Links – April 17, 2011

Physiology

Birds inherited strong sense of smell from dinosaurs and by the same title at Smithsonian. A relatively weak sense of smell may be a fairly new adaptation in many bird species.

Biology

Did Lucy’s species butcher animals? A brief piece on the SciAm Observations blog covering the opposing views on whether or not Australopithecus afarensis were responsible for the butcher-like marks on the bones of several animals that lived at the same time as A. afarensis. If true, this would push the origin of butchery back by 800k years.

Special report: What’s really in your cuppa? The ecology behind tea, milk, and sugar. “The British cuppa is an institution. But how many of us have actually wondered what goes into our favourite drink, or where the principal ingredients come from? The Ecologist investigates.”

Of the monstrous pictures of whales. “What would be made of cetaceans if they were known only from fossil bones?” Sketches of what hypothetical monstrosities people might come up with if forced to work backwards from whale skeletons the way we do with dinosaur skeletons. Makes me think of a certain Calvin & Hobbes poem:

What if my bones were in a museum,
Where aliens paid good money to see em?
And suppose that they’d put me together all wring,
Sticking bones on to bones where they didn’t belong!
Imagine phalanges, pelvis, and spine
Welded to mandibles that once had been mine!
With each misassembled, the error compounded,
The aliens would draw back in terror astounded!
Their textbooks would show me in grim illustration,
The most hideous thing ever seen in creation!
The museum would commission a model in plaster
Of ME, to be called, “Evolution’s Disaster”!
And paleontologists there would debate
Dozens of theories to help postulate.
How man survived for those thousands of years
With teeth covered arms growing out of his ears!
Oh, I hope that I’m never in such manner displayed,
No matter HOW much to see me the aliens paid.

Other Science

Why can’t pediatricians prescribe medicine over the phone? You may think you know exactly what the problem is, and most of the time you may even be correct, but the doctor has to make sure to rule out other diagnoses.

Other Stuff

Sarah Jones as a one-woman global village. I adore Sarah Jones, so I was very happy when I found out that she did a TED talk two years ago. If you’re not familiar with her schtick, she likes to play with the idea of self-constructed identity, and that comes across in her shows as a series of startlingly accurate ‘characters’ of all ages and ethnicities that are inspired by her friends and family. Particularly striking to me in this performance is her character of the Chinese mother describing the stages of cognitive dissonance she went through when she found out her daughter was a lesbian.

A few words about bisexuality and the spectrum of human sexual orientation. I more or less agree with everything said here. Bisexual is a very problematic word, without a doubt. It is simultaneously too specific and not specific enough to accurately describe the vast majority of bisexual people’s preferences and behaviors. It also comes with its own unique prejudices, from both the straight and gay communities.

The “Lesbian Until Graduation:” Now a New York Times most emailed article! This is probably the best coverage of the NYT article that I’ve seen so far. It blows out of the water the absolutely abysmal coverage by my university’s unofficial newspaper, which went so far as to claim that college “deters” lesbianism. Horrible journalism. I was almost disgusted enough to write a letter, but I decided it probably wouldn’t do much good anyway.

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