Scienceline Staff Picks

Golden mirrors, famous hums, and double suns

Our favorites from the week

September 16, 2011

Each week, the Scienceline staff combs through the web to find the smartest, coolest and newest stuff for you to read. See what we’ve got this week!

From Mary Beth Griggs:

Intoxicated elk: Police in Sweden rescued a drunken elk from a tree last week. Apparently intoxicated wildlife is not uncommon in Sweden in the fall, but these elk aren’t raiding the liquor cabinet. Their drink of choice is a nicely fermented bunch of apples. The apples ferment naturally, providing a tipsy treat for the giant beasts.

Tenuous telescope triumphs: The James Webb Space Telescope is safe as of yesterday! For now, at least. The Senate appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice allowed funding for the JWST to continue on in the budget bill. And right in the nick of time. Not 24 hours before, the telescope’s massive mirrors had received their last coat of gold reflective coating. The launch is set for 2018.

Contaminated cantaloupe: Apparently there’s been a listeria outbreak associated with the melons, which researchers have traced back to a specific area of Colorado. Should you wish to eat melon anyways, make sure it’s not from the contaminated area, and scrub the rind with a brush before eating.


From Joey Castro:

It’s always cool when reality mirrors science fiction. The latest example of this: astronomers with NASA’s Kepler mission have just discovered an extra-solar planet orbiting two stars, like the planet Tatooine in Star Wars. But don’t expect to find Luke Skywalker there; this planet is not likely to be habitable.

If that last line pained you, switch from Star Wars to a comedy. As it turns out, laughing not only feels good, it can also relieve pain. And laughing in a group? Even better.

Finally, if you’ve ever wondered how hummingbirds produce their famous hums, this Wired story—and its embedded video—may interest you. Hummingbirds are such interesting creatures!


From Sarah Fecht:

This week, astronomers found something straight out of Star Wars: a planet with two suns. Besides for having two shadows and two sunsets, what would it be like to stand on such a planet? gives us a glimpse.

What does your walking style say about you? Apparently a lot. Each person has a unique way of distributing pressure across their feet as they move, say Japanese researchers, who used footprints to identify individuals with a 99.8% accuracy.

Research has done wonders for mankind. But there’s a reason why we have a concept of the “mad scientist.” From spiking bread with LSD to testing nukes on humans, this Discovery News slideshow highlights eight studies of evil genius, all done in the name of science.


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