Latest / page 4

What we're talking about Life, Death, and ERVs Sunday, October 26, 2014

Life, Death, and ERVs

I read an interesting article in Scientific American that discussed the so-called Peto’s Paradox. Dr. Richard Peto (University of Oxford) came up with the idea that if every cell has an equal probability of becoming cancerous, then larger animals would be predicted to develop cancer at higher rates than smaller animals. As it turns out,…

For quite a while, now, there has been a connection between Endogenous Retroviruses and HIV. For some unknown reason, some of the young ERVs in humans, the ones that can still code for a protein here and there, are reactivated in HIV+ patients. Scientists have found ERV RNA in HIV+ patient plasma, and they have…

In a phenomenon known as Peto's paradox, large mammals do not develop cancer more often than small mammals, despite having more cells that could go haywire. On Life Lines, Dr. Dolittle writes "Some researchers suggested that perhaps smaller animals developed more oxidative stress as a result of having higher metabolisms. Others proposed that perhaps larger animals have more genes that suppress tumors." But a new hypothesis argues that large mammals have evolved to minimize the activity of ERVs, which are ancient viral elements integrated into our DNA. Active ERVs can cause cancer and possibly other diseases; mice exhibit about 3300 active ERVs, while humans exhibit about 350. On the blog known as ERV, Abbie Smith writes "some of the young ERVs in humans, the ones that can still code for a protein here and there, are reactivated in HIV+ patients." Researchers are considering targeting these ERVs in order to combat HIV; as Abbie writes, "You could train the HIV+ individuals immune system to ‘see’ the ERV components in an HIV infected CD4+ T-cell, and BAM! Kill the HIV infected cell!" But she warns that other ERV components are expressed in many normal human cells, and teaching our immune system to target them might be a very bad idea.

Channel Surfing

Life Science

The Discovery Institute doesn’t understand the protein folding problem. I mean that literally: they don’t understand the problem. Scientists don’t know the answer, but they have a clear understanding of the problem. PNAS published a “Perspective” article, “The Nature of Protein Folding Pathways,” by S. Walter Englander and Leland Mayne. Unsurprisingly, they try to approach…

The image below is a phylogram, illustrating the degree of variation in a sequence of mitochondrial DNA. The concept is fairly simple: if two DNA samples are from individuals that are evolutionarily distant from one another, they’ll have accumulated more differences in their mitochondrial DNA, and will be drawn farther apart from one another. If…

The title of this article by Answers In Genesis is a good question: Where Did Ebola Come From? *shrug* Look, I love making fun of Creationists, but this is a great question! Ebola is not ‘supposed’ to be a human pathogen. Like many emerging infectious diseases, the natural reservoir for ebola is bats. Specifically, fruit bats.…

Physical Science

“Sexism was the only thing that kept Jerrie Cobb out of space in 1960, and it cannot be allowed to stand in her way now.” -Patricia Ireland It isn’t every week that you cover topics ranging from the birth of the Universe to the fundamental nature of space, and the go from sexism in NASA…

“The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long — and you have burned so very, very brightly, Roy. Look at you: you’re the Prodigal Son; you’re quite a prize!” -Dr. Eldon Tyrell, Blade Runner Some questions that we look at are fun to consider because of how far outside our own experience they are, but…

I got the time for the regular hangout wrong, and then we had some weird computer difficulties, so we only had ten minutes for Uncertain Dots this week. Which was enough time for me to say disparaging things about comic book movies, so, you know, if that interests you… Here’s the making of Interstellar story…

Environment

Of the seven Americans who have contracted Ebola, five overseas and two in Texas, all seven have survived. Comments from President Obama, focusing on how we have to be guided by the science: “Here’s the bottom line. Patients can beat this disease. And we can beat this disease. But we have to stay vigilant. We…

Arctic Sea Ice extent continues to be a problem. This year, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, ARctic Sea ice reached its lowest extent this year on September 17th, which is about the sixth lowest extent on record, following a multi-year trend of decline. There is variation from year to year. This…

Some time in the 1970s. I keep hearing about this 17 year long pause in global warming. So I went and looked. I did a regression analysis of the last 17 full years of surface temperatures from the GISS database. There is an upward trend in warming during this period and it is statistically significant.…

Humanities

The first time I saw myself was in a dream. I was maybe six. I was a girl, a noble leader really. I had straight dark hair that reached down to my feet. I was walking on a tightrope, toward the right, toward a handsome prince who approached me. Then I woke up.

While pharmaceutical companies are making billions in painkiller profits, it’s the public sector that ends up bearing the burden and cost of the fallout that accompanies skyrocketing sales of highly addictive prescription opioids. After the jump is a Pump Handle Q&A with two public health officials at the forefront of the opioid abuse epidemic within America’s big cities.

I’m giving a talk on Landsjö castle to the Kimstad Historical Society next week, and while preparing my presentation I made a sketch plan of this summer’s discoveries regarding the plan. The ruin just barely breaks the turf, so we didn’t know much about the castle’s layout beforehand except that it had a 60-metre straight…

Education

Teachers in the D.C. Metropolitan area- we are now accepting applications for the Nifty Fifty (x4) Program! Click here to apply NOW to host a speaker at your school during the 2014/2015 school year. Nifty Fifty talks will take place during the months of February, March and April of 2015. The deadline to apply is Friday, November…

The ‘Nifty Fifty (times 4)’, a program of Science Spark, presented by InfoComm International, are a group of 200 noted science and engineering professionals who will fan out across the Washington, D.C. area in the 2014-2015 school year to speak about their work and careers at various middle and high schools. Meet Nifty Fifty Speaker Nick Schneider When NASA’s…

According to a new statement from the CDC, while Ebola is deadly to humans and animals, it is very difficult to catch. Therefore, they concluded that pets are not at significant risk of Ebola in the US. Moreover, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming ill in Africa. For more information, visit…

Politics

While pharmaceutical companies are making billions in painkiller profits, it’s the public sector that ends up bearing the burden and cost of the fallout that accompanies skyrocketing sales of highly addictive prescription opioids. After the jump is a Pump Handle Q&A with two public health officials at the forefront of the opioid abuse epidemic within America’s big cities.

It has been a year since I last updated my chronological listing of the Harper Conservative government’s war on science. The newly updated master list is here, where you can also read more about this project in general. The previous update from October 2013 is here. Some preliminary metrics about the impact of that original…

More thread.

Medicine

While pharmaceutical companies are making billions in painkiller profits, it’s the public sector that ends up bearing the burden and cost of the fallout that accompanies skyrocketing sales of highly addictive prescription opioids. After the jump is a Pump Handle Q&A with two public health officials at the forefront of the opioid abuse epidemic within America’s big cities.

It’s been a bit of a depressing week. I suppose it’s not any more depressing than usual, with the usual unending stream of pseudoscience, quackery (particularly of the Ebola type), and, of course, antivaccine nonsense to deal with. Then, as I’m writing yet another in a long line of unfunded grants, I find out that…

Decades of business-friendly “reforms” to workers’ compensation make the bargain between employers and labor no longer a good deal for injured workers.

Brain & Behavior

While pharmaceutical companies are making billions in painkiller profits, it’s the public sector that ends up bearing the burden and cost of the fallout that accompanies skyrocketing sales of highly addictive prescription opioids. After the jump is a Pump Handle Q&A with two public health officials at the forefront of the opioid abuse epidemic within America’s big cities.

According to a new statement from the CDC, while Ebola is deadly to humans and animals, it is very difficult to catch. Therefore, they concluded that pets are not at significant risk of Ebola in the US. Moreover, there have been no reports of dogs or cats becoming ill in Africa. For more information, visit…

I have. So I surfed the web and found this neat video from Smithsonian that explains it all.

Technology

Problems with WiFi and Bluetooth Some problems with Bluetooth have been reported. I don’t think this is widespread, but in some cases people are experiencing lags on the order of a half second in the use of their Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. When this happens, it seems to relate to whether or not the computer…

Here is a list of things to do after you have installed Ubuntu 14.10 Utopic Unicorn. There is some discussion of whether or not you should upgraded to 14.10 here, but the short version is, for most people an upgrade from 14.04 is not necessary but not a bad idea, and an upgrade from any…

Last summer we were driving up north, in our Prius, and one of those coal rollers tailgated us for a while, then passed us. On the right. On the median. Jerk. When we were trying to decide whether or not to buy a Prius, last winter, I looked into the usual things one looks into.…

Information Science

It has been a year since I last updated my chronological listing of the Harper Conservative government’s war on science. The newly updated master list is here, where you can also read more about this project in general. The previous update from October 2013 is here. Some preliminary metrics about the impact of that original…

I find the whole idea of a “sharing economy” where people barter and exchange and free up excess capacity in their own lives and situations to make others’ lives a little easier and cheaper an interesting notion. And worthwhile. After all broadly speaking the open access and open source movements do partake of this same…

Science Online was an amazing annual unconference that started a few years back and grew and became part of the reshaping of public communication about science. This year, the people running the conference started out with the plan to move the conference to a new venue, Atlanta, and last week abruptly announced that the conference…

Jobs

Decades of business-friendly “reforms” to workers’ compensation make the bargain between employers and labor no longer a good deal for injured workers.

Article series investigates lead poisoning at the nation’s gun ranges; autopsy shows coal miner was wrongly denied black lung benefits; health care workers take part in mass protective gear training; and a Wells Fargo employee sends a big email about income inequality.

This week’s snapshot of just one work-related fatality in the U.S. This one occurred on October 7 at a Kia Motors manufacturing plant.