[The 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry] was shared by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna for their contributions to developing the genetic engineering pathway based on CRISPR and Cas9.
Having spent a little time looking at the Ig Nobel prizes, let’s give some attention to this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, awarded equally to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton and Charles M. Rice “for the discovery of Hepatitis C virus.”
Popular idioms aside, birds can actually be quite intelligent, with some species demonstrating the ability to use tools and to develop complex social dynamics. This despite some substantial differences in the anatomy of bird brains compared to those of mammals, particularly humans.
Basically, by performing magic tricks for animals, or employing equipment inspired by stage magic techniques, we can figure out what is surprising to various animals and what is not. By learning how they expect to the world to work and what is unexpected to them, we can understand more about their models of cause and effect and their capacity for various sorts of abstract thought.
We’ve talked about extraterrestrial gases as a sign of life before, when a methane anomaly was detected by a Mars rover. This time, it was spectral analysis of Venus’ atmosphere causing a stir.