Friday coffee break

Every Friday at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! our contributors pass around links to new scientific results, or science-y news, or videos of adorable wildlife, that they’re most likely to bring up while waiting in line for a latte.

From Devin: What Nature has to say about Canadian scientific funding protests.

If the Harper government has valid strategic reasons to undermine vital sectors of Canadian science, then it should say so — its people are ready to listen. If not, it should realize, and fast, that there is a difference between environmentalism and environmental science — and that the latter is an essential component of a national science programme, regardless of politics.

Also from Devin: Questions regarding peer-review and how cross-review can help.

How many scientific results published today in peer-reviewed journals would melt equally fast if subjected to thorough scrutiny by so many peers? How many of those faulty papers will never be challenged? How many of those will be used, as references counted but never read, to justify research grants and appointments for years to come, displacing others?

From Amy: Who would swerve to hit a turtle?

From Jonathan: “The costs of healthcare and over-testing” or “Will someone just fix this poor girl’s ankle?

Five months after twisting an ankle, my otherwise healthy daughter limped out of the radiology office carrying X-rays of her hands. “Mom,’’ she said, “my ankle still hurts.”

From Noah: Genetics confirms what linguists knew 90 years ago. (Yes, that is two links!)

GENETICS LINK: North and South America were first populated by three waves of migrants from Siberia rather than just a single migration, say researchers who have studied the whole genomes of Native Americans in South America and Canada.

LINGUISTICS LINK: The bottom line is that this three-way distinction was known linguistically since the 1920s (for example, Sapir 1921). Basically, it’s a division among the Eskimo-Aleut languages, which straddle the Bering Straits even today, the Athabaskan languages (which were discovered to be related to a small Siberian language family only within the last few years, not by Greenberg as Wade suggested), and everything else.

From Sarah: 97% of the surface of Greenland’s massive ice sheet melted! (And then mostly refroze.)

What was so unusual was the extent of the melting. It was even taking place near the highest point in Greenland, around Summit Station which is 3.2 km (2 miles) above sea level, which hardly ever melts.

Finally, an irresistibly titled link on an observation of bizarre human behavior: Man in goat suit seen living among goats in Utah mountains.

The goat man then put his mask back on, Creighton said, got back down on his hands and knees and scurried to catch up with the herd.  “We were the only ones around for miles,” Creighton said. “It was real creepy.”

Friday coffee break

Every Friday at Nothing in Biology Makes Sense! our contributors pass around links to new scientific results, or science-y news, or videos of adorable wildlife, that they’re most likely to bring up while waiting in line for a latte.

Simone is in the field at beautiful White Sands, New Mexico, and blogging about it.

The setting is White Sands, NM – an island of gypsum dunes slowly transforming and shifting through the Chihuahuan Desert. The protagonists are three species of small white lizards inhabiting these dunes. The story is recent and rapid evolution: changing ecology, natural selection, and speciation. Our attempt, as field biologists, is to tell that story.

Noah points us to NASA’s satellite images of the Columbia Glacier in southeastern Alaska, which, like a lot of glaciers these days, is getting smaller.

In 1986, the glacier’s terminus was just a few kilometers north of Heather Island. By 2011, it had retreated more than 20 kilometers (12 miles) to the north, moving past Terentiev Lake and Great Nunatak Peak. As the glacier has retreated, it has also thinned substantially, as shown by the expansion of brown bedrock areas. Rings of freshly exposed rock, known as trimlines, are prominent in the later image. Since the 1980s, the glacier has lost about half of its total thickness and volume.

Devin suggests a recent editorial in Science on the need to connect people with graduate-level science expertise to high school science education.

At any one time, there are thousands of U.S. Graduate Students with strong Science expertise and an interest in education who would be more than qualified to stem the critical shortage of secondary chemistry, physics, earth sciences, and biology teachers, but who will most likely never set foot in a high-school (precollege) classroom.

Sarah points out that the BBC has a treasure trove of video on adaptations for defense against predators. (The one titled “snake in the grass” is especially great. —Jeremy)