Scienceline Staff Picks

Flying rhinos, flocking birds, and Barbie brains

Our favorites from the week

November 11, 2011

From Kate Yandell:

Would you fly in a plane powered by vegetable fuel? How about by algae? Continental Airlines and Alaska Airlines tried out the first biofuel-powered flights this week, Southern California Public Radio reports.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature announced this week that the western black rhinoceros is officially extinct. But if you want to feel a little better, take a look at some flying rhinos on The Picture Show, an NPR photo blog. The Wildlife Conservation Foundation is airlifting these endangered relatives of the western black rhino as part of a project to expand their range.

To celebrate America Recycles Day on November 15, The Atlantic has posted 33 stunning pictures of recycling efforts around the world, from industrial-scale seas of water bottles and cell phones to quirky art projects.
From Kelly Slivka:

Yes, you would be remiss to miss the recent Radiolab short featuring Carl Zimmer. In the podcast, Carl Zimmer explains his journalistic drive, which takes the form of a story about the sharp cornerstones of his life. The 15-minute podcast is compelling, funny, and poignant. We would expect nothing less from Radiolab.

Hearing from Carl might leave you pondering the meaning of life. A Wired Science blog post about starling flocks is a perfect compliment for such existential thoughts. The blog features a viral video of a starling murmuration, the technical term for their impressive assemblies, and explains what is known about the flocks’ movements. (If you’re intrigued by the term “murmuration,” you definitely want to check out An Exaltation of Larks by James Lipton.)

Keeping up with the multimedia theme, take a moment to look through newly recovered photos of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic expedition posted in a clean slideshow by The New York Times. These photos, taken at the turn of the 20th century, might leave you thirsting for a good, old-fashioned adventure.
From Kathryn Doyle:

Not Exactly Rocket Science, always a smashing good time among the Discover blogs, describes how online multiplayer game Foldit is harnessing the collective brainpower of gamers to solve problems that stump scientists.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute figured out how to kill cancer cells with light, as described at Popular Science. They used antibodies that recognize cancer cells coupled with light sensitive molecules in a therapy that has revolutionary implications for human cancer treatment.

Swedish researchers have successfully convinced people that their bodies are in fact Barbie dolls. Nuff said.

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