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Science shutdown, landless birds, pointing elephants, jet blimps, more

Science shutdown (Science)

The government shutdown affects science research, along with so much else. The research station in Antarctica, for instance, had to close during their busy season.

Who is a Jew? (Science)

Traditionally, to be a Jew by birth, you have to be born of a Jewish mother. But a recent genetic survey finds that more than 80% of Ashkenazi Jews (the most numerous branch of Jewish ethnicity) have maternal lines that trace back to Europe, not the Middle East.

It might be worth considering how old the Jewish-mother rule really is. It may also be that, in antiquity, Judaism was sometimes more of a missionary religion.

Airborne (New Scientist)

Medieval lore had it that the "marlet bird" had no feet and lived all its life in the air. Swifts may be the inspiration for this idea. They stay aloft for as much as six months at a time. They eat bugs on the wing and either sleep in tiny naps or simply don't sleep.

Lingering warmth (New Scientist)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change points out that, even if we stopped all CO2 emissions and deforestation tomorrow, the warming that's been done would stay in place for centuries. To cool things down again, we'd need to actively suck carbon dioxide out of the air.

Rolling trilobites (Science)

One of the closest living relatives of the trilobite is the pillbug (woodlouse, doodle bug, rolly-polly, Armadillidiiae). Like pillbugs, trilobites would roll up into defensive balls. Paleontologists have now found an early form of this defense -- a trilobite that folded itself in half, a maneuver that obviously did not save it.

Follow the trunk (New Scientist)

Only a few animals understand pointing. Dogs do; wolves don't. Chimps can learn to only with great difficulty. African elephants (but not Asian) understand pointing, and may do it themselves, with their trunks.

Jet blimp (Discover)

The Dynalifter is a blimp with wings and a jet engine. It can't float in the air by itself, and it's not as fast as a jet, but it can be made large enough to carry huge loads, can cross the ocean much faster than a ship, and can land anywhere, not necessarily at an airport. I wish it luck. Blimps are cool.

Recycled antibiotics (Science)

We all know, to our sorrow, that bacteria can build up resistance to antibiotics. But, after enough time, they also lose it again. As a result, if you rotate antibiotics on a well-chosen schedule, you can keep them effective.