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Khalil’s Picks (7 June 2013)


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Eating insects has been the new craze for science writers ever since the UN released a report that advocates the rearing of insects potentially for human consumption and animal feed last month. In this week’s picks, Kyle Hill tells us that there’s no reason to freak out about eating insects because, well, we already eat them without knowing about it! What more, they’re in our food! Arielle Duhaime-Ross looks into why we aren’t really feeding animals with insects as much as we possibly can just yet. Both pieces appeared on Scientific American.

This week’s picks also features chimpanzees that are monkey hunters, the mites that have declared war against bees (and appear to be winning), the reason why scientists stare at elephants’ butts and more, courtesy of Paige Brown, Eric Sawyer, Rose Eveleth, Lacey Avery and Kate Shaw.

The other great up-and-coming science writers highlighted in this week’s picks are: Jon Tennant, Jane Robb, Laura Geggel, Rebecca Burton, Nadia Drake, Joss Fong, Helen Shen, Tania Lewis and Jessica Carilli.

I Hate to Break it to You, but You Already Eat Bugs by Kyle Hill

I grabbed a box of cereal out of my cabinet. The flakes smelled stale, but I was hungry enough. I poured a cup or two into a bowl, followed by a splash of milk. Well into my third bite, I knew that stale cereal wasn’t all I was eating. I saw thrips—slender insects commonly known as corn lice—swimming in the bottom of the bowl, extending their legs in hopes of finding a flake—like a desperate swimmer in a flood. I immediately discarded the cereal, repulsed by the other bugs I had surely already eaten. But while I didn’t always see them, I had been eating bugs my whole life. So have you.

Your Meat Should Be Raised on Insects, U.N. by Arielle Duhaime-Ross

There has been a lot of press, both positive and negative, about a recent United Nations report in which scientists recommended that we start eating insects to fight world hunger. But the other U.N. recommendation—that farmers should consider feeding insects to poultry and aquacultured fish—did not garner nearly as much attention, despite seeming more feasible. After all, when given the opportunity, fish and chickens readily eat insects [...] But if feeding insects to animals presents so many advantages, why aren’t we doing it already?

They hunt in groups, share food and work together: Who are they? by Paige Brown

These characteristics are probably some of the traits we can all associate with chimpanzees, especially male chimpanzees, at least from what most of us know about them in movies, the media and museums. Those of us who know a bit more about the primate kingdom might know that chimpanzees are apes, that they form dominance hierarchies in their communities, and they are known to make use of plants and sticks as tools to fish for termites in termite mounds, for example.

It’s in the Honey! – Bee Diet and Defense Against Pathogens by Eric Sawyer

Honey bees have been in the news a lot lately, and unfortunately most of it hasn’t been good. Colony collapse disorder, or CCD, is a phenomenon where beehives are mysteriously found empty. This has made understanding the cause of CCD challenging, on top of the growing consensus that CCD probably arises from a multitude of risk factors.

To Measure Elephant Obesity, One Researcher Assesses Pachydermal Butts by Rose Eveleth

Animals aren’t particularly cooperative models, and anyone who’s ever tried to photograph animals—domesticated or wild—probably has a lot of pictures of butts. But for one researcher, butt pictures are worth quite a lot. Kari Morfeld, a researcher at the Wildlife Conservation Research Center, uses pictures of elephant backsides to assess how healthy the elephants are.

Scientists discover high mercury levels in Amazon residents, gold-mining to blame by Lacey Avery

The Madre de Dios region in Peru is recognized for its lush Amazon rainforests, meandering rivers and rich wildlife. But the region is also known for its artisanal gold mining, which employs the use of a harmful neurotoxin. Mercury is burned to extract the pure gold from metal and ore producing dangerous air-borne vapors that ultimately settle in nearby rivers.

Female breadwinners are a sign of progress—not an affront to science by Kate Shaw

According to a new Pew poll, women are the primary source of income in forty percent of all households with children. In 1960, mothers were the primary breadwinners in just 11 percent of households. Most rational people would see these findings as progress, since they suggest that women are no longer bound by the traditional gender stereotypes that have long kept them out of the workforce. They are an indication that gender equality is making strides in the right direction. At the very least, there’s no reason women with families shouldn’t have successful careers—right?

Some more:

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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