Thirty-two years after the birth of the world's first test-tube baby, artificial conception has never been more popular or successful. Today, up to 3 percent of infants born in the U.S. owe their existence to assisted reproductive technology, or ART. The majority is overwhelmingly healthy, but new research from scientists at Temple University and other institutions suggests the technique is not without its long-term risks.
Looking at the recent, highly politicized fights over global warming, stem cell research and evolution, a foreign observer might think that the American public sees scientists as a class of people above sweat shop owners, but below pornographers. Similarly, the outrage on many science blogs over the public response to those issue could lead readers to think that scientists view the American public as angry villagers ready to burn chemists at the stake for witchcraft.
Today, the most comprehensive poll to date exploring the American people's relationship with science, conducted by the non-partisan Pew Research group, has shown that many of those perceptions are just plain wrong.
Lately, paleontologists have been choosing odd bedfellows to study rare, precious fossils: particle physicists. At the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science this weekend, several researchers reported on how synchrotron particle accelerators—the world’s most powerful X-ray machines—are revealing new details about biological relics such as amber-trapped Cretaceous bugs, the celebrated bird-dinosaur Archaeopteryx, and what appears to be the world’s only fossilized brain.
You can almost see scientists rubbing their hands (or groaning) whenever a new Hollywood film rolls out, riddled with scientific errors. But one astronomer recently voiced a possibly blasphemous suggestion – maybe it's ok if a movie flubs the facts, as long as it gets the big picture right about science and scientists.
Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute comes with his own experience on Hollywood sets, having served as scientific advisor on the 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. His biggest problem wasn't with the alien technology of Klaatu, the extraterrestrial harbinger of doom played by Keanu Reeves. Instead, he fought for the filmmakers to stop showing the scientists as number-crunching stereotypes.
Can drooling make you a better kisser? Scientific evidence suggests that wet, sloppy smooches pack a bigger biochemical punch than dry kisses and thus may be more likely to lead to sex and reproduction, says Rutgers University researcher Helen Fischer, who spoke today at the AAAS conference in Chicago.
Scientists hit the dance floor for a shot at fame and glory
By Bjorn CareyPosted 12.15.2008 at 3:06 pm 0 Comments
At this year's AAAS meetings, scientists will be given the opportunity to express their research through interpretive dance. The idea is to "shatter a few stereotypes about stuffy, lab-bound researchers." If past years' scientist/media parties have taught me anything, it's that these scientists are as uninhibited as they are uncoordinated on the dance floor. If ever there was a reason for us to take a video camera to AAAS, this would be it.
After the jump, check out the entry videos of the four research groups who'll receive professional choreography help to present their dances at the meetings. My favorite is "Resolving pathways of functional coupling in human hemoglobin using quantitative low temperature isoelectric focusing of asymmetric mutant hybrids", but "The role of vitamin D in beta cell function" gets high points for entertainment.
What would you use to keep next-generation nuclear reactors cool? If you said highly reactive molten sodium, take a bow
By Michael MoyerPosted 02.16.2008 at 3:14 pm 15 Comments
It's going to be at least another two decades before any commercial models are built, but researchers are at work designing the Generation IV nuclear reactors. Unlike the generation II and III models now in use that use water to cool and control the fission (preventing runaway reactions, subsequent meltdowns and the environmental apocalypse that would result), the leading contender for cooling material for the Gen IV reactors is molten sodium. Not sodium chloride (plain, unreactive table salt), but sodium metal.
Once upon a time, the only fielding statistic listed on the back of baseball cards was fielding percentage, a simple calculation of the number of assists and putouts a player records divided by total chances.
We're getting better at detecting it, but the number of cases keeps growing.
By Seth FletcherPosted 02.16.2008 at 1:42 pm 1 Comment
Here's a mildly reassuring fact from today's AAAS news briefing on nuclear forensics: There are no known cases of a finished nuclear weapon being stolen or sold on the black market. But raw nuclear materials are a different story. In the past fifteen years, more than 1,300 cases of nuclear trafficking have been registered. Anita Nilsson of the International Atomic Energy Agency, a member of today's panel, said that most of these cases were "innocent," but some are anything but. The 400 grams of weapons-ready plutonium seized at the Munich airport in 1994?
By Michael MoyerPosted 02.15.2008 at 12:27 pm 1 Comment
Day 1,464 of the Mars rovers' 90-day mission to Mars (for those of you keeping track), and Steve Squires, the head of science operations for the Spirit and Opportunity rovers is getting us up to date on their latest findings. Most important: serendipity in action. The Spirit rover's right front wheel has broken, so engineers turn the rover around, drive it in reverse, and drag the wheel behind the rover. As it slogs across the planet, it carves a trench. And my, what a trench it carves.