the Kentucky Derby by Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato:

The Kentucky Derby starts at 6:24 p.m. ET on Saturday, but before you place bets on your favorites – Verrazano, Orb, and Revolutionary – make sure your wannabe champion isn’t suffering from chronic back pain. Horses may experience chronic back pain if jockeys aren’t careful riders, according to a study published in The Journal of Experimental Biology. The condition can lead to poor racing times, aggressive behavior, lower selling prices, and dangerous injuries….





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