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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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Categories: Science news

Darwin’s fast-evolving finches use a natural insect repellent

New Scientist - news - Thu, 2015-08-27 11:54
Four species of the iconic birds on the Galapagos Islands rub themselves with leaves that deter mosquitoes and parasitic flies









Categories: Science news

For drivers, the A27 is far more dangerous than any air show

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 10:44

The Shoreham plane crash has prompted calls for a review of airshow safety. But everyday safety on Britain’s A roads is an issue receiving little attention

Since the Shoreham Airshow crash, which claimed at least eleven lives, many have called for a review of airshow safety. They question the level of risk in having vintage jets fly acrobatic manoeuvres, and many displays have now been grounded. By focusing on the aircraft though, these people have failed to recognize the most dangerous element in the crash: not the Hawker Hunter jet, but the road it crashed into.

The A27 runs across Southern England from the plains of Wiltshire to the downs of East Sussex, starting near Salisbury and running parallel to England’s south coast to connect towns such as Fareham, Portsmouth, Chichester, Brighton and Lewes. It passes landmarks including Chichester Cathedral, Lewes Castle and the Long Man of Wilmington, but the pleasant scenery isn’t matched by the driving experience.

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Burial, cremation, or full fathom five? I can see the allure of a watery grave | Philip Hoare

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 10:20
Eighty-five-year-old twins from Brooklyn are setting off on what they say will be their final voyage. Their plan to die at sea has an undeniable romance

The endlessness of the sea offers an eternal alternative. Perhaps if we just pushed off into it, we could escape death itself – as if its amniotic waters might be a return to a universal womb. After all, the sea is where we came from in the first place. There’s a definite romance to saying goodbye to the land, and setting sail for that last adventure.

Van and Carl Vollmer, 85-year-old twins from Brooklyn, certainly think so. The brothers are about to embark on the handsome 158ft, three-masted barquentine, the Peacemaker, on a round-the-world voyage in search of remote islands and sunken galleons, from the Panama Canal to the Great Barrier Reef, the Philippines, and on to the Mediterranean.

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Categories: Science news

From bants to manspreading: what's new in the oxforddictionaries.com

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 09:10

Free online dictionary releases list of 1,000 latest words added to its database – with new entries also including Grexit, Brexit and beer o’clock

Britons are offending commuters by manspreading, revelling in bants with their friends at beer o’clock, and being charged cakeage for bringing a birthday dessert into a restaurant, but it’s NBD.

Those are just some of the 1,000 new words added to oxforddictionaries.com in its latest quarterly update, which reveals current trends in the use of language.

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Categories: Science news

Partners of convenience: the Met Office and the BBC | Alexander Hall

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 08:16

The BBC’s recent announcement that its weather forecasts will no longer be provided by the Met Office has triggered widespread debate, but has this partnership always been solid, and are we right to fear the end of cooperation between these two cherished public services? Alexander Hall investigates

On Sunday it was announced that after a 93-year relationship, the UK’s national weather service, the Met Office, would no longer be providing weather forecasts for the UK’s public service broadcaster, the BBC. The Met Office will no longer supply forecast data or weather presenters across all of the BBC’s platforms*, as Auntie Beeb looks to secure best value for money for license fee payers by tendering the contract to outside competition. Despite the seeming omnipresent nature of Met Office-presented weather on the BBC, the history of the special association between these two cherished British institutions suggests that there is nothing inevitable or straightforward about their relationship.

On Monday, as people woke up to the news, the internet reacted with the usual cacophony of guffaws, outrage, “I told you so”s and conspiracy theories. Amongst the reasons put forward as to the real cause of the split the full spectrum of political agendas were evident, from blaming the EU for forcing the BBC to openly tender for the contract, to questions of the current government’s penchant for privatisation of public services, through to the usual Met Office bashing from climate change sceptics.

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Categories: Science news

Global sea levels have risen 8cm since 1992, Nasa research shows

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 04:13

Scientists say warming waters and melting ice were to blame for levels rising faster than 50 years ago and ‘it’s very likely to get worse’

Sea levels worldwide have risen an average of nearly eight centimetres (three inches) since 1992 because of warming waters and melting ice, a panel of Nasa scientists said on Wednesday.

In 2013 a United Nations panel predicted sea levels would rise from between 0.3 and 0.9 metres by the end of the century. The new research shows that sea level rise would probably be at the high end of that, said a University of Colorado geophysicist, Steve Nerem.

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Categories: Science news

Blood test may help predict breast cancer relapse

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 01:18

Highly sensitive test can accurately predict relapses several months before new tumours show up on hospital scans

A simple blood test may in future provide breast cancer patients with an early warning of the disease returning after chemotherapy and surgery.

The test uncovers small numbers of residual tumour cells that have evaded treatment by detecting cancer DNA in the blood stream.

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Categories: Science news

Dementia sufferers ‘stop noticing memory loss two years before condition develops'

Guardian Science - Thu, 2015-08-27 00:47

US study shows sharp drop in memory awareness about two years before the development of symptoms

Experiencing “senior moments” may be a good sign rather than a cause for concern, research suggests. The time to worry is when you begin to stop noticing memory lapses, scientists have shown.

A study, published in the journal Neurology, found that people with dementia tended to lose awareness of memory problems two to three years before the condition developed.

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Categories: Science news

Fatter than your siblings? It could be because you’re older

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-08-26 23:30
Firstborn women are more likely to be overweight then their secondborn sisters. A result of their parents doting on them, or their mother's inexperienced womb?









Categories: Science news

Plantwatch: Pretty weeds and alien space invaders

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-08-26 21:30

Himalayan balsam is in bloom, its stunning helmet-shaped flowers giving off a heady fragrance unlike any other plant. It is also spectacular, standing up to over 10ft tall and growing in dense clusters. But this is a highly contentious plant that can spread rapidly and colonise damp ground, and with no natural enemies in the UK it has become a widespread weed.

Himalayan balsam was brought here in 1839 from the western Himalayas and made a magnificent garden plant. But it didn’t take long before it escaped and began colonising the banks of waterways across the country. It grows at astonishing speed, up to 1.5 inches a day, and so tightly packed that it smothers most other plant life. And each plant produces up to 800 seeds that are flung into the air and can land up to 35ft away when the seedpods explode, helping spread the plants.

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Categories: Science news

US astronauts drink recycled urine aboard space station but Russians refuse

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-08-26 20:03

American and Russian astronauts use separate water filtration systems on ISS, as Nasa astronauts also collect Russian urine when available to increase supply

What’s the difference between American and Russian astronauts on the International Space Station? The Americans drink their urine, the Russians don’t.

“It tastes like bottled water,” Layne Carter, water subsystem manager for the ISS at Nasa’s Marshall Space Flight Center told Bloomberg. “As long as you can psychologically get past the point that it’s recycled urine and condensate that comes out of the air.”

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Categories: Science news

A child’s view on technology’s harm | Letters

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-08-26 19:52

I was interested to read Stuart Dredge’s discussion of whether tablet computers are harming children’s ability to read (Are tablet computers harming our children’s ability to read?, 24 August). It’s an important subject, but it might be useful to note that there has never been a new technology of communications that wasn’t presumed to have negative effects, particularly on the young. Sometimes, however, one is reminded that there are perhaps other ways of thinking about how technology affects children. I’ve been doing a lot of background research for an essay examining the possible social, cultural and, crucially, neurological effects of smart technology on children – it’s all still a bit vague (worth remembering that these smart technologies are new, the iPad only coming on to the market in 2010, so research is playing catch-up). Then a new perspective emerged from a surprising source. I was talking to a childcare worker, who said that she had been doing an exercise with a young girl using a booklet called You’re One of a Kind, in which the child responds to questions such as “your favourite colour/animal?” or “how tall/old are you?”. One question was: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The child replied: “I want to be a phone so that my parents will pay more attention to me.” A four-year-old’s brutal judgment on adult absorption with technology.
Professor Michael Tracey
University of Colorado at Boulder

• The threat of the new toilet app described in Jeff Sparrow’s article (Wipe right: toilet app Looie forces movement of ‘sharing economy’ towards privatisation, 21 August) is not only of privatisation but also of the imposition of a “Silicon Valley transaction tax” on the everyday activities of people around the world. Last year, on booking an apartment in Spain through Airbnb, I realised I and the apartment owners were paying a hefty percentage to Airbnb, PayPal and MasterCard, not to mention Microsoft and Google. Also, why should buying a used mobile phone on eBay in the UK fund hot tubs in California? Where are the European alternatives to Airbnb, Visa, eBay and Google? Time for a bit of real competition.
Scott Wilson
St Andrews, Fife

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Categories: Science news

Dinosaur foot found on beach in Wales could be mini T-Rex ancestor

Guardian Science - Wed, 2015-08-26 19:38

A fossilised dinosaur foot found by a student on a Welsh beach could be from the earliest known ancestor of Tyrannosaurus rex, experts say

A dinosaur foot found by chance on a Welsh beach could be from the earliest known ancestor of Tyrannosaurus rex.

Palaeontology student Sam Davies made the discovery while searching for fossils on Lavernock Beach, near Penarth, South Wales.

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Categories: Science news

London’s low-emission zone fails to improve air quality

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:54
Charging drivers to enter parts of London did not improve air quality or schoolchildren's respiratory health in the first three years of the scheme









Categories: Science news

Autonomous cars are learning our unpredictable driving habits

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:00
Sharing the road with self-driving cars will mean them learning our driving tics and perhaps even adopting some themselves









Categories: Science news

After Ashley Madison: How to regain control of your online data

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:00
Recent hacks have exposed just how vulnerable everyone's personal data is. New technologies could change the very basis of how companies store our information









Categories: Science news

Aspirin may restore pregnancy sex ratio skewed by inflammation

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:00
Women who have miscarried appear less likely to give birth to boys, and inflammation skews the sex ratio further. Low doses of aspirin could restore it









Categories: Science news

Quantum computer firm D-Wave claims massive performance boost

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:00
The world only quantum computer maker says its upgraded chip is 15 times faster than ordinary computers, but experts doubt the comparison is a fair test









Categories: Science news

London’s low-emission zone fails to improve air quality

New Scientist - news - Wed, 2015-08-26 18:00
Charging drivers to enter parts of London did not improve air quality or schoolchildren's respiratory health in the first three years of the scheme









Categories: Science news
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