This week in Picks: polio eradication in Nigeria, AI goes in sports commentary, hookah and energy-drinks aren’t healthy at all and posts from young science writers who just joined, a science blogging network.

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Charles Ebikeme, in Think Africa Press, writes about the renewed efforts to eradicate polio in Nigeria. Polio is a terrible disease which can start as a simple fever but culminate into paralysis. It has been eradicated in most parts of the world thanks to vaccination but Nigeria remains the only polio endemic country in Africa. This is, above all, a necessary read.

Nigeria: Polio's Last African Stronghold

“I do not really understand what happened. Aisha felt sick for weeks and got a high fever. Her legs have now started to get very weak and she has a hard time trying to stand up”, explains Zainabu, a Nigerian mother whose daughter contracted polio, to Think Africa Press.

Artificial intelligence is a big thing but perhaps we’re not aware of it that much yet. But rest assured that many people are actively using it. The latest profession which may use artificial intelligence? Sport commentators! Good piece by Douglas Heaven at New Scientist.

AI sports commentator knows all the best stories

A database of relevant anecdotes for commentators during live sport means that the best stories are always to hand WHEN watching sport on TV, the footage is often only half the fun. A good commentator can make all the difference, peppering a play-by-play account of the action with expert knowledge and anecdotes. But even the best commentator's repertoire is limited. Now an AI system called Scores could help.

During my three-year stint in Malaysia, I was exposed to the culture of shisha (or hookah) smoking. It never appealed to me (I mean, seriously, smoke inhaling!?) but many of friends smoked shisha while we were watching football (soccer) games. And they always claimed that it wasn’t unhealthy. Wrong! In his piece at Mind The Science Gap, Michael Grisafe reveals that hookah is not healthy. Not at all so.

Up in Smoke: The Myth of the Healthy Hookah

“Narghile.” “Hubble-bubble.” “Shisha.” All names for what is commonly known in the United States as “Hookah.” A hookah is a type of water pipe in which users inhale flavored tobacco smoke through a long, hose-like stem after it passes through a basin of water. Hookah smoking has been around in the Middle East for over 400 years; however it’s seen a surge in popularity among college age adults in the United States over the past ten years.

In her piece for New Scientist, Hannah Krakauer tells all about energy drinks’ potential of killing you. Or more specifically, about caffeine’s potential to kill.

Are high-caffeine energy drinks dangerous?

This week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released incident reports describing several deaths that may have occurred following the consumption of Monster Energy drinks. Much of the concern over energy-drink consumption is down to the high caffeine content of such beverages, which at present is not regulated as they are classed as nutritional supplements.

In the future, the cool kids may well have one dad and two mommies. Akshat Rathi has a good piece in The Economist about that recent paper which reported that a child can have DNA from three individuals: a father and mother providing the chromosomal DNA and a second mother providing the mitochondrial DNA.

Hello mothers, hello father

A technique intended to eliminate mitochondrial diseases would result in people with three genetic parents. Is it possible for a child to have three parents? That is the question raised by a paper just published in Nature by Shoukhrat Mitalipov and his colleagues at Oregon Health and Science University. And the answer seems to be “yes”, for this study paves the way for the birth of children who, genetically, have one father, but two mothers.

Shara Yurkiewicz is at her usual standard in her latest post in her blog, This may hurt a bit, hosted by PLoS. You’ll be sold by her opening lines.


“By the way,” my chief resident told me on the first day of my inpatient psychiatry rotation, “don’t lick your lips in front of him.” “Wait, what happens if–” I fell silent as the patient walked into the interview room. The resident wanted to discuss his paranoid delusions; the patient wanted to discuss his discharge.

Rachel Nuwer tackles an interesting question from a science viewpoint in’s Smart News blog.

Can We Excuse Cheating If It Supports a Good Cause?

Is it ever ok for us to bend the rules or cheat in order to achieve a greater good—or to support those who do? New York Magazine raises this question in relation to Lance Armstrong’s recent fall from grace.


This week also saw the unveiling of a number of new bloggers on this blogging network’s sister network, (full disclosure, I am the community manager of Many of those new bloggers are young science writers. Here’s some of their contributions so far:


A lot of links today. But you can find more writings from early-career science writers by following this Twitter list. Have a good intellectual weekend.