Study: Whales Are Ecosystem "Engineers"
"Ecosystem engineer" is an ecology term, and it's meant to be descriptive not precisely literal. It doesn't necessarily indicate any intention. TFA did a poor job of conveying the fact that this is a field-specific usage, not a description of "engineering" by animals.
Some animals have disproportionately large effects on the integrity of their ecosystem - disproportionate to their biomass and physical presence, at least. These animals are called "keystone species". Apex predators are often keystone species due to their effects on prey behavior and their strong actions as selective pressure.
Some keystone species provide specific metabolites that are critical to their ecosystem. You could argue that the organisms that allow termites to digest cellulose are probably keystone species. Nitrogen-fixing organisms would be there as well. Those examples, though have very localized effects.
Some species are keystones for reasons other than simple predator-prey relationships. Animals who significantly physically change their environment are frequently referred to as "ecosystem engineers". Burrowing animals whose dens are required by other critters are one example (in the US, tortoises and ground squirrels are notorious for this). Beavers, as mentioned above, are as well. Underwater, the composition of the water itself is the environment, and changing that composition can have a huge effect on the ecosystems involved. Use of the term "ecosystem engineer" in this context is simply meant to convey how critical whales are to maintaining a healthy and diverse ocean ecosystem, despite previous assumptions that their relatively low biomass (because of their rarity) implied that they were not particularly integral.
Stem-Cell Research Funding Institute Is Shuttered
They shouldn't be.
Induced stem cells are the huge area of research devoted to finding ways around using embryonic stem cells. Basically, it's everything but embryonic stem cells in stem cell research.
We will, eventually, have reliable, cheap mechanisms for inducing stem cell potential in non-embryonic-derived cells, but only by continuing research on how to make them.
This is a travesty.
Meat Makes Our Planet Thirsty
You've failed to account for what happens to dairy cattle in this country after they are not useful producers. They become ground beef.
It's likely that much of the beef served in fast food restaurants has extensive historical alfalfa input - from the many years those cows spent in a dairy.
Should programming be a required curriculum in public schools?
What about treating it like other "literacy" types? Many subject include projects include the option or expectation of writing, speaking, mathematically analyzing, and or graphically illustrating topics. Why shouldn't dedicated education in this modality be supplemented by incorporating it in the other classes?
Mathematical and computer modelling is a huge educational and research tool. It'd be nice to see a bit more of that in our classrooms.
Does Crime Leave a Genetic Trace?
In the broad general understanding that the environment can induce acquired changes that can then be inherited, yes. It's called epigenetics, and it's a fascinating field, wherein modification of packaging on DNA affects how and when it is read.
In the specifics of pretty much any of the claims made by Lamarckian adaptation, no, that's bunk.
One of the major differences is that epigenetic changes aren't always adaptive; that is, they aren't necessarily helpful to the organism's reproductive success. These changes can result from environmental stresses as a kind of "side effect", and the change affects later generations. Epigenetic changes are inherited, but they can be reversed in as little as a generation or passed on, and they are never responsible for new transcripts or proteins being produced. They modify amounts and timing of products from existing genes - and that's impressive - but they do not introduce novel products on a cellular level, the way changes in genetic code does.
Iconic Predator-Prey Study In Peril
The ice bridges aren't the sole human-related reason for decline of the population.
Disease from domestic dogs and human-created changes to the environment have also directly diminished the number of wolves.
"Many scientists familiar with Isle Royale support genetic rescue, especially because human activity has contributed to the current population crash. Climate change has led to the decreasing frequency of ice bridges. Canine parvovirus, probably caught from a domestic dog, caused the wolf population to fall from around 50 to 14 in the early 1980s. And in 2012, three wolves were found dead in an abandoned mining pit. Given this history of human influence, the argument that leaving the wolves alone would be allowing nature to take its course does not sway most ecologists."
(Bolding is mine.)
The Death Cap Mushroom Is Spreading Across the US
The deliciousness is in the previous link, not the last one. Poor choice of linkery.
House Committee Approves Bill Banning In-Flight Phone Calls
Remember that part of the safety spiel regarding compliance with all "lighted signs, posted placards, and crewmember instructions "?
I'm pretty sure that only applies to health/safety stuff (seat belts, seat backs, tray tables, smoking), but if a legal change is really necessary, just add cell phone use to the list of things crewmembers can give you orders about.
Honestly, though, I think making piddly stuff like this illegal is an unnecessarily intrusive example of legislative zeal.
House Committee Approves Bill Banning In-Flight Phone Calls
Let the airlines decide their own policy, but there's no reason something like this needs to be illegal. Talk about overreach (isn't this guy a Republican, one of the folk who despise intrusive "nanny state" meddling?).
I get that people on phones would be annoying, as would people singing "The Song that Never Ends" or discussing the Kardashians, but there is no need to legislate this issue. A well-timed "Sir/Ma'am, it is the policy of the airline to restrict calls in-flight, thank you for your consideration of your fellow passengers" should take care of those who decide they MUST call someone in the air.
Tesla's Having Issues Charging In the Cold
Yes, it's related to the cold, but it also appears to be related to the specific issues of Norway's grid.
Some speculation is that the problem involves too-extreme fluctuations in the electricity provided by that grid and a charger-side software-mediated shutoff of charging. If that's the case, then this might be another charger issue that can be solved with an over-the-air "patch" like some of the previous problems.
While this is definitely a concern for Tesla and their Norwegian customers, it doesn't seem to be relevant to cars in North America.
Ars Test Drives the "Netflix For Books"
Absolutely true. Many libraries use programs like Overdrive to "lend" digital media to anyone with a valid library card (sign in with card number on library's website).
Ebooks or audiobooks can be downloaded onto various internet-connected devices. As long as you are connected, you can check out a book from thousands of miles away, 24/7 (excepting maintenance).
I personally use the audiobooks as entertainment while driving (iPhone) and crank through plenty of ebooks on my tablet (Android).
Libraries are free to use as a public service. Might as well make the most of them!
The current library setup I have access to is far too convenient for me to pay a subscription for the recommendation service.
What's Stopping Us From Eating Insects?
Depends on what you're feeding your beef, but a respectable feed conversion from grain is generally around 5:1. Higher conversion ratios are usually found when animals are grazing, owing to the lower nutrient density of forage versus concentrated energy foods like grain.
But insects are remarkably efficient, particularly with regards to water!
I'm pretty curious about that cricket flour now. :)
X Chromosome May Leave a Mark On Male Fertility
The appendix may not be as useless as we once thought.
Recent investigations have suggested that the appendix acts as a kind of "wildlife preserve" for our gut microbes. Throughout much of our evolutionary history (and much of the modern world) massive diarrhea has been a disease with two distinct issues: the likelihood of death from dehydration, and the disruption of intestinal flora in the survivors. A rapid recolonization with "good bugs" would have helped keep survivors from the kinds of recurring and chronic conditions that can result from microbial imbalance.
Testing of this hypothesis has shown that individuals with an appendix are four times less likely to have recurrences of C. diff infections compared to those without: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21699818
However, the way the recurrent laryngeal nerve runs around major thoracic vessels before ending up in the larynx is preposterous. That totally needs a redesign. Also, can I request a functional nictitating membrane? Those things are sweet!
The Book That Is Making All Movies the Same
Several of these themes and structures are found in Shakespeare, and a few echo Greek tragedies. It's not just this one book, though it's convenient, I guess, that he broke it down for screenwriters rather than leaving it in the realm of Theater and Literature Liberal Arts classrooms.
The author of the article would probably get lost if he ever stumbled into TVtropes.org.
Thematic elements recur. Surprising absolutely no one. The originality is in where things buck trends or subvert expectations, or in how they execute classic themes in fresh and exciting ways.
Harry Potter and Star Wars weren't thrilling because the themes were original, they were fun because they brought a fresh and intriguing context to classic themes.
TV Programmers Seek the Elusive Dog Market
Cooked and not all meat, for several reasons.
1) Dogs are not wolves. Dogs are domestic animals and have significantly smaller teeth than their forebears. Throughout their time in domesticity they have predominantly eaten what we have - cooked food, and a mix of meat and vegetable matter. We have bred them to be easy to keep on food that is similar to ours. You are encouraged to explore some of the peer-reviewed publications on the matter.
2) Many canids - such as coyotes, jackals, and foxes - are omnivores, and various populations of Canis lupus have current or historical evidence of dietary diversity. See previous link. The dentition of modern dogs is closer to that of omnivorous coyotes than modern wolves.
3) Yes, they have molars. And premolars. They are shown quite nicely in the link you gave. They don't have grinding molars (like most herbivores do), but most non-primate omnivores don't have those. Feel free to examine the dentition of raccoons and brown or black bears for molars of omnivores who don't grind.
4) Wild animals are rarely as healthy as you'd like your domestic dog to be. They die of starvation, illness, exposure, and parasites. So even though wolves ate raw meat, they also didn't live as long as the average dog. In other news, please deworm your dog and have it vaccinated, even though it's "natural" to let it be infested with parasites or die of distemper.
5) Raw meat from a grocery store has a high likelihood of having surface contamination with Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, and other fun pathogens responsible for food-borne illnesses. Dogs are not immune to these, and they can range from merely unpleasant to fatal. Freshly killed raw meat doesn't have the same level of surface contamination that grocery store meat does (industrial farming and meat packaging are different from fresh-killed whatever), but wild game is at higher risk for parasites. Feel free to disregard the cooked-meat warning if you hunt your own meat, feed it fresh, and have your dog on a monthly dewormer. They may still get Toxoplasmosis, flukes, tapeworms, or Salmon poisoning (if you are feeding raw salmon)... monthly dewormers rarely address flatworms, and they don't prevent protozoal infections.
6) Hyenas are not closely related to dogs, they are in Feliformia (the group is pretty much all carnivores or insectivores). Bears are closer to dogs (in Caniformia), however, and most are omnivores. Some of the Caniformes (like red pandas and giant pandas) are herbivorous.
TV Programmers Seek the Elusive Dog Market
The splintering of cooked bones is definitely a good point, and worth keeping in mind. Raw bones can splinter too, but cooked are more brittle. There's still a lively debate as to whether raw bones are as safe as once thought (for splintering as well as pathogen concerns and GI obstructions), but there is virtually no debate that cooked bones are a worse choice.
TV Programmers Seek the Elusive Dog Market
Steak is not complete nutrition for a dog. Muscle meat is important but lacks many of the vitamins and minerals found in organ meats and vegetable matter. Additionally, while dogs are taxonomically in Carnivora, they are functionally omnivores. Straight meat isn't ideal for them. (This is in contrast to cats and ferrets, which are obligate carnivores and have trouble digesting vegetable matter.)
As an aside, if you are feeding your pet meat, please cook the meat as thoroughly as you would for human food safety. Domestic animals are not immune to the food-borne pathogens that cause nasty illnesses, and no one wants their pet (or their carpet) to go through that drama.
Boeing 777 Crashes At San Francisco Airport
Not empty, just not carrying passengers.
Initial speculation included the possibility that it was a cargo run, as many trans-pacific airlines have cargo flights. Asiana has a cargo center in SFO. There was hope - particularly among the emergency response community - that the flight was cargo, with fewer people at risk, all in the relative safety of the front of the plane. The last crash Asiana had was a cargo flight.
However, I can't find any indication that Asiana flies the 777 into SFO as a freighter; all I see are 747s.
Electric Vehicles Might Not Benefit the Environment After All
Do we also have a way to count the foreign policy costs of oil-based energy? I mean, we've been fighting or enforcing no-fly zones in Iraq for most of the last 25 years (8-9 years of straight up war, 12 years of zone enforcement), and there's pretty good reason to think that oil was a contributing factor in our interest.
This may have contributed to the "bad rap" that oil-based ICE gets.
You want to talk about environmental damage, keep this in mind. Whenever they talk about the BP spill, they qualify it as the largest accidental oil spill.
The Kuwait oil fires burned a million more gallons than the entire BP spill each day, and burned for ten months.
Supreme Court: No Patents For Natural DNA Sequences
I didn't follow the coding analogy, but I'm much more biogeek than computer nerd.
I'm in the camp that thinks cDNA, the production of which is prior art, is not patentable just because someone was the first person to identify the gene the the cDNA is encoding.
If you can't patent the sequence, and copying genetic material in that fashion is already well known and widely used, copying your identified sequence is an obvious (in the legal, patent-relevant sense) step.
My analogy is: If you discover a crystal that exists in nature, that isn't patentable. If you use your Crystal Maker 5000 3-D printer to make copies of your crystal, just as everyone else uses their CM 5000 to make theirs, you can't patent the copy either. Not innovative.