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July 23, 2012

So I Guess *This* Is What Passes for Science These Days

How to build a jellyfish out of a rat –...

July 22, 2012

Study finds diabetes link in cheap household plastics

Diabetes could be linked to phthalates, chemical in common household products, study suggests - Daily Dose: A Boston Globe blog with health news, advice, and information.
More than twice as many Americans have type 2 diabetes than 30 years ago, and new research suggests that our sedentary lifestyle habits and overconsumption of calories may not be the only reasons. Certain chemicals called phthalates -- ubiquitous in soft plastic packaging, fragrances, and cosmetics -- could be contributing to a rise in diabetes rates, according to a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital. It’s one of a handful of recent studies that found a statistical association between high levels of phthalates and an increased risk of diabetes, but it couldn’t determine whether there was a causal effect, in part because phthalate levels were measured at one point in time -- after the study participants had already been diagnosed with the disease.

July 21, 2012

We have discovered five habitable exoplanets

Time to get started on our multi-generational colony ship! Five potential habitable exoplanets now
Artistic representation of all the five known potential habitable worlds including now Gliese 581g, the best candidate for an Earth-like exoplanet so far. All of these planets are superterrans (aka Super-Earths) with masses estimated between two and ten Earth masses. Numbers below the planet names correspond to their similarity with Earth as measured in a scale from zero to one with the Earth Similarity Index, one being identical to Earth. (Phys.org) -- New data suggest the confirmation of the exoplanet Gliese 581g and the best candidate so far of a potential habitable exoplanet. The nearby star Gliese 581 is well known for having four planets with the outermost planet, Gliese 581d, already suspected habitable. This will be the first time evidence for any two potential habitable exoplanets orbiting the same star. Gliese 581g will be included, together with Gliese 667Cc, Kepler-22b, HD85512, and Gliese 581d, in the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog of the PHL @ UPR Arecibo as the best five objects of interest for Earth-like exoplanets.

July 20, 2012

Scientists discover new third way for atoms to bond

This seems like huge news? Intense magnetic fields around white dwarfs may instigate an entirely new class of molecular bonding
Scientists at the University of Oslo have discovered a completely new way for atoms to bond together — but these researchers won't be replicating the effect in the lab any time soon. The previously unknown bonding mechanism can only happen in the vicinity of white dwarfs where their intense density and spin creates the intense magnetic fields required. Undaunted by the challenge of reproducing ‘magnetized matter' in the lab, however, researchers believe the insight could advance the field of quantum computing. Prior to this discovery, chemists had identified two classes of strong molecular bonds: ionic (where electrons from one atom hop over to another) and covalent (where electrons are shared between atoms). But thanks to the work of quantum chemist Trygve Helgaker, we now know that there's a third bonding mechanism — what he's calling "perpendicular paramagnetic bonding." . . . The team first examined how the lowest energy state, or ground state, of a two-atom hydrogen molecule was distorted by the magnetic field. The dumb-bell-shaped molecule oriented itself parallel to the direction of the field and the bond became shorter and more stable, says Helgaker. When one of the electrons was boosted to an energy level that would normally break the bond, the molecule simply flipped so that it was perpendicular to the field and stayed together. "We always teach students that when an electron is excited like this, the molecule falls apart," says Helgaker. "But here we see a new type of bond keeps the atoms hanging together." The team also reports that a similar effect should occur between helium atoms, which normally don't bond at all. . . .

July 19, 2012

Whooping cough epidemic worst in 50 years

I blame Jenny McCarthy and other no-nothings who drum up anti-vaccine terror. When my son was born, I literally would not let any adult touch him until he got his TDAP vaccine. Overreaction? Probably, but Marin County--right next door to me--is one of the hot spots of wealthy people who believe vaccines don't work. So forgive my caution. CDC: Whooping cough epidemic worst in 50 years - Vitals
Whooping cough is causing the worst epidemic seen in the United States in more than 50 years, health officials said Thursday, and they’re calling for mass vaccination of adults. The epidemic has killed nine babies so far and babies are by far the most vulnerable to the disease, also known as pertussis, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The best way to protect them is to vaccinate the adults around them, and to vaccinate pregnant women so their babies are born with some immunity. “As of today, nationwide nearly 18,000 cases have been reported to the CDC,” the CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters in a conference call. “That is nearly twice as many as reported last year. We may be on track for a record high pertussis rate this year,” she added. . . . “In many cases, babies get this illness from their mothers or others close to them. It’s absolutely tragic.” . . .