Recent Interesting Science Articles (Aug ’11)Saturday, September 3, 2011 13:31
Posted in category Science
Four articles for the month of August 2011. While I’m going to try to continue with this as a regular feature, I’ve decided to be briefer and to summarize less, since readers can always go read the original text anyway. So here goes.
- MedicalXpress has an exciting story about a new broad spectrum viral therapy that can seemingly target any sort of virus. The treatment works by identifying cells that have been infected by viruses by detecting the presence of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) and instructing such cells to commit suicide. Many people are expressing skepticism about the broadness of the claims being made or that it would safe to assume that all cells that contain dsRNA may be destroyed without harm. But if this checks out, it will be huge.
- Like some people, I’m very adverse to spoilers of any kind for any media I intend to read or watch for myself. But the psychology department of the University of California at San Diego begs to differ. According to their study which involved asking participants to read one of twelve short stories, around half of which were prefaced by a spoiler paragraph, including the spoilers seemed to increase the entertainment value of the story. This was true even for genres like mysteries and ironic-twist stories. The authors suggest that this isn’t as unintuitive as one might expect as this nicely explains why people like to reread a favorite book or rewatch a favorite film.
- The Economist covers new evidence to support a theory of why some traditional societies are patriarchal and others matriarchal. The key lies in whether or not each society developed and adopted the plough as part of its traditional farming practices. It explains that before the advent of the plough, women were in charge of farming while men fought or hunted. But the plough, while improving yields, required greater physical strength that only men possessed. Such societies subsequently became more dominated by men. The researchers involved found that whether or not the ancestors of an ethnic group used the plough is a good predictor of attitudes about women in the workplace or about women as leaders in society.
- Lastly, Wired has an article about the discovery of a planet that appears to be composed almost entirely of diamond-like crystals. The planet has an unusually high mass to volume ratio and orbits so close to its parent star that a single revolution just takes two hours. Furthermore, it’s parent star is itself a pulsar that rotates at more then 10,000 times per minute. Now that would make for an interesting star system for a spaceship to explore.
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