Scienceline Staff Picks

More wolves! Spiders and inmate dilemmas

Our favorites from the week

February 3, 2012

From Laura Geggel:

What part of the menu do people read first? Do they linger on the desserts, or perhaps the soups? A journal dedicated to hospitality management ran a study about how people read menus. It turns out that foodies read a menu just as they would a book, though many tend to skip over the salads.

Winter in the lower 48 is pretty weak this year. Still, Alaska is getting pounded (Fort Yukon is at negative 66 degrees) and almost 80 people have died from the cold in Europe this winter. Why the crazy weather? Blame it on Arctic oscillation.

An adorable litter of maned wolves was born in Virginia in January, reports Live Science. The South American wolves are a threatened species – only 20,000 of them survive in the wild. Zookeepers at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute are carefully watching the four pups as 50 percent of them typically die within their first month of life.

From Emma Bryce:

So, scientists at the University of Carolina, Berkeley, say that thought reading might be a possibility in the future. That is, if you let them lift off the top shelf of your cranium and attach electrodes to your brain. And it’s not some mad science indulgence either: the target patients are those who have lost the ability to speak as a result of strokes, for example.

If you experience arachnophobia and are simultaneously a lover of nature, you too most likely share my intensive love-hate relationship with spiders. Especially the horrific jumping kind, with their twitchy limbs and 8-eyed stalker’s gaze. Gah. But this short Nat Geo video makes jumping spiders seem practically cuddly, while illuminating the news that they use ‘image defocus’ to judge the distance of their prey correctly. The old-school narration is delightful, too.

Finally, if you had ever wondered how long you’d take to be decomposed in the American wilderness (haven’t we all), this New Scientist post, which I found through the super 80 Beats blog, gives you the answer: a surprisingly high 37 days, if vultures are involved. This has got experts in forensics quivering with excitement.

From Kathryn Doyle:

Bloomberg news suggests new Republican legislation in Congress could preempt President Obama’s Keystone XL Pipeline permit denial.

Overweight soldier? You may be in for an injection of more fat cells, according to Wired. Don’t worry, it’s “good fat.”

Should prison inmates have the right to masturbate? Slate author Dave Johns thinks yes. This article wasn’t going to make the cut this week, for propriety’s sake, until I noticed the graphic, surprising (maybe not that surprising) reference to my hometown of Elmira, NY. Way to go, guys!

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