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A surgeon looks at Rodin's hands

Rodins hands dig preview final

For many years, Stanford University surgeon James Chang has been fascinated by Rodin's hands, sculptures made by the French artist in the 19th century. Chang uses Rodin's hands in what sounds to be a marvelous undergraduate seminar titled "Surgical Anatomy of the Hand: From Rodin to Reconstruction" in which he combines 3D scans of the sculptures, a process seen above, with medical imaging of human bones, nerves, and blood vessels.

Rodins hands dig preview final

Now, Chang has collaborated on an exhibition at Satnford that lies at the intersection of science and art. “Inside Rodin’s Hands: Art, Technology, and Surgery” opens next week at Sanford's Cantor Arts Center.

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Can homeschooling make you more tolerant?

A new study of students at a Christian college found that the kids who had been homeschooled were more willing to extend basic civil liberties to their political/cultural opposites than those who had gone to public school. At The Conversation, scientist Robert Kunzman critiques this study and explains how it fits into the larger context of what we know about home schooling. Maggie 49

The creeping threat of the Risk Perception Gap

Risk perception expert David Ropeik on why we fear the things we fear and the role of the media in making our perceptions of risk even more screwed up than they are naturally. Maggie 9

Return to Deepwater Horizon

For the first time since 2010, researchers are returning to the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, to study the long-term effects first hand. Maggie 2

How scary is Ebola?

Ebola is scary. (Hypothesis: The fewer syllables a disease has, the scarier it is at a gut/click-bait level. For example, plague compared to malaria.) And it's true that the recent outbreak of Ebola in Guinea is objectively unusual by virtue of how widespread it is throughout the country. Generally, Ebola is relatively easy to quarantine off and tends to get itself stuck in rural areas.

But Ebola is not a disease that travelers from Western countries should be particularly concerned about. Nor, for that matter, is it even a disease that people living in Guinea, and the other African countries where Ebola has popped up, should be particularly concerned about. Ebola is scary. But, relatively speaking, Ebola kills far fewer people and has far less of an impact on the lives of ordinary people than endemic diseases like tuberculosis, the aforementioned malaria, and any number of intestinal diseases that cause childhood diarrhea. The CBC has a nice story that focuses in on this perspective. You should read it.

Thanks to Tom Zeller!

You are invited to Iowa to witness the dance of the prairie chickens

Come to Kellerton, Iowa this Saturday (just off I-35, near the Missouri border) and you can watch prairie chickens engage in elaborate mating dances. The action starts just before dawn and the chickens will probably be, *ahem*, spent by 9:30 am.

A new virus identified in China

Mojiang paramyxovirus — found in rats infesting a copper mine where three workers died from severe pneumonia in 2012 — may or may not be dangerous to humans. It's related to Hendra, a virus that kills horses and humans and that is a major focus of research into zoonosis (aka, the process of diseases jumping from animals to humans). Maggie 6

The people who walk away from society

All this week Pacific Standard will be publishing profiles of people who have "opted out" — from hippie homesteaders to anti-government survivalists. Maggie 7

Is everything you know about the Black Death wrong?

A helpful, short post that adds some context to overly excitable headlines. Maggie 13

Archaeologists vs. The National Geographic Channel

Archaeologists and historians came out on top yesterday in a battle against The National Geographic Channel. The channel was promoting a new show — all about treasure hunters, metal detectors, and collectibles salesmen digging up World War II graves in Eastern Europe. Called, classily, Nazi War Diggers, the show appeared to violate some pretty key tenets of scientific archaeology. Video clips and press materials for the show featured body parts being yanked out of the ground (and misidentified), rather than carefully excavated. And, despite promises that the relics uncovered would go to museums, there's evidence that an American Nazi memorabilia dealer was selling some of things that were found. In general, the show seemed to involve a lot of behaviors that, while legal in Poland and Latvia where the filming was done, are viewed as horribly unethical by the folks who do this kind of work professionally.

Yesterday, The National Geographic Channel bowed to criticism and put the show on "indefinite" hiatus.

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Successful implant of 3D printed skull


Utrecht neurosurgeons 3D-printed a large section of a skull and implanted it in a 22-year-old woman with a bone disorder. According to the University Medical Centre Utrecht, this is the first time such a large implant has been successful without rejection, so far anyway. After three months, the patient is back at work and, according to the surgeon, "it is almost impossible to see that she's ever had surgery." (, thanks Wes Allen!)

fMRI mind-reading of faces

13958862212582 1 Yale University researchers used brain scans to "read" and reconstruct the faces that individuals were picturing in their minds' eye. The scientists ran fMRI scans on six people as they looked at 300 different faces. Those scans enabled the creation of a database of facial features tied to specific brain response patterns. Then the subjects were shown faces they hadn't seen before. Based on the new fMRI data, a computer was able to generate good approximations of the face the subject was viewing.

“It is a form of mind reading,” said Marvin Chun, Yale professor of psychology, cognitive science and neurobiology who led the study.

The research will be published in the science journal NeuroImage, and an uncorrected proof is available here (only the abstract is free).

More in this Yale press release and Los Angeles Times article.


Brain scans reveal our mind movies?

Breathtaking time-lapse video of marine life

Photographer Daniel Stoupin created this magical time-lapse video of "slow" marine life. "Microworlds: Slow Life"

The bionic owl

Gentlemen, we can rebuild this bird. All we need is some bamboo sticks, quick-dry epoxy, and feathers from another owl. Maggie 5

An end to Japanese whaling programs

The International Court of Justice ruled this morning that Japan's whaling program isn't actually contributing to scientific research, as that country has long claimed. The ruling is basically a "cease and desist" order on whaling for Japan, which says it will abide by the decision. Maggie 36