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Maggie Koerth-Baker

Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. From August 2014-May 2015, she will be a Nieman-Berkman Fellow at Harvard University. You can follow Maggie's adventures in the Ivory Tower by subscribing to The Fellowship of Three Things newsletter.


Experimental drugs tested in African Ebola outbreak

There are several Ebola drugs in development and they're starting to reach struggling victims, especially Western aid workers, who agree to participate in ad hoc trials.

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Most social science results have never been replicated

Replication — where researchers re-do experiments to see if they get the same result — is a really important part of the scientific process. And it's hardly ever done in social science.

Mysterious holes in Siberia may be craters of climate change explosions

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Holes like this one have been appearing in Siberia — at least three are known so far. There are a couple of theories for what's causing them and both are linked to climate change.

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Where does the word "scientist" come from?

This account of the 19th-century debate over whether or not the word "scientist" is accurate and pleasing to hear is a great reminder that some of the best history stories are the ones you don't even think to ask about.

Fantastic cookbook of extremely inexpensive meals

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Good and Cheap is a free/donation-based ebook filled with recipes geared toward helping you eat on $4 a day — which is the average amount SNAP (food stamp) recipients have to spend.

When Buddhists call for genocide

There's a fascinating story in the American Buddhist magazine Shambala Sun about the Burmese Buddhists who are killing and harassing their Muslim neighbors. Thoughtful and full of context, it is very much worth a read.

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Scientists track the origins of a ship buried under the World Trade Center

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In 2010, construction crews found the hull of a very old ship, buried at the site of the World Trade Center towers. Using dendrochronology, scientists now know how old the ship is and what city it was made in.

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Paleontology on the Moon

An experiment on Earth suggests that it might be possible to find microscopic fossils on the Moon.

How Ebola works

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The MicrobeWiki has a really detailed explanation of the biological mechanisms behind an Ebola infection. It gets a little technical in places, but it's a good read if you've ever wondered how the virus creates hemorrhaging and why it's hard to treat.

One of the reasons that Ebola is so deadly is that it has multiple ways of interfering with or avoiding the human immune system. While the virus is busy destroying the human body, the immune system is either still in the process of discovering that there is a problem, or is in such disarray that it would be next to impossible to mobilize a unified effort to fight off the invader.

Humans are eating a scaly anteater into extinction

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Never underestimate omnivores with a penchant for animal-based traditional medicine.

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Read Dune with public radio's Science Friday

If you liked learning about the science of Tatooine, you'll enjoy reading Dune with the Science Friday bookclub.

Watch a cocoa farmer try chocolate for the first time

N'Da Alphonse grows cocoa in Ivory Coast. He harvests the pods, removes the pulp-covered beans, and dries them before selling them to brokers. He'd never seen or tasted the food made from his beans, until a Dutch TV show brought him a sample, as part of a story on class divisions and the global food trade.

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Via Sploid

Medical experimentation and vulnerable people

Fourty-two years after the exposure of the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, a group of educators, activists, and writers discuss the history and the present of medical experimentation and medical ethics.

Why do some women get pregnant even though they're on the Pill?

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The answer is more complicated than simply missing a dose, or failing to take your birth control at just the right time each day. Scientists are just beginning to understand how individual differences in body chemistry can affect how well the Pill works.

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The history of botched executions

The first use of the electric chair was both an official success and a horrific example of what can happen when the technology of executions doesn't work the way we expect it to.

Scientists investigate radio wave "bursts" from space

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Two different radio telescopes have now picked up fast "burst" signals that seem to originate outside our galaxy.

Let's cut to the chase: Is it aliens?

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How to solve the problem of plastic in the ocean

Ocean scientists Kim Martini and Miriam Goldstein explain, in detail, why the well-meaning ideas of 19-year-old Boyan Slat won't work and show you what you can do now to help stop plastic pollution.

A really fantastic science show on TV

I recently stumbled across Time Scanners, a tech-heavy, pop-science reality show. And, get this you guys, I learned things. I know. From TV. It's crazy.

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How to cut a bagel into two interlocking rings

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You will need a knife, a non-toxic marker, and some math.

Succeeding at standardized tests means owning the books with the answers in them

Standardized tests aren't tests of basic knowledge. They're branded products produced by textbook companies, and getting the right answers depends on whether you studied from the right books.

The existence of the Bahamas begins in the Sahara desert

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Here's a really fascinating example of the interconnectedness of life and the importance of viewing things as systems, rather than individual events. The Bahamas are, underwater, giant mounds of calcium carbonate, part of the even larger Great Bahama Bank. That Bank, as it turns out, is not the result of local coral growth, but, instead, owes its existence to a chemistry experiment that begins in Africa's Sahara desert.

In short the authors show that when Sahara dust arrives in the Bahamas cyano-bacteria, what we used to call blue-green algae, bloom. As they bloom their photosynthesis removes CO2 from the water making the pH locally rise, alleviating ocean acidification. That blooming rise of ocean pH to a slightly more alkaline state results in what the Bahamanian’s have long called “Ocean Whitings” where the ocean becomes white like milk.

The whiting of the ocean is the result of white calcium carbonate precipitating out of solution as a solid mineral which sinks to the sea floor and accumulates in massive amounts. On the sea bed it looks like tiny pellets. That’s because it’s been reprocessed by marine worms.

Explore science in a weekly newsletter

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I'm about to start a year-long fellowship at Harvard, immersing myself in geeky science awesomeness, and you can follow along with my newsletter The Fellowship of Three Things.

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Heartbreaking photos of uninsured Americans waiting for care

Photographer Lucian Perkins documented the thousands of Virginians who camped out in cars and waited in the rain earlier this month to get access to basic dental, vision, and medical treatment at a traveling clinic.

How well does your medication work?

Two doctors are pushing for the FDA to add information to drug packaging that explains how the medication compares to placebo.

The top Ebola doctor in Sierra Leone has contracted Ebola

Dr. Sheik Umar Khan, a hero who has treated hundreds of people in the recent deadly outbreak, is in a Doctors Without Borders isolation ward after working at a hospital where three nurses had previously died of the virus.

Despite new data, Mars remains a mystery

We have lots of new information about Mars, writes Alexandra Witze at Nature, but scientists are still struggling with what that information means and how all the parts work together.

Another execution by experimental drug cocktail goes horribly wrong

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An execution in Arizona turned torturous yesterday, with convicted murderer Joseph Wood taking almost two hours to die after he was injected with a secret mixture of drugs.

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Endangered species condoms say, "Think before you breed."

The Center for Biological Diversity has distributed hundreds of thousands of free condoms in endangered species-themed wrappers, with the message that more humans means more extinctions.

The horror and the wonder of mayfly birth

Remember that upper Midwest mayfly apocalypse that Xeni wrote about? Here's how those flies are born. The female dies while laying her eggs. The babies hatch within seconds.

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Spineless creatures flee forest fires

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In a story at National Geographic, bush firefighter Gabriel d'Eustachio describes multiple fires where the leading edge of flame was preceded by an invertebrate "wave of creepy-crawlies".

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