The week’s research

  • fMRI is a controversial technique, not least because studies that use it are often overinterpreted and there are still some fundamental unanswered questions about how to interpret its results. Now, SciCurious talks about a new study that helps to tell us exactly what those pretty brain pictures mean.
  • At Scientific American, Ferris Jabr discusses the minor third, a chord that conveys sadness in both speech and music. “When it comes to sorrow, music and human speech might speak the same language.”
  • Butterfly wings are beautifully colourful but the colours come not from pigments but from the structures of the wings at a microscopic level.
  • Ratcheting up the competitive pressure just encourages students to cheat more, rather than to cooperate, says the BPS Research Digest blog.
  • Human pluripotent stem cells (reprogrammed from adult cells) have been created using a viral vector without any genes, says Elie Dolgin at Nature News. “This was the control experiment that went wrong, effectively.”
  • Brandon Keim writes about a leaping fish that thrives on land. Apparently, it engages in awesome aerial duels, like Yoda in Episode II.
  • We have sequenced the body louse genome. The significance isn’t a head-scratcher. I’ll get my coat.
  • A 30-million-year old fossil pelican tells us that even back then, they looked silly.
  • Climate change contrarians are in the vast minority, and lack scientific credibility and expertise, according to a new PNAS study discussed in Scientific American. I’m shocked, shocked I tell you.
  • The bones of Caravaggio have been found and they reveal what killed him – lead poisoning from his paints.
  • Egyptian vultures use twigs to gather wool for nests, says Michael Marshall in New Scientist’s Zoologger.
  • Four-legged creatures may have gained a foothold by ditching genes guiding fin development, according to Janelle Weaver in Nature.
  • The origin of the mysterious condition known as blindsight has been revealed.

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