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There are hidden saltwater sinkholes beneath the Great Lakes

Lost world of extremophiles hides beneath Great Lakes - environment - 27 February 2009 - New Scientist

We normally think of freshwater lakes and salty oceans as two distinct worlds. Not so in the North American Great Lakes. Just 20 metres beneath the surface of some of the largest freshwater reservoirs on Earth are deep brine-filled pockets.

Now, researchers are discovering that these unusual sinkholes are home to extraordinary communities of microscopic bacteria. The organisms are not new to science, but preliminary genetic analysis is showing that they are relatives of bacteria that live in the subglacial lakes of Antarctica. Others are functionally similar to the extremophile bacteria living on the black smokers of the deep ocean.

The sinkholes were discovered in 2001, when a sonar expedition searching for shipwrecks found deep pits, up to 100 metres across, in the lake floor. The underwater pits have formed in places where an ancient underlying seabed is dissolving.

Reading to kids is awesome, DVDs not so much

Reading to toddlers improves vocabulary | theBookseller.com

You can file this under "duh" in your brain's filing system.

Reading to children aged two years and under will have a positive effect on a child’s vocabulary, according to a study reported by The British Psychological Society.

The study showed that “the most significant predictor of vocabulary comprehension and production scores [among children aged 12 to 15 months] was the amount of time children were read to”.

The study was focused on examining the relationship between viewing an infant DVD and a child’s “expressive and receptive language outcomes”. It found that there was no increased growth on either outcome for children who had viewed a DVD aimed at infants compared to children in the control group, even after multiple exposures.

February 26, 2009

Will we be able to genetically engineer new teeth?

Finding genes that make teeth grow all in a row

WASHINGTON – Ever wonder why sharks get several rows of teeth and people only get one? Some geneticists did, and their discovery could spur work to help adults one day grow new teeth when their own wear out.

A single gene appears to be in charge, preventing additional tooth formation in species destined for a limited set. When the scientists bred mice that lacked that gene, the rodents developed extra teeth next to their first molars — backups like sharks and other non-mammals grow, University of Rochester scientists reported Thursday.

If wondering about shark teeth seems rather wonky, consider: Tooth loss from gum disease is a major problem, here and abroad, and dentures or dental implants are far from perfect treatments. If scientists knew exactly what triggers a new tooth to grow in the first place, it's possible they could switch that early-in-life process on again during adulthood to regenerate teeth.

Because what the world clearly needs is more senior citizens with shark teeth.

February 23, 2009

This is why you should get vaccinated

Respectful Insolence: Best pro-vaccine commercial ever?

What a hard-hitting commercial. The bravery moves me.

February 20, 2009

Forensic science may be unreliable

Forensic science 'too unreliable', says report - science-in-society - 19 February 2009 - New Scientist

Forensic science is in crisis, with techniques like bloodstain pattern and bite-mark analysis routinely being used in convictions despite a dearth of evidence quantifying their reliability.

So says a report by the US National Academy of Sciences, which calls for the establishment of an independent federal body to raise standards, and new research to assess the reliability of many forensic methods.

In recent years, a number of high-profile exonerations have illustrated the pitfalls of placing too much trust in forensics and expert testimony. For example, last month Steven Barnes was released from jail after serving 20 years for the rape and murder of a high-school student in New York State in 1985.

Smoking is worse for your health than being working class

Smoking 'worse for your health than being working class' - Telegraph

Scientists found that rich smokers were more likely to die young than non-smokers from the least affluent backgrounds.

Smoking also all but eradicated the traditional advantage in longevity that women enjoy over men.

"In essence, neither affluence nor being female offers a defence against the toxicity of tobacco," said the researchers, who were led by Dr Laurence Gruer, director of public health science with NHS Health Scotland.

February 18, 2009

So how does salmonella get into peanut butter anyways?

Salmonella Peanut Butter: How Does Salmonella Get Into Peanut Butter? Bird Feces.

Two words: bird poop.

Feces from some animal is a strong possibility. A leak in the roof, for example, caused one of the early outbreaks. How salmonella got into the water that was on the roof, no one knows for sure. Maybe birds, for instance, which accumulate around peanut butter processing plants.

The roasting of peanuts is the only step that will kill the salmonella. If contamination occurs after the roasting process, the game is over and salmonella is going to survive. Studies have shown that salmonella can survive for many months in peanut butter once it's present. Fatty foods are also more protective of salmonella, so when it gets into the acid of the stomach — which is our first line of defense — it may not get destroyed. Peanut butter, being a highly fatty food, could survive better.