Carnival of Evolution, April 2011

Tree, sunset. Photo by Voyageur solitaire-mladjenovic_n.

Arriving with the commendable and clocklike regularity of Grendel attacking Hrothgar’s meadhall, the Carnival of Evolution returns for another month, this time hosted by Quintessence of Dust. Check it out for a month’s worth of online writing about all things evolutionary, all in once nice, tidy post.

(naked fisticuffs are always optimal)

Via Got Medieval: Myths RETOLD does exactly what it says on the tin, with ATTITUDE. For instance, Beowulf. Here’s our hero awaiting the murderous monster Grendel’s highly predictable arrival after the party in Hrothgar’s meadhall:

then the party kind of starts to wind down
so beowulf just goes ahead and strips naked
in the hopes of making this task as needlessly difficult as possible
which actually he fails to do
because it turns out no weapon on earth can harm grendel anyway
so naked fisticuffs are optimal
(naked fisticuffs are always optimal)

anyway Grendel shows up
makes a big show of ripping the doors off
which actually begs the question
do they replace the doors every day?
or does Grendel replace the doors every day
just so he will have something to rip off at night?
either way he immediately eats one of Beowulf’s men
while Beowulf stands there like HMM I SEE

Even if you haven’t read the original, you will laugh painfully hard. Expect seriously salty language, but nothing that Beowulf himself wouldn’t use if he had a MySpace page.

Science online, “healthy as radium” edition

Wristwatches have a surprisingly deadly history. Photo by wjhall31.
  • In which a new technology loses its shine. World War I helped create a fashion for wristwatches with radioactive glow-in-the-dark faces—a fashion that turned deadly.
  • Not gay, just confused. Really. Male mice with low serotonin are sexually interested in both males and females, but this is could be because lack of serotonin makes them less sensitive to smell.
  • Wow. A 1987 outbreak of radiation poisoning in central Brazil didn’t actually start with an egg sandwich, but the sandwich is when folks started to notice.
  • Just as nuclear power is starting to look extra scary. A new “artificial leaf” uses sunlight to efficiently generate hydrogen from water.
  • Useless and potentially harmful. Not only does human chorionic gonadotropin not help with weight loss as popularly thought, it can also transmit mad-cow disease.
  • Perfect for reading while in queue. Why do airline passengers jostle for quicker access to reserved seats? Maybe because waiting is territorial.
  • No one is an island, but we might all be lakes. Advances in understanding the immense diversity of microbes every human being carries around may make medicine more like ecology.

After a long stretch of linkfests bereft of moving pictures, here’s video of a wasp deliberately removing ants from its food. Via Ed Yong, who provides more explanation based on the journal article from which this comes.