Sunday, October 07, 2012

Science and SF Tidbits: October 7, 2012

Recently around the web ...

What If The Neandertals Didn't Die Out? »
It turns out Neanderthals amongst us is a popular science fiction trope, especially in some really cheesy movies. I think my current favorite short stories in the genre are Asimov's "Ugly Little Boy" and Ted Kosmatka's "N-Words". You can listen to both stories free: Ugly Little Boy at SFF Audio, and N-Words at EscapePod

Amazing Finding: Skin Regenerating Mammals
These little guys are amazing! African spiny mice have an unusual defense mechanism: their skin sloughs off easily when they are captured. They are then able to regenerate the skin, hair follicles and even holes in their ears. It's possible that what is learned about this process can eventually help wounded humans to regrow skin or even new digits. Read the original article in Nature.

Alien Landscapes »
The article asks "What would we see if we stood on an alien world?" I think landscapes and life on other planets will be dependent on the same laws of physics and chemistry as Earth. Perhaps alien vistas won't be any stranger than what we see here on our home planet.

The Infected Air (NSFH [Not Safe For Hypochondriacs]) | The Loom | Discover Magazine »
There is no escaping microbes: In each cubic meter of air, there are between 1.6 million and 40 million viruses and between 860,000 and 11 million bacteria. You are breathing them right now. Not safe for hypochondriacs is right!

Warping Through Star Trek: The Next Generation's 25 Years With Ronald Moore | Underwire | »
Ron D Moore looks back at his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation, including his most and least favorite episodes, and what he thinks about all the "treknobabble":
"There were other stumbles, such as way too much Treknobabble overall in the series. It was always one of my chief criticisms, so much so that when I approached Battlestar Galactica I swore that I would never do endless scenes of technobabble to explain and resolve scenes. But yeah, there are definitely entire sequences that we could lose from the show and it would be much stronger. Because we just had endless pages of Data and Geordi pressing buttons and speaking in gibberish.
BibliOdyssey: BRAINS »
Some amazing 18th century illustrations of brain anatomy by Félix Vicq d’Azyr.
"[d'Azyr] was Queen Marie-Antoinette’s physician and a member of the French Academy of Sciences and of the Academy of Medicine. He wrote the section on pathological anatomy in 'L’Encyclopédie' by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert, and in 1786 published 'Traité d’Anatomie et de Physiologie', which was lauded as one of the most realistic works of neuroanatomy."
Why do men have nipples? »
Zoologist Pau Carazo explains why men have nipples, when they seem to serve no purpose: men have nipples because it's beneficial for women to have nipples. That's evolution!

Making of Heterodontosaurus Flesh Model
Newly reported cat-sized dinosaur Pegomastax africanus had fierce-looking fangs and spines, but was probably a plant-eater. More information at Science Friday

Image: Detail of a brain dissection from "Traité d'Anatomie et die Physiologie" by Félix Vicq D'Azyr (1786)

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