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Khalil’s Picks (20 September 2013)

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


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This week on Picks: prosopagnosia (!!!!), violent video games, delusions, white whales, a frog that got fried by a NASA spaceship, and so much more.

Prosopagnosia: Why Some are Blind to Faces by Jordan Gaines Lewis

A few months ago, I had an hour-long conversation with Professor P in his office discussing his course that had just wrapped up. We veered off-topic toward the end of our talk, broaching the subjects of his grad school days, scuba diving hobby, and my blogging. Less than an hour later, I was loitering around the college’s entrance in my coat, ready to go home for the day. I spotted Dr. P locking up his office and gave him a wave.

What is the link between violent video games and aggression? by Pete Etchells

What effect do violent media have on our behaviour? It’s not a new question – in the 1950s, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham wrote a book called “Seduction of the Innocent”, which claimed that comic books were unnecessarily exposing children to violence and causing them to become delinquent. Although Wertham’s methods and claims have since been called into question, similar concerns about the links between violent media and violent behaviour have been raised about television and, most recently, video games.

Geology beyond science by Jon Tennant

So last week, I wrote about how we can use different plots to help craft stories within geoscience. I want to stay along the theme of ‘science communication’ for a while, and write about an excellent paper Jane had published recently, calling for an increase in public engagement within geology higher education. Expect tonnes more along this in the future, as Jane develops her role at the EGU, but for now, I figured it would be cool to highlight some of the key points in Jane’s paper, as a sort of weird, blog-eulogy to her passing.

Delusions: Making Sense of Mistaken Senses by Rebecca Schwarzlose

For a common affliction that strikes people of every culture and walk of life, schizophrenia has remained something of an enigma. Scientists talk about dopamine and glutamate, nicotinic receptors and hippocampal atrophy, but they’ve made little progress in explaining psychosis as it unfolds on the level of thoughts, beliefs, and experiences. Approximately one percent of the world’s population suffers from schizophrenia. Add to that the comparable numbers of people who suffer from affective psychoses (certain types of bipolar disorder and depression) or psychosis from neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease [...]

Building blocks of life could be formed on comets by Andrew Bissette

No one knows how life began on Earth. But for it to happen, some simple chemical building blocks would have been needed. Many scientists argue the Earth’s violent past, with its massive volcanoes and regular meteor impacts, played a role in making these building blocks. But some of the simple molecules that could have served as building blocks are found on comets, too. Mark Price, a space scientist at the University of Kent, suspected that on these icy bodies could be involved in making these chemicals.

Call Me Migaloo: The Story Behind Real-Life White Whales by Hannah Waters

“Call me Migaloo,” would start the memoir of the most famous white humpback whale out there. He’s not quite from the pages of Moby Dick—Herman Melville’s white whale was a sperm whale and not entirely white—but Migaloo still makes quite a splash when he lifts his head or tail above the waves. First spotted in 1991, he’s been seen more than 50 times since, including a few times around the Great Barrier Reef this summer. But the probable-but-unconfirmed spotting by Jenny Dean, a Queensland, Australia native, takes the cake. A few weeks ago, she captured Migaloo breaching in a spectacular photo, showcasing the whale’s bright whiteness that nearly looks photoshopped.

The Hallmarks of Cancer: Becoming Independent by Buddhini Samarasinghe

“The Hallmarks of Cancer” are ten anti-cancer defense mechanisms that are hardwired into our cells, that must be breached by a cell on the path towards cancer. The First Hallmark of Cancer is defined as “Self-Sufficiency in Growth Signals”. Last week I explained what growth factors are and how signaling pathways work in a normal cell. In this article, I will go over how this process is hijacked by a cancer cell in its quest for achieving unlimited growth.

A Match Made in Heaven by Rachel Nuwer

Religious groups are the original conservationists. Worldwide, spiritual organizations own 5 to 10 percent of forests, and sacred sites occur on every continent except Antarctica. An estimated 70 percent of national parks that exist today were originally preserved by spiritual groups, and some sacred sites in Mongolia and China have been quietly protected for more than 1,000 years.

This frog got WAY too close to last week’s NASA rocket launch by Robert T. Gonzalez

Last week, NASA set its LADEE spacecraft blazing on a course to the Moon. While the launch was visible from much of the East Coast, those spectators nearest the VA launchpad were afforded the most breathtaking views. One amphibious Virginian, in particular, was especially moved by the spectacle.

And some more:

Irradiated Seeds Combat World’s Most Serious Wheat Disease by Francie Diep
A Jewel at the Heart of Quantum Physics by Natalie Wolchover
Clean water as easy as making instant coffee by Kayla Hunt
NIH serves up wide menu for US brain-mapping initiative by Helen Shen
If the Shoe Fits: Animals That Wear Boots by Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato
Mental disorder treatment common after childhood cancer by Kathleen Raven

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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