While You Were At the Bench: Week 43

Seven Italian seismologists have been found guilty of manslaughter for the deaths of 29 people killed in the 2009 earthquake that decimated the city of L’Aquila when they incorrectly assessed the risks of ongoing seismic activity in the area.  This judicial ruling has completely shocked the scientific community and sets an interesting precedent for scientific accountability.

The US National Research Council released a report this week stating that CURRENT scale-up methods of algal biofuels for replacing oil and ethanol transporation fuels “would place unsustainable demands on energy, water and nutrients.”  The report goes on to state that these pitfalls are being addressed and none are a definitive barrier to large scale development.  You can read a summary of the report here.

In a follow-up to the Nobel prize in physics, Princeton researchers have used microwave photons to determine the spin states of electrons.  This might allow for quick transfer of quantum information through a computing device. Here is a  summary of the study.

South African researchers have identified two individuals who naturally developed antibodies that target the outer glycan layer on HIV.  These antibodies can kill 88% of the HIV strains found worldwide, which could lead to a completely new class of drugs for treating or even curing HIV.

Here’s one for college students.  A new study out of Rutgers has shown that rats drinking moderately high levels of alcohol daily (the human equivalent of 3-4 beverages per day) did not disrupt learning processes, however, neurogenesis was reduced by 40% in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus.  The authors note this level of drinking is closer to binge drinking, rather than moderate levels of alcohol (1-2 beverages daily) that typically show cardiovascular and cognitive health.

Cool photo of the week.  Check out this 9 gigapixel image of the center of the Milky Way (galaxy not candy bar) containing 84 million stars.  The image is a composite of photos from the European Southern Observatory’s VISTA.

Keep this in mind if you ever need to know how to eat a Triceratops.  Paleontologists have concluded from bite marks in Triceratops skull fossils that T-Rex would grip the neck frills to pull the head off and eat the tender meat around the head.   Dinosaurs are cool.

And a big thanks to all the blog readers.  Total blog views surpassed the 5K mark this week.  Keep coming back for future blog posts and remember to check out our website.

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While You Were at the Bench: Week 42

Here we go again.   Hisashi Moriguchi from the University of Tokyo has admitted to lying about a breakthrough procedure for transplanting cardiac stem cells into humans.  Moriguchi sent a draft of the manuscript to a Japanese newspaper and was scheduled to give a talk in New York on the procedure when co-authors alerted media that no such experiments or procedures had ever taken place.

*** Update 10/21/12:  Hisashi Moriguchi was fired from the University of Tokyo on October 19th, 2012***

Researchers from the Karolinska Institute have completed a 40 year longitudinal study of over 1 million people and determined artists and scientists are more likely to suffer from bipolar disorder than other professions.  I wonder if the shifts in mood can be correlated to changes in government funding cycles?

Who says crowd sourcing doesn’t work?  Amateur scientists Robert Gagliano and Kian Jek discovered the first planet with four suns by using data from the Kepler telescope.  Data was made available to the public by the crowd sourcing group Planet Hunters.

University of Michigan researchers have shown that Apollo moon rock samples from the lunar regolith contain hydroxyl ions.  Varying isotope compositions of these hydroxyl ions indicate solar winds have the ability to plant water molecules on moons, planets, and asteroids that do not have an atmosphere.

By analyzing oxygen isotopes from fossils, researchers have determined that Earth’s equatorial temperature rose to 50-60 degrees Celsius at the start of the Triassic Era.  These extreme temperatures created a lengthy 5 million year dead zone where life mostly grew in higher latitudes.  Hopefully, we are not on a similar path with the record setting temperatures we have been experiencing this year.

Is your portfolio diversified?  Economists at Warwick Business School have examined daily closing prices of stocks comprising the Dow Jones Industrial Averages and determined that diversification does not protect your portfolio during market volatility.  This may lead to new portfolio management strategies to prevent future losses during financial crises similar to the events in 2008.

And congratulations to “Fearless” Felix Baumgartner who became the first person to free fall faster than the speed of sound when he jumped from a space capsule 128,097 feet above the Earth’s surface.  I am happy to see that he did not end up like ensign redshirt in the latest Star Trek Movie.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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While You Were at the Bench: Week 41

And the Nobel Goes To…….

Physiology or Medicine: Sir John B.  Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent

Chemistry:  Robert J. Lefkowitz and Brian K. Kobilka for studies of G-protein coupled receptors.

Physics:  Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems.

A big congratulations to all the recipients….now go enjoy that warm, sunny December Swedish weather.

Researcher’s at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts have reported a link between dietary intake of Mercury during pregnancy and increased susceptibility to ADHD in their children.  Sources of Mercury include Tuna, Swordfish, and Shark thus making it difficult for pregnant women to obtain the health benefits of fish without simultaneously increasing levels of environmental toxins to their unborn child.

Doctors at the University of California, San Francisco, implanted human CNS stem cells into four young boys suffering from Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease; a disease where myelin does not form leading to severe developmental set backs.  A year later, myelination was increased, motor function improved in 3 out of 4 boys, and no signs of tumorigenesis was observed, which paves the way for larger clinical trials to treat this disease.

University of Washington researchers have proposed a concept to contain the million-degree plasma necessary for creating a fusion reaction.  This is a critical component for building the international tokamak nuclear fusion reactor located in Cadarache, France.

Researchers at Weizmann Institute of Science have experimentally observed quantum effects in chemical reactions by merging beams of excited atoms at 0.01 Kelvins.  At these ultra low temperatures, atomic bond formation proceeds faster than expected, which may help to explain interstellar chemical reactions.

The first ever historical evidence of predator behavior in spiders was captured in a 110-million-year-old piece of burmese amber.  Great, I can sleep easier knowing that spiders will never evolve beyond creepy status.

By analyzing mitochondrial DNA from bones of the extinct New Zealand moa, researchers have determined that the half-life of DNA is 521 years.  Scratch “cloned dinosaur” off my Christmas list :(

Have a great weekend.  I’ll be enjoying mine in New Orleans for the Society of Neuroscience annual meeting.  Looking forward to seeing you there.

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While You Were At the Bench: Week 40

It’s been a busy week for scientists, but here are some of the highlights.

Contrary to the belief that retracted journal articles are due to simple errors, a recent PNAS article found that 67.3% of retracted journal articles are due to fraudulent data.  Com’n people.  We’re better than this!

Columbia University ophthalmologists used human induced pluripotent stem cells to improve the vision of blind mice.  This approach may be useful for restoring vision in humans with macular degeneration and other retinal deficits.

Kyoto University researchers successfully used mouse embryonic stem cells to develop oocytes that produced viable offspring once fertilized and implanted into a surrogate mother.   This method could lead to new infertility therapies but raises potential ethical and legal issues.

Where’s Nemo?  A study conducted by the Australian Institute of Marine Science has determined the Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its coral in the last 27 years.  The contributors?  Cyclones (48%), Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (42%) and Bleaching (10%).

By measuring different isotopes of Carbon from ice core samples obtained in Greenland, researchers have determined the amount of methane produced by humans in the last 2000 years.  Human sources of methane production has increased dramatically since the start of industrial revolution in the 1800′s.

Has the Curiosity Rover discovered an ancient riverbed on Mars?  The photos look rather convincing.

In a follow-up to a previous blog regarding genetically modified food, the European Food Safety Authority has determined that a French study supporting the toxic effects of genetically modified corn was poorly designed and therefore does not support the conclusions made in the paper.  The authors have until October 12th to address concerns raised by the agency.

Geologists are attempting to drill 6 kilometers beneath the Pacific Ocean sea floor to obtain the first ever sample of the Earth’s mantle.  Maybe they can retrieve Brendan Fraser’s acting career while they are down there.  Zing!

Have a great weekend.

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