May 2012 Archives

Stop Drugging Our Kids

Three million children in the United States take drugs for problems with focusing, and over half a million use antipsychotic medications. Writing for Scientific American on May 14th, author John Horgan pointedly labeled this alarming trend as one of...

Should Parents Redshirt Kindergartners?

Growing up, I was always excited for summer because it meant that my birthday was approaching. I would usually have a party involving some kind of outside activity: camping in a tent or boating on the lake. In fact, research shows that your birth month may...

Drink & Dream at Your Own Risk

You're running, running as fast as your legs will propel you. Three spectral figures chase after you, all of them hooded and cloaked. Jagged rocks and broken rubble litter the terrain. You're not sure how you got to this deserted, desolate cityscape, but you...

A Smile is More than Face Value

[It] begins in our sensory corridors... This emotional data funnels to the brain, exciting the left anterior temporal region in particular, then smolders to the surface of the face, where two muscles, standing at attention, are roused into action: The...

A Turning Point for GM Crops in the EU?

It's not a big secret that many Europeans are afraid of new, cutting-edge technologies. Microbiologist Dr. Anne Glover, the very first EU Science Adviser, affirmed this -- although she expressed it in a rather more diplomatic way in an interview with the...

One Small Step...

Last Saturday, a faulty check valve scrubbed the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo/passenger (just cargo, for now) capsule less than one second before liftoff. At the redux early yesterday morning, all systems were go. "Every bit of...

This Scientist Is a Mass Murderer... of Mosquitoes

Dr. Bart Knols is a ruthless killer, guilty of mass murder and maybe even specicide. But instead of being punished for his crimes, he is celebrated. Why?Because Bart Knols' heinous offenses are committed against the buzzing, flying, six-legged bane of...

Can You Judge a Driver by His Car?

"Don't judge a book by it's cover;" that's how the old expression goes. Roughly meaning, we shouldn't prejudge value on outward appearance.The saying is complete rubbish of course. Humans judge people and objects on outward appearance all the time, and in...

How Does a Healthy 30-Year-Old Get Shingles?

One of your humble Newton correspondents (okay, it was me) was recently diagnosed with shingles -- that nasty, itchy, burning rash that only old people are supposed to get. Sure, your correspondent doesn't exercise as often as he should, and he doesn't eat...

What's Wrong with Animal Incest?

I don't know about where you're from, but in Minnesota, dolphins are a pretty big deal. It might have something to do with how far we need to travel in order to see dolphins in the wild. Or it might just be that dolphins are really cool. Either way, you can...

Naughty-Sounding Words from Science

Reading a scientific paper can, more often than not, suffice as a lesson in vocabulary. Scientists utilize a host of specialized jargon meant to describe in detail the intricate results of their work. For the most part, these terms merely serve to baffle the...

Babies Should Not Be Going to the Chiropractor

It's rare that I see something that simultaneously astonishes, horrifies, and humors me. Joss Whedon's recent genre-busting slasher flick, Cabin in the Woods, provoked this amalgamation of emotion, but a film like that doesn't come to theaters every...

Scientists Study How Humans Hide and Seek

Throughout history, humans have played diverse forms of hide and seek. From parents concealing Easter eggs for children to track down, to drug enforcement officers searching for illegal paraphernalia in a crack house, to a homeowner stashing away a lock box...

Neutrino: 'Hey! I'm Still Cool!'

Image of a neutrino plush toy from The Particle Zoo. Hi, everybody; it's me, the Neutrino! Sorry I haven't taken time to speak with you lately, but I've been busy traveling at close to the speed of light. Oh what a wild ride it's been!Usually it's only...

Are Viruses Accurately Portrayed in Pop Culture?

Recently, a certain virus has the scientific community in an uproar. The culprit, H5N1, is the virus that causes the bird flu. H5N1 is usually only transferred from birds to humans, but two teams of researchers decided to try and manipulate the virus so that...

Dear Mom: You Are Amazing. It's a Scientific Fact.

Newton Blog presents an open letter to moms everywhere.Dear Mom,Mother's Day is just around the corner, and thus I'd like to take this opportunity to recount just how amazing you truly are. I was not endowed with Shakespeare's lyrical elegance, so I will not...

Bacteria: They're What's for Breakfast

Bacteria are everywhere; in, on and around us. They pervade every part of your day, beginning right from the moment that you wake up...BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP CRASHThe sound of your alarm clock being thrown against the wall is jolting to the senses, but it's...

Could We Harness Lightning as an Energy Source?

April showers have given way to... May showers and thunderstorms. With all the electricity in the air, it is natural to ask, "Can I use this stuff to power my hairdryer?" Famous madman genius Nikola Tesla certainly pondered this idea.Each year about one...

Will Fast Food Survive the Apocalypse?

It's commonly accepted that two things will survive the apocalypse: cockroaches and Cher. Cockroaches are believed to have survived on Earth for well over 300 million years (longer than the dinosaurs), can live without their heads for up to a month, and can...

Data Centers: It's All About the Information

"The world isn't run by weapons anymore, or energy, or money. It's run by little ones and zeroes, little bits of data. It's all just...

Sensory Superheros Walk Among Us

When you look at a letter or number, is there a specific color that comes to mind? Do you think of the same color each time you see the letter or number? If so, you may belong to a lucky fraction of the population with a neurological condition called...

It's Raining Cats, Dogs, and Bacteria!

On a sweltering summer's eve lit faintly by the glow of the setting sun, there's naught more refreshing than a light summer rain. As dusk turns to dark, reinvigoration becomes relaxation as the soft pitter-patter of raindrops on windows ease the transition...

The Hilarity and Opportunity of Science's 'Epic Fails'

Mistakes, blunders, gaffes, errors: we all make 'em, scientists included. Mistakes aren't bad, especially when they occur in the pursuit of understanding. For in making them, something is learned, and a new path may become clear. But touchy sentiments aside,...

How Can Birds Migrate 18,000 Miles?

Every year, arctic terns travel more than 12,000 miles (19,000 km) from their summer home in the northern hemisphere to their second summer home in the southern hemisphere. The northern wheatear, a songbird as small as a house sparrow, flies 18,000 miles...

Termites Groom, Bury, and Eat Their Dead

Bugs like ants, bees, wasps, and termites are about as ubiquitous as they come. They're everywhere; on the ground, in your food, within the walls of your house eating away your floorboards. So what is it that makes these eusocial insects so darned ...