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A new trial has begun in Victoria this week to evaluate a potential vaccine against COVID-19. The vaccine is called NVX-CoV2373 and is from a US biotech pany, Novavax. The trial will be carried out across Melbourne and Brisbane, and is the first human trial of a vaccine specifically for COVID-19 to take place in Australia. This vaccine is actually based on a vaccine that was already in development for influenza. But how might it work against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19? What’s in the mix? Vaccines trigger an immune response by introducing the cells of our immune…
'The uplift of the Tibetan Plateau' is invoked to explain?various phenomena, from monsoon dynamics to biodiversity evolution and everything in between. It's not accurate, finds a new paper. The orogeny of the Tibetan region (Tibet, The Himalaya and the Hengduan Mountains) dates back approximately 200 million years, long before the arrival of India, and was the product of earlier Gondwanan tectonic block collisions that produced a plex of mountain chains and valleys. The review finds?that the concept of an extensive low-relief Tibet, rising in its entirety as a result of the India-Eurasia…
With people confined to their homes, there is more interest in home-baked bread than ever before. And that means a lot of people are making friends with yeast for the first time. I am a professor of hospitality management and a former chef, and I teach in my university’s fermentation science program. As friends and colleagues struggle for success in using yeast in their baking – and occasionally brewing – I’m getting bombarded with questions about this interesting little microorganism. A little cell with a lot of power Yeasts are single-celled organisms in the fungus family. There are more…

Channel Surfing

Brain & Behavior

Social distancing due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the threat of COVID-19?has meant online munication is more popular than ever, with even casual parenting groups discovering the previous enterprise video conferencing tool Zoom. But how will that affect munications? Have you ever met someone who is stiff in person but great on camera or the other way around? Neuroscientists study brain and…
Almost 2 million Americans have age-related macular degeneration (AMD), where the cells in the retina, which is the?layer of tissue in the back of the eye, break down, causing?central vision to bee?blurry. Over time, 100,000 of those will bee blind. An international team of scientists has identified a protein, FHR4, which is strongly linked to AMD when its levels are raised in the blood.?…
Researchers 35 years and younger, the annual Eppendorf &Science Prize for Neurobiology, which is awarded for contributions to neurobiological research based on methods of molecular and cell biology, is now open for entries. Applying requires a 1,000-word essay and tell the prize mittee about your work. The prize is $25,000 plus Science magazine will publish an essay about your work. You'll…

Education

It's not infrequently that, whenever I plain about the increasing infiltration of quackery and pseudoscience into medicine, I sometimes lament that skeptics and supporters of science-based medicine are massively outgunned, because we are. Thus, we have the continued growth of what I like to refer to as "quackademic medicine," the infiltration of pseudoscience into medical academia in the form…
I've caught a fair amount of flak over my opposition to so-called "right-to-try" laws. Right-to-try laws have proliferated throughout the US like so much kudzu over the last three and a half years, to the point where 37 states now have some version of these profoundly anti-patient laws on the books. At the federal level, three weeks ago the Senate passed a federal version of right-to-try, with…
Acupuncture is nothing more than a theatrical placebo. I wish I could take credit for the term "theatrical placebo" to describe acupuncture, just as I wish I could take credit for coining the term "quackademic medicine" to describe the unfortunately increasing infiltration of quackery into academic medical centers and medical schools and as I wish I could take credit for the term "Tooth Fairy…

Environment

'The uplift of the Tibetan Plateau' is invoked to explain?various phenomena, from monsoon dynamics to biodiversity evolution and everything in between. It's not accurate, finds a new paper. The orogeny of the Tibetan region (Tibet, The Himalaya and the Hengduan Mountains) dates back approximately 200 million years, long before the arrival of India, and was the product of earlier Gondwanan…
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a coalition of activist groups which recently charged that climate change is contributing to exploitation of women, is now arguing that various factors?are causing 2,000 species of fireflies to go extinct.? They came to the conclusion?by surveying affiliates?to ask them what is driving fireflies to extinction.? According to survey…
Insects scuttle, chew and fly through the world around us. Humans rely on them to pollinate plants, prey on insects that we don’t get along with, and to be movers and shakers for Earth’s ecosystems. It’s hard to imagine a world without insects. That’s why news reports in recent months warning of an “insect apocalypse” sparked widespread alarm. These articles, which were based on long-term insect…

Free Thought

"I was born not knowing and have had only a little time to change that here and there." -Richard Feynman Scientists have long had a reputation for being uptight, serious, and even killjoy personalities. But 50+ years ago, Richard Feynman was forcing everyone who felt that way to challenge their assumptions. With his brash attitude and fun-seeking personality, Feynman seemingly was most at home…
"To burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves." -Federico García Lorca In an episode filled with Vulcan mindmelds, Klingon treachery, a spectacular nebula, themes of racial purity, and PTSD, you’d think all the ingredients were there for a spectacular episode of Star Trek: Discovery. Instead, describing it as a hot mess would be overly generous…
“You endure what is unbearable, and you bear it. That is all.” -Cassandra Clare Well, the cat's out of the bag. A little over a week ago, Scienceblogs announced to us writers that they no longer had the funds to keep the site operational, and so they would be shutting down. They asked us to keep quiet about this, people didn't and now you know. As of the end of this month, there will be no new…

Humanities

The proliferation of fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic has been labelled a dangerous “infodemic”. Fake news spreads faster and more easily today through the internet, social media and instant messaging. These messages may contain useless, incorrect or even harmful information and advice, which can hamper the public health response and add to social disorder and division. Confusingly some…
The spread of misinformation about the novel coronavirus, now known as COVID-19, seems greater than the spread of the infection itself. The World Health Organisation (WHO), government health departments and others are trying to alert people to these myths. But what’s the best way to tackle these if they e up in everyday conversation, whether that’s face-to-face or online? Is it best to…
Over the last two Mondays, I've been writing about an unproven cancer therapy that I hadn't really heard much about before. The cancer treatment is called Rigvir; it is manufactured in Latvia and marketed primarily through a Latvian entity called the International Virotherapy Center (IVC). To recap, Rigvir is an unmodified Echovirus, specifically ECHO-7, that, according to the IVC, seeks out…

Life Science

With people confined to their homes, there is more interest in home-baked bread than ever before. And that means a lot of people are making friends with yeast for the first time. I am a professor of hospitality management and a former chef, and I teach in my university’s fermentation science program. As friends and colleagues struggle for success in using yeast in their baking – and occasionally…
COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Coronaviruses belong to a group of viruses that infect animals, from peacocks to whales. They’re named for the bulb-tipped spikes that project from the virus’s surface and give the appearance of a corona surrounding it. A coronavirus infection usually plays out one of two ways: as an infection in the lungs that includes some cases of what…
After a newborn (born to a mother infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus disease?(COVID-19) testing positive for COVID-19 infection within 36 hours of birth, there were concerns about whether the virus could be contracted in the womb. A new study finds that COVID-19?does not pass to the child while in the womb. The women in the small study were?from Wuhan, China, in the third trimester of…

Medicine

A new trial has begun in Victoria this week to evaluate a potential vaccine against COVID-19. The vaccine is called NVX-CoV2373 and is from a US biotech pany, Novavax. The trial will be carried out across Melbourne and Brisbane, and is the first human trial of a vaccine specifically for COVID-19 to take place in Australia. This vaccine is actually based on a vaccine that was already in…
"You can’t fight a virus if you don’t know where it is." These were the words of Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, at his briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic in mid-March. He made the statement in a bid to underscore the need to test many more people as key to containing the spread of the disease. Ordinarily, that makes sense and I would…
Is the coronavirus a pandemic, and does that matter? 4 questions answered The new coronavirus has now affected more than 20,000 people in China and claimed more lives as of Feb. 4 than the SARS epidemic from 2002 to 2004. Hong Kong has reported its first death. Some public health officials have said the outbreak is likely to soon be a pandemic, but the World Health Organization said Feb. 4 that…

Physical Science

As surprising as it may sound, no one really knows what an electron is, and it is this fundamental question that has been the driving force for much of modern physics and eventually led to the development of quantum field theory. To answer the question “What is an electron?”, you would think the first step would be to observe it. However, that is easier said than done. Electrons are simply too…
"Delay is the deadliest form of denial." -C. Northcote Parkinson Every massless particle and wave travels at the speed of light when it moves through a vacuum. Over a distance of 130 million light years, the gamma rays and gravitational waves emitted by merging neutron stars arrived offset by a mere 1.7 seconds, an incredible result! Yet if the light was emitted at the same time as the merger,…
“On what can we now place our hopes of solving the many riddles which still exist as to the origin and position of cosmic rays?” –Victor Francis Hess It’s often said that advanced in physics aren’t met with?“eureka!” but rather with?“that’s funny,” but the truth is even stranger sometimes. Rather than the scientific method of: hypothesis, method, experiment, results, conclusion, revise, repeat…

Politics

“I am looking at the future with concern, but with good hope.” –Albert Schweitzer Every so often, the argument es up that science is expendable. That we’re simply investing too much of our resources — too much public money — into an endeavor with no short-term benefits. Meanwhile, there’s suffering of all kinds, from poverty to disease to war to natural disasters, plaguing humanity all across…
A man who was not even known as a gun collector amassed an arsenal that all experts agree included illegal fully automatic weapons. He carried out an act of carnage, alone and using only those weapons, that exceeded in casualty count almost every military battle fought in recent decades by American troops, and that equaled or surpassed all but a very small number of terrorist attacks. He shot…
Two years ago, I wrote about a study that demonstrated how the antivaccine movement had learned to use Twitter to amplify their antiscience message. At the time, I noted how in 2014, when the whole "CDC whistleblower" conspiracy theory was first hatched, antivaxers were so bad at Twitter, so obvious, so naive. The Tweeted inane claims at government officials, scientists, legislators, and whoever…

Technology

Scientists have used an unnatural amino acid and a catalytic copper plex to create?a new, artificial enzyme.? Enzymes are natural catalysts that operate under mild conditions. This makes them an attractive alternative for industrial chemical catalysis, which may require high temperature and pressure and toxic solvents or metals. However, not all chemical reactions can be catalyzed by natural…
DNA evidence often isn’t as watertight as many people think. Sensitive techniques developed over the past 20 years mean that police can now detect minute traces of DNA at a crime scene or on a piece of evidence. But traces from a perpetrator are often mixed with those from many other people that have been transferred to the sample site, for example via a handshake. And this problem has led to…
"When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways - either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength." -Dalai Lama Orbiting at hundreds of miles above Earth’s atmosphere, you’d think the Hubble Space Telescope would be safe and stable for a long time. But despite our definitions, Earth’s atmosphere doesn’t “end” and…