Weekly Science Picks

With 2012 firmly behind us, with no more reflections and no more top ten lists, let’s begin…

The BBC. As warm and comforting as mother’s milk. A beacon for the rest of the world to follow. Journalistic integrity, and more bang for your buck than any other establishment I can think of. There is nothing the BBC does so well as documentaries, namely nature documentaries. BBC Africa is the latest in the long line of documentaries, in the grand tradition of nature documentaries. Then there is David Attenborough. A man no one can find fault with. And the voice of Mother Nature! If you have a chance to catch this series, do not miss it. If your country is not fortunate enough to be bestowed with the British Broadcasting Corporation… then emigrate!

This time of year that virus from Norwalk is always in the news. I’ve written about it before. Norovirus is the perennial winter vomiting bug. It seems, this year’s outbreak was particularly one of note — causing over 1 million cases in the UK alone. Carl Zimmer explains why it is “possibly the best pathogen”.


“To trigger diarrhea, the viruses alter the intestinal lining, causing cells to dump out their fluids, which then gets washed out of the body–along with many, many, many noroviruses. Each gram of feces contains around five billion noroviruses. (Yes, billion.)

Noroviruses also make us puke. And if you can gather enough strength to think clearly about this, virus-driven vomit is a pretty remarkable manipulation of a host. Vomiting occurs when our nerves send signals that swiftly contract the muscles lining the stomach. Vomiting does us a lot of good when we’re hurling out some noxious substance that would do us harm. But repeated projectile vomiting of the sort that noroviruses cause serve another function: they let the viruses to find a new host.”


Continuing the norovirus theme, meet Larry. Larry is a projectile vomiting robot. Larry helps out in norovirus research.

“Vomiting Larry is a humanoid simulated vomiting system. He may be the only humanoid simulated vomiting system in existence, but we certainly don’t need more than one, and even just one may be one puking robot too many. Vomiting Larry is doing some important work, though: he’s being used to research the spread of noroviruses, which cause humans to projectile vomit, spreading the virus all over the place.”

Forbes Magazine had an article on “the least stressful jobs in 2013”. Top of their list was University Professor. Cue the twitterstorm (#RealForbesProfessors).



Suffice it to say the ivory towers of academia were not impressed.

“I have interrupted my typical two hour, two martini lunch to bring you this post.”

This is not the first time Forbes has been caught out with a very myopic article. Last year one Gene Marks of Forbes wrote a piece talking down to all those “poor black kids” everywhere. His solution to being a poor black kid was simple — technology. Damn, why hasn’t anyone thought of that before. Commence backlash.

Finally, introducing the predictive-text typewriter… in Chinese, no less. Thank you Last Word On Nothing.

“Thomas Mullaney, a history professor at Stanford and — surely — the world’s only expert on the Chinese typewriter, recounts in a recent paper that in late 1956, a Chinese typist named Zhang Jiying made national news. Zhang had typed 4,730 characters in an hour, about four times the average speed at the time, and the state press trumpeted the feat as yet another achievement by a Mao-era “model worker.”

Until next time…