Beneficial Viruses

The germ theory of disease originated in 1546, when Italian physician Girolamo Fracastoro (1476 – 1553) hypothesized epidemic diseases were caused by infectious seeds of some sort. Since that time, bacteria and viruses came to be microbial evil incarnate. Only in recent years have bacteria redeemed themselves a bit by discovery that they define digestion, regulate physiology, and that humans are mostly made up of them. Now it is viruses turn.

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Marsh Making (& Loss)

Marshes form a transition zone between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Marshes are found worldwide.

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Small Matter

At the heart of every atom stirs at least one proton, created by three hyperactive quarks. Far away bustles a bunch of electrons, orbiting with a complex layering that affords combination with other atoms. From this the stuff of matter is built. Physicists have been recently startled to discover that the proton has gotten punier. The confounder comes with not knowing why.

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U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and the board of governors did not have a clue that the global financial crisis that started toward the end of 2007 was upon them. The reason is simple: their econometric model completely ignored banks as a profit-making enterprise.

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Externalities Internalized

Economists refer to pollution as an externality of production. Its cost is not captured in the price of the good produced. Instead, those who suffer the pollution pay with diminished quality of life. Capitalism has been an exuberant exercise in externalities, long tolerated by governments which could have put them in check. Now, the U.S. administration is about to show long overdue notice.

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Telepathic Parrot

Inspired by famous parrot Alex, Aimée Morgana of Manhattan, New York, acquired a gray parrot: N'kisi. By the time he was 12 years old, N'Kisi had a vocabulary of 1,500 words. He usually spoke in sentences.

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The Rich Are Different

Feudalism flourished in western Europe between the 5th and 12th centuries. Lacking a centralized government, local lords had their fiefs. Society was caste-bound: strictly structured hierarchically.

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A Fist of It

Evolution plays favorites. Natural selection favors those that best exploit. Tooth-and-claw Darwinism has its latter-day expression in the economic inequality that pervades the capitalist world. The rich leverage their position to engender the hand-in-glove plutocracy that rules the world, leaving the collective falling further behind. This genteel aggression is a long way from its biological beginnings, though the impact is the same. Hands that evolved to allow hominins to adroitly manipulate the environment with such maladroit intent also afford another employment: less than genteel aggression.

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Life on Mercury

The solar system's innermost planet has the most eccentric orbit. It wobbles around the Sun every 88 days, with one-and-a-half rotations during that time. Mercury's temperature range is also the most extreme: from 700 K during the day to 100 K at night. Yet it likely has life.

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The Wicked Witch of the West has the climate report: "I'm melting. What a world…." The poles are liquefying faster than expected, because it has only recently dawned on scientists that the biosphere is a gyre. Up to now, climate models have not included feedback loops.

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