Science Small Plate (April 19, 2013)

I wanna be your dog by e³°°° on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

(e³°°°/Flickr)

Casting a net to catch some science on the ‘Nets:

  • It was a week for fishy genomes, one modern — the zebrafish, my favorite research model — and the other not so much — the coelacanth, a fish  known as a “living fossil” because it has really changed (evolutionarily speaking) in more than 300 million years. And the fact that it’s so old and evolves so slowly means the coelacanth’s genes can tell us something about how fish evolved legs.
  • Why do we like beer so much? Chemistry! Chemicals in beer trigger the brain’s reward system, more so in people with a family history of alcoholism than not.
  • Our bones are incredibly strong, but the source of that strength has never been clear from a materials point of view. Until now.
  • I’m not a dog owner, so I can’t really relate to this. But if you are, apparently you are sharing more bacteria with your dog than a parent does with her child.

It wasn’t a great week in the US (even The Onion says so), but there’s some science to be learned from it.

  • After the Boston Marathon bombings, thousands of runners started to suffer hypothermia as they stood waiting to be evacuated from the marathon course. But why would distance runners — especially people who have just run 25 or 26 miles — be at risk of hypothermia? A blogger named scicurious tells us why.
  • Federal authorities detected letters to President Obama and a senator Mississippi tainted with what may be ricin. It’s a deadly poison; The Poisoner’s Handbook author Deborah Blum explains what makes it so lethal.
  • Last (at the time of writing — let’s hope it stays that way) was the explosion of a fertilizer plant in Texas on Wednesday. What is it about fertilizers that make them explosive? The nitrogen.
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