Science2.0

Interstellar: A Spectacular View Of Science But Not Without Compromise

Science2.0 - November 10, 2014 - 10:54pm

Black holes aren’t black. Warner Bros.

By Alasdair Richmond, University of Edinburgh

Note: this article has spoilers.

In Interstellar’s near-ish future, our climate has failed catastrophically, crops die in vast blights and America is a barely-habitable dustbowl. Little education beyond farming methods is tolerated and students are taught that the Apollo landings were Cold War propaganda hoaxes.

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Simplot Innate GM Potato Gets USDA Endorsement

Science2.0 - November 10, 2014 - 10:14pm

What will McDonald’s do?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday cleared a genetically engineered potato with two innovations that help both consumers and producers: The Simplot Innate potato resists bruising, which makes it more appealing to consumers (even though bruising generally does not impact the quality of the starchy vegetable); and it’s been modified to produce less of the chemical acrylamide when fried.

Acrylamide has been linked to cancer in rats although there is no clear evidence that it poses harm to humans.

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Robert Langer, Ed Witten Awarded 2014 Kyoto Prizes In Medicine And Science

Science2.0 - November 10, 2014 - 10:09pm
The Inamori Foundation has awarded the 2014 Kyoto Prizes to biomedical engineer Dr. Robert Langer in medicine, theoretical physicist Professor Edward Witten in math, and Fukumi Shimura in the Arts. Each laureate received a diploma, a 20-karat gold Kyoto Prize medal and a cash gift of 50 million yen (approximately US $450,000) in recognition of lifelong contributions to society.  
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The Insect Tree Of Life

Science2.0 - November 10, 2014 - 4:02pm
The 1KITE project (1,000 Insect Transcriptome Evolution) seeks to understand the millions of living insect species that shape our terrestrial living space and both support and threaten our natural resources by analyzing more than 1,000 insect transcriptomes, a set of all RNA molecules.

Using a dataset consisting of 144 carefully chosen species, 1KITE scientists have just presented reliable estimates on the dates of origin and relationships of all major insect groups based on the enormous molecular dataset they collected. They show that insects originated at the same time as the earliest terrestrial plants about 480 million years ago.
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Mitochondria Signaling Pathway Links Energy Conversion And Cell Division

Science2.0 - November 10, 2014 - 3:00pm
When a cell divides, it passes through a sequence of complex events and mitochondria, the organelles called the power plants of the cell, are the main source of energy for these processes: They convert food into energy the cell can use.

Freiburg biochemists Dr. Angelika Harbauer and professor Chris Meisinger led a team that have discovered a signaling path that links these two key tasks, cell division and energy conversion. .
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What Cute Koalas Tell Us About The Origins Of The Human Genome

Science2.0 - November 10, 2014 - 2:01pm
8 percent of our genome derives from retroviruses that inserted themselves into human sex cells millions of years ago and right now the koala retrovirus (KoRV) is invading koala genomes.

Koalas are the only known organism where a retrovirus is transitioning from exogenous to endogenous. An exogenous retrovirus infects a host, inserts its genetic information into the cell’s DNA, and uses the host cell’s machinery to manufacture more viruses. When an exogenous retrovirus infects an egg or sperm cell and the viral genetic information is then passed down to the host’s offspring, the virus becomes an endogenous retrovirus (ERV). 
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Baseball Offseason Debate: Who Is The Best Left-Handed Player?

Science2.0 - November 10, 2014 - 1:30pm
Though the World Series is over, baseball never really ends in the modern era. There are MVP announcements, free agency and then the winter meetings. Before we know it, it will be February and pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training in Florida and Arizona.
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Why Does Lou Gehrig's Disease Cause Problems For Action Verbs But Not Nouns?

Science2.0 - November 10, 2014 - 1:00pm
Patients with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, have difficulty with action verbs: Why action verbs and not regular verbs or nouns? 

According to some papers, the fact that ALS patients experience it isn't the actual severe motor deficits of the disease, the greater linguistic difficulty with verbs denoting action compared to nouns depends on the motor deficit.

The motor system plays a role in the semantic encoding of action verbs? Real or spurious correlations? A new tested this hypothesis and their conclusion suggests a major role for the “executive function”.
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Why Computer Programs Can't Understand Truth - And Ethics Of Artificial Intelligence Babies

Science2.0 - November 10, 2014 - 4:45am

This is a commonly used argument, indeed often taken for granted. We can simulate physics on a computer. So what is to stop us eventually simulating your whole body including your brain? And if so, is it not just a matter of time, and increasing computer power before we have exact simulations of humans as computer programs? Programs whose behaviour is indistinguishable from humans?

This is a staple of many science fiction stories of course. But some logicians, philosophers and physicists think there are flaws in this argument.

We know the laws of physics are incomplete. Could there be physical processes which for some reason are impossible to simulate using a computer program? And could processes like that go on in a human being?

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In The NFL, Bandwagon Is Everyone's Second Favorite Team

Science2.0 - November 9, 2014 - 3:00pm

In the NFL, teams share revenue from national television contracts and to sell local tickets, if a team has not sold at least to a specific threshold, the game is blacked out locally. If enough people are attending, the game is shown to fans in the region

That appeals to 'hometown' fans. One satellite network shows all games to its package subscribers but otherwise fans are only going to see their local team. If they don't have one, they see something nearby. It is a rule and there is no choice.

In the modern mobile population, that may not be a wise strategy. Fans no longer live within an hour of where they grew up and a new paper finds that choosing to broadcast the local team isn't always the smartest ratings decision. Writing in 


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It's On The Way: Is Your Religion Ready To Meet ET?

Science2.0 - November 9, 2014 - 2:00pm

Proof of life beyond earth is coming. Stargazing image via Shutterstock

By David A. Weintraub, Vanderbilt University

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How To Make A Baby...a Question Of Gastrulation

Science2.0 - November 9, 2014 - 10:59am

Let’s talk about gastrulation. For those unfamiliar with the term, it’s not as disgusting as it sounds. Gastrulation is a process in early embryonic development which leads to the generation of the three germ-layer tissues- ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm- from which all other tissue-types in the body are erived. 

The early (amniote) embryo coverts from a bilaminar structure of epithelial tissue plus and extra-embryonic layer, to a trilamiarone. A second function of gastrulation is that it defines the anterior-posterior body axis for the first time. In other words, it begins to distinguish the head end of the embryo from the tail end- this is pretty important if you want all your bits and pieces in the right place later on! 

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Cheap Compact Particle Accelerators May Be Our Physics Future

Science2.0 - November 8, 2014 - 3:01pm

SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory at Stanford

By Ian Bailey, Lancaster University

Scientists working on an experiment at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in the US have taken a step forward in developing a technology which could significantly reduce the size of particle accelerators. The technology is able to accelerate particles more rapidly than conventional accelerators at a much smaller size.

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Mysterious Tar Mounds A Mile Below The West African Ocean

Science2.0 - November 8, 2014 - 2:30pm
Over a mile beneath the West African ocean, off the coast of Angola, are over 2,000 mounds of asphalt containing a wealth of deep-water creatures.

A paper in Deep-Sea Research 1 examined the images and data captured at the site to build an intriguing picture of the life and geology of this underwater area. The naturally-occurring asphalt mounds are made up of the same substance that covers our roads. They range in size from single football-sized blobs to small hills several hundred meters across.
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From Garbo To Gaga: Sunglasses Reveal The Elusive Soul Of Modern Celebrity

Science2.0 - November 8, 2014 - 2:00pm

Sunglasses are the first line of defense for celebrities. Marie Havens/Shutterstock

By Vanessa Brown, Nottingham Trent University

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Starlings, Prozac, And Yorkshire

Science2.0 - November 8, 2014 - 10:54am

Will the medicines you take make their way back into your food?  They might, especially of you take your cue from an old Yorkshire song which deals with human recycling in the food chain, via worms and ducks.  Now, research [1] from the university of York (where else?) has studied one step of this process in detail.

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Fabricating And Plagiarizing: When Researchers Lie

Science2.0 - November 8, 2014 - 12:20am

Research undertaken on beagles and the contraceptive pill in the 1970s was found to be fabricated - there never were any beagles. Flickr/Understanding Animal Research, CC BY-SA

By Mark Israel, University of Western Australia

There are a few things you might need for an experiment involving beagles and the side effects of contraceptive pills. Animal research ethics aside, beagles might be a good start.

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Let's Lift The Earth!

Science2.0 - November 7, 2014 - 10:07pm
Think of our poor sister world Venus – almost the same size as Earth, it probably had oceans at the beginning. But Venus orbits closer to the sun -- and was never in the Continuously Habitable Goldilocks Zone, or CHZ.

Instead our poor sister world quickly spiraled into a greenhouse effect that erased its oceans and drove all the water away, leaving a desert planet, coated with dense clouds of sulfuric acid and carbon dioxide.

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Science Of Dancing: How To Best Learn A Dance Sequence

Science2.0 - November 7, 2014 - 6:55pm

What is the best way to learn a dance sequence?

Professional dancers make it look easy. A choreographer rattles off a long list of moves, kicks and turns and the dancers somehow remember it all. But what about the rest of us who will be hitting the club this weekend?

Researchers from Bielefeld University and the Palucca University of Dance in Dresden are here to help. They  researched whether dancers learn a dance sequence better by seeing or by listening, that is, if a dance instructor first demonstrates the sequence, or if he or she first gives a spoken explanation.




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Brain Threat Response Reduced If You Know You Are Cared For

Science2.0 - November 7, 2014 - 6:40pm

An experiment with 42 people under functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) found that if people see pictures of others being loved and cared for, it subsequently reduces
the brain's threat monitor, the amygdala,
 response to threats. 

This occurred even if the person was not paying attention to the content of the first pictures.

The study in Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, suggests that being reminded of being loved and cared for dampens the threat response and may allow more effective functioning during, and activation of soothing resources after, stressful situations. This was particularly true for more anxious individuals.


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