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Science

Journal Published Flawed Stem Cell Papers Despite Serious Misgivings About Work 35

Posted by Soulskill
from the peer-reviewish dept.
sciencehabit writes: As two discredited, and now retracted, stem cell papers have produced an almost unimaginable fallout — a national hero accused of scientific fraud, the revamping of one of Japan's major research institutes, and the suicide of a respected cell biologist — researchers have privately and publicly asked how Nature could have published work that, in retrospect, seems so obviously flawed. Another piece of the puzzle has now come to light. The Science news team received a copy of email correspondence between a Nature editor and Haruko Obokata, the lead author of the papers, which indicates the work initially received as rocky a reception there as at two other journals, Cell and Science, that had rejected the work previously. The email, dated 4 April 2013, includes detailed separate criticisms of the two papers and suggestions for new data to support the authors' claims of a simple and novel way to make stem cells that could form the myriad cell types within a body. The Nature editor rejected the papers, but left open a window, writing, "Should further experimental data allow you to address these criticisms, we would be happy to look at a revised manuscript." The two papers were published 10 months later.
Medicine

Link Between Salt and High Blood Pressure 'Overstated' 291

Posted by Soulskill
from the so-grab-a-tall-glass-of-salt-and-enjoy dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Diagnosed with high blood pressure? If so, you were probably told to moderate or avoid the use salt in your food. Well, a new study (abstract found that salt is not associated with systolic blood pressure after controlling for other factors. The study found that BMI, age, and alcohol consumption all strongly influenced blood pressure, and concluded that maintaining a healthy body weight was the best way to counteract it. The publication of this research follows a CDC report from Tuesday decrying the amount of salt in children's diets — a report that lists high blood pressure as one of its main concerns. The debate on this issue is far from over, and it'll take years to sort out all the contradictory evidence.
Science

Massive Study Searching For Genes Behind Intelligence Finds Little 269

Posted by Soulskill
from the genetically-enhanced-superhumans-will-still-love-reality-tv dept.
An anonymous reader writes: It's been taken for granted that science would, one day, figure out what parts of our DNA make us smart (or not). But a huge new study done by a group of almost 60 researchers using genome data on over 100,000 people has come up empty-handed. The scientists first looked for differences in the genome that correlated with academic achievement. After narrowing it down to 69 individual sites, they gave cognitive tests to separate group of 24,000 people and looked for evidence of difference at those same locations (abstract). Most of the sites weren't significantly different from chance — the (already weak) genetic influence of genes on height has an effect 20 times greater. On top of that, the three gene locations that did seem to have a stronger correlation weren't involved in development of the nervous system.
China

China Targets 2022 For Space Station Completion 100

Posted by Soulskill
from the neighbors-for-the-ISS dept.
Taco Cowboy writes: According to Reuters, China is aiming for 2022 to get its first space station operational. "China's leaders have set a priority on advancing its space program, with President Xi Jinping calling for the country to establish itself as a space power." After Chinese astronauts docked with the country's experimental space lab last year, they're planning the launch of another laboratory in 2016. Launch and construction of the new space station's core is planned for 2018, and their goal is to complete it by 2022. China insists that its space program is for peaceful purposes.
Space

Universal Big Bang Lithium Deficit Confirmed 170

Posted by samzenpus
from the would-you-like-to-try-another-alkali-metal? dept.
An anonymous reader writes New observations of the star cluster Messier 54 show that it is just as deficient in lithium as our own galaxy, furthering a mystery about the element's big bang origins. "Most of the light chemical element lithium now present in the Universe was produced during the Big Bang, along with hydrogen and helium, but in much smaller quantities. Astronomers can calculate quite accurately how much lithium they expect to find in the early Universe, and from this work out how much they should see in old stars. But the numbers don't match — there is about three times less lithium in stars than expected. This mystery remains unsolved, despite several decades of work."
News

Who Is Buried In the Largest Tomb Ever Found In Northern Greece? 92

Posted by samzenpus
from the is-it-grant? dept.
schwit1 writes Excitement continues to build as archaeologists dig deeper into a massive tomb discovered two years ago in northern Greece. "This past weekend the excavation team, led by Greek archaeologist Katerina Peristeri, announced the discovery of two elegant caryatids—large marble columns sculpted in the shape of women with outstretched arms—that may have been intended to bar intruders from entering the tomb's main room. "I don't know of anything quite like them," says Philip Freeman, a professor of classics at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. The curly-haired caryatids are just part of the tomb's remarkable furnishings. Guarding the door as sentinels were a pair of carved stone sphinxes, mythological creatures with the body of a lion and the head of a human. And when archaeologists finally entered the antechamber, they discovered faded remnants of frescoes as well as a mosaic floor made of white marble pieces inlaid in a red background." Archaeologists believe this tomb is connected somehow to Alexander the Great and could very well be the burial site of one of his relatives or close allies.
Space

X-Class Solar Flare Coming Friday 145

Posted by samzenpus
from the wear-your-shades dept.
First time accepted submitter kit_triforce writes Satellites have just detected a powerful X1.6-class solar flare. The source was active sunspot AR2158, which is directly facing Earth. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash. Ionizing radiation from the flare could cause HF radio blackouts and other communications disturbances, especially on the day-lit side of Earth. In the next few hours, when coronagraph data from SOHO and STEREO become available, we will see if a coronal mass ejection (CME) emerges from the blast site. If so, the cloud would likely be aimed directly at Earth and could reach our planet in 2 to 3 days.
Space

The Exoplanets That Never Were 31

Posted by samzenpus
from the planetary-false-positive dept.
StartsWithABang writes In 1992, scientists discovered the first planets orbiting a star other than our Sun. The pulsar PSR B1257+12 was discovered to have its own planetary system, and since then, exoplanet discoveries have exploded. But before that, in 1963, decades of research led to the much-anticipated publication and announcement of an exoplanet discovered around Barnard's star, the second-closest star system to Earth. Unfortunately, it turned out to be spurious, and it took years to uncover, an amazing story which is only now fully coming to light.
Government

Researcher Fired At NSF After Government Questions Her Role As 1980s Activist 499

Posted by samzenpus
from the skeletons-in-the-closet dept.
sciencehabit writes Valerie Barr was a tenured professor of computer science at Union College in Schenectady, New York, with a national reputation for her work improving computing education and attracting more women and minorities into the field. But federal investigators say that Barr lied during a routine background check about her affiliations with a domestic terrorist group that had ties to the two organizations to which she had belonged in the early 1980s. On 27 August, NSF said that her 'dishonest conduct' compelled them to cancel her temporary assignment immediately, at the end of the first of what was expected to be a 2-year stint. Colleagues who decry Barr's fate worry that the incident could make other scientists think twice about coming to work for NSF. In addition, Barr's case offers a rare glimpse into the practices of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), an obscure agency within the White House that wields vast power over the entire federal bureaucracy through its authority to vet recently hired workers.
United Kingdom

Hidden Archeology of Stonehenge Revealed In New Geophysical Map 28

Posted by samzenpus
from the where-the-banshees-live-and-they-do-live-well dept.
An anonymous reader writes Utilizing a comprehensive array of remote sensing technology and non-invasive geophysical survey equipment, researchers working on the site of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England have revealed hundreds of previously unknown features buried deep beneath the ground as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project. The finds include images of dwellings from the Bronze and Iron Ages as well as details of buried Roman settlements never before seen."
Space

Rosetta Hunts For Comet Touch Down Site For Philae Lander 17

Posted by samzenpus
from the how-about-here dept.
astroengine writes Attached to the European Space Agency's comet-chasing spacecraft Rosetta, the Philae lander opened one of its robotic eyes when the mission was orbiting comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko at a distance of only 50 kilometers (31 miles) on Sunday. With two high-contrast exposures, the lander captured one of Rosetta's solar panels in the foreground with the comet behind. ESA says the choice of landing sites will be narrowed down from five to two on Monday -- a primary target and a backup -- before a final decision is made in October.
Biotech

The Grassroots Future of Biohacking 63

Posted by samzenpus
from the building-a-better-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes Forget about some kid engineering a virulent microbe in their bedroom. As the assistant director of the Maurice Kanbar Center for Biomedical Engineering, Oliver Medvedik, puts it, "It's extremely difficult to 'improve' on the lethality of nature. The pathogens that already exist are more legitimate cause for worry.” If anything, you're better off putting energy into wrenching away your desire for McDonalds, and making sure the government doesn't impose draconian laws about DIY-bio. Here's a look at the grassroots future of biohacking and the problems with government overreach.
Government

When Scientists Give Up 347

Posted by Soulskill
from the lab-rats-rejoice dept.
New submitter ferespo sends a report from All Things Considered about the struggle for scientific funding in today's political and economic environment. "Federal funding for biomedical research has declined by more than 20 percent in the past decade. There are far more scientists competing for grants than there is money to support them." It's a tough situation for new scientists trying to set up labs. In addition to all of the scientific work they do, it's essentially a full-time job in addition to that to maintain funding. The reviewers who decide which projects receive funding are risk-averse to the point where innovative research is all but off the table. The consequences of this are two-fold: not only are we giving up on the types of research that led to so many of today's marvels, but many promising young scientists are giving up on the field altogether.
Space

SpaceX and Boeing Battle For US Manned Spaceflight Contracts 123

Posted by Soulskill
from the fly-me-to-the-moon dept.
An anonymous reader writes: $3 billion in funding is on the line as private space companies duke it out for contracts to end U.S. reliance on Russian rockets for manned spaceflight. The two biggest contenders are SpaceX and Boeing, described as "the exciting choice" and "the safe choice," respectively. "NASA is charting a new direction 45 years after sending humans to the Moon, looking to private industry for missions near Earth, such as commuting to and from the space station. Commercial operators would develop space tourism while the space agency focuses on distant trips to Mars or asteroids." It's possible the contracts would be split, giving some tasks to each company. It's also possible that the much smaller Sierra Nevada Corp. could grab a bit of government funding as well for launches using its unique winged-shuttle design.
Math

Information Theory Places New Limits On Origin of Life 211

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-credit-to-the-genesis-device dept.
KentuckyFC writes: Most research into the origin of life focuses on the messy business of chemistry, on the nature of self-replicating molecules and on the behavior of autocatalytic reactions. Now one theorist says the properties of information also place important limits on how life must have evolved, without getting bogged down in the biochemical details. The new approach uses information theory to highlight a key property that distinguishes living from non-living systems: their ability to store information and replicate it almost indefinitely. A measure of this how much these systems differ from a state of maximum entropy or thermodynamic equilibrium. The new approach is to create a mathematical model of these informational differences and use it to make predictions about how likely it is to find self-replicating molecules in an artificial life system called Avida. And interestingly, the predictions closely match what researchers have found in practice. The bottom line is that according to information theory, environments favorable to life are unlikely to be unusual.

Some programming languages manage to absorb change, but withstand progress. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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