The Guardian's blog on scientific research and controversies, written by their reporters and guest contributors. The Guardian's website is the best source of latest news, opinion, analysis and reviews.
Other animals have us beat over short distances, but in an interspecies Olympic ultramarathon, Homo sapiens would likely take all the medals
Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile, while a remarkable human milestone, is noteworthy from a comparative physiology standpoint only for its mediocrity. A seminal paper by AV Hill on biomechanics illustrates the point with a table of maximum speeds across the animal kingdom – humans are outperformed by almost every animal on the list, including the wild donkey, the ostrich and the elephant. We just about beat the black rhinoceros, while the cheetah would complete the mile in about a minute.
Identifying poisonous substances is vital, particularly when people become ill from their effects and need medical treatment. If the cause of the problems is known, better remedies can be given instead of symptoms being treated as they present themselves. With more knowledge, the poisoned individuals are more likely to survive. From a legal point of view, it is important to identify a poison if it has been deliberately administered so evidence can be obtained for any potential criminal prosecution.
How a subversive form of mapmaking charts the stories and customs of those who would traditionally be ignored
Sara is a 32-year-old mother of four from Honduras. After leaving her children in the care of relatives, she travelled across three state borders on her way to the US, where she hoped to find work and send money home to her family. She was kidnapped in Mexico and held captive for three months, and was finally released when her family paid a ransom of $190.
Her story is not uncommon. The UN estimates that there are 258 million migrants in the world. In Mexico alone, 1,600 migrants are thought to be kidnapped every month. What is unusual is that Sara’s story has been documented in a recent academic paper that includes a map of her journey that she herself drew. Her map appears alongside four others – also drawn by migrants. These maps include legends and scales not found on orthodox maps – unnamed river crossings, locations of kidnapping and places of refuge such as a “casa de emigrante” where officials cannot enter. Since 2011, such shelters have been identified by Mexican law as “spaces of exception”.
On Baby Sleep Day, here are some insights that might help get you through the long, broken nights
Pairing the words “baby” and “sleep” can evoke strong emotions. Those who have had limited contact with little ones might interpret this word-combination as implying deep and prolonged slumber. For others, this union of words may elicit memories of prolonged periods of chaotic sleep (or what can feel like no sleep at all).
Coping with the way babies sleep can be difficult. It’s not that babies don’t sleep. In fact, they sleep more than at any other stage of life. It’s more an issue of when they sleep. Newborns start by sleeping and waking around the clock. This is not always easy for parents. There is even research suggesting that in adults waking repeatedly at night can feel as bad as getting hardly any sleep in terms of attentional skills, fatigue levels and symptoms of depression.
Humans make huge use of marine vertebrates, but manta rays may pass the self-awareness test and other fish potentially could too. Ethically, where does that leave us?
As a shark biologist, I enjoy nothing more than going scuba diving with sharks in the wild. However, I realise it’s an immense privilege to do this as part of my work – and that for the vast majority of people experiencing the underwater world in such a way is simply not possible.
Nevertheless, even without the aid of an air tank humans interact with fish on many levels and in greater numbers than they do with mammals and birds. A review published by the journal Animal Cognition in 2014 by Culum Brown, an associate professor at Macquarie University, Sydney, explains that fish are one of the vertebrate taxa most highly utilised by humans. But despite the fact that they are harvested from wild stocks as part of global fishing industries, grown under intensive aquaculture conditions, are the most common pet and are widely used for scientific research, fish are seldom afforded the same level of compassion or welfare as warm-blooded vertebrates.
Six years ago, researchers asked a radical question: could eggcases taken from trawler-caught sharks still hatch live, healthy young?
Back in December 2012, I met up with Greg Nowell, co-founder of Sharklab-Malta, a non-profit NGO founded in 2008. Sharklab collaborates with shark researchers on a global and local scale, with an overall mission to highlight the current plight of sharks in our oceans whilst increasing awareness and education of the public.
Greg was interested in my experience working with neonate small spotted catsharks (Scyliorhinus canicula) and the greater spotted catshark (Scyliorhinus stellaris); in the UK these are usually known as the lesser spotted dogfish and bull huss, respectively. At Macduff Marine Aquarium I’d worked with both species, as well as on the maintenance of viable eggcases, which resulted in successful hatching and rearing of shark pups.
How do our bodies regulate themselves – and is it even true that we have a single body temperature? New technology will tell us
I’m one of those people who always feels cold. Maybe it’s my upbringing in the chilly north, or maybe it’s down the quirks of my own physiology, but I’m reliably found next to the fire, hiding from draughts that no-one else had noticed, or buried inside enough jumpers to stock a small shop. At the other end of the scale, when everyone else is sweating buckets, I’m basking smugly because I’m finally at a comfortable temperature.
Like most of us, my attitude towards my body temperature is similar to Goldilocks’ attitude to porridge – it’s either too cold, too hot, or 37C, which is just right. But I’ve rarely considered the fascinating details of exactly how our bodies regulate their temperature, and whether it’s even true that we have a single body temperature anyway.
People tend to be misinformed about stammering. Here’s why finishing my sentences or telling me to ‘slow down’ doesn’t help
I’ve heard the misconceptions for most of my life.
“Just slow down,” a stranger told me as a child. “You’re talking too fast – that’s why you stutter!” Later on, as my stutter carried on into adolescence and adulthood, strangers and loved ones alike offered up their own judgments of my speech –usually incorrect. Some have good intentions when it comes to sharing their opinions about my stutter. Others ... not so much. But everyone shares one defining characteristic: they’re misinformed.