Communicating Science
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Communicating Science
Examples and discussion of current science, science communication and science teaching
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You listen for beats heirarchically even when you are not listening

You listen for beats heirarchically even when you are not listening | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
The perception of music is a complex interaction between what we hear and our interpretation. This is reflected in beat perception, in which a listener infers a regular pulse from a musical rhythm. Although beat perception is a fundamental human ability, it is still unknown whether attention to the music is necessary to establish the perception of stronger and weaker beats, or meter. In addition, to what extent beat perception is dependent on musical expertise is still a matter of debate. Here, we address these questions by measuring the pupillary response to omissions at different metrical positions in drum rhythms, while participants attended to another task. We found that the omission of the salient first beat elicited a larger pupil dilation than the omission of the less-salient second beat. This result shows that participants not only detected the beat without explicit attention to the music, but also perceived a metrical hierarchy of stronger and weaker beats. This suggests that hierarchical beat perception is an automatic process that requires no or minimal attentional resources. In addition, we found no evidence for the hypothesis that hierarchical beat perception is affected by musical expertise, suggesting that elementary beat perception might be independent from musical expertise. Finally, our results show that pupil dilation reflects surprise without explicit attention, demonstrating that the pupil is an accessible index to signatures of unattentive processing.
The Science & Education team's insight:
Apart from the idea that we listen for beats unconsciously, which is hardly surprising, proving it by looking at eye dilation and the that your eyes dilate when surprised, again part of popular representations. Putting them together is the fun.
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Real time global map of air pollution

Real time global map of air pollution | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Visualize 3D Earth on Airvisual


China’s air is notoriously toxic: Each year, it contributes to the premature deaths of some 1.6 million people. Concerned about how such pollution was affecting his family, Beijing-based data scientist Yann Boquillod founded AirVisual Earth, an online air pollution map that uses data from satellites and more than 8000 monitoring stations to display global air pollution in real time. The AirVisual Earth interactive maps prevailing wind patterns and shows color-coded concentrations of PM2.5—airborne particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter that can penetrate deep into the lungs. Users can zoom in, tilt, and spin the globe for better viewing. The air pollution visualization was crafted “so people really understand how bad it is,” says Boquillod, who hopes an informed citizenry will pressure governments and communities to clear the air. AirVisual also delivers 3-day air pollution forecasts for 6000 cities to smartphones, and it recently began selling low-cost monitors people can use to track indoor and outdoor air pollution. “People want to share that data,” Boquillod says.

The Science & Education team's insight:
Great map that you can move around
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Good news on dementia - declines, mysteriously, from 2000 to 2012

Good news on dementia - declines, mysteriously, from 2000 to 2012 | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

The absolute numbers of older Americans with dementia are sure to grow as the population ages in the coming decades, but new data suggest that the overall proportion with the condition is mysteriously declining. That positive news emerged yesterday in a study in JAMA Internal Medicine showing that in percentage terms, the number of demented people 65 and older fell by 25% between 2000 and 2012. As this article in STAT points out, the decline, from 11.6% of over-64-year-olds in 2000 to 8.8% in 2012, translated to more than 1 million fewer elderly people with dementia in 2012 than would have resulted had the 2000 prevalence remained unchanged. The decrease may be tied to better education; the 2012 cohort had about a year more formal education than the 2000 group. But that doesn’t completely explain the fall off, the authors say. Figuring out what else contributed could be a big help in battling dementia in a graying United States.

The Science & Education team's insight:
At last some good news - now we have to work out why
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History of genetics timeline

History of genetics timeline | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

History of genetics timeline

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Among many other great resources on the Welcome Institute website
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Legal decision uses mathematics to judge unfair electoral boundaries

Legal decision uses mathematics to judge unfair electoral boundaries | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

A federal panel called the 2011 redrawing of Wisconsin Assembly districts an unconstitutional gerrymander, ruling in a case that could go to the Supreme Court.


A key question in Monday’s ruling, as in past challenges to redistricting, was whether that division was unacceptably partisan, a question that previous courts have stumbled over. “Nobody has come up with a standard to measure constitutionality — how to distinguish between malevolent, evil partisanship that’s manipulative, versus the natural advantage one party might have as a result of where voters happened to live,” said Edward Foley, the director of the Election Law Project at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. Advertisement Continue reading the main story


In Monday’s ruling, the court was swayed by a new and simple mathematical formula to measure the extent of partisan gerrymandering, called the efficiency gap. The formula divides the difference between the two parties’ “wasted votes” — votes beyond those needed by a winning side, and votes cast by a losing side — by the total number of votes cast. When both parties waste the same number of votes, the result is zero — an ideal solution. But as a winning party wastes fewer and fewer votes than its opponent, its score rises.


A truly efficient gerrymander spreads a winning party’s votes so evenly over districts that very few votes are wasted. A review of four decades of state redistricting plans concluded that any party with an efficiency gap of 7 percent or more was likely to keep its majority during the 10 years before new districts were drawn.


see also:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wasted_vote

The Science & Education team's insight:
The importance of numeracy as a basic civic skill.
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Research confidentiality - Maille's stand against company snooping

Research confidentiality - Maille's stand against company snooping | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

A judge has ordered Marie-Ève Maille to provide names and transcripts from her study on a wind farm


When Canadian graduate student Marie-Ève ​​Maillé held interviews with 93 people in 2010 about a massive wind farm being built in the Arthabaska region of Quebec, she made a promise that social scientists routinely make: that her respondents would remain anonymous, and that nobody would be able to trace quotes in her thesis back to them. Maillé, now an adjunct professor in social and public communications with the University of Quebec in Montreal, Canada, never expected that promise would be challenged in court. But a judge has sided with a company seeking access to the data in a legal case that has Canadian scientists up in arms.


The issue has exposed the fact that "academic privilege"—special rights granted to researchers—and researcher-participant confidentiality are little more than conventions without a legal basis. In a letter published in the Le Devoir newspaper earlier this month, more than 200 Quebec scientists expressed fear that the case will stifle participation in research. Maillé frets that it will tempt more corporations to use the legal system to deter researchers from testifying or undermine their credibility. “Every time someone will want to get rid of a scientist in a lawsuit, they will just try to get the data, and some researchers will probably give up the data,” she says.

The Science & Education team's insight:
Maille's stand to keep her interviews confidential is important for all research. There should not be unrestricted privilege for all research but the bar should be much, much higher. We cannot allow commercial interests to meddle in our research.
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A smarter way to find out what fish are in the sea - Environmental DNA from seawater samples

A smarter way to find out what fish are in the sea - Environmental DNA from seawater samples | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
Remote polar and deepwater fish faunas are under pressure from ongoing climate change and increasing fishing effort. However, these fish communities are difficult to monitor for logistic and financial reasons. Currently, monitoring of marine fishes largely relies on invasive techniques such as bottom trawling, and on official reporting of global catches, which can be unreliable. Thus, there is need for alternative and non-invasive techniques for qualitative and quantitative oceanic fish surveys. Here we report environmental DNA (eDNA) metabarcoding of seawater samples from continental slope depths in Southwest Greenland. We collected seawater samples at depths of 188–918 m and compared seawater eDNA to catch data from trawling. We used Illumina sequencing of PCR products to demonstrate that eDNA reads show equivalence to fishing catch data obtained from trawling. Twenty-six families were found with both trawling and eDNA, while three families were found only with eDNA and two families were found only with trawling. Key commercial fish species for Greenland were the most abundant species in both eDNA reads and biomass catch, and interpolation of eDNA abundances between sampling sites showed good correspondence with catch sizes. Environmental DNA sequence reads from the fish assemblages correlated with biomass and abundance data obtained from trawling. Interestingly, the Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) showed high abundance of eDNA reads despite only a single specimen being caught, demonstrating the relevance of the eDNA approach for large species that can probably avoid bottom trawls in most cases. Quantitative detection of marine fish using eDNA remains to be tested further to ascertain whether this technique is able to yield credible results for routine application in fisheries. Nevertheless, our study demonstrates that eDNA reads can be used as a qualitative and quantitative proxy for marine fish assemblages in deepwater oceanic habitats. This relates directly to applied fisheries as well as to monitoring effects of ongoing climate change on marine biodiversity—especially in polar ecosystems.
The Science & Education team's insight:
More work needed to move this from the arctic and get greater accuracy.
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New genus of palms found in Madagascar

New genus of palms found in Madagascar | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

New genus highlights region's conservation troubles


A gigantic, suicidal palm tree has been discovered in Madagascar, researchers announced today. The palm represents a genus seen nowhere else in the world--and a unique conservation challenge for a nation with a poor environmental track record.


"This palm really is an amazing discovery," says palm biologist Scott Zona of the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Coral Gables, Florida. "It adds a completely new branch to the palm family tree, something that happens very rarely." It's a spectacular find, adds research botanist James Miller of the New York Botanical Garden in New York City. "It makes you wonder how much we've already lost."


Xavier Metz, the French manager of a cashew plantation in remote northwestern Madagascar, found the flowering palm while picnicking with his family 2 years ago. His photos of it eventually made their way to John Dransfield, a palm expert at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in Richmond, U.K. Dransfield was astonished by the palm's appearance, but he was even more surprised by a study of its DNA: Lab tests showed that the palm was a previously unknown genus and species within a family of palms found primarily in Afghanistan, Thailand, and southern China.

The Science & Education team's insight:
The word suicidal in the title is somewhat misleading.
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A new search engine to try: Semantic Scholar

A new search engine to try: Semantic Scholar | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
An academic search engine that utilizes artificial intelligence methods to provide highly relevant results and novel tools to filter them with ease.
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Taxis that travel between major pickups make more money

Taxis that travel between major pickups make more money | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Study finds that profit motive makes drivers more likely to pick up certain customers


The results reveal why taxi drivers in Beijing might be choosy: Those who stuck to trips between major pickup areas netted far more money. It turns out that trips to remote places, no matter how long the drive, pay less over the course of the day because the drivers waste time getting back to dense areas. Beijing taxi drivers who made the most money avoided about one in every 12 passengers, the team reports this week in PLOS ONE. How profitable is it? Perhaps as much as $0.75 per rejected passenger, says Zhang, though it's "very hard to tell" because it is a statistical inference. So next time your ride gets canceled, you're justified in being miffed: You are likely being inconvenienced for a profit.

The Science & Education team's insight:
An example of mining big data for interesting behavioural information.
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Mapping the globe with tertrahedral projection

Mapping the globe with tertrahedral projection | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

But the map of the world has been around for hundreds of years. So what’s so special about this map? To begin, Tokyo-based architect and artist Hajime Narukawa has a problem with our current map and he’s been working for years to try and fix it. In 1569 geographer Gerardus Mercator revealed his world map and, to this day, it’s the generally accepted image we have of this planet. But it has major flaws in that it dramatically distorts the sizes of Antarctica and Greenland. Narukawa developed a map projection method called AuthaGraph (and founded a company of the same name in 2009) which aims to create maps that represent all land masses and seas as accurately as possible. Narukawa points out that in the past, his map probably wasn’t as relevant. A large bulk of the 20th century was dominated by an emphasis on East and West relations. But with issues like climate change, melting glaciers in Greenland and territorial sea claims, it’s time we establish a new view of the world: one that equally perceives all interests of our planet.

The Science & Education team's insight:
More fun with thinking up new projections. This one from Japan, puts Japan at the centre. Australia (or rather New Zealand) gets the bottom line. The Pacific is central whereas Africa and Europe gets squashed up in the top left hand corner.
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Discs of dust formed by newborn planets - first images

Discs of dust formed by newborn planets - first images | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

ESO, European Organisation for Astronomical Research in the Southern Hemisphere


harp new observations have revealed striking features in planet-forming discs around young stars. The SPHERE instrument, mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, has made it possible to observe the complex dynamics of young solar systems — including one seen developing in real-time. The recently published results from three teams of astronomers showcase SPHERE’s impressive capability to capture the way planets sculpt the discs that form them — exposing the complexities of the environment in which new worlds are formed.


Three teams of astronomers have made use of SPHERE, an advanced exoplanet-hunting instrument on the Very Large Telescope (VLT) at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, in order to shed light on the enigmatic evolution of fledgling planetary systems. The explosion in the number of known exoplanets in recent years has made the study of them one of the most dynamic fields in modern astronomy.


Today it is known that planets form from vast discs of gas and dust encircling newborn stars, known as protoplanetary discs. These can extend for thousands of millions of kilometres. Over time, the particles in these protoplanetary discs collide, combine and eventually build up into planet-sized bodies. However, the finer details of the evolution of these planet-forming discs remain mysterious.


SPHERE is a recent addition to the VLT’s array of instruments and with its combination of novel technologies, it provides a powerful method to directly image the fine details of protoplanetary discs [1]. The interaction between protoplanetary discs and growing planets can shape the discs into various forms: vast rings, spiral arms or shadowed voids. These are of special interest as an unambiguous link between these structures and the sculpting planets is yet to be found; a mystery astronomers are keen to solve. Fortunately, SPHERE’s specialised capabilities make it possible for research teams to observe these striking features of protoplanetary discs directly.

The Science & Education team's insight:
Lots of great images and some half decent videos on the European Southern Observatory website: http://www.eso.org/public/
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An army of evil fridges for $7,500 - hacking the internet of things

An army of evil fridges for $7,500 - hacking the internet of things | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
A animated video clip
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Increase your swimming speed by 2.5% - Spread your fingers at 10°

Increase your swimming speed by 2.5% - Spread your fingers at 10° | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Fingers separated by roughly 10° maximize propulsion


In elite swimming competitions, hundredths of seconds make all the difference. And by simply spreading your fingers, you can shave some of that time off, according to a study presented here last week at the 69th Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics. Physicists used 3D-printed plastic hand and arm models to consider the impact of five different finger positions on swim speed: pointer, index, ring, and pinkie fingers spread by 0°, 5°, 10°, 15°, or 20°. (In all cases, the position of the thumb was held constant.) The researchers measured drag over their model in a wind tunnel rather than a pool to avoid the influence of surface waves. They found that the model with its fingers spread 10° created the most drag because the slight opening between the fingers still obstructed air flow. Because more drag gives a swimmer more to push against and propel him or herself forward, the team concluded that freestyle swimmers were the most efficient when they spread their fingers slightly. Making assumptions about hand size and stroke rate, the researchers calculated that a finger spread of 10° could boost a swimmer’s speed by 2.5% compared with swimming with fingers held together. That speed difference translates into several tenths of a second over a 50-meter freestyle race, an enormous margin considering that the 2016 Summer Olympics 50-meter women’s freestyle race was won by 0.02 seconds.

The Science & Education team's insight:
If you watch Michael Phelps it looks like he already does this.
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Are U.S. schools teaching hands-off science?

Are U.S. schools teaching hands-off science? | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Surprising results from the new NAEP test show negative correlation between active learning and performance


U.S. high school students who regularly handle rocks or minerals in science class did much worse on a recent national science test than those who never engage in such hands-on activities. Students who never mixed chemicals or peered through microscopes in their classrooms did just as well on the test as those who often participated in those activities. Surprised?


Those eye-catching results, from the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in science released last week, seem to fly in the face of conventional wisdom that hands-on learning is the best way to teach science. Last week, for example, the Obama administration honored the nation’s best science and math teachers by staging what it called “Active Learning Day” at the White House. Government officials refer to the NAEP as the nation’s report card. The science test, which periodically measures what a representative sample of U.S. students in grades four, eight, and 12 know about the life, physical, space, and earth sciences and the scientific process, is part of an ongoing assessment of reading, mathematics, civics, and other subjects. Results for the two younger grades are broken out by state, leading to media coverage that often focuses on why a particular state is ahead of or behind its peers.


For those keeping score, U.S. elementary and middle school students overall did a bit better in science in 2015 than the previous NAEP cohort tested in 2009, and the wide gap between the scores of white and minority students in both of those grades narrowed slightly. In contrast, the scores of the country’s 12th graders didn’t budge, and the racial disparity didn’t shrink.

The Science & Education team's insight:
The report has a lot of interesting detail:
http://www.nationsreportcard.gov/science_2015/#?grade=4
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Panic as Australian students sink in TiMSS maths and science rankings

Panic as Australian students sink in TiMSS maths and science rankings | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

ustralian students have plummeted in the latest international maths and science rankings, with countries such as Kazakhstan, Cyprus and Slovenia leapfrogging us over the past four years. The latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science study, released on Tuesday, shows Australia dropping from 18th to 28th out of 49 countries in year 4 mathematics.


Australia fell from 12th to 17th in year 8 maths and from 12th to 17th in year 8 science while remaining steady at 25th place in year 4 science. Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the disappointing results would form a key part of discussions with the states and territories about school funding for 2018 onwards.

The Science & Education team's insight:
Douglas Adams is worth quoting - "Don't Panic"

The report is more nuanced: http://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=timss_2015

and see the view from the US: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/11/are-best-students-really-advanced ;
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Bringing Life to Silicon - first organo-silicon compounds manufactured in a cell

Bringing Life to Silicon  - first organo-silicon compounds manufactured in a cell | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Living organisms have been persuaded to make chemical bonds not found in nature, a finding that may change how medicines and other chemicals are made in the future.


A new study is the first to show that living organisms can be persuaded to make silicon-carbon bonds—something only chemists had done before. Scientists at Caltech "bred" a bacterial protein to have the ability to make the man-made bonds, a finding that has applications in several industries.


Molecules with silicon-carbon, or organosilicon, compounds are found in pharmaceuticals as well as in many other products, including agricultural chemicals, paints, semiconductors, and computer and TV screens. Currently, these products are made synthetically, since the silicon-carbon bonds are not found in nature. The new research, which recently won Caltech's Dow Sustainability Innovation Student Challenge Award (SISCA) grand prize, demonstrates that biology can instead be used to manufacture these bonds in ways that are more environmentally friendly and potentially much less expensive.


"We decided to get nature to do what only chemists could do—only better," says Frances Arnold, Caltech's Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry, and principal investigator of the new research, published in the Nov. 24 issue of the journal Science.

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Cyberbullying: An anti-GMO attack

Cyberbullying: An anti-GMO attack | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
I saw breathtaking ignorance and vitriol aimed at scientists like me coming from supposedly educated people. Never in a million years would I have anticipated that our passion for science would be used as a bludgeon or as a scarlet letter.

That is the milieu in which we find the current GMO "debate," which in actuality has devolved into a vicious, relentless assault by organic food activists against the biotechnology community. It doesn't matter if you are a professor, industry scientist, journalist, or private citizen; if you support biotechnology, anti-GMO activists will harass you using their keyboards as weapons of mass defamation.

Their goal is straightforward: Biotech scientists must be destroyed professionally. Failing that, they must be destroyed emotionally. There's actually a word for this.

It's called cyberbullying. Once the weapon of choice for prepubescent teens, it is now deployed, with ruthless efficiency, against PhDs who have committed the unspeakable crime of conducting research on and publicly advocating GMOs. Even worse, these activists are abusing government transparency laws (e.g., FOIA) to harass law-abiding scientists.

...
It's heartbreaking and infuriating that scientists -- who are also honorable, decent people -- are being treated like this. And it's shocking that neither the mainstream media nor the legal system seems to care. That leaves the good fight to scientists and journalists who are willing to take on activists who are neither constrained by facts nor basic human decency.
The Science & Education team's insight:
To what extent should be engage in constraining anti-science communication by the legal system? Should we use the same tactics or should we support scientists and seek to counter propaganda?
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Mapping the path to domestication

Mapping the path to domestication | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Genome sequencing shows what genes ancient farmers first selected for in maize


A 5300-year-old maize cob Genes show that this 5300-year-old maize cob from a museum was half-domesticated: It had modern, sweet-tasting kernels, but they would have dropped easily off the cob before harvest. Bruce D. Smith/Smithsonian 5000-year-old cobs reveal corn domestication in the act By Jessica BoddyNov. 21, 2016 , 3:00 PM It wasn’t easy to make a meal of teosinte, a grass that was the ancient precursor to maize. Each cob was shorter than your little finger and harbored only about 12 kernels encased in rock-hard sheaths. But in a dramatic example of the power of domestication, beginning some 9000 years ago people in Mexico and the U.S. Southwest transformed teosinte into the many-kerneled maize that today feeds hundreds of millions around the world.


Researchers had already identified a handful of genes involved in this transformation. Now, studies of ancient DNA by two independent research groups show what was happening to the plant’s genes mid-domestication, about 5000 years ago. The snapshot reveals exactly how the genetics changed over time as generations of people selected plants with their preferred traits.


“These results sharpen the focus of what we know at this early period,” says Michael Blake, an anthropologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, who was not involved in the work. “They have implications for understanding later developments in maize domestication and help us to see what people were selecting for at the time.”

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How rove beetles parasitise ants & termites

How rove beetles parasitise ants & termites | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

An army ant colony does not welcome outsiders. Yet within the nests of most species of army ants, quietly stealing nourishment from their unwitting hosts, live tiny beetles that have evolved to look, smell, and behave just like their hosts. They have managed this evolutionary feat not just once, but at least a dozen times, new research shows. There are other classic examples of parallel evolution, but those species had a recent common ancestor, whereas the rove beetles have been diverging for more than a hundred million years. And just as ant colonies are jackpots for ant look-alike rove beetles, so, too, are termite nests. Based on a morphologically based family tree, other researchers propose that an adaptation of some beetles for living and hunting in sand helped protect the first beetle parasites from the termite attack. Now, some of these rove beetles have come to look and act just like the termites.


You might think that the adaptations of these rove beetles, as they are known, amount to an improbable feat of evolution, never to be repeated. But you would be wrong, a new study suggests. By genetically analyzing 40 beetle species from army ant gatherings around the world, entomologists Joseph Parker of Columbia University and Munetoshi Maruyama of the Kyushu University Museum in Fukuoka, Japan, show that the beetles adapted to live with army ants not once, as some investigators thought, but at least a dozen times. Together, says Daniel Kronauer, an evolutionary biologist at The Rockefeller University in New York City, the beetles offer “amazing examples of parallel evolution in deep time.”


There are other classic examples of parallel evolution—a tiny marine fish called the stickleback evolved the same changes multiple times after it repeatedly became trapped in freshwater, and anole lizards developed similar adaptations on the different Caribbean islands they invaded. But those species had a recent common ancestor and likely tapped very similar genetic toolboxes as they evolved in parallel. The rove beetle species, in contrast, had already been diverging for tens of millions of years before they took up independently with army ants. “It is a textbook example of morphological convergence,” says Terry Ord, an evolutionary biologist at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. “It is likely to become a classic.”

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Digital DNA: The Nagoya Protocol, Intellectual Property Treaties, and Synthetic Biology

Digital DNA: The Nagoya Protocol, Intellectual Property Treaties, and Synthetic Biology | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

The Synthetic Biology Project will release Digital DNA: The Nagoya Protocol, Intellectual Property Treaties, and Synthetic Biology, a new report on synthetic biology and international intellectual property treaties.


"It’s one thing to declare that your laws protect digital sequences, and another to actually find and pursue those who violate them, notes Margo Bagley, a law professor at Emory University in Atlanta, who last year wrote a report on digital DNA published by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. For one thing, Bagley has found that researchers in genetically rich, developing countries are often themselves feeding these databases with new sequences, potentially unaware of any relevant benefit sharing or disclosure of origin laws. And enforcing those laws–even with the support of the other Nagoya signatories–could be beyond the means of many developing countries. “The chances of getting caught, in a sense, in the realm of digital information seem to me somewhat slim … but you don’t want to be the poster child for enforcement,” she says. “It’s very easy to be labeled a biopirate when you don’t have that intention.”"


Kelly Servick  http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/11/rise-digital-dna-raises-biopiracy-fears


The Science & Education team's insight:
A presentation by Margo Bagley and discussion which addresses the current legal issues in genetic engineering. See also Maria's report from which the talk is drawn: https://www.wilsoncenter.org/event/digital-dna-the-nagoya-protocol-intellectual-property-treaties-and-synthetic-biology

There are some good resources on  the Wilson Institute including:
Cyber security: https://www.wilsoncenter.org/program/digital-futures-project

Climate and environment: https://www.wilsoncenter.org/research?topic=137

Science and Tech: https://www.wilsoncenter.org/program/science-and-technology-innovation-program

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Advancing open peer review

Advancing open peer review | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Journal experiments and surveys suggest scientists are coming round to the idea of publishing review reports.


So far, scientists seem willing to give open peer review a try. On 10 November, Nature Communications announced that around 60% of its authors in 2016 had agreed to have their reviews published, and that it would therefore continue to offer scientists the option — although would not make it mandatory. (Reviewers can choose to withhold their names, but cannot otherwise influence the process, besides decline to take part altogether in an 'open review' paper).


Meanwhile, an online survey funded by the European Commission (EC), which is not yet published, has found that more than half of its 3,062 respondents thought that open peer review should become routine, although they expressed some qualms about specifics (see Graphic, 'Opening up peer review'). More than half said that open reports would make peer review better; nearly 20% said that this would make it worse. Almost half worried that making the identity of reviewers known would worsen the process.

The Science & Education team's insight:
People tend to like more communication - and it may even produce better science
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Pathogen prevalence is associated with cultural changes in gender equality

Pathogen prevalence is associated with cultural changes in gender equality | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Decreases in pathogen prevalence in the US and the UK over the past several decades are linked to reduced gender inequality.


Our results also suggest that, rather than reflecting more general effects of pathogen levels on broadly conservative or traditional attitudes and norms, pathogen levels have specific effects on gender inequality. Furthermore, the results of mediation analyses in both countries suggest that links between pathogen prevalence and gender inequality may be partly due to women adopting faster life history strategies in response to higher levels of infectious disease prevalence. Collectivism did not significantly mediate this effect, nor did conservatism, providing further evidence that this effect is not due to more general links between levels of infectious disease and more traditional attitudes and norms. Rather, these findings are consistent with the notion that life history strategies may provide a mechanism for the link between pathogens and gender inequality.

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Plants channel light to their roots

Plants channel light to their roots | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Roots of many plants have light receptors, and now we may have discovered why. They seem to channel light underground using stems as fibre-optic cables


Plants seem to pipe sunlight directly down into underground roots to help them grow. Light receptors in stems, leaves and flowers have long been known to regulate plant growth. Roots also have these receptors, but it has been unclear how they sense light deep in dark soil. Hyo-Jun Lee at Seoul National University in South Korea and his colleagues used Arabidopsis thaliana – a small flowering plant from the mustard family – as a model to study this phenomenon. They found that the plant stem acts like a fibre-optic cable, conducting light down to receptors in the roots known as phytochromes. These trigger the production of a protein called HY5, which promotes healthy root growth. When the plants were engineered to have phytochrome mutations, HY5 production declined. And when they had HY5 mutations, their roots became stunted and strangely angled.


To check whether light was directly transmitted through the plant rather than it activating signalling chemicals that travelled to the roots, the researchers attached a light source to the stem of plants via an optical fibre. An underground detector at the end of the roots confirmed that light was transmitted through. Moreover, when they treated A. thaliana specimens in the dark with common plant signalling chemicals such as sucrose, no significant increase in root growth was observed – suggesting that such chemicals were not driving growth.

The Science & Education team's insight:
From the paper: Stem-piped light activates phytochrome B to trigger light responses in Arabidopsis thaliana roots by Lee, et al in Nature Signalling

Plant stems pipe light to roots Light affects not only the development and physiology of the shoots (stems, leaves, and flowers) of plants but also the underground root system. Light triggers shoot cells to release signals that travel to the root and affect the development and physiology of the root system. Like shoot cells, root cells also have photoreceptors that can be activated by light, leading Lee et al. to investigate if light actually reaches these underground parts of the plant. Exposing Arabidopsis thaliana shoots to light while protecting the roots from light activated the photoreceptor phyB in the roots. In the root, phyB activated Hy5, a transcription factor that mediates cellular responses to light and was important for growth of the primary root and for root gravitropism, the proper downward orientation of roots. Arabidopsis stems efficiently conducted only certain wavelengths of light to the root tissues, and these conducted wavelengths activated phyB directly in the roots. These findings demonstrate that roots not only receive information about light conditions through signaling molecules that travel from the shoot to the root in response to light but also directly perceive light that is conducted through the plant tissues.
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Are physicists afraid of mathematics?

Are physicists afraid of mathematics? | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
The Science & Education team's insight:
This paper doesn't really say what the reports claim:
      http://phys.org/news/2016-11-physicists-mathematics.html
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