Courtesy Luis Miguel Bugallo SánchezThey're the favorite punching bags and punchlines for politicians and late night comics: those seemingly odd science research projects. Right now there's a turmoil over a National Science Foundation grant of some $385,000 to study the genitalia of ducks.
The Washington Post today digs deeper into these kinds of projects. Are they frivolous? Do they lead to deeper scientific findings? If the government doesn't provide the funding, would anybody else? Does the government have a obligation to help provide opportunities for such research to happen? Who and how do we decide if a study is worth funding for the greater good of society? They're all interesting questions.
One of the problems of the past, the article notes, is that scientists typically have kept quiet and take their lumps from the critics while their research goes on. The thinking is that the critics don't want to understand science, so why even engage them in an argument. And unknown benefits can emerge from such projects. A researcher looking into why bluebirds are blue is now on the cusp of developing a new way to make paint.
It's a great topic for debate. Read the article and share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.
We've all seen them, those great B-films where a giant, vicious monster from under the sea, or invaders from outer space arrive to cause mayhem across our cities and generally mess up our way of life. In the end, it seems no matter who or what it was that was attacking us, be it Mothra, Godzilla, or some race of belligerent extra-terrestrials, we could always count on the military to save our collective behind.
Unfortunately, with mosquitoes, that might now be the case anymore.
Scientists are reporting that Deet, one of the most widely used active ingredients in insect repellents, loses its effectiveness against mosquitoes shortly after those ubiquitous, blood-seeking winged vermin are first exposed to it.
Deet - the common name for N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide - was developed by the US Army after the Second World War to help combat insects during jungle warfare. It was used extensively in the Korean and Vietnam wars, but mosquitoes seem to be able to adapt quickly to it.
"Mosquitoes are very good at evolving very very quickly", said Dr. James Logan of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and co-author of the study. "There is something about being exposed to the chemical that first time that changes their olfactory system - changes their sense of smell - and their ability to smell Deet, which makes it less effective."
So what I want to know is where does that leave us here in Minnesota where the mosquito constantly competes with the Common Loon for the title of State Bird? Maybe it's time to start digging the bunker in the backyard.
Courtesy University of LeicesterToday, many of our former leaders get dropped into the dust bin of cable news commentators and talk radio hosts. But 500 years ago, the options appeared to be a little more drastic.
Researchers yesterday announced that they've confirmed that the bones they found last fall buried under a parking lot in Greyfriars, England, are that of infamous King Richard III.
Further investigation of his full skeleton shows that King Richard suffered traumatic, and fatal, injuries in the course of fighting the Battle of Bosworth. But further analysis also shows that he very likely suffered "humiliation injuries" after his death, signs of displeasure from those who did not agree with his politics or leadership. Click here to learn more about the scientific techniques being used to glean this forensic information from the king. Included is a graphic description of the humiliation injuries King Richard sustained.
Courtesy University of LeicesterAuthorities are also saying that finding the remains of King Richard will reopen the thinking of the young monarch's short reign. Popular depiction since his death was that King Richard was an evil, ruthless killer. Following his demise, a different branch of monarchy came into power and very well could have had an agenda of discrediting his legacy. Already, the discovery of the bones show that Richard III did suffer from severe scoliosis, but probably didn't have the hunchback that legend claims. Could this be the first of several King Richard III myths to be debunked?
After the research is completed, the plan is to entomb King Richard's remains at Leicester Cathedral and to have an interpretive center across the street to tell the details of king's newly discovered story.
Courtesy ShutterSparks via FlickrToday is Groundhog Day, that special day when world-renown weather prognosticator, Punxsutawney Phil, (a groundhog, mind you) makes an appearance in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania in order to let us all know just how much more winter we'll have to suffer through. Well, this morning, Phil came out of his rodent hole at 7:25am EST, and - for whatever reason - wasn't able to see his shadow. That's good news. It means we're going to have an early spring, and I'm okay with that - I've had it with winter. But, you might wonder, just how accurate have Phil's forecasts been in the past? According to the records, Phil's been right only about 39% of the time, which probably makes him no worse than most of his colleagues in the weather forecasting game. Anyway, if you want to, you learn all about Phil and Groundhog Day at Earthsky.org. And, happy Groundhog Day!
Just in time for Super Bowl week, Sports Illustrated shares some pretty wild news about top-line pro and college football players using some dubious products with hopes of helping their on-field performance. Care to spritz a little deer antler mist under your tongue anyone? You can read the full report here. And check out the video below as an SI reporter tests out the validity of stickers that supposedly deflect energy-draining cellphone waves from the football players who wear them.
Courtesy APYou didn't think Science Buzz could go all week without jumping on the Vikings/Adrian Peterson media frenzy bandwagon, did you? Here's an interesting Q&A with Dr. James Andrews, the doctor who did the surgery on Peterson's injured knee, on why AP's recovery has been so good. He also has a warning that all youth sports athletes, parents and coaches should heed.
So why do you think AP has had such a good season after suffering such a devastating injury? Post a comment below.
On this day in 1969, two American astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, became the first humans to touch down on and explore the surface the Moon. Relive the actual lunar module landing (juxtaposed with panorama imagery from LRO data) in the above video. Also, learn more about all the Apollo Program and missions leading up to and following Apollo 11's historic landing forty-three years ago.
"Fleas are admirable jumpers -- a talent that humans have recognized for thousands of years, according to engineer Greg Sutton. Yet, until this week, exactly how fleas propel themselves wasn't understood. Sutton and Malcolm Burrows, of the University of Cambridge, filmed fleas jumping, analyzed flea anatomy, made mathematical models and cracked the flea leap mystery. It's not in the knees."