January 20, 2014 | 1
Scientific American migrated to a new content management system this weekend, so if you had any trouble with the site, we apologize for any inconvenience. I was just getting familiar with the old system, but I’m told the new one is much better.
This weekly recap is coming in a bit late (I blame the exhausting and atrocious process of searching for a place to live in New York City), but it gives me the opportunity to wish everyone a happy Martin Luther King, Jr. day. Given the auspicious occasion, it’s fitting to begin with a few posts from last week related to equality and diversity issues. At Context and Variation, Kate Clancy offered some spot-on advice to would-be event organizers regarding misguided attempts at inclusivity:
“If you want more women, telling the women you are inviting that you’ve been told you have to have more women, particularly said in a way that implies you are being forced to do it rather than [that you] are aware of and eager to eliminate gender disparities, does not promote a welcome environment for women.”
Later in the week at Doing Good Science Janet Stemwedel made the case that Nature’s apology for publishing a gender-biased letter from one of its readers was likely insufficient. In another post, Stemwedel urged journalists to speak out against breaches of ethics in their profession, such as a recent episode in which a reporter outed a transgender woman who later committed suicide.
Also, Plugged In’s Melissa C. Lott gave a shout out to biochemist Carter Wall, who manages the clean energy division of Broadway Electrical Company in Massachusetts and mentors young women and girls who are interested in the energy field.
There were also a lot of good posts about charismatic creatures. At Tetrapod Zoology, Darren Naish drafted nice catalogues the “freaky” voles of North America and the dragon-like agamids of Australia. Jason G. Goldman shared some interesting facts about red pandas. Did you know they have a major cheese problem? Find out why at The Thoughtful Animal.
For more on the wild side, take a ride into the danger zone with the falcon-cam video that Running Ponies’ Bec Crew posted, revealing the secrets of raptors’ mid-air pursuit strategies (anyone who doesn’t hear Kenny Loggins playing in their head is just nuts). Then head over to The Octopus Chronicles, where SciAm’s Katherine Harmon Courage introduced readers to Ozy the octopus, a champion among cephalopods, who set an unofficial record for opening a jar with his tentacles. His trophy? A live crab.
And if you’re wondering “why we can’t have [more] nice species,” Extinction Countdown’s John R. Platt recounted the deplorable tale of a thief who absconded with an extinct-in-the-wild water lily from London’s Kew Gardens. Platt also reported on researchers’ efforts to use social networks to predict the apes most likely to transmit disease in their communities.
Turning toward evolution, was Tiktaalik rear-wheel drive? At Symbiartic, science illustrator Kalliopi Monoyios explained why she had to revise her sketch of the leggy 375-million-year-old fish. Plus, what you’ve all been waiting for: that science-themed parody of Miley Cyrus’s music video, “Wrecking Ball.” Riffing on evolution and natural selection, Carin Bondar nailed it at PsiVid.
To keep the good times rolling head over to @ScientificAmerican and check out Eric Olson’s hilarious bloopers reel from our “Instant Egghead” video series, featuring all your favorite SciAm’s editors tripping over their lines.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced $3 million to support clean energy businesses and entrepreneurs, Melissa C. Lott noted at Plugged In. But energy and population guru Vaclav Smil thinks “the great hope for a quick and sweeping transition to renewable energy is wishful thinking,” according to The Curious Wavefunction’s Ashutosh Jogelekar. Perhaps Smil is looking for grander gestures, like China’s decision to put a cap on automobile ownership, which international energy and transport analyst Tali Trigg called, “the biggest (missed) environmental news story of 2013,” at the Guest Blog.
In health news, more than three decades after doctors first identified the disease, “now we know how HIV causes AIDS,” Dr. Tim Lahey, a specialist at Dartmouth University wrote in a post for the Guest Blog, saying the discovery may open up the possibility for new therapies. Along the same line, at Talking Back, SciAm’s Gary Stix reported on Roche’s new technique for shuttling an Alzheimer’s drug across the blood-brain barrier—it’s all in the shape of the antibody.
Reminding us not to overlook less common illnesses, Molecules to Medicine’s Dr. Judy Stone explained why this week’s news about Sam Berns’ death and Justina Pelletier’s court-ordered release from Boston Children’s Hospital highlight some of the difficulties surrounding rare and orphan diseases.
There was a lot more last week. Kate Clancy, John Horgan and Ashutosh Jogalekar offered interesting replies to the annual Big Question from Edge’s John Brockman: What scientific idea is ready for retirement?
Marking the occasion of the (in)famous physicist’s 106th birthday, Ashutosh Jogalekar reflected on the many tragedies of Edward Teller. The Artful Amoeba’s Jennifer Frazer reported on scientists’ discovery of the part of plants whence spring tannins, the chemicals that give wine and tea their characteristic pucker. Absolutely Maybe’s Hilda Bastian took a deep dive into how science is helping us inch toward better justice systems. Dana Hunter explained why, following the Mt. Helens blast, “if you were the side of the tree facing the volcano, you had it very bad indeed.” And sci-tech librarian Bonnie Swoger shared some tips on understanding your rights where online repositories, websites, and “self-archiving” is concerned. And Oscillator’s Christina Agapakis highlighted a “deeply satisfying and profoundly confusing” connection between cows and bacteria.
Last, but not least, from in house, SciAm’s Larry Greenemeier explained why our texts, tweets and selfies could be funding war in Africa and what Intel is doing to purge its supply chain of conflict minerals. And SciAm’s Clara Moskowitz recounted the fascinating tale of exploration and shoe-leather science that debunked the “supernova” cave-painting myth.
Thanks for tuning in!