On Tuesday 8th November the citizens of the mighty U.S of A made what may have
seemed unthinkable a year ago, a reality. The 45th president of The United States will
be Donald J Trump. Obviously, this is worrying for many reasons mainly because he
is unpredictable, but what could this mean for US science? Trump has been quite
vocal about his scepticism of climate change, and the human led causes of such, and
he has also stated that he holds the belief of the causal effect of vaccinations and
autism. But, will these beliefs or others yet to be voiced, manifest themselves in
harmful policies, or will his focus on ‘innovation’ and strengthening the US economy
prove positive for research? Some are saying that the rumours that Newt Gingrich is
pegged for a top job in a Trump administration is a positive step, as he is publicly proresearch,
supporting a bid to double the NIH budget when he was speaker for the
house of representatives, and since has backed increases in many funding agencies.
While the 11th day of the 11th month is now best known as Remembrance day, a few other significant events have taken place on this day in the course of recent history. Most notably, the 11thof November marks the date the Polio virus was first identified and photographed in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that most of our research is funded indirectly by the public. With this funding comes a responsibility to be able to communicate our science clearly and simply. This is important for a number of reasons, but one of those is that poor science communication can lead to erroneous media reports. We’ve all seen the inaccurate articles in national newspapers that make our inner scientists cringe. ‘Everything causes cancer and you can prevent it by eating 500 types of super foods a day’. Some of this can be written off as bad or lazy journalism, however scientists should do their part by better communicating their science.
Virus steals black widow poison gene to help it attack
In one of the most unexpected genetic thefts ever, a virus that infects bacteria appears to have stolen the gene coding for the poison of the black widow spiders. The virus, called WO, probably uses the gene to help it attack its targets.
We’re all living longer, but not too long
An international study has concluded that 115 is as good as it gets in terms of human lifespan, and it is unlikely to surpass this. Data from 41 different countries has indicated that more people are living longer, particularly in the 70+ category, however there has been no increase in the number of people living beyond 100. The most prominent theory to explain this is that the body fails at this age as a consequence of genetic programs that regulate growth and development. Therefore, it has been advised more effective measures to extend lifespan should focus on slowing the ageing process.
Around 1500 years ago a village in Israel tragically burned to the ground, sparing absolutely nothing. 50 years ago, amongst the charred remains of destroyed homes and a synagogue, a scroll was discovered which looked like nothing more than a long piece of charcoal. Now, in a remarkable feat of ingenuity, this scroll was read by scientists without even touching it! Continue reading “Top 3 of the Week”
Summer is drawing to an end and it seems to be cramming all the sunshine in whatever time there is left. While we are all well aware of the importance of avoiding excess exposure to harmful UV rays, most of us end up getting a bit of a suntan during the summer months. Even as a melanoma scientist, I have to admit I am partial to getting a bit of colour to contrast the greenish tinge acquired through working indoors throughout the winter. Most people know about melanin, the brownish pigment that gives human skin its colour. Not many people, however, know about the intricate process through which melanin gives people a suntan. It’s a delightful example of how cells are complex beasts that interact with each other through an incredibly fine-tuned dance to function as a whole organism.
Psittacosaurus (p-sit-taco-saurus) may sound like an awesome dinosaur made out of tacos, but is instead a weird turkey sized, plant eating sized dinosaur. Maybe one to miss at Jurassic Park. However, it has made headlines this week as a reconstruction of Psittacosaurus was hailed as the most accurate dinosaur reconstruction ever. Bob Nicholls of Paleocreations based in Bristol worked with researchers at Bristol University to analyse well-preserved fossils of Psittaco and create a hyper-realistic reconstruction of what Psittaco would have looked like. The specimen can be seen in the photo below in all its cheek-horn googley-eyed glory.