Daily Bulletin for 05/13/2017

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05/13/2017
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Amazing Dinosaur Fossil Looks Like Statue

Michael Greshko, Nat Geo

On the afternoon of March 21, 2011, a heavy-equipment operator named Shawn Funk was carving his way through the earth, unaware that he would soon meet a dragon. That Monday had started like any other at the Millennium Mine, a vast pit some 17 miles north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, operated by energy company Suncor.

The Confusion Over the New Ebola Outbreak

Ed Yong, The Atlantic

The Ebola virus has emerged again in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and brought along two of its primary symptoms: confusion and misinformation.Earlier this morning, the World Health Organization announced that on May 11, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) notified WHO and partners of a case of Ebola, which had been confirmed by a national reference laboratory in Kinshasa. A small wave of early stories reported this news, but at some point, the facts seemed to change. The AFP said: Ebola epidemic declared in northeast DR Congo, three dead: WHO.

What if Marriage Is Overrated?

Jesse Singal, Science of Us

When I attended the American Psychological Association’s annual conference in Denver last August, the best and most well-attended talk I saw was by Bella DePaulo, a social psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who studies single people.

Buddhism, Science and the Western World

Adam Frank, NPR

When discussions about science and religion turn into debates about science versus religion, Buddhism mostly gets a pass.Thanks to the work of the Dalai Lama and others, Buddhism can seem far friendlier to modern, scientifically minded sensibilities than the Abrahamic religions. This alignment with science is strengthened by the widespread adoption of mindfulness techniques often derived from Buddhist and other contemplative practices in domains like medicine and psychology.

Monster Rogue Waves Really Do Exist

Nic Fleming, BBC Earth

TEN-storey high, near-vertical walls of frothing water. Smashed portholes and flooded cabins on the upper decks. Thirty-metre behemoths that rise up from nowhere to throw ships about like corks, only to slip back beneath the depths moments later.

Five Futuristic Applications of Ultrasound

Andrew Feeney, The Conversation

Ultrasound can do a whole lot more than create images of unborn babies. Since it first became a near-indispensable medical tool in the 1930s, technology that produces sound waves so high-pitched that humans can’t hear them has found use in almost every branch of industry. The vibrations it creates can kill bacteria, weld plastics and even help to mature brandies in a matter of days rather than years.

Killer Whales Eating Great White Sharks

Kimon de Greef, Hakai

She was nearly five meters long, weighed more than a tonne, and could fit an entire human torso between her jaws. But the great white shark that washed up on a beach outside Cape Town, South Africa, last Wednesday had met a powerful adversary. A large wound gaped midway down her belly, where her liver had been removed with exacting precision.

Why Are We Having Less Sex?

Simon Copland, BBC Future

We live in one of the most sexually liberated times of human history. Access to new technologies over the past 40 years, whether it is the contraceptive pill, or dating apps such as Grindr and Tinder, have opened a new world of possibilities. As the sexual revolution of the 1970s matured, societal norms shifted with it, with increasing acceptance of homosexuality, divorce, pre-marital sex, and alternative relationships such as polyamory and swinging.

Nutritional Science’s Biggest Blunder

Geoff Webb, The Conversation

In the three decades following World War II it became an almost universal belief of nutritional scientists that protein deficiency was the most serious and widespread dietary deficiency in the world. Improving protein nutrition became a high priority for UN agencies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

What Are the Ten Dimensions of String Theory?

Philip Perry, Big Think

Does string theory excite you? Mathematically, it holds up. Aspects about it suggest not one but several different dimensions, ones we’re not generally privy to, though we may be interacting with some of them all the time, completely unaware. Were it true, what would these dimensions look like and how might they affect us? And what is a dimension anyway?

“Rational" Arguments for God Fail Miserably

Steven Novella, Neurologica

I honestly don’t care what people choose to believe about unknowable speculations outside the realm of science and human knowledge. As long as they don’t use such belief as justification for public policy or to infringe on the rights of others, believe whatever you want.

Gravity Caught Stretching Quantum Objects

Kendra Redmond, Physics Central

Black holes and quantum mechanics are two of the most intriguing physics topics. Their strange and exotic features certainty capture the imagination. Now, new research in the American Physical Society’s journal Physical Review Letters brings aspects of the two together in an experiment that shows, for the first time, that gravity stretches and squeezes quantum objects through tidal forces.

Anti-Science Education Laws Find Success in U.S.

Erin Ross, Nature News

State and local legislatures in the United States are experimenting with new ways to target the topics taught in science classes, and it seems to be paying dividends. Florida’s legislature approved a bill on 5 May that would enable residents to challenge what educators teach students.

How Are Rats With No Y Chromosome Born Male?

Steph Yin, NY Times

In most mammals, us included, biological sex is determined by a lottery between two letters: X and Y, the sex chromosomes. Inherit one X each from mom and dad, and develop ovaries, a womb and a vagina. Inherit an X from mom and a Y from dad, and develop testes and a penis.

Latest Fast Radio Burst Deepens Mystery

Bob Yirka, PhysOrg.com

An international team of space researchers has reported on the detection of a new fast radio burst (FRB) and their efforts to trace its source. They have written a paper describing the detection and search for evidence, and have uploaded it to the arXiv preprint server.

Yeast Study Could Unlock Wine Engineering

Richard V. Miller, RealClearScience

Scientists at Vanderbilt University are raising a glass to the discovery of a previously ignored source of genetic diversity in wine yeast strains. The finding could explain some of the variation in wine vintages available to consumers and open the door to refining wine flavors and crafting all new vintages.

What If We Found a Less-Advanced Civilization?

Corey Powell, Discover

Readers of this blog know that I’m a big fan of Quora, because it lets non-experts raise the kinds of speculative questions that don’t normally come up in formal scientific discussions. One frequent theme that comes up is the issue of what we would do if we found intelligent life on a planet around another star. A recent posting in particular caught my eye: What would we do if we found an Earthlike planet with intelligent life that is 500 years behind us in technology and advancements?Well, that’s a fun thought experiment! It’s not one question, really, but a whole set of nested…

Cosmic-Inflation Theory May Be Wrong

Ethan Siegel, SWaB!

All scientific ideas, no matter how accepted or widespread they are, are susceptible to being overturned. For all the successes any idea may have, it only takes one experiment or observation to falsify it, invalidate it, or necessitate that it be revised. Beyond that, every scientific idea or model has a limitation to its range of validity: Newtonian mechanics breaks down close to the speed of light; General Relativity breaks down at singularities; evolution breaks down when you reach the origin of life. Even the Big Bang has its limitations, as there’s only so far back we can extrapolate the…

Whole Foods’ Chickens Have Come Home to Roost

Alex Berezow, ACSH

When a company fires several board members, things are not going well. That’s what Whole Foods just did.According to the Wall Street Journal, Whole Foods stores are struggling. In the 2nd quarter of 2017, sales fell by nearly 3%. This isn’t a one-off result. Revenue growth has been trending downward since 2012. Then, in the 4th quarter of 2015, revenue growth hit negative territory, meaning that sales actually began to shrink. Since 2013, Whole Foods’s stock price has fallen by almost 50%.

New Neptune-Sized Exoplanet Boasts H20 Atmosphere

John Timmer, AT

Scientists are announcing a rare look into the atmosphere of a distant exoplanet more than 400 light years away. The planet is roughly Neptune-sized and orbits close to its host star. And now we know its atmosphere contains significant amounts of water.Significant amounts, but not quite as much as we might expect, based on what we’ve seen in our own Solar System. And that suggests that most of the planet’s atmosphere is the original hydrogen-helium mixture that it formed with.

The Myth of Humans’ Poor Sense of Smell Debunked

Joanna Klein, NYT

By shoving her nose against a fire hydrant, your terrier may be able to decipher which pit bull in the neighborhood marked it before her. But that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s a superior sniffer.Still, it’s conventional wisdom that humans’ sense of smell is worse than that of other animals dogs, mice, moles and even sharks.This belief isn’t based on empirical evidence, but on a 19th-century hypothesis about free will that has more in common with phrenology than with our modern understanding of how brains work.

China Cracks Down on Fraudulent Drug-Trial Data

David Cyranoski, Nature

Those who submit faked clinical trial data might now go to jail and in extreme circumstances, be executed under a new interpretation of China’s criminal code, announced last month.The policy shift is one of a handful of measures that China is implementing both to speed up its notoriously slow drug-approval process and to keep dangerous and ineffective drugs off the market. This move is the strongest signal yet, to all the drug developers, clinical-trial managers and principal investigators and physicians, that China is now very serious about clinical data, says Dan Zhang,…

Journalists Lament Death of Forensic Commission

John Collins, Science 2.0

The National Commission on Forensic Science was dissolved by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a decisive action that brought an end to a highly decorated body of professionals, but one that was frequently stymied by legal gamesmanship and discord. The commission, a precipitant of the Obama administration’s criminal justice reform efforts, was curiously loaded with trial attorneys, law professors, and other academicians but relatively few forensic scientists.

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