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According to scientists, a poison arrow in the quiver may let loose a very sticky nether-region massacre.
The poison in question has spattered from the tips of African weapons for centuries, rubbing out wild beasts and halting the hearts of warriors. But, according to a study in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, a crotch shot of an ancient toxin called “ouabain” can also take out sperm. By tweaking the poison’s chemical backbone (or scaffold), it can selectively paralyze trouser troops and prevent them from storming eggs, the authors report.
The study’s authors, led by Shameem Sultana Syeda of the University of Minnesota, are optimistic that, with further aiming, the poison’s progeny could one day strike as a safe, reversible male contraceptive.
Proteins are chains of amino acids, and each link in the chain can hold any one of the 20 amino acids that life relies on. If you were to pick each link at random, the number of possible proteins ends up reaching astronomical levels pretty fast.
So how does life ever end up evolving entirely new genes? One lab has been answering that question by making its own proteins from scratch.
Way back in 2016, the same lab figured out that new, random proteins can perform essential functions. And those new proteins were really new. They were generated by scientists who made amino acid sequences at random and then kept any that folded into the stable helical structures commonly found in proteins. These proteins were then screened to see if any could rescue E. coli that were missing a gene essential to survival.
If it were easy to pin down the exact value for our planet’s sensitivity to greenhouse gas emission, it would have been done a long time ago—and you wouldn’t be reading yet another news story about it. It's not like we have no idea how sensitive the climate is. The range of possible values that scientists have been able to narrow it down to only spans from “climate change is very bad news” to “climate change is extremely bad news.”
But the difference between “very bad” and “extremely bad” is pretty important, so climate scientists aren’t throwing up their hands any time soon—as two new studies published this week show.
There are several basic strategies available for calculating the climate's sensitivity. These range from studying climate changes in the distant past to building and evaluating climate models to analyzing the warming over the last century or so. Each strategy has pros and cons. A handful of studies looking at the last century made waves a few years ago for yielding oddly lowball estimates of the impact of CO2 on warming, for example. Later studies have found problems that push those estimates upward when corrected, but one of this week’s studies demonstrates that the entire strategy is inherently problematic.
By law, the National Science Foundation is required to do a biennial evaluation of the state of science research and innovation. This is one of the years it's due, and the NSF has gotten its Science and Engineering Indicators report ready for delivery to Congress and the president. The report is generally optimistic, finding significant funding for science and a strong return on that investment in terms of jobs and industries. But it does highlight how the global focus is shifting, with China and South Korea making massive investments in research and technology.
Science isn't a monolithic endeavor, so there's no way to create a single measure that captures global scientific progress. Instead, the NSF looked at 42 different indicators that track things like research funding, business investments, training of scientists, and more. All of these measures were evaluated for the globe, in order to put the US' scientific activity in perspective.Show me the money
Overall, science funding is on a good trajectory. In 2005, global R&D spending was just under a trillion dollars; by 2015, it had cleared $2 trillion. In total, 75 percent of that is spent in 10 nations; in order of spending, these are the United States, China, Japan, Germany, South Korea, France, India, and the United Kingdom. The US alone spends about $500 billion. China, which was at roughly $100 billion a decade ago, has now cleared $400 billion.