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Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 12:08 PM
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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Australian and US scientists reverse ageing in mice, humans could be next

Australian and US researchers have developed a compound which reverses muscle ageing in mice, saying it could be one of the keys to reversing ageing in humans.

When used in trials, the compound gave mice more energy, toned their muscles, reduced inflammation, and led to big improvements in insulin resistance.

Scientists say it actually reversed the ageing process, not just slowing it down, and say that for humans the effect would be similar to a 60-year-old feeling like a 20-year-old.

And they say human trials could start within the year.

The study has been published this morning in the research journal Cell.



More Than Three Years Later, Oil From the Deepwater Horizon Persists in the Gulf

It’s now been more than three and a half years since the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig leased to BP exploded, causing over 200 million gallons of crude oil to spill into the Gulf of Mexico, the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

In terms of the national news cycle, that duration might seem like a lifetime. In terms of an ecosystem as enormous and complex as the Gulf, it’s more like a blink of an eye.

“Oil doesn’t go away for a very long time,” says Dana Wetzel, a biochemist at Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida who’s been sampling water, sediments and the tissues of animals living in the Gulf for evidence of persisting oil. “The assumption had been that in a higher temperature environment, bacteria are going to degrade things much more rapidly, and it’ll degrade quicker.” But in previous research, she’s found that even in warm environments, oil residue persists much longer than experts previously thought—in the waters of Tampa Bay, for instance, she found oil a full eight years after a spill.

If you simply dunked a bucket into Gulf waters and tested for petroleum, she notes, you might not find any. But as part of an ongoing project, Mote researchers are employing innovative sampling mechanisms that use pieces of dialysis tubing, which trap oil residue much like a marine organism’s tissue does as it filters water. Deployed in metal containers, the pieces tubing gradually filter water over time, collecting any contaminants present.

This oil can persist through a few different mechanisms. After coating sediments, the viscous substance can stick to them for years. There’s also evidence that some oil was trapped in the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig itself and continues to slowly bubble upward, accounting for the visible sheens of oil occasionally seen on the water’s surface.

Read more: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2013/12/more-than-three-years-later-oil-from-the-deepwater-horizon-persists-in-the-gulf/

The Vast Majority of Raw Data From Old Scientific Studies May Now Be Missing

One of the foundations of the scientific method is the reproducibility of results. In a lab anywhere around the world, a researcher should be able to study the same subject as another scientist and reproduce the same data, or analyze the same data and notice the same patterns.

This is why the findings of a study published today in Current Biology are so concerning. When a group of researchers tried to email the authors of 516 biological studies published between 1991 and 2011 and ask for the raw data, they were dismayed to find that more 90 percent of the oldest data (from papers written more than 20 years ago) were inaccessible. In total, even including papers published as recently as 2011, they were only able to track down the data for 23 percent.

“Everybody kind of knows that if you ask a researcher for data from old studies, they’ll hem and haw, because they don’t know where it is,” says Timothy Vines, a zoologist at the University of British Columbia, who led the effort. “But there really hadn’t ever been systematic estimates of how quickly the data held by authors actually disappears.”

To make their estimate, his group chose a type of data that’s been relatively consistent over time—anatomical measurements of plants and animals—and dug up between 25 and 40 papers for each odd year during the period that used this sort of data, to see if they could hunt down the raw numbers.

A surprising amount of their inquiries were halted at the very first step: for 25 percent of the studies, active email addresses couldn’t be found, with defunct addresses listed on the paper itself and web searches not turning up any current ones. For another 38 percent of studies, their queries led to no response. Another 7 percent of the data sets were lost or inaccessible.

Read more: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2013/12/the-vast-majority-of-raw-data-from-old-scientific-studies-may-now-be-missing/

Meet the Texas Farmer Taking On the Keystone Pipeline

by Anna Simonton

While the State Department mulls whether or not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, TransCanada is already gearing up to start pumping tar sands from Alberta, Canada, to the gulf coast of Texas in January of next year.

The Canadian fossil fuels giant recently announced that it will inject an initial 3 million barrels of oil into the newly completed southern leg of the pipeline over the coming weeks. Activists are calling on regulators to halt the process, citing inspections that revealed numerous flaws in the infrastructure. While that could stall the project, a few pending court battles with Texas landowners are presenting a broader challenge to TransCanada’s plans.

One of those landowners is East Texas farmer Julia Trigg-Crawford, who in November petitioned to appeal a ruling in TransCanada’s favor. If her appeal is accepted, her case will be the first on this issue to be heard by the Texas Supreme Court.

The trouble for Crawford started in 2008, when TransCanada offered her $7,000 for a lifetime easement across her pasture. This would give the company complete control over the land without owning it outright. She consulted with her father and siblings, all of whom have a stake in the farm. They decided to refuse.



My Creation Vacation

For the Creation Museum, my friends, holds all the truths you're looking for if you want to understand the current insanity gripping the Republican Party.

By Cliff Schecter

What do you do in the afterglow of weeks spent watching Wal-Mart shopper-sheep piss themselves doing the kung fu Lambada over who gets the newest Rachel Ray crapware to be buried under the Twilight beach towels behind the basement stairs? After watching "tip of the spear" Bandar Bush commence getting his Iran war on? When it was revealed that Yoda was almost played by a monkey in Star Wars?

You go to where it all began, where everybody knows your name -- or at least can trace your lineage back to the dawn of the Earth 6,000 years after the end of the last ice age.

With the illustrious Marcy Wheeler in town to cover an appeal by "Undie Bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who had sought to enter the record books as the first to eunuch himself via plastic explosive aboard a transcontinental flight, we decided it was time for a Creation Vacation. So we jumped in a car with novelist K.C. Boyd and headed to 2800 Bullitsburg Church Road.

It's also known as the home of the world-renowned Creation Museum, and generous provider of the opening to a great book penned by some writer named Pierce called Idiot America.

If you've read Charlie's book, or have been there yourself, then you may have some idea of the place, with its edifying exhibits, naked wax figures and friendly velociraptors. But it's worth revisiting, while those of us not prone to being imbeciles are locked in mortal combat with professional stupid people calling themselves the "Tea Party." You know, the Tea Party that probably happened in Concord, New Hampshire with lots of bells and whistles and such.

So The Creation Museum, while being one of the most unintentionally hilarious places you'll ever see, really should be required visiting for those of us with a still functioning corpus callosum.



Beer Domesticated Man

The domestication of wild grains has played a major role in human evolution, facilitating the transition from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to one based on agriculture. You might think that the grains were used for bread, which today represents a basic staple. But some scientists argue that it wasn’t bread that motivated our ancestors to start grain farming. It was beer. Man, they say, chose pints over pastry.

Beer has plenty to recommend it over bread. First, and most obviously, it is pleasant to drink. “Beer had all the same nutrients as bread, and it had one additional advantage,” argues Solomon H. Katz, an anthropology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Namely, it gave early humans the same pleasant buzz it gives us. Patrick E. McGovern, the director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project for Cuisine, Fermented Beverages, and Health at the University of Pennsylvania, goes even further. Beer, he says, was more nutritious than bread. It contains “more B vitamins and essential amino acid lysine,” McGovern writes in his book, Uncorking the Past: the Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages. It was also safer to drink than water, because the fermentation process killed pathogenic microorganisms. “With a four to five percent alcohol content, beer is a potent mind-altering and medicinal substance,” McGovern says, adding that ancient brewers acted as medicine men.

In fact, McGovern has found that the ancients used beer as medicine. Working with the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania, McGovern discovered traces of sage and thyme in ancient Egyptian jars. Luteolin, which is in sage, and ursolic acid, which is in thyme, both have anti-cancer properties. Similarly, artemisinin and isoscopolein from wormwood fight cancer, and were found in ancient Chinese rice wine. “The ancient fermented beverages constituted the universal medicine of humankind before the advent of synthetic medicines,” McGovern says.



Living Sick and Dying Young in Rich America

Chronic illness is the new first-world problem.

We were standing at Target in an aisle we’d never walked down before, looking at things we didn’t understand. Pill splitters, multivitamins, supplements, and the thing we were here to buy: a long blue pill box—the kind with seven little doors labeled “S M T W T F S “ for each day of the week, the kind that old people cram their pills into when they have too many to remember what they’ve already taken.

My husband, Joe Preston, shook his head. “Do I really need this?”

I grabbed it off the shelf and threw it in our basket. And when we got home, Joe—then a fit and fairly spry 30-year-old man with a boss-level beard—stood at the kitchen counter, dropping each of his prescriptions with a plink into the container.

I guess it’s true that life is full of surprises, but for the three years since Joe’s crippling pain was diagnosed as the result of an autoimmune disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis, our life has been full of surprises like this one. Pill boxes, trips to the emergency room, early returns from vacation. Terms like “flare-up” have dropped into our vocabulary. We’ve sat in waiting rooms where Joe was the only person without a walker or a cane. Most of our tears have been over the fact that these aren’t the kind of surprises either of us thought we’d be encountering at such a young age.



Friday TOON Roundup 5 - The Rest





Friday TOON Roundup 4 - Who is Listening?

Friday TOON Roundup 3 -Empty Congress

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