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Warming Lakes, Restoring Youth and … Owl Puke

Aging Ills Reversed in Mice

mice.jpgScientists have partially reversed age-related degeneration in mice, according to a study published online in the journal Nature and reported by the Wall Street Journal. Scientists achieved this by manipulating telomeres, DNA units that cap the tips of chromosomes and shorten with age. The treatment led to improved brain and organ function and restored fertility. The study was performed on mice who were not actually old, but genetically engineered to age prematurely, and it’s still unclear is whether this can translate to normally-aging mice or to people. Also of concern is the fact that the enzyme involved, telomerase, has been linked to cancer cell division. But researchers hope this strategy “might one day have a role in treating rare genetic disorders that are linked to telomeres and cause premature aging.” (Gautam Naik, The Wall Street Journal)

“The Human Factor,” A Discussion with E.O. Wilson

scientist.jpgElizabeth Kolbert talks to naturalist and author E.O. Wilson at his Harvard office about his early career, his environmental work and ants. His office sits just across from the university’s remarkable ant collection: 1 million ants of more than 6,000 species. This is a colorful, detail-driven article and a wonderful window into the scientist. The story includes anecdotes about how he used to pry apart barbed wire fences and walk through manure-filled cow fields and muddy riverbeds to collect field samples, as well as his views on biodiversity loss and overpopulation. He says we’re in the early stages of another mass extinction event. (Elizabeth Kolbert, OnEarth Magazine)

World’s Lakes Getting Hotter, More Than the Air

NASA scientists have found that the world’s lakes are heating up faster than air. Since 1985, lake temperatures have climbed an average of 2 degrees, following the trend of air and ocean temperatures. America’s Lake Tahoe and Russia’s Lake Ladoga topped the list, according to the article. Scientists studied the lakes using thermal infrared images from satellite data and buoy data. University of Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver calls it “another brick in the wall” of evidence that the world is warming. (Seth Borenstein, Associated Press)

Dear Santa: Please Send Owl Puke

gifts.jpgWe admit, it’s hard to resist anything with owl puke in the title. But this is a great post in its own right. With holiday season arriving, Scientific American asked scientists for a list of fun science-inspired holiday gifts for kids. In the mix: a galileoscope (tripod not included), snap circuits so kids can make their own variable-speed motor drive (no joke). And upchuck pellets that allow kids to dissect owl puke, complete with the remnants of the prey the owl swallowed… and, according to this writeup, reconstruct the skeletons inside. Some are synthetic; others are real, but — take note, mom and dad — heat sterilized. We couldn’t make this up. (Anna Kuchment, Scientific American)

Group Votes to Keep Fishing Levels of Bluefin Tuna Stable

An international commission designed to protect the threatened Atlantic bluefin tuna angered conservationists by only marginally reducing the quota of allowable bluefin catch. The tuna is prized by sushi lovers and commonly subject to illegal fishing. This story says that the reduction – from 13,500 to 12,900 tons “will have little effect in practice, because of rampant illegal fishing and the inability or unwillingness of fishing and consuming nations to track trade in the species accurately.” (David Jolly, New York Times)

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