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On Lionfish, research, and science fairs

Last month, a twelve-year-old girl named Lauren Arrington was credited with research showing that lionfish, an invasive species, were surviving in water with a much lower percentage of salinity than was thought possible. [more inside]
posted by PussKillian on Jul 22, 2014 - 82 comments

That's a lot of decaying plant matter

Word association time: I say "peat", you say… "Scotland", right? Not necessarily! Peat is found around the world, including in many African countries. Earlier this year, scientists trekked through a Congo swamp, braving gorillas, elephants, crocodiles, and more. Their reward? Discovery of a peat bog the size of England. The team estimates that the bog covers between 100,000 and 200,000 square kilometers (40,000 to 80,000 sq miles), with the peat-layer reaching up to 7m (23ft) beneath the ground.
posted by Lexica on Jul 11, 2014 - 28 comments

'Whoa… big brain huh… cool!'"

Lovatt reasoned that if she could live with a dolphin around the clock, nurturing its interest in making human-like sounds, like a mother teaching a child to speak, they'd have more success. - stories from the NASA- funded project to teach Dolphins to talk using LSD (among other methods. )
posted by The Whelk on Jun 29, 2014 - 37 comments

Humping a playmate during a romp...

Decades of scientific research suggests that beneath dogs' seemingly frivolous fun lies a hidden language of honesty and deceit, empathy and perhaps even a humanlike morality.
posted by gman on May 21, 2014 - 57 comments

A SAT Attack on the Erdos Discrepancy Conjecture

Computers are providing solutions to math problems that we can't check - "A computer has solved the longstanding Erdős discrepancy problem! Trouble is, we have no idea what it's talking about — because the solution, which is as long as all of Wikipedia's pages combined, is far too voluminous for us puny humans to confirm." (via; previously ;)
posted by kliuless on Apr 12, 2014 - 24 comments

Tamiflu, Roche and the Cochrane Collaboration

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian: "Today we found out that Tamiflu doesn't work so well after all. Roche, the drug company behind it, withheld vital information on its clinical trials for half a decade, but the Cochrane Collaboration, a global not-for-profit organisation of 14,000 academics, finally obtained all the information. Putting the evidence together, it has found that Tamiflu has little or no impact on complications of flu infection, such as pneumonia." [more inside]
posted by Wordshore on Apr 10, 2014 - 79 comments

Researchers Use Stem Cells to Regenerate Muscle Nearly as Strong

Scientists Progress in Quest to Grow Muscle Tissue in Labs - "The researchers are now working on optimizing the growth of human muscle tissue, including finding a way to get blood flow to the tissue, the best source of cells and the best growing medium for the cells."
posted by kliuless on Apr 8, 2014 - 5 comments

Pentagon Channel, Defense Laboratories Team Up for New Science TV Show

"Armed with Science," is a new science-focused TV show developed by two of the Department of Defense's in-house research laboratories and the Pentagon. They have always developed some crazy tech work, like perception tests on their robots. If Skynet is going to be real, I think these are the agencies that will put the terminators online.
posted by nealrodriguez on Mar 10, 2014 - 4 comments

plant sex in silico

Monsanto Is Going Organic in a Quest for the Perfect Veggie - "The lettuce, peppers, and broccoli—plus a melon and an onion, with a watermelon soon to follow—aren't genetically modified at all. Monsanto created all these veggies using good old-fashioned crossbreeding, the same technology that farmers have been using to optimize crops for millennia. That doesn't mean they are low tech, exactly. Stark's division is drawing on Monsanto's accumulated scientific know-how to create vegetables that have all the advantages of genetically modified organisms without any of the Frankenfoods ick factor." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Mar 8, 2014 - 52 comments

Most Publish Research Findings are Probably False

"Given the desire for ambitious scientists to break from the pack with a striking new finding, Dr. Ioannidis reasoned, many hypotheses already start with a high chance of being wrong. Otherwise proving them right would not be so difficult and surprising — and supportive of a scientist’s career. Taking into account the human tendency to see what we want to see, unconscious bias is inevitable. Without any ill intent, a scientist may be nudged toward interpreting the data so it supports the hypothesis, even if just barely." [more inside]
posted by MisantropicPainforest on Jan 24, 2014 - 44 comments

name that smell

Smells can be very hard to identify and name, unless you are given some prompting - or you speak Jahai, the language of an indigenous group in the Malay peninsula.
posted by divabat on Jan 3, 2014 - 23 comments

Complex Things Explained

This Video Will Hurt
A detailed explanation of a fascinating field of science and medicine by the always interesting C.G.P. Grey.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Dec 23, 2013 - 7 comments

HPV: Sex, cancer and a virus

"On a sunny day in 1998, Maura Gillison was walking across the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, thinking about a virus. The young oncologist bumped into the director of the university's cancer centre, who asked politely about her work. Gillison described her discovery of early evidence that human papillomavirus (HPV) — a ubiquitous pathogen that infects nearly every human at some point in their lives — could be causing tens of thousands of cases of throat cancer each year in the United States. The senior doctor stared down at Gillison, not saying a word. “That was the first clue that what I was doing was interesting to others and had potential significance,” recalls Gillison."
Human papillomavirus is causing a new form of head and neck cancer— leaving researchers scrambling to understand risk factors, tests and treatments.
[more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Nov 22, 2013 - 37 comments

Tearing down barriers to accessing research, one click at a time

"People are denied access to research hidden behind paywalls every day. This problem is invisible, but it slows innovation, kills curiosity and harms patients. This is an indictment of the current system. Open Access has given us the solution to this problem by allowing everyone to read and re-use research. We created the Open Access Button to track the impact of paywalls and help you get access to the research you need. By using the button you’ll help show the impact of this problem, drive awareness of the issue, and help change the system. Furthermore, the Open Access Button has several ways of helping you get access to the research you need right now." [more inside]
posted by daisyk on Nov 22, 2013 - 13 comments

Nanotubes are for wusses.

Theoretically sound model for metallic carbon found. Researchers from Peking University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics employed state-of-the-art theoretical methods to show that it is possible to manipulate carbon to form a three-dimensional metallic phase with interlocking hexagons. “Unlike high-pressure techniques that require three terapascals of pressure to make carbon metallic, the studied structures are stable at ambient conditions and may be synthesized using benzene or polyacenes molecules." The new metallic carbon structures may have important applications in lightweight metals for space applications, catalysis and in devices showing negative differential resistance or superconductivity. The research is supported by grants from China and the US Department of Energy.
posted by markkraft on Nov 7, 2013 - 25 comments

"...research that is scientifically valuable but morally disturbing."

The Nazi Anatomists. "How the corpses of Hitler's victims are still haunting modern science—and American abortion politics."
posted by zarq on Nov 6, 2013 - 28 comments

The Golden Goose Awards

The Golden Goose Awards celebrate "the human and economic benefits of federally funded research by highlighting examples of seemingly obscure studies that have led to major breakthroughs and resulted in significant societal impact." The 2012 awardees.
posted by escabeche on Sep 30, 2013 - 33 comments

All to do with honor and country

Why particle physics matters [no pun intended]. Physicists from around the world talk about why we study the nature of the universe. [via] [more inside]
posted by Eideteker on Aug 20, 2013 - 17 comments

The Coming Dark Age For Science In America

The Coming Dark Age For Science In America (single link HuffPo)
posted by T.D. Strange on Aug 14, 2013 - 84 comments

Five Feet of Books

"During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Dr. Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five-foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. Publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to compile and edit the right collection of works. The result: a 51-volume series of classic works from world literature published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf, which would later be called The Harvard Classics." (Via) [more inside]
posted by zarq on Jul 11, 2013 - 89 comments

Mouse cloned from drop of blood

Scientists in Japan have cloned a mouse from a single drop of blood. (via)
posted by kliuless on Jun 30, 2013 - 33 comments

HIV vs. Cancer: Altered Immune Cells Beat Leukemia

"Emma Whitehead was near death from acute lymphoblastic leukemia but is now in remission after an experimental treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia."

The New York Times has a feature from December 2012 and this incredible story was the subject of a short film as part of a GE/cinelan-sponored Vimeo series of 3 minute documentaries on "big ideas"
posted by 3rdparty on Jun 20, 2013 - 10 comments

=^..^=

Cheetahs’ Secret Weapon: A Tight Turning Radius [New York Times]
"Anyone who has watched a cheetah run down an antelope knows that these cats are impressively fast. But it turns out that speed is not the secret to their prodigious hunting skills: a novel study of how cheetahs chase prey in the wild shows that it is their agility — their skill at leaping sideways, changing directions abruptly and slowing down quickly — that gives those antelope such bad odds."

posted by Fizz on Jun 13, 2013 - 34 comments

Why Is Science Behind A Paywall?

A large portion of scientific research is publicly funded. So why do only the richest consumers have access to it?
posted by reenum on May 18, 2013 - 62 comments

Lamar Smith Chairs House Science Committee

The U.S. House has appointed SOPA architect and climate change skeptic Lamar Smith (R-TX) to chair the House Science Committee. His initial proposal (pdf) would strip the peer-review requirement from the NSF grant process and restrict grants to “groundbreaking” research. [more inside]
posted by jeffburdges on May 1, 2013 - 148 comments

Intelligence Tests

Is Psychometric g a Myth? - "As an online discussion about IQ or general intelligence grows longer, the probability of someone linking to statistician Cosma Shalizi's essay g, a Statistical Myth approaches 1. Usually the link is accompanied by an assertion to the effect that Shalizi offers a definitive refutation of the concept of general mental ability, or psychometric g." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Apr 11, 2013 - 113 comments

To Boldly Design....

Artist/designer Shepard Fairey was commissioned the Center For The Advancement Of Science In Space to design a brand new patch for the International Space Station's ARK 1 (Advancing Researching Knowledge) mission. CASIS's Pat O'Neill unveiling the patch and the ARK 1 proposal.
posted by The Whelk on Apr 3, 2013 - 16 comments

the squidgy 1.5kg lump of pink stuff in our heads

NeuroBollocks: Debunking pseudo-neuroscience so you don't have to.
posted by cthuljew on Mar 31, 2013 - 18 comments

The best of the web - that'll be $30, please

Open access: The true cost of science publishing
posted by Gyan on Mar 29, 2013 - 45 comments

AMNH Podcasts Selected Lectures

Science & the City is the public gateway to the New York Academy of Sciences. We publish a comprehensive calendar of public science events in New York City, host events featuring top scientists in their fields, and produce a weekly podcast covering cutting-edge science. Meanwhile, the American Museum of Natural History presents over 200 public programs each year including workshops, seminars, lectures, cultural events, and performances. Museum lectures are presented by scientists, authors, and researchers at the forefront of their fields. These engaging sessions often reveal the findings of the Museum's own cutting-edge research in genomics, paleontology, astrophysics, biodiversity, and evolutionary biology and complement the science behind the Museum's world-famous cultural and scientific halls and special exhibitions. Now many are available in podcast form. [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Mar 26, 2013 - 3 comments

Better, stronger, faster kidneys.

What do 3D printing, jelly, liver transplants, chainmail, dental fillings, ferrofluids, and the Six Million Dollar man have to tell us about our future? Materials scientist and engineer Mark Miodownik lets us know in this Royal Institution lecture.
posted by cthuljew on Mar 22, 2013 - 8 comments

Probiotics...better than valium?

Why the bacteria in food like yogurt may be the answer to anxiety and depression. Probiotic-rich food is good for your gut, but it may also be good for your brain, say researchers.
posted by cherrybounce on Mar 21, 2013 - 51 comments

Computerized Math, Formal Proofs and Alternative Logic

Using computer systems for doing mathematical proofs - "With the proliferation of computer-assisted proofs that are all but impossible to check by hand, Hales thinks computers must become the judge." [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Mar 16, 2013 - 25 comments

“who’s managing our fisheries?”

Blood and Brains - can vampires survive a zombie apocalypse? [more inside]
posted by the man of twists and turns on Mar 9, 2013 - 7 comments

White House announces new US open access policy

"In a long-awaited leap forward for open access, the US government said today that publications from taxpayer-funded research should be made free to read after a year’s delay – expanding a policy which until now has only applied to biomedical science." [more inside]
posted by brundlefly on Feb 23, 2013 - 35 comments

Freedom From Famine - The Norman Borlaug Story

A documentary film about Norman Borlaug, the Iowa farm boy who saved over a billion people from starvation. (1:06:47) Americans have little knowledge of one of their greatest sons. Why do schoolchildren in China, India, Mexico, and Pakistan know the name and work of Nobel Peace Prize winner [His speech] Norman Borlaug while so few of his countrymen have never heard of him? How did a dirt-poor farm boy from rural Iowa grow up to save a billion people worldwide from starvation and malnutrition and become the father of the Green Revolution? What were the inherited traits and environmental factors that shaped his astonishing journey and led to successes that surprised even him? What can we learn from his life and views that might help the human race survive the next critical century? [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Jan 28, 2013 - 84 comments

Viruses That Make Zombies and Vaccines

This week the FDA announced that they were approving a new kind of flu vaccine. Nestled in the articles was an odd fact: unlike traditional flu vaccines, the new kind, called Flublok, is produced by the cells of insects. This is the kind of detail that you might skim over without giving it a thought. If you did pause to ponder, you might be puzzled: how could insects possibly make a vaccine against viruses that infect humans? The answer may surprise you. To make vaccines, scientists are tapping into a battle between viruses and insects that’s raging in forests and fields and backyards all around us. It’s an important lesson in how to find new ideas in biotechnology: first, leave biologists free to explore the weirdest corners of nature they can find. [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Jan 19, 2013 - 7 comments

Eight criticisms not to make about group selection

Group selection, which was once widely rejected as a significant evolutionary force, is now accepted by all who seriously study the subject. There is still widespread confusion about group selection, however, not only among students and the general public, but among professional evolutionists who do not directly study the subject. We list eight criticisms that are frequently invoked against group selection, which can be permanently laid to rest based upon current knowledge. Experts will always find something to critique about group selection, as for any important subject, but these eight criticisms are not among them. Laying them to rest will enable authors to openly use the term group selection without being handicapped during the review process. [HTML], [PDF]
posted by Blasdelb on Jan 15, 2013 - 41 comments

the end of history illusion

Why You Won’t Be the Person You Expect to Be (NYT): "When we remember our past selves, they seem quite different. We know how much our personalities and tastes have changed over the years. But when we look ahead, somehow we expect ourselves to stay the same... They called this phenomenon the “end of history illusion,” in which people tend to “underestimate how much they will change in the future.”" (via exp.lore) [more inside]
posted by flex on Jan 6, 2013 - 34 comments

Projectile Shit Vomiting For the Win

The Norovirus: A Study in Puked Perfection, "Each norovirus carries just nine protein-coding genes (you have about 20,000). Even with that skimpy genetic toolkit, noroviruses can break the locks on our cells, slip in, and hack our own DNA to make new noroviruses. The details of this invasion are sketchy, alas, because scientists haven’t figured out a good way to rear noroviruses in human cells in their labs. It’s not even clear exactly which type of cell they invade once they reach the gut. Regardless of the type, they clearly know how to exploit their hosts. Noroviruses come roaring out of the infected cells in vast numbers. And then they come roaring out of the body. Within a day of infection, noroviruses have rewired our digestive system so that stuff comes flying out from both ends." [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Jan 3, 2013 - 120 comments

Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality

Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality [FULL TEXT HTML]: "We used data from a very large study, the National Institutes of Health (NIH)–AARP Diet and Health Study (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00340015), to determine whether coffee consumption is associated with total or cause-specific mortality. The current analysis, involving more than 400,000 participants and 52,000 deaths, had ample power to detect even modest associations and allowed for subgroup analyses according to important baseline factors, including the presence or absence of adiposity and diabetes, as well as cigarette-smoking status." [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Dec 25, 2012 - 85 comments

Deciphering the Tools of Nature’s Zombies

Deciphering the Tools of Nature’s Zombies: The ability of parasites to alter the behaviour of their hosts fascinates both scientists and non-scientists alike. One reason that this topic resonates with so many is that it touches on core philosophical issues such as the existence of free will. If the mind is merely a machine, then it can be controlled by any entity that understands the code and has access to the machinery. This special issue of The Journal of Experimental Biology highlights some of the best-understood examples of parasite-induced changes in host brain and behaviour, encompassing both invertebrate and vertebrate hosts and micro- and macro-parasites. Full issue annotated inside: [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Dec 9, 2012 - 13 comments

SPAUN of the living

The simulated brain - "First computer model to produce complex behaviour performs almost as well as humans at simple number tasks." [1,2,3,4,5,etc.]
posted by kliuless on Dec 8, 2012 - 22 comments

Evolution of Multicellularity In Lab Yeast

In just a few weeks single-celled yeast have evolved into a multicellular organism, complete with division of labour between cells. This suggests that the evolutionary leap to multicellularity may be a surprisingly small hurdle. More from Scientific American blogs. [Full Text PDF of the Publication of Note] [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Nov 9, 2012 - 18 comments

Breast cancer rules rewritten in 'landmark' study

What we currently call breast cancer should be thought of as 10 completely separate diseases, according to an international study which has been described as a "landmark". The categories could improve treatment by tailoring drugs for a patient's exact type of breast cancer and help predict survival more accurately. The study in Nature analysed breast cancers from 2,000 women [Abstract] . It will take at least three years for the findings to be used in hospitals. [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Nov 5, 2012 - 37 comments

Research In Progress

Things about the research in progress.
posted by Blasdelb on Oct 27, 2012 - 12 comments

The players in a mutualistic symbiosis: insects, bacteria, viruses, and virulence genes.

One of the many problems farmers of various kinds of legumes need to deal with is the pea aphid. They reproduce incredibly fast and live by sucking the sap out of the plants, an electron micrograph of one in action. However, while they are terrifying parasites of legumes, they have their own yet more horrific parasites, a parasitoid wasp. Here is a really nice close up picture of one doing its thing, a video of the act, and here is a brain meltingly horrific video of a dissection of the mummified aftermath 8 days later. Essentially, these wasps deposit their eggs in a pea aphid and the growing larva feeds on it, developing there for about a week, and then consuming the host from the inside out like a Xenomorph. When it’s done, the wasp larva dries the aphid’s cuticle into a papery brittle shell and an adult wasp emerges from the aphid mummy. Legume farmers love them, and you can even order their mummies online these days. However, farmers noticed that the wasps didn't work as effectively on all of the aphids, and so researchers went to work figuring out why. It turns out that all aphids have a primary bacterial endosymbiont living inside their cells, in addition to and just like a mitochondria, and that many have some combination of five other secondary endosymbionts. Interestingly, two of those other five, Hamiltonella defensa and Serratia symbiotica have been shown to confer varying levels of resistance to the parasitoid wasp, allowing the aphid to survive infection. However, it turns out that there is yet one more layer to this story, [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Oct 22, 2012 - 50 comments

The Puzzle of Plastid Evolution

The Puzzle of Plastid Evolution: A comprehensive understanding of the origin and spread of plastids remains an important yet elusive goal in the field of eukaryotic evolution. Combined with the discovery of new photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic protist lineages, the results of recent taxonomically broad phylogenomic studies suggest that a re-shuffling of higher-level eukaryote systematics is in order. Consequently, new models of plastid evolution involving ancient secondary and tertiary endosymbioses are needed to explain the full spectrum of photosynthetic eukaryotes. [Full Text HTML] [Full Text PDF] [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Oct 20, 2012 - 8 comments

Mitigating Mutational Meltdown in Mammalian Mitochondria

Mitigating Mutational Meltdown in Mammalian Mitochondria PLoS Biol 6(2): e35. [The PDF, where you can read the paper in its much prettier intended format.]
Mitochondria are remarkable microorganisms. About two billion years ago, their distant free-living ancestors hooked up with a truly foreign lineage of archaebacteria and started a genomic merger that led to the most successful coevolved mutualism on the planet: the eukaryotic cell. Along the way, evolving mitochondria lost a lot of genomic baggage, entrusted their emerging hosts with their own replication, sorted out genomic conflicts by following maternal inheritance, and have mostly abstained from sex and recombination. What mitochondria did retain was a subset of genes that encode critical components of the electron transport chain and ATP synthesis enzymes that carry out oxidative phosphorylation. Because mitochondria house the biochemical machinery that requires us to breathe oxygen, it was first assumed that mitochondrial genes would show very slow rates of molecular evolution. So it was big news almost 30 years ago when mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) evolution was observed to be quite rapid [1]. How could the genes for a highly conserved and critical function sustain the consequences of high mutation pressure and permit rapid rates of nucleotide substitution between species? Without the benefits of recombination, where offspring can carry fewer mutations than either parent, mutations should accumulate in mitochondrial genomes through the random loss of less-mutated genomes, a process referred to as Muller's ratchet [2,3]. How have mitochondria avoided a mutational meltdown, or at least significant declines in fitness?
Here is a jaw droppingly beautiful 3D animation of what Mitochindria look like in action. [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Oct 19, 2012 - 37 comments

Constitutive formation of caveolae in a bacterium.

Constitutive formation of caveolae in a bacterium. [Full Text]
Caveolin plays an essential role in the formation of characteristic surface pits, caveolae, which cover the surface of many animal cells. The fundamental principles of caveola formation are only slowly emerging. Here we show that caveolin expression in a prokaryotic host lacking any intracellular membrane system drives the formation of cytoplasmic vesicles containing polymeric caveolin. Vesicle formation is induced by expression of wild-type caveolins, but not caveolin mutants defective in caveola formation in mammalian systems. In addition, cryoelectron tomography shows that the induced membrane domains are equivalent in size and caveolin density to native caveolae and reveals a possible polyhedral arrangement of caveolin oligomers. The caveolin-induced vesicles or heterologous caveolae (h-caveolae) form by budding in from the cytoplasmic membrane, generating a membrane domain with distinct lipid composition. Periplasmic solutes are encapsulated in the budding h-caveola, and purified h-caveolae can be tailored to be targeted to specific cells of interest.
Elio Schaechter writes in plain English about how fantastically amazing and unexpected the researchers actually pulling this off is, and he also talks about it in more detail in his podcast.
posted by Blasdelb on Oct 18, 2012 - 22 comments

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