Scienceline Staff Picks

Viruses, master camouflagers, and the “right stuff” for space

Our favorite from the week

July 29, 2011

From Madhu Venkataramanan:

Because of a national aversion to vaccines since the MMR–autism debate, the HPV vaccine too has been under public fire since its introduction two years ago. This infographic from “Information is Beautiful” highlights two key points: the safety of the jab and how it saves thousands of women every year from cervical cancer.

Earlier this month, Johns Hopkins researchers trawled through Twitter and found all sorts of interesting trends and perspectives on public health and disease. Is social media the epidemiologist’s new tool

Engineers at the University of Southampton have designed the world’s first plane printed in 3D. The electric motor-powered vehicle required no tools to assemble– its wings, hatches, control surfaces were custom printed to snap together. The aircraft, which flew in the United Kingdom this week, can go up to 100 miles per hour.


From Amber Williams

Cuttlefish have eight arms, three hearts, and one doughnut-shaped brain. They are also master camouflagers. PBS featured a NOVA special on these little guys. Prepare to be blown away.

Penguins can fly! Or rather, hover. AirPenguins, a product of Festo, are autonomous flying machines that use ultrasound to navigate space. Festo also makes AquaJelly and SmartBird, which are equally mesmerizing.

The Keystone XL, a proposed 1,661-mile-long oil pipeline that would extend from Alberta, Canada, through Nebraska and down to Texas, would travel through earth’s largest underground reservoir: Ogallala Aquifer. Audubon’s Ted Williams reports how the company has began without permission, while the government hasn’t shown much resistance.


From Lena Groeger

Blogging is writing a voice – and without a safety net. Bora Zivkovic over at Scientific American considers the changing role of the blogosphere (science blogging and beyond).

What do you need to be an astronaut? I mean, in your head? Douglas Vakoch on the psychological demands of a job in space.

Think you’re smarter than a computer? Take this New York Times online rock-paper-scissors game to find out. “While this computer won’t win all rounds, over time it can exploit a person’s tendencies and patterns to gain an advantage over its opponent.” Consider yourself warned.

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