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Khalil’s Picks (2 August 2013)

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


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This week in awesome:

Viewpoint: Plug ‘leaky pipeline’ for women in science by Suzi Gage

On Tuesday 16 July, about 100 people with an interest in science, technology, engineering and maths (also known as Stem) gathered in a boardroom in central London, armed with coffee and pastries. The age range was huge, but the gender balance was quite uneven. For once though, it was women in the majority. The reason? This was a breakfast organised by Peter Luff MP and ScienceGrrl, an organisation promoting women in Stem, to discuss a government consultation on the topic.

Watching Our Every Move—From Space by Rose Eveleth

Should extraterrestrials be looking down at Earth from space, they would know a few things about us humans. They would know our routines are dictated by the sun. They would see that we tend to congregate and build near water. But perhaps most of all, they would know that we move. Today’s world is an interconnected one. A customer in the United States can order a shirt from Tokyo and have it in a day. A family can visit cousins across the globe. We ship meat, and presents, and people at a massive rate and volume. And it shows. Much of our transportation can indeed by seen from space, and here are some of the most striking images to prove it.

Sabertooths Still Roam South America by Anne-Marie Hodge

Sabertooth predators have inspired awe in humans since time immemorial, and are reminders that Hollywood-worthy carnivores once stalked the earth alongside our ancestors. Despite our fascination with these prehistoric icons, however, they are often misunderstood. Popular media commonly refers to these ancient predators as “sabertooth lions” or “sabertooth tigers,” yet in reality they were never part of the lineage that led to lions and tigers: many were not even cats at all…..

Spiders May Have Personalities, and Some Are Bolder Than Others by Nadia Drake

Armed with branch cutters, pillowcases, and a vibrator, a team of scientists has discovered how social spiders in India assign chores within their colonies – and they say it has to do with spider personalities. Big and bold? Go get that grasshopper! Slightly more timid? Maybe stay home, take care of the brood, and clean the nest or something…..

The Generation Game by Tania Browne

Every day we’re bombarded with information from the media. From the moment we turn on the radio or TV in the morning, through our newspaper-reading commute, to collapsing into bed at night after the late news, we are faced with stories of science, controversies on ethics and methods, and what might give us cancer this week. But how do we know what to believe, and what’s just…. well, to put it bluntly, crap?…

What Makes Plankton Migrate? by Sara Mynott

Every day, zooplankton make their way to deep water in the morning and rise as the sun sets. This process, known as diel vertical migration, is carried out all over the world by marine and freshwater plankton alike. The reason for this has long been attributed to the trade-off between obtaining tasty morsels in the surface ocean and avoiding becoming a tasty morsel for predators while they’re there.

Back to the future: using past climates to predict climate change by David Plotkin

Apart from some particularly dogged folks in DC, we all agree that global warming is a) happening, and b) bad. But just how bad things will be is hard to say: we don’t know exactly what effect 2 degrees C of warming will have on, say, storm formation or ocean circulation. Worse yet, we don’t even know whether to expect 2 or 3 or 5 degrees of warming over the next century. Eight different GCMs (giant, complicated, state of the art climate models) predict vastly different outcomes:…

5 Gifs of n-Body Orbits [Animation] by Shannon Palus

“What I do is I have code that minimizes things,” says Robert Vanderbei, a Professor of Operations Research at Princeton University. He can minimize the light coming into a telescope from stars — to better see if there are more-softly lit planets traveling in their wakes. He also uses the code to analyze climate data. But it works for other things, too. “I was surprised to know that what I’m good at is useful for n-body problems,” he tells me.

This week in awesome, continued:

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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