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Khalil’s Picks (25 October 2013)

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


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We’re back in business! This week was pretty phenomenal with Shutdown’s effects on science, evolution, history of sand, Google Flu, the chemist that is nature…

Quick note before I leave you with this week’s great reads. If you’ve written or read a story which you think is worthy of being on the weekly picks, do feel free to ping me on Twitter or email.

After Shutdown Ends, Effects Continue to Stymie Science by Jessica Morrison

A U.S. government shutdown that sent home federal workers for 16 days has ended, but its impact on science continues. The furloughs included as many as one million federal employees, many of whom carry out or provide support for scientific research activities.

Evolution… “An American Monkey, after getting drunk on brandy, would never touch it again, and this is much wiser than men” by Julie Ann Heynes

Charles Darwin is an inspiration and one of my favourite men (let alone scientist) of all time. Without his work and literature on evolution, I believe that many people (including myself) would not be studying, would not have studied and will not study biology. Darwin helped change the theories and beliefs of how life came to be and, more controversially, where we (humans) come from. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (1859) is one of his most famous publications and the book which caught the attention of a teenage me. Darwin’s ideas, thoughts and theories behind how animals change over time intrigued me no end. I wanted to know more. I wanted to know the exact mechanisms, evidence and thought processes behind the theories of evolution. Yet, the most I took from this book is one picture, a single sentence:It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with may plats of many kinds, with birds singing on bushed, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us…

What is Sand Made of? History. by Jessica Carilli

Sand is possibly something you take for granted; it gets in your hair and your clothes and all over your food at the beach. But sand is also fascinating. Sandy beaches are dynamic: sand accumulates slowly over time, travels down the coast with longshore drift, is removed from the beach by large waves during storms, and can be redeposited back on the beach from offshore banks during calm periods. Sand is typically made mostly of varying amounts of material weathered from inland rocks (or seacliff material) and transported to the beach on the wind or in rivers, and/or shells and other hard parts precipitated out of the ocean water by marine organisms.

Constraints on Evolution by Sedeer el-Showk

Mutation provides grist for the mill of evolution, but these genetic changes aren’t usually directly exposed to selection. Natural and sexual selection act on a creature’s characteristics — its phenotype — and so can only see mutations that affect those characteristics. A complete picture of evolution will have to include an account of how an organism’s genes — its genotype — give rise to its phenotype, as well as some way of mapping the phenotype to fitness.

Chemists show life on Earth was not a fluke by Andrew Bissette

How life came about from inanimate sets of chemicals is still a mystery. While we may never be certain which chemicals existed on prebiotic Earth, we can study the biomolecules we have today to give us clues about what happened three billion years ago.

Grizzly bears find fall feast in well-traveled moths by Marissa Fessenden

As aspen leaves turn the gold of fall, grizzly bears in the greater Yellowstone area endure the final mania of their annual feeding frenzy before winter’s hibernation. The omnivorous bears compulsively pack on the pounds with berries, fish, carrion, whitebark pine seeds and a food unique to the Rocky Mountains—thousands of army cutworm moths.

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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