Of Schemes and Memes Blog

Best of Nature Network, nature.com blogs and Scitable: 21 – 27 July

A new era for the Nature Network blogs!

The big news on the NPG blogs this week is the launch of SciLogs.com, a new English language blogging network that also forms the new home for Nature Network bloggers. SciLogs.com is   one branch of the international SciLogs blogs, also found in German, Spanish and  Dutch.  It is hosted by Spektrum der Wissenschaft (the Spectrum of Science), a member of the Nature Publishing Group (NPG) family. More on the new site can be found here.

To celebrate this new addition, over the next week we’re running a special cross-network series of blogs posts focusing on the theme of “Beginnings”. Participating in this blogging festival are nature.com’s Soapbox Science blogScitable’s Student Voices blog and bloggers from SciLogs.com, SciLogs.deScitable and Scientific American’s Blog Network. Join us as we explore the diverse interpretations of beginnings – from scientific examples such as stem cells to first time experiences such as publishing your first paper. You can also follow and contribute to the conversations on social media by using the #BeginScights hashtag.

Ape experimentation

Meredith Wadman reports in the News Blog that a bill that would end invasive experimentation on great apes in the United States took another step toward becoming law this week, when a key Senate committee passed The Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act of 2011:

Elizabeth Kucinich

The voice vote by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee marked the first time that any version of the legislation, first introduced in the House in 2008, has received a Congressional committee’s explicit approval.  Supporters say it gives the bill momentum even in a Congress that is virtually paralyzed when it comes to passing legislation in the run-up to November’s presidential election.

“The House was waiting for some kind of movement in the Senate and now they’ve seen it. This is a wonderful event for people who have been tracking this legislation,” says Elizabeth Kucinich, the director of government affairs at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine based in Washington DC, an advocacy group that says that non-animal alternatives have made the use of chimpanzees in research obsolete.

More about this bill and what it means for future research, in Meredith’s post.

Points of Science

In this week’s Soapbox Science post, anthropologist Joshua Fouts talks about “Points of Science,” a global Science House Foundation initiative designed to open up the science world to kids all over the globe:

Points of Science is a global Science House Foundation initiative designed to open the eyes of kids to science throughout the world with the idea that some of them might become globally collaborative scientists.

The first pilot program, “Pontos de Ciência: Brasil,” is a collaborative project between Science House Foundation and Laboratorio Nacional de BioCiências (LNBio). The model is grounded on our successful programs already in place, including Science House Foundation’s MicroGlobalScopeprogram, which provides complete microscopy kits to science teachers around the world who work with 10-12 year olds. These teachers are then connected via a cross-culturally collaborative global network of schools and scientists that participate in Science House Foundation’s programs. Students learn that science is exciting and collaborative, with the power to transform their lives.

Continue to the post to hear more about the initiative.

Sally Ride

Sally Ride aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger: NASA

Cross posted from Scientific American’s Observations blog on behalf of John Matson, the News Blog report that Sally Ride, the first U.S. woman in space, died this week at 61:

She first flew on space shuttle Challenger for the STS-7 mission, which launched on June 18, 1983. At that time, the U.S. had yet to send a female astronaut into orbit, but two female cosmonauts had gone to space as part of the Soviet space program. Ride flew another mission the following year and had been scheduled to make a third trip to space when the 1986 Challenger disaster forced NASA to suspend the shuttle program. Instead, she served on the commission convened to investigate the accident, as she did again in 2003 after the loss of space shuttle Columbia.

You can find out more about Sally’s fulfilling career in the post.

Neurosurgeons barred from human research after experimental infections

Monya Baker announced in the News Blog, that two neuroscientists who injected bacteria into the brains of dying patients will no longer be allowed to conduct medical research, according to The Sacramento Bee:

J. Paul Muizelaar and Rudolph J. Schrot, both neurosurgeons at the University of California, Davis, reportedly introduced bacteria into open head wounds of three patients with malignant brain tumours and then withheld antibiotics. Muizelaar and Schrot believed that the infections would prompt the patients’ immune systems to attack the cancer. Two of the patients developed sepsis and all three have since died.

On the day that the third patient died in 2011, an institutional review board learned that Muizelaar and Schrot hoped to infect more patients. The university stopped the work and began an internal investigation. In October 2011, the vice-chancellor of research notified the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of noncompliance, but the agency has not indicated what, if any, disciplinary action it would take. In April this year, Muizelaar was awarded an endowed chair in the department of neurosurgery.

Learn more in Monya’s report.

MIT video models airports most likely to spread diseases

Kathleen Raven explains in the Spoonful of Medicine blog that a study released last week from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), engineers show through computer modeling how major international US airports might contribute to the spread of contagious disease during the early days of an epidemic.
The culprits that could contribute the most damage turn out to be airports in New York, Los Angeles and Honolulu, Hawaii. “Our work is the first to look at the spatial spreading of contagion processes at early times, and to propose a predictor for which ‘nodes’—in this case, airports—will lead to more aggressive spatial spreading,” said MIT computer engineer Ruben Juanes in a statement. The new model, unlike previous ones, considers the routines that passengers usually follow when traveling, an airport’s geographic location, how flights connect—or don’t—between airports, and, finally, how a long wait at an airport could influence how diseases spread.

Check out the video above.

A Fledgling Entrepreneur

PhD student Daniel Perez, explains in the Trade Secrets Blog what it is like to be a student-entrepreneur trying (and struggling) to balance thesis work along with the expectations of a venture-backed startup. He provides a useful list of advice:

It’s been a crazy ride. I initially reached out to my friends to see if they were interested in joining. Of the 5 of us who initially came together, only two of us stayed: Mehmet (who’s a neuroscience PhD student at King’s College London) and me. I think finding the right team members is crucial. Ideas are everywhere, but execution is what matters. For me, the following three key features are important for a team:

  1. Group Chemistry: sounds obvious but you’d be surprised. Especially in stressful situations, in the midst of a significant sleep deficit, compounded by a caffeine withdrawal, with a head cold sprinkled on top. Team chemistry goes a long way towards overcoming startup-stress and surviving the vicissitudes you’ll invariably encounter.
  2. Complementary skillsets: I think you need to build a team that covers up your weaknesses. Be honest with yourself. I was.
  3. Product evangelization: Your team must have undying belief in the product. That’s not to say they cannot challenge assumptions (they must!) but they must also believe they’re part of something bigger than themselves. My team and I are firm believers in Marblar’s ability to foster emergent properties, in this case: by bringing together great minds with great science we can make 1 + 1 = 3

More advice is in the blog post.

Jordanian intellectual property protection may limit access to medicine

Mohammed Yahia discusses in the House of Wisdom blog how Jordan joining the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2000 led to the country strengthening its level of intellectual property protection. However, a new study published in the Journal of Generic Medicines suggests that this may be harming Jordanians’ access to medicines due to a delay in the introduction of generic medicines into the market:

According to the research, this delay has cost private consumers in Jordan approximately US$18 million in 2004 in extra costs. In a study of medicines marketed in Jordan between 1999 (before joing WTO) and 2004, annual spending on medication in Jordan increased by 17%. Also, when comparing the prices of originator drugs and generic drugs in 1999 and 2004, the researchers found that generally, the prices for originator drugs have been increasing and the generic ones decreasing after Jordan’s entry into the World Trade Organization.

Continue to the post to find out more.

 Soccer’s Big Data Revolution

Scitable’s blogger, Khalil A. Cassimally reveals that the world of sports is undergoing a massive revolution:

Starting next year, every MLS soccer kit will be fitted with a small chip from Adidas. Located between a player’s shoulder blades, the chip will transmit 200 data records a second from the player to a local information system. From there onward, the data can be transmitted to the coaches’ laptops or tablets to provide clear overviews of the physical and physiological situations of the players on the pitch. It is not far-fetched to imagine coaches viewing a Football Manager game-like interface which showcases individual players’ level of fatigue, concentration, etcetera, varying in real time.

Access to such phenomenal amounts of data, termed big data, can fundamentally change soccer. Decisions will increasingly be taken based on quantified player attributes, tactics will evolve and injuries may be averted.

Find out more in Khalil’s post.




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