Science Reading: Science Story Round Up

Each Wednesday, I look forward to our very own Hillary’s science news round-up. Even though I spend hours each week reading science journals, articles and blog posts, almost every week she manages to find an exciting story that I’ve missed. This week, I am taking a page out of her book, but instead of linking to hot science news (like I said, that is her thing), I want to link to good science stories where science writers really spin their craft.

Science journalism and science writing intersect often and with great vigor, but they can be two very distinct animals: one wants to share cutting edge research and information, and the other wants to tell a tale about new research or new-to-the-author research or just a fun science fact. Both are immensely valuable, but I find myself drawn to the more general science writing ““ there’s just something fun about hearing a good science story from a variety of perspectives.

Jennifer Frazer wrote about the terrific and terrifying cave glow worm for this Scientific American blog post. You get lured in just as the glow worm lures in its prey, small bugs washed by streams into the caves where these worms live. Well, to be fair, the glow worm is a more a predatory larvae than a glow worm, but don’t worry the article covers every gory detail. The images are particularly striking ““ dark caves lit up like an ultra-bright night sky, each glow worm creating its own constellation.

As a field ecologist, I can relate to the idea of nature being beautiful at the same time that it is gross and predatory and covered in mucus. It certainly echoes in my field experiences, though I must admit that I have never worked anywhere as strange and eerie as those caves.

Cheryl G. Murphy wrote this fun article about practical sports applications of an optical illusion. Fortunately for all of us, she included some images of that illusion so that 1) we could weird ourselves out and 2) we could see exactly what she was talking about. Optical illusion articles are a heck of a lot of fun to both write and read ““ provided that there are some mind-blowing visuals to go along with the science. The illusion described in this particular article discussed is the one where if people imagine or perceive an object, like a baseball, as being bigger, they are better able to successfully complete a task, like hitting the baseball out of the park. There’s empirical evidence to back this up, and the way the researchers chose to test it was pretty ingenious, so click through and check it out.

Professor Daniel Kahneman is a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist with unique insights into how humans function. This fantastic interview with Der Spiegel hits some of his greatest accomplishments and explores the effects of priming (we’re always being primed by something ““ and we don’t even realize it), the problems with intuition (watch out Wall Street, the machines are coming for you), and the fluidity of memory (it’s how a story ends that helps dictate how we remember it).

And if you are one of the few, the lucky few, with access to Science Magazine, check out this fascinating article about dentistry, and the effects human’s changing diets have had on our teeth and jaws. Spoiler alert: changes in our diet are responsible for many of the dental issues, like cavities and crowded jaws, that are nearly ubiquitous today. I hate linking to articles that might be behind a pay-wall (and I cannot check because I always have access to Science, thanks to my university’s library), but this is just a fantastic piece of science writing. Melding history, dentistry, and evolutionary biology all into one big gooey article, this is an excellent read.

3 replies on “Science Reading: Science Story Round Up”

If anyone wants a copy of that last article, I have no compunction about passing it around.  Message me if you want it!

Relatedly, I have no idea what I’m going to do when I graduate and don’t have access to a university library anymore :(

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