Scienceline Staff Picks

Alien sex, shark week, and how to build a diamond

Our favorites from the week

August 19, 2011

From Rachel Nuwer:

Ever pondered the erotic possibilities of extraterrestrial lovemaking? Well, you’re not alone. The Institute of Extraterrestrial Sexuality is already on it, complete with a video.

The New York Times might have been a bit hasty when they claimed that urban foragers may be stripping NYC parks of vegetation. Amber Williams checked out the foraging scene first hand and lends some much-needed clarity.

For those of us who dread all things mathematical, we may now have an excuse for our lack of abilities: a less acute “number sense” than others. Researchers at Johns Hopkins investigate whether some of us are just more mathematically talented than others.


From Doug Main:

More than one hundred critically endangered mountain yellow-legged frogs died at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo for unknown reasons. Two adults survived and zoo officials are deciding what next step to take. Only an estimated 200 frogs survive in the wild.

A researcher reported that 1.5 million nanoparticles are produced by candlelight every second. Only problem: they burn up immediately, disproving the adage that diamonds are, indeed, forever. If this bizarre discovery is legitimate, it could lead to a new way to make diamonds (if the international diamond cabal doesn’t murder the researcher first).

All 131 billion DNA bases of marijuana’s genome have been sequenced by a small start up company. The information is publicly available but hasn’t gone through scientific peer-review. Nevertheless the sequencing could be an important first step in better understanding the plant’s useful chemistry.


From Sabrina Richards:

You’re a busy, stylish young professional. Just because your doc says your heart has a funny rhythm doesn’t mean you need big fat electrodes and wires tying you down and cramping your style. You need a monitoring device that moves with you, allows you to express yourself—something that really gets you. Lucky you, that device may well be in your future. Researchers are experimenting with electronic tattoos—tiny, flexible sensors that record vital signs and can be combined with the temporary tattoo of your choice.

Hate sharks? Sleep with a nightlight until Shark Week is over? Then you probably shouldn’t read this interview with shark researcher Dorien Schröder, where she describes a close encounter with a great white—inside her boat.

Feeling singed from last weekend’s flirtation with sunbathing? As the tan lines appear, be grateful that your skin has mechanisms for dealing with sunburn, and check out this photogallery of albino animals, who can’t make melanin at all.

About the Author


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The Scienceline Newsletter

Sign up for regular updates.