October Editorial

Happy Halloween!

This month we’ve had a great guest post from Emily Folk about elephant poaching, entitled: “Why are we so obsessed with Ivory?”.

I’d love to know what you think about the newsletter, or any of my articles – feel free to drop me an email at: claire@curiousmeerkat.co.uk, or add your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of the post. And don’t forget you can send me your science questions to blog about – simple, complex, silly, a little bit out there – I want to here them all.

Thanks for reading

September Editorial

I can’t believe it’s September already!

This month I’ve finally published a really important article to me, one that’s taken a lot of research and has also become part of a comedy routine (and soon to become a video blog, too – watch this space!): “An End to Superfluous Salad“. I hope you’ll enjoy reading this, and will feel compelled to join me in my #sayNOtosalad campaign!

I’d love to know what you think about the newsletter, or any of my articles – feel free to drop me an email at: claire@curiousmeerkat.co.uk, or add your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of the post. And don’t forget you can send me your science questions to blog about – simple, complex, silly, a little bit out there – I want to here them all.

I hope the issues we were having with the newsletter have disappeared now – please let me know if not!

Thanks for reading

Ig Nobel Prizes 2017

The Ig Nobel Prizes is one of my favourite events of the year, and this year the winning research is particularly great. On the 14th September, The 27th First Annual Ig® Nobel Prize Ceremony & Lectures took place at Harvard University in Massachusetts. In case you’re not familiar with the awards, they were set up in 1991 to celebrate research that makes you laugh, and then makes you think. Here are this year’s awards:

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An End to Superfluous Salad

I’d like to talk about a problem. It might seem like quite a small problem, but it’s a pervasive one. That problem, is salad.

Yes, that’s right, I said salad. Not high on the list of major world perils, but perhaps it should be. I mean, for starters, it’s everwhere. Lurking in every supermarket-bought sandwich, mocking you from the side of every pub lunch, withering beneath every take-away spring roll. And that sad bit of salad that came with your meal, that you never even for a moment considered eating, has caused a surprising amount of damage to the environment.

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Can bees only sting me once?

Question: Can bees only sting me once?

Answer: Honeybees are generally killed by stinging you, but most other stinging insects can survive to sting you again.

It’s a common urban myth that bees can only sting once, but it’s partially based in truth. Honeybees have a barbed stinger, and if they sting a thick-skinned mammal like a human, the barbed hook gets stuck as they try to pull away, ripping their insides out and killing the bee within a few minutes. But if they were to sting another insect, or a vertebrate with thinner skin, they’d probably live to tell the tale.

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August Editorial

I hope the issues we were having with the newsletter have started to disappear now – please let me know if not!

I’ve been getting back into blogging again this month, and as well as the new content you’ve already seen I’ve got lots more in the pipeline – including some new guest posts on the way over the next few months! This month I’ve covered some cool new research applying gene-editing technology to social insects and, continuing with the hymenopteran-theme, I’ve answered the frequently-asked question, “Can all bees only sting me once?”

I’d love to know what you think about the newsletter, or any of my articles – feel free to drop me an email at: claire@curiousmeerkat.co.uk, or add your thoughts in the comments section at the bottom of the post. OR, if you’ve got a question you’d like me to blog about, you can submit it on this shiny new form here: Ask a question. Simple, complex, silly, a little bit out there – I want to here them all.

Thanks for reading

My #230 Papers Challenge

You might have heard of the #360papers challenge – to read one journal article a day for a whole year – you might be less familiar with the related #230 papers challenge. This makes the more realistic goal of reading one journal article each working day of the year, which is apparently 230 days in total (I haven’t checked their maths). This is a record of my feeble attempt to reach this lofty goal – I will update every ten articles or so and try to give a one sentence summary (or link to an article or a longer blog).

Last updated: 19.08.17

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CRISPR MutAnts Lose Interest in Socialising

New gene editing technologies have revolutionised genetic science, but social insects like ants have proved difficult to genetically modify because of their complex lifecycle and social structure. Now, two separate labs have succeeded in using the CRISPR-CAS9 system to genetically modify two unusual ant species, switching off genes and disrupting their social behaviour in the process.
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July Editorial

Hello and welcome to the latest edition of the Curious Meerkat newsletter.

I know there have been a few hiccups with the first few RSS newsletters – thanks for sticking around and bearing with me while I get it right! The problem was that a free account on the great site Fetchrss.com automatically deletes RSS feeds that aren’t accessed once a week. So I think I’ve fixed the problem now, but if not you can catch-up on my writings elsewhere on the web by visiting Contently.

There’s been some lively debate in the comments sections of some of my older blog posts this month – thanks to those who’ve taken the time to comment, I value your thoughts, so please keep commenting!

I’d love to know what you think about the newsletter, or any of my articles – feel free to drop me an email at: claire@curiousmeerkat.co.uk. That’s also a great place to send your science questions – simple, complex, silly, a little bit out there – I want to here them all.

Thanks for reading

Plankton Brought Back from the Dead

Scientists bring marine plankton back to life to study past climate change

Phytoplankton such as are responsible for half the global primary production (GPP), and some form resting cysts that can lie dormant in marine sediments for up to a century. Earlier this year, scientists succeeded in making use of these cellular time-capsules to understand changing ocean conditions in a Swedish fjord.

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Dinoflagellates are single-celled marine organisms, many of which are able to photosynthesis. They can be useful indicators of environmental change because they are abundant, have short life cycles and are highly sensitive to temperature, salinity and the availability of nutrients and / or sunlight.