Weird Science in the News – 180601

painting of the yellow rat among dinosaurs, by Jorge A. Gonzalez

The best science messes with our perceptions.

Here’s my first of the Weird Science in the News series for 2018!

Way back, I tried to maintain a monthly series of posts called Weird Science in the News. Each post took hours to research, draft, and edit. The majority of my drafted posts never made it through edits by the end of their month.

I’m now trying a simpler format. This month’s theme is “Life is Complicated“.

Animal farts lift researcher’s book to NYT bestselling list

[Update: Link to article on no longer working]

A Virginia Tech researcher and a zoologist from London Zoology Society co-authored Does it Fart? The Definitive Field Guide to Animal Flatulence, which is ranked eighth on the New York Times monthly best-seller list less than two months after its release.

My thoughts: One of the book’s author reportedly said, “We never thought anybody would read it other than our family and friends.” That’s the weirdest part of this news. They didn’t know the world wanted a book about animal farts? Publishing a publicly-released book just for family and friends is kind of strange.

Why did the human cross itself with a chicken?

Seriously… why?

Hoping to take the first step toward recreating a human organizer, the Rockefeller team grew colonies of human stem cells using certain growth factors and a forced culture shape, causing them to adopt the features of an early embryo. These clusters were then transplanted onto chicken embryos[…].

My thoughts: A second nervous system developed in this embryos in the short amount of time that they existed as chimeras. I’m not actually what to make of that, but I’m tempted to write about accidental hatchings of two-headed human-chickens.

Utah fossil reveals global exodus of mammals’ near relatives to major continents

painting of the yellow rat among dinosaurs, by Jorge A. Gonzalez

A small reptilian mammal dubbed Cifelliodon wahkarmoosuch (“yellow rat” in Ute) has moved a continent back by 15 million years.

My thoughts: The mockup looks as if the creature came out of Fantasy. I’m calling it a rattoon for my own purposes.

How stress echoes down the generations

The Economist discusses how changes to sperm may transmit epigenetic changes to children. Emerging evidence suggests that mistreatment of children impacts the genetics of later generations, affecting even a victim’s descendants who experience no abuse themselves. My thoughts: This news might help shift the general perception that focusing only one generation of issues is enough to repair the damage to its members.

“Are Plants Conscious?”

Environmental scientists, philosophers, and a professor of ‚Äúplant neurobiology” answered the question for this week’s Giz Asks. My thoughts: This is an important question to ask at this time, not only to open up discussion on human’s responsibility to the our environment, but to do help refocus how we’ll identify when artificial intelligence is conscious.

Weird enough for you? What else have you seen in science news of interest?