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New Year's Eve Science: Popping The Cork On Champagne

January 1, 2015 - 6:14pm

When the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, champagne bottles get popped all around the world.

So what is it exactly that sends that cork flying? And what's the best way to pour your bubbly?


Credit: The American Chemical Society

This week, Reactions gives you plenty of champagne facts and tips to impress your fellow partygoers as you ring in the New Year.

Subscribe to the series at Reactions YouTube


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Symbolic Gestures: The Magical Thinking Of New Year's Resolutions

January 1, 2015 - 5:33pm

Have you made your 2015 New Year's Resolutions yet? Toni Blay

By Jayashri Kulkarni, Monash University

“I will definitely give up smoking – that’s my New Year’s resolution,” she stated emphatically as she thumped her fist on the table to underline her determination. “All very well”, I thought, as I sat opposite her in my medical consulting room in October.

What is it about New Year’s resolutions that we find so compelling?

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Why We Give Up On New Year's Resolutions, Online Courses And Diets

January 1, 2015 - 5:33pm

By David Glance, University of Western Australia

One of the characteristic features of Massive Open Online Courses is the observation that no matter how many students enroll in a course, only between 5 to 10% of them will ever complete it.

Setting aside the argument of whether this actually means that MOOCs are considerably less “massive” than the name suggests, the interesting question is what is behind this high level of drop-outs and why does it seem so consistent?

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Binge Drinking Disrupts Immune System In Small Study

January 1, 2015 - 2:34am

Binge drinking in young, healthy adults significantly disrupts the immune system, according to a new epidemiology paper.


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Soil-Carbon Cycle Model: The Carbon Stores In Soil Freed By CO2 Could Be Substantial

December 31, 2014 - 10:26pm

An increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could initiate a chain reaction between plants and microorganisms that would unsettle one of the largest carbon reservoirs we have; soil.

Citing a new model, researchers say that the carbon in soil, which contains twice the amount of carbon in all plants and Earth's atmosphere combined, could become increasingly volatile as people add more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, largely because of increased plant growth. The researchers developed their computer model to show at a global scale the complex interaction between carbon, plants and soil, which includes numerous bacteria, fungi, minerals and carbon compounds that respond in complex ways to temperature, moisture and the carbon that plants contribute to soil.


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Hangovers Are As Old As Alcohol And So Are Hangover Cures

December 31, 2014 - 8:30pm

They should have stuck to white wine.

By Laurence Totelin, Cardiff University

Slightly over-indulged in wine this festive season?

Suffering from throbbing headache, dry mouth, and nausea after the office Christmas party?

The hair of the dog somehow does not appeal? Are you looking for time-tested cures? Fear not: these Greek and Roman remedies to alleviate a hangover or prevent one will come in handy.

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Andreas Vesalius: 500th Birthday Of The Man Who Revolutionized Our Knowledge Of The Human Body

December 31, 2014 - 6:44pm

Drawn directly from the flesh Public Domain Review/
Flickr, CC BY-SA

By Richard Gunderman, Indiana University-Purdue University

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For Brits, 5 New Laws In 2014 You Should Know About

December 31, 2014 - 6:22pm

Let 'er rip! Simon James, CC BY-SA

By Siobhan Weare, Lancaster University

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How Your Brain Tells Good Smells From Bad Ones

December 31, 2014 - 6:13pm

A pleasant or disgusting odor is not always just a preference, in some cases an organism's survival depends on it.

Odors can provide important information about food sources, oviposition sites or suitable mates and can also be signs of lethal hazards.  


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Teens Smoked Less, Drank Less Alcohol And Abused Opiods Less In 2014

December 31, 2014 - 6:01pm

Recent results released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse finds that use of cigarettes, alcohol, and abuse of prescription pain relievers among teens declined from 2013 while marijuana use rates were stable. 

These 2014 results are part of an overall two-decade trend among the nation's youth. The survey measures drug use and attitudes among eighth, 10th, and 12th graders, is funded by NIDA, and is conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Studies have found that teens have increased use of nicotine patches, e-cigarettes and energy drinks.


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6 Science Stories For 2014

December 31, 2014 - 1:30pm

2014: the year crystallography went mainstream. CSIRO, CC BY-SA

By Mark Lorch, University of Hull

’Tis the season for listicles rounding up the stories of the year.

So with, the authority vested in me, here is a selection of six top, bottom and forgotten science stories of 2014.

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Broccoli Compound Can Moderate Defects In Childhood 'Old Age' Syndrome Progeria

December 31, 2014 - 1:21am

Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome is a genetic condition in children that is characterized by dramatic, rapid appearance of aging. Affected children typically look normal at birth and in early infancy but grow more slowly than other children and develop characteristic facial appearances seen in some elderly people, along with hair loss, aged-looking skin and a loss of fat under the skin - subcutaneous fat. First described in 1886, it occurs in about 1 in 4 million newborns worldwide.


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Most People Can't Name This Important Bee Killer, But Science Is Fighting It

December 31, 2014 - 12:36am

There is a disease killing honeybee populations around the world but you won't be surprised to find that environmental groups never mention it.

It's called American foulbrood disease and it doesn't get much attention because groups can't use it in fundraising campaigns due to it being completely natural. Science is setting out to cure it just the same, and researchers have found a toxin released by the pathogen that causes American foulbrood disease -- Paenibacillus larvae (P. larvae) -- and developed a lead-based inhibitor against it.


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With Such High Arsenic Levels, Why Isn't Rice Regulated?

December 30, 2014 - 10:53pm

Puffed rice with a bit of poison. Shutterstock

By Andy Meharg, Queen's University Belfast

There are two sides to rice: the grain that feeds half the world – and the primary carcinogenic source of inorganic arsenic in our diet.

Arsenic is a natural occurring element that is ubiquitous in the environment. It is present primarily as inorganic arsenic, which is highly toxic.

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Historical Sites In Syria Have Been Looted And Damaged

December 30, 2014 - 10:19pm

It's no secret that war is tough on innocent buildings so it is no surprise that four of six major archaeological sites in Syria have been heavily looted and damaged, according to an analysis of high-resolution satellite images. 

The report analyzes 6 of the 12 sites that Syria has nominated as World Heritage Sites: Dura Europos, Ebla, Hama's Waterwheels, Mari, Raqqa, and Ugarit. Images from 2014 show numerous pits throughout three sites where ancient cities once stood. The pits generally do not appear in similar images from 2011, when the conflict in Syria began. 


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The Graph Of The Week - 10th Order Vertex Diagrams

December 30, 2014 - 9:40pm
Apologizing for the silence of last week, due not so much to Christmas holidays but to my working around the clock to write a grant proposal, I wish to show you today a graph which describes very well the complexities of modern day frontier theoretical calculations. That graph is the collection of some of the Feynman diagrams that have to be calculated in order to evaluate a property of the electron called its "anomalous magnetic moment".
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By 2014, If West Wing Science And Medicine Were Real Life...

December 30, 2014 - 6:13pm
A solid 12 years after most of its audience stopped watching "The West Wing", I decided to start - all 154 episodes. In the interest of transparency, I disclose I skipped two - one was a retrospective and one was nothing but a debate between two characters  that no one could care much about who were running for president to succeed the sitting president played by Martin Sheen. Real debates are boring enough but a fictional one written by one political side is really tedious.
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How Flying Snakes Fly

December 30, 2014 - 5:32pm

We don't often think of snakes as flying creatures - a lack of wings does not lend itself to flying imagery - but some snakes can glide as far as 100 feet through the air, jumping off tree branches and rotating their ribs to flatten their bodies and move from side to side.

New research from a George Washington University professor investigates the workings behind the flight and whether they can be applied to mechanical issues.


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12 New Causes Of Developmental Disorders Found

December 30, 2014 - 4:49pm

A nationwide project to study the genetic causes of rare developmental disorders has found 12 causative genes that were unidentified before. The Deciphering Developmental Disorders (DDD) nationwide genome-wide diagnostic sequencing program sequenced DNA and compared the clinical characteristics of over a thousand children to find the genes responsible for conditions that include intellectual disabilities and congenital heart defects, among others. 


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Bone Loss Drugs May Also Help Prevent Endometrial Cancer

December 30, 2014 - 4:45pm

Bisphosphonates are medications commonly used to treat osteoporosis and other bone conditions but a new analysis suggests that women who use bisphosphonates also have about half the risk of developing endometrial cancer as women who don't use the drugs. 

Endometrial cancer, which arises in the lining of the uterus, accounts for nearly 50 percent of gynecologic cancers diagnosed in the United States, and it is the fourth most common malignancy in women and the eighth most common cause of cancer death.

While bisphosphonates are known to prevent bone loss, preclinical studies have shown that the medications also have antitumor effects, including the ability to keep tumor cells from multiplying and from invading normal tissues.


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