A focus in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) began officially with the launch of Sputnik 1 October 4, 1957. This launched the beginning of NASA and government-mandated funding for students interested in STEM careers.
Jayne Fenton Keane's insight:
A compelling argument for a coordinated approach and increased investment in science and technology skills.
People with severe depression have a disrupted “biological clock” that makes it seem as if they are living in a different time zone to the rest of the healthy population living alongside them, a study has found.
Late at night, a video camera captures a man striding up to the locked door of the information-technology department of a major Israeli bank. At this hour, access can be granted only by a fingerprint reader — but instead of using the machine, the man pushes a button on the intercom to ring the receptionist's phone. As it rings, he holds his mobile phone up to the intercom and presses the number 8. The sound of the keypad tone is enough to unlock the door. As he opens it, the man looks back to the camera with a shrug: that was easy.
Yaniv Erlich — the star of this 2006 video — considers this one of his favourite hacks. Technically a “penetration exercise” conducted to expose the bank's vulnerabilities, it was one of several projects that Erlich worked on during a two-year stint with a security firm based near Tel Aviv. Since then, the 33-year-old computational biologist has been bringing his hacker ethos to biology. Now at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he is using genome data in new ways, and in the process exposing vulnerabilities in databases that hold sensitive information on thousands of individuals around the world.
In a study published in January, Erlich's lab showed that it is possible to discover the identities of people who participate in genetic research studies by cross-referencing their data with publicly available information. Previous studies had shown that people listed in anonymous genetic data stores could be unmasked by matching their data to a sample of their DNA. But Erlich showed that all it requires is an Internet connection.
Erlich's work has exposed a pressing ethical quandary. As researchers increasingly combine patient data with other types of information — everything from social-media posts to entries on genealogy websites — protecting anonymity becomes next to impossible. Studying these linked data has its benefits, but it may also reveal genetic and medical information that researchers had promised to keep private — and that, if made public, might hurt people's employability, insurability or even personal relationships.
Such revelations may make the scientific community uncomfortable and undermine the public's trust in medical research. But Erlich and his colleagues see their work as a way to alert the world about flawed systems, keep researchers honest and ultimately strengthen science. In March, for instance, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany, claimed that the genome sequence that it had published for the HeLa cell line would not reveal anything about Henrietta Lacks — the source of the cells — or her descendants. Erlich issued a tart response: “Nice lie EMBL!” he tweeted. The sequence was later pulled from public databases, and the EMBL admitted that it would indeed be possible to glean information about the Lacks family from it, even though much of the HeLa genetic data had already been published as part of other studies.
“Most scientists would not go anywhere close to these questions, out of a sense of what it might mean for the field, or for them personally,” says David Page, director of the Whitehead Institute, who has advised Erlich about his research. “But this is not about publicity-seeking — this is about fearlessness, and a kind of interest in how all the parts of the Universe fit together that mark all of Yaniv's work.”
Social psychologist Prof E. Tory Higgins discusses his model of how humans interpret and appreciate reward and punishment, and offers unusual approaches to motivate people to action. Presented by Dr Dyani Lewis.
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Speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) meeting, an annual event of the Clinton Global Initiative that seeks innovative solutions for economic recovery, Clinton said three partners – the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Mozilla, and HASTAC – have created the commitment to Open Badges. Outreach and technical assistance will be provided to help employers and universities across the country incorporate Open Badges in hiring, promotions, admissions, and credit over the next three years.
In the middle of the South Atlantic, there's a patch of sea almost devoid of life. There are no birds, few fish, not even much plankton. But researchers report that they've found buried treasure under the empty waters: ancient DNA hidden in the muck of the sea floor, which lies 5000 meters below the waves.
The DNA, from tiny, one-celled sea creatures that lived up to 32,500 years ago, is the first to be recovered from the abyssal plains, the deep-sea bottoms that cover huge stretches of Earth. In a separate finding published this week, another research team reports teasing out plankton DNA that's up to 11,400 years old from the floor of the much shallower Black Sea. The researchers say that the ability to retrieve such old DNA from such large stretches of the planet's surface could help reveal everything from ancient climate to the evolutionary ecology of the seas.
"We have been able to show that the deep sea is the largest long-time archive of DNA, and a major window to study past biodiversity," says Pedro Martinez Arbizu, a deep-sea biologist of the German Centre for Marine Biodiversity Research in Wilhelmshaven.
The new studies are "very exciting," says micropaleontologist Bridget Wade of the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, who was not connected to the research. Until now, it wasn't clear "how far back in time you could take these DNA studies. … These records are telling you new information that wasn't found in the fossil record."
The South Atlantic team went looking for DNA in plugs of silt and clay coaxed out of the ocean floor hundreds of kilometers off the Brazilian coast. The researchers were after genetic material from two related groups of marine organisms, the foraminifera and the radiolarians. Both are single-celled, and both include many species with beautiful pearly shells that fossilize nicely, making them a favorite target of researchers studying the prehistoric oceans.
The researchers used special pieces of DNA specific to radiolarians and foraminifera to fish out DNA from those groups. Then they sequenced the DNA and compared the results to known foraminifera and radiolarian DNA sequences. Their analysis showed they'd found 169 foraminifera species and 21 radiolarian species, many of which were unknown. What's more, many of the foraminifera species belonged to groups that don't form fossils
Brinicles are bizarre, otherworldly structures that reach down from the floating sea ice into frigid Antarctic waters, creating black pools of death on the sea floor. Wired Science blogger Jeffrey Marlow reports on the strange phenomenon.
Jayne Fenton Keane's insight:
These stunning and peculiar ice formations are difficult to comprehend from the comfort of a lounge chair!
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