Karen Emslie

Doctor Octopus Will See You Now (Discover)

Imagine flexible, robotic arms crawling through the organ-packed spaces of a patient’s body. The tools deftly navigate through the intestines to reach a section of colon. The arms then gradually stiffen and, using a gripper tip, perform delicate surgery. That’s the vision, complete with prototype, inspired by octopus limbs and executed by a European group of engineering, neurobiology and robotic experts. Read the full story on Discover

There Are 11 Official Languages in South Africa. Here’s How They’re Making It Work.

As the world prepares to celebrate Nelson Mandela Day tomorrow, it’s worthwhile to revisit one of the man’s most famous observations: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Indeed, language isn’t simply the way we communicate with one another—it’s an expression of our heritage and cultural identity. And in a culturally diverse nation like South Africa, where there are 11 official languages, the complex reality of extreme multilingualism’s impact on literacy and civic engagement mirrors some of the more sensitive questions facing the nation 20 years after apartheid’s end.  Read the full story on GOOD

Breaking Down Our Bilingual Double Standard (GOOD)

It was medieval emperor-king Charlemagne who said, “To have another language is to possess another soul.” Considered by many to be the father of Europe, Charlemagne was a man of many languages, displaying a knack for Latin, Greek, and other European tongues. Yet more than two millennia later, our views on multilingualism have lost some of this nuanced perspective—despite research that demonstrates again and again just how beneficial it is to grow up multilingual. Read the full story on GOOD

A countercultural history of walking: Alone We Stroll (Huck)

Is there anything radical about going for a walk? How about if you walked all the way across the world? Huck catches up with some modern-day flâneurs, who are strolling great distances away from the crowd.  Take four bones: a femur, patella, tibia and fibula. Wrap in muscle, bind with tendons. Repeat.

A pair of legs. An ingenious device for human transportation, yet we hardly ever walk these days. Instead, we travel in metal boxes and tubes, disconnected from the environments through which we are passing. Walking, by virtue of its very slowness, has become a radical act; an expression of individual freedom in a system designed for speedy travel, along the pre-determined routes of railways, roads and flight paths.

Read the full story on Huck

To Stop Mosquito Bites, Silence Your Skin’s Bacteria (Smithsonian)

Texas scientists tricked mosquitoes into skipping a blood meal by modifying the way bacteria talk to each other.///// Evening picnics in a park, sunset beers by a lake and warm nights with the windows open are just some of the delights of midsummer. But as dusk falls, one of the most infuriating creatures on the planet stirs: the mosquito. Outdoor activities are abandoned in an ankle-scratching frenzy and sleep is disturbed as we haplessly swat at the whining source of our torment. Read the full story on SmithsonianMag

Oldest Sperm Is No Shrimp (Discover)

German biologist Renate Matzke-Karasz beamed at the virtual fossil slices on her iPad. “There are definitely internal structures in this animal, and perhaps even sperm!” she emailed retired Australian micropaleontologist John Neil, wanting him to be the first to know. It would take five more years to confirm, but Matzke-Karasz was actually looking at the oldest petrified sperm in the world…. DISCOVER

The Last of the Moche Wave Riders (GOOD)

Omar runs the Surf School Muchik with his brother in Huanchaco—a colorful beach town with a population of about 15,000 along northern Peru’s desert coast. Before the Incas came to dominance, this land was home to the Moche people from A.D. 100-800, then the Chimú until A.D. 1470. Huanchaco fishermen and surfers can trace their ancestral lines back to these cultures, and Omar is proud of his ancient surname, Huamanchumo. …Read full story on GOOD