Archive for the 'PopSci' Category

The Brain That Couldn’t Remember – The New York Times

March 5, 2018

The #Brain That Couldn’t Remember Fight over the ownership of HM’s highlights issues in consent HT @FearLoathingBTX

A Code for Autism | Proto Magazine

December 16, 2017

Cancer’s Invasion Equation

October 30, 2017

Cancer’s Invasion Eqn, by @DrSidMukherjee terms: Soil-v-seed, metastasis matching + overcoming “denominator” problem


“This is medicine’s “denominator problem.” The numerator is you—the person who gets ill. The denominator is everyone at risk, including all the other passengers who were exposed. Numerators are easy to study. Denominators are hard. Numerators come to the doctor’s office, congested and miserable. They get blood tests and prescriptions. Denominators go home from the subway station, heat up dinner, and watch “The Strain.” The numerator persists. The denominator vanishes.” “}}

Ancient Viruses Are Buried in Your DNA

October 28, 2017

“Early on, the cells in an embryo can turn into any tissue. As these stem cells divide, they can lose this flexibility, committing to becoming one kind of cell or another. After that, cells typically shut down their viral genes.
Viral proteins appear to help keep stem cells from losing this potential. …
Viruses might have exploited embryos to make more copies of
themselves. By keeping their hosts as stem cells for longer, the viruses were able to invade more parts of the embryo’s body.” “}}

Ancient Viruses Are Buried in Your DNA, by @CarlZimmer Nice #intuition on why they may promote the stem-cell state

What Happens When a Superstorm Hits D.C.?

September 28, 2017

What Happens When a #Superstorm Hits DC? estimated at 1/100yr in ’50 now could be 1/3yr. Are coastal areas prepared?

“A report compiled in part by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and published in 2013 in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, included a study that found that increases in sea-level rise related to climate change have
significantly increased the probability of a Sandy-level flood as compared to 1950. … Another paper, published in 2012 in the journal Nature Climate Change, determined that by the end of the century what is presently considered a 100-year storm-surge flood in New York could actually be occurring as frequently as once every three years. … “Other nations are well aware of this changed risk regime,…In Britain, the Thames Barrier, completed in 1982, presently protects London against a one-in-1,000-year flood, … The Dutch design levees and regulations to protect their cities against a one-in-10,000-year flood, and are considering fixes that would ensure protection against a one-in-100,000-year flood.

Naked mole rats: Can they help us cure cancer? – Slate Magazine

July 31, 2017

Naked mole rats: Can they help..cure cancer? Live >6x longer than C57BL/6 & have “insectile” queen-domimated society Brain Myths Exploded: Lessons from Neuroscience (Audible Audio Edition): The Great Courses, Professor Indre Viskontas, The Great Courses: Baby

July 4, 2017

You Look Familiar. Now Scientists Know Why.

June 13, 2017

You Look Familiar. Now Scientists Know Why #Privacy implications: determining whether a suspect recognizes a face


“One day, the authors suggested, it might even be possible to render a face seen by, say, a crime witness just by analyzing his brain activity.

“Cracking the code for faces would definitely be a big deal,” said Brad Duchaine, an expert on face recognition at Dartmouth.

Human and monkey brains have evolved dedicated systems for recognizing faces, presumably because, as social animals, survival depends on identifying members of one’s own social group and distinguishing them from strangers.”

Mind the gaps: The holes in your brain that make you smart

June 10, 2017

Mind the gaps: The holes in your brain…make you smart Contrasts connectivity from graphs vs large-scale topology

Vitamin D on Trial | The Scientist

June 1, 2017

#VitaminD on Trial Interesting mail the med. trial where participants aren’t explicitly checked for compliance


“Once a month for the next 5 years, 20,000 people across the United States will find a package containing 62 pills in their mailboxes. As participants in a clinical trial, the recipients agreed to swallow two of the pills daily. But inevitably as the years pass, some pill packets will become buried under a stack of letters, or forgotten in a drawer. After all, these pills contain only vitamin D, fish oil, or an inert placebo—a person doesn’t need them to make it through the day. Plus, no one monitors who takes the pills daily and who does not.”


Scientists critical of the VITAL study question whether the daily dose of 2,000 IU is enough to distinguish the treatment group from the controls. If this were a drug trial, the placebo group would go without the drug completely. But it’s unethical to ask anyone to go without vitamin D. Doctors inform all participants that they can take up to 800 IU of vitamin D daily (the national recommendation for people over 70 years old) in addition to the pills they receive in the mail. If they do, the control group will sustain more than adequate levels. But some participants might decide to break the rules and head to the nearest corner store for high-dose supplements after being told that vitamin D may help prevent cancer and other diseases. And of course, many participants won’t follow through with taking the pills they’ve been sent in the mail. “You hope drop-ins and drop-outs will be equal on both sides, but they may not be,” warns biostatistician Gary Cutter at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

A higher dose of vitamin D would widen the gap between the treatment and the control group, but Manson isn’t swayed. She says 2,000 IU will lift the treatment arm well above the level suggested to help protect against nonskeletal diseases, while she expects the controls to stabilize at levels sufficient for healthy bones. “Sure, we could have tested higher doses, but then right off the bat, we might have had safety issues,” Manson says.

Nonetheless, in other disease-prevention trials, investigators are gunning for better compliance and a fighting chance of showing an effect by doling out large, periodic doses of vitamin D. In the United Kingdom, a trial looking at the effect of vitamin D on respiratory infections (including the flu) is giving participants 120,000 IU of the vitamin every 2 months. And participants in the treatment arm of a vitamin D trial for type 2 diabetes prevention take an average dose of 89,684 IU once per week.