Archive for the ‘science’ Category

February 17, 2009

Sunday February 15, 2009 “It may sound just like any other business school class, but the students are surrounded by the high fences and razor wire of the Cleveland Correctional Facility, just north of Houston.”

Drug dealers are being taught to become legitimate businessmen.

Say this kind of educational program turns out to be really good at turning prisoners into legitimate businesspeople. The percentage who go back to prison drops considerably. And similar programs for incarcerated juveniles keep many of them from becoming adult criminals.

Many people who want to reduce crime will hate it. The ex-criminals will be seen as unfair competition.

Just as Jewish college students were seen in the past, and Asian-Americans in the present.

***Mild sore throat, mild aches. I skipped MinnSpec (Twin Cities sf writers Meetup).

I did go out shopping, much later. I had to — I was almost out of teabags.

Learned that Cub has two brands of teabags cheaper than Aldi’s. One, shelved with other teas, is distributed by the company that owns Cub. The really cheap one is on the $2 or less shelves (which not long ago were the $1 or less shelves.)


February 3, 2009


Public Release: 3-Feb-2009
February 2009 Geology and GSA Today media highlights
GEOLOGY includes three papers about Mars: continuation of the “jelly sandwich” versus “crème brûlée” debate; support for the Snowball Earth hypothesis; what nine-million-year-old tooth enamel says about vegetation in an ancient sub-Himalayan ecosystem; anthropogenic lead in the Tyrrhenian Sea; evidence for a prehistoric South Pacific tsunami; a multicentennial megadrought in medieval Europe; and a newly discovered fossil turtle in the Canadian Arctic. GSA Today’s science article proposes a new method for classifying Quaternary glacial deposits.

Public Release: 3-Feb-2009
One-fifth of women who should receive radiation after a mastectomy are not getting this potentially lifesaving treatment, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.
NIH/National Cancer Institute

Public Release: 3-Feb-2009
Cardiff University researchers who are part of a British-German team searching the depths of space to study gravitational waves, may have stumbled on one of the most important discoveries in physics according to an American physicist. Craig Hogan, a physicist at Fermilab Center for Particle Astrophysics in Illinois is convinced that he has found proof in the data of the gravitational wave detector GEO600 of a holographic universe.

Public Release: 3-Feb-2009
American Naturalist
Why don’t more animals change their sex?
Most animals, like humans, have separate sexes — they are born, live out their lives and reproduce as one sex or the other. However, some animals live as one sex in part of their lifetime and then switch to the other sex, a phenomenon called sequential hermaphroditism. What remains a puzzle, according to Yale scientists, is why the phenomenon is so rare, since their analysis shows the biological “costs” of changing sexes rarely outweigh the advantages.
Yale University, National Science Foundation

Public Release: 3-Feb-2009
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Living longer thanks to the ‘longevity gene’
A variation in the gene FOXO3A has a positive effect on the life expectancy of humans, and is found much more often in people living to 100 and beyond — moreover, this appears to be true worldwide. A research group in the Faculty of Medicine at the Christian-Albrechts-University in Kiel has now confirmed this assumption by comparing DNA samples taken from 388 German centenarians with those from 731 younger people.
National Genome Research Network

January 16, 2009

From the Physics Arxiv Blog

How the credit crisis spread
January 14th, 2009 | by KFC

“The graphic may be dramatic but it shows only how the collapse occurred, not why. That’s much more subtle and is related to the far more complex network of links that exist between the companies involved.

“However, the graph does bear a remarkable resemblance to any number of other network-related catastrophies, such as the spread of disease, forest fires and fashion. That’s almost certainly because  all these events can be described terms of the physics of self-organised criticality.”
The Spread of the Credit Crisis: View from a Stock Correlation Network
Authors: Reginald D. Smith
(Submitted on 10 Jan 2009)

Abstract: The credit crisis roiling the world’s financial markets will likely take years and entire careers to fully understand and analyze. A short empirical investigation of the current trends, however, demonstrates that the losses in certain markets, in this case the US equity markets, follow a cascade or epidemic flow like model along the correlations of various stocks. A few images and explanation here will suffice to show the phenomenon. Also, whether the idea of “epidemic” or a “cascade” is a metaphor or model for this crisis will be discussed.

Comments:     3 pages, 6 figures; submitted to the Journal of the Physical Society of Korea; animations of credit crisis spread available at: this http URL
Subjects:     Statistical Finance (q-fin.ST); Data Analysis, Statistics and Probability (
Cite as:     arXiv:0901.1392v1 [q-fin.ST]

Public Release: 16-Jan-2009
Journal of Neuroscience
Canada-US scientists discover gene responsible for brain’s aging
According to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, a research team from the Universite de Montreal, Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has identified a gene that controls the normal and pathological aging of neurons in the central nervous system: Bmi1.
“Will scientists one day be able to slow the aging of the brain and prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s? Absolutely – once the genetic coding associated with neuronal degeneration has been unraveled.”

Public Release: 16-Jan-2009
Swiss and Dutch health systems provide lessons for US on achieving universal coverage
A new Commonwealth Fund study says that policies in the Switzerland and Netherlands that achieve near-universal coverage and low administrative costs can help inform the US health-care reform debate. Both countries effectively cover all but one percent of their population — compared with 15 percent uninsured in the US — due to an individual mandate to purchase health insurance and premium assistance for those with low incomes.
Commonwealth Fund

Public Release: 15-Jan-2009
High-tech solutions ease inaugural challenges
Transportation and security officials on Inauguration Day will have a centralized, consolidated stream of traffic information and other data displayed on a single screen using software developed by the University of Maryland. The Regional Integrated Transportation Information System gives officials a single real-time view far more comprehensive than previously available. The idea is to enhance officials’ ability to monitor vehicular traffic, accidents, incidents, response plans, air space, weather conditions and more.

December 18, 2008

Wednesday December 17, 2008

Public release date: 17-Dec-2008

Contact: Rachael Davies
BMJ-British Medical Journal
Should the Pope be worried that Wales won the rugby Grand Slam this year?
Research paper: Rugby (the religion of Wales) and its influence on the Catholic Church: Should Pope Benedict XVI be worried?

Doctors in the Christmas issue published on today are urging the Vatican’s medical team to keep a special watch over the Pope this Christmas, after their research investigating the link between papal deaths and Welsh rugby performance suggests that he has about a 45% chance of dying by the end of 2008.

Dr Gareth Payne and his team from Cardiff found no evidence to support the urban legend that “every time Wales win the rugby Grand Slam, a Pope dies”, but they did find limited data linking Welsh rugby performance and papal deaths. Worryingly for Pope Benedict XVI, Wales won the Grand Slam in 2008.

The researchers charted all northern hemisphere rugby championships since 1883, but discarded the years 1885, 1888-9, 1897-8 and 1972 because not all the scheduled matches were played. For the purposes of their research, a Grand Slam was defined as one nation beating all other competing teams.

Since 1883, eight Pontiffs have died, five in Grand Slam years—three deaths happened when Wales completed the sweep, and two others occurred when Wales won the tournament but not the Grand Slam.

Interestingly, say the authors, although the deaths did not always coincide with a Welsh Grand Slam win, they did correspond with a victory of a predominantly Protestant nation (England, Scotland or Wales), rather than a Roman Catholic nation (France, Ireland, or Italy).

The authors comment that the link between Popes and Grand Slams “is nothing more than an urban myth…This comes as something of a relief as we are at a loss to see how the events could be linked, especially given the continuing rapprochement between Catholic and Protestant churches.”

However, given that the research suggests a link between the success of the Welsh rugby union team and papal deaths, the authors believe that the Vatican medical staff “can’t fully relax until the new year arrives”.

December 17, 2008


Public Release: 17-Dec-2008
‘Smart’ surveillance system may tag suspicious or lost people
Engineers here are developing a computerized surveillance system that, when completed, will attempt to recognize whether a person on the street is acting suspiciously or appears to be lost. Intelligent video cameras, large video screens and geo-referencing software are among the technologies that will soon be available to law enforcement and security agencies.
National Science Foundation, Air Force Research Laboratory

Public Release: 17-Dec-2008
American Geophysical Union
Study: Did early climate impact divert a new glacial age?
The common wisdom is that the invention of the steam engine and the advent of the coal-fueled industrial age marked the beginning of human influence on global climate.

Public Release: 17-Dec-2008
Earth’s original ancestor was LUCA, not Adam nor Eve
An evolutionary geneticist from the University of Montreal, together with researchers from the French cities of Lyon and Montpellier, have published a ground-breaking study that characterizes the common ancestor of all life on earth, LUCA (last universal common ancestor). Their findings, presented in a recent issue of Nature, show that the 3.8-billion-year-old organism was not the creature usually imagined.
Action Concertee Incitative IMPBIO-MODELPHYLO, ANR PlasmoExplore

Public Release: 17-Dec-2008
American Sociological Review
Growing income gap among US families suggests increasing economic insecurity
The incomes of American families with children have become increasingly stratified since 1975, with income inequality increasing two-thirds during a 30-year period, according to findings published in the December issue of the peer-reviewed science journal American Sociological Review.
Russell Sage Foundation, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, New York University

Public Release: 17-Dec-2008
Autism and schizophrenia share common origin
Schizophrenia and autism probably share a common origin, hypothesizes Dutch researcher Annemie Ploeger following an extensive literature study. The developmental psychologist demonstrated that both mental diseases have similar physical abnormalities which are formed during the first month of pregnancy.
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

Public Release: 16-Dec-2008
Physical Review D
Caltech researchers interpret asymmetry in early universe
The Big Bang is widely considered to have obliterated any trace of what came before. Now, astrophysicists at the California Institute of Technology think that their new theoretical interpretation of an imprint from the earliest stages of the universe may also shed light on what came before.
US Department of Energy, California Institute of Technology

November 11, 2008

Monday November 10, 2008  Thanks to Keith F. Lynch on rec.arts.sf.fandom for the first one:

“When Galileo discovered in the 17th century that Jupiter possessed four moons, the great mathematician and physicist Christian Huygens applied his reasoning power to the question of ‘Why four instead of one?’ He asked himself, ‘What is the purpose of a moon?’ Well, the ‘purpose’ of earth’s moon was to help sailors navigate. If a planet has four moons it must therefore have a lot of sailors. Sailors mean boats. Boats mean sails. And sails mean ropes. Ropes are made of hemp. Therefore, it is obvious that Jupiter must have many hemp-producing plants.”
Evidence vs. nonsense: a guide to the scientific method
FDA Consumer, June, 1985 by Tim Larkin
“Dr. Crespi and Dr. Badcock propose that an evolutionary tug of war between genes from the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg can, in effect, tip brain development in one of two ways. A strong bias toward the father pushes a developing brain along the autistic spectrum, toward a fascination with objects, patterns, mechanical systems, at the expense of social development. A bias toward the mother moves the growing brain along what the researchers call the psychotic spectrum, toward hypersensitivity to mood, their own and others’. This, according to the theory, increases a child’s risk of developing schizophrenia later on, as well as mood problems like bipolar disorder and depression.”

October 26, 2008


Public Release: 26-Oct-2008
Nature Biotechnology
Fried purple tomatoes
Scientists have expressed genes from snapdragon in tomatoes to grow purple tomatoes high in health-protecting anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are naturally occurring pigments found at particularly high levels in berries such as blackberry, cranberry and chokeberry. Scientists are investigating ways to increase the levels of health-promoting compounds in more commonly eaten fruits and vegetables.
European Union, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

Public Release: 24-Oct-2008
Psychological Medicine
Youth from poor neighborhoods 4 times more likely to attempt suicide
Youth in their late teens who live in poor neighborhoods are four times more likely to attempt suicide than peers who live in more affluent neighborhoods, according to a new study from Canada’s Universite de Montreal and Sainte-Justine Hospital Research Center, as well as Tufts University in the US. The researchers also found youth from poor neighborhoods are twice as likely to report suicidal thoughts.
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

Public Release: 24-Oct-2008
Psychological Science
Phony friends? Rejected people better able to spot fake smiles
All of us have “faked a smile” at some point. Now, a new study might make us think twice about sending out a phony grin. It has been shown that individuals who are experiencing rejection are better at picking up subtle social cues and according to a recent study published in Psychological Science, socially rejected people are particularly good at discerning fake smiles from real ones.

Public Release: 24-Oct-2008
Operate a piano pedal with the mouth
The Heidelberg researcher Dr.-Ing. Rüdiger Rupp has developed a method with which a pianist can operate the right pedal of a concert grand wirelessly — a first in the world. A paraplegic pianist can thus overcome the handicap of being able to play the piano using only his arms and hands.

Public Release: 23-Oct-2008
Medical Decision Making
Cardiac risk estimates differ for Christian and Muslim patients
In a study of medical students, more serious cardiac risk estimates were given to Christians and less serious estimates for Muslims despite the patients being otherwise identical in their characteristics and symptoms, according to research in an upcoming issue of Medical Decision Making published by SAGE. Risk assessment, the first step in a medical triage process, determines subsequent treatment.

Science Press Releases

October 14, 2008


Public Release: 14-Oct-2008
Global Conference on Sustainable Product Development and Life Cycle Engineering
More flexible method floated to produce biofuels, electricity
Researchers are proposing a new “flexible” approach to producing alternative fuels, hydrogen and electricity from municipal solid wastes, agricultural wastes, forest residues and sewage sludge that could supply up to 20 percent of transportation fuels in the United States annually.

Public Release: 14-Oct-2008
Entomological Society of America’s Annual Meeting
Did termites help Katrina destroy New Orleans floodwalls?
A new article in the fall issue of American Entomologist (Vol. 54, No. 3) suggests that Formosan subterranean termites played a large role in the destruction of floodwalls and levees during Hurricane Katrina.

Public Release: 14-Oct-2008
Researchers uncover world’s oldest fossil impression of a flying insect
While paleontologists may scour remote, exotic places in search of prehistoric specimens, Tufts researchers have found what they believe to be the world’s oldest whole-body fossil impression of a flying insect in a wooded field behind a strip mall in North Attleboro, Mass
“Knecht says it is the world’s oldest known full-body impression of a primitive flying insect, a 300 million-year-old specimen from the Carboniferous Period.”

Public Release: 14-Oct-2008
Current Anthropology
Why do women get more cavities than men?
Reproduction pressures and rising fertility explain why women suffered a more rapid decline in dental health than did men as humans transitioned from hunter-and-gatherers to farmers and more sedentary pursuits, says a University of Oregon anthropologist.
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, American Institute of Indian Studies, American Philosophical Society, L.S.B. Leakey Foundation, National Geographic Society, National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research

Science, we have science

October 8, 2008


Public Release: 8-Oct-2008
Rutgers researcher examines connections between vision and movement
In research designed to assist US Department of Homeland Security and provide insight into how autistic individuals perceive others, Dr. Maggie Shiffrar of Rutgers University, is examining how our visual system helps interpret the intent conveyed in subtle body movements. While most autism research has focused on difficulties in face perception, Shiffrar is one of the first to examine autism as it relates to connections between visual analysis, body movement and our ability to interact.
U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, National Science Foundation,Simons Foundation

Public Release: 8-Oct-2008
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Circadian clock may be critical for remembering what you learn, Stanford researchers say
The circadian rhythm that quietly pulses inside us all, guiding our daily cycle from sleep to wakefulness and back to sleep again, may be doing much more than just that simple metronomic task, according to Stanford researchers. Working with Siberian hamsters, biologist Norman Ruby has shown that having a functioning circadian system is critical to the hamsters’ ability to remember what they have learned. Without it, he said, “They can’t remember anything.”
Howard Hughes Medical Center

Public Release: 8-Oct-2008
Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy
Many children attribute white male monopoly on White House to discrimination
Many children attribute the lack of female, African American, and Latino presidents to gender and racial discrimination.
“Surprisingly, when asked about potential legal barriers, one in four children stated that it was currently against the law for women, African Americans, or Latinos to be President.”

Public Release: 8-Oct-2008
Journal of Environmental Quality
Pickleweed tolerates irrigation with seawater and high levels of boron
Researchers have discovered that reusing saline drainage water and applying it to salt-tolerant crops in California’s San Joaquin Valley can help reduce the environmental impact of excess drainage volumes. The study focused on pickleweed, sold in European markets as a salad ingredients, and its ability to tolerate irrigation with seawater and drainage water with high concentrations of boron.

Public Release: 8-Oct-2008
Learning how not to be afraid
New studies by Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers are showing how the brain changes when mice learn to feel safe and secure in situations that would normally make them anxious. The mice developed a conditioned inhibition of fear that squelches anxiety as effectively as antidepressant drugs, such as Prozac.
Public Release: 7-Oct-2008

All counterterrorism programs that collect and mine data should be evaluated for effectiveness
All US agencies with counterterrorism programs that collect or “mine” personal data — such as phone, medical and travel records or Web sites visited — should be required to systematically evaluate the programs’ effectiveness, lawfulness, and impacts on privacy, says a new report from the National Research Council.

Science Press Releases

October 6, 2008


Public Release: 6-Oct-2008
JDRF funded study links ‘hygiene hypothesis’ to diabetes prevention
A research study funded by JDRF suggests that a common intestinal bacteria may provide some protection from developing type 1 diabetes. The findings provide an important step towards understanding how and why type 1 diabetes develops in people, and may lead to potential cures.
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation

Public Release: 6-Oct-2008
Boston University partners in NSF challenge to create wireless network using visible light
Researchers at Boston University are developing a new generation of wireless communications based on visible light instead of radio waves. This capability would piggyback data communications capabilities on low-power light emitting diodes or LEDs to create “smart lighting.” This technology would also be more secure and faster than current network technology — all over existing power lines with low power consumption, high reliability and no electromagnetic interference.
National Science Foundation

Public Release: 5-Oct-2008
2008 Joint Annual Meeting GSA/ASA-CSSA-SSSA/GCAGS
Earliest animal footprints ever found — discovered in Nevada
The fossilized trail of an aquatic creature suggests that animals walked using legs at least 30 million years earlier than had been thought. The tracks — two parallel rows of small dots, each about 2 millimeters in diameter — date back some 570 million years, to the Ediacaran period.

Public Release: 3-Oct-2008
Egalitarian revolution in the Pleistocene?
Although anthropologists and evolutionary biologists are still debating this question, a new study, published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE, supports the view that the first egalitarian societies may have appeared tens of thousands of years before the French Revolution, Marx and Lenin.
Full article:

Public Release: 2-Oct-2008
Brain and Cognition
Musicians use both sides of their brains more frequently than average people
Supporting what many of us who are not musically talented have often felt, new research reveals that trained musicians really do think differently than the rest of us. Vanderbilt University psychologists have found that professionally trained musicians more effectively use a creative technique called divergent thinking, and also use both the left and the right sides of their frontal cortex more heavily than the average person.
Vanderbilt University