The Week: Most Recent Science Posts recent posts.en-usSat, 30 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0400http://theweek.com Recent Science Posts from THE WEEKSat, 30 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0400The next pandemic<img src="" /></P><p class="p1"><strong> How likely is a pandemic?<br /></strong>Epidemiologists believe we're statistically overdue for a global viral outbreak, which occurs every generation or so. This year's Ebola crisis is probably just a dress rehearsal: Though the virus has killed at least 1,420 people in Africa in the last five months, Ebola is transmitted only through intimate contact with bodily fluids and doesn't have the global reach of a true pandemic, such as Spanish influenza in 1918. Humanity had no prior exposure or immunity to the Spanish flu, which is believed to have incubated in birds and pigs. So it spread like wildfire, infecting...</p> <a href="">More</a>By The Week StaffSat, 30 Aug 2014 08:00:00 -0400How snake venom could help fight cancer<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Generally, most of us try to get through life without having to cross paths with a venomous animal. But the dangerous substances in a snake's bite or a scorpion's sting may actually have value: In recent years, scientists have begun to investigate the disease-fighting properties of venom.</p><p>"Cancer [treatment] is an emerging area in venom research," says Mand&euml; Holford, a biochemist at the City University of New York's Hunter College. Her research subjects are venomous marine snails, which she describes as "walking drug factories," due to the useful medicinal compounds in their venom.</p><p>There...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Eli ChenMon, 25 Aug 2014 09:30:00 -0400The mystery of Britain's alien big cats<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>In 1983, a farmer in South Molton, a small town in the southern English county of Devon, reported a startling loss in livestock: 100 sheep had been killed, apparently violently, over a period of three months. Their throats had been slashed across. For many, the slaughter confirmed the area's vague but persistent legend, sighted since the early 1970s, of a large, possibly phantom cat. Named for the hilly moorland it was said to roam, they called it the "Beast of Exmoor."</p><p>The public reacted swiftly. The <em>Daily Express </em>offered the equivalent of a $1,600 reward for video footage of the Beast. More...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Katie HeaneyMon, 25 Aug 2014 07:41:00 -0400How collaborative innovation led to the experimental serum for Ebola<img src="" /></P><p>Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol, the two American aid workers infected with the Ebola virus while volunteering in Liberia, were released from the hospital yesterday after they recovered from the illness.</p><p>They were both given an experimental serum, Zmapp, before being flown from Liberia to CDC facilities in Atlanta, Georgia, three week ago. Brantly &mdash; who was seriously deteriorating before the drug was administered &mdash; yesterday appeared overjoyed, telling the media he was "thrilled to be alive."</p><p>These two Americans might have recovered anyway. In the West African communities that have...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/john-aziz" ><span class="byline">John Aziz</span></a>Fri, 22 Aug 2014 11:04:00 -0400The persuasive power of the sugar cube pyramid<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>With New York City's ban on jumbo-sized soft drinks officially dead, it's clear that any reduction in consumption of these obesity-promoting beverages will need to be a matter of persuasion rather than law. Fortunately, a research team has found a simple way to convince consumers to think twice before taking their next swig of soda.</p><p>Their method is to show people just how much sugar they are consuming per can through the use of an easily understandable visual device: A pyramid of sugar cubes.</p><p>This "concrete representation" of an otherwise abstract calculation such as "70 grams of sugar" reduced...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Tom JacobsThu, 21 Aug 2014 14:35:00 -0400We could find alien life -- but Congress doesn't have the will<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>The Conversation<br /></p><p>While alien life can be seen nightly on television and in the movies, it has never been seen in space. Not so much as a microbe, dead or alive, let alone a wrinkle-faced Klingon.</p><p>Despite this lack of protoplasmic presence, there are many researchers &mdash; sober, sckptical academics &mdash; who think that life beyond Earth is rampant. They suggest proof may come within a generation. These scientists support their sunny point of view with a few astronomical facts that were unknown a generation ago.</p><p>In particular, and thanks largely to the success of NASA's Kepler space telescope, we can now...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Seth ShostakWed, 20 Aug 2014 12:24:00 -0400Everything you need to know about fracking<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Recently in New York City, protesters took to the boardwalk in the Rockaways to voice opposition to the Rockaway Lateral Project, which aims to install a pipeline under New York City's Jacob Riis and Fort Tilden beaches to connect two existing natural gas distribution systems. The pipeline, controlled by Williams Partners L.P., will allow fracked natural gas from the Marcellus Shale, in Pennsylvania, to flow to a new meter and regulator station at Floyd Bennett Field, in Brooklyn, and then into the current distribution lines running up Flatbush Avenue. The evidence for environmental damages caused...</p> <a href="">More</a>By Maggie SeayTue, 19 Aug 2014 11:25:00 -0400Meet the Mariah Carey of bats<img src="" /></P><p>In the dead of night, when it's dark enough that you or I might not be able to see our hands in front of our faces, some bats have no trouble tracking down a small, flitting insect and making a meal of it. Their secret? A biological sonar called echolocation.</p><p>By pushing air through their larynxes and out of their mouths or noses, echolocating bats generate ultrasonic "chirps." The echoes that bounce back to their ears give the bats the lay of the land and the sky, revealing obstacles and prey.</p><p>Bats that hunt like this are usually classified in one of two groups. There are the "gleaners" that...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/matt-soniak" ><span class="byline">Matt Soniak</span></a>Fri, 15 Aug 2014 06:45:00 -0400Why lethal injections fail<img src="" /></P><p><br /></p><p>Euthanizing lab animals is a routinely regulated and reviewed process. It's subject to constant revision by veterinary associations and animal care committees at labs and universities, conducted by trained technicians, and reevaluated by ongoing research.</p><p>The three-drug lethal injection procedure used to execute human prisoners across the U.S. for decades was improvised by Oklahoma state medical examiner Jay Chapman in 1977, has not been refined with the input of even basic scientific research, and would be illegal to use on animals in most of the states where it's used to execute humans.</p>... <a href="">More</a>By Roxanne PalmerThu, 14 Aug 2014 09:20:00 -04005 delightful science experiments from 100 years ago<img src="" /></P><p>In 1892, the dubiously named Mr. Tom Tit published a book of at-home activities for children called <em>Magical Experiments: or, Science in Play</em>. He made sure each scientific exploration could double as a parlor trick; something exciting and strange to impress as well as instruct.</p><p>Some of his experiments are all but impossible to do today (even if you <em>can</em> find spermaceti candles, you really shouldn't use them), and some of his once common ingredients haven't been available at drug stores for decades. But that doesn't mean you can't do them. If the product still exists, you can find it online. This...</p> <a href="">More</a>By <a href="/author/therese-oneill" ><span class="byline">Therese Oneill</span></a>Wed, 13 Aug 2014 11:04:00 -0400