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Your Moral Compass Is Reversible

scibri Re:Elegant (295 comments)

That's a good question, and one that has come up several time in discussion of this research. Since they explained the trick to people after, I think that possibility might have been minimized, as the subjects might then say "oh, I thought something was amiss, but was embarrassed to ask" and then they could be discounted, or assigned to the 'not changing opinions' group. But that's a guess on my part. In hindsight, I should have asked it myself when editing the story, and gotten Zoe to find out for sure!

about 2 years ago
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Has a Biochem Undergrad Solved a Cosmic Radiation Mystery?

scibri Re:A few weeks ago in slashdot... (156 comments)

Despite the best efforts of a few of us on the online team here, Nature is still pretty 'old media'. So if someone wants credit for an idea, they have to get it touch with us directly!

more than 2 years ago

Submissions

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Exploring Einstein's brain

scibri scibri writes  |  more than 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "Photographs of Einstein's brain taken shortly after his death, but never before analysed in detail, have now revealed that it had several unusual features, providing tantalizing clues about the neural basis of his extraordinary mental abilities.

The most striking observation was “the complexity and pattern of convolutions on certain parts of Einstein's cerebral cortex”, especially in the prefrontal cortex, and also parietal lobes and visual cortex.

The prefrontal cortex is important for the kind of abstract thinking that Einstein would have needed for his famous thought experiments on the nature of space and time, such as imagining riding alongside a beam of light. The unusually complex pattern of convolutions there probably gave the region a larger-than-normal surface area, which may have contributed to his remarkable abilities."

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Scientists can read your dreams

scibri scibri writes  |  more than 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "Scientists have learned how to discover what you are dreaming about while you sleep.

A team of Japanese researchers scanned the brains of three people as they slept, and compared the scans to those of the same people looking at photos of common objects. They were then able to tell, with 75% — 80% accuracy, if one of those images appeared in a dream."

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Rejected papers get more citations when eventually published

scibri scibri writes  |  more than 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "In a study of more than 80,000 bioscience papers, researchers have illuminated the usually hidden flows of papers from journal to journal before publication.

Surprisingly, they found that papers published after having first been rejected elsewhere receive significantly more citations on average than ones accepted on first submission.

There were a few other surprises as well...Nature and Science publish more papers that were initially rejected elsewhere than lower-impact journals do.

So there is apparently some reason to be patient with your paper’s critics — they will do you good in the end."

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Geneticists to economists: You're racist!

scibri scibri writes  |  more than 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "One side is accused of supporting ethnic cleansing; the other of being intellectually naive. Geneticists and economists are struggling to collaborate on research that explores how our genes influence and interact with economic behaviour.

Top economists are publishing a paper that claims a country’s genetic diversity can predict the success of its economy. To critics, the economists’ paper seems to suggest that a country’s poverty could be the result of its citizens’ genetic make-up, and the paper is attracting charges of genetic determinism, and even racism. But the economists say that they have been misunderstood, and are merely using genetics as a proxy for other factors that can drive an economy, such as history and culture."

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NASA ponders what to do with a pair of free space telescopes

scibri scibri writes  |  more than 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "A few months ago, the secretive National Reconnaissance Office gave NASA two Hubble-sized space telescopes that it didn't want anymore.

Now the space agency has to figure out what to do with them, and whether it can afford it. The leading candidate to use one of the telescopes is the the proposed Wide-Field Infrared Space Telescope (WFIRST), which would search for the imprint of dark energy, find exoplanets and study star-forming regions of the Galaxy. The NRO telescope could speed up the mission, but may end up costing more in the long run."

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Prehistoric insects pictured in 3D

scibri scibri writes  |  more than 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "Researchers have constructed 3D portraits of two 305-million-year-old insect nymphs by scanning their fossils with X-rays. The results, reported in PLoS ONE, are the most detailed pictures yet of juvenile insects of that period. One of the specimens, characterized by sharp spines on its body and head, belongs to an unknown species and genus. The authors have called it Anebos phrixos, from the Greek meaning "young and bristling". The other is similar to a modern cockroach."
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Chemist jailed in Russia for giving expert opinion in court

scibri scibri writes  |  about 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "Think the imprisonment of Pussy Riot is a miscarriage of justice? Check out the story of their cellmate:

Chemist Olga Nikolaevna Zelenina heads a laboratory at the Penza Agricultural Institute. She is an expert in the biology of hemp and poppy, and is a sought-after expert in legal cases involving narcotics produced from these plants. Last year, she was asked by defence lawyers to give her opinion in a case involving imported poppy seeds. The prosecutors didn't like her evidence though, and now she's in prison accused of complicity in organized drug trafficking."

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Your moral compass is reversible

scibri scibri writes  |  about 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "Your moral positions may be more flexible than you think. Researchers in Sweden have tricked people into reversing their opinions on moral issues, even to the point of constructing good arguments to support the opposite of their original positions (paper in PLOS ONE).

They used a "magic trick" to reverse a person's responses to such moral issues as "Large-scale governmental surveillance of e-mail and Internet traffic ought to be forbidden as a means to combat international crime and terrorism", by switching "forbidden" to "permitted" when the subject turned the page of the questionaire. When asked to read back the questions and answers, about half of the subjects did not detect the changes, and a full 53% of participants argued unequivocally for the opposite of their original attitude in at least one of the manipulated statements."

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Robot brings patch-clamping to the masses

scibri scibri writes  |  more than 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "Robots designed to perform whole-cell patch-clamping, a difficult but powerful method that allows neuroscientists to access neurons' internal electrical workings, could make the tricky technique commonplace.

Scientists from MIT have designed a robot that can record electrical currents in up to 4 neurons in the brains of anaesthetized mice at once, and they hope to extend it to up to 100 at a time. The robot finds its target on the basis of characteristic changes in the electrical environment near neurons. Then, the device nicks the cell’s membrane and seals itself around the tiny hole to access the neuron's contents."

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Facebook may open the door to it's data vault a crack

scibri scibri writes  |  more than 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "Facebook is considering a plan that would allow independent researchers access to some of its massive hoard of data so that they could validate the work of the company's in-house data science team.

Facebook's data scientists have been involved in publishing more than 30 papers since 2009, but because the company fears breaching its users’ privacy, it does not release the underlying raw data.

The new plan, if it comes into effect, still has some strings attached: researchers would have to travel to the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, because Facebook would not risk sending the data electronically, and they would have access to aggregated data only, and no personally identifiable information. The company would also allow access for only a limited period — and contingent upon researchers signing a non-disclosure agreement. The external scholars would also not be allowed to conduct their own studies on the data sets."

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Neanderthals roasted veggies, and may have used them medicinally

scibri scibri writes  |  more than 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "The vision of Neanderthals as inflexible carnivores has been used to suggest that they went extinct as a result of food scarcity, whereas omnivorous humans were able to survive. But evidence is mounting that plants were important to Neanderthal diets — and now a study reveals that those plants were roasted, and may have been used medicinally.

Researchers used organic compounds embedded in 50,000-year-old dental plaque to study the Neanderthal diet. The plaque contained a range of carbohydrates and starch granules, hinting that the Neanderthals had consumed a variety of plant species. By contrast, there were few lipids or proteins from meat.

They also found, lurking in the plaque of a few specimens, a range of alkyl phenols, aromatic hydrocarbons and roasted starch granules that suggested that the Neanderthals had spent time in smoky areas and eaten cooked vegetables (Abstract).

Among the compounds found were chemicals from plants such as yarrow and camomile, which taste bitter and have no nutritional value. So why they would intentionally eat them? The researchers think they may have been using them medicinally — the plants are used by modern herbalists as anti-inflamatories and antiseptics."

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Higgs data offers joy and pain for particle physicists

scibri scibri writes  |  more than 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "So now that we've pretty much found the Higgs Boson, what's next? Well:

“There’s going to be a huge massacre of theoretical ideas in the next couple of years,” predicts Joe Lykken, a theoretical physicist at Fermilab. The data has shored up the standard model, but technicolor is dead and supersymmetry is starting to look pretty ropey now. Theorists are now poking at the mathematical chinks in the standard theory in the hopes of being the first to find a deeper truth about how the Universe works."

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Europe to make all EU-funded research open access

scibri scibri writes  |  more than 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "Not to be outdone by the UK, the European Commission has announced its intention to make open-access all the research findings funded by its enormous €80-billion 2014-2020 research-funding programme, Horizon 2020.

Articles would either be made immediately accessible online, with the Commission paying up-front publication costs (expected to be 1% of the total research budget); or researchers could make their articles available through an open-access repository no later than six months after publication (or 12 months for social sciences and humanities). The Commission has already developed such a repository – the OpenAIRE repository.

The Commission’s plans are merely proposals at the moment – they face a good year of back-and-forth debate with the Parliament and European Council before they can take effect."

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UK research funders adopt open liberated access policy

scibri scibri writes  |  more than 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "The UK's research councils have put in place an open access policy similar to the one used by the US NIH. From April 2013, science papers must be made free to access within six months of publication if they come from work paid for by one of the UK’s seven government-funded grant agencies, the research councils, which together spend about £2.8 billion each year on research (press release).

The councils say authors should shun journals that don't allow such policies, though they haven't said how those who don't comply with the rules will be punished."

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Natural fluorine does exist...in smelly rocks

scibri scibri writes  |  more than 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "Chemists have proved that a smelly rock is the only known place on Earth where fluorine exists in its elemental form, F2 (Abstract). The rock is antozonite, a calcium fluoride (fluorite) mineral that is dark violet or even black in colour, also known as fetid fluorite or stinkspar. Needless to say, this rock stinks. The pungent smell is given off when antozonite is crushed, and chemists and mineralogists have argued over the origin of the stench since the early nineteenth century. It turns out French chemist Henri Moissan, who first isolated fluorine in 1886, was right. The rock contains pockets of fluorine that are released on crushing."
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Has a biochem undergrad solved a cosmic radiation mystery?

scibri scibri writes  |  more than 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "A few weeks ago, reports of a mysterious spike in carbon-14 levels in Japanese tree rings corresponding to the year 775 intrigued astronomers.

Such a spike could only have been caused by a massive supernova or solar flare, but there was no evidence of either of these at that time. Until Jonathon Allen, a biochem undergrad at UC Santa Cruz googled it.

He found a reference in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to a "red crucifix" appearing in the sky in 774, and speculates that it could have been a supernova hidden behind a cloud of dust, which could mask the remnants of the exploded star from astronomers today."

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Fossil turtles caught in flagrante delicto

scibri scibri writes  |  more than 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "Several pairs of 47-million-year-old fossil turtles found in Germany provide the first direct evidence for prehistoric vertebrate sex (the first indirect evidence being, presumably, that turtles exist).

Besides science writers a chance to have a bit of fun with the intro to their stories, the researchers also say the fossils can tell us about about the ecology of the ancient German lake where the turtles lived (Abstract).

Like their living cousins, the fossil turtles probably stopped swimming when they started mating. The pairs then sank through the water column, but Messel Lake held a hidden danger. Below the surface waters, palaeontologists have hypothesized, was a layer poisoned by volcanic gases or rotting organic material. Since the skin of some turtles can act as a respiratory membrane, the turtles were killed as the poisons accumulated in their bodies."

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UK goes for gold in open access

scibri scibri writes  |  more than 2 years ago

scibri (2544842) writes "A report commissioned by the UK government has recommended that the country jump straight to "gold" open access: making all scientific papers open access from the start, with authors paying publishers up-front to make their work free to read.

But some advocates of the quicker, and cheaper, option, putting papers in open repositories a few months after publication (green open access) say the report's enthusiasm for gold shows that the authors are more concerned with protecting the profits of the publishing industry than promoting greater access to publicly funded research."

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