Welcome to Science Saturday, where the Overnight News Digest crew, consisting of founder Magnifico, regular editors maggiejean, wader, Man Oh Man, side pocket, rfall, and JML9999, alumni editors palantir, Bentliberal, Oke, jlms qkw, Interceptor7, and ScottyUrb, guest editor annetteboardman, and current editor-in-chief Neon Vincent, along with anyone else who reads and comments, informs and entertains you with this week's news about science, space, health, energy, and the environment.
Between now and the weekend before Christmas, Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday will highlight the research stories from the public universities in each of the states having elections for federal or state office this year plus stories from all research universities in major cities having municipal elections as listed in the 2013 Daily Kos Elections Calendar. Tonight's edition features the research and outreach stories from the states of Georgia, Kentucky, and Massachusetts plus the City of San Diego.
This week's top story comes from Space.com and the BBC.
Comet ISON Is Alive!? Survives Sun Swing? | Video
Reports of Comet ISON's demise may have been premature. Its nucleus may still be intact and the coma is brightening as of Nov. 29, 2013 although the outbound ISON seems smaller after its encounter with Sol.
Hope still for 'dead' Comet Ison
By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News
Comet Ison, or some part of it, may have survived its encounter with the Sun, say scientists.
The giant ball of ice and dust was initially declared dead when it failed to re-emerge from behind the star with the expected brightness.
All that could be seen was a dull smudge in space telescope images - its nucleus and tail assumed destroyed.
But recent pictures have indicated a brightening of what may be a small fragment of the comet.
More stories after the jump.
IFLS: New Dinosaur Discovery! - IFLS
Bacteria absorbing ancient DNA, one of the brightest gamma-ray bursts ever recorded, and evidence of Hominin inbreeding!
Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech Tongue Drive System
Tongue-Controlled Wheelchair Outperforms Sip-and-Puff Wheelchairs
Also see the related story under Health.
Discovery News: Birth Cowtrol: Human Condoms Made From Cows?
Bill Gates challenged inventors to revolutionize the condom, and they delivered! Laci Green reports on their creations, including the condom made from cow parts. And no, we're not joking.
Discovery News: Punkin Chunkin: Engineering Mega Pumpkin Launchers
Punkin Chunkin has officially gone big time. Trace drops by the 2013 Punkin Chunkin World Championships to find out how these truly awesome pumpkin launchers are built.
Discovery News: How Much Weight Do We REALLY Gain Over The Holidays?
With all the rich, delicious food consumed over the holidays, it makes sense everyone would gain some weight. But how many pounds does the average person actually pack on? Cristen Conger from 'Stuff Mom Never Told You' joins Anthony to break down the numbers.
NASA Television: ISON and the sun on This Week @NASA
On Thanksgiving Day, Comet ISON passed about 685-thousand miles above the surface of the sun -- the comet's closest approach on a projected path around our solar system's star. Data from this close encounter is providing clues about the comet and its interaction with the solar atmosphere -- which can help us understand more about the sun itself. Also, Holiday delivery, Satellite to Japan, Chief Scientist's visits, High tech agreement, Bug off and more!
JPL: What's Up for December 2013
Track comet ISON's journey as bright planets and starry events fill the sky this December.
Science at NASA: ScienceCasts: Rock Comet Sprouts a Tail
"Rock Comet" 3200 Phaethon has sprouted a tail, proving that the mysterious object is the source of the annual Geminid meteor shower.
Science at NASA: ScienceCasts: Genius Materials on the ISS
Researchers working with magnetic fluids on the International Space Station are taking "smart materials" to the next level. With proper coaxing, molecules can assemble themselves into "genius materials" with surprising properties. This is opening a new frontier in material science.
Discovery News: How Astronauts Celebrate Holidays in Space
Just because astronauts in orbit are miles and miles above the Earth's surface doesn't mean they have to miss out on all the holiday festivities. Trace shows us how this festive time of year is celebrated in space.
Georgia Tech: Evidence found for granite on Mars
Posted November 18, 2013 | Atlanta, GA
Researchers now have stronger evidence of granite on Mars and a new theory for how the granite – an igneous rock common on Earth -- could have formed there, according to a new study. The findings suggest a much more geologically complex Mars than previously believed.
Large amounts of a mineral found in granite, known as feldspar, were found in an ancient Martian volcano. Further, minerals that are common in basalts that are rich in iron and magnesium, ubiquitous on Mars, are nearly completely absent at this location. The location of the feldspar also provides an explanation for how granite could have formed on Mars. Granite, or its eruptive equivalent, rhyolite, is often found on Earth in tectonically active regions such as subduction zones. This is unlikely on Mars, but the research team concluded that prolonged magmatic activity on Mars can also produce these compositions on large scales.
"We're providing the most compelling evidence to date that Mars has granitic rocks," said James Wray, an assistant professor in the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the study's lead author.
Space.com: China Will Launch Its 1st Moon Rover, 'Jade Rabbit,' On Sunday
by Leonard David, SPACE.com’s Space Insider Columnist
November 30, 2013 12:34pm ET
China is counting down to the launch of its first moon landing mission, a mission poised to blast off Sunday (Dec. 1) to send the country's first lunar lander and rover to Earth's nearest neighbor.
China's first moon rover is called Yutu, which means "Jade Rabbit" in Chinese, according to state media reports. It will launch with the Chang'e 3 moon lander on Sunday 12:30 p.m. EST (1730 GMT), though it will be 1:30 a.m. Monday, Dec. 2 at China's Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
If all goes well, the Chang'e 3 mission will land on the moon on Dec. 14, according the European Space Agency, which is providing mission tracking of the lander and rover for China's space agency.
NPR via KPBS: U.S. May Be Producing 50 Percent More Methane Than EPA Thinks
Christopher Joyce / NPR
Monday, November 25, 2013
Methane is the source of the gas we burn in stoves. You can also use it to make plastics, antifreeze or fertilizer. It comes out of underground deposits, but it also seeps up from swamps, landfills, even the stomachs of cows.
And while methane is valuable, a lot of it gets up into the atmosphere, where it becomes a very damaging greenhouse gas.
Scientists have been trying to find out, with varying success, exactly how much of this climate-warming gas gets into the atmosphere. A study published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests there's much more up there than previously thought.
"Our numbers for the entire United States are about a factor of 1.5 times larger than the [estimates of] the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency," says the study's co-author Scot Miller, a doctoral student in earth sciences at Harvard University.
Texas A&M University: New method of restoring wetlands successful along Gulf Coast
Writer: Kathleen Phillips
November 27, 2013
HOUSTON — More than 135 acres of prairie wetland habitat have been restored near Houston with a new method that may help additional acreages be recovered, according to experts with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
The prairie wetlands at Sheldon Lake State Park have been restored over a 10-year period using a novel approach of re-excavating soil covered up by other land-use situations, particularly agriculture, said Marissa Sipocz, AgriLife Extension wetland program manager in Houston.
“The method we have used has changed how freshwater prairie wetland restoration and creation will take place along the Gulf Coast,” Sipocz said. “The genius of this method relies on its simplicity: re-excavation of the original soils.”
Texas A&M University: Transfer Of Methanol In Oceans A Complex Process
November 27, 2013
The transfer of methanol from the atmosphere to the oceans is a key process that can affect Earth’s environment and climate, according to a team of researchers that include a visiting Texas A&M University professor from England.
Methanol is released into the atmosphere in a variety of natural processes including decaying trees and plants, and also by industrial emissions and biomass burning. The team measured air to sea methanol transfer over a 6,000-mileship’s voyage, from the United Kingdom to South America, and found that methanol concentrations near and under the water surface were lower than expected.
Most of the methanol was likely consumed by marine microbes, the authors contend.
University of Texas: Seahorse Heads Have a ‘No Wake Zone’ That’s Made for Catching Prey
Nov. 26, 2013
AUSTIN, Texas — Seahorses are slow, docile creatures, but their heads are perfectly shaped to sneak up and quickly snatch prey, according to marine scientists from The University of Texas at Austin.
“A seahorse is one the slowest swimming fish that we know of, but it’s able to capture prey that swim at incredible speeds for their size,” said Brad Gemmell, research associate at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, which is part of the College of Natural Sciences.
The prey, in this case, are copepods. Copepods are extremely small crustaceans that are a critical component of the marine food web. They are a favored meal of seahorses, pipefish and sea dragons, all of which are uniquely shaped fish in the syngnathid family.
Copepods escape predators when they detect waves produced in advance of an attack, and they can jolt away at speeds of more than 500 body lengths per second. That equates to a 6-foot person swimming under water at 2,000 mph.
University of Kentucky: For the Birds: Sparrows Teach Us About Parenting Behavior Across the Animal Kingdom
By Allison Elliott-Shannon
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Nov. 26, 2013) — From humans to sparrows, individuals within a species display distinct "personalities" when it comes to their behaviors. Taking an innovative approach to understanding how various factors impact behavioral patterns, David Westneat is working with a local population of house sparrows to understand how variables including local ecology, stress and hormones come together to affect the parenting behaviors of birds and other creatures.
Westneat, professor in the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences Department of Biology, has been awarded a four-year grant from the National Science Foundation for $670,000. As a behavioral ecologist with expertise on reproductive and social behavior, Westneat will use the grant to study variation in parenting patterns.
The current project "Parental care and the integration of personality and plasticity at multiple levels of phenotypic variance," focuses on variation in the way individual sparrows feed their nestlings and how they respond to changing factors such as the demand of the nestlings, changing seasons, the behavior of their partner, and the level of competition with other sparrows nearby.
"We have some birds with very parental personalities, who feed nestlings often, and some who are not so parental," said Westneat.
UCSD: Quantitative Approaches Provide New Perspective on Development of Antibiotic Resistance
By Kim McDonald
November 28, 2013
Using quantitative models of bacterial growth, a team of UC San Diego biophysicists has discovered the bizarre way by which antibiotic resistance allows bacteria to multiply in the presence of antibiotics, a growing health problem in hospitals and nursing homes across the United States.
Two months ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a sobering report estimating that antibiotic-resistant bacteria last year caused more than two million illnesses and approximately 23,000 deaths in the United States. Treating these infections, the report said, added $20 billion last year to our already overburdened health care system.
Many approaches are now being employed by public health officials to limit the spread of antibiotic resistance in bacteria—such as limiting the use of antibiotics in livestock, controlling prescriptions of antibiotics and developing new drugs against bacteria already resistant to conventional drug treatments. But understanding how bacteria grow and evolve drug resistance could also help stop its spread by allowing scientists to target the process of evolution itself.
“Understanding how bacteria harboring antibiotic resistance grow in the presence of antibiotics is critical for predicting the spread and evolution of drug resistance,” the UC San Diego scientists say in an article published in the November 29 issue of the journal Science.
UCSD: Parasite Lost
By targeting enzyme in mosquito-borne parasite, researchers aim to eliminate malaria
By Scott LaFee
November 27, 2013
Using advanced methodologies that pit drug compounds against specific types of malaria parasite cells, an international team of scientists, including researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Genomics Institute of the Novartis Research Foundation, have identified a potential new weapon and approach for attacking the parasites that cause malaria.
Their findings are published in the November 27, 2013 advanced online publication of Nature.
UCSD: Using microRNA Fit to a T (cell)
Researchers show B cells can deliver potentially therapeutic bits of modified RNA
By Scott LaFee
November 25, 2013
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have successfully targeted T lymphocytes – which play a central role in the body’s immune response – with another type of white blood cell engineered to synthesize and deliver bits of non-coding RNA or microRNA (miRNA).
The achievement in mice studies, published in this week’s online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may be the first step toward using genetically modified miRNA for therapeutic purposes, perhaps most notably in vaccines and cancer treatments, said principal investigator Maurizio Zanetti, MD, professor in the Department of Medicine and director of the Laboratory of Immunology at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center.
“From a practical standpoint, short non-coding RNA can be used for replacement therapy to introduce miRNA or miRNA mimetics into tissues to restore normal levels that have been reduced by a disease process or to inhibit other miRNA to increase levels of therapeutic proteins,” said Zanetti.
Georgia Tech: Clinical Trial Shows Tongue-Controlled Wheelchair Outperforms Popular Wheelchair Navigation System
Posted November 27, 2013 | Atlanta, GA
After a diving accident left Jason DiSanto paralyzed from the neck down in 2009, he had to learn how to navigate life from a powered wheelchair, which he controls with a sip-and-puff system. Users sip or puff air into a straw mounted on their wheelchair to execute four basic commands that drive the chair. But results from a new clinical study offer hope that sip-and-puff users like DiSanto could gain a higher level of independence than offered by this common assistive technology.
In the study, individuals with paralysis were able to use a tongue-controlled technology to access computers and execute commands for their wheelchairs at speeds that were significantly faster than those recorded in sip-and-puff wheelchairs, but with equal accuracy. This study is the first to show that the wireless and wearable Tongue Drive System outperforms sip-and-puff in controlling wheelchairs. Sip-and-puff is the most popular assistive technology for controlling a wheelchair.
The Tongue Drive System is controlled by the position of the user’s tongue. A magnetic tongue stud lets them use their tongue as a joystick to drive the wheelchair. Sensors in the tongue stud relay the tongue’s position to a headset, which then executes up to six commands based on the tongue position.
Texas A&M University: Obesity: Study shows you may be destined for it
by Holly Lambert
November 27, 2013
Inactivity and unhealthy eating habits are obvious contributing factors to obesity. To shed unwanted pounds, change your diet and increase activity. But research from the Texas A&M Health Science Center’s Institute of Biosciences and Technology (IBT) finds it may not be that simple.
With grant funding from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, one of the National Institutes of Health, Cheryl Walker, Ph.D., director of the Texas A&M IBT, and a team of colleagues from across Houston’s Texas Medical Center found the likelihood of adults developing obesity may be determined before birth.
“The DNA we inherit is like computer hardware. What runs the ‘computer’ is the software – the epigenome. In early life, as embryos or infants, this epigenetic programming is being “installed” on the genome of developing cells and tissues,” Walker explains. “Just like a computer, if the epigenetics – or software – isn’t installed correctly, the computer – or DNA – doesn’t work optimally.”
University of Massachusetts, Worcester: Dekker Lab re-imagines how genomes are assembled
Using DNA interaction frequency data, UMMS faculty develop quicker, more accurate method for assembling complex genome sequences
By James Fessenden
UMass Medical School Communications
November 25, 2013
Scientists at UMass Medical School (UMMS) have developed a new method for piecing together the short DNA reads produced by next-generation sequencing technologies that are the basis for building complete genome sequences. Job Dekker, PhD, and colleagues have shown that entire genomes can be assembled faster and more accurately by measuring the frequency of interactions between DNA segments and by using their three-dimensional shape as a guide. Employing this technique, they have been able to place 65 previously unaccounted for DNA fragments in incomplete regions of the human genome.
Details of the study appear online in Nature Biotechnology.
“The ability of next-generation sequencing technologies to produce hundreds of millions of short reads of DNA sequences has been an incredible boon for biomedical researchers,” said Dr. Dekker, co-director of the Program in Systems Biology, professor of biochemistry and molecular pharmacology and senior author of the study. “As these DNA sequences have become shorter and shorter, however, assembling complete genomes have become increasingly challenging. After 20 years of intense efforts, even the human genome still has gaps.
Texas A&M University: A ‘SNP chip’ will help cotton breeding researchers take giant leap
AgriLife Research joins in release of new cotton genomic technology
Writer: Kay Ledbetter
November 29, 2013
COLLEGE STATION – Narrow germplasm base and limited technology have made it difficult for cotton researchers to identify specific DNA markers needed to locate genes that confer desirable traits. But that’s no longer the case.
Fruiting sites tend to be numerous and closely spaced on the fruiting branches. By analyzing variations among lines and individual plants and dovetailing that information with SNP data, scientists can typically figure out which SNPs can be used to select for the desirable genetic combinations. (Texas A&M AgriLIfe Research photo)
Lower branch of a potentially valuable breeding line of cotton with fruiting sites that are numerous and closely spaced. By analyzing variations among lines, like branch length and internode distance between fruiting sites, and dovetailing that with SNP data, scientists can typically figure out which SNPs can be used to select for the desirable genetic combinations. (Texas A&M AgriLife Research photo)
Dr. David Stelly, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research cotton breeder in College Station, said cotton is ready to merge into the breeding fast lane with the expected release of “cotton SNP chips” loaded with single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs (snips). SNPs are variations within the DNA.
“The new chip will be the first of several quantum steps forward over the next couple of years that will open many doors for cotton breeding research and improvements,” Stelly said. “While DNA markers are not a panacea in themselves, they can turbo-charge the breeding process.”
Texas A&M University: AgriLife Research study narrows the search for greenbug resistance gene in wheat
Writer: Kay Ledbetter
November 26, 2013
AMARILLO – Texas A&M AgriLife Research wheat scientists are getting closer to pinpointing the genes controlling greenbug resistance in wheat and recently published their findings.
“Transcriptomics of induced defense responses to greenbug aphid feeding in near isogenic wheat lines” has been accepted for publication in Plant Science journal. The article can be accessed at http://bit.ly/... .
Most of the hard red winter wheat in the U.S. is cultivated in the Southern Great Plains, where the yields are hampered by several phloem-feeding insects, Rudd said. The primary pest, the greenbug aphid, is estimated to cause economic losses of about $405 million annually.
University of Massachusetts: Factors Combine to Cause Hearing Problems in Middle Age, UMass Amherst Research Shows
November 25, 2013
AMHERST, Mass. – Results from a recent study of hearing in middle-aged and older adults conducted by hearing scientist Karen Helfer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst suggest that hearing loss is not the only factor playing a role as people experience age-related speech comprehension problems. Instead, declines in cognitive skills, particularly memory and processing speed, also contribute.
In this work, Helfer, an expert in aging and speech communication, studied the effect of hearing loss and cognitive abilities in middle-aged and older adults as they experienced a situation called “competing speech,” commonly encountered during this season when different generations gather around the holiday table.
Helfer’s study tested participants’ ability to understand a same-gender speaker in the presence of one or more background speakers. She says a great deal is known about how people in their 20s and 30s respond to competing speech and even about how adults older than 60 respond, “but ours is one of the very few investigations to study this situation in middle-aged adults, 45 to 59 years old.”
University of Georgia: New research shows promise for earlier, better dementia diagnosis
November 25, 2013
Athens, Ga. - Nearly 36 million people worldwide are estimated to currently have dementia. That number is expected to almost double every 20 years. Researchers are diligently working to find better, more accurate methods for earlier diagnosis.
According to recently published research from the University of Georgia's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of psychology, scientists may be one step closer to a better biomarker for earlier detection of mild cognitive impairment, the leading predictor of dementia and Alzheimer's disease in older adults.
Psychology professor and Bio-Imaging Research Center director Stephen Miller, along with former graduate student Carlos Faraco, used fMRI brain scans-scans that give researchers not only a visual picture of the structure of the brain but also information about blood flow within the brain-to test the working memory of adults with normal healthy adult brains against those showing signs of mild cognitive impairment. The research was recently published in the journal Neuropsychologia.
University of Massachusetts, Worcester: UMMS autism expert says new eye tracking research ‘an important indicator’
Teresa Mitchell believes study could lead to earlier interventions
By Ellie Castano
UMass Medical School Communications
November 27, 2013
New research showing that infants who spent less time looking at people’s eyes were more likely to be diagnosed with autism is an important indicator that autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) may not stem from congenital abnormalities and therefore may be modified by early intervention, according to Teresa V. Mitchell, PhD, a researcher at UMass Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center who performs similar studies with older individuals with ASDs.
The study, published on Nov. 6 in the online edition of Nature, reports that researchers using eye-tracking technology found that infants later diagnosed with ASDs exhibit a “decline in eye fixation from 2 to 6 months of age, a pattern not observed in infants who do not develop autism spectrum disorders.”
“This research documents the earliest evidence of a diverging developmental path for infants who go on to receive a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder,” said Dr. Mitchell, who was not involved in this study.
Discovery News via LiveScience: Is a 17th Century Wreck Buried in Lake Michigan?
Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News
November 27, 2013 10:00am ET
One of the Great Lakes’ most enduring puzzles, the fate of the 17th century vessel the Griffin, continues to be a mystery.
Experts are debating whether a wooden slab found protruding from the bed of Lake Michigan is a wreckage from the long sought vessel or just a pound net stake — an underwater stationary fishing device used in the Great Lakes in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
annetteboardman is taking the holiday off.
University of Texas: Study Examines Potential Evolutionary Role of "Sexual Regret" in Human Survival and Reproduction
Nov. 25, 2013
AUSTIN, Texas — In the largest, most in-depth study to date on regret surrounding sexual activity, a team of psychology researchers found a stark contrast in remorse between men and women, potentially shedding light on the evolutionary history of human nature.
Researchers for the peer-reviewed study included University of Texas at Austin evolutionary psychologist David Buss. The study was led by Andrew Galperin, a former social psychology doctoral student at the University of California-Los Angeles; and Martie Haselton, a UCLA social psychology professor. It is published in the current issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior.
The findings show how human emotions such as regret can play an important role in survival and reproduction. They suggest that men are more likely to regret not taking action on a potential liaison, and women are more remorseful for engaging in one-time liaisons.
“Prior sex researchers have focused primarily on the emotion of sexual attraction in sexual decisions,” Buss says. “These studies point to the importance of a neglected mating emotion —sexual regret — which feels experientially negative but in fact can be highly functional in guiding adaptive sexual decisions.”
Capital Public Radio via KPBS: Sinking Central Valley An Issue For High-Speed Rail And Canal System
Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio
Monday, November 25, 2013
Large groundwater withdrawals are causing land in California's Central Valley to sink. It's become so serious that it’s threatening flood control and water deliveries. The proposed high-speed rail system will also have deal with the changing terrain.
Chase Hurley is general manager of the San Luis Canal Company in Dos Palos. He points to a small dam near the river in western Madera County. It’s likely the most important structure for the irrigation company because it guides water from the river into its canal system.
“That dam, and this canal are sinking roughly 6 inches a year," Hurley said. "So when that happens the dams not going to be high enough to physically gravitational push that down the canal.”
University of Louisville: UofL’s first renewable energy prize goes to Swiss chemist
by Judy Hughes, communications and marketing
last modified Nov 20, 2013 03:42 PM
Swiss chemist Michael Graetzel, noted for his discovery of a new solar cell that’s easier and less costly to produce than silicon-based cells, has won the first $50,000 Leigh Ann Conn Prize for Renewable Energy from the University of Louisville.
Graetzel, professor and director of the Laboratory of Photonics and Interfaces at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, is recognized for merging nanoscience with photoconversion by developing a dye-sensitized solar cell known as the Graetzel cell. These cells convert sunlight into electricity using earth-abundant materials at efficiencies exceeding thin-film silicon-based cells but with dramatically lower production costs. Mass production of the cells began in 2009.
Graetzel holds more than 50 patents and has written two books and more than 1,200 publications. His work makes him one of the most highly cited chemists worldwide, and his concepts have spawned hundreds of research groups and multiple conferences.
Plataforma SINC (Spain) via ScienceDaily: Controversy Over Use of Roman Ingots to Investigate Dark Matter, Neutrinos
Nov. 29, 2013 — The properties of these lead bricks recovered from ancient shipwrecks are ideal for experiments in particle physics. Scientists from the CDMS dark matter detection project in Minnesota (USA) and from the CUORE neutrino observatory at the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy have begun to use them, but archaeologists have raised alarm about the destruction and trading of cultural heritage that lies behind this.
Two thousand years ago, a Roman vessel with ingots of lead extracted from the Sierra of Cartagena sank across the waters from the coast of Sardinia. Since 2011, more than a hundred of these ingots have been used to build the 'Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events' (CUORE), an advanced detector of neutrinos -- almost weightless subatomic particles -- at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy.
In the 18th century, another ship loaded with lead ingots was wrecked on the French coast. A company of treasure hunters retrieved this material and, despite problems with French authorities, managed to sell it to the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search (CDMS) team. This detector located in a mine in Minnesota (USA) looks for signs of the enigmatic dark matter, which is believed to constitute a quarter of the universe.
These two examples have served as reference for the discussion that two researchers have opened between archaeologists, worried by the destruction of underwater cultural heritage, and particle physicists, pleased to have found a unique material for research on neutrinos and dark matter.
University of Pittsburgh via ScienceDaily: Polymer Gel, Heal Thyself: Engineering Team Proposes New Composites That Can Regenerate When Damaged
Nov. 26, 2013 — When a chair leg breaks or a cell phone shatters, either must be repaired or replaced. But what if these materials could be programmed to regenerate-themselves, replenishing the damaged or missing components, and thereby extend their lifetime and reduce the need for costly repairs?
That potential is now possible according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Swanson School of Engineering, who have developed computational models to design a new polymer gel that would enable complex materials to regenerate themselves.
Science Crime Scenes
KPBS: Why Some Holiday Shoppers Are Spending Bitcoin This Black Friday
By David Wagner
Friday, November 29, 2013
Bitcoin—the currency of choice for buying illegal goods online—has cultivated quite the bad-boy image. But some entrepreneurs believe a wholesome makeover could take this unregulated digital currency mainstream, and what could be more wholesome than holiday shopping?
On Black Friday, Bitcoin boosters are urging shoppers to ditch their credit cards and open up their Bitcoin wallets. And shoppers like David Allison are doing just that. He's been giving a lot of thought to what he'll buy for his wife this Christmas.
"My wife and I are expecting a baby in March," he says. "And I know she loves the concept of nesting."
University of Georgia: Holiday shopping should include online security steps
November 26, 2013
Athens, Ga. - Many holiday shopping lists include online purchases, but is that website safe for credit cards? A security proponent at the University of Georgia has some tips for secure online shopping for shoppers making their lists and checking them twice.
"Use your head when doing your online shopping this holiday season," said Laura Heilman, a security awareness and education manager in the university's Enterprise Information Technology Services office. "Do not shop on public Wi-Fi networks or on public computers. And, avoid making purchases directly through links in emails."
Heilman suggests shopping online with a credit card, instead of a debit card.
Science, Space, Health, Environment, and Energy Policy
NPR via KPBS: Breaking Up With HealthCare.gov Is Hard To Do
Annie Feidt / NPR
Thursday, November 28, 2013
Enrolling in HealthCare.gov is not easy, and it's been particularly difficult in Alaska. Just 53 people enrolled in the first month.
Anchorage hair stylist Lara Imler is one of the few who got through, as we previously reported. But Imler discovered problems with her application, and now she wants to cancel her enrollment.
"I don't even know how to feel about the whole thing anymore because I can't even get anyone who has an answer to help," she says. "It's just such a lost cause at this point."
KPBS: Why San Diego County Will Lose Half Its State Health Funds (And Why It Might Not Matter)
By Megan Burks
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
California has given San Diego County two options: Take a clean 60 percent cut in health care funding next fiscal year or negotiate a smaller, more complicated cut.
The state will reduce the amount of healthcare dollars it gives to all California counties beginning next fiscal year to recoup savings under the Affordable Care Act.
Whichever formula it chooses, the region is poised to lose at least half of the state funds it uses to provide medical care to the homeless and uninsured and to run programs that help control the spread of infectious diseases.
But the cut — between $40 million and $48 million — sounds scarier than it really is, said Andrew Pease, executive finance director for the county's Health & Human Services Agency. He's tasked with figuring out which new funding option makes sense for San Diego.
KPBS: Latino Enrollment Lagging On Covered California
By Kenny Goldberg
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Latinos make up nearly half of California’s 7 million uninsured population but Latino enrollment on the online Covered California web site has been dismal.
Nearly 80,000 people have signed up for health insurance on Covered California since Oct. 1, but Latino enrollment at the online health exchange has been dismal.
Latinos make up nearly half of California’s 7 million uninsured population. Under Obamacare, many of them are eligible for federal subsidies, or Medi-Cal, which doesn’t charge a premium.
Even so, Covered California spokesperson Santiago Lucero said in October, less than 1,000 enrollees were primarily Spanish speakers.
University of Massachusetts, Worcester: Universities can help state Medicaid programs manage health care transformation
By Tom Lyons
UMass Medical School Communications
November 27, 2013
At a time when the health care landscape seems to be changing by the day, partnerships between universities and state Medicaid programs may help serve the missions of both.
That’s the message of a column in the latest edition of Academic Medicine authored by Jay Himmelstein, MD, MPH, professor of family medicine & community health and chief health policy strategist for UMass Medical School’s Center for Health Policy and Research, and Andrew Bindman, MD, professor of medicine and health policy and director of the California Medicaid Research Institute at the University of California Medical School.
States expanding Medicaid as a result of the Affordable Care Act will have to manage a number of new requirements as they seek to cover previously uninsured residents. These operational requirements will come at a time when many Medicaid agencies are stretched thin and not properly resourced to manage rapid growth.
Texas A&M University: Big Data: Preserving Privacy by Design
by Rae Lynn Mitchell
November 26, 2013
Information systems in the health sector have undergone significant changes making it possible to collect, store, and process huge amounts of digital records that may hold the key to future population health breakthroughs. However, linking between diverse data systems is complicated by privacy issues as well as data being recorded differently (10/12/58 or Oct. 12, 1958), changing over time (maiden vs. married last names), erroneous (transposed dates during data entry) or simply not included. So how do we use this new wealth of data, commonly termed “big data,” in a way that maintains privacy and assures it is accurate as well?
Hye-Chung Kum, Ph.D., associate professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, thinks the answer lies in developing new methodologies for extracting information and outlines her framework in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.
In “Privacy Preserving Interactive Record Linkage (PPIRL),” Kum emphasizes that it is critical to understand the distinction between identity disclosure (e.g., who the person is) and sensitive attribute disclosure (e.g., does this person have cancer). She maintains that identity disclosure has little potential for harm on its own though the sensitive attribute disclosure is what results in harm.
UCSD: Six UC San Diego Professors Named 2013 AAAS Fellows
By Kim McDonald
November 25, 2013
Six professors at the University of California, San Diego have been named 2013 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nation’s largest general science organization.
Ronald S. Burton, Seth M. Cohen, Jean-Bernard Minster, Bing Ren, Shankar Subramaniam and Mark H. Thiemens were among 388 individuals selected this year by colleagues in their disciplines to be honored by the association for their “efforts toward advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished.”
The new Fellows, who were announced by the association this week, will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue rosette pin (representing science and engineering, respectively) on February 15 at the 2014 AAAS Annual Meeting in Chicago.
University of Georgia: Two UGA faculty named AAAS Fellows
November 26, 2013
Washington D.C. - Two University of Georgia faculty members have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an honor bestowed upon them by their peers for "scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications."
The 2013 AAAS Fellows, both in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, are:
Debra Mohnen, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology: Mohnen is recognized for pioneering work describing the biosynthesis of pectins and unraveling their role in plant cell wall integrity.
Robert A. Scott, professor of chemistry, biochemistry and molecular biology and associate vice president for research: Scott is recognized for distinguished contributions to metallobiochemistry, particularly on applications of synchrotron radiation-based techniques in bioinorganic chemistry, and for outstanding student training and university administration.
University of Massachusetts, Worcester: Dekker, Sullivan named fellows of prestigious scientific society
By Lisa M. Larson
UMass Medical School Communications
November 25, 2013
UMass Medical School scientists Job Dekker, PhD, and John L. Sullivan, MD, have been named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Election as a Fellow is an honor bestowed upon AAAS members by their peers.
Dr. Dekker, professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology and co-director of the Program in Systems Biology, was elected as an AAAS Fellow for the invention of chromatin conformation capture, and for using it to map in detail the three-dimensional organization of the genome within the nucleus.
Dr. Sullivan, professor of pediatrics and molecular medicine, was elected for distinguished contributions in viral immunology leading to new insights into human immunodeficiency diseases and in prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
University of Texas: Chemist, Biomedical Engineer and Computational Biologist Elected Fellows of National Science Organization
Nov. 25, 2013
AUSTIN, Texas — Three faculty members at The University of Texas at Austin have been elected fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
The 2014 fellows from The University of Texas at Austin are:
Ron Elber, professor in the Department of Chemistry in the College of Natural Sciences. Elber was recognized for his groundbreaking work on the development of computer simulation methodologies and their applications to complex biological systems. Elber’s research focuses on algorithm development and computational prediction of the structure, function and dynamics of biomolecules. His group recently developed a quantitative non-Markovian theory (Milestoning) that extracts information from short-time dynamics and allows the calculation of long-time biologically relevant processes.
Mia K. Markey, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering. Markey was recognized for her seminal contributions to biomedical informatics and imaging physics to improve cancer care, and for leadership in biomedical engineering education. Markey directs the Biomedical Informatics Lab (BMIL) in its mission to design cost-effective, computational decision aids. The BMIL develops decision support systems for clinical decision-making and scientific discovery using artificial intelligence and signal processing technologies.
William H. Press, professor in the Departments of Computer Science and Integrative Biology in the College of Natural Sciences. Press was recognized for a lifetime of national service to computation, physics, astronomy and interdisciplinary science as a professor, national lab deputy director, and in many other roles. Press does research in computational biology, especially whole genome statistical studies. His interests include fast numerical and statistical algorithms, data mining, pattern recognition and the interdisciplinary application of mathematical and statistical methods across the physical and biological sciences and to societal issues including international security.
Texas A&M University: Amato, Balbuena named AAAS fellows
November 26, 2013
Dr. Nancy M. Amato and Dr. Perla Beatriz Balbuena are among the seven Texas A&M University faculty members recognized as 2013 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in recognition of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.
Amato was recognized for contributions to the algorithmic foundations of motion planning, computational biology, computational geometry and parallel computing. Balbuena was recognized for distinguished contributions to the theory of interfacial processes, through molecular simulation of electrochemical reactions and materials properties at the nanoscale.
Science Writing and Reporting
University of Massachussetts: Tiner’s ‘Tidal Wetlands Primer’ Published by UMass Press
November 25, 2013
“Tidal Wetlands Primer: An Introduction to Their Ecology, Natural History, Status, and Conservation” by Ralph W. Tiner, adjunct professor in the department of environmental conservation, has been published by the University of Massachusetts Press.
The purpose of the book is to introduce the world of tidal wetlands to students and professionals in the environmental fields and others with an interest in the subject.
Science is Cool
Space.com: How Do You Train to Become a Space Tourist?
By Katia Moskvitch, SPACE.com Contributor
November 30, 2013 12:00pm ET
LONDON — Piloting fighter jets, floating in zero gravity and spinning at a belly-flattening speed in a centrifuge are not the things a regular tourist is asked to do before a dream holiday. But this is exactly what Per Wimmer has been doing during 13 years of waiting for his trip — to outer space.
For the 45-year-old London-based Danish entrepreneur and financier, it won't even be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So far, he has bought three tickets from companies offering space tourism: Virgin Galactic, Space Adventures and XCOR Aerospace.
Wimmer expects to blast into the blackness overhead within the next 18 months, "on whichever rocket becomes available first," he said. When he first found out that private citizens had an opportunity to take a peek beyond Earth's surface, it took him less than 48 hours to pony up the $100,000 to sign up.
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