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Preview: Science 2.0 - Life Sciences

Science 2.0 - Life Sciences


Moving The Goal Posts On Bees: Now Their Microbiome Is At Risk

Wed, 18 Apr 2018 12:53:50 +0000

The mix of bacteria (microbiome) of bee bread, the long-term food supply stored within a hive for young bees, is now at risk, according to a new estimate.

The scholars are blaming modern monoculture farming, commercial forestry and gardeners could be making it harder for honeybees to store food and fight off diseases, a new study suggests. Human changes to the landscape, such as large areas of monoculture grassland for livestock grazing, and coniferous forests for timber production, is affecting the diversity of the ‘microbiome’ associated with honeybees’ long-term food supply, the authors claim. 

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Aggressive Moths More Resilient To Climate Change

Mon, 16 Apr 2018 18:49:21 +0000

More competitive animal species, with males that compete intensively for mates, might be more resilient to the effects of climate change, according to a paper in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Sexual selection can provide a buffer against climate change and increase adaptation rates within a changing environment, the authors believe.

Moths exposed to increasing temperatures were produced more eggs and had better offspring survival when the population had more males competing for mating opportunities, three males for every female. 

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Another Day, Another Organic Milk Recall

Sun, 08 Apr 2018 20:43:06 +0000

Pelleh Farms of Swan Lake, New York has recalled its Pasteurized Whole Organic Milk Non-Homogenized products due to improper pasteurization.

At least it was almost pasteurized. In the demographic that thinks organic food is good, vaccines are bad, and science stopped at 1860, raw milk is on trend. They intentionally go without pasteurization in the belief that it contains more nutrients than safe milk.

Proper pasteurization heats milk to 161 degrees Fahrenheit to effectively eliminate all pathogenic bacteria, such as Listeria and Salmonella.  Raw milk chooses to let such bacteria remain, which is why pasteurization is credited with saving hundreds of millions of children since it became commonplace.

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The Northern White Rhino Should Stay Extinct

Fri, 06 Apr 2018 10:30:45 +0000

A geriatric semi-captive rhino died in Kenya recently. “Sudan”, a 45-year-old northern white rhino was put to sleep as vets decided, after months of ill health, that his condition had deteriorated to the point where the levels of pain and quality of life were unacceptable.

From a conservation perspective, this does not sound like a big deal. Sudan was one old rhino. He was well past breeding age. So why did his death make headlines?

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Another Day, Another Raw Milk Listeria Crisis

Wed, 04 Apr 2018 22:00:37 +0000

Raw milk, which has been known for over a century to substantially increase the risk for bacterial illness, has led to another permanent government-ordered shutdown. 

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York entered a consent decree of permanent injunction against Vulto Creamery LLC of Walton, N.Y. so that they cannot prepare, process, manufacture, pack and/or hold FDA-regulated food products until they can ensure that Listeria monocytogenes, which can cause a rare but potentially life-threatening illness, is not present in their facility and their food.

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Interstitium: Newfound 'Organ' Missed Due To Old Standard Method For Visualizing Anatomy

Tue, 27 Mar 2018 23:46:44 +0000

How do you miss an organ important for the function of all organs, most tissues and the mechanisms of most major diseases? Easy, you don't look for it. 

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New York Government Sues To Be Allowed To Deplete More Fish

Mon, 26 Mar 2018 16:43:40 +0000

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is clearly on the campaign trail for his next job, because even in a state that is lawsuit happy like New York he is setting records for most pointless emails about investigations and lawsuits.

But now he says the science is on his side, not just his political interpretation of the law, and that will get a response where the usual politics won't. So let's see if this is about science or greed.

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Journalists Continue To Hope, But There Is No Beecopalypse Or Colony Collapse Disorder

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 15:10:51 +0000

USDA has reported that honeybees are down 4 percent for 2017, which set off another flurry of Beepocalypse claims by corporate journalists who desperately want to believe that modern science is killing us.

What gets left out of the story is that the 4 percent is down from a 22 year high.

There is no Beepocalypse, no Colony Collapse Disorder, no anything. It is just a statistical blip, as has happened in bees since even casual record-keeping began over a thousand years ago.

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Don't Trust Government To Deliver Welfare Standards For Chickens

Sun, 11 Feb 2018 23:46:33 +0000

Claims of secret meetings and manipulation of the policy agenda. A split in government ranks, and threats to withdraw from a national review. It’s all just part and parcel of the latest round in the development of Australian animal welfare standards and guidelines, in this case proposed new standards for the poultry and egg industries.

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Why Aren't More Of You A Lefty?

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 12:00:37 +0000

In graduate school, I earned beer money by modeling for life drawing classes in various art departments. (Don’t judge, grad school doesn’t pay well and beer isn’t free.) In the long hours standing around, I would survey the room and count how many of the aspiring artists were left-handed. Later in my career, I did the same thing — counting lefties, not standing around naked — in the biology classes I taught.

Funny thing, in any given class, around 10 per cent of the students were lefties. It turns out this is true for all human populations, not only middle-America university classes. Globally, about 90 per cent of people are righties. But why?

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The Real Risks Of A 'Natural' Dog Diet

Fri, 26 Jan 2018 11:58:30 +0000

Just as many people are trying to eat less processed food to improve their health, some dog owners are turning away from conventional pet food. Instead they’re trying to get back to what they see as a more traditional “butcher’s dog” diet of raw meat, albeit with pre-prepared products that can be served easily and frozen for convenience.

A recent study has raised concerns about the health risks of these raw meat based diet products as possible sources of some bacterial and parasitic diseases. But just how big a problem is this, and who is really at risk?

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How Plants Sense The World

Sat, 20 Jan 2018 17:05:31 +0000

Plants somehow respond to environmental cues and dangers, especially virulent pathogens, despite a lack of eyes or ears.

How is that possible? It's thanks to hundreds of membrane proteins that can sense microbes or other stresses, but only a small portion of these sensing proteins have been studied through classical genetics, and knowledge on how these sensors function by forming complexes with one another is scarce.

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John Birch Society Water Beliefs Renewed By San Francisco Progressives

Sat, 30 Dec 2017 21:15:17 +0000

A new "raw" trend has made its way into the paper of record for anti-science woo and miracle vegetable fads - the New York Times.

Along with articles about astrology and acupuncture, they have now given us a look at the "raw water" craze, which is to say they have basically created the craze by giving it free publicity, which they can then write about it for their audience which, let's be honest, loves anything alternative, especially if it's against evil corporate or government science water.

They even endorse wacky charlatan Doug Evans, who rewarded shareholders stung by the failure of his Juicero juicing company by indulging in a 10-day cleanse, drinking nothing but "Live Water". 

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Alpha Zero Teaches Itself Chess 4 Hours, Then Beats Dad

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 13:26:43 +0000

Peter Heine Nielsen, a Danish chess Grandmaster, summarized it quite well. "I always wondered, if some superior alien race came to Earth, how they would play chess. Now I know". The architecture that beat humans at the notoriously CPU-impervious game Go, AlphaGo by Google Deep Mind, was converted to allow the machine to tackle other "closed-rules" games. Successively, the program was given the rules of chess, and a huge battery of Google's GPUs to train itself on the game. Within four hours, the alien emerged. And it is indeed a new class of player.

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Does Your Brain Naturally Feel God? Temp Lobe Feel Of Person Presence & Evolved Religion

Wed, 06 Dec 2017 04:52:27 +0000

There is an area close to the left ear, in the ‘temporal lobe’, that, when stimulated via strong magnetic fields, triggers religious feelings, visions of bright lights at the end of a tunnel, and, at a certain frequency, the feeling of the presence of somebody next to oneself, or somehow present, although subjects are in another room and separated from the researchers. This area is damaged in patients with the kind of schizophrenia that Vincent Van Gough suffered. His attacks of deeply religious visions started a few years before he died.


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Predicting How Plant Species Might Respond To Climate Change

Tue, 05 Dec 2017 11:30:35 +0000

Though CO2 emissions have plummeted in the United States, as developing nations achieve prosperity they will want air conditioners, sanitation and food - and those all require energy. They sure are not going to let already wealthy nations tell them they must be stuck with solar panels.

So climate change may still happen, at least if energy technology stops and fossil fuel use does not. If so, how will plant species will respond to climate change? A 16-year experiment may provide answers. Of course, the experiment is small, the size of two football fields inside the Garraf National park southwest of Barcelona, but it is home to many protected species. So even if it can't model an ecosystem it can model part of one.

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Making Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria Treatable Again

Mon, 04 Dec 2017 18:30:53 +0000

Transport proteins called efflux pumps, and their role in creating drug-resistance in bacteria, could lead to improving effectiveness of drugs against life-threatening diseases and perhaps even bring defunct antibiotics back to prominence.

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Tapanuli: A Third Orangutan Species Exists

Thu, 02 Nov 2017 19:55:18 +0000

Move over, Bornean and the Sumatran orangutans. Scholars have identified a third orangutan species, the Tapanuli orangutan, that sits alongside the Pongo abelii, living on the island of Sumatra, and the Pongo pygmeaeus, endemic to Borneo, on the evolutionary tree.

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Genetically Engineered Wheat Can Boost Food Security

Tue, 31 Oct 2017 19:14:59 +0000

Though genetically engineering food using science remains controversial in some circles, with concerns about genetically modified corn syrup in candy and claims that CRISPR can somehow be harmful whereas mutagenesis-derived foods can be labeled organic, progress marches on.

We're on our way to 9 million people and existing agriculture could easily handle it...if great agricultural land were evenly distributed. But is isn't evenly distributed, which is why the US and Europe can have robust markets for food created using an organic-certification process. Yield does not matter, just profit margins do, when land grows food easily.

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The Insect Spreading Citrus Death

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 03:58:35 +0000

In recent years the citrus industry has suffered a dramatic decrease in production. The iconic Florida citrus industry is in a disease-induced decline, ravaged by a pathogen that has cut the production to half of what it was only a decade or so ago.

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Genetic Quality Of Fathers Influences Gender Of Offspring

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 20:41:44 +0000

In determining the gender of offspring, fathers may be getting shortchanged.

Because mothers can influence their offspring in a number of ways, from copulation to birth, while fathers have control over sperm only, it has long been assumed mothers are more important. In mammals, it is also believed that offspring sex ratios can only be determined by the mother, since fathers have always been thought to inseminate an equal proportion of X and Y sperm, having a random effect on offspring sex that they could not shift from equality, or 50:50.

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Brain-Computer Interface Turns Thoughts Into A Musical Score

Mon, 11 Sep 2017 19:54:23 +0000

Brain-computer interfaces can replace bodily functions to a certain degree and now they can even compose music. At least in a sense.

Derived from an established brain-computer interface method which mainly serves to spell - more accurately - write, a team writing in PLOS One has shown how they developed a new application by which music can be composed just through the power of thought. All that is needed is a special cap which measures brain waves, composition software. Before you start to think you'll be the next Haydn, keep in mind it can't create musical knowledge.

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The Myth Of The “Bee-pocalypse”

Wed, 30 Aug 2017 19:27:36 +0000

Should we ban cars because of their potential to crash? Or stop selling painkillers in case someone takes too many? If we take the logic the EU applies to regulating pesticides, then the answer should be a resounding “yes”. Thankfully, EU lawmakers have looked at the weight of evidence and concluded the risk of driving cars and taking painkillers is acceptable – no ban needed.

Pesticides get different treatment though.

Take the class of insecticides so much in the news, neonicotinoids, that some have blamed for problems with bee health. Didn’t the European Union ban them claiming they were posing unacceptable risks to bees? Isn’t that case closed?

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Childhood Obesity May Be A Psychological Disorder

Tue, 22 Aug 2017 17:17:11 +0000

Researchers looked at frequency magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) images to compare neural responses to food cues in overweight and normal weight adolescents.

They noted that food stimuli activated regions of the brain associated with reward and emotion in all groups but overweight adolescents had progressively less neural activity in circuits of the brain that support self-regulation and attention. 

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For Immune System Stem Cell Studies, Mice Aren't Enough

Tue, 22 Aug 2017 04:00:00 +0000

If mouse studies were transferable to humans, we'd have cured every disease thousands of times. That is the big reason why you shouldn't accept scaremongering about the chemical of the week in the New York Times, or claims about Miracle Vegetables in the Washington Post.

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Ravens Plan Ahead

Sat, 15 Jul 2017 15:31:25 +0000

In early times, a raven could be a bad omen, and a new study finds that ancient people were not wrong in thinking the raven might be planning on using a negative event to full advantage. It turns out, according to the paper, they plan ahead, just like humans, and can even forgo an immediate reward in order to gain a better one in the future, which at least some humans do. Great apes too.

Ravens and great apes have not shared a common ancestor for over 300 million years, so what explains it? Evolution is not a straight line and the authors speculate that the cognitive "planning" abilities they share in common re-appeared, on a separate evolutionary path, in the birds. 

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Tardigrade, The World's Most Indestructible Species - What Would It Take To Make Them Extinct?

Fri, 14 Jul 2017 17:12:50 +0000

It won't matter if all the ice melts and seas rise 100 feet, even if frogs rain from the skies and dogs and cats are living together, one species will be around until the sun explodes.

That species is the eight-legged micro-animal tardigrade, the world's most indestructible species.

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Brain Performance Not Affected By Menstrual Cycle

Fri, 07 Jul 2017 12:37:22 +0000

Men who worry that women may not make the right decisions during a menstrual cycle, and women who claim biology is a valid excuse for being a jerk, you're both out of luck.

An examination of three aspects of cognition across two menstrual cycles found that the levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone had no impact on working memory, cognitive bias or ability to pay attention to two things at once.

While some hormones were associated with changes across one cycle in some of the women taking part, these effects didn't repeat in the following cycle. Overall, none of the hormones the team studied had any replicable, consistent effect on study participants' cognition.

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How Nature's Bleach Protects Against Sun Damage

Thu, 29 Jun 2017 10:16:38 +0000

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is best known for use in bleach and hair treatments and is often invoked as a scary chemical by environmental groups promoting concern about food and products, but it is produced naturally in our bodies. A new study shows it is a useful chemical across nature; plants use it to control how their cells react to varying levels of light.

Like preventing plant sunburn. 

Hydrogen peroxide is a by-product of photosynthesis in parts of plant cells called chloroplasts, much like it is in our bodies by cellular respiration. Using a fluorescent protein that detects hydrogen peroxide, the researchers behind a new study in Nature Communications observed how H2O2 moves from chloroplasts and can be detected in cell nuclei. 

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