In the interest of both equal time and novelty, we’ll start off with this week’s Losers, starting with the latest soldiers in the ongoing animal campaign against humankind – a turkey vulture (maybe?) that smashed through the windshield of a minivan in New Jersey and a rabid bobcat that attacked a bar full of people in Arizona. But while the animal world may be losing the war on the battlefield, their economic campaign continues to be troublingly effective as residents of the Australian outback communities under siege by thirsty, hyperinelligent camels prepare to pony up $4.5 million to create a camel defense grid.

Members of the animal kingdom aren’t the only ones fighting a losing battle this week – opponents of gay marriage in the American Midwest and throughout the United States suffered a blow today when the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional. The ruling paves the way for Iowa to join Connecticut and Massachusetts as the third state where gay marriage is legal, with moves to legalize it working their way through state legislatures throughout New England.

Speaking of outdated ideas, another cherished scientific notion from my childhood has gone the way of Pluto. It turns out that long necked dinosaurs held their heads horizontally in front of them, not craned upwards as every book on dinosaurs I had as a kid pictured them. Doing this, it turns out, would have taken so much effort that the animals would have passed out from the stress if they tried, which is actually kind of hilarious to picture.

 

Wrong!

Wrong!

That’s not the only idea about fossilized remains that has been called into question this week. Our first Winner, the noble neandertal, may have been cleared of long standing charges of cannibalism by paleoanthropologist Jörg Orschiedt of the University of Hamburg. After examining specimens from Krapina, the most famous example of supposed cannibalism in Neadertals, Orscheidt came to the conclusion that many of the marks left on bones by supposed cannibalism could be attributed to mishandling by researchers or not yet understood burial traditions among the early, ill fated humans. Maybe it’s not a full acquittal, but Orscheidt’s research demonstrates the need for further study on the matter before dubbing the early cave folk ruthless man eaters.

Speaking of ruthless, bloodthirsty savages, American banks are this weeks next big winners. Thanks to yesterday’s relaxation of mark to market accounting standards, the true value of the toxic assets we’ve all heard so much about just got a lot more opaque. Baseline Scenario has a great rundown on just what this means, but here’s the quick and dirty version: Basically, mark to market accounting means that an asset is worth what someone else will pay for it. But in a market where no one is buying, assets, especially questionable ones, take a pretty big hit. The latest relaxation of standards lets banks set values for assets on their books according totheir own internal models rather than current market prices. In addition to gussying up bank balance sheets, this change promises to largely declaw Tim Geithner’s plan to buy up toxic assets, many of which can now have their values unrealistically inflated by the banks that own them. So much for the invisible hand of the market.

Since human intelligence haqs been such a let down in the last few months of finance, we turn our hopeful gaze towards artificial intelligence for this weeks last winner – ADAM, a robotic scientist at Wales’ Aberystwyth University that has become the first robot to make it’s own scientific discovery. From hypothesis to analyzing results, ADAM has made publishable, independently verified discoveries about the genome of baker’s yeast. It’s a first that really opens the door for artificial intelligence to play a more important role in the future of science – not only as a tool for analysis, but as an equal partner in crafting hypotheses and running experiments.

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