A War on Science

Why does society still reject science?

Science has done a lot for the world. And when we say a lot, we mean a whole lot. Cars, iPhones, electricity, medicine, Hubble – you can thank scientists for all those things. Not to mention its involvement in helping us explore the Universe, and understand our place in it. And yet we still see people reject science every day. As the latest episode of AsapSCIENCE explains, we’re in the middle of a war against science. And it’s been raging for a long time.

Since humans first evolved, science has consistently improved our lives, fuelling the enlightenment era, the industrial revolution, and now the digital age. But society has often been at odds with science. So much so, in fact, that Italian astronomer Giordano Bruno was burnt at the stake in 1600 for suggesting that Earth wasn’t at the centre of the Universe. And Galileo was put under house arrest for supporting the theory.

Today, advances in medicine and agriculture have saved more lives than have been lost in all the wars in history. And yet, many people still reject the scientific evidence for vaccinations – and that rejection has seen the return of preventable diseases such as measles, despite having already been wiped out in many developing countries 15 years ago.

There’s also serious rejection of climate change, despite the fact that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that it’s happening due to human activity.

Those wars are bad enough, but when it comes to funding, science is taking an even bigger hit. The UK’s investment into publicly funded research has dropped to less than 0.5 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) – the lowest in two decades, as the video above explains.

And this year the US has cut $300 million from NASA’s earth science budget, which just happens to cover climate science. Let’s not even mention the fact that the US’s bank bailout cost more money than NASA’s entire 50-year running budget. Still think we spend too much on space? One month of the US’s military spending is equivalent to NASA’s entire annual budget.
As Carl Sagan so perfectly put it: “We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.” And that’s a real shame, because without scientific advancement, societies in the past have crumbled.

So what can we do about it? Watch the video to find out how you can help spread the science love, and, most importantly, remember: don’t stop talking and thinking about science every day. It really does make the world a better place.

Source: Science Alert

Being Overweight Can Increase The Rate Of Developing Cancer

A meta-analysis of more than 200 studies shows that being overweight could increase cancer, including colon, breast, pancreas and ovary cancer.  Based on previous figures from two leading charities, in 2035, almost ¾ of people are expected to be overweight and 700,000 new cases of obesity-related cancer in 20 years time.

A recent study proves that there is a strong link between excess body fat and an increased risk of 11 cancers: colon, rectum, endometrium, breast, ovary, kidney, pancreas, gastric cardia, biliary tract system and certain cancers of the oesophagus and bone marrow.

Marc Gunter, a co-author of the research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer said, “I think now the public and physicians really need to pay attention to obesity with respect to cancer. Telling people to avoid being overweight not only reduces their risk of, say, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, it also reduces their risk of many different cancers.”

Another meta-analysis on Continue reading “Being Overweight Can Increase The Rate Of Developing Cancer”

Seven Earth-sized planets orbit nearby supercool star

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A nearby ultracool star harbors seven Earth-sized planets, three with orbits that potentially put them in a habitable zone. That makes the system, around a star called TRAPPIST-1, a prime target in the search for signs of alien life. Its discovery also hints that many more cousins of Earth may be out there than astronomers thought.

“It’s rather stunning that the system has so many Earth-sized planets,” says Drake Deming, an astronomer at the University of Maryland in College Park. It seems like every stable spot where a planet could be, there is an Earth-sized one. “That bodes well for finding habitable planets,” he says.

Michaël Gillon, an astrophysicist at University of Liège in Belgium, and colleagues announced last year that they had found three Earth-sized planets around TRAPPIST-1, an ultracool dwarf star previously called 2MASS J23062928−0502285 (SN: 05/28/16, p. 6). The Continue reading “Seven Earth-sized planets orbit nearby supercool star”

NASA Spots Mysterious Spray of Organic Material on Our Biggest Asteroid

NASA has announced that signs of organic material have been spotted on the surface of the Solar System’s largest asteroid, the dwarf planet Ceres, adding to the long list of rocks in space containing complex, carbon-based molecules.

It seems like every other day astronomers are finding organic molecules on some asteroid, comet, or meteorite, so the discovery itself might not seem all that exciting – but it’s what the orbiter didn’t see that adds an intriguing level of mystery.

The material was spotted in and around the crater Ernutet on Ceres’ northern hemisphere, using NASA’s Dawn orbiting spacecraft.

Finding evidence of organic molecules on a major asteroid from an orbiting craft is a first in space exploration, and hints at exciting things to come.

“This is the first clear Continue reading “NASA Spots Mysterious Spray of Organic Material on Our Biggest Asteroid”

Physicists help to decode the brain

An increasing number of physicists are using their expertise to understand the human brain. Paula Gould spoke to several researchers who have made the move to neuroscience

Doctors know that they can control epileptic seizures without having to perform surgery by placing the patient’s brain in an electric field. In doing so, they are exploiting the fact that an electric field can cause neurons to fire in synchrony. But they do not understand exactly how the process works. Eun Hyoung Park, a research associate at the Neural Engineering Center at Case Western Reserve University in the US, believes that is important to understand the way in which the neurons respond to the field. “This is an area where mathematicians and physicists can help,” she says. “You need to understand why these therapies work.”

Park is one of a growing number of researchers who have opted to apply their physics training to problems in neuroscience. Park initially completed a PhD and postdoctoral work in chaos theory and phase synchronization. She then moved to Case Western to apply the same theoretical tools to medical applications. “I wanted to expand my knowledge into a more applied field,” she says. “Synchronization prevails in nature in a lot of different areas.”

Dominique Durand, editor in chief of a new Journal of Neural Engineering published by the Institute of Physics, believes that the contribution of physical scientists and engineers is crucial to understanding the brain. “While neuroscientists and engineers from varied fields such as brain anatomy, neural development and electrophysiology have made great strides in the analysis of this complex organ, there remains a great deal yet to be uncovered,” he says. “The potential for applications and remedies deriving from scientific discoveries and breakthroughs is extremely high.”

Continue reading “Physicists help to decode the brain”

Human Cell Atlas project aims to map the human body’s 35 trillion cells

Labs around the world will create the most comprehensive map of the 35 trillion cells that make up the human body under plans put forward by researchers on Friday.

The international effort aims to decipher the types and properties of every cell a person contains, whether healthy or diseased, in a bid to speed up discoveries in medical science.

Named the Human Cell Atlas, the project amounts to the most concerted attempt yet to work out what we are made from and how illnesses develop when the building blocks of the body fail.

“Having an understanding of who we are is part of the human endeavour,” said Aviv Regev, a computational biologist at the Broad Institute of MIT in Massachusetts. “We want to know what we are made of. But this will have a substantial impact on our scientific understanding and as a result, on our ability to diagnose, monitor and treat disease.”

Many medical textbooks state that the human body contains Continue reading “Human Cell Atlas project aims to map the human body’s 35 trillion cells”

HOW OUR BRAINS MAKE MEMORIES

by Greg Miller

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Memories are stored in a region of the brain called the hippocampus, shown in red in this computer illustration. (Photo Researchers, Inc.)

Sitting at a sidewalk café in Montreal on a sunny morning, Karim Nader recalls the day eight years earlier when two planes slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. He lights a cigarette and waves his hands in the air to sketch the scene.

At the time of the attack, Nader was a postdoctoral researcher at New York University. He flipped the radio on while getting ready to go to work and heard the banter of the morning disc jockeys turn panicky as they related the events unfolding in Lower Manhattan. Nader ran to the roof of his apartment building, where he had a view of the towers less than two miles away. He stood there, stunned, as they burned and fell, thinking to himself, “No way, man. This is the wrong movie.”

In the following days, Nader recalls, Continue reading “HOW OUR BRAINS MAKE MEMORIES”