Linkage 2/4: Facepalms, Fisherman Birds, and Snow Sleepovers

photo by Cherly Reed

photo by Cheryl Reed

A quick round-up of science around the web to end a busy, snowy week:

The “facepalm” has become a popular piece of the internet lexicon, alongside peers such as “epic fail” and “OMG.” But, as Ed Yong writes at Not Exactly Rocket Science, humans aren’t the only ones who make the universal expression of disgust and embarrassment. A group of Mandrill monkeys in an English zoo have started to make the expression. However, he writes, they may be signaling something different than facepalming humans: “Why are they doing it? It’s unlikely that they’ve found something stupid on the Internet.”

Jerry Coyne posts another example of purportedly human behavior observed in animals with the green heron – a bird that not only has a crazy expandable neck, but also has been filmed “fishing” by using a piece of bread as bait (yes, there is video). A webpage he links to at Tufts University contains a few other examples of bird tool use.

Earlier this week, in discussing his study on sleep and child obesity, David Gozal theorized that the modern family structure of two working parents has disturbed sleep routines for adults and children alike. Another study, released this week, appears to support that hypothesis, as a team including Ariel Kalil of the Harris School for Public Policy found an association between working mothers and their children’s body-mass index. Lead author Taryn Morrissey of American University stressed to Time magazine that the study is not meant to bash working moms, but rather to remind busy families about the importance of maintaining sleep schedules.”If all moms were to leave the workforce tomorrow, it wouldn’t solve childhood obesity,” she says.

With the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, allow us to point you back to a post written last year at the start of the World Cup about heart attacks in sports fans while watching important games. Some new research has come out in time for this year’s Big Game, including a study of LA fans during the 1980 and 1984 Super Bowls profiled by Ferris Jabr at New Scientist.

When you’re a hospital, you can’t call a snow day. If you’re curious as to how the Medical Center handled this week’s third-snowiest Chicago blizzard ever, here’s your answer: a lot of cots, and free lunch.

University of Chicago chemistry post-doc Niels Holton-Andersen views evolution as a “beautiful, amazingly huge experiment” that has produced elegant solutions to biological problems. His latest discovery is a self-healing, powerful adhesive produced by mussels, published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Mussels secrete the substance to stick to rocks in rivers and lakes, and researchers found that tweaking the pH of the adhesive can turn it into a self-healing gel, “kind of like Silly Putty,” Holton-Anderson said. The potential of the discovery was covered by “Green movement” blog Tainted Green.

About Rob Mitchum (526 Articles)
Rob Mitchum is communications manager at the Computation Institute, a joint initiative between The University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory.
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