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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 9 declined, 6 accepted (15 total, 40.00% accepted)

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Submission + - Specific Gut Bacteria May Account for Much Obesity (nature.com) 1

resistant writes: "A limited study from China offers the tantalizing possibility that targeting specific gut bacteria in humans could significantly reduce the scope of an epidemic of obesity in Western countries:

"The endotoxin-producing Enterobacter decreased in relative abundance from 35% of the volunteer’s gut bacteria to non-detectable, during which time the volunteer lost 51.4kg of 174.8kg initial weight and recovered from hyperglycemia and hypertension after 23 weeks on a diet of whole grains, traditional Chinese medicinal foods and prebiotics."

As usual, sensationalist reports have been exaggerating the import of this very early investigation, and one wonders about that "diet of whole grains." Still, there could be meat in the idea of addressing pathogenic bacteria for the control of excessive weight gain. After all, it wasn't too long ago that a brave scientist insisted in the face of widespread ridicule that peptic ulcers in humans usually are caused by bacterial infections, not by acidic foods."

Submission + - The Neuroscience of Screwing Up (wired.com)

resistant writes: As the evocative title from Wired magazine implies, Kevin Dunbar of the University of Toronto has taken an in-depth and fascinating look at scientific error and the scientists who cope with it and sometimes transcend it to find new lines of inquiry. Three key passages follow:

"Dunbar came away from his in vivo studies with an unsettling insight: Science is a deeply frustrating pursuit. Although the researchers were mostly using established techniques, more than 50 percent of their data was unexpected. (In some labs, the figure exceeded 75 percent.) 'The scientists had these elaborate theories about what was supposed to happen,' Dunbar says. 'But the results kept contradicting their theories. It wasn't uncommon for someone to spend a month on a project and then just discard all their data because the data didn't make sense.'" [...]

[...] "The scientific process, after all, is supposed to be an orderly pursuit of the truth, full of elegant hypotheses and control variables. (Twentieth-century science philosopher Thomas Kuhn, for instance, defined normal science as the kind of research in which 'everything but the most esoteric detail of the result is known in advance.') However, when experiments were observed up close — and Dunbar interviewed the scientists about even the most trifling details — this idealized version of the lab fell apart, replaced by an endless supply of disappointing surprises. There were models that didn't work and data that couldn't be replicated and simple studies riddled with anomalies. 'These weren't sloppy people,' Dunbar says. 'They were working in some of the finest labs in the world. But experiments rarely tell us what we think they're going to tell us. That's the dirty secret of science.'"

"While the scientific process is typically seen as a lonely pursuit — researchers solve problems by themselves — Dunbar found that most new scientific ideas emerged from lab meetings, those weekly sessions in which people publicly present their data. Interestingly, the most important element of the lab meeting wasn't the presentation — it was the debate that followed. Dunbar observed that the skeptical (and sometimes heated) questions asked during a group session frequently triggered breakthroughs, as the scientists were forced to reconsider data they'd previously ignored. The new theory was a product of spontaneous conversation, not solitude; a single bracing query was enough to turn scientists into temporary outsiders, able to look anew at their own work."

Mentioned in the article itself is mysterious radio interference from the heavens, a huge error by Aristotle that is commonly repeated even today, and a quote from the late physicist Richard Feynman.


Submission + - NASA Researchers Worried About Huge Sun Flares (wired.com) 1

resistant writes: Wired reported recently that a group of researchers assembled by NASA issued a "chilling" report expressing great concern about the potential for solar flares in 2012 to coincide with "the presence of an unusually large hole in Earth's geomagnetic shield", potentially virtually collapsing national power grids. Complicating the matter is the lack of current plans to replace the sole early warning satellite on which power grid operators rely, and the poor state of readiness in general. Full recovery from such a catastrophe might take four to ten years, and cost trillions of dollars.

The report was largely ignored at first because of the unfortunate overlap with an ancient Mayan prediction of a major "turning point" in the year 2012 (by the Western calendar).


Submission + - Look, Mommy! I Made a New Life Form!

resistant writes:

The Apple computer was invented in a garage. Same with the Google search engine. Now, tinkerers are working at home with the basic building blocks of life itself. Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering — a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories. .... In Cambridge, Mass., a group called DIYbio is setting up a community lab where the public could use chemicals and lab equipment, including a used freezer, scored for free off Craigslist, that drops to 80 degrees below zero, the temperature needed to keep many kinds of bacteria alive. Co-founder Mackenzie Cowell, a 24-year-old who majored in biology in college, said amateurs will probably pursue serious work such as new vaccines and super-efficient biofuels, but they might also try, for example, to use squid genes to create tattoos that glow. ....

Personally, I'd like to whip up a reasonably long-lasting and durable paint made with dye based on squid genes that glows brightly enough to allow "guide lines" to be daubed along hallway baseboards, powered by a very low trickle of electricity. Plus, a harmless glowing yogurt would make for a cool prank.


Submission + - Illusion of Not Being Yourself Is Easy

resistant writes: In findings that have fascinating implications for personality and individuality, Swedish neuroscientists have presented a study of making people see themselves as other people, almost literally.

... At the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience last month, Swedish researchers presented evidence that the brain, when tricked by optical and sensory illusions, can quickly adopt any other human form, no matter how different, as its own. ... In one experiment, the Stanford team found that people inhabiting physically attractive avatars were far more socially intimate in virtual interactions than those who had less appealing ones. ... In the experiments, said Dr. Ehrsson, the Swedish researcher, "even the feeling from the squeezing hand is felt in the scientist's hand and not in your own; this is perhaps the strangest aspect of the experience."


Submission + - Please UPDATE Accepted Story

resistant writes: This is for the story I gave you guys recently, which is now at:

http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/12 /16/218236

I apologise for having not thought that the actual Cell Journal article might have been already posted to the Web. It was:

http://www.cell.com/content/article/abstract?uid =PIIS0092867406014656

If you prefer, you can use this paragraph already formatted for HTML (please indicate in additional text that it's an update):

I apologise for not realising that the actual Cell Journal article had been already been posted as a PDF as well as in plain text.

Submission + - Near-Complete Cure for Diabetes in Two Years?

resistant writes: Researchers at a Toronto hospital have stumbled upon a dramatic treatment for mouse diabetes, with large implications for the treatment of diabetes in humans. From the article: "[...] The islet inflammation cleared up and the diabetes was gone. Some have remained in that state for as long as four months, with just one injection. [...] They also discovered that their treatments curbed the insulin resistance that is the hallmark of Type 2 diabetes, and that insulin resistance is a major factor in Type 1 diabetes, suggesting the two illnesses are quite similar."

Submission + - McDonald's Patented Sandwiches

resistant writes: "Your honor, the defendant mayonnaised his sandwich in a manner that infringes one or more of of our patents. We ask that the court award us 20,000,000 fish filets in compensatory and punitive damages." Yay, more patent madness, this time from the clown joint.

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