Weekly Roundup

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If you’re looking for the latest debate over scientific controversy, head to Twitter where rapper B.o.B. posted a series of images and arguments in favour of a flat Earth. As Gawker rightly points out, B.o.B. has more followers (2.3 million) than any of the world’s news organizations. Update: Neil deGrasse Tyson has entered the fray. But B.o.B.’s response is a diss track. So, I guess it’s a tie.

2 Engineers have built a robotic apparatus that solves a Rubik’s Cube in just over 1 second. And no, it doesn’t need to peel off the stickers and rearrange them.

Grapefruit? Phenolic? Hay-like? Thanks to sensory scientists, the new Coffee Taster’s Flavor Wheel can tell you exactly how to describe your morning pick-me-up, if you’re the kind of person who always wanted to but lacked the vocabulary of a connoisseur. And speaking of sensory science, there’s a newly discovered link between serotonin and sour taste, as researchers determined that the neurotransmitter is the previously-unknown chemical messenger released by type III taste cells.

Here at the Bubble Chamber, we’re all about science and public policy. So we were happy to dig into Tania Lombrozo’s piece at NPR arguing that science, on its own, can’t decide policy, which links to other great recent work on the subject.

Is climate change killing all the aliens? Climate joins other Earth-salient fears like nuclear war and overpopulation in our Fermi paradox-based speculations about the non-appearance of extraterrestrials.

Outbreaks of the Zika virus are currently on the rise in South and Central America and the Caribbean. The virus’ symptoms are usually mild, involving up to a week’s worth of fever and fatigue; it may also be associated with Guillain-Barré syndrome. As epidemiologists struggle to research and contain the understudied disease, travel advisories for pregnant women have been issued for areas of Zika outbreaks as the virus is linked to microcephaly in babies whose mothers were bitten by Zika-carrying Aedes mosquitoes. Some governments in affected areas are urging women to avoid becoming pregnant, which is a complex issue in countries like El Salvador where abortion (including miscarriage) is illegal and birth control is not approved by the Catholic Church. The virus may also be  transmitted sexually, although research has been limited because Zika doesn’t infect typical animal models and there hasn’t been much interest in the disease until the recent outbreaks.

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