Resolutions & Martian Meteorite | SciByte 76

Resolutions & Martian Meteorite  | SciByte 76

We take a look at my version of the best and the worst science stories 2012, the science behind a few new years resolutions, IQ scores, a Martian Meteorite, Curiosity news, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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“Best” and “Worst” of 2012

  • Retraction | Faster-Than-Light Neutrinos
  • Back in October 2011, CERN researchers timed the roughly 16,000 neutrinos and said that, on average, the neutrinos made the 450 mi [730 km], 2.43-millisecond trip roughly 60 nanoseconds faster than expected if they were traveling at light speed. (~ 0.0025% faster)
  • By February 2012 there were questions about wiring, GPS satellite timing, or missing suspected radiation should they have been FTL
  • The OPERA team later discovered that a loose fiber optic cable had introduced a delay in their timing system that explained the effect
  • A month later they measured the speed of neutrinos fired from CERN and found that they do indeed travel at light speed, as predicted
  • Some OPERA team members thought the whole episode had besmirched the collaboration’s reputation, and in March 2012, two of the team’s elected leaders lost a vote of no confidence and tendered their resignations.
  • Retraction | Hyung-In Moon
  • The Korean scientist Hyung-In Moon took the concept of scientific peer review to a whole new level by reviewing his own papers under various fake names
  • Peer review is a process in which scientific peers in the same field judge the merit of a submitted journal paper
  • The editors at a Medical Journal grew suspicious when four of his glowing reviews came back within 24 hours, when most reviewers take weeks or months to reply
  • Moon’s research, included a study on alcoholic liver disease and another on an anticancer plant substance
  • He admitted to falsifying data in some of his papers, and 35 of his papers were retracted in 2012
  • Retraction | Cell-phone Cancer links
  • Studies proposing a link between cellphone use and cancer often rely on weak statistics.
  • In 2008, scientists published a paper stating that cellphones in standby mode lowered the sperm count and caused other adverse changes in the testicles of rabbits
  • Although small and published in a rather obscure journal, the study made the news rounds.
  • In March 2012, the authors retracted the paper because the lead author didn’t get permission from his two co-authors
  • According to the retraction notice, there was a “lack of evidence to justify the accuracy of the data presented in the article.”
  • Retraction | Failure is Better?
  • Dutch social psychologist Diederik Stapel claimed that “failure sometimes feels better than success”
  • It now appears that his research is either mostly or completely fabricated
  • So far, 31 papers have been retracted
  • Another one of his studies that is now under suspicion found that meat eaters are more selfish and less social than vegetarians
  • My # 4 Story | Extremes
  • James Cameron is the first to go alone to Challenger Deep to almost 36,000 feet below sea level, during the Deep Sea Challenge.
  • The Mariana Trench,in the western Pacific Ocean, is deeper than Mount Everest is tall and only two other humans have ever visited it.
  • YouTube | Tiny sub used in James Cameron’s deep sea dive | CNN
  • Apollo 11 & James Cameron | SciByte 40 (April 3, 2012)
  • Felix Baumgartner jumped from a world record 128,100 ft [39,045 m] or just over 24 mi [39 km] and landed in eastern New Mexico on 14 October 2012
  • Baumgartner broke the speed of sound and the record for highest jump that had been set in 1960 by Col. Joe Kittinger
  • YouTube Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic freefall from 128k’ – Mission Highlights | redbull
  • Red Bull Stratos & SpaceX | SciByte 66 (October 9, 2012)
  • My # 3 Story | Dragon Spaceship
  • On 22 May 2012 SpaceX successfully launched the Dragon C2+ with almost 900 pounds of cargo to the international space station in its first official mission in October
  • The pressurized section carried 1,014 pounds [460 kg] of non-critical cargo to the ISS, which included food, water, clothing, cargo bags, computer hardware, the NanoRacks Module 9 (student experiments and scientific gear) and other miscellaneous cargo
  • The vehicle returned with 1,367 pounds [620 kg]
  • On 23 August 2012, NASA announced that SpaceX and their Falcon 9-Dragon system was certified to begin their cargo delivery
  • Their $1.6 billion contract calls for at least 12 resupply missions. The first of those flights was launched on October 7, 2012
  • Mission Highlights: SpaceX’s Dragon Makes History | spacexchannel
  • My # 2 Story | Curiosity Touchdown Confirmed
  • The first-of-it’s-kind landing process included a supersonic parachute and a sky crane that brought the rover to less than 1.5 mi [2.4 km] away from the center of the target landing area
  • Spirit and Opportunity, have found compelling evidence that liquid water once persisted on the surface of Mars
  • With Curiosity scientists hope to determine if other things necessary for life were also present, these building blocks include six elements necessary to all life on Earth: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur.
  • It is also examining the history of the Martian atmosphere, an earlier thicker, wetter atmosphere may have provided better environmental conditions for supporting microbial life in Mars’ early history.
  • Mars Science Laboratory will study the rock and soil record in order to understand the geologic processes that created and modified the martian crust and surface through time. In particular, it would look for evidence of rocks that formed in the presence of water.
  • Curiosity has already found an ancient streambed where water flowed continuously for thousands of years long ago. It has also identified some simple organics on Mars, though researchers aren’t yet sure if the carbon within the molecules is native to the Red Planet.
  • YouTube | Curiosity Has Landed | JPLnews
  • My # 1 Story| Higgs-Boson
  • Scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, said they used the Large Hadron Collider to detect a particle whose characteristics matched those of the Higgs boson.
  • The Higgs-Boson particle is part of the Higgs field, that is responsible for the mass of all the matter in the universe
  • While we know it is a Boson particle we are still waiting for more details on the characteristics of the particle to confirm it’s the Higgs-BOson
  • More results are expected in March 2013
  • YouTube : The Moment: CERN Scientist Announces Higgs Boson ‘God Particle’ Discovery | linktv
  • YouTube : Peter Higgs rection to the anoucement
  • YouTube : “Peter Higgs’ reaction on the day itself” / Peter Higgs, François Englert | Paul0de0Haas
  • YouTube : Higgs Boson Discovery announcement by Peter Higgs | MuonRay
  • YouTube : The Higgs Boson, Part I | minutephysics
  • YouTube : Higgs Boson ‘God Particle’ – What is it? BBC World News | mangstarrr
  • Social Media
  • DeepSea Challenge @DeepChallenge
  • Red Bull Stratos @RedBullStratos
  • Dragon Spaceship @DragonSpaceship
  • Curiosity Rover @MarsCuriosity
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • COTS–2 Press Kit
  • Mars Rover Landing Guru Makes ‘Best of 2012’ List |


New Years Resolutions | Dieting

  • The low down
  • Although cholesterol, blood pressure, triglycerides and blood sugar all improve with weight loss, with weight regain they all return to pre-diet levels and, in some cases, to even higher levels
  • Maintaining weight loss is just as important as losing weight
  • Even partial weight regain is associated with worsened diabetes and cardiovascular risk factors
  • Significance
  • More than 100 postmenopausal women took part in a five-month weight-loss program study and were continued to br monitor the women for a year
  • During the weight-loss program the women lost an average of 25 pounds
  • After a year, two-thirds of the women had regained at least four pounds, on average regaining about 70 percent of the weight they had lost
  • Women who regained 4.4 pounds or more in the year following the weight-loss intervention had several worsened cardiovascular and diabetes risk factors
  • Women who maintained their weight loss a year later managed to preserve most of the benefits
  • Of Note
  • This study highlights the importance of not just losing weight, but the need to develop effective and enduring strategies so that this weight loss can be successfully maintained long term
  • People should be focusing on being healthy, not skinny,
  • It is important to create strategies for reaching and maintaining a healthy weight throughout their lifetime
  • Start with simple changes such as swapping seltzer or soda, keeping a daily food record, adding a salad to lunch and substituting a second vegetable for half the starch at dinner
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Yo-yo dieting can hurt the heart, study finds |

New Years Resolutions | Exercise

  • The low down
  • Olympic medallists live longer than the general population, regardless of country of origin, medal won, or type of sport played
  • However, those who engage in disciplines with high levels of physical contact, such as boxing, rugby and ice hockey, are at an increased risk of death in later life
  • Life Expectancy
  • Researchers compared life expectancy among 15,174 Olympic athletes who won medals between 1896 and 2010 with general population groups matched by country, sex, and age
  • All medallists lived an average of 2.8 years longer in eight out of the nine country groups studied.
  • Gold, silver and bronze medallists enjoyed roughly the same survival advantage, as did medallists in both endurance and mixed sports
  • Medallists in powersports had a smaller, but still significant, advantage over the general population.
  • While the study was not designed to determine why Olympic athletes live longer, possible explanations include genetic factors, physical activity, healthy lifestyle, and the wealth and status that come from international sporting glory
  • Intensity of Exercise
  • In a second study, researchers measured the effect of high intensity exercise on mortality later in life among former Olympic athletes
  • They tracked 9,889 athletes who took part in at least one Olympic Games between 1896 and 1936 and represented 43 disciplines requiring different levels of exercise intensity and physical contact
  • Two public health experts point out that people who do at least 150 minutes a week [~20min a day] of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity also have a survival advantage compared with the inactive general population
  • They also found that athletes from sports with high cardiovascular intensity (such as cycling and rowing) or moderate cardiovascular intensity (such as gymnastics and tennis) had similar mortality rates compared with athletes from low cardiovascular intensity sports, such as golf or cricket
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Olympians live longer than general population… But cyclists no survival advantage over golfers | MedicalXPress


IQ Score is Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

  • The low down
  • After conducting the largest online intelligence study on record a research team has concluded that the notion of measuring one’s intelligence quotient or IQ by a singular, standardized test is highly misleading
  • Significance
  • The study, which included more than 100,000 participants Utilized an online study open to anyone, anywhere in the world
  • The researchers asked respondents to complete 12 cognitive tests tapping memory, reasoning, attention and planning abilities, as well as a survey about their background and lifestyle habits.
  • While the team expected a few hundred responses, thousands and thousands of people took part, including people of all ages, cultures and creeds from every corner of the world
  • The results showed that when a wide range of cognitive abilities are explored, the observed variations in performance can only be explained with at least three distinct components: short-term memory, reasoning and a verbal component
  • Of Note
  • Scientists used a brain scanning technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), to show that these differences in cognitive ability map onto distinct circuits in the brain.
  • Intriguingly, people who regularly played computer games did perform significantly better in terms of both reasoning and short-term memory
  • Smokers performed poorly on the short-term memory and the verbal factors
  • People who frequently suffer from anxiety performed badly on the short-term memory factor in particular
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Researchers debunk the IQ myth |

— Updates —

Martian Meteorite

  • The low down
  • A rare Martian meteorite recently found in Morocco contains minerals with 10 times more water than previously discovered Mars meteorites
  • The black, baseball-sized stone, which weighs less than 1 pound, is 2.1 billion years old, meaning it formed during what is known as the early Amazonian era in Mars’ geologic history.
  • Officially known as Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, is the second-oldest of 110 named stones originating from Mars that have been retrieved on Earth
  • This discovery raises new questions about when and how long the planet most like Earth in the solar system had conditions suitable for life
  • Significance
  • Early Mars was believed to be warm and wet, but the planet lost most of its atmosphere and its surface water to become a cold, dry desert that appears today
  • The time from when our meteorite is from is maybe a transitional period in the climate, when Mars was losing its atmosphere, losing its water on the surface
  • The rock is relatively rich in water – about 6,000 parts per million – compared with typical Martian meteorites that contain about 200- to 300 parts per million
  • That’s 10 times more water than other Martian Meteorites
  • It is similar to basaltic rocks on Earth that form in volcanic eruptions
  • NWA 7034, nicknamed “Black Beauty,” also contains tiny bits of carbon, formed from geologic, not biological activity
  • Scientists don’t know why more meteorites like Black Beauty haven’t been found on Earth. + The period of time from which they originated may be relatively short, or most may not survive the trip through Earth’s atmosphere
  • Of Note
  • Because it was so different from other Martian meteorites it took several months to identify, otherwise it would have taken less than a day
  • After the initial battery of tests revealed the rock’s unique nature, meteorite hunters returned to the area where it was found to search for other similar stones
  • Four more pieces, all smaller than the original, have now been found
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Rare Water-Rich Mars Meteorite Discovered : Discovery News |



Looking back

  • Jan 9, 1998 : 14 years ago : Cosmological Constant : Two teams of international collaborations of scientists announced the discovery that galaxies are accelerating, flying apart at ever faster speeds, by observing distant, ancient exploding stars. This observation – named as Science magazine’s “Breakthrough of the Year for 1998” – implies the existence of a mysterious, self-repelling property of space first proposed by Albert Einstein, which he called the cosmological constant. Researchers in England, France, Germany, and Sweden are among the members of the Supernova Cosmology Project based at Berkeley National Laboratory (headed by Saul Perlmutter) and the High-z Supernova Search Team based in Australia (led by Brian Schmidt).

Looking up this week

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