16 February, 2012 – This Week in Science


Climate Hubbubbery, Scientists Boycotting Publishers, Shiny Ocean Thermometer, Dancing Bees, Exploding Manure Pits, Dustball Bombs, Nano Trouble, Sloshed Fruit Flies, Fruit Fly Slushies, Pool Life, Plants Get Around, Space Janitors, And Much More…

Disclaimer, Disclaimer, Disclaimer!!!
What we know of the world has changed very little over the ages…
Before we ventured into the sciences as species, we humans were as sure of the world we live in as we are today.
We knew that the sun goes up, the sun goes down, tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication… and for hundreds of thousands of years human knowledge about such things changed very little from this…
We knew that the sun was warm, the night was dark, and in the night the stars moved across that night sky with deliberate ease…
We knew the seasons, the phases of the moon, the migration of animals and the how to make tools from bone, from stone and how some stones when struck together could create sparks sufficient to make fire…
We survived this way, grew in numbers and traveled far with a thorough enough understanding of our environment to do so…
At some point in history a word was uttered that had no previous definition…
The word, most likely first spoken by a child, caused brows to furrow and heads to be scratched…
Those who repeated the word were sometimes though mad for doing so…
for it was a word so powerful, that it challenged beliefs held for millennia, altered the behavior of entire societies and ultimately became the one word responsible for all science and therefore modern society
Of all the words the world has whispered, which word did all of this? “Why” was the word that brought wisdom to the world…
And we have asked why so many times over the course of our history that we now have answers to the questions that once went un-asked by our ancient ancestors… and answers to questions they never could have imagined existed.
But we are not done yet, in fact we’ve just begun… more words to the why’s ahead on
This week in science… Coming up next

Climate hubbubbery
Documents from the Heartland Institute were leaked this week that indicated funding from private companies masked under a foundation name. This means that climate research from this Institute may be biased by the funders’ agenda.

Freedom of information
The list of Scientists boycotting Elsevier has grown to over 6,000, and new legislation allowing public access to scientific documents should be coming soon!

Shiny ocean thermometer
By studying the structure of nacre, or mother of pearl, we can tell what temperature and ocean depth at which it was formed, dating back up to 450 million years. This means we can begin to collect ancient ocean temperatures, from looking at mollusks.

Bees dance like their lives depend on it!
Asian Honeybees shake their abdomens to tell bee-eating hornets that they’ve been spotted and should “bug off.”

Get a free audiobook at Audible.com!

Are you reading along with the TWIS Bookclub? This month, check out ‘A Planet of Viruses’ by Carl Zimmer

Things go boom
Did you know that pig manure pits occasionally explode? Well, it might be a microbe’s fault.

Even dust can be explosive.
Nanoparticles conglomerate together in dust and as the clumps grow, they become more and more flammable.

Absorbing nano
Large quantities of polystyrene nanoparticles – a common, FDA approved material found in food – may affect how you absorb iron in your body.

Sloshed Fruit flies
Fruit flies effectively self-medicate with alcohol. If only we could use alcohol to fend off parasites!

Fruit fly slushie?
A species of fruit fly can survive being frozen in -320 degrees Fahrenheit and “come back to life” when thawed. Given the proper pre-freeze diet, normal fruit flies can survive freezing at 23 degrees Fahrenheit – this could be a precursor to cryogenics.

Pool life
Geothermal hot tubs – the origin of life?

Horizontal gene transfer in plants
Plants may have found some “shortcuts” in the survival game. Plant species appear to be swapping genes to speed up evolution.

Grabbing space junk
The Swiss Space Center has announced a new project to build a “space janitor.” Unfortunately, our orbit is a bit of a mess, but this satellite may help clean it up.

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