What We’re Reading: Arsenic, Lightfoils and Skull-implanted Cameras

BY Jenny Marder  December 6, 2010 at 10:07 AM EDT

Arsenic, Bacteria and Alien Life: Lessons from an Internet Frenzy

Mono LakeThe Guardian has a nice writeup from an astrobiologist on the speculation, media frenzy and false stories that rolled out along with last week’s discovery that scientists had found bacteria that can feed off arsenic at Mono Lake. This takes a look at the rumors, embargo breaks and blogs claiming that NASA was about to announce evidence of a “shadow biosphere of terrestrial life unrelated to us.”

The interesting thing here, Lewis Dartnell says, is “how the engine of speculation revved up as this story played out.” And a question: should NASA have handled the situation differently? (Lewis Dartnell, The Guardian)

Light Can Generate Lift

A study published online this week in Nature Photonics finds that light can generate the same force that makes airplanes fly. Lightfoils work by harnessing radiation, blasting it toward an object to cause a “lift” effect.

“Lightfoils aren’t about to keep an Airbus aloft for the time it takes to fly from JFK to LAX,” this article says. “But arrays of the tiny devices might be used to power micromachines, transport tiny particles or even enable better steering methods on solar sails.” (Laura Sanders, Science News)

His Hindsight is 20-20

NYU professorAn NYU photography professor has been commissioned by a museum in Qatar to implant a camera into his skull for one year, according to this Wall street Journal article and slide show.

The camera will live stream images online and at the museum, taken at one-minute intervals. Surgery involved an incision, three titanium plates with posts and a 10-megapixel camera inserted under a flap of skin into his skull. NYU has asked that he wear a lens cap while on school property.

Still unclear: how his girlfriend will cope with the setup. (Erica Orden, Wall Street Journal)

Protections for Wolf, Grizzly Might be Lifted

grizzly bearThe Obama administration may lift Endangered Species Act protection for the grizzly bear and gray wolf. Efforts to de-list these animals in the past have met with strong resistance from conservationists, but ranchers and farmers complain that they are preying on livestock and diminishing game. (Laura Zuckerman, The Washington Post)