bmahersciwriter writes: Citation is the common way that scientists nod to the important and foundational work that preceded their own and the number of times a particular paper is cited is often used as a rough measure of its impact. So what are the most highly cited papers in the past century plus of scientific research? Is it the determination of DNA's structure? The identification of rapid expansion in the Universe? No. The top 100 most cited papers are actually a motley crew of methods, data resources and software tools that usability, practicality and a little bit of luck have propelled to the top of an enormous corpus of scientific literature.
bmahersciwriter writes: Tiny bubbles of cell membrane — called exosomes — are shed by most cells. Long thought to be mere trash, researchers had recently noticed that they often contain short, regulatory RNA molecules, suggesting that exosomes may be one way that cells communicate with one another. Now, it appears that RNA in the exosomes shed by tumor cells can get into healthy cells and 'transform' them, putting them on the path to becoming cancerous themselves.
bmahersciwriter writes: A 34 year old man in an apparent vegetative state for more than 16 years was presented with video from "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" while in an fMRI scanner. His brain showed activity in regions associated with executive function, similar to that of fully conscious subjects, suggesting that he was at some level following the plot. “It was actually indistinguishable from a healthy participant watching the movie,” says Adrian Owen, a neuroscientist in Ontario who goes by the cheeky Twitter handle @comadork. Owen hopes that studies like his could help improve the lives of patients who are unable to express their wishes. To that end, it's fortuitous perhaps that the man's father had been taking him to watch movies every Wednesday.
bmahersciwriter 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.
bmahersciwriter 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.
bmahersciwriter writes: What social networks are most popular among scientists? With a few mega networks like ResearchGate and Academia.edu touting a high number of active users, the journal Nature surveyed researchers to find out what they actually use and why.
bmahersciwriter 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.
bmahersciwriter 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?
bmahersciwriter 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.
bmahersciwriter 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.
bmahersciwriter 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."
bmahersciwriter 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.
bmahersciwriter 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.
bmahersciwriter 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.
bmahersciwriter 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.