Discover Magazine: Etched Ostrich Eggs Give Window on Stone Age Humans’ Symbolic Thinking.
“A cache of ostrich eggshell fragments discovered by archaeologists in South Africa could be instrumental in understanding how humans approached art and symbolism as early as the Stone Age. The eggshells, engraved with geometric designs, may indicate the existence of a symbolic communication system around 60,000 years ago among African hunter-gatherers [Discovery News].” So, artists are actually ... the original eggheads?
BBC News: Human gut microbes hold ‘second genome’.
“There is a huge diversity. We have about 100 times more microbial genes than human genes in the body. We also have 10 times more bacterial cells in our body than human cells.” There’s a fungus among us. I tell you, if I had things to do over again, I’d go into bacterial research.
Discover: Female Dung Beetles Evolved Elaborate Horns to Fight for the Choicest Poop.
This begs for a few choice puns, but I fear I’ll be gored to death for committing them.
Wired Science: Backpack Hydroelectric Plant Gives You 500 Watts on the Move.
30 pounds. Not bad, all in all. Plenty of year-round mountain streams around here to tap.
BusinessWeek: Virgin to test rocket-powered spaceship next year.
“Meanwhile, Virgin is working to finish a launch site in New Mexico, which this week enacted a law that aims to promote commercial space flight by requiring passengers to give their consent and be informed of the risks involved.” Hey, if you’ve got any extra seats, I’ll write here about the experience ...
Discover Magazine: How to Build a $1000 Fusion Reactor in Your Basement.
“Your reactor will use a lot more energy than it produces. It is barely capable of achieving a detectable nuclear reaction, so fusion is one of the least hazardous parts of this project.” About as useful as paving a desert isle and constructing a drive-in. (One of my more brilliant ideas.)
Slate: Did we save the whales or what?
Consensus seems “yes.”
NPR: Snake Vs. Dinosaur Deathmatch Preserved In Fossil Find.
“Scientists have discovered a macabre death scene that took place 67 million years ago. The setting was a nest, in which a baby dinosaur had just hatched from an egg, only to face an 11-foot-long snake waiting to devour it. The moment was frozen forever when, apparently, the nest was buried in a sudden avalanche of mud or sand and everything was fossilized.”
New Scientist: The mystery of the silent aliens.
“But while the odds against life seem to be shortening, thanks to those exoplanets, it is now pretty clear that our part of the galaxy, at least, is not a hive of obvious alien activity. The cosmos may be buzzing with life, or even with intelligence, but it is not Star Trek out there.”
Discover Magazine: Physicists Shoot Neutrinos Across Japan to an Experiment in an Abandoned Mine.
“To study this, the scientists are creating their own stream of neutrinos at a facility near the town of Tokai north of Tokyo. That beam is aimed at the Super Kamiokande in Kamioka (thus the name Tokai-to-Kamioka), and travels about 185 miles to get there.”
LA Times: The Mozart effect: Studies of music’s effect on children.
“But for all its beauty, power and capacity to move, researchers have concluded that music is little more than ear candy for the brain if it is consumed only passively. If you want music to sharpen your senses, boost your ability to focus and perhaps even improve your memory, the latest word from science is you’ll need more than hype and a loaded iPod. You gotta get in there and play.” Now THAT makes sense.
New Scientist: The pheromone myth: Sniffing out the truth.
“Not only have mammalian pheromones not been found, but the idea oversimplifies the nature of chemical communication among mammals.” So you can tell the lounge-lizards to drop the musk ...
Gizmodo: The Wrath of God This Weekend.
“This weekend’s Chilean earthquake was 8.8 magnitude, among the most powerful in recorded history. This is how its 66.6 exajoules of energy spread across the Pacific, as shown by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.” I’d like to see such models done of the 1883 Krakatoa explosion.
Wired: Stop the Ug99 Fungus Before Its Spores Bring Starvation.
“Indeed, 90 percent of the world’s wheat has little or no protection against the Ug99 race of P. graminis. If nothing is done to slow the pathogen, famines could soon become the norm — from the Red Sea to the Mongolian steppe — as Ug99 annihilates a crop that provides a third of our calories.”
CJR: Do Articles About Toxins Causing Autism Cause Hysteria? They Don’t Have To.
“... Kristof finds a way to discuss the research without getting hysterical. These two paragraphs of journalistic disclosure are all it takes ...”
NPR: Software Mimics Person’s Voice.
“Film critic Roger Ebert had his larynx removed through surgery, but a company called CereProc in Edinburgh, Scotland, has created a beta version of his voice.”
CR4: The Science of Curling.
Reuters: Scientists examine causes for lull in warming.
“I think we need better analysis of what’s going on on a routine basis so that everyone, politicians and the general public, are informed about our current understanding of what is happening, more statements in a much quicker fashion instead of waiting for another six years for the next IPCC report.” I’d say so. You’ve left enough holes for a garden-variety doubter to drive a bus through. You’re prosecuting a circumstantial evidence case to the public, and the defense is exercising ‘reasonable doubt’ with abandon.
Spiegel.DE: Death in the Atlantic: The Last Four Minutes of Air France Flight 447.
“Without a speed reading, the computer more or less throws in the towel, which doesn’t make things easier for the pilots. It would be easier for pilots if they could simply switch the computer off in critical situations, as is possible on Boeing planes.” I remain unconvinced about fly-by-wire. Give me mechanical backup. Ice has always been a scourge, and just goes to show that fancy engineering still hasn’t made man ‘master of nature’. There remain times to keep your butt parked on the firmament.
Creep me out.
New Scientist: Newborns’ blood used to build secret DNA database.
Discover Magazine: Augmented Reality iPhone App Can Identify Strangers on the Street.
Mashable: Google Adds Facebook Pages to Real-time Search. That’s not the bad part; read the last paragraph: “Still, Google’s stream doesn’t include public Facebook profiles, something only rival search engine Bing can access.” A lot of people still can’t figure out Facebook’s privacy settings. Time to walk your friends, relatives and children through it.
Wired: U.S. Team Hopes to Bring Steam Car Record Home.
Science Daily: In learning, the brain forgets things on purpose.
“... a new study in flies suggests that kind of forgetfulness doesn’t just happen. Rather, an active process of erasing memories may in some ways be as important as the ability to lay down new memories ...”
New Scientist: NASA sets sights on inflatable space stations.
“Astronauts may one day orbit the Earth in roomy balloons instead of cramped tin cans, now that NASA has made inflatable space habitats a priority.” Are they hoping debris will *bounce* off ... ?
CNN: H1N1: Pandemic was emotional as well as physical.
Ironic. If the authorities took the alarm to ‘10’, the media took it to ‘11’. You couldn’t escape the 24-hour news cycle retreading the fear and panic for a few weeks there. Look inwards, CNN, before casting blame elsewhere.
Discover: Space Is Getting Bigger, and It’s Getting Bigger Faster.
“Few scientists can say their work forever changed how we see the universe. Saul Perlmutter is one of them, for his central role in the 1998 discovery of dark energy. That invisible energy, which accounts for a whopping 73 percent of everything in the cosmos, is stretching the fabric of space and could cause a runaway expansion of the universe.” In case you needed something other than global warming to worry about ...