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Rosetta’s Philae, The Good And The Bad

November 13, 2014 - 11:51pm
Most of the world that has access to the Internet knows two things about the Rosetta mission - it landed on a comet and a European engineer wore an ugly shirt that offended a lot of American women on Twitter.

The least interesting news is that the ESA now knows that if women can't wear bathing suits to represent them on television, then male project scientists cannot wear bowling shirts and shorts. The important news, however, is that mankind has shown we can go on a 10 year, 4 billion mile journey through the solar system and land on a rock the size of Cork City, Ireland. -->

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It Takes Two: How Mutualisms Evolve In A World Of Selfish Genes

November 13, 2014 - 11:34pm

The bobtail squid and bioluminscent bacteria are just one of hundreds of examples of mutualism. Klaus Stiefel/Flickr, CC BY-NC

By Alex Jordan, University of Texas at Austin

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When It Comes To Chimpanzees And Sex, Consent Is Optional

November 13, 2014 - 10:58pm

We may talk about a battle of the sexes when it comes to our species, but in the rest of the primate world, it really is a battle. We have the luxury of cultural hand-wringing about the shirt a Rosetta mission engineer wore in a YouTube video, but when it comes to chimpanzees, a shirt is the least of female problems.

Male on female violence among chimpanzees is frequent - and it has to do with sex. 


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Oxytocin Helps Overcome Fear

November 13, 2014 - 6:55pm

Frightening experiences stick with us but a new study finds that the bonding hormone oxytocin inhibits the fear center in the brain and allows fear stimuli to subside more easily. 


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Video Games Are Good For Your Brain - Here's Why

November 13, 2014 - 5:01pm

Brains on games. OnlineUniversities.com,  CC BY

By Mark Griffiths, Nottingham Trent University

Whether playing video games has negative effects is something that has been debated for 30 years, in much the same way that rock and roll, television, and even the novel faced much the same criticisms in their time.

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St. William And The Greatest Zombie Lie Ever Told

November 13, 2014 - 4:03pm

Instead of dying out, Anti-Semitic myths have withstood the test of time.

By Asa Simon Mittman, California State University, Chico

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Personal Social Media Usage Impacts Work Performance

November 13, 2014 - 3:24pm

With over one billion people worldwide using social media, including 80 percent of employees using private sharing sites at work, members have been scrambling to insist that not only does it not negatively affect their work performance, but that it improves it. Yahtzee! probably wishes they could get the kind of free public relations Twitter gets.

Few studies have been done to examine the issue. Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Cecilie Schou Andreassen and colleagues at the University of Bergen looked at the consequences of the use of social media during working hours.


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This Gene Mutation May Protect Against Heart Disease

November 13, 2014 - 3:14pm

 Everyone inherits two copies of most genes, one copy from each parent. In a recent study, researchers found in a rare mutation, people with one inactive copy of the gene NPC1L1 appeared to be protected against high LDL cholesterol, commonly called the "bad" cholesterol, and coronary heart disease, a narrowing of the heart's arteries that can lead to heart attacks. 

This mutation meant a 50 percent reduction in the risk of heart attack, at least epidemiologically, according to the paper
in The New England Journal of Medicine. NPC1L1 is of interest because it is the target of the drug ezetimibe, often prescribed to lower cholesterol.


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Extreme Storms Of Uranus

November 13, 2014 - 1:00pm

Uranus is generally boring but it recently got interesting. It has become so stormy, with enormous cloud systems so bright, that for the first time ever amateur astronomers are able to see details in the planet's hazy blue-green atmosphere.


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A Picture More Awe-Inspiring Than The One Of The Surface Of Comet Gerasimenko

November 13, 2014 - 12:23pm
This one is definitely too juicy to ignore - I need to join the crowd of bystanders-in-awe. 
As you may have heard, ESA's ROSETTA spacecraft successfully landed yesterday on the solid nucleus of comet 67/P, Churyumov-Gerasimenko - a 2.5 mile long conglomerate of rock and ice. I refrain from giving detail of that enormous achievement for humankind, because I rather want to comment on this rather funny twist of the whole story. But still let's first enjoy at least one nice picture of the surface of that distant solar system body...



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Men Evolved Navigation Skills To Find Mates, Say Anthropologists

November 13, 2014 - 6:57am

An analysis of two African tribes has led anthropologists to suggest that men evolved better navigation ability than women because men with better spatial skills - the ability to mentally manipulate objects - can roam farther and have children with more mates.


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Backwards: How Brain Maps Help Us Perceive The World

November 13, 2014 - 12:30am

Driving to work is routine, you might even forget you are doing it, but how aware would you be if you had to doit in reverse?

We're used to seeing objects pass behind us as we go forward. Moving backwards feels unnatural and a new study finds why that is: Moving forward actually trains the brain to perceive the world normally. The relationship between neurons in the eye and the brain is more complicated than previously thought--in fact, the order in which we see things could help the brain calibrate how we perceive time, as well as the objects around us.

Reversing the Map


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Vitamin B Doesn't Reduce Risk Of Memory Loss

November 12, 2014 - 11:30pm

Supplement marketers have been aggressively claiming that vitamin B12 and folic acid reduce the risk of memory loss, but a large study on long-term use of supplements found no benefits.   

The study involved people with high blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid. High levels of homocysteine have been linked to memory loss and Alzheimer's disease. Early observational studies claimed there may be some benefit to thinking and memory skills in taking folic acid and vitamin B12, but the results were not duplicated in later randomized, controlled trials. 


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It's Time To Revise How We Classify Life On Earth

November 12, 2014 - 11:00pm

When is a cat not a cat? Biodiversity Heritage Library (adapted), CC BY

By Ben Holt, Imperial College London and Knud Andreas Jønsson, Imperial College London

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Why Yellow Fever Mosquitoes Love Humans - Thank Genetics

November 12, 2014 - 10:35pm

The yellow fever mosquito sustains its taste for human blood thanks to a genetic tweak that makes it more sensitive to human odor, according to a paper in Nature. They have a version of an odor-detecting gene in its antennae that is highly attuned to sulcatone, a compound prevalent in human odor.

The gene, AaegOr4, is more abundant and more sensitive in the human-preferring "domestic" form of the yellow fever mosquito than in its ancestral "forest" form that prefers the blood of non-human animals. 


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Personality Predicts Our Driving Behavior

November 12, 2014 - 10:01pm

Different people behave in different ways behind the wheel of a car. Flickr/Nuno Sousa, CC BY-NC-ND

By Vanessa Beanland, Australian National University and Martin Sellbom, Australian National University

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Microbicides That Target HIV Don't Work In Presence Of Semen

November 12, 2014 - 9:30pm

In the fight against HIV, microbicides, which are chemical compounds applied topically to the female genital tract to protect against sexually transmitted infections, are touted as an alternative to condoms.

There's just one problem. They don't work outside a petri dish. Clinical trials using microbicides have failed and a new study from the Gladstone Institutes and the University of Ulm finds that this may be due to the primary mode of transportation of the virus during sexual transmission, semen.


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Supercentenarians - World's Oldest Living People Get Whole-Genome Sequences Published

November 12, 2014 - 8:38pm

17 genomes of supercentenarians, people living beyond 110 years of age, haven't led us any closer to discovering protein-altering variants significantly associated with extreme longevity, according to a study in PLOS ONE by Hinco Gierman from Stanford University and colleagues.

There are 74 supercentenarians alive worldwide, with 22 in the United States. The authors of this study performed whole-genome sequencing on 17 of them to explore the genetic basis underlying extreme human longevity. 


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Modafinil: If You Believe In 'Smart' Drugs, You Are Dumb

November 12, 2014 - 8:26pm

If surveys are accurate, up to 20 percent of students have taken Modafinil (Provigil), a psychostimulant embraced by "lifehackers" in the naturalistic crowd, to boost their ability to study and improve their chances of exam success. 

It is claimed, mostly by other students and readers of New York Magazine, that Modafinil is a 'smart' drug. Yet that isn't the case. Just like people without celiac disease are actually damaging their health giving up gluten and replacing it with the extra sugar, extra fat, hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose and xanthan gum found in gluten-free foods, healthy students who take Modafinil instead find their performance impaired by the drug. 


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