science tumbled

(selections: pretty pics / longer stories)

2010 Roundup

2010 was a great year for science. Every year is a great year for science. Sure, we might not get an On the Origin of Species or an Einsteinian Annus Mirabilis every year, but there hasn’t been a single year in modernity that we didn’t learn something new and interesting about the world and ourselves. Science tumbled wasn’t as active this year as I would have wished, but we did cover a lot of science. Some of it was new knowledge, some of it wasn’t. Here’s some of the more interesting stories, some cutting edge, some well-established, that passed through this blog in 2010.

Children with Williams Syndrome don’t form racial stereotypes. Williams Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that causes mental deficits, but also a hypersocial personality. People with Williams Syndrome don’t just love to interact with other socially — they seemingly have no social fear at all, and they’ll talk to just about anyone, happy, sad, angry, black, white, etc. And now a study shows that apparently they’re the only humans who don’t form racial stereotypes.

In a Desert in China, a Trove of 4,000-Year-Old Mummies The Beauty of Xiaohe, above, is one of the 3,800-year-old naturally mummified bodies discovered in a desert north of Tibet. The mummies have European features, despite being found buried in a Chinese desert. Other keywords: phallic symbolism, Tocharian, awesomeness.

Our sixth sense. Our balance is located in the inner ear, and nature’s found a pretty smart way to solve the “how not to fall on your face” problem. This isn’t new science, but it’s still interesting.

Zombie ants Enough said.

The worst extinction in our planet’s history might surprise you. It was the introduction of oxygen, vital to almost all living organisms, into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Endosymbiotic theory suggests the origin of multicellular life lies in symbiosis: one cell ate another, and the cell that was eaten somehow survived inside the other cell and became a vital part of it. Today, mitochondria, energy factories of the cell, are absolutely essential to animal cells’ survival; their origin is probably as independent organisms that were swallowed by other cells.

To round out 2010, here’s eight degrees of our galaxy: