Hello, and welcome to January at the Scientific American blog network. I’m Carin Bondar, and you know, this month was kind of
a wacky one for the network. We are going all over the place,
from extreme weather events to extreme viral behavior,
to the evolutionary psychology behind the booming industry
that is — monster pornography. I’m gonna throw it right over to
John Horgan to explain that one first. Monster porn; this is written primarily by women,
for women and it involves fantasies of women having — sex often, at least initially,
non-consensual sex with — bigfoot, with Godzilla, T. rex, giant robotic aliens — I mean,
every possible crazy entity
that you can imagine. The angle I came up with was — that not just the human mind in general, but especially the female mind
and the female libido are completely mysterious. I mean, because who could possibly
predict something as crazy as — monster porn? This month on her blog, The Artful Amoeba, Jennifer Frazer gets us a history
about a virus that has managed to successfully invade an animal host
from a plant host. This is mind-boggling! Tobacco ringspot virus
normally causes trouble in plants like soybean, raspberry,
and of course, tobacco. So it came as a shock
when scientists discovered the virus had apparently invaded honeybees. Honeybees and plants are separated
by about 1.6 billion years of evolution. So, host leap of that magnitude
is mid boggling about. The virus may have been added by
a high mutation rate and also by the fact that can be
a sexually transmitted disease of plants. Which means it can get around
virus per packet, we call polen. Since bees regularly wallow in the stuff,
and do it with gusto, the virus clearly had
a motive and an opportunity. When scientists discovered the virus
comfortably ensconced inside bee’s wings,
antennae, nerves and blood, it became clear that,
no matter how improbable, the virus clearly had the meets as well. We are all very aware
of the crazy cold weather that has been going on in a lot of places
in North America this month. Mark Fischetti is here to explain what this polar vortex is
and exactly why such cold temperatures in such extreme storm events
are happening. We keep praying about this polar vortex every time the temperature has dropped,
like it’s some mystical beast that comes down from the North Pole
and grips us into a deep freeze. So, what is this thing anyway? Well, my blog has the details,
but you can think about like this: The polar vortex is a prevailing
wind pattern that circles the Arctic, flowing from West to East
all around the entire planet. Normally it does state far north
and locks the cold air up towards the North Pole,
but occasionally the vortex weakens and allows that cold air to drift down
through Canada into U.S. The vortex, when it does that,
can also push the jet stream much further south and keep it there, so we do stay in the cold for days on in. So, what causes the vortex to weaken,
in the first place? Well, we’ll have to read the blog for
the details, but here’s a hint: it has to do with a lost
of arctic sea ice in the summer time. Well, there you have it,
just a small sampling of some of the highlights from January at the Scientific American blog network. Make sure you check back
to all of your favorite blogs, you know, weekly there are so many cool histories
coming in your away. I get the highlights just of a few of them and I will be back to do
just that again in February.