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An explosive epidemic of HIV/AIDs has gripped Russia in recent years, partly with the strength of anti-Western conspiracy theories online that promote the idea that the virus is simply a myth.
Online groups, forums, and chat rooms have repeatedly sprouted up to spew denialism of HIV and AIDS recently—often with thousands of members—according to a new report by the AFP. One group dubbed the virus “the greatest myth of the 20th century,” while calling HIV drugs “poison” and doctors “killers” working to enrich pharmaceutical companies. They coached believers on how to deny treatment. Others claimed the "myth" of AIDS is intended to establish “total control” over the world population.
Meanwhile, Russia has seen steep and consistent increases in rate of new HIV cases in the past decade, even as the rest of the world has seen declines. Since 2006, the rate of new cases in Russia has increased by at least 149 percent and has been steadily increasing by 10 to 15 percent each year. There are now more than 900,000 Russians living with HIV, with 10 new cases reported each hour. About 80 people die from AIDS-related issues each day.
At present, the Voyager spacecraft is 21 billion kilometers from Earth, or about 141 times the distance between the Earth and Sun. It has, in fact, moved beyond our Solar System into interstellar space. However, we can still communicate with Voyager across that distance.
This week, the scientists and engineers on the Voyager team did something very special. They commanded the spacecraft to fire a set of four trajectory thrusters for the first time in 37 years to determine their ability to orient the spacecraft using 10-millisecond pulses.
After sending the commands on Tuesday, it took 19 hours and 35 minutes for the signal to reach Voyager. Then, the Earth-bound spacecraft team had to wait another 19 hours and 35 minutes to see if the spacecraft responded. It did. After nearly four decades of dormancy, the Aerojet Rocketdyne manufactured thrusters fired perfectly.
To the best of our ability to tell, everything on Earth shares a few common features. It encodes information in DNA using a set of four bases, A, T, C, and G. Sets of three bases are used to code for a single amino acid, and most organisms use a set of 20 amino acids to build proteins. These features appear everywhere, from plants and animals to bacteria and viruses, suggesting that they appeared in the last common ancestor of life on Earth.
This raises a question that comes up a lot in evolutionary studies: are these features used because they're in some way efficient, or did we end up stuck with them as a result of some historic accident?
A team of California-based researchers has been building an argument that it's an accident. And it's doing so by expanding life beyond the limitations inherited from its common ancestor. After having expanded the genetic alphabet to six letters, the team has now engineered a bacterial strain that uses the extra letters to put an unnatural amino acid into proteins.
Four-time astronaut Charles Bolden resigned as NASA administrator on Jan. 20, 2017, leaving the space agency after more than seven years on the job. Since then, a former director of the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, Robert Lightfoot, has served as interim director. He has held this post now for 315 days, or nearly 11 months.
According to an analysis of the gaps between administrators at the space agency, NASA has never gone this long without a formal administrator. Beginning with T. Keith Glennan, in 1958 and running through the term of Charles Bolden six decades later, there have been ten transitions between NASA administrators. The average gap between administrators has been 3.7 months.
There are two past analogs for the current situation, when an administrator for the president of one political party resigned on the day a new president from the other party took office. This occurred in 1981, when Robert Frosch resigned upon President Carter’s departure, and again in 2009, when Michael Griffin resigned upon George W. Bush’s departure. In each case, the gap between resignation and Senate approval of a new administrator was less than six months, 170 and 176 days, respectively.
It’s well known that patients struggle to clearly communicate their end-of-life wishes to those calling the shots at critical moments—generally doctors and family members. But, in case anyone was wondering, tattooing your wishes onto your body does not clear things up.
Emergency medicine doctors in Florida struggled to figure out how to respectfully care for an unconscious 70-year-old man with a chest tattoo that read “Do Not Resuscitate” followed by what appeared to be his signature.
In a case report published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, the doctors recounted:
As soon as scientists figured out how to harness the power of antibiotic drugs, bacteria hit back. Following clinical trials of penicillin around 1941, doctors documented the spread of penicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus among hospital patients in 1942. By the late 1960s, more than 80 percent of S. aureus bacteria isolated in and out of hospitals turned up resistant to the revolutionary drug.
It’s a common pattern that has led to the crisis of antibiotic resistance the world is now facing. In 1945, Alexander Fleming himself—the discoverer of penicillin—even warned of such “an era... of abuses,” in which strong public demand for antibiotics would drive bacterial resistance that render the “miraculous” drugs impotent.
The term “Anthropocene” was coined to connote humanity’s recent and indelible impact on the Earth. But it is not only geology and the climate that we have altered; our shuffling of species around the globe has thrown wrenches into many an ecosystem. The invasive species we import have been shown to change rapidly upon entering new territory, but how native species respond to these interlopers has not been as well documented.
In central Florida, there is an endangered bird, the snail kite, that, as its name implies, prefers to dine on apple snails. The size and shape of the kites’ curved bills have adapted to be perfect for plucking the snails out of their shells. These native snails are about an inch in diameter. By around 2009, exotic snails—“considered one of the world’s worst invaders,” according to a new study of this particular predation—had taken over. They are about three times as big as the native snails.
Using a combination of demographic data and genetic analyses of the birds, researchers have found that the new, larger snails have ended up facing larger birds with larger bills. The birds’ body mass increased, and the length of their bills increased—just the change required to cope with the larger prey. Not only did bill size increase, it even increased relative to body size, so even though the birds are larger, they still have more pronounced bills.
Plenty of studies boast about the medical possibilities of the Apple Watch, but Apple's wearable is a consumer device, not a medical one. However, the FDA just announced the approval of the first medical Apple Watch accessory, AliveCor's KardiaBand, which uses the wearable's heart rate technology and an attached sensor to provide EKG readings on the fly. An Apple Watch paired with a KardiaBand could provide users an EKG reading in 30 seconds, detecting abnormal heart rhythm and atrial fibrillation and sending that information to a doctor for further analysis.
The $199 device is an unassuming black band that attaches to the Apple Watch like other band accessories. On the band right below the Apple Watch module is the KardiaBand's silver sensor where users place their finger to take a reading. The Apple Watch's display shows the reading's data using a line graph that's similar to how the Apple Watch shows other heart rate data, and informs the user if their heart rate is normal or abnormal.
AliveCor's new SmartRhythm technology takes a more personalized approach to the prevention technology the Apple Watch already has. Currently, Apple's wearable can alert you when your heart rate spikes, but SmartRhythm uses AliveCor's deep neural network and your history of heart rate data to determine a healthy and normal heart rate range for you in relation to your activity levels. If an abnormality is detected during the Apple Watch's continuous measurement of your heart rate, AliveCor and KardiaBand's app will prompt you to take an EKG reading. The Watch's display will then show the normal heart rate range that KardiaBand's technology estimated for you, the abnormal heart rate detected, and where the EKG reading falls in relation to that data.
On Tuesday morning, a Russian rocket failed to properly deploy the 19 satellites it was carrying into orbit. Instead of boosting its payload, the Soyuz 2.1b rocket's Fregat upper stage fired in the wrong direction, sending the statellites on a suborbital trajectory instead, burning them up in Earth's atmosphere.
Now, we may know why. According to normally reliable Russian Space Web, a programming error caused the Fregat upper stage, which is the spacecraft on top of the rocket that deploys satellites, to be unable to orient itself. Specifically, the site reports, the Fregat's flight control system did not have the correct settings for a mission launching from the country's new Vostochny cosmodrome. It evidently was still programmed for Baikonur, or one of Russia's other spaceports capable of launching the workhorse Soyuz vehicle.
Essentially, then, after the Fregat vehicle separated from the Soyuz rocket, it was unable to find its correct orientation. Therefore, when the Fregat first fired its engines to boost the satellites into orbit, it was still trying to correct this orientation—and was in fact aimed downward toward Earth. This set the spacecraft on its fatal trajectory into the planet's atmosphere.
Our robots manage some pretty impressive feats—including back flips—through the whirring of motors and hydraulic pumps. But all of life manages to perform far more impressive feats using muscles. Muscles allow incredibly fine control of movement, along with violent bursts of exertion. As a result, there has been a steady stream of attempts to craft artificial muscles.
But a team of Harvard and MIT researchers use part of their new paper to catalog all the ways that these efforts fall a bit short: energy efficiencies below two percent, extremely high voltage requirements, or extremely slow contractions. So they decided to focus on a different approach: pressure-driven artificial muscles. They devised a system that mixes this pressure with an origami-inspired skeleton to (by some measures) outperform muscles.Pump it up
The basic design of their muscles is ingeniously simple. The muscles are centered on a rigid yet foldable "skeleton," which could be made of plastic or metal. This ensures that as the muscle expands and contracts, it folds (or unfolds) in a specific pattern that directs the force. The skeleton is surrounded by a sealed, flexible material, typically some sort of polymer sheet—think putting the skeleton in a form-fitting plastic bag. This can be filled using either a liquid or gas.
In the wake of a mass shooting or fresh data on gun violence, pundits and the media often blame the US’ high rate of gun ownership and deaths on a deeply rooted “gun culture.” For many—particularly advertisers—this culture conjures ideas of morally strong, empowered, self-reliant, American patriots bearing arms. And it grazes notions of masculine heroes, protectors, and providers.
But it’s difficult to define a single culture behind gun ownership and the opposition to gun control legislation that sometimes accompanies that. More importantly, blaming something as vague as “culture” isn’t exactly helpful for identifying ways to reduce the US’ high death toll.
Aiming for more useful data, researchers tried to hit on factors behind why people own guns and their attachments to them. Who owns guns and how do they feel about their possessions? And how do those feelings affect their stances on gun policies?
Archaeologists were called to Glenfield Park, Leicestershire, just before a development company broke ground on a massive project to build a warehouse and distribution center. People walking in the grassy field between two towns on the fringes of Leicester had found what seemed to be ancient artifacts. Previous digs in the area had uncovered a few Iron Age items, so it seemed likely there might be something more to find. Indeed there was. Much more. In fact, according to University of Leicester Archaeological Services' John Hancock, new excavations revealed a 2000-year-old feasting center full of rare, valuable items, including 11 ceremonial cauldrons.
Archaeologists had uncovered a party town.
Psychologist Nicolas Guéguen publishes studies that create irresistible headlines. His research investigating the effects of wearing high heels made it into Time: "Science Proves It: Men Really Do Find High Heels Sexier." The Atlantic has cited his finding that men consider women wearing red to be more attractive. Even The New York Times has covered his work.
Guéguen's large body of research is the kind of social psychology that demonstrates, and likely fuels, the Mars vs. Venus model of gender interactions. But it seems that at least some of his conclusions are resting on shaky ground. Since 2015, a pair of scientists, James Heathers and Nick Brown, has been looking closely at the results in Guéguen's work. What they've found raises a litany of questions about statistical and ethical problems. In some cases, the data is too perfectly regular or full of oddities, making it difficult to understand how it could have been generated by the experiment described by Guéguen.
Heathers and Brown have contacted the French Psychological Society (SFP) with the details of their concerns. After nearly two years of receiving unsatisfactory responses from Guéguen, the SFP stepped away from the problem, saying that there was nothing more it could do.
On Tuesday morning, a Russian Soyuz 2.1b rocket lifted off on schedule from a new spaceport, carrying the the Meteor M2-1 weather and climate satellite, as well as more than a dozen secondary payloads. However, the satellite never reached its target orbit, more than 825km above Earth.
According to Russian media reports, the Fregat upper stage separated from the rocket about 10 minutes after launch, but then something went wrong. At least one of the two firings of the Fregat stage, which is used to insert satellites into their designated orbits, apparently did not happen. Russian space journalist Anatoly Zak reports that human error may have been involved, with an errant pre-programmed flight sequence. Roscosmos has since lost contact with the satellite.
This failure is troublesome for the Russian space program for at least a couple of reasons. This is the fourth failure of the versatile Fregat space tug, which has been in service for about two decades. All of the problems have occurred since 2009, when there have been problems with flight data, third-stage failures, and control system failures. In each of the cases, the satellite did not reach its desired orbit.
More than 60 percent of NIH-supported comprehensive cancer centers in the US include “integrative medicine” in their services and patient information. And in recent years, the centers’ inclusion of dubious treatments has only grown, according to a new article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute Monographs.
For instance, the number of centers providing patients with information on “healing touch”—a type of “energy medicine”—increased nearly 30 percent between 2009 and 2016. Cancer patients at 26 of the 45 government-designated comprehensive centers around the country can now learn about that hocus-pocus along with actual cancer therapies. Likewise, inclusion of Ayurveda—a pseudoscience involving herbal, mineral, and metal treatments—increased by 10 percent in the same timeframe. Now, 18 of 45 cancer centers supported by the National Cancer Institute provide patients with information on that sorcery.
While the data may alarm evidence-based physicians and health experts, an accompanying article on the semantics of “integrative medicine” may be of more concern. In it, advocates of “integrative medicine” try to define what “integrative medicine” is, exactly. But rather than a clear definition, they create a vague and broad one that includes “mind and body practices.” It involves everything from the “medicalized” components of a healthy lifestyle (such as simple exercise) to what can charitably be described as magic.
A mere 100 meters (328 feet) from the damaged reactor at Chernobyl in Ukraine, a one-megawatt, $1.2 million solar panel installation will likely be commissioned next month, according to Bloomberg. Back in summer 2016, the Ukrainian government said it was eager to get solar projects on the 1,000 square miles of radioactive land, and Ukrainian engineering firm Rodina Energy Group appears set to be an early arrival on the scene.
A solar installation makes sense in the shadow of the nuclear energy plant whose reactor exploded in 1986. The land is too radioactive for farming, or hunting, or forestry, and transmission lines that were intended to send electricity from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant to the rest of Ukraine are already in place. Rodina and its partner Enerparc AG, a German financing company, plan to spend up to €100 million (or $119 million) to build renewable energy in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone.
Rodina isn’t the only company looking to take up the Ukrainian government’s offer of cheap land. A year ago, two Chinese companies announced a plan to build a huge 1 GW solar farm in Chernobyl's exclusion zone, although the companies seem to have made little movement on that plan thus far. In July of this year, French energy company Energie SA also announced plans to conduct a pre-feasibility study for a billion-euro solar plant near Chernobyl. Ukraine’s minister of ecology told Bloomberg at the time that more than 60 companies had expressed interest in building renewable energy in the vicinity of Chernobyl.
Since Pokémon Go's launch last summer, there have been plenty of anecdotal news reports and social media mentions of players being hurt or even killed while playing the game. A new study from Purdue University, though, uses detailed local traffic accident reports to suggest that Pokémon Go caused a marked increase in vehicular damage, injuries, and even deaths due to people playing the game while driving.
In the provocatively titled "Death by Pokémon Go" (which has been shared online but has yet to be peer-reviewed), Purdue professors Mara Faccio and John J. McConnell studied nearly 12,000 accident reports in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, in the months before and after Pokémon Go's July 6, 2016 launch. The authors then cross-referenced those reports with the locations of Pokéstops in the county (where players visit frequently to obtain necessary in-game items) to determine whether the introduction of a Pokéstop correlated with an increase in accident frequency, relative to intersections that didn't have them.Getting at causation
While the incidence of traffic accidents increased across the county after Pokémon Go's introduction, that increase was a statistically significant 26.5 percent greater at intersections within 100 meters of a Pokéstop, compared to those farther away. All told, across the county, the authors estimate 134 extra accidents occurred near Pokéstops in the 148-day period immediately after the game came out, compared to the baseline where those Pokéstops didn't exist. That adds up to nearly $500,000 in vehicle damage, 31 additional injuries, and two additional deaths across the county, based on extrapolation from the accident reports.
First came the Hubble Space Telescope. Now, NASA is finalizing development of the James Webb Space Telescope for launch in 2019. And finally, the space agency is beginning to design and develop its next great space telescope, the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or WFIRST.
This instrument will have a primary mirror of 2.4 meters, the same size as the Hubble's, and be designed to hunt for dark energy and spy on exoplanets. Although similar in size to Hubble, the WFIRST telescope's infrared instrument would have a field of view that is 100 times greater than the Hubble, allowing it to observe much more of the sky in less time. It was also supposed to carry a special coronagraph, which could block the light of stars and allow astronomers to observe exoplanets directly.
But a new report—released without fanfare on the Wednesday before the Thanksgiving holiday—calls into question the viability of the project. "The risks to the primary mission of WFIRST are significant and therefore the mission is not executable without adjustments and/or additional resources," the report states. It estimated the cost of the project at $3.9 billion to $4.2 billion, significantly above the project's $3.6 billion budget.
Thunderstorms have a lot of overt indications of power, from the thunder and lightning to torrential rains and hail. But the full extent of their power wasn't obvious until recent years, when we discovered they generate antimatter. Now, researchers in Japan have looked at this phenomenon more closely and determined that a lightning bolt generates a zone that contains unstable isotopes of oxygen and nitrogen, leading to series of radioactive decays over the next minute.Transformative
All of these phenomena are powered by the fact that the electric fields within thunderstorms are able to accelerate electrons to extremely high energies. Whenever these electrons move along a curved path, they emit radiation that's proportional to their energy. As a result, a storm can be associated with bursts of gamma rays, extremely high-energy photons.
Gamma rays rays are primarily noted for their interaction with the electrons of any atoms they run into—it's why they're lumped in the category of ionizing radiation. But they can also interact with the nucleus of the atom. With sufficient energy, they can kick out a neutron from some atoms, transforming them into a different isotope. Some of the atoms this occurs with include the most abundant elements in our atmosphere, like nitrogen and oxygen. And, in fact, elevated neutron detections had been associated with thunderstorms in the past.
Neutrinos are one of the most plentiful particles out there, as trillions pass through you every second. But they're incredibly hard to work with. They're uncharged, so we can't control their path or accelerate them. They're also nearly massless and barely interact with other matter, so they're hard to detect. All of this means that a lot of the predictions our physics theories make about neutrinos are hard to test.
The IceCube detector, located at the South Pole, has now confirmed a part of the Standard Model of physics, which describes the properties of fundamental particles and their interactions. According to the Standard Model, neutrinos should become more likely to interact with other particles as their energy goes up. To test this, the IceCube team used neutrinos thousands of times more energetic than our best particle accelerators can make and used the entire planet as a target.Polar cube
IceCube consists of hundreds of detectors buried in the ice under the South Pole. These detectors pick up particles that move through the ice. In some cases, IceCube sees a spray of particles and photons when something slams into one of the atoms in the ice. In other cases, particles simply nudge the atoms, liberating a few photons. There's no neutrino source pointed at IceCube, though. Instead, it relies on natural sources of neutrinos. Some of these are produced far away in space, and travel great distances to Earth. Others are produced as cosmic rays slam into the atmosphere.