September 2011 science reading:

KeskusteluMagazines!!!!! New Yorker, Science, Atlantic, Mad......

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September 2011 science reading:

Tämä viestiketju on "uinuva" —viimeisin viesti on vanhempi kuin 90 päivää. Ryhmä "virkoaa", kun lähetät vastauksen.

syyskuu 1, 2011, 8:34 am

Qebo and I find we share an interest in science (me, strictly amateur!) -- I read Science Weekly, and Qebo reads Scientific American and we thought it might stimulate 'keeping up' to have a little back and forth here.

syyskuu 1, 2011, 8:51 am

Well, qebo aspires to read Scientific American... Also strictly amateur.

syyskuu 1, 2011, 9:04 am

I love it that we share this interest, btw.

syyskuu 3, 2011, 7:44 pm

And I read New Scientist online. A great distraction when work gets too boring, or tense, or tedious. Some of the articles are a bit short, but I don't have the background or patience for Scientific American. NS keeps me up to date, and generally ahead of the NYTimes or other US news.

syyskuu 3, 2011, 10:30 pm

If you read anything that wows you let us know!

syyskuu 3, 2011, 10:52 pm

I apparently don't have the background or patience for Scientific American either... Well, I do for some articles, but others are tough going. Once upon a time, when I had far fewer distractions, I could flip through every issue and read here and there. In recent years, it has just piled up. So a goal for this month is to devise a strategy. Or decide to drop the subscription, which would make me sad.

I've begun January 2011, read the little stuff, have arrived at the first feature article.

Yes! New Scientist too! I'm curious to see how much overlap there is in the three magazines.

syyskuu 5, 2011, 12:14 pm

January 2011 is about halfway done. The magazine has been reorganized, maybe multiple times, I don't recall, and I like the current format, with brief articles / commentary at beginning and end, and features in the middle, so it's relatively easy to spot check / skim the little stuff then set it aside, and decide which features are worth effort. I'm sorta figuring things that matter will eventually rise to the level of features, so the little stuff is more heads-up than requiring significant attention. Please excuse the tedium here... I have a poor memory for details, and I'm hopeful that summarizing will both set basic information in my mind, and provide a quick refresher in the future.

Of interest (why do I notice these articles? because SciAm has pretty graphics): *** Pancreatic cancer has a poor prognosis because it is typically not diagnosed until 15 years after the mutations that cause it occur, so a goal of research is early detection. *** A cell barrier between capillaries and brain keeps out the bad stuff, but also keeps out drugs for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, so there is method under development to breach the barrier with microbubbles of gas surrounded by lipids, then use MRI beams to guide magnetic nanoparticles coated with drugs through the passageways. *** Does sleep reduce unimportant neural connections, or does it consolidate memories? Zebrafish larvae are transparent, so dyed neurons can be observed while they sleep; synapse activity decreases in general but not identically in all circuits, so the question remains, and the answer is probably not either/or. *** A PBS science program for preschoolers The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That teaches science through storytelling, so "the plot and the lesson do not compete for cognitive resources". *** About 30-50% of common colds are caused by rhinoviruses. A rhinovirus is RNA enclosed in a protein capsid, so one strategy is to target similar parts of capsids, but these are not so readily found. The genomes of over 100 have been mapped and placed in an evolutionary tree, so another strategy may be to target related types. But exposure to the common cold may help with immunity to flu, so maybe it's better not to try too hard. It's the immune response rather than the virus itself that causes cold symptoms.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 6, 2011, 9:56 am

Memory work was also reported in the last science weekly issue -- experiments used mice with genetically fiddled sleep patterns - anyhow, a certain duration of sleep cycle seems to be crucial to memory function. Out of many interesting articles there is a good one on studying the sharing impulse -- whether it is exhibited in other members of our family tree (capucins yes, chimps.... maybe yes, the experiment wasn't well-designed, so more research...) I can't think of the others at the moment.

Pancreatic C is what got my Dad, so that is interesting to me.

syyskuu 12, 2011, 10:31 am

Oh, here's one more thing to worry about: a certain duration of sleep cycle seems to be crucial to memory function. I said just yesterday to DH, "Maybe I'm losing my mind (memory)." If sleep is required for memory, then I'm done for.

I have to say that I am missing out on a certain science component in my reading life these days, and that's been true for far too long. I took a lot of science in high school (AP track) plus I also took a boatload of classes for my nursing degree which I acquired 1,000 years ago. DH is also a chemist at heart even though he's been a programmer most of his adult life. Maybe it's time to subscribe to SA again--thanks for the push.

There's a bit of serendipity here. I'm reading sort of an entertainment-level novel by Patricia Cornwell--her 18th or somesuch Kay Scarpetta novel. Many of the citizen reviews of this book complain that the whole book is so heavily technical, yet I've found that that's what I've been enjoying while reading this one--plus all the while thinking as I've been reading it that I really ought to be more up on new scientific innovations, thought, trends, etc.

syyskuu 12, 2011, 11:14 am

I know what you mean about missing science. I also took a lot of science classes in high school - it was expected. When I got to college, I deliberately concentrated on the liberal arts side of my education, because the science classes there were so intensely geared to producing doctors and grad students that they intimidated me. My loss. By the time I graduated, I felt my frames of reference and vocabulary much diminished.

When I think about going back to school when I retire, it's often to study some facet of science that remains an interest - geology, for instance, of which I know next to nothing. If I can find 'science for poets' classes, I'd be thrilled.

syyskuu 12, 2011, 11:28 am

Haha--sort of like "English for Engineers"? DH actually took that course in college back in 1970. No clue as to what they read.

I have a friend who has taken up a study of astronomy since she retired, and she loves it.

syyskuu 12, 2011, 11:55 am

9: The technical bits were what kept me reading the earlier books. Then those got overtaken by excessive gruesome bizarrity, I don't recall details, and I stopped reading several books ago.

10: When I think about going back to school when I retire, it's often to study some facet of science that remains an interest
Me too! I went to college expecting to major in math, but it was sooo oriented toward physics and engineering. I could do it, but I didn't enjoy it. So I shifted to social sciences. Well after college, I stumbled into computer programming, essentially discovered that people would pay me to play. (When I was in high school, mid 1970s, there was one computer programming course, and no computer. We drew flow charts.) Now what interests me is evolutionary biology and neurobiology and such, and I can see, in an alternative life, a path to... computer modeling maybe. Not this life, I'm too ignorant and barely remain on the fringes of awareness of scientific advances, but with time at my disposal I'd sure want to learn more.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 12, 2011, 12:21 pm

I could barely wait to get my hands on the latest Science News when I saw it at the PO -- the latest research and progress on combatting our catastrophic hibernating bat crisis (and the disease is marching west, so get ready out there), the ghastly white-nose fungus. What it really does is eat the wing skin, which then forms a hard layer and the bats come out of sleep thirsty weak, unable to fly well. Plus they come out when it is still too cold and the insects aren't there yet. "The flying dead" one of the scientists said. Apparently European bats have evolved to handle the fungus over tens of thousands of years, and are fine with it. Our bats are not. It's going to be a long long slow recovery -- the real fear is that in several types of bat, the little brown, there won't be sufficient numbers for them to recover at all. Bats eat TONS AND TONS of insects, an incredible amount, they are everyone's best friends, from hikers to farmers. They are coming up with some ideas, but so far, too little, too slow. I did see a few bats this summer, and I made a bit of a ritual about sitting by the pond when I could to see the first bats of the evening come out. They used to swarm. Now I might see three in half an hour. And we have a lot more bugs.

I wonder if they couldn't do things like have a supply of bugs and water at the mouth of caves identified as important? It seems like it might be worth the money to put someone in a little shack. I'd do it.

The other article of interest was on the effect of anti-depressants on .... oh gosh darn it, I FORGET what they are called -- one of the plaque formations that is associated with Alzheimers. Some kinds seem to reduce the amount of the plaques by a huge amount. It remains to be seen however, since it takes time, whether this does reduce or put off onset of Alzheimers. It does seem that as each 'disease' of aging is ameliorated the next one crops up -- and this is it for our generation.

I hesitate to load you up Becky but Science News is a quick read and written for the educated layman. We fight over it -- all three of us read it avidly.

syyskuu 12, 2011, 8:53 pm

Hm. I may have to take a look at Science News. Is it available online?

Speaking of which, there is an article in New Scientist today about a WWII ship filled with BOMBS which ran aground in the Thames and is still there. The British were not able to completely unload it when the grounding happened, and since then, the situation has gotten worse. The article discusses what the damage would be if this increasingly fragile pile of munitions, some of them with possibly deteriorating fuses, were to go off in situ.

syyskuu 13, 2011, 10:43 am

Whoa! That sounds really interesting. I'll have to go take a look.

Maybe Science News is available online but as I read it in the "house of parliament" I have to have a paper copy! (sorry, I've been reading a book about outhouses that I unearthed when going through my books and there are such a wonderful variety of fabulous old nicknames for the place).

syyskuu 14, 2011, 10:08 am

Not reading, but heard on the radio today: Susan Morse, head of an organization here in Vermont called 'Keeping Track' about studying and improving and preserving wildlife habitats - she's going to be giving workshops around the state on how to watch an area, track the wildlife, what's important to note, what to look for etc. I was riveted, as I kind of do this in a casual and disorganized way. She was a consultant in a project to prove that the cougars in Arizona are 'native' not passing through (set up a camera on a 'scratching tree' and showed that cats come to 'show off' there regularly , just the same way they do on our sofas!) I'm awfully lazy but I think I will try to 'track' down one of these workshops. Furthermore she mentioned something very disturbing to me that the "Eastern Mountain Lion" -- a fiction as genetically all the puma, cougar, mountain lions are genetically too similar to be classified as anything but the same beast east or west -- has been classified as extinct, which means they aren't protected, which means..... if there is proof that they are doing more than 'passing through' (so far there are confirmed sightings, but no confirmed dens etc) extermination will be an option unless there is counter-legislation. She makes the point that 'apex' predators like wolves and cougars mean a fully developed ecology. Moose were 'extinct' in the east, but we jumped to protect them when they began to return and now we have thousands. Ditto bears which were close. People get worked up about these animals, scared of them, and rightly so, but well, I think it's worth the quite minor amount of danger involved, but of course, that's just my opinion. There isn't enough sheep farming here any more, for example, for these animals to be much of a nuisance agriculturally speaking. (The few sheep/goat farmers there are might disagree, of course!).

Anyhow she got me very excited! That is my main point.

syyskuu 14, 2011, 7:22 pm

13: How did the bat fungus get to the US, and why now?

16: For reference:

The workshop would be interesting! Useful to have structure for casual observations and activities.

Ecological intervention is so fraught with peril... balancing responsibilities, capabilities, competing agendas, understanding of consequences and side effects...

(BTW, I finished January 2011 Scientific American several days ago, but haven't had a block of time to write a report.)

syyskuu 14, 2011, 9:40 pm

13. I'm pretty sure it's not known how it got here although it first showed up I think around Albany or the lower Hudson Valley not all that many years ago, radiating out from there rather quickly. I'm too tired to check the mag now, but I will.

16. Yeah, I'm not a 'purist' in any way, but here in our village there are only a couple of serious farms left -- I mean with significant amounts of livestock (one of them alpacas!).... this is true over most of the more mountainous regions of the state with fairly crappy land, so it is a perfect spot to have dwellings concentrated down in the valleys and teeming wildlife to the max everywhere else - given that the state was virtually ravaged in the 18th-19th centuries by logging for making potash and then by sheep-farming .... it's fabulous how the place has bounced back, I think. Stegner writes beautifully about the ecologies of east and west US.

"Keeping Track" is actually based in our village!

syyskuu 14, 2011, 10:47 pm

I was encouraged to hear that the European bats are resistant to the fungus - maybe it's time to do a little basic cross-breeding.

Down in the valley in Vermont - were you flooded much by Irene?

syyskuu 15, 2011, 9:11 am

We were not flooded -- our village got off comparatively easy because the valley while quite narrow has some reasonably obvious and large flood plains and only two smallish developments on 'in-between' land -- they call it 500 yr. flood land, but I think that ain't so anymore!

Anyhow, by 'down in the valleys' I don't mean beside the rivers, but in the first 300 feet or so above the rivers, we're up probably around 100 ft (maybe slightly less) from our river's normal height, so we were fine, although we had lots of water in smaller ditches etc. rushing around past us. Our road washed out in the spring, but we improved it (eg spent buckets) and it held up beautifully! Thank you for asking though.

Re bats, I wondered about that too -- but there was no mention of it in the article. Several different bat species here are affected and they aren't the same as the Eurobats.... well, I don't know, that's the bottom line.

syyskuu 18, 2011, 2:21 pm

January 2011 feature articles done. Apparently I need to summarize immediately after reading, because today I've had to skim every article to refresh my memory, and I'm sure there were more quotable bits that I'd noticed before.

Dawn of the Deed by John Long
In 2005 at Gogo Station in Austrailia, the author and his team discovered fossilized placoderm with a fossilized embryo inside, which places the origin of internal fertilization at no less than 375 million years ago. The article includes a drawing of a male fish with "claspers", which evolved into hips, legs, and genitals, and an evolutionary tree placing placoderms in the scheme of things.

Contact: The Day After by Tim Folger
What might an extraterrestrial signal look like? Scientists tend to think the content will be mathematical. Anthrpologists think maybe not, cultural assumptions may interfere with interpretation. John Elliot has created a computer program to analyze human languages, and would seek similar patterns in a signal. What will happen if an extraterrestrial signal is discovered? Concerns about a coverup are unwarranted: "you have these nifty protocols, but... people don't follow protocols" -- they tell their friends. Stephen Hawking thinks it's dangerous to send signals without knowing what's out there to pick them up, but it's too late now; radio and TV signals have been leaking for decades.

Flu Factories by Helen Branswell
Flu viruses are named for the H (hemagglutinin) and N (neuraminidase) proteins on the surface, e.g. H1N1. The H protein attaches to a receptor in human respiratory tract cells. Once the virus is inside the cell, it replicates, and if different strains of virus are inside the cell simultaneously, copies of their genes may get mixed up and result in a reassorted virus, a new strain. Avian flu virus has an incompatible H shape, so doesn't infect humans. However, it can infect pigs, and swine flu virus can infect humans. The article includes a useful summary graphic of the reassortment process, and another useful graphic showing how human H3N2 and swine H1N1 and various avian flus combined to produce human H1N1 causing the 2009 pandemic. What's to be done? Well, it seems that we want other countries to inspect their animals, but we're not so keen on inspecting ours.

In Search of the Radical Solution by Mark Fisschetti
Vinod Khosla invests in "main tech", unsubsidized competetive technology. "Environmentalists have been very, very good about identifying the problems we need to solve. They are horrible at picking the answers." "The bulk of the world is price-sensitive." Mentions the Tata Nano as a good example, as opposed to the Volt.

Seeds of the Amazon by Anna Kuchment
Photos of seeds from the field guide Seeds of Amazonian Plants.

100 Trillion Connections by Carl Zimmer
A single neuron doesn't do much that is interesting, but a few hundred of them in a worm do. How are neurons organized? Dietmar Plenz puts electrodes into petri dishes of brain tissue, and detects "neuronal avalanches" that conform to the power law, with lots of small avalanches and few large avalanches, which indicates a complex network with a variety of connections. Olaf Sporns created networks of virtual neurons. If neurons are linked only to immediate neighbors, then they flicker randomly. If every neuron is connected to every other neuron, then global patterns of activity and rest appear. If neurons have a variety of near and far connections, then patches of activity resembling actual brains emerge. Olaf Sporns and Patric Hagmann mapped links in the brains of volunteers using diffusion spectrum imaging (DSI), and discovered hubs of connections. Daniel Rockmore and Scott Pauls created a mathematical model of stock market networks, using actual data and clustering stocks with prices that tended to correlate; the result was clusters of economic sectors and superclusters of interdependent industries. Now they're applying the technique to brain activity as seen by MRI, and have found 23 clusters and 4 superclusters.

Casualties of Climate Change by Alex de Sherbinin, Koko Warner, Charles Ehrhart
Three regions: Mozambique, Mekong Delta, Mexico and Central America, and how each may respond to climate change.

Rise of the Robo Scientists by Ross King
The author and colleagues have created a robot laboratory to discover which genes encode which enzymes in yeast. The robot "Adam" is programmed with facts about genes and enzymes and metabolism and an ability to generate hypotheses and design experiments, and has the laboratory equipment necessary to perform experiments and evaluate results. The motives are better understanding of how science is done, and more efficient research. Adam made a new discovery: three genes that encode an enzyme.

Radioactive Smoke by Brianna Rego
Tobacco plants contain a carcinogen, polonium 210, which is inhaled by smokers. The tobacco industry knows how to remove it, but doesn't. What a surprise. I didn't read this article.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 19, 2011, 6:53 am

Science News had a brief article about the in utero placoderm.

I agree with Stephen Hawking. I don't know why we're so naive we think that any intelligent life form out there would be FRIENDLY when we can't even treat each other decently.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 18, 2011, 5:40 pm

I'm glad I still have the January issues in my apartment - they sound wonderful. Must catch up on some of them.

I agree with Hawking too.

syyskuu 30, 2011, 9:29 pm

I'm about halfway through the February 2011 issue, haven't read any of it this week. Maybe with the NYers fairly well under control, I'll pick up the pace in October.