The U.S. National Institute of Heath has urged steps to curb growth in "training" positions in biomedical research (report). [more inside]
Are bias and fraud damaging the existing public trust in scientific and medical research? (previously) [more inside]
"Experimental adaptation of an influenza H5 HA confers respiratory droplet transmission to a reassortant H5 HA/H1N1 virus in ferrets." After an extensive, months-long debate, one of two controversial papers showing ways the H5N1 "avian" influenza virus could potentially become transmissible in mammals with only 3 or 4 mutations was published in Nature today. The journal included an editorial on the merits and drawbacks of "publishing risky research" with regard to biosafety. The debate included an unprecedented recommendation by The US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to block publication -- a decision they later reversed. (Via: 1, 2) Nature's special report has additional articles, including interviews with the teams behind both papers.
A researcher at St. Andrews University is using a tool called a densitometer to measure which pages in medieval manuscripts are the dirtiest, and therefore the most frequently read. The complete (and well-illustrated) study is available online from the Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art. [more inside]
While growth prospects in the field are incredibly high, recent trends, such as "tools grow[ing] more advanced" (see Adobe Flash Builder or MS Visual Studio) have had people wondering over the past few years if computer science has much room for growth left. Some question whether it is alive. Others, such as Carnegie Mellon, say not so fast. In any case, employment has been a bit iffy (/.). There is the possibility that Computer Science is simply growing up (PDF), then again the U of Florida decided to say good bye to it this past week. But hey, if you are not going to that University, and still are shooting for computer science, here are some tips.
MIT is leading an NSF-funded project with researchers from University of Pennsylvania and Harvard that aims to enable anyone to "design, customize and print a specialized robot in a matter of hours." Constructed from "cyber-physical primitives," the robots (some early examples here) would be able to be made in bulk on demand and could help change the entire workflow of device and robot creation, from engineering to warehousing to assembly.
How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public's Expense: Report looks at methods of corporate abuse, suggests steps toward reform [Full Report (PDF)] [Executive Summary (PDF)] [more inside]
The committee took the unprecedented step of recommending that some details of these biological studies [be] kept from the public, so that no one could use them as recipes for new bioweapons. [more inside]
Here are some evidence-based and research based psychotherapy modalities you may or may not have heard of, a few in the words of their creators: David Burns and CBT and T.E.A.M. Therapy [pdf], Steven Hayes and ACT (also), Marsha Linehan and DBT (also [pdf] and also [pdf]), Joseph Weiss and Control Mastery Theory (also), Eugene Gendlin and Focusing-Oriented Psychotherapy (also).
An experiment done in the 1990s exposed children to various levels of lead. The lawsuit filed in 2001 by the parents of over 100 participants accuses the Kennedy Krieger Institute that the scientists knowingly used the kids as test subjects in toxic dust control study. [more inside]
NASA May Have Discovered Flowing Water on Mars Dark, finger-like features appear and extend down some Martian slopes during late spring through summer, fade in winter, and return during the next spring. Repeated observations have tracked the seasonal changes in these recurring features on several steep slopes in the middle latitudes of Mars' southern hemisphere.
There is an European Commission budgetary proposal to boost E.U. funding for science and technology by 45% from €55B to €80B by trimming some fat form the controversial Common Agricultural Policy. [more inside]
The Beer Archaeologist. "Biomolecular archaeologist" Dr. Patrick McGovern has unearthed millennia-old alcohol recipes and ancient medicinals, "by analyzing residues in ancient pottery. Now he's working with brewer Sam Calagione, (of Discovery Channel's Brew Masters, (autoplaying video)) whose pub Dogfish Head serves up beers based on recipes that are thousands of years old." (Via) [more inside]
The Triumph of New-Age Medicine "Medicine has long decried acupuncture, homeopathy, and the like as dangerous nonsense that preys on the gullible. Again and again, carefully controlled studies have shown alternative medicine to work no better than a placebo. But now many doctors admit that alternative medicine often seems to do a better job of making patients well, and at a much lower cost, than mainstream care—and they’re trying to learn from it." [more inside]
Editors of the journal Science have asked the co-authors of a 2009 paper that linked chronic fatigue syndrome to a retrovirus called XMRV to voluntarily retract the paper. Science editor-in-chief Bruce Alberts and executive editor Monica Bradford cited concerns about the validity of the findings, saying other scientists hadn't been able to replicate them, among other reasons. [more inside]
Research Blogging is an aggregator for blog posts on peer-reviewed research. The posts are on various subjects, such as culinary trends in an extinct hominid , the distance and mass of Saggitarius A* and when chemists go to war
Statistical hypothesis testing with a p-value of less than 0.05 is often used as a gold standard in science, and is required by peer reviewers and journals when stating results. Some statisticians argue that this indicates a cult of significance testing using a frequentist statistical framework that is counterintuitive and misunderstood by many scientists. Biostatisticians have argued that the (over)use of p-vaues come from "the mistaken idea that a single number can capture both the long-run outcomes of an experiment and the evidential meaning of a single result" and identify several other problems with significance testing. XKCD demonstrates how misunderstandings of the nature of the p-value, failure to adjust for multiple comparisons, and the file drawer problem result in likely spurious conclusions being published in the scientific literature and then being distorted further in the popular press. You can simulate a similar situation yourself. John Ioannidis uses problems with significance testing and other statistical concerns to argue, controversially, that "most published research findings are false." Will the use of Bayes factors replace classical hypothesis testing and p-values? Will something else?
According to a new study from the UK's national science academy, the Royal Society, China is on course to outstrip US scientific output as earlier as two years from now. [SLBBC]
No Leftovers for Tyrannosaurus Rex: New Evidence That T. Rex Was Hunter, Not Scavenger [Full text] [more inside]
The Price of Altruism - George Price, a (troubled) father of group selection thru his discovery of the eponymous Price Equation, has a rather interesting biography... [more inside]
Inducement Prizes -- Best known for the Ansari X Prize, the DARPA Grand Challenge and the Clay Mathematics Millennium Problems, inducement prizes have a long history, but their recent successes have led to increased government interest, viz. challenge.gov, and resulted in the development of vaccines, thanks in large part to the work of Michael Kremer.* [more inside]
The Line Between Science and Journalism is Getting Blurry….Again by Bora Zivkovic is an excellent, James Burke-ish, essay on science, journalism, and a hopeful future for science journalism. [more inside]
Scientists at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands have deciphered the structure and functional mechanism of the glucansucrase enzyme that is responsible for dental plaque sticking to teeth. [abstract]
New research hints that schizophrenia and other mental illness may be caused by "endogenous retroviruses" stored in our DNA and activated by common infections such as CMV, toxoplamosis, or the flu
The entire run of the Bell System Technical Journal, from 1922-1983, is available online for your reading pleasure. Bell Labs on the blue previously
Sabotage in the lab. "As the problems mounted, Ames was getting agitated. She was certain that someone was monkeying with her experiments, but she had no proof and no suspect. Her close friends suggested that she was being paranoid." Scientific research collides with human nature.
National Geographic has digitized all of Jane Goodall's articles for the publication from the past five decades. They've also added a galley of photographs documenting her extraordinary work with chimps.
Arthur's Classic Novels has 4000 free ebooks, no registration, nicely organized by author and topics: great old Science Fiction magazines l plentiful online education with 650 books for doctors l a vast collection of famous novels l short stories l by women l Buddhist Scriptures, including The Buddhist Bible, a fave of Jack Kerouac l magazines online l stories by Robert Sheckley l The Autobiography of Charles Darwin l huge collection of fairy tales l philosophy l P. G. Wodehouse l vintage technology l Oscar Wilde l Mark Twain l Rudyard Kipling l George MacDonald l the Koran l a collection of eText resource links. About Arthur Wendover. [more inside]
The human body is made up of more bacteria cells than human cells. Now, researchers at Harvard have isolated the genes responsible for producing amino acids that can block ultraviolet light and managed get E. coli bacteria to produce them too. Can I interest you in some sunblocking bacteria living on your skin?
More research into into the effects of ketamine on depression published today in the journal Science [abstract]. [more inside]
New Adventures in Recent Evolution - In the last few years, biologists peering into the human genome have found evidence of recent natural selection. cf. Social Darwinism: 21st century edition [previously] (via ip) [more inside]
we alone have the power to conjure up at will erotic, orgasm-inducing scenes in our theater-like heads
One reason why humans are special and unique: We masturbate. A lot
The Carnegie Institution for Science reports "a much higher water content in the Moon’s interior than previous studies." For decades, the moon's water content was estimated at less than 1 part per billion; the new estimates range from 64 ppb to 5 parts per million. A scientist at Washington University said, "We can now finally begin to consider the implications—and the origin—of water in the interior of the Moon.” There's more at NASA and the BBC, and the full paper is available at PNAS (PDF).
A nearly 25-year study has concluded that children raised in lesbian households were psychologically well-adjusted and had fewer behavioral problems than their peers. Results were published this month in Pediatrics: the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. (Abstract. Free PDF. Scribd). [more inside]
Science vs. Religion: a new book, Science and Religion: What Scientists Really Think by Rice University sociologist Elaine Ecklund, discusses the results of her detailed study of 1,646 scientists at top American research universities. Among her findings: ~36% of those surveyed not only believe in God but also practice a form of closeted, often non-traditional faith. They worry about how their peers would react to learning about their religious views. Interview with the author from the Center for Inquiry's Point of Inquiry podcast. Also, here's a webcast from an author discussion forum held at Rice University on April 7th. [more inside]
What do Singing in the Rain, Live Is Life, Don't Worry, Be Happy, I Will Survive and Ça fait rire les oiseaux have in common? In a study, French-speaking Internet users identified these five pop songs out of 100, as the most pernicious earworms. Here are their top 25 picks from BRAMS, including audio clips. [more inside]
Best of History Web Sites (from EdTechTeacher,) is a resource of annotated and rated-by-content links to over 1200 history web sites across a broad range of related topics. The site also offers links of special interest to educators: hundreds of K-12 lesson plans, teacher guides, activities, games and quizzes and more.
Odds of Cooking the Grandkids: "There is a horrible paper in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which looks at how the limits of human physiology interact with upper-range global warming scenarios. The bottom line conclusion is that there is a small - of order 5% - risk of global warming creating a situation in which a large fraction of the planet was uninhabitable (in the sense that if you were outside for an extended period during the hottest days of the year, even in the shade with wet clothing, you would die)." [more inside]
pay for research once... you are a taxpayer... pay for research twice... well, we shouldn't pay for research twice
Yesterday (April 15), Representatives Doyle (D-PA), Waxman (D-CA), Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL), Harper (R-MS), Boucher (D-VA) and Rohrabacher (R-CA) introduced the Federal Research Public Access Act (HR 5037), a bill that would ensure free, timely, online access to the published results of research funded by eleven U.S. federal agencies. -Alliance for Taxpayer Access. [more inside]
Nothing succeeds like failure. [H]istory shows that breakthroughs often spring not from carefully laid plans, but from mischance or even sheer, ridiculous accidents. A stovetop spill heralded vulcanized rubber; the potency of uranium was revealed when a rock was left in a drawer among photographic plates. And great research seldom follows an unswerving path. At RCA in Princeton in the 1950s, David Sarnoff exhorted his team to invent a flat television that could hang on a wall. “There were an enormous number of failures,” says Princeton historian of science Michael Gordin — and instead of TVs, the world got the Seiko digital watch in 1973.
Followup to this post: A US District Court has ruled that Myriad Genetic's patents on breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, which allow them to hold exclusive rights to a widely used genetic test for inherited breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility, are invalid. Genomics Law Report analyzes the ruling in two posts. The decision is likely to be challenged in a legal appeal — but if upheld, it could have huge implications for the biotechnology industry. [more inside]
A new study suggests that humanity's sense of fair play and kindness towards strangers is determined by culture, not genetics. Speculation: the finding may be directly related to the rise of religion in human history, as well as more complex economies. (Via). [more inside]
Sweet, sour, bitter, salty, umami, and.... fat? Dr. Russell Keast, an Austrailian scientist who studies "perceived flavour, consumer acceptance and preference of foods and nutrition," has conducted research exploring humans' apparent sixth taste perception: fat. The kicker? Sensitivity to the taste of fat was negatively correlated with fat intake and BMI. Dr. Keast discussed the results of his latest research with Slashfood, and The Sydney Morning Herald. (via) [more inside]
Reddit interviews Peter Norvig (reddit discussion) related: Seeds of AI at Google -- how the internet is shaping intelligence and learning and, in turn, the role of human culture in natural selection1,2 and why we are not living in western civilization. (via)