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Khalil’s Picks (5 July 2013)

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


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There’s a huge debate/dispute bubbling about Japan hunting whales under the guise of scientific research. Australia rang the alarm bells and the international community is now pressuring Japan to owe up and give up. As science journalist David Bradley pointed out, “there is, of course, no scientific defence for killing whales and eating them.” And indeed there isn’t especially considering that there are alternatives to scientific whaling as lists Alexis Rudd. But in many ways, this debate/dispute is due to a collision of science, commerce and culture, as encompassed by Kate Whittington.

Also in this week’s picks: feathered dinosaurs, odd-looking orcas and an infographic about circumcision by Jon Tennant, Nadia Drake and Joss Fong respectively.

The other great up-and-coming science writers highlighted in this week’s picks are: Kyle Hill, Rachel Nuwer, Whitney Campbell, Dana Smith, Sedeer el-Showk, Rebecca Burton, Kathleen Raven, Roni Jacobson, Kate Shaw Yoshida, Alexa C. Kurzius.

The Japanese Whaling Controversy – a Collision of Science, Commerce, and Culture by Kate Whittington

The media spotlight has been hovering over The Hague in the past week as Australia made its case against Japan’s scientific whaling practices, accusing Japan of trying to “cloak its ongoing commercial whaling in the lab coat of science.” Today, Japan began their defence. But whilst the International Court of Justice seeks to reconcile the case on the basis of legality rather than morality, it cannot be denied that, beyond the courtroom walls, emotions, culture and ethics play a significant role in wider whaling discourse.

Seven Alternatives to Scientific Japanese Whaling (That Can Save The Whale) by Alexis Rudd

This week, Australia has asked the international court of justice to withdraw all permits for whale hunts from the Japanese fleet. Japan’s annual whale hunt, which uses a loophole in the 1986 International Whaling Commission (IWC) ban on commercial whaling, has been controversial for many years. This loophole allows for scientific whaling, at any level determined appropriate by the member country. Japan’s “JARPA” scientific whaling program plan describes this “long-term research program of undetermined duration” that studies feeding ecology, environmental pollution, and stock structure [...]

Dinosaurs of a feather? by Jon Tennant

Feathered dinosaurs might not still be the new boys in town in the fossil world, but there’s still a tonne of cool research being done on them. One of the main fields is trying to figure out if different species were capable of powered flight, like in most modern birds. The recent finding of Aurornis xui appears to have confined the ability to fly just to a single feathered lineage, the one leading to modern birds, but how do we figure out whether they could fly or not?

Odd-Looking Orcas May Be a Distinct Species by Nadia Drake

A strange-looking and mysterious killer whale living in the heaving seas ringing Antarctica might be a distinct species. Known as Type D orcas, the whales are so seldom seen that scientists relied on a 60-year-old museum specimen to unravel their ancestral story.

The circumcision decision [Infographic] by Joss Fong

There is an increasing amount of health-related research for parents to consider when deciding whether to circumcise their son. However, the health differences between circumcised and uncircumcised boys are generally modest in the United States, so cultural and religious influences are likely to remain decisive. View the infographic below to find out more.

More good stuff:

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. David Cummings 1:09 pm 07/7/2013

    We should have made “no whale hunting of any kind for any reason” part of the Treaty of San Francisco.

    Link to this

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