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Magnetic Birds? Or not? Birds & Other Science in the News

April 14, 2012
Here’s a good article with lots of pictures of fossil birds.   Because birds have such thin bones (pneumaticized and all that), there really aren’t many good fossils of them.
Paleobirding:  What Birds Looked Like 125 Million Years ago
By Daniela Hernandez
From: Wired Science, April 9, 2012
http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/04/paleo-birding/?pid=3498&viewall=true
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New Study Overturns Prevailing Theory of How Birds Navigate
By Matt Mendenhall
From: Bird Watching Daily, April 13, 2012
Scientists have thrown cold water on the theory that iron-rich nerve cells in birds’ bills help them navigate using Earth’s magnetic field.
http://cs.birdwatchingdaily.com/BRDCS/blogs/field_of_view/archive/2012/04/11/New-study-overturns-prevailing-theory-of-how-birds-navigate.aspx
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The Los Angeles Times reports on the same study.
Bird’s Sense of Direction Still Up In the Air
A new study undermines a long-held theory that certain cells in the beak act as magnetoreceptors to detect the Earth’s magnetic field. The findings conclude those cells just fight off infection.
By Amina Khan
From: Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2012
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-bird-navigation-beaks-20120414,0,4807202.story
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If you are a regular reader of the Los Angeles Times, you may have noticed that many of the science articles are written by Amina Khan.   The only biographical information I could find on her was:  “Science writer at the Los Angeles Times. I geek out for a living.”   She’s very good: she writes on great topics, she’s succinct and clear.   I’m a fan of hers.   Here’s a few of her many many articles from the LA Times.
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Supernova Traced to Collision of White Dwarf Stars
Two scientists studying a Type 1a supernova may have pinned down the cause of such massive stellar explosions, they report in the journal Nature.   1/14/12
[This is one of my favorites, as it discusses the impact this discovery may have on the existence (or non-existence) of “dark energy”, the proposed driver of the presumed increasing speed of expansion of the universe.]
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-supernova-20120114,0,2324818.story
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Dinosaur feathers: Fossils indicate T. rex cousin had shaggy coat
Yutyrannus huali fossils, found in China, show that the giants had primitive fuzzy feathers at least in patches and probably in a full coat, a scientist says.   1/4/12
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-giant-feathered-dinosaur-20120405,0,5455707.story
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A gun in hand makes a man look taller, study says
In a study of how people assess danger, participants who looked at photos of hands holding different objects thought the gun bearers were the tallest.   4/12/12
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-weapons-height-20120412,0,809520.story
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Study finds link between autism and obesity during pregnancy
Women with diabetes or hypertension were also more likely to have children with developmental delays.   4/8/12
http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-autism-obese-mothers-20120409,0,1741964.story
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Human ancestors used fire earlier than thought, study says
Charred bones in a South African cave suggest that Homo erectus was utilizing fire a million years ago, and may even have been cooking, researchers say.   4/3/12
http://www.latimes.com/news/science/la-sci-fire-20120403,0,5516323.story
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[Chuck Almdale]

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