Life Science, Physical Science and Environment Weekly Channel Highlights

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


Physical Science. Thunderstorm over Toronto, Ontario. From Flickr, by krunkwerke


Life Science. From Flickr, by Noël Zia Lee


Environment. From Flickr, by lexdenn

Reader comments of the week:

In Animal Rights Extremists kill at least a dozen mink, The Evil Monkey of Neurotopia v. 2.0 laments the ignorance of a group of animal rights activists who released 6,000 mink from a fur farm; farm-raised animals, he stresses, are unprepared for life in the wild, and their death in such circumstances is entirely to be expected.

Reader phisrow doesn't think that the activists were very concerned for these particular mink at all:

I get the impression that hardline animal rights people care about animals in roughly the same way that serious doctrinaire communists care about workers. They aren't actually all that interested in ameliorating conditions now; because the only satisfactory outcome is the annihilation of the present order. In fact, programs that reduce instances of flagrant and visible cruelty would actually be counterproductive for them; because many more people oppose animal cruelty than oppose animal use.

On the Physical Sciences channel, Chad of Uncertain Principles asks readers to nominate The Greatest Physicists of all time. The top three seem to be secure in their positions—everyone agreed that Newton, Einstein and Galileo had it locked up. The rest of the top ten spots, however, were open to debate.

Reader m fox wondered if the race was limited to strict physicists:

what about Kepler? His Three Laws of Planetary Motion are the first predictive scientific laws. Call him an astrophysicist is you must.

And reader Rich Savage agreed that the boundaries should be extended:

Definitely think astrophysics should get included as part of physics (and should be allowed to bring astronomers along as plus-ones :-) ).

Come on now, let's not go too far.

On the Environment channel this week, Razib of Gene Expression corrects a popular perception in Amazon was not always "pristine". Many wilderness areas in North and South America that were believed by European settlers to be long-standing features of the landscape were in fact once inhabited by native populations, but the first waves of colonization introduced plagues which eventually decimated the natives. Thus, parts of the Brazilian Amazon rainforests, the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and the forests west of the Appalachians that were later thought to be "virgin" land were in fact relatively young ecosystems.

Razib thinks this illustrates a more general point about human interaction with nature:

the possibility that many regions of the Amazon were de-humanized recently should remind us that H. sapiens are part of nature. The heuristic whereby humanity is perceived to be above, beyond and distinct from the natural world may be useful in some contexts, but in the broad historical sense we are just another animal.

And reader Spike agrees:

Good poitn. We are neither above nor below, but right smack dab in the middle of the whole thing with all the other animals and the plants and microbes and everything.

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

Caution and Optimism about Lifespan Extension

Filthy, Flying Chinese Street Cats!

Too few genes to survive - the bacterium with the world's smallest genome

Genetic map of Europe; genes vary as a function of distance

Signs of Ancient Overfishing in a Giant Clam

From the Physical Science channel:

ATLAS in Super Speed

Falling from Heaven

An Alloy of Pleasures

Babies Are Quantized

Potassium Chlorate (Explosive or harmless oxygen generator?)

And from the Environment channel:

Could a New Orleans Hurricane Derail the McCain Message?

Earthquakes → progress?

About that Arctic sea ice...

Are We Ready For Gustav?

US climate report comes under fire

Look for highlights from other channels coming up!


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