Weekly Webcrawl: October 4, 2013

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: A calcified flamingo in Tanzania's uber-alkaline Lake Natron. © Nick Brandt 2013 Courtesy of Hasted Kraeutler Gallery, NY

PHOTO OF THE WEEK: A cal­ci­fied flamingo in Tanzania’s uber-​​alkaline Lake Natron. © Nick Brandt 2013 Cour­tesy of Hasted Kraeutler Gallery, NY

This week, Dis­cover ran an incred­ible slide show of photos by Nick Brandt of Tanzania’s Lake Natron, which con­sists of a caustic mix of chem­i­cals that instantly cal­ci­fies what­ever touches it. The lake is fed by hot springs, which supply the lucky chem­ical cock­tail, but it has no out­lets to dilute them or move them along.

In another post about birds meeting untimely demises, Wilder Utopia wrote about the upcoming doc­u­men­tary about Pacific alba­trosses dying from eating plastic garbage floating around the ocean. Pic­tures of the dead alba­trosses’ stom­achs cut open reveal dev­as­tating amounts of trash tied up in their guts.

After writing a couple of sto­ries about our new biology chair, Jon Tilly, I’ve had female fer­tility on the brain of late, so when I saw this story on The Sci­en­tist, I got excited: “Why Women Lose Fer­tility.” Turns out it’s a much more con­tro­ver­sial ques­tion than I real­ized, and even sci­en­tists still dis­agree on the answer.

Ellen Pol­lack addressed another ques­tion about women, why we’re still so under­rep­re­sented in the sci­ences, in her ridicu­lously fan­tastic article in the New York Times this week. This quote struck me as holding a lot of truth: “Women need more pos­i­tive rein­force­ment, and men need more neg­a­tive rein­force­ment. Men wildly over­es­ti­mate their learning abil­i­ties, their earning abil­i­ties. Women say, ‘Oh, I’m not good, I won’t earn much, what­ever you want to give me is O.K.’” But in the end, Pol­lack says it’s got nothing to do with gender and every­thing to do with culture.

Okay, so, sorry for the depressing webcrawl this week guys. Maybe this will cheer you up a bit: Ele­phant ances­tors had giant sporks for mouths.