What We’re Reading: Foot Bones, Color Decay and the Science of Obesity

BY Jenny Marder  February 14, 2011 at 7:03 PM EST

X-rays Show Why Van Gogh’s Yellows Have Darkened

New Scientist.jpgA particle accelerator helps to explain why the bright yellows in Van Gogh paintings fade to brown over time. This piece uses an animated video to explain the chemical reaction that causes damage to the chrome yellow color. Turns out Van Gogh may have cut costs with cheaper paint. (Paul Marks, New Scientist)

Of Course, Scientists Can Communicate

Nature News.jpg“Bosh, balderdash and Bronowski,” says former Guardian science editor Tim Radford to the popular myth that scientists are lousy communicators. Then he lists another string of “expletives,” which include the names of science greats that doubled as writers, including Hawking, Huxley and E.O. Wilson. Some interesting observations about scientific papers and science culture accompany these thoughts. Among them: “the language, form and conventions of the published scientific paper could almost have been devised to conceal information.” But ultimately, it seems, it’s no excuse. (Tim Radford, Nature News)

Found: Ancient Bone That Let Humans Walk Upright

Time.jpgNew fossil evidence indicates that Lucy had arched feet and walked upright. Evidence comes from a well-preserved, 3.2 million-year-old fourth metatarsal bone, a long bone that connects the toe to the ankle. Also, check out the video of this gorilla, Ambam walking upright, just like a person. It’s provided as a sort of teaser to the study. (Michael Lemonick, Time)

How to Fix the Obesity Crisis

Scientific American.jpgCan science help answer why as many as two-thirds of dieters end up two years later weighing more than they did before their diet? Even with the NIH spending $800 million on a year on studies to understand the science behind obesity, the most tried and true methods continue to lie in behavioral psychology, not genetics, metabolism or neurology, Scientific American reports in its February edition. Yet this article also breaks down the role that these disciplines play. (David H. Freedman, Scientific American)