Wed September 26, 2012

Mammalian Surprise: African Mouse Can Regrow Skin

Originally published on Wed September 26, 2012 5:54 pm

The African spiny mouse has the ability to regrow large patches of skin and hair without scarring.
Ashley W. Seifert Nature

Scientists have discovered that a mouse found in Africa can lose large patches of skin and then grow it back without scarring, perhaps as a way of escaping the clutches of a predator.

The finding challenges the conventional view that mammals have an extremely limited ability to replace injured body parts. There are lizards that can regrow lost tails, salamanders that can replace amputated legs, and fish that can generate new fins, but humans and other mammals generally patch up wounds with scar tissue.

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Wed September 26, 2012
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Looking For Answers Beyond The Cosmic Horizon

This spectacular image of the large spiral galaxy NGC 1232 was obtained by the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in 1998. NGC 1232 sits in the constellation Eridanus (The River) at a distance of about 100 million light-years and is about twice the size of the Milky Way galaxy.

Where does the Universe end? Or, to put it differently, does the Universe have an edge? When cosmologists say that the Universe is expanding, people tend to think of an exploding bomb. They see galaxies as shrapnel, flying off in all directions. Even if intuitive, this image is dead wrong.

The cosmic expansion is an expansion of space itself. Since Einstein's theory of general relativity, space has been endowed with a plasticity that allows it to expand, shrink or fold like a rubber balloon in response to the presence of matter (and energy).

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Wed September 26, 2012
The Salt

If Genetically Modified Apples Don't Brown, Can You Tell If They're Rotten?

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 3:13 pm

Soon after being sliced, a conventional Granny Smith apple (left) starts to brown, while a newly developed GM Granny Smith stays fresher looking.
Courtesy of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc.

In the fairy-tale world, a shiny red apple can lead to a poisonous end. But some see two genetically engineered green apple varieties, poised to become the first to gain U.S. Department of Agriculture approval, as similar harbingers of doom.

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Wed September 26, 2012
The Salt

How Food And Clothing Size Labels Affect What We Eat And What We Wear

Originally published on Wed September 26, 2012 8:35 pm

There's no industry standard size for food and drink portions, so it's hard to compare a Big Gulp with a McDonald's medium soda.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

When you go into a restaurant, you probably give some thought to whether you're ordering a small, regular or large sandwich.

That makes sense.With widening waistlines across the land, many of us want to make a health-conscious choice. But are we really getting a small portion when we order a small sandwich?

Well, that depends.

University of Michigan marketing professor Aradhna Krishna has studied how labels impact how much we eat. In one experiment, she gave people cookies that were labeled either medium or large, and then measured how much they ate.

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Tue September 25, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Korean Eunuchs Lived Long And Prospered

A mural in an ancient tomb in China shows a troupe of eunuchs. How long did they live?
Wikimedia Commons

Tell people you're doing a story about the life spans of Korean eunuchs, the typical reaction is a giggle or a cringe.

But if you can overcome your visceral response to the topic, a study scientists in Korea did is quite interesting, both for what they found, and the way they found it.

Several scientists have shown that there is a link between longevity and reproduction: the greater the fertility, the shorter the life span. This has been fairly well established in nonhuman animal species, but proving it's the case for humans has been tricky.

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Tue September 25, 2012
Krulwich Wonders...

Trees Come 'From Out Of The Air' Says Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman. Really?

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 4:05 pm

Ask one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century a simple question, and his answer makes me go, "What? What did he just say?"

The question was: Where do trees come from?

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Tue September 25, 2012
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

Religion, Science And No Easy Answers

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 4:31 pm

Is there an inherent contradiction in the lives of people who accept and rely on the complexity of modern technology, yet place their ultimate faith in a black-and-white view of the universe based on their religious faith?
Yoshikazu Tsuno AFP/Getty Images

Heaven and Hell. God and the Devil. For many folks these polar opposites are what religion is all about. And for many folks in science who consider themselves atheists, this is what makes religion so impossible to bear. How can the nature of the world be seen in such simplistic terms? How can such beliefs co-exist with the technologies on which we've built our everyday lives?

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Mon September 24, 2012

As Arctic Ice Melts, So Does The Snow, And Quickly

Originally published on Tue September 25, 2012 5:11 pm

Researchers say that springtime snow is melting in the Arctic even faster than Arctic ice. That means less sunlight is reflected off the surface. Bare land absorbs more solar energy, which can contribute to rising temperatures on Earth. Above, a musher races along the Iditarod in the Alaskan tundra in 2007.
Al Grillo AP

Arctic sea ice is in sharp decline this year: Last week, scientists announced that it hit the lowest point ever measured, shattering the previous record.

But it turns out that's not the most dramatic change in the Arctic. A study by Canadian researchers finds that springtime snow is melting away even faster than Arctic ice. That also has profound implications for the Earth's climate.

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Mon September 24, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Scientists Parse Genes Of Breast Cancer's Four Major Types

Originally published on Wed November 28, 2012 10:46 am

Scientists say a new report in the journal Nature provides a big leap in the understanding of how different types of breast cancer differ.

Scientists have known for a while that breast cancer is really four different diseases, with subtypes among them, an insight that has helped improve treatment for some women.

But experts haven't understood much about how these four types differ. A new report, published online in the journal Nature, provides a big leap in that understanding.

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Mon September 24, 2012
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

The Value In Sweet Drinks

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 1:06 pm

Mario Tama Getty Images

New York City's ban on big sodas raises big issues.

Consider: modern political thought starts with the recognition that, as philosopher John Rawls put it, there are different, competing and incompatible conceptions of the good. We live in a pluralistic word.

Religious wars, political upheavals, the discovery and settlement of the New World — all this established the fact that there are wildly different conceptions of how to live, of what makes for a good life.

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