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Khalil’s Picks (1 November 2013)

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


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Candy! Candy corn? What exactly is candy corn?! This week’s picks points you to the answer as well as to some super science writing filled with dolphins, octopuses, zombies, rhinos, corals and, umm, engineers!

One little question before leaving you to such good stuff: what do you think about receiving the weekly picks in your inbox every Friday afternoon/night? Would you subscribe?

What the BLEEP is candy corn? by Caitlin Q. Davis

The scariest part of Halloween isn’t the 32 grams of sugar per serving in those multicolored triangles. Ladies and gents, it’s Halloween time again. And like all true Halloween fans, I’m in it for one thing, and one thing only: the candy. And there isn’t a more iconic choice for Halloween candy than candy corn.

Humpback Whales Are Bottom-Feeders, Study Suggests by Douglas Main

Just like naughty children on Halloween, humpback whales enjoy midnight snacks. In the case of the whales, this takes the form of a previously unknown behavior, in which the animals repeatedly rotate their bodies and gulp fish just off the seafloor, sometimes making contact with the ocean bottom itself and creating scars on their bodies.

Ten Curious Facts About Octopuses by Rachel Nuwer

Octopuses, those whip-smart but bizarre cephalopods, seem to embody everything creepy and mysterious about the sea–the thought of their soft squishy bodies lurking in the oceans’ dark reaches has inspired monsters ranging from the Kraken to the Caribbean Lusca. Their otherworldly forms, heightened by unfurling tentacles, find their way into more modern monsters and villains too–think Disney’s sea witch Ursula or Spider-Man’s Doc Oc. And don’t forget the octopus-themed horror movies!

Zombies, cognitive dissonance and you by Pete Etchells

Would it be morally ambiguous to kill a zombie? Thinking about it before the apocalypse might mean the difference between life and death. Just make sure you’re talking about the right sort of zombie.

Legalising trade in endangered species products – morally bankrupt or a conservation aid? by Kate Whittington

Last Thursday I visited the Royal Geographical Society to attend the Earthwatch Institute’s Big Debate of 2013 – “Bone of Contention” to address the question: ”Is it time to reconsider a legal global trade in tiger, elephant, and rhino products?” The current CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) listings prohibit trade in products such as rhino horn, elephant ivory and tiger bone. The sad truth is, however, that all this has really achieved is to push trade underground. Prohibition of supply does nothing to stop the demand, and the black market for these illegal products is still clearly thriving.

Catching The Coral Cold by Sara Mynott

For many ocean dwellers marine diseases are on the increase, as climate change and direct human influence put animals under increasing stress. Many marine pathogens are found everywhere in the ocean, but don’t infect their target until their host’s immune system is compromised – something that is caused by changing environmental conditions.

How Engineers Use Ground Freezing to Build Bigger, Safer, and Deeper by Jessica Morrison

The cleanup after the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been anything but smooth. First there was the denial that things were really so bad, then crews discovered leaky tanks and holes in radiation barriers, and finally Tepco, the utility company which owns the plant, admitted that tens of thousands of gallons of groundwater were flowing through areas contaminated with radiation.

More, more, 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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