Mysterious medical research consortium: we should own volunteers' clinical trial data for 5 years

Vaccination_of_girl

The "International Consortium of Investigators for Fairness in Trial Data Sharing" -- a group that appears to have just been formed, backed by 282 researcher in 33 countries -- has objected to a plan to limit exclusivity over clinical trial data derived from medical volunteers, insisting instead that the fair thing to do is to lock up this uncopyrightable, factual data for up to five years. Read the rest

Your medical data: misappropriated by health-tech companies, off-limits to you

056c026d-1c66-4d42-9fae-a8e96df290c5-1020x1153

Backchannel's package on medical data and the health-tech industry profiles three people who were able to shake loose their own data and make real improvements in their lives with it: Marie Moe, who discovered that the reason she was having terrifying cardiac episodes was out-of-date firmware on her pacemaker; Steven Keating, who created a website with exquisitely detailed data on his brain tumor, including a gene-sequence that had to be run a second time because the first scan wasn't approved for "commercial" use, which included publishing it on his own site; and Annie Kuehl, whose advocacy eventually revealed the fact that doctors had suspected all along that her sick baby had a rare genetic disorder, which she only learned about after years of agonizing victim-blaming and terrifying seizures. Read the rest

The 2016 Perseid meteor shower peaks August 11-12. Here's how to watch!

Perseid meteors light up the sky in August 2009 in this time-lapse image  [NASA-JPL]
The Perseid meteor shower originates from the Swift-Tuttle comet, and is visible now through until August 24, 2016. The show is seen viewed from a northeastern direction in the northern hemisphere.

Read the rest

Study confirms a physical correlate to PTSD: "brown dust" in the brain

Spindle_neurons_-_very_high_mag

Since WWI, doctors have speculated that PTSD's underlying cause was some sort of physical damage caused by blast-waves from bombs, which literally shook loose something important in the brains of sufferers. Read the rest

Neural Dust: tiny wireless implants act as "electroceuticals" for your brain

fingertipmote750

UC Berkeley researchers are developing "Neural Dust," tiny wireless sensors for implanting in the brain, muscles, and intestines that could someday be used to control prosthetics or a "electroceuticals" to treat epilepsy or fire up the immune system. So far, they've tested a 3 millimeter long version of the device in rats.

“I think the long-term prospects for neural dust are not only within nerves and the brain, but much broader,“ says researcher Michel Maharbiz. “Having access to in-body telemetry has never been possible because there has been no way to put something supertiny superdeep. But now I can take a speck of nothing and park it next to a nerve or organ, your GI tract or a muscle, and read out the data."

Maharbiz, neuroengineer Jose Carmena, and their colleagues published their latest results on "Wireless Recording in the Peripheral Nervous System with Ultrasonic Neural Dust" in the journal Neuron.

From UC Berkeley:

While the experiments so far have involved the peripheral nervous system and muscles, the neural dust motes could work equally well in the central nervous system and brain to control prosthetics, the researchers say. Today’s implantable electrodes degrade within 1 to 2 years, and all connect to wires that pass through holes in the skull. Wireless sensors – dozens to a hundred – could be sealed in, avoiding infection and unwanted movement of the electrodes.

“The original goal of the neural dust project was to imagine the next generation of brain-machine interfaces, and to make it a viable clinical technology,” said neuroscience graduate student Ryan Neely.

Read the rest

Science themed music video made from remixed public domain footage

animation

Luke Williams writes, "I thought you might like this song called 'Make Heat' from my science-pop album MOONS." Read the rest

This is the country's largest collection of brains

When the zombie apocalypse breaks out, the Harvard Brain Bank will resemble the scene at a cheap casino buffet's peel-and-eat shrimp table.

Read the rest

Flossing is bullshit

animation (4)

The Associated Press filed Freedom of Information requests with the US government to find the evidence behind the Surgeon General's admonition to floss regularly for dental health and found that there was no good evidentiary basis for flossing. Read the rest

Jill Stein is a fearmongering crank who thinks Wi-Fi harms children's brains

20120904-jill-stein-green-party-ad.jpg.650x0_q70_crop-smart

Are you a left-leaning voter who thought Green Party candidate Jill Stein might be a suitable refuge after Hillary Clinton's eyes glazed over at the prospect of picking up moderate Republicans? Sucks to be you! Stein not only panders to anti-vaxxers, but thinks WiFi is bad for childrens' brains.

We should not be subjecting kids’ brains especially to that. And we don’t follow that issue in this country, but in Europe where they do, they have good precautions around wireless—maybe not good enough, because it’s very hard to study this stuff. We make guinea pigs out of whole populations and then we discover how many die. And this is like the paradigm for how public health works in this country and it’s outrageous, you know.

Stein, a medical doctor, knows that there's no evidence that Wi-Fi (or other non-ionizing radio waves such as over-the-air TV or your baby monitor) causes any harm. The thing that's weird is this: unlike Clinton, she can be direct and truthful about what her principles are. She doesn't need to play this game. She has no chance of winning and does not need to triangulate her appeal to a broad coalition of voters.

Yet, she's angling to pick up another marginal constituency—people who think vaccines and radio waves fry their childrens' brains—in the vain hope of turning 2% into 2.5%. It's a lesson about the nature of people who become professional politicians: they're egomaniacal freaks who desperately need to win, and every vote is another molecule of supply for their narcissism. Read the rest

The history of the home pregnancy test is a microcosm of misogyny, chauvinism, and erasure

31Kennedy3-web-master675-v3

When Pagan Kennedy wrote her 2012 New York Times Magazine history of home pregnancy testing, it didn't mention Margaret Crane, the product designer who created, designed and championed the test and all it stood for: the right of "a woman to peer into her own body and to make her own decisions about it, without anyone else — husband, boyfriend, boss, doctor — getting in the way." Read the rest

Stunning and weird portraits of musical note vibrations

9935_5d293363c4be77f134214bec786e2feb
Artists Jeff Louviere and Vanessa Brown explore cymatics, the study of wave phenomena and how they are represented visually. Using black-colored water, a laptop computer, and a modified guitar amp, they captured "portraits" of the 12 notes in the chromatic scale. From my sister-in-law Heather Sparks's profile of their project in Nautilus:

In each ("portrait"), Louviere and Brown saw a distinct image: G looks like a devil, C# is the tree in the Garden of Eden, and F is something like the underbelly of a frog. If you were to repeat this experiment, you would get the same designs.

Pressing further their idea that “sight can be seen and images can be heard,” Louviere turned the 12 sound-induced patterns back into sound using Photo Sounder, a program that assigns sounds to the black and white values it scans along the x and y axes of an image. After applying the program to the 12 portraits, Louviere had 12 very distinct, “odd and bleepy” sound files, which he mixed together into a final soundscape born from the visuals of all 12 notes.

"This Is What Musical Notes Actually Look Like" (Nautili.us)

The audio is now available on a beautiful vinyl record: Louviere + Vanessa: Resonantia

Read the rest

The Ice Bucket Challenge did not fund a breakthrough in ALS treatment

Mission_Accomplished_-_ALS_Ice_Bucket_Challenge_(14848289439)

Yesterday's science-by-press-release announcement that a research team had made a "breakthrough" in treating ALS thanks to funds raised in last year's viral ice-bucket challenge turns out to be vaporware: the gene identified was already known to be implicated in ALS, but only affects 3% of cases, and the new refinement in the research suggests some avenues for further work, but has no immediate therapeutic value. Read the rest

This map shows where the tallest people live

screenshot

New research on trends in adult human height over the last century confirm that, no surprise, humans are getting taller overall due to better nutrition and disease control. However according to the health science group Non-Communicable Diseases Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC), the gain in adult height varies dramatically by country. From their paper, published in the journal eLife:

The largest gain in adult height over the past century has occurred in South Korean women and Iranian men, who became 20.2 cm (95% credible interval 17.5–22.7) and 16.5 cm (13.3–19.7) taller, respectively. In contrast, there was little change in adult height in some sub-Saharan African countries and in South Asia over the century of analysis. The tallest people over these 100 years are men born in the Netherlands in the last quarter of 20th century, whose average heights surpassed 182.5 cm, and the shortest were women born in Guatemala in 1896 (140.3 cm; 135.8–144.8).

The scientists' hope is that understanding these changes and distributions could be used "to improve nutrition and health across the world."

"It would also be valuable to understand how much becoming taller has been responsible for improved health and longevity throughout the world," they write."

"A century of trends in adult human height" (eLife)

"How humans have changed in height in the last 100 years" (CNN) Read the rest

Why did Iran's Lake Urmia just change from bright green to blood red?

urmia_amo_2016200-1
Between April and July, Iran's salty Lake Urmia changed from a bright green color to a blood red. NASA's Aqua satellite captured the image above and reported on the science behind the strange transformation. According to NASA, the periodic color change is caused by micro algae producing carotenoids that help with photosynthesis and act as antioxidants and Halobacteriaceae, a bacteria in very salty water that releases "a red pigment called bacteriorhodopsin that absorbs light and converts it into energy for the bacteria." From NASA:

The color changes have become common in the spring and early summer due to seasonal precipitation and climate patterns. Spring is the wettest season in northwestern Iran, with rainfall usually peaking in April. Snow on nearby mountains within the watershed also melts in the spring. The combination of rain and snowmelt sends a surge of fresh water into Lake Urmia in April and May. By July, the influx of fresh water has tapered off and lake levels begin to drop.

The fresh water in the spring drives salinity levels down, but the lake generally becomes saltier as summer heat and dryness take hold. That’s when the microorganisms show their colors, too. Careful sampling of the water would be required to determine which organisms transformed the lake in 2016, but scientists say there are likely two main groups of organisms involved: a family of algae called Dunaliella and an archaic family of bacteria known as Halobacteriaceae.

While Lake Urmia has shifted from green to red and back several times in recent years, trends suggest that a red Urmia could become increasingly common.

Read the rest

When science intersected with the counterculture, things got wonderfully weird

John-Lilly-008

In the late 1960s and 1970s, the mind-expanding modus operandi of the counterculture spread into the realm of science, and shit got wonderfully weird. Neurophysiologist John Lilly tried to talk with dolphins. Physicist Peter Phillips launched a parapsychology lab at Washington University. Princeton physicist Gerard O'Neill became an evangelist for space colonies. Groovy Science: Knowledge, Innovation, and American Counterculture is a new book of essays about this heady time! The book was co-edited by MIT's David Kaiser, who wrote the fantastic 2011 book How the Hippies Saved Physics, and UC Santa Barbara historian W. Patrick McCray. I can't wait to read it!

From an MIT News interview with Kaiser:

We want to address a common stereotype that dates from the time period itself, which is that the American youth movement, the hippies or counterculture, was reacting strongly against science and technology, or even the entire Western intellectual tradition of reason, as a symbol of all that should be overturned. In fact, many of them were enamored of science and technology, some of them were working scientists, and some were patrons of science. This picture of fear and revulsion is wrong.

We also see things that have a surprisingly psychedelic past. This includes certain strains of sustainability, design, and manufacture, notions of socially responsible engineering, and artisanal food. This stuff didn’t start from scratch in 1968 and didn’t end on a dime in 1982...

These folks were rejecting not science itself but what many had come to consider a depersonalized, militarized approach to the control of nature.

Read the rest

Our public health data is being ingested into Silicon Valley's gaping, proprietary maw

image-20160421-26983-1572bbu

In a lead editorial in the current Nature, John Wilbanks (formerly head of Science Commons, now "Chief Commons Officer" for Sage Bionetworks) and Eric Topol (professor of genomics at the Scripps Institute) decry the mass privatization of health data by tech startups, who're using a combination of side-deals with health authorities/insurers and technological lockups to amass huge databases of vital health information that is not copyrighted or copyrightable, but is nevertheless walled off from open research, investigation and replication. Read the rest

Storytellers are more attractive, are happier and more satisfied with life

storytelling

The Wall Street Journal reports that storytellers—people with a natural inclination to craft concise yet compelling narratives without rambling—were found to be hot by science. Feels good to be a writa.

The results were the same across all three studies: Women rated men who were good storytellers as more attractive and desirable as potential long-term partners. Psychologists believe this is because the man is showing that he knows how to connect, to share emotions and, possibly, to be vulnerable. He also is indicating that he is interesting and articulate and can gain resources and provide support.

“Storytelling is linked to the ability to be a good provider,” because a man is explaining what he can offer, says Melanie Green, an associate professor in the department of communication at the University at Buffalo and a researcher on the study. The men didn’t care whether the women were good storytellers, the research showed.

There is also a "how to" guide for nascent storytellers: master the technical basics, set aside time to practice, build a repertoire of basics, develop a relationship to tense, and get emotional.

Spotted via the sneering Gilfoyles of Hacker News, who seem fabulously angry about this for some reason. Read the rest

More posts