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Utah man dies of plague in fourth US death this year

Guardian Science - 15 min 57 sec ago

Fourth fatality out of 12 cases adds up to highest death rate in 15 years, but health authorities say risk remains very small overall

Related: California child diagnosed with plague after camping at Yosemite

A man in his 70s in Utah has died after contracting the plague, bringing to four the number of deaths from the disease reported in the United States this year, health officials have said.

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Nasa: sea levels rising as a result of human-caused climate change – video

Guardian Science - 52 min 16 sec ago

Josh Willis of Nasa explains the space agency’s announcement that a long-term satellite imaging study has shown a dramatic rise in sea levels due to climate change. He says the findings that sea levels worldwide rose an average of nearly 3 inches (8 cm) since 1992 could indicate how strongly impacted coastal populations will be in the coming century

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Goth teenagers at higher risk of depression, study finds

Guardian Science - 1 hour 41 min ago

Researchers find increased tendency towards clinical depression and self-harm, but it is unclear whether membership of subculture is a cause or a symptom

Related: World Goth Day: meet fashion's favourite goths – in pictures

Teenagers who identify as goths have a three times higher risk of depression than non-goth peers, researchers have said.

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Meningitis jab: 'infant paracetamol will help baby avoid fever'

Guardian Science - 3 hours 8 min ago

Meningitis B vaccine campaign launched by Public Health England with advice to parents to give babies analgesic to ward off high temperatures after jab

Parents are being advised to give paracetamol to babies who have been given the new meningitis B vaccine, to avoid the fever that follows the injection.

But Public Health England, launching the national immunisation campaign which begins on 1 September, stressed that the fever was short-lived in most babies and that the side-effect was far outweighed by the protection the vaccine offered against meningitis and septicaemia, which can kill or lead to amputations in babies.

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Buzz Aldrin developing a 'master plan' to colonize Mars within 25 years

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 23:52

Aldrin and the Florida Institute of Technology are pushing for a Mars settlement by 2039, the 70th anniversary of his own Apollo 11 moon landing

Buzz Aldrin is teaming up with Florida Institute of Technology to develop “a master plan” for colonizing Mars within 25 years.

The second man to walk on the moon took part in a signing ceremony Thursday at the university, less than an hour’s drive from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The Buzz Aldrin Space Institute is set to open this fall.

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Cosmic rays: the search is on

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 21:30

High-energy cosmic rays from across the galaxy will be detected on the International Space Station, thanks to a new observatory delivered on Monday.

The CALorimetric Electron Telescope (Calet) was delivered by the fifth flight of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s HTV, or Kounotori (“white stork”) spacecraft, and will now be attached to an external platform on Kibo, the Japanese experiment module, using a robot arm.

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Readers recommend: melancholy songs | Peter Kimpton

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 20:00

Bittersweet, articulate, beautiful or bold? Suggest selections for a special form of sadness in songs in this week’s sorrowful but strangely uplifting topic

“Misery is the river of the world,” grunts out an energetically downbeat Tom Waits. “Melancholy is sadness that has taken on lightness,” replies the eccentric, upbeat author Italo Calvino. And, now also entering the Readers Recommend bar (you never know who might turn up), here’s Rob Spragg, aka Larry Love, from Alabama 3. He decides to do a spontaneous gig, as I’ve seen him do a couple of times, and, no matter how what the subject matter or how upbeat the style, he dryly remarks, with a twinkle in the eye, and that gravelly voice - ‘Here’s another sad song for ya!”

For what is melancholy? It is more than sadness. It is a nuanced mix of emotions that seems steeped in articulacy. It implies there’s something to say about a state of mind and the state of the world. Arguably melancholy is as much a driving force to songwriting as any idea or emotion. Is it a functional form of depression? Perhaps. If so, it certainly served to be so for the likes of Nick Drake, or Joni Mitchell, who later admitted to suffering from such a state throughout the writing of several of her most acclaimed albums.

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Epigenetics and some turning in graves | Letters

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 19:37

The exchange of views on epigenetics (Letters, passim) must be causing some turning in graves: Lamarck hearing that maybe he was on the right track, Darwin thinking that maybe he was too exclusive and Trofim Lysenko with maybe a wry smile. Lysenko, by using Lamarckian ideas, destroyed Soviet genetics research between 1937-64. Stalin praised him and Khrushchev supported him, but Andrei Sakharov, with Zhores Medvedev, finally had him removed. The communist party aim at the time was to create the “New Soviet Man”. Lysenko’s philosophy involving the use of environmental influences on heredity fitted their dogma. As a result, hundreds of Soviet geneticists were dismissed, including Nikolai Vavilov, then one of the world’s leading plant breeders, who died in prison. The period was one of the most bizarre, and saddest, chapters in the history of science. Possibly now, epigenetics or neo-Lamarckism may be actually extending Darwinism, in a totally unexpected direction.
Dr Bruce Vivash Jones
Cirencester, Gloucestershire

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Study delivers bleak verdict on validity of psychology experiment results

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 19:00

Of 100 studies published in top-ranking journals in 2008, 75% of social psychology experiments and half of cognitive studies failed the replication test

A major investigation into scores of claims made in psychology research journals has delivered a bleak verdict on the state of the science.

An international team of experts repeated 100 experiments published in top psychology journals and found that they could reproduce only 36% of original findings.

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Life history trade-offs: why tropical songbirds have fewer chicks | @GrrlScientist

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 19:00

Tropical songbirds produce fewer, high-quality nestlings per breeding effort than do songbirds that breed in temperate zones, according to a study published today. This study reports that tropical songbirds’ nestlings grow longer wings, and faster, which means they spend less time in the nest where they are vulnerable to predators

It has been a long-standing ornithological mystery as to why tropical songbirds have smaller clutches of eggs and raise fewer chicks per breeding effort than do temperate songbirds. But today, a study published in the journal Science argues that life history strategies lie at the heart of this conundrum. In this study, evolutionary ecologist Thomas Martin, an Assistant Unit Leader and Senior Scientist at the Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Montana, compares nestling growth rates between closely-related species of tropical and temperate songbirds. He documents that nestlings of tropical songbirds grow longer wings, and grow them faster, than do nestlings of temperate songbirds. Further, they achieve longer wings without increasing their time in the nest, which reduces their risk of predation. Further, because tropical songbirds have more resources available to invest into their offspring, they produce fewer chicks per breeding effort and invest more resources into each individual, thereby giving their offspring a higher survival rate after they fledge (leave the nest). In contrast, temperate songbirds have fewer resources available to nurture their chicks and their offspring suffer a higher mortality rate after they leave the nest, so temperate songbirds compensate by producing a greater number of lower-quality offspring.

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Man found to have been shedding virulent strain of polio for 30 years

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 19:00

Weakened form of polio from childhood immunisations lived on in subject’s gut, mutating into a strain which could cause paralysis in the unvaccinated

A British man with an immune deficiency has been shedding a highly virulent, mutant strain of polio virus for nearly 30 years as a result of childhood vaccinations.

The discovery has prompted scientists to warn of other patients who could unwittingly trigger fresh outbreaks of the disease in regions where people are not sufficiently protected against the illness.

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Europe to discuss deep-sea trawling ban to protect biodiversity

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-08-27 17:37
In the run-up to a debate on deep-sea fishing, new data suggests trawling should be banned below 600 metres to protect threatened species









Categories: Science news

Crowdsourced song lets the masses compose – one note at a time

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-08-27 15:34
A new site invites people to vote on which note should come next in a melody. Can a mob of strangers on the internet really create an enjoyable tune?









Categories: Science news

Selfie sticks should be banned for massaging our self-obsession

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 15:09

More successful societies are cooperative and prosocial. Is new tech driving our inherent narcissistic tendencies beyond a healthy level?

It is just over 100 years since Sigmund Freud’s polemical claim that narcissism is not only a normal, but also an ubiquitous, personality trait. “Loving oneself,” he argued, is the “libidinal complement to the egoism of the instinct of self-preservation”. In other words, we have evolved as selfish animals because our self-love is part of our adaptive survival toolkit. The survival of the fittest is also the survival of the self-obsessed, and in the age of modern celebrity, who needs science to evaluate Freud’s now not-so-controversial claim?

Related: The distraction economy: how technology downgraded attention

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Knut the polar bear died of autoimmune illness usually found in humans

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 14:00

Knut died suddenly at Berlin zoo in 2011, but the cause of the illness was a mystery until a researcher noticed similar symptoms in human patients

When a four-year-old celebrity polar bear named Knut died suddenly at Berlin zoo in 2011, vets were at a loss to explain the death.

Knut rose to fame as bear cub when he was rejected by his mother at birth, along with his twin brother who died within days.

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Knut the polar bear’s mysterious cause of death revealed

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-08-27 14:00
The famous polar bear that drowned in 2011 at Berlin Zoo seems to have suffered from a brain condition previously only known in humans









Categories: Science news

Raising your child with Victorian hang-ups: a guide for parents | Taylor Glenn

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 13:06

Is your child too affectionate or expressive? Does this worry you? Worry no longer. Here are some tips to ensure your children grow up with a level of emotional suppression that would do any Victorian aristocrat proud.

American psychologist and author of several parenting books Charlotte Reznick has reportedly advised parents that kissing children on the lips is “too sexual.” Speaking to the unfailingly respectable publication The Sun, Reznick allegedly explained that children are likely to be confused by the “stimulation” of kissing and the fact that their parents (and perhaps also their pets, dollies, and the entire cast of Friends) also kiss.

Although it’s possible Reznick has been misquoted for effect, I’m going to stamp out that boring ambiguity by shouting Right on, Reznick! Just the other day as I was dutifully wiping my two-year old’s crotch with a cold, wet wipe and avoiding eye contact, I was thinking how disgusting it is that parents have gotten away with this blatantly inappropriate form of physical contact for so long. What’s next – letting them eat from boobs? Blech. Bring me an air sickness bag and a copy of The Stranger, stat.

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Is our desire for genetic answers cultural rather than scientific?

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 12:41

Genes and the Bioimaginary, by Professor Deborah Lynn Steinberg, investigates whether the foundations of much genetic research are scientifically sound

The last few decades have seen what some describe as a “genetic revolution”. Advances in genetic science have seen genes become all-encompassing in political and scientific discussion.

Do a quick survey of recent stories, for example, and you will find research that claims “intelligence, creativity and bipolar disorder may share underlying genetics” and a much-reported story that found that Holocaust survivors may have passed ontrauma to their children through their genes. Genetics has come to explain almost everything about our identities, whether it is our weight, our sexuality, or even if we are likely to become a criminal.

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Quiz: do you know your bants from your manspreading?

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 12:23

An online dictionary has released a list of 1,000 new words – how many do you know? Test your knowledge of contemporary English

Words and phrases that have widespread currency in English have been added to the the online dictionary oxforddictionaries.com in its latest quarterly update. How many of the 1,000 new words do you know?

Fiona McPherson, senior editor of Oxford Dictionaries, said the addition of multiple slang words did not represent a dumbing down of English, but showed creative use of language.

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The Meaning of Science by Tim Lewens review – can scientific knowledge be objective?

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 12:00

From GM crops to antidepressive drugs, there is a lot of public scepticism that science is never value-free …

The physicist Richard Feynman once remarked that “philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds”. Some of his colleagues have not been so kind. When Stephen Hawking pronounced philosophy dead in 2011, it was only the fame of the coroner that made it news.

Good scientists, however, are willing to revise their theories on the basis of new data, and Tim Lewens’s wonderful addition to the excellent Pelican Introductions series, The Meaning of Science, is all the evidence any open-minded inquirer needs to demonstrate the worth of philosophy of science.

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