As usual, we have a diverse bunch of articles this week. Picks include why NASA engineers eat peanuts during missions, a scientific look at how God evolved and more...

A truly awesome piece by Amy Shira Teitel for Discovery News about the tumultuous history of the Ranger missions to the Moon. Bonus: why NASA engineers eat peanuts during every mission.

Curiosity Landing: What’s With All The Peanuts?

Peanuts, the legume and not the lovable 1960s comic strip, experienced a surge in popularity last week as the world watched engineers in NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) eating handfuls for good luck during Curiosity’s landing on Mars. It’s a long-standing tradition dating back to 1964. Just before Ranger 7 launched to the moon on July 28, mission manager Harris Schurmeier handed out peanuts to ease tensions. He figured chewing or playing with them on the table would give his team something else to focus on.

Adam Benton looks at how God evolved from a scientific (or anthropological to be more specific) perspective on his blog, EvoAnth.

How “god” evolved

Religious belief is very common in Homo sapiens, with almost all cultures having some kind of supernatural belief that is important to their sense of identity. However, here the similarities end for within the spectrum of human society is a similarly broad spectrum of religious beliefs. These range from the simple “animal spirits” who are responsible for the unexplained (but not much else) to a “High” or “King” God who takes an active role in the world, dictating morals of a people he created.

Kelly Oakes has a piece in New Scientist which explains that habitable planets may be more common than we thought.

Corpse stars could nurture life on alien planets

White dwarfs may be dying, but their light could be just right to sustain life as we know it. That could make habitable planets even more common than we think. Many planet-hunting missions have focused on finding rocky exoplanets around sun-like stars, based on the notion that an exact Earth twin would be a prime breeding ground for alien life.

Noby Leong has a short but enlightening piece at Our World Today about the distorted view of climate change portrayed by the media. According to Noby,  this stems from the media’s parrot-fashion need to show both sides of an argument—in effect disregarding the real facts.

How the watchdogs tell the story

Climate change policy has consistently featured in the news, but scientific consensus is considered to be greatly understated because of how the media spreads its message. Public opinion and the political agenda are greatly influenced by media coverage. News stories covered by print, television and the internet set the topic and tone of national debates.

An important post by Ada Ao on what it means now that stem cells are classified as drugs. Can this do more harm than good, she asks on her Scitable blog, The Promethean Cell.

Cells = drugs = government regulation?

A United States court decision delivered on July 23, 2012 confirmed FDA's assertion that stem cells are drugs. If you've read my previous post on Prochymal, you may be wondering why this is news. Well, this decision marks the latest episode in the continuing courtroom drama that began in 2008 when the FDA sent a warning letter to Regenerative Sciences (now Regenexx) regarding its autologous stem cell procedures, which extracts mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from the patient's bone marrow, expands them in culture for many weeks, and then infuses them back into the patient's body to promote healing or reduce chronic pain*. Regenexx refused to comply with the agency's warning and argued its procedure did not fall under FDA jurisdiction. The agency responded by slapping the company with a federal injunction in 2010 to block the procedure's use in the US. The injunction didn't actually do much because the company simply moved the procedure to an off-shore clinic while expanding related services in the US.

An incredible post by Shara Yurkiewicz on her PLoS blog, This may hurt a bit.

Waking Up

An elderly man startles awake after a man in a white coat touches his shoulder. He looks around and sees three other white-coated people standing around his bed. “Sir? Good afternoon, sir. How are you?” says the man who touched the patient’s shoulder. “Oh, I’m fine.” He’s perfectly calm.

Enjoy your weekend (especially if you’re back on soccer mode).