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May 27, 2014

Scientists think common pesticide is responsible for massive bee deaths

Neonicatinoids are probably what's killing all the bees. Did Scientists Just Solve the Bee Collapse Mystery? | Mother Jones
The hardest-to-avoid menace of all might be the neonicotinoid class of pesticides, widely used not only on big Midwestern crops like corn and soybeans but also on cotton, sorghum, sugar beets, apples, cherries, peaches, oranges, berries, leafy greens, tomatoes, and potatoes. They're even common in yard and landscaping products. I've written before about the growing weight of science linking these lucrative pesticides, marketed by European agrichemical giants Bayer and Syngenta, to declining bee health, including the annual die-offs known as colony collapse disorder, which began in the winter of 2005-06. Advertise on MotherJones.com And now, a new Harvard study fingers neonics as the key driver of colony collapse disorder. The experiment couldn't have been simpler. Working with nearby beekeepers, Harvard researcher Chensheng Lu and his team treated 12 colonies with tiny levels of neonics and kept six control hives free of the popular chemicals. All 18 hives made it through summer without any apparent trouble. Come winter, though, the bees in six of the treated hives vanished, leaving behind empty colonies—the classic behavior of colony collapse disorder. None of the six control hives experienced a CCD-style disappearing act, although one did succumb to a common-to-bees gut pathogen called nosema.

May 15, 2014

High school girl develops instant HIV test

An instant HIV test could go a long way to eradicating the disease. Joe. My. God.: CANADA: High School Girl Develops HIV Test That Delivers Instant Result
Nicole Ticea is a Grade 10 student at the private girl's York House School, Vancouver. As part of a collaboration program with Simon Fraser University she developed a test using Isothermic Nucleic Acid Amplification. This allows users to place a drop of blood on a chip to receive a near instantaneous response to find out if they are infected, a process only slightly more difficult than a pregnancy test. The test is still a long way from widespread use, with its reliability needing to pass far more stringent review, before commercial partners can even be considered. Multiple HIV testing mechanisms exist, but none are considered perfect, leading to the widespread combination of two testing mechanisms to minimize the danger of false results. In this context, Ticea's work could easily find a niche.

March 17, 2014

Big Bang "signal" finally found by American scientists

It's essentially the shockwave of the Big Bang. It's a HUGE discovery. BBC News - Cosmic inflation: 'Spectacular' discovery hailed
Scientists say they have extraordinary new evidence to support a Big Bang Theory for the origin of the Universe. Researchers believe they have found the signal left in the sky by the super-rapid expansion of space that must have occurred just fractions of a second after everything came into being. It takes the form of a distinctive twist in the oldest light detectable with telescopes. The work will be scrutinised carefully, but already there is talk of a Nobel. "This is spectacular," commented Prof Marc Kamionkowski, from Johns Hopkins University.

March 09, 2014

Do Antibiotics Make People Fat?

Farmers feed livestock antibiotics to help them pack on the pounds. So what happens when humans eat the antibiotic-laced meat? Or when they take antibiotics themselves? The Fat Drug - NYTimes.com
IF you walk into a farm-supply store today, you’re likely to find a bag of antibiotic powder that claims to boost the growth of poultry and livestock. That’s because decades of agricultural research has shown that antibiotics seem to flip a switch in young animals’ bodies, helping them pack on pounds. Manufacturers brag about the miraculous effects of feeding antibiotics to chicks and nursing calves. Dusty agricultural journals attest to the ways in which the drugs can act like a kind of superfood to produce cheap meat. But what if that meat is us? Recently, a group of medical investigators have begun to wonder whether antibiotics might cause the same growth promotion in humans. New evidence shows that America’s obesity epidemic may be connected to our high consumption of these drugs. But before we get to those findings, it’s helpful to start at the beginning, in 1948, when the wonder drugs were new — and big was beautiful. That year, a biochemist named Thomas H. Jukes marveled at a pinch of golden powder in a vial. It was a new antibiotic named Aureomycin, and Mr. Jukes and his colleagues at Lederle Laboratories suspected that it would become a blockbuster, lifesaving drug. But they hoped to find other ways to profit from the powder as well. At the time, Lederle scientists had been searching for a food additive for farm animals, and Mr. Jukes believed that Aureomycin could be it. After raising chicks on Aureomycin-laced food and on ordinary mash, he found that the antibiotics did boost the chicks’ growth; some of them grew to weigh twice as much as the ones in the control group. . . . Nonetheless, experiments were then being conducted on humans. In the 1950s, a team of scientists fed a steady diet of antibiotics to schoolchildren in Guatemala for more than a year,while Charles H. Carter, a doctor in Florida, tried a similar regimen on mentally disabled kids. Could the children, like the farm animals, grow larger? Yes, they could.