Scienceline Staff Picks

Sex, birds and radiation

Our favorites from the week

March 25, 2011

Our staff writers bring your their favorite links from the week.

From Joseph Castro:
Extra-solar planets! I’m a sucker for them. This “Ask a Physicist” article from gives a nice summary of the ways that scientists search for exoplanets. Need I say more?

If you’re not regularly exercising or having sex, your “relative risk” of having a heart attack after such physical activities increases. While a lot more information about the study would have been nice, I certainly take the ending to heart. “Bottom line: Do it more.”

A new study is suggesting that what scientists thought were the oldest known fossils of bacteria on Earth may not be fossils at all—they may just be rocks with mineral-filled fractures. Wow. How are we supposed to identify microbes from Mars if we can’t even identify early microbes from Earth?

From Rose Eveleth:

So a study at Clemson University found that it’s actually better to walk slowly over a slippery surface than shuffle.  The cool part about that study, is the part when “the researchers studied helmeted guinea fowl strutting along a six-meter runway that either had a rough-surface section (150-grit sandpaper) or a slippery one (polypropylene shelf liner).”  Helmeted guinea fowl!  Tiny little helmets on guinea fowl!  Sadly, that’s not actually the case; helmeted guinea fowl are just a species of bird.  But there is a video:

A Russian cosmonaut’s last words were caught on tape, as his capsule began to fall from the sky and the parachutes failed to open.  Robert Krulwhich, over at NPR, recounts the story of Vladimir Komarov’s space flight.  The audio of his descent is in Russian, but it’s still pretty haunting.  Krulwhich answers some of the questions raised by space historians (yes, space historians) about the post as well.

Anyone who knows me knows I don’t like videos.  I’ll make an exception for this one.  Fox attack!

From Francie Diep:

Ever felt like you needed an article just to understand all those Daiichi power plant articles out there? posted a great crash course in nuclear reactors last week.

Meanwhile, XKCD provided a visual primer of radiation risk.

In lighter news, Salon made a slideshow of pop culture’s coolest geek girls. They feature my favorite fictional scientist, Dr. Dana Scully.

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