Northeastern University

Weekly Webcrawl: coffee, crowds and coritsol

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Photo via Thinkstock.

Photo via Thinkstock.

A day late and a dollar short. But here we are. This week in wide world of science webs:

  • The sclogosphere was crowded with thoughts of crowds this week. Ed Yong showed how groups of golden shiners (a type of fish) are smarter together than individually in the The Real wisdom of Crowds. A story on Wired showed how humans have their own flocking behaviors. But flocking can happen with nonliving things too. On Wired again: a video and article about a near living crystal.
  • Coming out of the closet could be good for your health. In a limited sample of gay, lesbian and bisexual participants scientists found that the few who were still not open about their sexual identity had noticeably more anxiety, depression and cortisol, a hormone associated with chronic stress.
  • When I first read about toxoplasmosis in The Atlantic, my life was changed forever. It’s the parasite that lives in cat feces and on mice. It jumps from one to the other when cats eat the mice and when the mice eat the cat feces (yum). The parasite causes mice to act all crazy like so become more vulnerable prey. But when humans get it…well, they act schizo. The toxoplasmosis phenomenon is just one of many like it. Here’s more on the weird behaviors parasites instill in their hosts in order to prolong their own species.
  • Oodles of excited bloggers wrote about scientists watching a fish brain while the fish watched its prey. But, so far I’ve only seen one post about watching the human brain while beat boxing.
  • 5 A few years ago I read a great book by chemist and science underdog Luca Turin. He came up with a new theory of smell that flies in the face of what smell researchers had believed for decades. Understandably, no one wanted to believe him. A new study out this week supports Turin’s findings. Which I’m super excited to learn. And by the way, since we’re talking about scent, sulfur has a gross one.
  • Here’s some beautiful art-meets-science: Japanese-style paintings of neurons. Maybe I finally have a solution for my bare office walls. Oh yeah. And speaking of artsy science posts, the one I mentioned last week on Robert Krulwich’s blog got lots of flack in this post on The Aperiodical.
  • Here’s a sort-of-negative, sort-of-positive book review on Nate Silver’s new book about predicting the future in the New Yorker.
  • Scientific American writer Melinda Wenner Moyer asked whether the free-radical theory of aging is dead.
  • Pigeons came up in my personal life quite a bit this week. First, one came uncomfortably close to me while waiting for the train. Then I learned about their magnetic compasses from a guy at the Marine Science Center. That same day I met another science writer who wrote a book about pigeons called Superdove and then, to top it all off I discovered this wonderful story about how homing pigeons find home.
  • Last week I tried to ignore all the posts about the Costa-Rican Coffee fungus. I don’t know why exactly, maybe because I don’t drink the stuff so I just didn’t care. Or maybe I cared too much because I love Costa Rica and hate to hear of their troubles. But the story persists so here you go. Coffee made the news a second time this week with a new study showing that people use more positive words after they’ve had their requisite morning Joe. coffee makes us more pleasant
  • If you’re a Downton fan you probably spent the first half of the week in tears. Maggie TK gave us some background on eclampsia on Monday, which I was very grateful for.
  • If you were in tears this week, you were demonstrating one of your uniquely human traits.
  • Davos has spurred a whole bunch of blog posts about climate change. Here’s one building a climate resilient new york. Just don’t forget: Northeastern’s Steve Flynn said it first.
  • A study is set to come out soon showing that the comments on science stories may color readers’ perception of the story, and even their understanding of the science therein. Bora Zivkovich, the ultimate science blogger wrote the ultimate science blog post about commenting on threads.

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