Last April, motivated by rumors of a Chinese paper published the next month that physically demonstrated the technical feasibility of editing human germline DNA with CRISPR by successfully modifying human embryos, a coalition of well regarded scientists assembled to address this fundamentally new ability and they called for an international summit. It was to be billed as a new Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA for a new age in order to lead a new global conversation on questions of whether and how to control human inheritance, which could only be dreamed of 40 years ago. This is a fundamental departure from the non-inheritable gene engineering with CRISPR covered on the blue recently. Thus, from December 1-3, the International Summit on Human Gene Editing, held as a collaborative effort between U.S. National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Medicine, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and The Royal Society, met to discuss the future of this technology and has come out with a clear consensus statement. [more inside]
A decades old mystery is now solved! After many attempts searching through Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) images, the Apollo 16 S-IVB rocket booster impact site has been identified. [more inside]
The Science of Life and Death in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein [The Public Domain Review] Professor Sharon Ruston surveys the scientific background to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, considering contemporary investigations into resuscitation, galvanism, and the possibility of states between life and death.
"In his final arguments to the jurors, Groenweghe called Johnson’s accusers “promiscuous.” Hands in his pockets, eyes downcast, he told the members of the jury that these young gay men “have a lifestyle I don’t understand, that many of us don’t understand. But, he said that HIV criminalization laws weren’t put on the books by legislators just to protect them, but to protect the public health — including the health of the jurors." [more inside]
Why are autumn leaves mostly yellow in Europe and red in North America? The colour of a British wood in autumn is predominantly yellow. There are relatively few European trees which have red leaves in the autumn....Autumn is much redder in North America and east Asia than it is in northern Europe, and this can’t be explained by temperature differences alone.
Sure, we may be a little weird compared to our close relatives for not having a baculum (penis bone), and maybe that's the sort of thing you want to explain for whatever reason, but does human penis size and shape need a uniquely human story? Assuming it's correlated to the vagina like it probably is in many other species, then no it doesn't... unless the size and shape of the human vagina has an exceptional story. Does it? We wouldn't know. [more inside]
Remember the prototype lunar rover that was believed to be scrapped but was recovered by a junkyard owner? It just failed to sell at auction, and could be yours if you have an amount of money more than $30000 burning a hole in your pocket.
Professor of Mathematics Izabella Laba's "A Response to … " Scott Aaronson's "Words Will Do". An exchange between a mathematician and a computer scientist, on the use of terms including: privilege, hegemony, false consciousness, mansplaining, etc., and the general problem of clear communication, when the social sciences are applied towards political causes. [more inside]
When Fiona Ingleby took to Twitter last April to vent about a journal’s peer-review process, she didn’t expect much of a response. With only around 100 followers on the social-media network, Ingleby — an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Sussex near Brighton, UK — guessed that she might receive a few messages of support or commiseration from close colleagues. What she got was an overwhelming wave of reaction. Social media has enabled an increasingly public discussion about the persistent problem of sexism in science.
Christopher Kimball, the 'kitchen stickler' behind the beloved Cook's Illustrated magazine and PBS' highly-rated America's Test Kitchen show, is leaving the kitchen amidst a leadership shakeup at the company he founded. The last letter from Vermont has not yet been published. Previously
Humans 2.0 - "With CRISPR, scientists can change, delete, and replace genes in any animal, including us. Working mostly with mice, researchers have already deployed the tool to correct the genetic errors responsible for sickle-cell anemia, muscular dystrophy, and the fundamental defect associated with cystic fibrosis. One group has replaced a mutation that causes cataracts; another has destroyed receptors that H.I.V. uses to infiltrate our immune system." [more inside]
You were taught in school that the rain forest is like the lungs of our planet.
It’s not that simple.
It’s not that simple.
"Studies show that if you've served in the military -- any branch, any war, or even if you served in a time of peace -- you have a much higher risk of dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) than if you were not in the military. And no one seems to know why." [more inside]
Seven fossilized brains from the Cambrian. A complex animal skeleton from the pre-Cambrian. Oxygen made by photosynthesis a billion years before the Great Oxygenation Event. Carbon made by life from 4.1 billion years ago. (Okay, maybe not so fast on that last one.)
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari - "The book delivers on its madly ambitious subtitle by in fact managing to cover key moments in the developmental history of humankind from the emergence of Homo Sapiens to today's developments in genetic engineering." Also btw, check out Harari on the myths we need to survive, re: fact/value distinctions and their interrelationships.
One of the most distinctive masks worn during the Carnival of Venice is “Il Medico della Peste,” or “The Plague Doctor.” But the distinctive bone-white mask and black clothing was actually the 17th century equivalent of a biocontainment suit. Albeit one based on very shaky science.
The word algebra stems from the Arabic word al-jabr, which has its roots in the title of a 9th century manuscript written by the mathematician Al-Khwarizmi. The Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr wal-muqabala (The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing) was a pioneering piece of work - offering practical answers for land distribution, rules on inheritance and distributing salaries. This treatise also underpins the science of flight and the engineering behind the fastest car in the world. via
Lamar Smith continues waging his three-year war on the National Science Foundation. If Congress has its way, the next round of grants by the National Science Foundation, a hallmark of government funding for graduate students and scientists, will no longer be based on scientific merit. Proposals would not be reviewed by panels of preeminent scholars across the United States as they have been for more than a half-century; instead, they would all be “in the national interest,” with strict new rules adopted earlier this month by a Republican House committee. Previously. This is not the first time Smith has tried to impose Congressional control on the NSF's budget.
“Cut Microbe” is a sculpture entirely hand cut out of paper. Measuring 44 inches/112cms in length, it is half a million times bigger than the ecoli bacteria upon which it is based. I wanted to create a sculpture that reflected in the process of being made the incredible scale and complexity of this microbiological world. I am amazed at the strange beauty of the natural world and wanted to open people’s eyes to aspects of it that they rarely see. -Rogan Brown
Neodymium magnet falling through the interior of a copper pipe.
Explanation. [more inside]
Explanation. [more inside]
As debate rages about whether to introduce a sugar tax, this is the story of how Mexico defied its own powerful fizzy drinks industry to impose a tax on soda. [more inside]
"It isn’t easy to discover new podcasts. There are just SO many out there. Sometimes the best approach is to simply turn to a friend and say, 'Hey, what are you listening to these days?'" So, NPR has created earbud.fm, a "friendly guide to great podcasts."
Nima Arkani-Hamed is championing a campaign to build the world's largest particle collider - "Two years ago, he agreed to become the inaugural director of the new Center for Future High Energy Physics in Beijing. He has since visited China 18 times, campaigning for the construction of a machine of unprecedented scale: a circular particle collider up to 60 miles in circumference, or nearly four times as big around as Europe's Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Nicknamed the 'Great Collider', and estimated to cost roughly $10 billion over 30 years, it would succeed the LHC as the new center of the physics universe. According to Arkani-Hamed and those who agree with him, this 100-trillion-electron-volt (TeV) collider would slam subatomic particles together hard enough to either find the particles that the LHC could not muster or rule them out, rescuing or killing the naturalness principle and propelling physicists toward one of two radically different pictures: that of a knowable universe, or an unknowable multiverse." [more inside]
The film Alien Nation was a hit in 1988, so the fledgling Fox Network figured building off its success with a human-alien buddy cop show was a can’t-miss concept.... [more inside]
The Lost Girls: 'Misdiagnosed, misunderstood or missed altogether, many women with autism struggle to get the help they need.' Part of Spectrum's Sex/Gender in Autism special report. [more inside]
Maybe Jesus could walk on water, but anybody can walk on this non-Newtonian fluid (SLYT)
Adam and Jamie announce the end of their classic Mythbusters series in this week's Entertainment Tonight. [more inside]
What it’s like to earn a living as a research subject in clinical trials Today, Stone no longer relies on strangers in bars—instead, he’s a part of a small community that shares info about study opportunities. Stone says he sends mass texts whenever he sees a new study online. In exchange, the group does the same for him. The members of this group call themselves guinea pigs, or lab rats. They also call themselves professionals.
There is a club among atomic scientists who have worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. How much plutonium in the body does it take to join the club? Enough so that it comes out in your urine.
Earlier this month, Youyou Tu was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for her discovery of artemisinin, also known as qinghaosu. She is the first Chinese Nobel recipient for work that was done in mainland China. Dr. Tu's studies were done in the midst of the Cultural Revolution, a politically precarious time for Chinese academics, which adds a layer of historical complexity to her work. It is difficult to overstate the importance of artemisinin to anti-malarial efforts. Unfortunately, artemisinin-resistant strains of malaria are already beginning to appear only thirty years after the drug was introduced.
What's the Difference Between Data Science and Statistics? — Not long ago, the term "data science" meant nothing to most people-even to those who worked with data. A likely response to the term was: "Isn't that just statistics?" These days, data science is hot. The Harvard Business Review called data scientist the "Sexiest Job of the 21st Century." So what changed? Why did data science become a distinct term? And what distinguishes data science from statistics?
The Runner’s High: It’s Like Smoking Weed [High Times]
Research on mice [Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences] has confirmed that a “runner’s high” arises from a release of anandamide, a neurotransmitter that stimulates the same cannabinoid receptors that cannabis does. If you have ever run, biked, lifted weights, or performed any kind of physical exercise, you may have noticed a sense of euphoria and the feeling you are relieved of physical pain and anxiety. They thought it came from β-endorphin, but now scientists have confirmed that anandamide is most likely the cause.[more inside]
The world's coral is suddenly and rapidly starting to die - "This is only the third time we've seen what we would refer to as a global bleaching event. [The prior events] were in 1998 and 2010, and those were pretty much one year events. We're looking at a similar spatial scale of bleaching across the globe, but spanning across at least 2 years. So that means a lot of these corals are being put under really prolonged stress, or are being hit 2 years in a row." Can 'manually breeding supercorals capable of living in increasingly inhospitable waters' help in time? (via/via)
The "Lube Olympics" makes slippery bid to rival 2020 Tokyo Games — featuring popular Greece sports like group sumo, tug-of-war, giant balls relay, sliding underneath the sheets and so much more
RED 4K Video of Colorful Liquid in Space. "Once again, astronauts on the International Space Station dissolved an effervescent tablet in a floating ball of water, and captured images using a camera capable of recording four times the resolution of normal high-definition cameras. The higher resolution images and higher frame rate videos can reveal more information when used on science investigations, giving researchers a valuable new tool aboard the space station. This footage is one of the first of its kind. The cameras are being evaluated for capturing science data and vehicle operations by engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama." [Via]
A controversial talk by Tuck Ngun at the ongoing American Society of Human Genetics 2015 meeting in Baltimore presented evidence of epigenetic mechanisms associated with homosexuality in discordant male twins (i.e., one gay, the other straight). The conference organizers and news outlets quickly trumpeted that scientists had discovered epigenetic markers capable of predicting the sexual orientation of a male; however, the reaction of scientists at the meeting was less enthusiastic. Ed Yong at the Atlantic wrote a particularly thorough takedown. Criticisms centered around the small sample size (37 pairs of twins), the fact that the samples were taken from saliva (whereas you'd expect epigenetic variants influencing sexuality to occur in the brain), and the fact that the predictive model they developed was not terribly predictive (67% accuracy). [more inside]
The 2015 finalists for the American Society of Microbiologists'agar art winners have been announced! Agar art, also sometimes called petri dish art or microbial art, is a technique in which colonies of bacteria or fungi are grown on agar plates to produce a pattern. If you want to see more, the Daily Dish posts a new art plate every single day. Previously.
A study published in the journal Animal Behavior found that crows can recognize their fellow dead crows and learn to avoid the dangerous circumstances associated with death. The BBC described the study, which involved a "masked individual playing bad cop, arriving on the scene holding up a dead crow." [more inside]
"Immigration to my country harms me, it harms my family, it harms my people. Whoever invites or welcomes immigrants to Europe and Germany is my enemy,” says bioinformatician Gangolf Jobb, who has responded to the Syrian migrant crisis by revoking the license for his Treefinder software, one tool (among many) that help measure and visualize the evolutionary distances between organisms. [more inside]
The New York Times is reporting that NASA is about to announce the discovery of "definitive signs of liquid water on the surface of present-day Mars."
For the first time in 28 years, the Winton Book Prize has been won by a solo female author - Gaia Vince. Vince has published an article today asking why women don't win science book prizes more often. It's an effective round up of everything from early years conditioning to institutional sexism (in publishing as well as science). The first chapter of her winning book Adventures in the Anthropocene is available as a .pdf download. [more inside]
The iBookGuy explains how graphics worked within the memory constraints of the Commodore 64 and NES, and the Apple II and Atari 2600
Geosesarma is a genus of small, colorful, land based freshwater crabs, roughly the size of an American quarter. Scientists struggle to properly catalog and describe the varieties of crabs they find in pet stores. [more inside]