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Science AMA Series: I'm Steven Strogatz, a professor of mathematics at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. I apply math to biology and physics and love communicating with the public about math through books, radio shows, and New York Times articles, and I’m here today to talk about it. AMA!
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Researchers find that one person likely drove Bitcoin from $150 to $1,000, in a new study published in the Journal of Monetary Economics. Unregulated cryptocurrency markets remain vulnerable to manipulation today.
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Fracking is one of the least sustainable ways to produce electricity, says new study. When comparing environmental, economic and social sustainability, scientists find shale gas extraction ranks 7th out of 9 different energy sources.
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Conservatives are more vulnerable than liberals to "echo chambers" because they are more likely to prioritize conformity and tradition when making judgments and forming their social networks.
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More than half of youth and young adults who had consumed energy drinks reported adverse outcomes, some serious enough to warrant seeking medical help. The adverse outcomes were significantly more prevalent than with other sources of caffeine such as coffee.
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Wildlife species are being exposed to high levels of rat poison in northwest California, with illegal marijuana farms the most likely source point. Study found 7 of the 10 northern spotted owls and 40% of the 84 barred owls collected tested positive for rat poison.
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The Varroa mite may be the biggest threat to honeybees. Now, scientists have found a new way to fight them. Tiny amounts of lithium chloride kill 90% to 100% of mites without killing bees.
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The probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri may help treat colicky breastfed babies less than 3 months old. Study has found that the probiotic is twice as likely as a placebo to reduce crying by 50% after three weeks of treatment for colicky babies who are exclusively breastfed.
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The "Two Brothers" mummies were found in 1907 with a label showing their mom's name. DNA evidence shows they were not brothers but half-brothers.
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Group recreates DNA of man who died in 1827 not using his remains but just DNA samples from his descendants
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When an infectious disease cannot be contained, ants engage in “destructive disinfection.” Researchers exposed ant pupae (developing “babies”) to a fungus. The pupae were groomed to remove any signs of the fungus. Then, they were sprayed with formic acid, leaving behind a heavily damaged corpse.
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Dietary salt promotes neurovascular and cognitive dysfunction through a gut-initiated TH17 response
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Genetically "normal" BRCA-1 genes with abnormal methylation are strongly associated with ovarian cancer. This may have clinical implications as current screening tests do not capture abnormal methylation.
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Chemists have synthesised several variants of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. Its structure can be altered with light, and the researchers have used this to create a new tool that can be used to more effectively study the body’s own cannabinoid system.
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Surfers more likely to harbour antibiotic resistant superbugs, study finds - Beach Bums project looked at surfers’ faeces and found they are three times more likely to carry drug-resistant E coli bacteria. Researchers found that surfers swallow ten times more seawater than swimmers.
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New Study Links Pregnant Women Taking Acetaminophen with Language Delays in Baby Girls
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For the first time, astronomers spot a supermassive black hole that has spewed out material twice, revealing its feeding behavior over time.
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A survey of 4000 millionaires found that only at higher levels of wealth are they happier than those at lower levels and that those that inherited their money were less happy than those who earned it
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After crows fight they touch and preen each other to make up
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In urban streams, persistent pharmaceutical pollution can cause aquatic microbial communities to become resistant to drugs.
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Study of 385-million-year-old shark suggests humans and sharks shared common ancestor 440 million years ago
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Robust prediction of individual creative ability from brain functional connectivity
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Human Emissions Made Ocean Heat Wave 53 Times More Likely - Three 2016 marine heat waves that killed whales, birds, corals, and shellfish from Australia to Alaska were many times more likely thanks to climate change.
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Cancer Risk: Why do women with melanoma do better than men
2014
Children who experienced severe peer victimization/bullying were more than twice as likely to report depression or low moods at age 15, and 3 times more likely to report anxiety. The severe victimization group was almost 3.5 times more likely to report serious suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts.
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Study finds that global warming exacerbates refugee crises | when temperatures in agricultural areas and seasons at the source countries varied away from an optimal value (of about 20°C), the number of people seeking asylum increased.
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Feeding live invertebrate prey in zoos and aquaria: Are there welfare concerns?
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Harvard Geoengineering researchers propose seeding of airplane engine exhaust with sulfuric acid (in the stratosphere) for better particle size distribution control that is suited to solar radiation management purposes
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Learning Dependent Chromatin Remodeling Highlights Noncoding Regulatory Regions Linked to Autism
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Meta-analysis of action video game impact on perceptual, attentional, and cognitive skills. - PubMed
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Western University researchers are finding a link between athletes with severe concussions and patients living with ALS — a degenerative neurological disorder.
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UK group identifies a novel botulinum toxin gene cluster from Enterococcus species. This is the first complete botulinum toxin gene cluster identified in a non-clostridial genome.
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Black Death spread by human fleas and lice, research shows
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A new study suggests that older people who have worsening anxiety symptoms may be more likely to develop Alzheimer's disease. Anxiety disorders are common across the United States, thought to affect around 40 million adults each year.
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A Military Medicine pilot study finds that meditation brings PTSD symptoms below clinical levels in 80% of veterans within 30 days, an average 54.5% decline in PTL-5 scores among the 46 veterans in the study
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Here's a physiological reason why some people are more creative than others
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The share of culturally different immigrants is a significant and sizable determinant of anti-immigration votes (research paper)
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A study has found that junior surgeons need years of training before becoming excellent surgeons. However, with the advent of robotic surgery, the junior surgeon's practice is significantly reduced, and evidence suggests that junior surgeons don’t acquire the skills they require.
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Obesity shaved almost a year off life expectancy in the US, according to a new study PNAS.
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Teens using Instagram and Snapchat more than 2 hours/day tend to develop body image concerns, which in turn lead to poorer mental health.
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Long tube butterflies use to suck nectar from flowers actually developed before flowering plants did, so it must have originally evolved for a different purpose
931 tuctrohs As is common with these things, the authors of the actual scientific article present it more rationally and with less unjustified hype than the Popular Fiction article does. Their blurb says >A sweet source to make acrylonitrile >Much of the attention directed toward displacing petroleum feedstocks with biomass has focused on fuels. However, there are also numerous opportunities in commodity chemical production. One such candidate is acrylonitrile, a precursor to a wide variety of plastics and fibers that is currently derived from propylene. Karp et al. efficiently manufactured this compound from an ester (ethyl 3-hydroxypropanoate) that can be sourced renewably from sugars. The process relies on inexpensive titania as a catalyst and avoids the side production of cyanide that accompanies propylene oxidation. In particular, they do not claim that this is going to radically decrease cost or that the petroleum feedstock is a significant driver of the cost of carbon fiber. I think this is motivated more by a general concept that we should get away from relying on petroleum, because we might run out of it. It seems to me more likely that we'll stop burning (as much) petroleum, and thus we won't run out, and will have it available for stuff like making carbon fiber. But even though I find the hype in the Popular Fiction article annoying, I like this research, for the fact low-cost catalyst which might be a real way to reduce the cost, and for avoiding the production of cyanide. # Edit: Adding some more details since there's been so much interest: From the scientific paper, not the popular science summary, some key numbers and statements around these issues are: >... state-of-the-art materials capable of producing ACN at molar yields of 83% from propylene. However, fluctuations in the price of the propylene feedstock translate directly to ACN price volatility. and >2 lbs of ACN are required to generate 1 lb of fiber and >On the basis of this proposed process, we performed a techno-economic analysis predicting the selling price of ACN at $0.89/lb from lignocellulosic sugars and $0.76/lb from sucrose. These target prices are in the range of fossil fuel–derived ACN prices between $0.40 and $1.00/lb over the past decade. Additionally, the greenhouse gas emissions from this process were estimated to achieve a 14.1% improvement relative to propylene-derived ACN. So that translates to a contribution to the cost of carbon fiber from the feedstock of $0.80 to $2/lb from petroleum or $1.52 to $1.78/lb from the new process. Best case, we are saving $0.48/lb of carbon fiber; worst case more than doubling the cost. Making carbon fiber requires more than ACN--it also requires a lot of energy and a lot of special equipment. The cost of the fibers--not the finished composite parts using them--is about $7-8 in large quantities. So best case we are talking about a 6 or 7% decrease in cost. That's a fantastic research contribution, and the authors should be proud of it and that attention it's getting. Now given those numbers, consider how the Popular Fiction article begins: > Carbon fiber is made from oil and other costly ingredients, making the end product exceptionally expensive. That’s why carbon fiber shows up in race cars but rarely makes it into minivans. >That could change. Scientists say it may soon be possible to make carbon fiber from plants instead of petroleum, driving down costs, making the material more widely available for use in cars, planes and other vehicles. There's a ounce of truth in each of those sentences but it deliberately implies a bigger impact than is plausible. Especially when you consider that not only is ACN just one part of the cost of carbon fiber: in additon, the cost of the carbon fiber is just one part of the cost of making a carbon fiber composite part. A lot of progress is being made in making the further steps more automated, but that isn't what this piece of work is about.
46 stdaro Here's some actual science: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2238785415000599 tl;dr = lignin powder, a cheap by product of paper production, could replace petroleum for the creation of carbon fiber precursors for a significant cost savings.
34 sangjmoon The problem is that oil is staying relatively cheap as the USA becomes the the largest producer of oil. As a side effect, the USA is also becoming the world powerhouse in petrochemicals like plastic and carbon fiber from oil.
11 Mharbles So basically skipping the middle-man of time by replacing ancient decomposed heavily processed plant life for new slightly less processed plant life
4 morthaz They already used cellulose as a precursor in the 70s. Union Carbide for example had a fiber named "Thornel 100" in 1971 that outperformed any PAN-based fiber at that time. I could link you the paper, if you are interested, but it's in german.
17 zeropi i tought the entire point of carbon fiber was to not make it from petroleum
3 tenorsaxhero What i would love to see take off in the united states is bioplastic bags.
8 Zhilenko There are a few differences between steel and carbon fiber, a lot of high end cars use carbon fiber in place of aluminum, but the composite material is only strong in tension along the directions of its fibers. It's not going to be able to replace the structural components in modern passenger cars without some significant overhaul on passenger safety systems. It's great as a body panel if you can make it cheap, but again it's not a tough material which means it fails completely when it fails such as in impact events. But this is a cool article highlighting the process improvement for acrylonitrile synthesis. The chemical is a precursor for modern lab and medical gloves too so it could have a significant impact.