Weekend Links: 8 Movies That Really Got Science Wrong, and Much More

Welcome to Weekend Links, a look at some of our favorite science stories from across the web!

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Illustration by Michael Houtz – source: New York Times

The Scientist Who Scrambled Darwin’s Tree of Life – Learn how microbiologist Carl Woese fundamentally changed the way we think about evolution and the origins of life in 1977 with his report of the existence of a separate form of life described as a ‘third kingdom’ of living material, composed of ancestral cells that abhor oxygen, digest carbon dioxide and produce methane.

8 movies that really got science wrong – Science has been a reliable friend to Hollywood, providing the genetic magic that brought dinosaurs back to life, the errant drug that gave our planet to the apes, and the radiation that helped man become spider. But has Hollywood been good to science in return?

Elephants Have a Secret Weapon Against Cancer – The biggest animals should have the highest risks of developing tumors, but they don’t. The most common hypothesis to explain this phenomenon is that big animals simply have more anti-cancer defenses, including the “tumor suppressor” genes that stop cancers from developing. In looking at the elephant genome, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Chicago recently discovered that the species has numerous extra tumor suppressors.

The problem with taking scientific questions to court – Court cases which try to prove that a particular chemical or product is the cause of an illness like cancer are complicated: they rely largely on juries, made up of members of the public, combing through and coming to a conclusion about the evidence produced through scientific and medical studies. But there’s a problem with this: Within the medical community, much of this evidence is messy and still up for debate. What the legal system considers enough evidence to establish that exposures causes illness is different from the standards of science—and trying to fit the two together can be hazardous.

The Truth Sometimes Hurts – Very few scientists have ever received training in how to navigate today’s media landscape. At no point do they learn how to anticipate their words being taken out of context and used to justify things that are wrong or harmful. Scientists need help to communicate in a post-truth world.

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