The Kepler space telescope seemed doomed to become space junk back in August, when it lost its ability to accurately and reliably point in any particular direction. Now NASA has a plan that could allow the telescope to keep working
, great news given the fact that all the rest of its hardware is still in good order. Excelsior! — Maggie
At what point does interesting-but-potentially-incorrect-or-misleading information become a potential threat to health? How do you regulate a product that current regulations were never set up to handle? The University of Michigan's Risk Science Center put together this quick cartoon that neatly summarizes the problems and questions at the heart of the FDA's crackdown on 23andMe, which Xeni wrote about on Monday.
A couple of other smart takes on this that have come out in the past couple of days:
• Genomics expert Michael Eisen delves deeper into the question of how we should regulate personal genetic testing.
• Journalist David Dobbs rounded up some diverse opinions. You should pay attention to his blog. He's been doing a lot of great reporting on genetics and culture and is planning on publishing a longer piece on the 23andMe stuff later this week.
Turkeys do fly. But they're built more for running, with powerful legs. Those legs, though, come in handy when the birds do take to the air. Unlike other large birds that need a relatively long runway to launch themselves skyward, turkeys can basically just jump up and take off — sort of the helicopter to other birds' 747. — Maggie
Here you can see a lump of rock with embedded fossils of bird bones trapped in the matrix. Below the rock are 3D printed models of those same fossils, created by paleontologist Brett Nachman. Other scientists captured the fossils inside the rock using CT scans that can see through the stone with the help of x-rays.
Last year, journalist Charles Choi wrote about the massive backlog of fossils in storage at most museums and suggested the possibility of using this kind of technology to study fossils that might not otherwise ever be removed from the hard matrix. Now, Charles is writing about people like Nachman who are doing just that — using technology to get at fossils that are too labor intensive to study.
The Mutter Museum — a freaky fantastic collection of medical curiosities — is trying to restore and preserve a collection of 139 skulls that were once used to debunk the pseudoscience of phrenology. You can help by adopting a skull for $200
. — Maggie
Seahorses have prehensile tails, which they use to cling to seagrass like little underwater monkeys. That's just one of the tricks that help make up for the fact that seahorses are some of the slowest swimmers in the animal kingdom. Their eating strategy is based on stealth, not speed.
Image: Longsnout Seahorse (Hippocampus reidi), a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from nostri-imago's photostream
When you cut apart your Thanksgiving turkey this year, let's all take a moment to remember the other animals that once fed on dinosaurs
— including ancient giant squirrels, sharks, and (of course) other dinosaurs. — Maggie
Eating turkey doesn't make you sleepy
— it's all the booze and over-eating that does that. — Maggie
The average American woman weighs 166 pounds. New data suggests that the Plan B morning-after pill is less effective if you weigh more that 165 pounds, and won't work at all for women who weigh more than 175
. What's more, writes Kate Clancy (an anthropologist who studies women's reproductive issues), the dosages for regular old daily birth control are set for average-to-low-weight women. If your BMI is over 25, the pill won't work as well for you. — Maggie
University of Toronto scientists found that salt creates the ripples and ridges
you see in icicles — and that there is enough salt in the runoff from an average Toronto rooftop to radically change an icicle's shape. — Maggie
The Chronicle of Higher Education talks to a sociologist who spent years living with and learning the stories of people affected by mass incarceration
. — Maggie
This video was made by the University of Utah Brain Institute to teach medical students about what a brain looks and feels like before it gets preserved in formalin and takes on the texture of a hard rubber ball.
The big takeaway message: Your brain is seriously squishy. So squishy, in fact, that a finger can dent it. As professor Suzanne Stensaas explains, this is one of the reasons why cerebrospinal fluid is so important. Your brain has to float in that fluid. If it didn't, it would come to rest against the side of your hard skull and quickly end up deformed.
Seriously, this is a fascinating (if extremely graphic) video. (Hilariously, given that fact, it opens with an image of a student eating.) Definitely worth watching!
Last week, I linked you to a piece pointing out that three New York Times
op-ed pieces linking bacterial exposure (or lack thereof) to autism, celiac disease, and allergies were all written by the same guy
, Moises Velasquez-Manoff. His ideas are interesting, but there's also good reason to be skeptical. If you want to get a better idea of the arguments for and against Velasquez-Manoff's thesis, I'd recommend checking out this post at the Knight Science Journalism Tracker
, which links to several critical stories and to Velasquez-Manoff's response to them. — Maggie
A Greenland shark found beached on Nov. 16. (CBC/Derrick Chaulk)
A tragedy was averted in Newfoundland when two men rescued an 8-foot-long Greenland shark that had managed to both partially beach itself and get a 2-foot-long hunk of moose lodged in its mouth. The men pulled the moose bits free and then towed the shark back into deeper water. The shark survived and, hopefully, learned some valuable lessons about hubris.
Researchers taking a core sample of sediment beneath Cape Charles, Virginia, found something surprising sandwiched between the layers of mud and ooze. Locked inside a rocky layer 5000 feet down, they discovered water — water from the early Cretaceous period
. — Maggie