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In this post: the large versions of the Life Science and Physical Science channel photos, comments from readers, and the best posts of the week.


Life Science. A cheetah in the San Diego Wild Animal Park. From Flickr, by HBC4511


Physical Sciences. A Foucault pendulum in Milan, Italy. From Flickr, by sylvar

Reader comments of the week:

This week on the Life Science Channel Ed Yong looked at a study showing Elephants recognise themselves in mirror. Based on similar experiments performed on primates, the experiment places a piece of tape on an animal’s face and has the animal look in a mirror. If the animal tries to take the tap off, then it must recognize itself in the mirror and thus be self-aware.

Ed noted why this is important:

It’s the understanding that you exist as an individual, separate from others. Having it is a vital step to understanding that others are similarly aware and have their own thoughts and desires. As such, it is intimately linked to mental qualities like empathy and selflessness. This may seem obvious to us but even human children only become self-aware in their second year of life.

However, reader Derek James is a bit more skeptical of the study:

There’s good reason to be very skeptical of these results…namely because as you point out only one subject in one trial actually elicited the target behavior. In the paper the authors point out that Happy did not repeat the behavior in future trials. This could just be a fluke, so I’d take it with a huge grain of salt.

Jumping over the Physical Science Channel, Chad Orzel throws down fighting words by claiming that Baseball Statistics Are Crap. Chad claims that wins, batting average and errors are too subjective to be considering reliable statistics:

The striking thing about this is how central these statistics are to discussions of baseball. You get bullshit statistics in other sports, but they’re usually somewhat peripheral– in baseball, the core statistics of the sport are all bullshit.

With anger like that, you’d think Chad was a Mets fan. Reader Ryan must have been brushing up on his Sabermetrics lately, and brings up the point that most people have moved on from the stats Chad criticized:

Those stat obsessed dorks are the people MOST aware of and annoyed by the pointlessness of statistics like batting average, pitching wins/losses, RBI, etc. No one doing meaningful analysis cares about those at all, nor have they for quite a while.

Good work Ryan. Now Chad needs to look into OPS, PERA and the always important VORP.

Some other Life Science posts we thought were cool this week were:

A gene that might protect us from HIV and other retroviruses

Politics and the primate threat

Evolution and economics

How Jellies Got Their Sting

The skin of ichthyosaurs

And from the Physical Science channel:

Good news, bad news

Theoretical Physics Jobs. Now With Crazy Proposed Solutions!

Dickian Physics Abstract

That’s an old rock

Picking on the Quantum Physicists

Look for highlights from other channels coming up!