Aliens, tissue printing and sex

Our favorites from the week

April 29, 2011

From Joey Castro:

Following on the heels of Rose Eveleth’s ant catalogue pick from last week, here’s a nifty Scientific American podcast about fire ants. Researchers have discovered exactly how the little buggers assemble into waterproof rafts to survive flooding. Um, why are they called “fire ants” again?

I’ve always been a fan of the SETI Institute, which has been listening for signals from extraterrestrials for the past few decades. So you can imagine my sadness upon hearing that the institute shut down its Allen Telescope Array earlier this month. Bummer.

If that last story got you down, don’t fret—one day you may be able to get rid of that bad memory. This story is reporting that scientists can erase long-term memories…well, in snails anyway.


From Sabrina Richards:

Quick quiz: what looks like an instrument, lives down under, and sounds like a chainsaw? Why, a lyrebird, of course! NPR’s Robert Krulwich blogs about an uncanny effect of human encroachment on the territory of these extraordinary mimics—the birds’ ability to recreate the sound of chainsaws, agents of habitat destruction.

In Europe, a ruling on patents derived from embryonic stem cell research could put a damper on future investigations.

Finally, in the annals of trippy future-is-now technology… inkjet tissue printing?! If successful, the printing could be applied to patches that would help damaged hearts regenerate.


From Francie Diep:

Are you ready?? Because I am! This month’s Wired magazine reported on a promising, reversible birth control injection for men. But it may be a while yet before it’s available in the U.S.

American girls are reaching menarche younger and younger. One study, published last year in the journal Pediatrics, found that more than one in ten girls start puberty at age seven. Solution: Star-spangled maxi pads? Actually, I think this is lovely. We may hate the idea of our little girls reaching puberty so early but if it’s happening, it’s happening. Let’s at least make it a little more fun for the kids.

New birth control pills Yaz and Yasmin may be more likely to cause fatal blood clots than older pills, according to new studies in the British Medical Journal. NPR does a good, quick job of describing the findings, while Consumer Reports explains what that means for pill takers. And I had an ob-gyn explain to me long ago: If you’re a pill taker, call your doctor if you have ACHES–abdominal pain, chest pain, headaches (severe), eye problems (blurry vision) or severe leg pain.


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