Case Studies

Case studies collected and compiled by Katherine Tschida at Saint Louis University

OPERA Experiment (cosmic speed neutrinos)

  • The Original Reporting (Sept 25, 2011). Original Article appears to claim scientists have measured neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light, which would directly contradict Einstein's theory of relativity and turn much of physics on its head.
  • This one embeds a video as a supplement to explain the story. (This is the same article/video, but has better clarity on the video)
  • OPERA group talking about their finding (Note how tentative they are).
  • First reporting of the Flaw in the Experiment (Oct 14, 2011). Claims there was an error with the clocks used to calculate the time, which would have resulted in 64 nanoseconds shorter time traveled. Argues this could explain why OPERA group got their results and that they didn’t really discover anything.
  • The Culprit of the OPERA experiment results discovered (Feb 23, 2012). Blamed flawed cable for the results of OPERA experiment. This pretty conclusively dismisses OPERA’s “finding” because when the cable was fixed, the neutrinos did not move as fast as the previous experiment.ICARUS team disproves OPERA findings (Mar 17, 2012). Just as the title explains. Here’s a nice summary paragraph: “The book isn’t completely closed on those faster-than-light neutrinos — at least three more experiments to test the OPERA result are still in the works at Gran Sasso, as well as separate efforts in Japan and the U.S. — but Friday’s announcement adds to a growing collection of evidence that something was amiss with the original claim.”
  • The above is from the LA Times, below are from Forbes, Discovery, Wired, and Nature. It is worthwhile to note how this story is covered by different news outlets.
  • There will be another update in May from the OPERA team, so there might be another installment to this saga.

General Links about Parasites

  • Gallery: Zombie Animals and the Parasites who Control Them (Aug 4, 2008). Photo gallery of parasites, like those discussed by Zimmer in Radiolab. It’s probably the best find of anything. Each image is accompanied by links to science writing articles that discuss the image more extensively. Most include videos or pictures along with them. Specific parasites discussed: wasp that controls a spider, nematode inside a pill bug, wasp that controls a cockroach, wasp that controls a caterpillar, nematode in ant (red butts), barnacle that controls crabs, cat poop parasite.
  • In Defense of Cheats (from Parasites episode of RadioLab, Sept 11, 2009). Subject: parasites (wasps, nematodes, flukes, etc), defense of them
  • Mental Floss did a similar series here:
  • The Guests Inside Us ( Jan 25, 2010). Zimmer explaining parasites (sounds like from his novel Parasite Rex). Video accompanied by transcript (arguably not the most charismatic man in this video). More of an interview than a story.
  • “The Monster Inside Me” Series on Discovery Channel. The series would be great to use for a parasite case study. They have some pretty gross examples of how parasites work.
  •  The Parasite Files on The Loom (Zimmer’s blog). A compilation of all the work Zimmer has published on parasites. It seems to go back forever and is constantly updated.
  • Parasite Hit List - Radio Lab. Of course they have a list of videos that show gross parasites!

Cat Poop Parasite (Toxoplasma Gondii)

Parasitic Wasps (Ampulex compressa)

Parasitic Nematodes (variety of species)

Parasitic Barnacle on Crab (Sacculina carcini)

Tasmanian Devil Cancer or CVTV

Fish Tongue Eating Parasite (Cymothoa exigua)

Miscellanious Topics

  • Dinosaur Plague (Nova scienceNow 7/14/2009)  Scientists discover fossilized mosquitos with blood still inside (like in Jurassic Park). They argue that infectious diseases spread by parasites could have contributed to dinosaurs extinction.
  • Gangster Birds (Nova scienceNow 8/25/2009)  Cowbirds act like parasites by laying their eggs in other birds nests and forcing those species to raise cowbird chicks.
  • To Evict Parasite, Canny Fruit Flies Pick Their Poison (NYT 2/16/2012)  Subject: fruit flies, parasitic wasps, defenses (getting drunk), evolution
  • Mutant Rights (RadioLab 12/22/2011)
  • Toy Company Offering 'Personalized Action Figures' for $127 (FoxNews 4/9/2012) Interesting article about a customizable action figure. BUT it’s only the following: Batman, Batgirl, Superman, The Joker and Wonder Woman... aka “human” figures.