Saturday Science Links

I think it was Squashed who was enamored enough with my science-themed link posts on Appletree that he suggested making it a regular weekend feature. Always happy to oblige, here’s what my net has come up with:

Shelley notes that scrub jays plan ahead, a cognitive trait previously thought to be unique to humans. In one experiment, the birds were conditioned to expect food in the morning in one room but not in another; those in the breakfast-less room then stored food each night. In another, each room had a different kind of food; the birds then stored each kind of food in the room filled with the other kind.

She also links to a study that shows that children of alcoholics have reduced mental development. Now, you’d think it’s because women who consume alcohol during pregnancy ruin their fetuses’ brains. But in fact, it’s both genetic and environmental, with no gender component; the senior author explicitly says that “There were no differences between the effects of maternal and paternal drinking.” My guess is that the groups that treat all women as pre-pregnant are not going to issue gender-neutral warnings to individuals not to become alcohol-dependent.

Tara writes about the gloriously pro-science President of Gambia, who is trying to use prayer to cure AIDS. The good news is that people must see the President in person to get prayed for, limiting the scope of the pseudo-treatment somewhat. The bad news is that the President demands they stop taking anti-retroviral drugs.

Mark at Cosmic Variance explains the equation e = mc^2 using a thought experiment. The basic point of the thought experiment is that since light is a wave, it imparts momentum, so conservation of momentum eventually implies mass-energy equivalence.

Orac’s Friday Dose of Woo features biodynamics, a pseudoscience that emphasizes the need for not only organic farming but also various processes that are supposed to make crops spiritually healthy. Biodynamic requires farmers to apply eight specific substances to the soil, all of which take me back to the days when I read the AD&D Dungeon Master Guide‘s section on magical items.

GrrlScientist writes about the sea changes in the continental shelf waters of the northwest Atlantic. What had been previously attributed to overfishing of cod is now recognized to be primarily the result of climate change. The main change is reduced salinity, caused by a) greater snowmelts in the Arctic, and b) climate-driven shifts in wind patterns that alter ocean currents.

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