Science Friday: chunks of knowledge

On the sheer adorability front: Meet El Conquistador, a Brazilian ocelot kitten born at the St. Louis Louisville–sorry! Zoo. He got his name when he began exploring his environment–at two days old, before his eyes were even open–and managed to bust out of his cage and into a keepers-only area. Rock on, little guy!

On the ancestor-fascination front: Archaeologists have begun excavating a "massive" Neolithic settlement located about two miles outside of Stonehenge. As many as 2000 people may have lived in the settlement’s approximately 500 houses, and were probably workers organized into teams to construct the monument. Outlines of wooden furniture, including beds and cupboards, have been discovered, as has possible evidence that the workers were using copper (rather than stone) tools. If the presence of copper is confirmed, it would push back the first known use of metal tools in the British Isles by about 600 years. Also, though there is no evidence of animal husbandry or crop processing, there were huge numbers of gnawed bones discarded throughout the settlement–apparently the animals were brought in to feed the workers in huge quantities. Professor Michael Parker Pearson says "This is where they went to party–you could say it was the world’s first free festival." Pass the mead, dude!

On the smoking-is-bad-for-you front: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is becoming more prevalent than ever among women, and its incidence in the American population is expected to continue to rise as the long-term damaging effects of smoking continue to show up in the boomer population. COPD is one of the leading causes of death among Americans, but because it’s so closely linked with smoking, there is little public sympathy for the disease’s sufferers or for efforts to fight it. Ted Koppel’s wife Dorney Koppel, spokesperson for the COPD Foundation, calls it "the Rodney Dangerfield of diseases." Though incurable, COPD can be managed with medications and exercise, but is frequently ignored or misdiagnosed. Symptoms include shortness of breath, especially when exercising and climbing stairs, and chronic coughing or wheezing. A spirometry test can be used to diagnose the disease reliably in about 20 minutes. Know a smoker? Ask him or her to get checked out… and, of course, to quit.

On the "why bother?" front: Scientists have developed a way to obtain cannabis’ medicinal benefits without its mind-altering qualities.

Have a happy, productive and science-crunchy weekend! We’re looking forward to snowfall tomorrow morning (though it’s not supposed to stick) and big fat gusty cold winds all weekend. Sounds like perfect weather for tea and card-making, don’t you think?

About Molly Newman

Writer, cook and trivia/spelling bee hostess, living it up in North Portland.
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3 Responses to Science Friday: chunks of knowledge

  1. Helena says:

    Cool stuff!
    I wasn’t able to respond directly to your comment on my blog, so I just posted in the comments there.

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Huh, how’d you like that Big Snowstorm we had today? I was quite underwhelmed! I had to look veeerrryyy caaarrreeefffuuullllyyy at my jacket while walking outside to see some itty bitty heavy flakes.

  3. Suburban Doctor Mom says:

    Louisville Zoo, honey, not St. Louis!

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