Elephant Footsteps Reveal Ancient Herd Behavior
When a herd of elephant ancestors walked through mud in the Arabian Desert about 7 million years ago, they unwittingly left their footprints—and clues about their behavior behind. Those prints now expose how the herd behaved: Just like modern elephants, they followed a female leader.
The remarkable 260-meter-long track-way, made by at least 13 proboscideans of different sizes, is at the site of Mleisa 1 in the Al Gharbia region of Abu Dhabi Emirate. Using a kite-mounted camera to take aerial photographs of the footprints,
Journals Warned Not to Publish Diesel Exhaust Studies
At least four journals have been warned by an attorney this month to hold off distributing health data they may have under review. The admonition which concerns a large U.S. study of the effect of diesel exhaust on miners’ lungs—eame from Henry Chajet, an attorney at the Patton Boggs firm in Washington, D.C., and lobbyist for the Mining Awareness Resource Group, an industry coalition. Editors at two U.K.-based publications—Occupational and Environmental Medicine and The Annals of Occupational Hygiene—say they and others received a letter from Chajet advising against “publication or other distribution” of the Diesel Exhaust in Miners Study (DEMS) until it is vetted by Chajet’s industry clients and a U.S. House committee.
Chajet and others involved in the DEMS fracas, including researchers, declined to comment, as a court decision is pending. DEMS has been entangled in litigation almost from its start in 1992. The mining coalition has argued that DEMS is flawed, and it won a court order enforcing their right to preview data for 90 days before publication. DEMS leaders have argued against the restrictions in the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans, Louisiana.
A ruling is expected soon.
(more…) «Journals Warned Not to Publish Diesel Exhaust Studies»
Gates Foundation Funds African Agricultural Impact Monitoring (Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania)
By boosting farm yields, Asia’s green revolution of the 1960s and 1970s prevented millions of people from starving. But it also created social and environmental problems, such as contamination of ground water, in some places. To help Africans avoid making the same mistakes, the Gates Foundation today announced a S10 million grant over 3 years to monitor the effects of agriculture on people and the environment.
(more…) «Gates Foundation Funds African Agricultural Impact Monitoring»
Swiss Satellite Would Clean Up Space Debris
In this illustration, the CleanSpace One satellite, firmly attached to the debris, powers on its engines in order to reach Earth atmosphere where both satellites would be be burnt during their descent. (HO/EPFL/Swiss Space Center/Associated Press)
Switzerland Janitor Satellites
Space researchers in Switzerland are seek¬ing funding to build a spacecraft, dubbed CieanSpaceOne, that would help reduce space debris in orbit around Earth. The spacecraft would home in on a redundant satellite, grab it, and drag it down to burn up when reentering the atmosphere.
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Space is bad for your eyesight. Changes found in astronauts’ eye tissue may cause vision problems, and possibly even blindness.
Larry Kramer of Texas Medical School in Houston and colleagues carried out MRI scans on 27 NASA astronauts after they had spent an average of 108 days in space. Four had bulging of the optic nerve, three had kinks in the nerve sheath, and six had flattening of the eyeball (Neuroradiology, DOI: io.H48/radiol.i2iii986).
“If astronauts are showing these changes after only 100 days in space, what will happen on a three-year flight to Mars?” asks Jason Kring at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Florida.
Work groups with the most members with industry ties were considering illnesses treated by drugs
The new psychiatry “bible” has as many authors with ties to the drug industry as the previous version had. A study now raises concerns over the independence of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and set for publication in May 2013. For DSM-5, the APA required authors to declare their financial ties to industry and limited the amount they could receive from drug companies to $10,000 a year and stock holdings to $50,000. Lisa Cosgrove of Harvard University and Sheldon Krimsky of Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, analysed the financial disclosures of 141 members of the “work groups” drafting the manual. Just as many – 57 per cent – had links to industry as was found in a previous study of DSM-IV (PLoS Medicine, DOI: 10.1371/ journal. pmed.1001190).
(more…) «Diagnostic debate»
Fungus caught on the hop
There is no point sending healthy animals out into the world if they’re just going to catch a deadly disease. Pacific tree frogs that can survive a normally lethal fungus infection are spreading it to species that cannot. Such “reservoir” species could threaten frogs released from captive breeding programmes.
Between 2003 and 2010, the deadly chytrid fungus slashed the populations of two frog species in the Sierra Nevada, while populations of a third species – the Pacific tree frog (Pseudacris regilla) – held steady.
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IN 1905, SIR WILLIAM OSLER, THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PHYSICIAN OF HIS TIME, STEPPED DOWN from the medical faculty of Johns Hopkins University at the age of 55. At his farewell, he emphasized that the “effective, moving, vitalizing work of the world is done between the ages of25 and 40—these 15 golden years of plenty.” Many of us, who are old but still active like myself, may like to strongly disagree. But the power of the creative prime in this age group is irrefutable. Therefore, when the Global Young Academy was established in 2010 to catalyze the formation of national Young Academies that promote leadership by a country’s most outstanding scientists aged 30 to 40 (www.globalyoungacaderny.org), it was enthusiastically applauded by the international science community. One country that urgently needs a Young Academy is India, a nation of 1.2 billion people, 55% of whom are under 25 years old. What would be a good design for a Young Academy of India?
(more…) «India’s “Science for All” Academy»
What Exactly is Research?
Research studies come in many different forms, and we will discuss several of these forms in more detail in Chapter 5. For now, however, we will focus on two of the most common types of research-correlational research and experimental research.
Correlational research: In correlational research, the goal is to determine whether two or more variables are related. (By the way, “variables” is a term with which you should be familiar. A variable is anything that can take on different values, such as weight, time, and height.) For example, a researcher may be interested in determining whether age is related to weight. In this example, a researcher may discover that age is indeed related to weight because as age increases, weight also increases. If a correlation between two variables is strong enough, knowing about one variable allows a researcher to make a prediction about the other variable. There are several different types of correlations, which will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 5. It is important to point out, however, that a correlation or relationship between two things does not necessarily mean that one thing caused the other.To draw a cause-and-effect conclusion, researchers must use experimental research.This point will be emphasized throughout this book.
Experimental research: In its simplest form, experimental research involves comparing two groups on one outcome measure to test some hypothesis regarding causation. For example, if a researcher is interested in the effects of a new medication on headaches, the researcher would randomly divide a group of people with headaches into two groups. One of the groups, the experimental group, would receive the new medication being tested.The other group, the control group, would receive a placebo medication (i.e., a medication containing a harmless substance, such as sugar, that has no physiological effects). Besides receiving the different medications, the groups would be treated exactly the same so that the research could isolate the effects of the medications. After receiving the medications, both groups would be compared to see whether people in the experimental group had fewer headaches than people in the control group. Assuming this study was properly designed (and properly designed studies will be discussed in detail in later chapters), if people in the experimental group had fewer headaches than people in the control group, the researcher could conclude that the new medication reduces headaches.
In recent years, the results of various research studies have taken center stage in the popular media. No longer is research the private domain of research professors and scientists wearing white lab coats. To the contrary, the results of research studies are frequently reported on the local evening news, CNN, the Internet, and various other media outlets that are accessible to both scientists and nonscientists alike. For example, in recent years, we have all become familiar with research regarding the effects of stress on our psychological well-being, the health benefits of a lowcholesterol diet, the effects of exercise in preventing certain forms of cancer, which automobiles are safest to drive, and the deleterious effects of pollution on global warming. We may have even become familiar with research studies regarding the human genome, the Mars Land Rover, the use of stem cells, and genetic cloning. Not too long ago, it was unlikely that the results of such highly scientific research studies would have been shared with the general public to such a great extent. Despite the accessibility and prevalence of research in today’s society, many people share common misperceptions about exactly what research is, how research can be used, what research can tell us, and the limitations of research. For some people, the term “research” conjures up images of scientists in laboratories watching rats run through mazes or mixing chemicals in test tubes. For other people, the term “research” is associated with telemarketer surveys, or people approaching them at the local shopping mall to “just ask you a few questions about your shopping habits.” In actuality, these stereotypical examples of research are only a small part of what research comprises. It is therefore not surprising that many people are unfamiliar with the various types of research designs, the basics of how research is conducted, what research can be used for, and the limits of using research to answer questions and acquire new knowledge. Rapid Reference 1.1 discusses what we mean by “research” from a scientific perspective. Before addressing these important issues, however, we should first briefly review what science is and how it goes about telling us what we know.