sciencehabit writes: t's just a rumor, but if specificity is any measure of credibility, it might just be right. For weeks, gossip has spread around the Internet that researchers with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) have spotted gravitational waves—ripples in space itself set off by violent astrophysical events. In particular, rumor has it that LIGO physicists have seen two black holes spiraling into each other and merging. But now, an email message that ended up on Twitter adds some specific numbers to those rumors. The author says he got the details from people who have seen the manuscript of the LIGO paper that will describe the discovery.
sciencehabit writes: Why one man died and four others fell ill during a drug safety study in France last month is still very unclear. But a preliminary inspection report lashes out at Biotrial, the company that conducted the study, for how it responded after the first volunteer in the clinical trial was hospitalized. Three major errors by Biotrial put other volunteers at risk, says the report, published yesterday by France's General Inspectorate of Social Affairs.
sciencehabit writes: Researchers have engineered tiny gold particles that can assemble into a variety of crystalline structures simply by adding a bit of DNA to the solution that surrounds them. Down the road, such reprogrammable particles could be used to make materials that reshape themselves in response to light, or to create novel catalysts that reshape themselves as reactions proceed.
sciencehabit writes: Retractions of scientific papers are common. But not this one. The retraction by Science of a 12-year-old paper based on research funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) breaks new ground in what a federal agency can require scientists to do to set the record straight—and the role that journals play in weeding out flawed papers.
sciencehabit writes: When a cyclone named Klaus tore across southwestern France in January 2009, it highlighted a strange phenomenon: Trees, regardless of their diameter, height, or elastic properties, don’t tend to break until wind speeds reach about 42 m/s (94 mph). This seemingly odd convergence has actually been observed by several historical scientists, including Galileo and Leonardo de Vinci, both of whom suggested that a mathematical law could explain the resistance of wooden beams under stress. Now, using data from a new experiment, scientists say they have found that law.
sciencehabit writes: An experimental assisted reproduction technique that could allow some families to avoid having children with certain types of heritable disease should be allowed to go forward in the United States, provided it proceeds slowly and cautiously. That is the conclusion of a report released today from a panel organized by the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NAS), which assesses the ethics questions surrounding the controversial technique called mitochondrial DNA replacement therapy.
More controversially, however, the panel recommended that only altered male embryos should be used to attempt a pregnancy, to limit the possible risks to future generations. (Males can’t pass along the mitochondrial DNA that is altered in the procedure.)
sciencehabit writes: They are lurking in your heart, your liver, your kidneys, and maybe even your brain: run-down cells that could be making you age. A new study of mice shows that spurring these so-called senescent cells to self-destruct extends the animals’ lives and delays some aspects of aging. When researchers gave mice a drug that selectively targeted these elderly cells, the animals lived 20% longer and displayed more youthful behaviors (risk taking, etc.) than their non-treated counterparts.
sciencehabit writes: Developmental biologist Kathy Niakan has received permission from U.K. authorities to modify human embryos using the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology. Niakan, who works at the Francis Crick Institute in London, applied for permission to use the technique in studies to better understand the role of key genes during the first few days of human embryo development.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which grants licenses for work with human embryos, sperm, and eggs in the United Kingdom, approved Niakan’s application at a meeting of HFEA's license committee on 14 January. The minutes of that meeting state that, “[o]n balance, the proposed use of CRISPR/Cas9 was considered by the Committee to offer better potential for success, and was a justified technical approach to obtaining research data about gene function from the embryos used.”
sciencehabit writes: Tracking and recording the motion of the sun, the moon, and the planets as they paraded across the desert sky, ancient Babylonian astronomers used simple arithmetic to predict the positions of celestial bodies. Now, new evidence reveals that these astronomers, working several centuries B.C.E., also employed sophisticated geometric methods that foreshadow the development of calculus. Historians had thought such techniques did not emerge until more than 1400 years later, in 14th century Europe.
sciencehabit writes: Most fitness trackers—even the most sophisticated ones on the market—can’t do much more than count your steps or measure your heart rate. But researchers have developed a device that can do much more: Built into a headband or wristband, it can monitor chemicals in the body’s sweat that may be used to non-invasively assess medical conditions, discern drug abuse, or help coaches and trainers optimize the performance of elite athletes, scientists say.
sciencehabit writes: Eighteen years after a computer beat then-reigning world champion Garry Kasparov at chess, a machine has defeated a professional player at the ancient eastern board game Go. The new advance is much bigger, artificial intelligence (AI) researchers say, as Go is such a computationally demanding game that even a decade ago some researchers thought a computer would never defeat a human expert. What's more, the machine won not by virtue of overwhelming computational power, but by employing "machine learning" tools that enable it to teach itself and to think more like humans do.
sciencehabit writes: Is my yellow the same as your yellow? Does your pain feel like my pain? The question of whether the human consciousness is subjective or objective is largely philosophical. But the line between consciousness and unconsciousness is a bit easier to measure. In a new study of how anesthetic drugs affect the brain, researchers suggest that our experience of reality is the product of a delicate balance of connectivity between neurons—too much or too little and consciousness slips away.
sciencehabit writes: The rise of cats may have been inevitable. That’s one intriguing interpretation of a new study, which finds that early Chinese farmers may have domesticated wild felines known as leopard cats more than 5000 years ago. If true, this would indicate that cats were domesticated more than once—in China, and 5000 years earlier in the Middle East. It would also suggest that the rise of farming was destined to give rise to the housecat.
sciencehabit writes: A rare set of Tyrannosaurus footprints is giving researchers insight into the walking speed of the prehistoric beasts, and it’s possible that humans might have been able to outrun them. According to the new estimate, T. rex may have ambled as quickly as 8 kilometers per hour (5 miles per hour), slower than a plodding amateur marathon runner or even a middle-aged power walker.
sciencehabit writes: In 2012, archaeologists stumbled across something disturbing in Nataruk, near Lake Turkana in Kenya: the remains of at least 27 people, unburied and exposed to the elements. Out of those best preserved, the archaeologists could tell 10 had died violent deaths—five from blunt-force trauma to the head, and five from sharper wounds to the head and neck, likely from arrows. The archaeologists determined that they were likely looking at evidence of warfare—a massacre that occurred about 10,000 years ago, much longer ago than warfare was thought to have arisen.