Science

Can Bad Scientific Practice Be Fixed? 184

Posted by samzenpus
from the what's-in-it-for-me? dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Richard Horton writes in that a recent symposium on the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research discussed one of the most sensitive issues in science today: the idea that something has gone fundamentally wrong with science (PDF), one of our greatest human creations. The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. According to Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, a United Kingdom-based medical journal, the apparent endemicity of bad research behavior is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world or retrofit hypotheses to fit their data.

Can bad scientific practices be fixed? Part of the problem is that no-one is incentivized to be right. Instead, scientists are incentivized to be productive and innovative. Tony Weidberg says that the particle physics community now invests great effort into intensive checking and rechecking of data prior to publication following several high-profile errors,. By filtering results through independent working groups, physicists are encouraged to criticize. Good criticism is rewarded. The goal is a reliable result, and the incentives for scientists are aligned around this goal. "The good news is that science is beginning to take some of its worst failings very seriously," says Horton. "The bad news is that nobody is ready to take the first step to clean up the system."
Earth

Bats' White-Nose Syndrome May Be Cured 64

Posted by samzenpus
from the wipe-your-nose dept.
New submitter alabamatoy writes: Several news outlets are reporting that a common bacteria may be proving successful in curing "white-nose syndrome" which has been decimating the bat populations across North America. A new treatment using a common bacterium was developed in Missouri by Forest Service scientists Sybill Amelon and Dan Lindner, and Chris Cornelison of Georgia State University. The Nature Conservancy reports: "On May 20, 2015, Scientists and conservationists gathered outside the historic Mark Twain Cave Complex in Hannibal, Missouri, to release back into the wild some of the first bats successfully treated for deadly White-Nose Syndrome." Bats are a key player in the environment, keeping insect populations under control, especially mosquitoes.
Biotech

Sex-Switched Mosquitoes May Help In Fight Against Diseases 126

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-girls-allowed dept.
cstacy writes: Only the female mosquitoes bite and transmit viral diseases such as Dengue Fever. Scientists have finally discovered the elusive genetic switch called Nix, that determines the sex of these blood sucking insects, and hope to selectively eliminate females to control the spread of diseases. "Nix provides us with exciting opportunities to harness mosquito sex in the fight against infectious diseases because maleness is the ultimate disease-refractory trait," explained Zhijian Jake Tu, an affiliate of the Fralin Life Science Institute and a biochemistry professor from Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Space

Largest Eruption In the Known Universe Is ~100 Times the Size of Milky Way 64

Posted by samzenpus
from the big-boom dept.
StartsWithABang writes: At the center of almost every galaxy is a supermassive black hole (SMBH); at the center of almost every cluster is a supermassive galaxy with some of the largest SMBHs in the Universe. And every once in a while, a galactocentric black hole will become active, emitting tremendous amounts of radiation out into the Universe as it devours matter. This radiation can cut across the spectrum, from the X-ray down to the radio. At the heart of MS 0735.6+7421, there's a >10^10 solar mass black hole that appears to have been active for hundreds of millions of years, something unheard of!
EU

EU Drops Plans For Safer Pesticides After Pressure From US 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the say-it-don't-spray-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The European Union recently published plans to ban 31 pesticides containing chemicals linked to testicular cancer and male infertility. Those potential regulations have now been dropped after a U.S. business delegation said they would adversely affect trade negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. "Just weeks before the regulations were dropped there had been a barrage of lobbying from big European firms such as Dupont, Bayer and BASF over EDCs. The chemical industry association Cefic warned that the endocrines issue 'could become an issue that impairs the forthcoming EU-US trade negotiations.'"
NASA

Hubble Discovers a Fast-Aging Star Nicknamed "Nasty 1" 28

Posted by samzenpus
from the vanity-plate-ideas dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, Astronomers have uncovered surprising new clues about a large, rapidly aging star whose behavior has never been seen before. The star is so strange in fact that astronomers have nicknamed it "Nasty 1," a play on its catalog name of NaSt1. Wolf-Rayet stars like NaSt1 are typically large, rapidly evolving stellar bodies that form by shedding their hydrogen-filled outer layers quickly, exposing a bright hot, helium-burning core. Nasty 1 is unique because it contains a disk like structure. "We were excited to see this disk-like structure because it may be evidence for a Wolf-Rayet star forming from a binary interaction," said Jon Mauerhan of UC Berkeley, lead author on the new Nasty 1 paper. "There are very few examples in the galaxy of this process in action because this phase is short-lived, perhaps lasting only a hundred thousand years, while the timescale over which a resulting disk is visible could be only ten thousand years or less."
Medicine

Machine That "Uncooks Eggs" Used To Improve Cancer Treatment 39

Posted by samzenpus
from the closer-to-a-cure dept.
hypnosec writes: An Australian invention that gained attention for being able to "unboil" an egg has now been put to use in the treatment of cancer. The device has boosted the potency of a common cancer treatment drug, carboplatino, as much as four-and-a-half-times. ABC.net reports: "Flinders Centre for Innovation in Cancer director Professor Ross McKinnon said it meant a huge advance for cancer treatment. 'It gives us the promise of offering an alternative where we have more drug being delivered to the tumour and less drug being delivered to the rest of the body,' he said. 'That means less side-effects for the patient and hopefully a much better effect in terms of tumour response. What this group are doing is an example of one drug but we would hope we could extend this to many drugs.' The device can process proteins more efficiently than current methods, with possible big ramifications for the pharmaceuticals industry.
Moon

India Ends Russian Space Partnership and Will Land On the Moon Alone 117

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-by-myself dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Russian space program has experienced numerous accidents and delays recently, leading Indian officials to call into question its long term viability. Now India has decided to pull out of a partnership with Russia for a mission to the moon. According to the Examiner: "Previously, India was scheduled to launch a Russian lander on one of its rockets and send it to the lunar South Pole. Now, according to a story in Russia and India Report, India will go it alone, building its own lander to touch down on the lunar surface within the next few years.
Education

Google and Gates-Backed Khan Academy Introduces "Grit"-Based Classroom Funding 111

Posted by samzenpus
from the effort-counts dept.
theodp writes: Their intentions are no doubt good, but some will be troubled by Google and Khan Academy's recently-concluded LearnStorm initiative, which pitted kids-against-kids, schools-against-schools, and cities-against-cities in a 3-month learning challenge for prizes based not only on students' mastery of math skills on Khan Academy, but also their perceived 'hustle' (aka 'grit'). "Points are earned by mastering math skills and also for taking on challenging new concepts and persevering," explained a Khan Academy FAQ. A blog entry further explained, "They've earned points and prizes not only for mastering math skills but also for showing 'hustle,' a metric we created to measure grit, perseverance, and growth. They competed over 200,000 hours of learning and 13.6 million standards-aligned math problems. In addition, thanks to the generosity of Google.org, DonorsChoose.org, and Comcast's Internet Essentials, 34 underserved schools unlocked new devices for their classrooms and free home internet service for eligible families, increasing student access to online learning tools like Khan Academy." Apparently funded by a $2 million Google grant, the Google, Khan Academy, and DonorsChoose grit-based classroom funding comes on the heels of the same organizations' gender-based classroom funding initiative. Supported by some of the world's wealthiest individuals and corporations, Khan Academy's Board members include a Google Board member (Diane Green), spouse of a Google Board member (Ann Doerr), and the Managing Partner of Bill Gates' bgC3 (Larry Cohen); former Board members include Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.
Math

A Beautiful Mind Mathematician John F. Nash Jr. Dies 171

Posted by samzenpus
from the rest-in-peace dept.
Rick Zeman writes: John F. Nash Jr. revolutionized the mathematical field of game theory and was given a mind that was unique and deeply troubled. He became known to most people by the movie about his life, A Beautiful Mind. Dr. Nash died, along with his wife, May 24 in a two-car accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. The Washington Post reports: "In 1994, when Dr. Nash received the Nobel Prize in economics, the award marked not only an intellectual triumph but also a personal one. More than four decades earlier, as a Princeton University graduate student, he had produced a 27-page thesis on game theory — in essence, the applied mathematical study of decision-making in situations of conflict — that would become one of the most celebrated works in the field. Before the academic world could fully recognize his achievement, Dr. Nash descended into a condition eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. For the better part of 20 years, his once supremely rational mind was beset by delusions and hallucinations. By the time Dr. Nash emerged from his disturbed state, his ideas had influenced economics, foreign affairs, politics, biology — virtually every sphere of life fueled by competition. But he been absent from professional life for so long that some scholars assumed he was dead."
Science

Soft Sensors Map Skin Mechanics 9

Posted by samzenpus
from the put-on-your-sensors dept.
MTorrice writes: An international research team has built electronic, flexible patches that can measure the mechanical properties of skin and other biological tissue. The sensors consist of nanoribbons of a piezoelectric material, lead zirconate titanate, which deforms when jolted with electrical energy and, conversely, produces electricity when it's deformed. The researchers mapped the skin elasticity of dozens of patients in the clinic, building up quantitative data on healthy and damaged tissue. The information could help doctors better assess conditions such as dermatitis and skin cancer. The team believes that similar sensors could be implanted inside the body to monitor blood vessels and other soft tissue for damage or dysfunction.
Space

Universe's Dark Ages May Not Be Invisible After All 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-you-have-a-big-enough-flashlight dept.
StartsWithABang writes: The Universe had two periods where light was abundant, separated by the cosmic dark ages. The first came at the moment of the hot Big Bang, as the Universe was flooded with (among the matter, antimatter and everything else imaginable) a sea of high-energy photons, including a large amount of visible light. As the Universe expanded and cooled, eventually the cosmic microwave background was emitted, leaving behind the barely visible, cooling photons. It took between 50 and 100 million years for the first stars to turn on, so in between these two epochs of the Universe being flooded with light, we had the dark ages. Yet the dark ages may not be totally invisible, as the forbidden spin-flip-transition of hydrogen may illuminate this time period after all.
Medicine

Nerve Cells Made From Blood Cells 37

Posted by Soulskill
from the beats-turning-water-into-wine dept.
BarbaraHudson writes: CBC reports that Canadian scientists are turning blood into nerve cells. They do so by manipulating stem cells that have been taken from a patient's blood, eventually switching them into neural stem cells (abstract). These can then give rise to multiple different nerve cells suitable for use in the rest of the body. Team leader Mick Bhatia said, "We can actually take a patient's blood sample, as routinely performed in a doctor's office, and with it we can produce one million sensory neurons. We can also make central nervous system cells." They're working on turning the neural stem cells into motor neurons for treatment of diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.
Mars

Software Patch Fixes Mars Curiosity Rover's Auto-focus Glitch 53

Posted by Soulskill
from the careful-with-those-semi-colons dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory have successfully uploaded and applied a software patch to NASA's Curiosity Rover on Mars. The patch fixes a focusing problem that cropped up in November when the laser that helps to focus one of its cameras failed. "Without this laser rangefinder, the ChemCam instrument was somewhat blind," said Roger Wiens, ChemCam principal investigator at Los Alamos. "The main laser that creates flashes of plasma when it analyzes rocks and soils up to 25 feet [7.6 meters] from the rover was not affected, but the laser analyses only work when the telescope projecting the laser light to the target is in focus." Before the fix, scientists had to shoot images at nine different focus settings to distill a decent set of data. Now, they say the new software results in better images in a single shot than even before the laser broke down. The program that runs the instrument is only 40 kilobytes in size.
Science

Study: Science Still Seen As a Male Profession 290

Posted by Soulskill
from the need-an-opposite-for-bill-nye-the-science-guy dept.
sciencehabit sends news of a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology which found that science is still perceived as a predominantly male profession across the world. The results were broken out by country, and while the overall trend stayed consistent throughout (PDF), there were variations in perception. For explicit bias: "Countries where this association was strongest included South Africa and Japan. The United States ranked in the middle, with a score similar to Austria, Mexico, and Brazil. Portugal, Spain, and Canada were among the countries where the explicit bias was weakest." For implicit bias: "Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, and Sweden were among the countries with the highest implicit bias scores. The United States again came in at the middle of the pack, scoring similarly to Singapore. Portugal, Spain, and Mexico had among the lowest implicit bias scores, though the respondents still associated science more with men than with women."