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Science Sunday #2

Posted by Don McLenaghen on June 27, 2011


Science Sunday


        – and on the seventh day we learn.


Each week I hope to give a synopsis of the interesting science stories I have heard on my plethora of science podcasts I listen to each week plus anything I pick up scanning the inter-web.

This week’s top stories:




A report published this week suggests that 68-72% of dietary health claims in newspapers fail to measure up to standard criteria for convincing evidence. Quentin discusses what should be reported and how with one of the report’s authors Dr William Lee, King’s College London and Roger Highfield, Editor of New Scientist..


In the segment, the report seems to make the claim that report (under deadline pressure) should not really be held responsible for the problems of the scientist because of the uncertainty in the field. He also stated that readers were ‘smart enough’ to know that these claims should be taken with a grain of salt.


Dinosaur temperatures –


Were dinosaurs slow and lumbering, or quick and agile? It depends largely on whether they were cold or warm blooded. When dinosaurs were first discovered in the mid-19th century,paleontologists thought they were plodding beasts that had to rely on their environments to keep warm, like modern-day reptiles. But research during the last few decades suggests that they were faster creatures, nimble like the velociraptors or T. rex depicted in the movie Jurassic Park, requiring warmer, regulated body temperatures like in mammals.


Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have taken the temperature of these long extinct creatures by examining fossilised teeth. Data indicate body temperatures of 36 to 38°C, which are similar to most modern mammals.




CryoSat keep track of climate change –


The European CryoSat satellite has provided a map of how thick the ice is across the entire Arctic Ocean basin. It is giving scientist vital information about how the ice may be affected by changes in climate. The ice map was presented at the Paris Air Show which is also a major event for European Space Science, and the BBC Science Correspondent, Jonathan Amos has been there all week.




Counting steps: How desert ants find their way home –


Without technical assistance, orienting yourself in the desert can be exceedingly difficult – unless you’re a desert ant. Even after long treks out foraging for food, these insects rarely have any problem finding their way home. German and Swiss Researchers have now discovered how they do that: They count their steps. This knowledge may now help robots find their way around.,,4114287,00.html


Can Humans Sense Earth’s Magnetism?-


For migratory birds and sea turtles, the ability to sense Earth’s magnetic field is crucial to navigating the long-distance voyages these animals undertake during migration. Humans, however, are widely assumed not to have an innate magnetic sense. Research published in Nature Communications this week by faculty at the University of Massachusetts Medical School shows that a protein expressed in the human retina can sense magnetic fields when implanted into Drosophila, reopening an area of sensory biology in humans for further exploration.




The Impossible Ideals Men Are Expected to Meet  –


You’ve almost certainly heard feminist rants about impossible cultural ideals of femininity: how standards of femininity are so narrow and rigid they’re literally unattainable; how, to avoid being seen as unfeminine, women are expected to navigate an increasingly narrow window between slut and prude, between capable and docile, between moral enforcer and empathetic helpmeet.


A resent article about male fitness models has made me vividly conscious of how the expectations of masculinity aren’t just rigid or narrow. They are impossible. They are, quite literally, unattainable.,_handsome,_strong,_and_with_endless_hard-ons:_the_impossible_ideals_men_are_expected_to_meet/?page=entire




Church Congregations Can Be Blind to Mental Illness –


Why religion breeds insanity?

A study by Baylor University psychologists shows that while families with a member who has mental illness have less involvement in faith practices, they would like their congregation to provide assistance with those issues. However, the rest of the church community seemed to overlook their need entirely. In fact, the study found that while help from the church with depression and mental illness was the second priority of families with mental illness, it ranked 42nd on the list of requests from families that did not have a family member with mental illness.



Instant Evolution – Whitefly becomes Superfly –  


We usually think of an infection as sapping our strength, reducing our performance, and generally making us feel miserable.  However, an infection in a common plant pest seems to have supercharged it.  Dr. Molly Hunter, a professor of Entomology at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Arizona, has found that the whitefly population in Arizona has been invaded by Rickettsia bacteria.  This infection, far from harming the flies, has made them develop faster and lay more eggs, meaning infected insects profoundly out-compete the uninfected.  Dr. Hunter calls this “instant evolution.”




Planetary Scientists Brainstorm Low-Cost Mission to Titan –


Mercury on the cheap

The potential cost of NASA’s flagship mission to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa was recently put at $4.7 billion. In an era of austerity, that’s likely to be a show-stopper. But John Sommerer, head of the space department at the Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), thinks that his laboratory can send a probe to Saturn’s moon Titan for less than one-tenth of that.





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