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+ - SPAM: What's the deal with e-cigarettes?

Submitted by bmahersciwriter
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "The World Health Organization today released recommendations that come down hard on electronic cigarettes, devices that deliver nicotine in a simulacrum of smoking that lacks carcinogenic toxins released by burning tobacco. But does the evidence support their recommendations? One commentator says that use of the devices should be allowed, and maybe even encouraged, as a replacement for cigarettes. Nevertheless, a battle has been brewing in the research community and the science journal Nature looks at the evidence and why the debate is so divisive in an extensive news feature."

+ - How to read a microbiome study like a scientist.

Submitted by bmahersciwriter
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Scientific reports have increasingly linked the bacteria in your gut to health and maladies, often making wild-sounding claims. Did you hear about the mice who were given fecal transplants from skinny humans and totally got skinny! Well, some of the more gut-busting results might not be as solid as they seem. Epidemiologist Bill Hanage offers five critical questions to ask when confronted by the latest microbiome research."

+ - Mapping a monster volcano->

Submitted by bmahersciwriter
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "In one of the biggest-ever seismology deployments at an active volcano, researchers are peppering Mount St Helens in Washington state with equipment to study the intricate system of chambers and pipes that fed the most devastating eruption in US history. This month, they plan to set off 24 explosions — each equivalent to a magnitude-2 earthquake — around around the slumbering beast in an effort to map the its interior with unprecedented depth and clarity."
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+ - How did those STAP stem cell papers get accepted in the first place?->

Submitted by bmahersciwriter
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "The news team at the scientific journal Nature turns its investigative power on the journal itself. The goal: to try and understand how two papers that made extraordinary claims about a new way to create stem cells managed to get published despite some obvious errors and a paucity of solid evidence. The saga behind these so-called STAP cells is engaging, but sadly reminiscent of so many other scientific controversies. Why is science so bad at policing itself?"
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+ - Old disagreements over potential risks of 1918-like influenza study surface

Submitted by bmahersciwriter
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "After almost a year of wrangling over gain of function influenza studies involving H5N1 in 2011 and 2012, the Wisconsin institutional biosafety committee (bizarrely? brazenly?) still deemed similar work — by one of the same labs involved — on a 1918-like influenza bug to fall outside the remit of dual use research of concern. Documents obtained by Nature suggest laxity in the biosecurity assessment. But NIAID set them straight and forced them to re assess the work. The research was published early last month."

+ - Getting the most out of the space station (before it's too late)!->

Submitted by bmahersciwriter
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "NASA administrators are strategizing a push to do more science on the International Space Station in the coming years. The pressure is on, given the rapidly cooling relations between the US and Russia whose deputy prime minister recently suggested that US astronauts use a trampoline if they want to get into orbit.
Aiding in the push for more research is the development of two-way cargo ships by SpaceX, which should allow for return of research materials (formerly a hurdle to doing useful experiments). NASA soon aims to send new earth-monitoring equipment to the station and expanded rodent facilities. And geneLAB will send a range of model organisms like fruit flies and nematodes into space for months at a time."

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+ - Computer science could untangle a messy problem in theoretical physics->

Submitted by bmahersciwriter
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes ""Computational complexity is grounded in practical matters, such as how many logical steps are required to execute an algorithm. But it could resolve one of the most baffling theoretical conundrums to hit his field in recent years: the black-hole firewall paradox, which seems to imply that either quantum mechanics or general relativity must be wrong.""
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+ - Nuclear-waste facility on high alert over the presence of kitty litter->

Submitted by bmahersciwriter
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "US authorities concluded last week that at least 368 drums of waste at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, New Mexico could be susceptible to a chemical reaction suspected to have caused a drum to rupture there in February. The order was issued after an inspection team found evidence on 16 May of heat and physical damage to another drum. The drum contained a mix of nitrate salts — often generated in the recovery of plutonium from metal and other scrap during waste processing — and cellulose in the form of a wheat-based commercial cat litter used to absorb liquid waste."
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+ - A disease that's blowing in the wind->

Submitted by bmahersciwriter
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Kawasaki disease is a mysterious condition that results in alarming rashes, inflammation and sometimes early death. It has affected communities in Japan at unpredictable intervals for decades, and is suspected to arrive there and elsewhere by the wind (http://www.nature.com/news/infectious-disease-blowing-in-the-wind-1.10374). Now, researchers have narrowed the source to croplands in northern China and offered some possible explanations as to its cause."
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+ - Curiosity Rover may have brought dozens of microbes to Mars->

Submitted by bmahersciwriter
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Despite rigorous pre-flight cleaning, swabbing of the Curiosity Rover just prior to liftoff revealed some 377 strains of bacteria.
"In the lab, scientists exposed the microbes to desiccation, UV exposure, cold and pH extremes. Nearly 11% of the 377 strains survived more than one of these severe conditions. Thirty-one per cent of the resistant bacteria did not form tough, protective spore coats; the researchers suspect that they used other biochemical means of protection, such as metabolic changes."
While the risk of contaminating the red planet are unknown, knowing the types of strains that may have survived pre-flight cleaning may help rule out biological 'discoveries' if and when NASA carries out it's plans to return a soil sample from Mars."

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+ - Scientists create best-ever model of the evolving universe->

Submitted by bmahersciwriter
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Mark Vogelsberger, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, and his colleagues created a model of the Universe that follows the evolution of both visible and dark matter starting just 12 million years after the Big Bang. While previous models have either been small and detailed or large and coarse, this simulation covers a region of space big enough to be representative of the whole Universe but detailed enough to resolve small-scale structures, such as individual galaxies."
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+ - Zombie plants help to spread bacterial pathogen->

Submitted by bmahersciwriter
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "We've all heard stories about how parasites can 'zombify' organisms, getting them to mindlessly protect a brood or infect their peers. Now UK researchers have figured out how one bacterial pathogen co-opts the behaviour of a plant, causing it to attract sap-sucking insects that help the bacteria spread to other plants.

From the story in Nature News:

“The plant appears alive, but it’s only there for the good of the pathogen,” says plant pathologist Saskia Hogenhout from the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK. “In an evolutionary sense, the plant is dead and will not produce offspring.”

“Many might baulk at the concept of a zombie plant because the idea of plants behaving is strange,” says David Hughes, a parasitologist at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. “But they do, and since they do, why wouldn't parasites have evolved to take over their behaviour, as they do for ants and crickets?”"

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+ - Could this be the next cholesterol-lowering blockbuster drug?

Submitted by bmahersciwriter
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes "Several companies have been testing a new approach for a cholesterol-lowering drug that could give blockbusters like lipitor a run for their money (or could have benefits when used with statin drugs like lipitor). They are reporting some pretty impressive results at a cardiology meeting this week (http://blogs.nature.com/news/2014/03/new-cholesterol-drugs-make-strides-in-clinical-trials.html).
The story behind the target for the drug, PCSK9, is interesting (http://www.nature.com/news/genetics-a-gene-of-rare-effect-1.12773). The gene was discovered as mutated in several people with impressively low levels of LDL (the 'bad' cholesterol) in their blood. It is considered one of the most promising drug leads to have come directly from work on the human genome project.
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