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Check your neuroskepticism

I have been increasingly skeptical of the value of brain imaging studies and the scope of what they can actually tell us. This report from the University of Pennsylvania and the Hastings Center is a nice counterpoint that's making me skeptical of my skepticism. Maggie 3

Space cherries hit puberty early

It normally takes 8-10 years for a cherry tree grown from a seed to blossom. But some seeds that went to space aboard the ISS are producing trees that flower far, far earlier. One in as little as two years. Nobody knows why, or whether the effect actually has anything to do with the time the seeds spent in orbit. Maggie 13

Millennia-old canoe discovered in museum hallway

A canoe found by the shores of Lake Minnetonka in 1934 is not 264 years old, as previously thought, but closer to 1000. It is in remarkably good condition and, until recently, sat in the corner of a hallway at the Western Hennepin County Pioneer Association museum.

Scientists begin investigating possible health impacts of e-cigarettes

A study released in January found that e-cigarette vapor can promote the development of cancer in certain types of human cells — at least, when those cells are in a petri dish. These are early findings, and they don't yet undermine the idea that e-cigs are healthier to smoke than regular cigarettes. But they do prompt some questions about second-hand smoke and the health of people you smoke e-cigarettes around. Maggie 63

Monkeys may sometimes grieve for dead mates through necrophilia


A still from the video of a marmoset exhibiting behavior that resembles human grieving.

A sad story of two marmosets documented by animal behavior researcher Bruna Bezerra, who was observing the primates in their northeast Brazil home:
The pair had been the dominant male and female since observations began. When the female fell out of the tree, her partner engaged in a number of behaviors, including embracing her, sniffing at her, chasing other monkeys away, sitting by her, and trying to copulate with her. He also emitted alarm calls normally used when a predator is near. And several months after her death, the male disappeared from the marmoset group, never to be seen again.

More: Do Monkeys Grieve for Fallen Mates? | Science/AAAS. Here's the study, in the journal Primates. There's video, too. [via Ed Yong]

Funny gene names

Turn off the maggie gene in fruit flies and larvae will never mature into adults. It's just one of the genes on Joe Hanson's list of best funny gene names. Maggie 4

Measles outbreaks have potential to spread farther, and through more people, than we thought

People fully vaccinated against measles could lose some of that protection as they get older. That means teenagers, college students, and adults could, potentially, contract and pass along measles in outbreaks that begin with younger, unvaccinated children. Maggie 11

Punishments for scientists who don't make research open access

The National Institutes of Health requires research it funds to be put into the public access PubMed Central database within a year of publication. Now, it's witholding grant money from scientists who fail to comply with that rule. Ditto the Wellcome Trust in the UK. Maggie 9

In space, everyone can drink your pee

Coming soon to space: A urine recycling system that turns pee into both water AND the electricity necessary to power the water purification system. Maggie 8

Celebrate World Homeopathy Awareness Week with homeopathyawarenessweek.org

It's World Homeopathy Awareness Week, so the Good Thinking Society (a nonprofit devoted to promoting rational thought) has put up a new site at homeopathyawarenessweek.org in which you will be made aware of a bunch of facts that homeopathy advocates are often slow to mention -- like adults and children who've died because they were treated with homeopathic sugar-pills, the tragic foolishness of Homeopaths Without Borders, who are memorably described as "well-meaning folk [who fly] into places of crisis in the developing world carrying suitcases full of homeopathic tablets that contain nothing but sugar. It is not so much Médecins Sans Frontières as Médecins Sans Medicine."

The more aware you are of homeopathy -- that is, the more you learn about all the ways in which homeopathy has been examined by independent, neutral researchers who've tested its claims and found them baseless -- the less there is to like about it. From ineffective homeopathy "vaccine alternatives" that leave your children -- and the children around them -- vulnerable to life-threatening illnesses that have been brought back from the brink of extinction by vaccine denial to the tragic story of Penelope Dingle, who suffered a horrific and lingering death due to treatable bowel-cancer because she followed her husband's homeopathic advice, being aware of homeopathy is a very good thing.

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Two possible explanations of mysterious earthquake lights

Centuries of humans have reported strange lights moving along the ground before an earthquake strikes. Now, two different teams of scientists have two competing theories that could explain where those lights come from and how they're made. Maggie 6

Fish don't need no stinking eyes

Meet the Mexican blind cavefish, which has no eyes, and instead echolocates through the power of fishface. Maggie 9

Watch freaky oarfish frolic in the Sea of Cortez

Oarfish are freaky sea dragons. You might remember them from the beaching incidents last fall, when two oarfish turned up on the coast of California within a week. That's a big deal, because the fish usually live far down in the ocean — at depths up to 3000 feet. It's relatively rare to catch them at a depth where humans have easy access. In this video, you can see tourists with a Shedd Aquarium travel program interacting with a couple of 15-feet-long oarfish in the Sea of Cortez. Definitely stick around to about 1:40 in the video, where you get some stunning underwater close ups of the oarfish.

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A biologist trying to go to Mars

Biologist Chris Patil is one of the 1058 people chosen (from more than 200,000 initial applicants) to participate in the second round of Mars One astronaut selection. That is, to say, he is one of 1058 people who are angling for a chance to go to Mars and never come back. He's keeping a blog about the experience and you can read it. Maggie 16

The side-effects of surviving HIV

There are side-effects to being an HIV controller — a person whose body naturally suppresses the virus without medication. They have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and more ... all linked to an over-active immune system. Now, researchers think they may have a solution that can keep those patients more healthy. Maggie 2