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Khalil’s Picks (22 November 2013)

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

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Another week, more great stuff. We have a great selection today which will make your weekend really really good.

Dig in!

A New Kind of Food Science: How IBM Is Using Big Data to Invent Creative Recipes by Aatish Bhatia

Computers are constantly getting smarter. But can they ever be creative? A team of IBM researchers believes so. They’ve built a program that uses math, chemistry, and vast quantities of data to churn out new and unusual recipes.

Barring the gates: How plants defend against invading bacteria by S.E. Gould

Bacteria will exploit any opportunity to invade a new living space, in particular taking advantage of any easily-colonisable entrances into other living organisms. In plants one of these entrances is a doorway between the interior of the leaf and the outside air in order to exchange gases.

The manipulative friend: bacterial hijacking of plant symbiosis signalling by Sarah Shailes

Members of the legume family of plants (e.g. peas, soybean) can form symbioses with nitrogen-fixing bacteria known as rhizobia. In return for receiving nitrogen-containing compounds (e.g. ammonia) from the rhizobia, the plant supplies the rhizobia with sugars and a home in special organs in the plant root called nodules.

Rise of the Cetacea: Part I – The Pakicetids by Travis Park

After a couple of frustrating months of issues and setbacks plaguing my attempts to process the data I collected from several fossil cetacean periotics at the Australian Synchrotron for my PhD research, the past fortnight has seen a breakthrough and I can now start actually playing around with the images in Avizo (cool image processing software). Hooray! Bearing this in mind, aside from the post where I detailed my research proposal, I haven’t been writing very much (or at all) about my PhD, or at the very least, material related to the overall topic of fossil cetaceans (whales and dolphins).

How Giant Birds Can Fly Nearly 10,000 Miles in One Go by Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato

These world travelers are among the largest flying birds, weighing up to 25 pounds (11 kilograms), and with a wingspan of 11 feet (3 meters). But hefting such huge bodies off the ground takes a lot of energy. If albatrosses flew simply by flapping their wings, they would lose about half their body mass fueling that kind of flight.

Was the diversity of feeding styles in giant turtles a key to their suckcess? by Jon Tennant

Sometimes, it can be difficult to figure out how ancient organisms used to eat. Part of the problem is that we can never actually see extinct animals eating (until we invent time-travel.. *taps fingers impatiently at physicists*), and often it can be hard to work out how something ate based just on its anatomy.  Sometimes though, the fossil record chucks up something truly spectacular, and gives us amazing insight into the spectacular diversity of ancient life.

Because more is always good here:

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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