I am so glad that our mutual pal, good old Fussy Roster, has invited me to his very prestigious newsletter Today in Bats! It’s very well-regarded in chiropterology circles, I am given to understand, so I’m thrilled to introduce myself. I’m Liz Lopatto, the science editor for The Verge dot com, and I used to write a newsletter called The Weekly Wunderkammer about science news. I’ve been busy with other projects this year, and have let the Wunderkammer go, but for you fine folks, we’ll bring it back one more time.
Here’s your speed round of bat news: Bats use the same techniques as figure skaters and skateboarders for their upside-down landings. Bats are sensitive to road noise. Dog quarantined for chewing on a rabid bat. And while Roanoke County school children are trying to save bats, over in Hartwell, Georgia, the locals are trying to remove them from the school. The budget deal has about $500,000 marked for studying white nose syndrome in bats; basically it affects hibernation, making the bat less effective at slowing its metabolism. That makes it harder for the bats to survive winter — and if bats die off, that’s bad for a lot of species, including the human farmer. Wow, these bats have been busy! What else is happening in science?
Is it possible to revive a species from extinction? The last Pinta Island tortoise, Lonesome George, died in 2012—well over 100 years old and with no more members of his species left. Now scientists are exploring if it’s possible to bring his species back, through a breeding program:
More than a century ago, it turns out, sailors dumped saddlebacked tortoises they did not need into Banks Bay, near Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island. Luckily, tortoises can extend their necks above water and float on their backs. Many of them made it to shore, lumbered across the lava fields and interbred with Isabela’s native domed tortoises.
In 2008, scientists tagged and collected blood samples from more than 1,600 tortoises living on the flanks of the volcano. Back in the laboratory, there was a genetic eureka: 89 of the animals were part Floreana, whose full genetic profile DNA had been obtained from museum samples. Some had genes indicating their parents were living purebred Floreana tortoises, hinting that the species may not be extinct after all.
Seventeen tortoises were shown to have high levels of Pinta DNA. Tortoises can live for more than 150 years, so some of them may well be George’s immediate next of kin.
How our criminal justice system fails the mentally ill. Imagine there are voices in your head telling you to start a fire. You do, hoping to kill yourself—but you survive the fire. You’re arrested and placed in a state psychiatric facility, where your paperwork wrongly says you’re a sex offender. When your family sues for release, the state of New York files a countersuit for your psychiatric care. The total comes to over $2 million. And it turns out you aren’t the only patient New York has done this to:
In 1992, a 20-year-old woman living at South Beach Psychiatric Center in Staten Island was raped by another patient after being sedated and placed in seclusion. She sued and won $250,000. But the judge reduced her award by $101,237, saying the state had the right to collect payment for the portion of her treatment that, in his judgment, was “unrelated to the rape.”
In 1995, Paul Perry, a patient at Kingsboro Psychiatric Center in Brooklyn, was attacked by another resident and went blind in one eye. When his family brought a suit against New York, the state filed a counterclaim of more than $3 million. Perry’s attorney, Ronald Burke, told BuzzFeed News that the steep counterclaim meant that not only would neither he nor Perry get any cash, but—after covering the cost of filing fees, hiring expert witnesses, and paying for other litigation expenses—they would be in a deep financial hole.
Because of the very real prospect of a counterclaim, Burke has stopped taking cases from people suing state hospitals where they’d been treated.
The drinking water in Flint, Michigan, is so bad that a state of emergency has been declared. Kids have very high levels of lead in their blood, which can stunt their IQ, create antisocial behavior, and cause a variety of physical illnesses. The lead problems started after Flint switched its water source from Detroit to the Flint River in 2014:
Almost immediately after the city started drawing from the Flint River in April 2014, residents began complaining about the water, which they said was cloudy in appearance and emitted a foul odor.
Since then, complications from the water coming from the Flint River have only piled up. Although city and state officials initially denied that the water was unsafe, the state issued a notice informing Flint residents that their water contained unlawful levels of trihalomethanes, a chlorine byproduct linked to cancer and other diseases.
- British teeth aren’t nearly as bad as everyone thinks
- The plesiosaur swam like a penguin
- US schools are failing sex-ed
- Your holiday order really is taking longer this year
- Climate change is slowing the Earth’s rotation
- Dwarf planet Ceres is awfully salty
- The Great Lakes are getting hotter more quickly than the oceans
- Most cancer is due to environmental exposures
- Pandas are more likely to breed when they choose their own mates
- Human brains aren’t necessarily “male” or “female,” so men need to come up with a new excuse for their inadequacy
Abstract of the week: “Although bullshit is common in everyday life and has attracted attention from philosophers, its reception (critical or ingenuous) has not, to our knowledge, been subject to empirical investigation.”
Science vocab: Empiricism: The development of a body of knowledge through observation, especially by discovering new things through experiments. Under empiricism, all knowledge is a posteriori, especially our knowledge about butts.
~I’ve seen the future and it will be: bats, man~