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Bora’s Picks (July 26th, 2013)

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


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The Iberian Lynx Faces Extinction, Raises Conservation Questions by Anne-Marie Hodge:

The Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) bears the dubious distinction of being the most endangered cat on the planet. The species has been whittled down to just 250 individuals, which are divided into two small subpopulations in southwestern Spain. To visualize just how few of these lynx are left, picture this: you could fit each of the two remaining subpopulations into an average Starbucks store….

Government Declares Mass Dolphin Die-Off an Unusual Mortality Event by Nadia Drake:

At least 54 bottlenose dolphins have died mysteriously in Florida’s Indian River Lagoon since January. Today, the federal government is stepping in to help find out what’s killing them. In a normal year, that number would be closer to 22….

Science Reveals Wolverine’s True Weaknesses by Kyle Hill:

In a new summer film, everyone’s favorite genetic anomaly will lose the reason he has been able to snikt! though skirmishes, scuffs, and scrapes for the last century and a half—superhuman healing abilities. The mutation that makes Wolverine worthy of the X-Men is that his cells regenerate at incredible speeds. He ages at a snail’s pace, he can re-grow parts of limbs and organs after serious injury, and he is basically impervious to infection and disease. Until now…..

Fathered by the dead: Guppies push the extremes of reproduction by Anne-Marie Hodge:

All organisms have been evolutionary programmed to spread their genes as far and wide as possible. One way to do that is to produce many offspring, and for that animals have developed some very strange tactics of reproduction….

Full moon may mean less sleep by Cristy Gelling:

A full moon deprives people of sleep even when they are shielded from moonlight in a windowless lab, a new study suggests. People snoozed less deeply within four nights of a full moon than during other parts of the lunar cycle, researchers report July 25 in Current Biology. The authors suggest that humans may have internal clocks that track the lunar cycle, much like circadian clocks that sync up with the rise and fall of the sun….

Great whites use stored liver oil to power through ocean “road trips” by Rebecca Burton:

Bears, sea lions and whales rely on their external blubber to power through hibernations and migrations. For them, a little extra flab is crucial to their survival. Would a Great white shark be so intimidating if it was a little overweight? Probably not. It may instead get the stigma of a cop eating a doughnut with his mouth open…..

ABHhealth: Small businesses benefit from nonprofit health care network by Jodi Murphy:

For many small businesses in Reno, Nev., the Access to Healthcare Network (AHN) offered a welcome respite for those struggling to provide health care to employees. “As an employer in this day and age, I have found it’s not so much the hourly wage that you offer people anymore,” said Colleen Petrini, director of Noah’s Ark Child Care Center. “It’s the benefits.”…

ABHhealth: Athens group looks to adopt Nevada program to offer health care to uninsured by Carolyn Crist:

Sara Schopper was doubled over with pain from gallstones when she arrived last May at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center in Reno, Nev. To make things even worse, she had no health insurance. Once doctors had removed her gallbladder, Schopper faced thousands of dollars in hospital bills as an uninsured worker. Before she left the hospital, however, she heard about a local reduced-rate insurance program that would keep the bills for this procedure under $2,000, and that she could even join retroactively….

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

Patricia Thiessen was driving in her hometown of Reno when she momentarily lost the sight in her right eye. Six weeks later, the same thing happened to her left eye. It became obvious something was seriously wrong….

ABHhealth: Innovations to aid Athens uninsured, reduce ER costs by Julianne Wyrick:

In Athens, a city where 35 percent of residents live in poverty, many can neither afford health insurance premiums nor pay out of pocket for services. As a result, hospital emergency rooms often become the only option the uninsured see for themselves, even though they may have chronic diseases and not the sudden illnesses or injuries that emergency rooms are meant to handle….

Incredible Technology: How Supercomputers Solve Giant Problems by Tanya Lewis:

Today’s supercomputers are marvels of computational power, and they are being used to tackle some of the world’s biggest scientific problems. Current models are tens of thousands of times faster than the average desktop computer. They achieve these lightning-fast speeds via parallel processing, in which many computer processors perform computations simultaneously. Supercomputers are used for everything from forecasting weather to modeling the human brain….

Miami-Dade Cop Moonlights as Brain-Programming “Neuroscientist” on South Beach by Michael E. Miller and Naveena Sadasivam:

Many cops have side jobs. Some work security at nightclubs. Others are in the National Guard. Sgt. Nicholas Kealoha programs people’s brains. Kealoha is an 11-year veteran of the Miami-Dade Police Department. He is also the self-appointed director of what he calls the International Institute for Brain Research. And on his website, Kealoha and his beautiful blond Russian assistant claim to “eliminate” serious health problems through “brain programming.” “Dr. Nick Kealoha is a well-known neuroscientist,” the website says. “Dr. Nick researches how the brain works and how the brain may affects [sic] diseases.”….

Smell Ya Later: Corpse Flower in its Death Throes by Miriam Kramer:

A corpse flower in its death throes doesn’t smell like a corpse at all. A titan arum (or “corpse flower”) housed here at the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory has been smelling up its exhibition hall to the delight of thousands of visitors since the tropical flower finally went into full bloom on Sunday (July 21), but its time in bloom is quickly coming to a close….

Mystery in Motion, Beauty in Battle by Kyle Hill:

One of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see in a war zone had no name, until it was given one in honor of two soldiers who gave their lives. Benjamin Kopp, a US Army Ranger, and Joseph Etchells, a British soldier, were killed in combat in Sangin, Afghanistan, before they were old enough to easily rent a car. Each of them had probably seen what happens when a helicopter descends into a sandy haze before; they had most likely ridden in one that was producing the show of curious physics. Thanks to one photographer, their names now adorn the dazzling effect produced by helicopter blades hitting sand and dust. If the conditions are just right, you’ll see three halos on a military helicopter—the Kopp-Etchells Effect…

A Day in the Life of Rose Eveleth by Rose Eveleth, posted by Christie Aschwanden:

What I’m working on: I’m more of a project freelancer than a story freelancer these days, so I’m balancing a handful of ongoing projects. The biggest, most me-centric one of those is Science Studio, a new place for the best multimedia on the web that we (Ben Lillie, Bora Zivkovic and I) just launched. You know how you can buy all sorts of anthologies for the best print science writing? Science Studio is a place for all the stuff you can’t put in a book….

Drug Sport by Kelly Burnes:

The 100th edition of Le Tour de France came to a close yesterday evening in Paris. It was a spectacular 3 weeks of racing. The battling of teams, riders positioning for stage wins, fans in fancy (and quite often strange) dress, stunning scenery – all made for a memorable tour indeed….

The man who turned coffee into theorems by Adam Kucharski:

What do you get a mathematician for their birthday? Well, if it’s a big one – like a 100th – you could throw a conference in their honour. That’s what happened earlier this month, when mathematicians gathered in Hungary to mark 100 years since the birth of the late Paul Erdős….

What risks do Tourists Pose to Coral Reefs? Are We Loving the Reefs to Death? by Alexis Rudd:

Imagine that you’re on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a beautiful day. The ocean is crystal-clear and warm, and you’re snorkeling above the most beautiful coral reef you’ve ever seen. Yellow butterfly fish dart in and out of the coral, while thousands of iridescent blue fish float in clouds above the reef. ….

How the Rhino Beetle Got its Horn by Sedeer el-Showk:

For some beetles, size definitely matters. Male Japanese rhinoceros beetles (Allomyrina dichotoma) are equipped with a prodigious forked horn which they use to flip other males off a tree in their competition for a chance to mate. Absurdly large ornaments are not uncommon in the animal world. From the remarkable tails of peacocks and male Long-tailed Widowbirds to the immense antlers of elk, members of one sex often sport exaggerated body parts as a signal of their health and status. The sheer size of these ornaments is meant to impress potential mates and intimidate rivals. For this to work, the signal has to honestly reflect the condition of the animal; without a reliable link to quality, a signal loses its value as a guide in selecting a mate (or picking a fight). …

Japanese Whaling & the Future of the International Whaling Commission by Kate Whittington:

This Tuesday (16th July) saw the conclusion of the public hearings at the International Court of Justice for Australia’s case against Japan’s scientific whaling practices . The court will likely take several months to reach a decision, so, as the waiting game begins, we can only speculate as to the outcome of this pivotal moment in the history of the International Whaling Commission….





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