This hapalotremus vilcanota is one of the seven new tarantula species discovered high in the Andes. This particular tarantula had a leg span of about 1.3 inches (3.5 centimeters). Dr. Tracie Seimon Antarctica is the only continent that doesn't have any indigenous tarantulas. Generally speaking, these critters tend to avoid frigid areas. Most of the 900 or so recognized tarantula species live in desert, tropical or subtropical environments. Those native to places that get chilly in the winter, such as Utah or southern Australia, must often retreat to their burrows and become inactive during the coldest stretch of the year. So the fact that not one, not two, but seven new tarantula species have just been discovered high in the Andes Mountains — where nighttime temperatures are liable to dip below the freezing point — is rather unusual. What's more, one of them lives at a higher elevation than any other tarantula known to science. The Mountain Spiders All seven spiders … [Read more...] about Several New Species of Tarantula Found High in the Andes
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Does a chimp deserve legal personhood? Some people think so. Digital Vision/Buladeviagens/Thinkstock What is a person? Seems like an easy enough question, until you try to answer it. A person is a human being, of course — an individual with a free will, a sound mind and the rights to use them. But has that always been the case? Not remotely. In Colonial America, the value of an African slave was measured in oxen, pigs and chicken. A slave was not a person, but a "thing." The law said slaves could be owned, hunted, captured, and sold. Today, we find slavery repulsive and its legal standing inconceivable. Our definition of "person" includes all races, as well as people of different mental and physical capacities. What's clear, though, is that definitions change. What was once a widespread assumption — African slaves are "things" — is now abhorrent. A hundred years from now, will our great-grandchildren find it abhorrent that we kept chimpanzees in cages for … [Read more...] about Should Other Animals Have the Same Rights (and Responsibilities) As Humans?
It's no wonder the name of this Southern grocery store often makes people laugh. Matt Lemmon/(CC BY-SA 2.0) In the 1975 movie "The Sunshine Boys," an aging vaudeville comedian explains a classic truism of comedy to his nephew: The "k" sound is always funny. "Fifty-seven years in this business, you learn a few things. You know what words are funny and which words are not funny," says the comedian, played by Walter Matthau. "Alka-Seltzer is funny. You say 'Alka-Seltzer,' you get a laugh... Casey Stengel, that's a funny name. Robert Taylor is not funny. Cupcake is funny. Tomato is not funny... Cleveland is funny. Maryland is not funny. Then there's chicken. Chicken is funny. Pickle is funny." And it's true! If you need a place name for a punchline, you're guaranteed to kill with Kalamazoo, Schenectady or Rancho Cucamonga. But why? Psychology professor Chris Westbury at the University of Alberta has a fascinating theory, and it's based on perhaps the two unfunniest words in the … [Read more...] about Why ‘Poop’ and ‘Wiggle’ Are Funny Words, According to Science
In an age when mass shootings seem to occur with horrifying frequency, what is the effect of allowing young children to play with toy guns? Jerod Harris/ACMA2012/Getty Images If you follow the latest news about Great Britain's royal family, you probably have heard about the controversy that erupted when Prince George — the 4-year-old son of Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and his wife, Kate Middleton — was seen on the sidelines at a polo match, playing with a toy handgun. For many, Prince George's game of cops-and-robbers raised a question that's been troubling parents more and more, in an age when mass shootings seem to occur with horrifying frequency. Should young children be allowed to play with toy versions of the weapons that are killing other kids and adults? In an article for Vogue, writer Michelle Ruiz described a conversation she had with a fellow mother who asked: "What are we feeding our children, in the metaphorical sense, when we hand them guns to … [Read more...] about Does Playing With Toy Guns Lead to Later Acts of Gun Violence?
Young scientists face significant pressure to further their careers through publication, but some "predatory" journals are taking advantage of their inexperience. exdez/Getty Images When we read about a fascinating new study published in a scientific journal, we're usually confident that the information is reliable. It's published in a scientific journal, right? But some academics say we shouldn't necessarily jump to that conclusion — depending on the source publishing the study. They warn that the growing phenomenon of open-access, pay-to-publish scientific journals, in which researchers cough up fees to get their work into print, is compromising the quality of scientific literature. They fear that many of the publications, which provide access to information online without subscriptions and depend upon accepting articles to make income, have an incentive to publish studies regardless of whether they're credible and scientifically sound. They also complain that some have … [Read more...] about Academics Worry That Predatory, Pay-to-Publish Journals Hurt Science