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Bora’s Picks (May 31st, 2013)

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

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Is Nature Unnatural? by Natalie Wolchover:

On an overcast afternoon in late April, physics professors and students crowded into a wood-paneled lecture hall at Columbia University for a talk by Nima Arkani-Hamed, a high-profile theorist visiting from the Institute for Advanced Study in nearby Princeton, N.J. With his dark, shoulder-length hair shoved behind his ears, Arkani-Hamed laid out the dual, seemingly contradictory implications of recent experimental results at the Large Hadron Collider in Europe….

Photographer Captures Stunning Killer Whale Attack on Dolphin by Nadia Drake:

When capturing prey, killer whales use a number of chilling tactics. Some of these, like repeatedly ramming into a pod of sperm whales, are seldom seen. Others, like stunning and flipping a creature out of the water and then eating it, are more frequently reported, but seldom captured in eerie detail…

Clinical research: Neurexin-1 deletions add to autism risk by Laura Geggel:

Deletions in neurexin-1 (NRXN1), a candidate gene for autism, may cause intellectual disability, speech delays, seizures, poor muscle tone and unusual facial features, according to two studies published in the past two months….

Cold, allergy, what’s the difference? Either way you’re drowning in snot by Nick Stockton:

Your eyes are swollen. Your nostrils are drooling. Your head feels like there’s a pillow stuffed inside of it, and your mouth is dry and scratchy, like you’ve been gargling kitty litter. For most of us, those symptoms add up to one of two options: allergies or a cold. So how can pollen elicit the same symptoms as a cold virus? Are colds and allergies related?….

Warning: Smoothies can cause sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia by Rebecca Burton:

It’s that time of year again. Summer. Hot. Humid. The urge to swap that hot coffee for a refreshing smoothie may overcome you. But beware, drinking cold drinks can cause a condition called sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia….

Study says chilling out – literally – may help us see eye to eye with others by Jordan Gaines:

Ah summer, and its sweltering temperatures. We get hot, we get cranky and many times, we squabble – sometimes over minor matters like what kind of hot dogs we should throw on the grill for our Memorial Day barbecue. Now researchers have discovered that chilling out – literally, like with a cold glass of ice water – may be the key to coming around to someone else’s point of view….

Finding One’s Grit: A Look at the Thing That Drives Us by Jessica Morrison:

In geology, grittiness is a characteristic of a mudstone taken between the teeth. In atmospheric chemistry, grit refers to solid particles suspended in the atmosphere. In journalism, gritty might be the reporter who digs in and doesn’t back down, the one who drinks and swears and smokes. But the most popular definition of late refers to what has become a desirable personality trait. In psychology, grit describes a quality of perseverance toward long-term goals….

In defense of dolphins by Naveena Sadasivam:

In the fall of 1985, a giant humpback whale named Humphrey attracted international fame when he lost his way while migrating southward to breed. He ended up swimming into the San Francisco Bay instead. For two weeks rescuers from The Marine Mammal Center in California and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration desperately tried to lead him back to sea but had little success. Finally, they called in Diana Reiss, a renowned dolphin researcher, to help. By then Humphrey was already 80 miles inland and his beautiful coat was decaying due to extended exposure to fresh water….

Low-wage workers find specialist care within their reach by Ian Branam:

Patricia Thiessen was driving in her hometown of Reno, Nev., when she suddenly lost the sight in her right eye. It returned within moments. Six weeks later, the same thing happened to her left eye. It was obvious something was seriously wrong. Thiessen, who does not have health insurance, went to her local hospital and took advantage of a free screening offer she had received in the mail. She discovered she was suffering from carotid artery disease, which would ultimately increase her risk of stroke. Plaque buildup in the arteries was blocking the blood flow to her brain and causing the episodes of blindness…

A New Environment for Testing Nanomaterials by Kate Prengaman:

Nanomaterials have a vast array of potential applications, from energy storage to drug delivery. But for medical applications, new technological breakthroughs also require careful scrutiny to ensure safety. Standard procedure for testing new medical treatments requires carefully controlled testing in live organisms, which is expensive. With a seemingly endless list of potential nanomaterials under consideration, researchers need affordable ways to zero in on their strongest prospects….

Monkeys in Florida? iPhonatography from a jungle in Central Florida by Rebecca Burton:

As I pondered ideas on what to do on Memorial Day Monday, I decided I needed to explore the land-locked area of Florida I often complain about, being a spoiled coastal girl who is accustomed to living near a beach. A friend mentioned a trip he took where he saw wild monkeys on an island in the middle of Silver River, near Silver Springs, Fla. After doing some preliminary research (mainly hear-say from Gainesville locals) I found out that Silver River was the filming site the early Tarzan movies. Some of the monkeys escaped, bred and hence that is why there are wild monkeys in Florida….

The Science Behind Teenager Grunts, Ughs and Duhs by Rose Eveleth:

Almost everybody gets annoyed, eventually, with teenagers. Parents find them confusing and difficult. Young adults look at them with both scorn and embarrassment. Children find them scary and mean. Even many teenagers hate teenagers. But not scientists. No, scientists find teenagers fascinating. Take linguists for example. The teenage armory of gasps, grunts, portmanteaus and slang are a linguistic gold mine. Here, James Harbeck, a linguist and editor at The Week, turns monosyllabic grunts into long, fancy, science words….

Nurse practitioners aim to fill care gap (video) by Alyssa Sellers:

More and more Americans, especially in rural areas, say they have no primary care doctor. And the situation may get worse before it gets better. As millions of people become newly insured in 2014 and the population grows, many are worried that those with new coverage will overwhelm the nation’s already short supply of primary care physicians….

The Password Is Dead. Long Live The Cryptic Biometric by Kathryn Doyle:

The times when a few upper case letters, some numbers and the odd punctuation mark made for a password of cryptic sophistication are long gone. Here’s where the future of secure logins, right under your finger(prints). …

Does a new approach to nuclear make economic sense? by Kate Prengaman:

Today, every nuclear power plant is unique, custom-built and run by site-specifically trained employees. This makes reactor construction expensive and, some argue, less safe because repairs require custom parts and one-off solutions. In recent years, nuclear energy advocates have been promoting an alternative—smaller, modular reactors that could be mass-produced. These cheaper, smaller, and standardized units could be a power solution for industries and municipalities that are looking to lower their carbon dioxide footprint….

Four ways augmented reality will invade your life in 2013 by Rachel Feltman:

With the impending arrival of Google Glass, augmented reality, long the stuff of science fiction, will soon be invading our every waking moment. It will turn us into faster learners, gamifying our everyday lives, transforming our to-do lists into streams of real-world next actions, and making advertising more intimate (and invasive) than ever. Next week, innovators from around the globe will gather for 2013’s Augmented Realty World Expo to show off some of the most useful—and improbable—applications of augmented reality. Here are some of the earth-shattering ways in which blending the virtual and digital worlds could change our lives….

Sound it Out: Do You “See” or “Hear” Words You Have to Spell? by Jordan Gaines:

I have an extraordinarily intelligent friend. Halfway through veterinary school, she’s a hard worker, an avid reader, and scores highly on standardized and academic exams. She’s simply fantastic at what she does, and I’ve met few other people in life with her brand of outstanding dedication and commitment. But there is one feature about her that is so strangely unexpected—so strikingly opposite her accomplishments—to the point where it’s just comical. She can’t spell to save her life….

Seasonal Mismatch – The Fight To Adapt To Advancing Spring by Kate Whittington:

….Here in the northern hemisphere after a long, hard winter, we all crave those first signs of spring, looking out for the first bright-faced daffodils to herald the apparent re-awakening of nature with their distinctive yellow trumpets. Despite the delayed spring observed this year in large parts of Europe and North America, the general trend over the last several decades is that spring is actually arriving earlier1,2. This may seem good news to those suffering from lingering winter blues, but for wildlife it can pose a huge problem. …

Can Bald Fish Get Lice? by Alexis Rudd:

As kids, many of us had the incredibly embarrassing experience of acquiring head lice. You tried on a friend’s silly hat at school and a few days later your head won’t stop itching. You tell an adult, and she says, “Oh no, you have lice!” You have to go to the store to buy a special fine-tooth comb, and a stinky, unpleasant shampoo. While the shampoo kills the adult lice, the eggs are protected inside their shells. The eggs are stuck to the strands of your hair, and it’s necessary to spend hours painstakingly removing them with the fine-toothed comb, or even painstakingly searching your scalp and picking the nits off your hair with fingernails. If all that is just too much work, you might even have your head shaved. This is quicker, but can lead to awkward conversations at school….

Gut Reaction: Human Colon Replica Demonstrates How E. coli Contaminates Groundwater by Arielle Duhaime-Ross:

Scientists are great at growing E. coli in the lab. They know exactly under which conditions various strains thrive. Unfortunately, there is only so much that can be learned from the bacteria’s behavior in an ideal, isolated and ultimately unrealistic environment. That is why a group of researchers at the University of California, Riverside, decided to study how Escherichia coli O157:H7—a pathogen that can cause hemorrhagic diarrhea and kidney failure—is transmitted to groundwater after a human eats contaminated food….

Are You Ready for Helsinki? by Rose Eveleth, Lena Groeger, Erin Podolak and Kathleen Raven:

…. First, I’d like to clarify the definition of “killer.” It is used in this context according to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary’s definition: “slang : one who gives an admirable or irresistible personal or sartorial impression” (p. 1242 — in the ahem, paper, version). I think I speak for all of us when we will strive for an admirable personal impression. But even that word carries much weight. In the English language, “admirable” and “admiral” can play tricks on the ears. We know that one doesn’t earn the rank of admiral until late in a career, after much toil and risk…..

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