sciencehabit writes: Over the past decade, researchers have conducted hundreds of clinical trials on cats and dogs to discover new therapies and medicines. The idea is that—unlike lab rodents—our pets live in the same world we do, and naturally get many of the same diseases, so they could hold the key to developing new treatments for people at a fraction of the normal cost, and potentially yield a trove of new drugs for pets themselves.
sciencehabit writes: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) today announced that the agency soon expects to lift a moratorium on funding for controversial experiments that add human stem cells to animal embryos, creating an organism that is part animal, part human. Instead, these so-called chimera studies will undergo an extra layer of ethical review but may ultimately be allowed to proceed. Although scientists who support such research welcomed the move, some were left trying to parse exactly what the draft policy will mean. It is “a step in the right direction,” says Sean Wu, a stem cell researcher at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who co-authored a letter to Science last year opposing the moratorium. But "we still don’t know what the outcome will be case by case,” he adds. However, some see the proposal as opening up research in some areas that had been potentially off-limits.
sciencehabit writes: Particle physicists’ hopes have been dashed. Eight months ago, experimenters working with the world’s biggest atom smasher—the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European particle physics laboratory, CERN, in Switzerland—reported hints of the first wholly unexpected new particle in decades, one that could have required a rethink of the prevailing theory of fundamental particles and forces. Now, however, physicists at the LHC have collected and analyzed roughly four times as many data as they had last December. And with that extra data, the signs of the new particle have faded away as mere statistical fluctuations, researchers reported today.
sciencehabit writes: It sounds like something out of a James Bond movie: a secret military operation hidden beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet. But that’s exactly what transpired at Camp Century during the Cold War. In 1959, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the subterranean city under the guise of conducting polar research—and scientists there did drill the first ice core ever used to study climate. But deep inside the frozen tunnels, the corps also explored the feasibility of Project Iceworm, a plan to store and launch hundreds of ballistic missiles from inside the ice.
The military ultimately rejected the project, and the corps abandoned Camp Century in 1967. Engineers anticipated that the ice—already a dozen meters thick—would continue to accumulate in northwestern Greenland, permanently entombing what they left behind. Now, climate change has upended that assumption. New research suggests that as early as 2090, rates of ice loss at the site could exceed gains from new snowfall. And within a century after that, melting could begin to release waste stored at the camp, including sewage, diesel fuel, persistent organic pollutants like PCBs, and radiological waste from the camp’s nuclear generator, which was removed during decommissioning.
sciencehabit writes: Apollo lunar astronauts are four to five times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than astronauts who never left Earth’s orbit or who never flew at all, according to a new stud. When the Apollo crew members ventured to the moon between 1968 and 1972, they exited a magnetic shield around Earth called the magnetosphere, which protects us from cosmic radiation. A team of researchers believed those rays, which come from outside our solar system, may have caused the Apollo astronauts’ circulatory systems to function incorrectly. To test this, they put mice in tiny harnesses to simulate weightlessness and bombarded them with the same type of cosmic radiation that the Apollo astronauts received. What happened in the mice confirmed the researcher’s fears: Although weightlessness had no apparent effect on the rodents, the radiation impaired enzymes that control blood vessels’ ability to relax. As a result, the vessels had a tendency to stay small and tight, which made it harder for blood to flow. In humans, this could lead to high blood pressure and, in some cases, heart disease. The findings, the authors say, highlight the dangers for future astronauts as they explore Mars and beyond. Link to Original Source
sciencehabit writes: Reconstructing daily life in the Bronze Age has been difficult in northern Europe. Most houses were poorly preserved, traced out by postholes or barren remains of hearths, and offer up only meager fragments of pottery. A major excavation near Peterborough, U.K., promises to fill in the picture. Archaeologists have dug up 3000-year-old roundhouses that were perched on stilts above a river, perhaps for defense or facilitating trade. The building materials and much of the contents are well-preserved because the five houses were quickly abandoned during a fire and then collapsed into a river. The rich array of artifacts includes textiles, wooden objects, metal tools, and complete sets of pottery. The arrangement of artifacts could indicate how various sections of the houses were used and perhaps new details about diet. The fact that all the buildings burned down, apparently at the same time, and the belongings were left behind, suggests the fires may have been part of an attack.
sciencehabit writes: In June, Dutch scientists finished the largest study yet to find out if erythropoietin (EPO), a drug popular among professional cyclists, really enhances athletic performance. The researchers recruited 48 trained amateur cyclists and gave them either EPO or a placebo for 8 weeks. Participants were subjected to seven endurance tests, culminating in a race up the Mont Ventoux in France, one of cycling's legendary ascents. The researchers are still analyzing results but have already shared one key outcome: Riders on EPO weren't faster than those on placebo. Other researchers find it hard to believe that EPO would do nothing, based on previous studies and athletes' stories. But they applaud the team for subjecting EPO to a large randomized controlled trial, the gold standard in medicine.
sciencehabit writes: Data from a massive neutrino experiment show that the elusive subatomic particles must literally be of two mutually exclusive types at once—poking a hole in our intuitive sense of reality. The result is bedrock quantum mechanics. But it's the sort of thing typically shown with highly controlled quantum optics experiments and not with nearly undetectable neutrinos.
sciencehabit writes: The blind comic book star Daredevil has a highly developed sense of hearing that allows him to “see” his environment with his ears. But you don’t need to be a superhero to pull a similar stunt, according to a new study. Researchers have identified the neural architecture used by the brain to turn subtle sounds into a mind’s-eye map of your surroundings.
sciencehabit writes: Self-driving cars are already being tested on the road, but tricky questions about their ethics remain. Should autonomous vehicles protect their passengers at all costs? Or should they be programmed to sacrifice their passengers, if it means protecting others? A new study says “yes” and “yes.” Scientists asked 451 online survey-takers if—in the event of an inevitable accident—it was more appropriate to sacrifice passengers or bystanders, a quandary known as the trolley problem in ethics. When the ratio was one-to-one, that is, one passenger to one pedestrian, about 75% of respondents said the passenger should be saved, they report online today in Science. But as the number of pedestrians went up, survey-takers started to change their minds.
sciencehabit writes: It is now widely accepted that many animals sense Earth’s magnetic field and use it for navigation, and researchers are getting ever closer to the cellular foundations of magnetoreception. But what about humans? Researchers in Tokyo and Pasadena, California, think they have found glimmers of a vestigial sense. Screening out electromagnetic noise, and applying weak magnetic fields on human subjects in a dark, metal box, the researchers think they have found brain waves that signal a passive response to the fields.
sciencehabit writes: Does death really mean the end of our existence? Great thinkers from Plato to Blue Öyster Cult have weighed in on the question. Now, a study shows that that at least one aspect of life continues: Genes remain turned on days after animals die. Researchers may be able to parlay this postmortem activity into better ways of preserving donated organs for transplantation and more accurate methods of determining when murder victims were killed.
sciencehabit writes: For a mother brown bear in Scandinavia, few sights are as terrifying as a strange male. Adult male bears are known to kill cubs that are not theirs—and sometimes the mother that defends them. A new study suggests that smart mama bears have found a surprising way to protect their young. To shield her cubs from male attacks, mom just has to raise them near an adult bear’s number one enemy: humans.
sciencehabit writes: hemical analyses often take lots of time and require expensive equipment, not to mention substantial volumes of harsh solvents. But not if you use an espresso machine. Researchers have utilized an off-the-shelf, countertop coffeemaker to quickly and cheaply extract cancer-causing contaminants called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from samples of polluted soil. Despite requiring hoses, seals, and other internal connections to be replaced regularly, the off-the-shelf espresso machine ends up being a low-cost option for quick analyses, the team notes. Currently, the brewmasters are checking to see whether their espresso machine can also be used to detect and measure pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and detergents in food or soil samples. Link to Original Source
sciencehabit writes: The biggest discovery in science this year—the observation of ripples in space-time called gravitational waves—was no fluke. For a second time, physicists working with the two massive detectors in the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) have detected a pulse of such waves, the LIGO team reported on 15 June at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Diego, California. Once again the waves emanated from the merger of two black holes, the ultraintense gravitational fields left behind when massive stars collapse into infinitesimal points. The new observation suggests that after fine-tuning, LIGO will spot dozens or even hundreds of the otherwise undetectable events each year.