This week's staff picks
Every other week, the ASBMB staff shares what we’ve been reading, listening to, watching and doing. As our pandemic summer winds down, we've found a few distractions.
Ave Verum Corpus (William Byrd)
Last weekend I met up with friends to do some choral singing for the first time in about seven months (with masks, and social distancing, not to worry). I forgot how beautiful it is to sing together. This song was my favorite of the afternoon.
— Catherine Goodman, scientific editor at the Journal of Biological Chemistry
Why Do Solar Farms Kill Birds? Call in the AI Bird Watcher (Daniel Oberhaus/Wired)
Wind farms get a lot of unwarranted heat for killing birds, but, strangely, solar farms also manage to rack up a disconcerting avian death toll — around 160,000 birds annually, which is one-tenth of 1% of the estimated number of birds killed by fossil-fuel power plants. To figure out why these deaths occur, researchers at Argonne National Laboratory developed a machine learning–powered system that uses resource-efficient technology to count bird deaths — a technical feat that required deconstructing the features of "birdness" so that a computer could reliably recognize them.
— John Arnst, science writer
Knives Out (Rian Johnson, Amazon Prime video)A friend recommended this movie, and when I started watching it, my first thought was: someone brought a Clue board game to life. At the risk of giving anything away, I’ll leave the synopsis to the trailer. When you watch it, I do suggest silencing your cell phones, as the movie theaters would advise. I don’t think you’ll want to miss a beat.
— Allison Frick, multimedia and social media content manager
The Crossword Revolution is Upon Us (Katy Steinmetz, Time)
Is a crossword puzzle an instrument of culture? This Time article makes a compelling case that it is — and that the culture of crosswords is beginning to reflect the diversity of America. I especially enjoyed perusing some of the clues and guessing at whether I could solve them in the wild.
— Laurel Oldach, science communicator
The Splendid and the Vile (Erik Larson, Random House)
The subtitle says it all here: “A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz.” My sister sent me this book of history-that-reads-like-a-novel when I was laid up for a couple of weeks in July. As we slog through months of mask-wearing, social-distancing unpleasantness, it’s therapeutic to be reminded that, for those of us who haven’t gotten deathly ill with COVID-19, things could be worse than the current pandemic. And in London in 1940-41, they were much worse. Think about planes dropping bombs on your city night after night. For many months. This book evokes the stoic British response to that horror and offers a portrait of idiosyncratic (but very effective) leadership in a time of crisis.
— Comfort Dorn, managing editor of ASBMB Today
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