bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "In one of the biggest-ever seismology deployments at an active volcano, researchers are peppering Mount St Helens in Washington state with equipment to study the intricate system of chambers and pipes that fed the most devastating eruption in US history. This month, they plan to set off 24 explosions — each equivalent to a magnitude-2 earthquake — around around the slumbering beast in an effort to map the its interior with unprecedented depth and clarity." Link to Original Source top
How did those STAP stem cell papers get accepted in the first place?
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "The news team at the scientific journal Nature turns its investigative power on the journal itself. The goal: to try and understand how two papers that made extraordinary claims about a new way to create stem cells managed to get published despite some obvious errors and a paucity of solid evidence. The saga behind these so-called STAP cells is engaging, but sadly reminiscent of so many other scientific controversies. Why is science so bad at policing itself?" Link to Original Source top
Old disagreements over potential risks of 1918-like influenza study surface
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "NASA administrators are strategizing a push to do more science on the International Space Station in the coming years. The pressure is on, given the rapidly cooling relations between the US and Russia whose deputy prime minister recently suggested that US astronauts use a trampoline if they want to get into orbit. Aiding in the push for more research is the development of two-way cargo ships by SpaceX, which should allow for return of research materials (formerly a hurdle to doing useful experiments). NASA soon aims to send new earth-monitoring equipment to the station and expanded rodent facilities. And geneLAB will send a range of model organisms like fruit flies and nematodes into space for months at a time." Link to Original Source top
Computer science could untangle a messy problem in theoretical physics
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes ""Computational complexity is grounded in practical matters, such as how many logical steps are required to execute an algorithm. But it could resolve one of the most baffling theoretical conundrums to hit his field in recent years: the black-hole firewall paradox, which seems to imply that either quantum mechanics or general relativity must be wrong."" Link to Original Source top
Nuclear-waste facility on high alert over the presence of kitty litter
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "US authorities concluded last week that at least 368 drums of waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico could be susceptible to a chemical reaction suspected to have caused a drum to rupture there in February. The order was issued after an inspection team found evidence on 16 May of heat and physical damage to another drum. The drum contained a mix of nitrate salts — often generated in the recovery of plutonium from metal and other scrap during waste processing — and cellulose in the form of a wheat-based commercial cat litter used to absorb liquid waste." Link to Original Source top
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Kawasaki disease is a mysterious condition that results in alarming rashes, inflammation and sometimes early death. It has affected communities in Japan at unpredictable intervals for decades, and is suspected to arrive there and elsewhere by the wind (http://www.nature.com/news/infectious-disease-blowing-in-the-wind-1.10374). Now, researchers have narrowed the source to croplands in northern China and offered some possible explanations as to its cause." Link to Original Source top
Curiosity Rover may have brought dozens of microbes to Mars
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Despite rigorous pre-flight cleaning, swabbing of the Curiosity Rover just prior to liftoff revealed some 377 strains of bacteria. "In the lab, scientists exposed the microbes to desiccation, UV exposure, cold and pH extremes. Nearly 11% of the 377 strains survived more than one of these severe conditions. Thirty-one per cent of the resistant bacteria did not form tough, protective spore coats; the researchers suspect that they used other biochemical means of protection, such as metabolic changes." While the risk of contaminating the red planet are unknown, knowing the types of strains that may have survived pre-flight cleaning may help rule out biological 'discoveries' if and when NASA carries out it's plans to return a soil sample from Mars." Link to Original Source top
Scientists create best-ever model of the evolving universe
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Mark Vogelsberger, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and his colleagues created a model of the Universe that follows the evolution of both visible and dark matter starting just 12 million years after the Big Bang. While previous models have either been small and detailed or large and coarse, this simulation covers a region of space big enough to be representative of the whole Universe but detailed enough to resolve small-scale structures, such as individual galaxies." Link to Original Source top
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "We've all heard stories about how parasites can 'zombify' organisms, getting them to mindlessly protect a brood or infect their peers. Now UK researchers have figured out how one bacterial pathogen co-opts the behaviour of a plant, causing it to attract sap-sucking insects that help the bacteria spread to other plants.
From the story in Nature News:
“The plant appears alive, but it’s only there for the good of the pathogen,” says plant pathologist Saskia Hogenhout from the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK. “In an evolutionary sense, the plant is dead and will not produce offspring.”
“Many might baulk at the concept of a zombie plant because the idea of plants behaving is strange,” says David Hughes, a parasitologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. “But they do, and since they do, why wouldn't parasites have evolved to take over their behaviour, as they do for ants and crickets?”" Link to Original Source top
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Paul Brookes of the now-defunct science fraud blog compared the retraction rate for studies when concerns were made known publicly via his blog vs. privately communicated with journal editors, funding agencies or authors' institutions. Guess which was more successful in getting results." Link to Original Source top
Could this be the next cholesterol-lowering blockbuster drug?
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Several companies have been testing a new approach for a cholesterol-lowering drug that could give blockbusters like lipitor a run for their money (or could have benefits when used with statin drugs like lipitor). They are reporting some pretty impressive results at a cardiology meeting this week (http://blogs.nature.com/news/2014/03/new-cholesterol-drugs-make-strides-in-clinical-trials.html). The story behind the target for the drug, PCSK9, is interesting (http://www.nature.com/news/genetics-a-gene-of-rare-effect-1.12773). The gene was discovered as mutated in several people with impressively low levels of LDL (the 'bad' cholesterol) in their blood. It is considered one of the most promising drug leads to have come directly from work on the human genome project.
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "A wearable skin patch can detect motion, store and transmit information and deliver drugs. The potential uses include Parkinsons disease as a way to detect, track and try and mitigate uncontrollable shaking." Link to Original Source top
Fierce, shrimp-like predator in the cambrian had gentler, filter-feeding cousin
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "It would be the earliest known example of a swimming filter feeder. "Fossils unearthed in northern Greenland in 2009 and 2011 suggest that the species, Tamisiocaris borealis, used wispy, comb-like frontal appendages roughly 12 centimetres long to sweep up plankton as small as 0.5 millimetres. Like its brethren in the genus Anomalocaris — which means weird shrimp — T. borealis thrived 520 million years ago, during the Early Cambrian period."" Link to Original Source top
More troubles for authors of controversial acid-bath stem cell articles.
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Reports early this year about a strikingly simple method for deriving pluripotent stem cells were met with amazement and deep scepticism, then claims that the experiments were not reproducible, then accusations of copied and manipulated figures. Now, the first author of one of the papers is being lambasted for having copied the first 20 pages of her doctoral thesis from an NIH primer on stem cells. And an adviser on her thesis committee says he was never asked to review it. Could this get any stranger? Probably!" Link to Original Source top
Telescope captures a gravitational echo of the Big Bang
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Detection of the elusive b-wave, announced today (http://www.nature.com/news/telescope-captures-view-of-gravitational-waves-1.14876), provides the firmest evidence yet of a round of exponential inflation in the universe in the first fractions of a second following the big bang. Einstein predicted the existence of these gravitational waves nearly a century ago (http://www.nature.com/news/all-you-need-to-know-about-gravitational-waves-1.14886) but they've been extremely hard to detect. Now, a telescope in Antarctica called BICEP2 (http://www.nature.com/news/how-astronomers-saw-gravitational-waves-from-the-big-bang-1.14885) was able to pick up the signal by watching the cosmic microwave background, often considered the 'afterglow' of the Big Bang. It is considered a Nobel-worthy discovery." top
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Modern ideas about quantum weirdness are not exclusively modern. Tom C. B. McLeish of Durham University and his colleagues write about a recent paper they published inspired by the writings of a 13th century scholar Robert Grosseteste.
"Four centuries before Isaac Newton proposed gravity and seven centuries before the Big Bang theory, Grosseteste describes the birth of the Universe in an explosion and the crystallization of matter to form stars and planets in a set of nested spheres around Earth.
To our knowledge, De Luce is the first attempt to describe the heavens and Earth using a single set of physical laws. Implying, probably unrealized by its author, a family of ordered universes in an ocean of disordered ones, the physics resembles the modern 'multiverse' concept."" Link to Original Source top
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Theoretical physicists propose that the Sun periodically crosses into a dense layer of dark matter sandwiching the Milky Way. The gravitational push and pull that this creates disturbs debris in the Oort cloud sending deadly comets and asteroids ricocheting around the solar system. This passage happens, their admittedly speculative model suggests, every 35 million years, which jibes somewhat with evidence on impact craters. Take it with a dino-sized grain of salt." Link to Original Source top
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "The human pathogen seems to have taken residence in grapevines some 7,000 years ago. From the story: “Grape has a lot of fatty acids in it, which makes grape a perfect host for a sebum-eating bacterium such as P. acnes,” Omar Rota-Stabelli, a lead author of the study and an evolutionary biologist from the Edmund Mach Foundation in S. Michele all'Adige, Italy. What's more it may have aided in the domestication of the crop. Bonus points: They named the grape-dwelling strain Zappae after Frank Zappa." Link to Original Source top
Scientists thaw a giant 30,000 year old virus, and it's infectious.
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "It might be terrifying if we were amoebae. Instead, it's just fascinating. The virus, found in a hunk of Siberian ice, is huge, but also loosely packaged, which is strange says evolutionary biologist Jean-Michel Claverie: “We thought it was a property of viruses that they pack DNA extremely tightly into the smallest particle possible, but this guy is 150 times less compacted than any bacteriophage [viruses that infect bacteria]. We don’t understand anything anymore!”" Link to Original Source