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What Is the Polar Vortex? - Best of the Blogs #12

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    Hello, and welcome to January
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    at the Scientific American blog network.
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    I'm Karen Bondar, and you know,
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    this month was kind of
    a wacky one for the network.
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    We are going all over the place,
    from extreme weather events
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    to extreme viral behavior,
    to the evolutionary psychology
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    behind the booming industry
    that is -- monster pornography.
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    I'm gonna throw it right over to
    John Horgan to explain that one first.
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    Monster porn;
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    this is written primarily by women,
    for women and it involves
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    fantasies of women having -- sex
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    often, at least initially,
    non-consensual sex
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    with -- bigfoot, with Godzilla, T. rex,
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    giant robotic aliens -- I mean,
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    every possible crazy entity
    that you can imagine.
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    The angle I came up with was --
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    that not just the human mind in general,
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    but especially the female mind
    and the female libido
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    are completely mysterious.
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    I mean, because who could possibly
    predict something as crazy as --
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    monster porn?
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    This month on her blog, The Artful Amoeba,
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    Jennifer Frazer gets us a history
    about a virus that has managed to
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    successfully invade an animal host
    from a plant host.
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    This is mind-boggling!
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    Tobacco ringspot virus
    normally causes trouble
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    in plants like soybean, raspberry,
    and of course, tobacco.
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    So it came as a shock
    when scientists discovered the virus
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    had apparently invaded honeybees.
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    Honeybees and plants are separated
    by about 1.6 billion years of evolution.
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    So, host leap of that magnitude
    is mid boggling about.
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    The virus may have been added by
    a high mutation rate
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    and also by the fact that can be
    a sexually transmitted disease of plants.
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    Which means it can get around
    virus per packet, we call polen.
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    Since bees regularly wallow in the stuff,
    and do it with gusto,
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    the virus clearly had
    a motive and an opportunity.
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    When scientists discovered the virus
    comfortably ensconced
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    inside bee's wings,
    antennae, nerves and blood,
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    it became clear that,
    no matter how improbable,
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    the virus clearly had the meets as well.
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    We are all very aware
    of the crazy cold weather
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    that has been going on in a lot of places
    in North America this month.
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    Mark Fischetti is here to explain
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    what this polar vortex is
    and exactly why such cold temperatures
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    in such extreme storm events
    are happening.
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    We keep praying about this polar vortex
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    every time the temperature has dropped,
    like it's some mystical beast
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    that comes down from the North Pole
    and grips us into a deep freeze.
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    So, what is this thing anyway?
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    Well, my blog has the details,
    but you can think about like this:
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    The polar vortex is a prevailing
    wind pattern that circles the Arctic,
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    flowing from West to East
    all around the entire planet.
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    Normally it does state far north
    and locks the cold air up
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    towards the North Pole,
    but occasionally the vortex weakens
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    and allows that cold air to drift down
    through Canada into U.S.
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    The vortex, when it does that,
    can also push the jet stream
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    much further south and keep it there,
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    so we do stay in the cold for days on in.
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    So, what causes the vortex to weaken,
    in the first place?
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    Well, we'll have to read the blog for
    the details, but here's a hint:
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    it has to do with a lost
    of arctic sea ice in the summer time.
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    Well, there you have it,
    just a small sampling
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    of some of the highlights from January
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    at the Scientific American blog network.
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    Make sure you check back
    to all of your favorite blogs, you know,
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    weekly there are so many cool histories
    coming in your away.
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    I get the highlights just of a few of them
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    and I will be back to do
    just that again in February.
Title:
What Is the Polar Vortex? - Best of the Blogs #12
Description:

Check out the hottest science posts for January 2014, fresh from the Scientific American blog network. Carin Bondar, the biologist with a twist, is your host.

Featured in this episode:

What "Monster Porn" Says about Science and Sexuality
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/2014/01/07/what-monster-porn-says-about-science-and-sexuality/?WT.mc_id=SA_sciamerican_meta

Suspicious Virus Makes Rare Cross-Kingdom Leap From Plants to Honeybees
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/artful-amoeba/2014/01/31/suspicious-virus-makes-rare-cross-kingdom-leap-from-plants-to-honeybees/?WT.mc_id=SA_sciamerican_meta

What Is This "Polar Vortex" That Is Freezing the U.S.?
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2014/01/06/what-is-this-polar-vortex-that-is-freezing-the-u-s/?WT.mc_id=SA_sciamerican_meta

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Video Language:
English
Team:
Scientific American
Project:
Best of the Blogs
Duration:
04:11

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