Of Schemes and Memes Blog

Best of nature.com blogs, SciLogs.com and Scitable: 20 – 26 July

Out of this world

On the News blog, Davide Castelvecchi offers us a glimpse of Earth captured by the Cassini probe from Saturn:


Find out more about Cassini, which has orbited Saturn since 2004, in Davide’s post. 

Mouse study 

In a paper published this week, in the Journal of Clinical InvestigationLisa Cunningham and her colleagues at the US National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders show that a heat shock protein, HSP70, may provide a new therapeutic option to prevent inner ear cells injury by certain antibiotics:

Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are produced by cells in response to stress, such as a sudden spike in temperature. Dubbed ‘molecular chaperones’, HSPs may be best known for their stabilizing role inside cells where they help sort, separate and fold other proteins. But scientists continue to discover the protective role that heat shock proteins can play outside of cells—from activating the body’s defense system to helping repair injured muscle. With a lengthening research record of showing up when cells get injured, HSP70 may be a good therapeutic focus to avert aminoglycoside-induced hair cell death.

Continue to the Spoonful of Medicine Blog for further details.

US panel calls for ambitious X-ray laser

The United States should build a powerful new X-ray laser that could make movies of electrons moving in materials and chemical reactions, a US government advisory panel recommended this week. Eugenie Samuel Reich elaborates in the News Blog:


The Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (BESAC), which advises the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science…offered no ringing endorsement of any of four proposals for future X-ray sources that had actually been presented to it. Instead, the committee set out a more ambitious vision, which panel members suggested could be realized if proponents of the various camps joined forces.

Learn more about the vision in Eugenie’s post.


 Video: When blood goes bad

Nature Video takes a look at what goes awry in the main forms of leukaemia – a disease that is becoming less lethal thanks to the development of precisely targeted drugs. Find out some background information here and watch the video below:

Europe launches massive laser communications satellite

This week, Europe launched into orbit the most massive telecommunications satellite ever built on the continent. Eric Hand reveals more in the News Blog: 


Managed by the European Space Agency and commercial operator Inmarsat, the 6.6-tonne Alphasat will relay data between different spots on the globe—using radio waves in the already crowded L-band frequency range. But it will also test out a laser communication device that could give a boost to space communications

One piece of experimental equipment will broadcast at the higher and underused frequencies in the Q/V band. Higher frequencies encode more information, increasing the bandwidth available for transmissions. Sending such signals to the ground has been technically challenging because they are more easily disturbed by the atmosphere. 

Details of its capabilities can be found in Eric’s post. 

Give conservation a sporting chance

In this week’s Soapbox Science guest post, Environment Agency National Biodiversity Manager Alastair Driver, explains why we should give conservation a chance:

Despite all of these achievements, the key message that the environmental community has yet to embed in wider society, is that we need a healthy environment to sustain a healthy economy. What we need now is to be brave and to commit to long term strategies for environmental improvement. We mustn’t be distracted by economic recession from tackling the single biggest challenge facing our country – the balancing of a healthy environment with a healthy economy in the face of population expansion and climate change.

Share your thoughts in Alastair’s comment thread.

The birthplace of free radicals

The latest entry in The Sceptical Chymist blog is a guest post from Thomas Tidwell, who penned the Thesis article ($) that appears in the August 2013 issue of Nature Chemistry. Thomas delves into the history of organic chemistry:

Photo courtesy of the Master and Fellows of St John’s College

One of the best-remembered discoveries in the history of organic chemistry is the preparation in 1900 by Moses Gomberg of the triphenylmethyl radical — and its reversible dimerization — which was widely commemorated on its centennial in 2000. Interestingly, an incorrect symmetrical structure became accepted for the dimer, and was only corrected many years later: H. Lankamp, W. Th. Nauta, C. MacLeanTetrahedron Lett. 9, 249–254 (1968) and J. M. McBride Tetrahedron 30, 2009–2022 (1974).

The discovery made by Downes and Blunt preceded Gomberg’s work by two decades and the building which housed the Blunt pharmacy where some of the work was conducted still stands in Shrewsbury — as such, it should be recognized as the birthplace of the free radical chemistry. An 1889 photograph of the pharmacy (shown left), with the Blunt name displayed in the window, can be found here (scroll down) and today it is a listed building

Food as a Hormone

Scitable blogger Luke De, looks at fat’s effect on the brain in his latest blog post:

What if the food we ate directly influenced our brains? Karen Ryan, Bailing Li, and Randy Seeley put out a paper asking a similar question. Theirs focuses around PPAR-g, a nuclear receptor. PPAR-g isn’t new to the scene; it has been a known player in obesity and adipocyte formation for quite some time. The authors demonstrate a new function for PPAR-g in the central nervous system.2 It may be a receptor in the CNS that is directly activated by a lipid, and produces an increase in body weight due to increased fat storage.

Check out the experiment in Luke’s post. Are you addicted to food?

An Interview with Ivan Oransky

In SciLogs blogger Matt Shipman’s second part of his interview with Ivan Oransky, he talks about what led to his founding of Embargo Watch and co-founding of Retraction Watch:

I’ll start with Embargo Watch. What made you decide to launch a blog focused entirely on issues related to embargoed research news? And while we’re at it, can you explain the Ingelfinger Rule to any readers who aren’t familiar with it?

Oransky: I’ve been obsessed with embargoes for more years than I should admit. When I was in college, Science – before the AAAS launched EurekAlert — would fax me, on thermal paper, the following week’s table of contents. I would then circle the studies I was interested in on the sheets of curling paper, and fax them back, at which point I’d get those studies on more glossy curly paper.

It was years later, however, working at The Scientist and starting to think more about the science journalism ecosystem, that I became familiar with the work of Vincent Kiernan, on whose shoulders Embargo Watch stands. I realized how much of a carefully orchestrated operation science “news” had become, and it bothered me. I first wrote about an embargo break by the New York Times in 2007, in a post Slate’s Jack Shafer picked up.

The first part of the interview can be found here.

The Cause(s) of Honey Bee Death

Finally, SciLogs blogger Paige Brown looks at “what’s killing honey bees” in her latest post:

If you’ve been keeping up with the “what’s killing honey bees” news, you might be thinking: why can’t scientists agree on what’s killing these pollinators? I mean come on, is it pesticidesFungicidesViruses? A parasite?BacteriaCell phone signals? Climate change? Among online media headlines of “Scientists Confirm: ‘X’ kills America’s honey bees,” no wonder we get frustrated when the next article we see adamantly claims a different cause confirmed by science, or even the absence of a problem at all.

Honey Bee. Image (C) Paige Brown, Paige’s Photography.


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