Of Schemes and Memes Blog

Best of nature.com blogs, SciLogs.com and Scitable: 22 – 28 June

NIH retires most of its research chimpanzees

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced this week that it will retire to sanctuary nearly all of its research chimpanzees. Meredith Wadman elaborates in the News Blog:


…about 310 animals — leaving a rump colony of up to 50 animals available to researchers who can clear high ethical and regulatory hurdles for using them.

The announcement marks the end of a protracted process, kicked off by a landmark Institute of Medicine report, during which NIH-funded chimpanzee research has come under increasing scrutiny. Separately, the US Fish and Wildlife Service last week said it would declare captive chimps endangered, which also would make the animals tougher to access for biomedical research. The United States is the only major country that still funds invasive chimpanzee research.

What do you think about this decision? Share your thoughts in the comment thread. 

The Voyager 1

An artist’s illustration of Voyager 1. NASA

The Voyager 1 spacecraft has almost left the Solar System — but not quite, according to a set of papers published online in Science on 27 June:

Voyager 1, launched in 1977, is now 18.6 billion kilometres from the Sun and getting farther away every day. In 2004, it crossed from the part of space dominated by the Sun’s influence into a transition region where the solar wind mixes turbulently with interstellar gas. Space physicists are now eagerly waiting for Voyager 1 to exit this transition region and enter true interstellar space.

Learn more in the News Blog’s report. 

Science blogging: expert tips

This week, a panel of expert science bloggers shared their tips at the World Conference of Science Journalists. Mohammed Yahia reports on this event in the House of Wisdom Blog:

For Ed Yong, a blogger with National Geographic who writes the wonderful Not Exactly Rocket Science blog, science blogging was his way to get into science writing back in 2006.

“Blogging offers you such freedom with your stories. You don’t have to do any pitching, you can just write about what you want,” says Yong. “The blog is a playground and a laboratory for writing. It allows you to practice everyday without the need for commissioning or anything.”

He also uses the blog to try out different formats and styles of writing without the normal editorial process.

This blog post has also been cross-posted on the Nature Jobs Blog. 

‘Liberated’ mice from Italian lab now housed in poor conditions

Two months after animal-rights activists broke into an animal facility at the University of Milan and removed hundreds of animals, photographs of many of the mice have appeared on the Facebook page of one of the protestors’ supporters who uses the pen name Jooleea Carleenee.  Alison Abbott explains more in the News Blog: 

Mice removed by protestors from a Milan lab appear to be housed in cramped cages.

Carleenee says that she posted the pictures to show that the animals were still alive. But the images of the overcrowded and uncontrolled conditions in which the mice appear to have been kept in her home have fuelled a new row, with scientists posting angry comments, complaining of cruelty.

Daria Giovannoni, president of the pro-science lobby group Pro-Test Italia, says: “If these photos show the actual conditions of the stolen mice, we’re seriously concerned about their well-being and health: we don’t think that these animals are faring better now than when they were in the laboratory.”

Continue to the post for an update from Jooleea Carleenee.

A Fungal Infection, and Oh! Those Poor Cats!

SciLogs blogger Kausik Datta alerts us to a new fungus, Aspergillus felis, that affects humans, domestic cats and dogs:

In this study, the cats infected with Aspergillus felis were seen in Australia and UK. They were of different varieties, including pure breeds (such as Russian blue, Cornish Rex, Himalayan Persian, Chinchilla Persian, Ragdoll, and Exotic Shorthair) and domestic crossbreds (short hair and long hair). Otherwise disease free, they presented with nasal discharge and/or sneezing. In addition, many of them had a fungal ball growing behind an eye, which pushed that eyeball outwards – the poor cats! Many of them had severe disease progression and had to be compassionately euthanized. There were a dog also from Australia, and a human patient from Portugal, both of whom were receiving therapy that suppressed their immunity. The fungus had spread throughout the body of the dog causing pain, fever, and abnormal heart sounds (a.k.a. cardiac murmurs); in the man, it was growing in the lining of the lung. They did not survive this onslaught either.




The latest Spoonful of Medicine post talks in detail about the recent US Supreme Court decision to make isolated human genes unpatentable:

The decision has been a long time in coming—so long that Myriad’s patents were due to expire in less than three years. And the 15-year delay has surely not aided patients who frequently benefit from healthy competition in the biotech sector or from research on BRCA genes. Yet the decision brings relief to those of us who reject the idea that an individual or corporation can own—even for a limited time—human genes and thereby control their use.

Finding an audience with social media: whether they “like” it or not

This week’s Soapbox Science guest post in an inventive entry by Josh Witten. He explores the use of social media platforms for science communication with references to The Blue Brothers and boy-band One Direction:

Our rock stars are not even really rock stars of social media. Neil DeGrasse Tyson entertains and educates nearly 1.3 million followers on Twitter, which lags behind leaders of the generally pro-science geek/nerd pop-culture movement, like Chris Hardwick (1.9 million) and Felicia Day (2.1 million). They are all crushed by the manufactured (a process publicly televised on UK’s The X-Factor) boy band, One Direction (12.9 million). I had to leave Justin Bieber off the chart (>40 million) in order to make anyone else visible. The audience for science blogs is dwarfed by the audience for political blogs, fashion blogs, economics blogs, music blogs, mommy blogs, etc.

Josh Witten – Creative Commons Attribution

Global Crisis: Honeybee Population on the Decline

Picture Credit: Sami Hurmerinta (via flickr)

Scitable blogger, Samantha Jakuboski’s latest post looks at why the decline in honeybees is such a serious issue, and why honeybees are so important:

So, why is the decline in honeybees such a serious issue, and why are honeybees so important?

Honeybees are one of the world’s leading pollinators, for they are responsible for $30 billion a year in crops, and we depend on them and other pollinators for one-third of our food supply. Without bees, our produce sections in supermarkets would look bare- with up to 50% less fruit and vegetables- and our favorite foods, such as apples, carrots, lemons, onions, broccoli, and not to mention honey, would become a luxury of the past.

End of exam period 

Viktor Poór highlights in his latest comic, exam season is coming to an end soon:

So all the students can enjoy the summer. Or not?


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