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#SciAmBlogs Weekly Recap—CES, the Polar Vortex, Endangered Animals, Petting Zoos, Pricey Art & More


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It’s been an exciting first week on the job as the new editor of Scientific American’s blog network—a huge thank you to our bloggers, the SciAm staff, and the rest of the online community for extending such a warm welcome.

The first full week in January also brought some terrific posts. Over at Plugged In, David Wogan explained why Secretary of State John Kerry thinks the US is on track to reach its goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. He also reminded us that while the “polar vortex” was bearing down on the US, it was “easy to forget that it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere. And our friends in Australia are experiencing some rather, umm, warm temperatures,” so yes, climate change is still a problem. And in case you’re wondering just what the polar vortex is, SciAm’s Mark Fischetti had an excellent explainer at Observations.

On a related note, The Curious Wavefunction’s Ashutosh Jogalekar highlighted a nice infographic describing the overwhelming scientific consensus on the basic facts of climate change. And on the pharmaceutical front, Jogalekar turned out a great 3-part series on why drug discovery is so difficult. Check out all the installments here, here, and here. Also in the health department, at Molecules to Microbes Judy Stone had some tips about how to survive this year’s flu. At Illusion Chasers, Stephen L. Macknik shared his thoughts on a study linking hypoglycemia to low income in diabetics. And, at Observations, SciAm’s Dine Fine Maron laid out some of the ways that ultramarathons affect the body.

It was a busy week for posts about the animal kingdom. At Extinction Countdown, John Platt had good news and bad news. A new population of critically endangered rabbits was found in, “of all places,” a South African nature reserve. Sadly, in a different study, researchers found that after six years of combing the wilds of 17 nations, lions are nearly extinct in West Africa. And, at Observations, SciAm’s Kate Wong reported that Chinese officials crushed 6.1 tons of confiscated elephant ivory, but cautioned that the country must do more to fight wildlife crime.

Elsewhere, The Thoughtful Animal’s Jason Goldman learned, to his surprise, that “like the honey badger, petting-zoo animals don’t care” about all the touching and pawing—at least not in one study. Yet one should always be sensitive to our animal friends. At Dog Spies, Judy Hecht advised those who own canines to learn to recognize fear in their pets. Unfortunately, John Horgan lost one of his companions, this week—Zach, a yellow-collared macaw. “Zach was a noisy little bully, who enjoyed terrorizing humans,” Horgan eulogized at Cross Check. R.I.P.

Speaking of people and animals, Felicity Muth shared some insights on whether or not chimpanzees can teach us anything about differences between boys and girls. And Katherine Harmon Courage told us why octopus arms are like human tongues.

There was a lot happening this week in the world of arts and culture. “Fine art culture is holding up a big expensive mirror at you and internet culture right now,” Glendon Mellow concluded at Symbiarctic in a great post about how plagiarized art sells for millions. Plus, don’t miss Mellow’s #SciArt Twitter list, which now features over 200 artists. And while you’re at it, check out Scientific American info-graphics expert Jen Christiansen’s tale of how she reconciled her love of art and science, at the SA Visual blog.

On a more literary note, at Information Culture sci-tech librarian Bonnie J. M. Swoger took readers behind the stacks, revealing the philosophy and methods for thinning books from library collections. One thing you probably wouldn’t find in those hallowed halls in the first place: ever heard of “monster porn?” Neither had I, but at Cross Check, John Horgan had an interesting rundown on what it says about science and sexuality. Also, head over to Life, Unbounded and watch the brilliant conversation between astronomer Caleb Scharf and journalist Lee Billings. They caught up at NYC’s Strand bookstore earlier this week to chew the fat about space exploration, the origins of life, and more.

Jumping from page to screen, at Cocktail Party Physics Jennifer Ouellette interviewed Rob Rapley, the director of PBS’s television adaptation of science journalist Deborah Blum’s bestselling book, “The Poisoner’s Handbook,” which debuted this week. And marking the return of the BBC’s popular TV series, But Not Simpler’s Kyle Hill explained why viewers should envy Sherlock Holmes, but not worship him.

Finally, in the tech realm, at Observation SciAm’s Larry Greenemeier gave us the lowdown on the five technologies to watch for at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which just ended. SciAm’s Seth Fletcher, who was at the show, tried out the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. “As soon as the Oculus guys started the game, I found myself sitting in a starfighter cockpit,” he said, but as amazing as it is, the device is still a work in progress.Later in the week, Greenemeier reported that IBM has begun marketing the services of Watson, the brainy computer of Jeopardy! fame, to research organizations and medical institutions “so that they can process ‘big data’ for detailed answers to complex questions.” And for all you materials science buffs out there, you wouldn’t want to miss the videos of the Slow Mo Guys visit to GE Labs, which Joanne Manaster posted at PsiVid.

Thanks for tuning in!

 

Curtis Brainard About the Author: Curtis Brainard is the Blogs Editor at Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @cbrainard.

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





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