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Amusing News Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.

Male Pregnancy

It’s a boy: And he’s pregnant. Credit: Chicago Department of Public Health

Newest scare tactic to prevent teen births: photos of pregnant boys. [Today]

Speaking of dude looks like a lady, Aerosmith’s organist is a leading geneticist in his spare time. [CNN]

Mountain livin’ changes the way people talk. In a related story, talkin’ about mountain livin’ makes the Newscripts gang want to drop the letter g

from gerunds. [Perth Now]

Here’s a job we don’t want: tiger acupuncturist. [CBS News]

The world’s best sci-fi-themed bars. It’s like they were made for the Newscripts gang. [io9]

Florida scientists dismiss the notion of “vampire mosquitoes.” Somewhere a “Twilight” fan sighs heavily in disappointment. [News 13]

Turns out antidepressants kill the libidos of male minnows. No word yet on whether some Barry White music and a bottle of wine might mitigate these effects. [TreeHugger]

There’s no front basket for E.T. to sit in, but this helicopter bike can actually fly (with video). [Gizmodo]

And while we’re on the subject, these scientists are tired of waiting to hear from aliens–they’re phoning E.T. first. [NBC News]

 

 

In Print: Mission to Mars, Molecular Fashion

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what’s going on in the current issue of C&EN.

Meet Anders. He’s 51 and Swedish. He’s also one of more than 78,000 people who have applied to take a one-way trip to Mars.

mars-one-colony-astronauts

Red rocks: Rendering of Mars One settlement. Credit: Bryan Versteeg/Mars One

As this week’s Newscripts column explores, Netherlands-based “nonprofit” Mars One is currently soliciting applications from individuals interested in traveling to the Red Planet in 2023 and never returning. Approximately 28 to 40 applicants will be chosen from the pool of applicants to participate in a reality show in which they will train for seven years for the mission. An audience vote will then help determine the four people who will ultimately go where no man has gone before.

There is a video portion to the application that requires applicants, such as Anders, to tell a little bit about themselves and explain their reasons for wanting to travel to a foreign planet. Many of these videos are posted to the Mars One website, and what’s most striking about them is the general lack of enthusiasm many of these applicants have when discussing the opportunity to go to Mars. “I’ve often fantasized to just get on board a spaceship and go to explore the universe. I often get the feeling that I don’t belong here, but out there, in space,” the aforementioned Anders says, without so much as a smile. Continue reading →

Amusing News Aliquots

bald eagle 2

Uncanny resemblance: Side-by-side comparison of the U.S. national symbol and Arsenal soccer manager Arsene Wenger. Credit: Bald Eagles That Look Like Arsene Wenger/Tumblr

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai and Jeff Huber.

Website dares to ask the question millions of Premier League fans have wondered for years: Is the manager of Arsenal’s soccer team a bald eagle? [Grantland]

Don’t go chopping off your fingers for kicks just yet, but we’re one step closer to regenerating body parts like salamanders can. [iO9]

Drug-resistant tuberculosis has finally met its match, scientists say. It’s a powerful, expensive, and rare supplement called … vitamin C. [BBC]

Rubbing dirt in wounds can ward off infections. Boy Scouts everywhere rejoice that getting a first aid merit badge just got a whole lot easier. [Popular Science]

Would you rather lose $1,000 or gain 20 lb? Turns out, people will pay a pretty penny to keep a pretty figure. [USA Today]

NASA puts a new spin on Friday night pizza – no need to order takeout, just print it out. [Huffington Post]

Forget worrying about the war on robots, and start worrying about the super-Einsteins and super-MacGyvers next door. [iO9]

Amphibians are disappearing at a surprising rate in the U.S. Wait a minute, when was the last time I saw the Warner Bros. frog? [Baltimore Sun]

In Print: Shall We Play A Game?

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what’s going on in the current issue of C&EN. The following comes courtesy of the writer of this week’s glossy print column, C&EN Senior Editor Michael Torrice.

The Nintendo Entertainment System came out in the U.S. almost 30 years ago. My family bought the gray video game console in 1988, and my friends and I played it for countless hours. We once staged a Nintendo Olympics, with each kid adopting an official song and flag. Winners received medals or a trophy made from Legos, I think. For this week’s Newscripts column, I relived a bit of my childhood when I wrote about a computer scientist who taught his computer how to play Nintendo games.

marioscreen

Stompin’ goombas: A computer scientist taught his computer to play Nintendo games such as “Super Mario Bros.” Credit: Tom W. Murphy VII

Tom W. Murphy VII is the computer scientist, and he works on machine learning, which is basically teaching computers how to perform specific tasks. (Yes, Murphy is the seventh Thomas Murphy in his family. He says the first died in a prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War.)

The neat thing about Murphy’s Nintendo-playing program is that it uses a simple, general strategy that works on several games, including the classic “Super Mario Bros.” The program can play a wide range of games because it doesn’t know anything specific about a game (for instance, it’s unaware that mushrooms make Mario grow big). Instead it uses a two-phase process to learn what it means to win in a specific game and then looks for the best series of button presses to succeed.

In the first phase, the computer “watches me play the game and peers inside the memory of the Nintendo and looks at what’s going on,” Murphy says. Basically, it finds bytes of memory that increase in value as Murphy plays. These bytes often correspond to things like the score or progress through a game level—although the program doesn’t know what the bytes translate to on the screen. Continue reading →

Amusing New Aliquots

Silly samplings from this week’s science news, compiled by Sophia Cai, Bethany Halford, and Jeff Huber.

DIY-Batcave

Na na na na na na na Bat Cave!!!!!: Chris Weir puts a new spin on the man cave. Credit: Walyou

Thinking of putting a wine cellar in your basement? Boring. Why not build a Bat Cave instead? [Walyou]

Hmm. Wondering if C&EN would spring to send us to this meeting next year. We’d have to get our hemp accessories ready. [Wired]

Refrigerators and washer-dryers, make way: 3-D printers could be coming to households everywhere … [Guardian]

… And they may even visit a body near you: 3-D printing is used to merge tissue and radio-wave-receiving antennae in “bionic ears.” [Science Daily]

Oh man, remember to back up your data. [Chemjobber]

Lovesick wild tiger breaks into a zoo in India in search of a mate. Scared zoo visitors seem to be overlooking how adorable this is. [BBC]

Laugh in the face of every lab safety class you’ve ever had, and hang dozens of test tubes from the ceiling with this handy chandelier. (h/t Deborah Blum, Michelle Sipics) [Etsy]

Study finds that more than 50% of ground turkey contains fecal bacteria. Dieters rejoice over a new reason to return to beef burgers. [Consumer Reports]

Jamestown settlers may have come under desperate times, but cannibalistic survival is a way of life for shark embryos. [NBC News]

If a tree screams in a forest, does it make a detectable sound? Scientists say they’re working on hearing thirsty trees’ distress calls. [Yahoo!]

In Print: Horse. It’s What’s For Dinner

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what’s going on in the current issue of C&EN.

Horse

Horse: Potential party crasher. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Some may be worried about recent news reports of horse DNA being detected in processed beef. Alex Tullo, however, isn’t one of them. The C&EN senior correspondent explores the recent uproar over horse meat in this week’s Newscripts print column, discussing the Food Safety Authority of Ireland‘s detection of horse DNA in burger products as well as the efforts of New Mexico-based firm Valley Meat to sell horse meat in the U.S. But the most provocative part of the column comes when Alex remembers the time from his childhood when his dad, in line with the culinary traditions of his Italian family, cooked horse steaks for dinner. Alex writes that his dad had a friend “acquire horse meat for him somewhere in New Jersey.”

Alex says the story reflects his dad’s sense of humor, but it’s also just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Alex’ unconventional food adventures. As Alex tells the Newscripts blog, he loves frog, tolerates alligator, and adores boar. “I usually get these kinds of meat when I am traveling,” he says. “I don’t have the nerve to prepare them myself.”

Despite his appetite for the unconventional, however, Alex can understand the reasons behind the recent uproar over the discovery of horse DNA in beef. Horses “represent too much to the culture,” he says. “Go to any city park, you’ll find statues of military leaders mounted on horses.” Nevertheless, he maintains that there are unintended consequences that can come from not slaughtering horses. For instance, “feral horses are a big problem in the Southwest,” he says.

Alex predicts that the public will experience many more horse-meat-style scares in the future, especially given the increasing use of DNA testing to authenticate food (a topic that, he points out, C&EN Senior Editor Sarah Everts actually reported on back in 2009). “We’re going to learn a lot about what we have been eating over the next couple of years,” Alex predicts.

In Print: ACS Member Finds Success On ‘Jeopardy!’ And Millipedes Light Up

The Newscripts blog would like to be closer Internet buddies with our glossy print Newscripts column, so here we highlight what’s going on in the current issue of C&EN.

Answer: These topics appear in this week’s print Newscripts column. Question: What are a “Jeopardy!” champion and a fluorescent millipede?

Jeopardy

All smiles: Whitener shows off his pearly whites during his “Jeopardy!” run. Credit: Jeopardy Productions

In April 22′s C&EN, associate editor Emily Bones chronicles American Chemical Society member Keith E. Whitener Jr.’s recent winning streak on television’s “Jeopardy!” In the fall of last year, Whitener won the quiz show seven times, nabbing $148,597 in cash plus an additional $100,000 for being the first runner-up in last February’s Tournament of Champions.

It’s tough to hear of Whitener’s success and not assume he had an easy time on the syndicated game show. But according to Emily, the Tournament of Champions, a two-week-long competition featuring prior “Jeopardy!” winners, was particularly challenging for Whitener. She remembers Whitener telling her, “Since everyone there was at least a four-time champion, the games tended to fly by. I’m not particularly fast on the buzzer, so it was a little bit intimidating for me.”

Whitener attributes his “Jeopardy!” success to his scientific pedigree—he researched endohedral fullerenes during his time as a Yale University grad student, and he currently works as a postdoctoral researcher of graphene surface chemistry at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.—which helped him clean up in the science categories. Emily, who is a former high school chemistry teacher, however, thinks something else might have been afoot during Whitener’s impressive run.

Continue reading →

Terrence Howard Isn’t A Doctor, He Just Plays One On TV

Terrence Howard

Playing the part: Howard smiles through the pain of being an internationally famous actor. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Growing up, most boys dream of one day becoming a chemical engineer and enjoying the endless parade of fans, money, and women that comes with it. Terrence Howard wasn’t so lucky. He had to settle for Oscar-nominated Hollywood actor instead. But don’t feel too sorry for Howard because as he mentioned during a Feb. 26 appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” he actually holds a Ph.D. in applied materials and chemical engineering from South Carolina State University!

Howard turned the lemons of being left out of “Iron Man 2″ into the lemonade of earning a doctorate? It all sounds very impressive. The problem? It’s a lie. Continue reading →