What plague doctors can teach us about doing science

The bird mask wearing plague doctor.

They stuffed the beaks of their masks with aromatic flowers, spices, and perfume to ward off disease carrying miasmas.

Their lenses were darkened to avoid the evil eye which could have allowed an evil spirit to enter their bodies and give them the plague.

They practiced bloodletting and turned to barbers to do surgeries on their patients.

By today’s standards their methods were wrong. But that’s not really the whole story. We have the benefit of years of experience and science to be able to say we know better.

And ultimately understanding how they came to the above conclusions allows us to look at science in general, and the scientific method in particular.

Read about it here! 

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The Remarkable Comeback of the Przewalski’s Horse

Finally some good news! The only truly wild horse in existence (other horses that are thought of as wild are actually only feral) has been teetering on the edge of extinction for a long time now. There was a point where it went entirely extinct in the wild.

But due to a vigorous captive breeding program, and successful reintroductions, this slightly stocky but ultimately adorable horse population is on the upswing!

Read about their history and resurgence over at Smithsonian! 

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The Altered Arctic Food Chain

Food chains are complicated. That simple idea of a direct line from primary producer, to primary consumer, to top of the food chain is just that, overly simplified.

And given the complexity of these interactions (who eats who) it’s hard to predict what happens when the menu suddenly changes.

Which is what is happening right now in the Arctic, due to the effects of climate change.

Read about it over at the NYTimes!

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Big Picture of the Little Bones in Tuatara

Tuatara are a “living fossil” found in New Zealand. And it turns out it is also an excellent system to study the evolution of sesamoid bones (typically small bones found in tendons and near joints.

Want to know more about these awesome creatures, and what this can tell us about human and lizard anatomy?

Read about it here! 

Or enjoy these photos.

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Elephant Refugees Flee to Last Stronghold in Africa

We’re not talking about refugees. Not the kind that are flocking to Europe from Syria, but the four legged kind that are being over hunted.

A national park in Botswana is struggling to support the staggering number of animals fleeing from poaching in other countries.

Read about it over at National Geographic!

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Watch Old Sea Ice Vanish

Speaking of #ThanksNASA, using a really cool infographic, we can now see how sea ice since 1984 has been disappearing! Like a really sad kind of magic!

Ok I’m trying to be upbeat here, but really what we need to see and understand if that climate change is continuing to drastically affect the Arctic.

And understanding this is the first step in trying to stop the procession toward no ice.

Read about it here! 

 

#ThanksNASA

The incoming presidential administration has talked about axing funding for NASA earth science research.

This would result in a loss of 40% of funding dedicated to understanding our planet.

Why? It’s been suggested it has to do with NASA’s focus on what was called “politically correct environmental monitoring“.

In response, scientists have taken to twitter, with the hashtag #ThanksNASA to highlight the good work done at NASA

Read about it here!