Science leads the way: cloning is used to create embryonic stem cells!
Ants: when should ants just wait out bad weather and when should they forage? Evolution works out an answer.
Brinicles: yes, super cold “icicles of brine” can reach below the surface of water and become a finger of death for the things that it touches:
I can see how an ancient person might see this as a “finger of god”.
Via Jerry Coyne’s site: Why Evolution is True, where there are more cool photos.
Here is a nice synopsis on it. Even better: this is a nice reminder that, if you are not a physicist, your “common sense” suggestions of what dark energy might be (or what might replace dark energy as a factor) have been thought of and dismissed.
Woo and evolution Jerry Coyne takes the Chronicle of Higher Education to task for giving woo notions (with regards to evolution) credibility. My guess: even some academics can’t seem to stomach the notion that “you don’t know what you are talking about” IS a valid reason to dismiss an argument in science. Where it is true that, in some cases, it is valid to entertain different points of view (example) that does NOT mean that all points of view have validity.
It is a current conjecture that there are an infinite number of “paired primes”; that is, numbers where and are prime integers. Until recently, no one has come up with any bound for pairs of primes…at all. Evidently, that has changed (note: Annals of Mathematics is the finest mathematics journal in the world):
It’s a result only a mathematician could love. Researchers hoping to get ‘2’ as the answer for a long-sought proof involving pairs of prime numbers are celebrating the fact that a mathematician has wrestled the value down from infinity to 70 million.
“That’s only [a factor of] 35 million away” from the target, quips Dan Goldston, an analytic number theorist at San Jose State University in California who was not involved in the work. “Every step down is a step towards the ultimate answer.”
That goal is the proof to a conjecture concerning prime numbers. Those are the whole numbers that are divisible only by one and themselves. Primes abound among smaller numbers, but they become less and less frequent as one goes towards larger numbers. In fact, the gap between each prime and the next becomes larger and larger — on average. But exceptions exist: the ‘twin primes’, which are pairs of prime numbers that differ in value by 2. Examples of known twin primes are 3 and 5, or 17 and 19, or 2,003,663,613 × 2195,000 − 1 and 2,003,663,613 × 2195,000 + 1.
The twin prime conjecture says that there is an infinite number of such twin pairs. Some attribute the conjecture to the Greek mathematician Euclid of Alexandria, which would make it one of the oldest open problems in mathematics.
The problem has eluded all attempts to find a solution so far. A major milestone was reached in 2005 when Goldston and two colleagues showed that there is an infinite number of prime pairs that differ by no more than 16. But there was a catch. “They were assuming a conjecture that no one knows how to prove,” says Dorian Goldfeld, a number theorist at Columbia University in New York.
The new result, from Yitang Zhang of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, finds that there are infinitely many pairs of primes that are less than 70 million units apart without relying on unproven conjectures. Although 70 million seems like a very large number, the existence of any finite bound, no matter how large, means that that the gaps between consecutive numbers don’t keep growing forever. The jump from 2 to 70 million is nothing compared with the jump from 70 million to infinity. “If this is right, I’m absolutely astounded,” says Goldfeld.
In a nutshell: Zhang has proved that there exists infinitely many prime numbers where . Seriously, until now, we had no upper bound at all.
I had heavy legs this morning; this worried me a bit. It turns out that my legs were heavy from doing three sets of 5 squats with…45 pounds. OMG, my legs are weak.
So I ran outside in perfect weather; 1:01:10 for 6.4 hilly miles; 9:45 out, 8:49 back: 35:40, 12:33, 4:07, 8:49. (9:33 mpm pace) and then did some light leg exercises afterward. I’ll probably start this program and do these after my runs. My legs are too weak.
Note: last night, I did 2 miles of walking with the group and another 2 (harder) with Vickie.
Yes, the hotness is being bred out of the jalapeno pepper; it isn’t just your imagination. This is what happens when you aim for the mean.
Genes and cancer:
Via the New York Times:
Scientists have discovered that the most dangerous cancer of the uterine lining closely resembles the worst ovarian and breast cancers, providing the most telling evidence yet that cancer will increasingly be seen as a disease defined primarily by its genetic fingerprint rather than just by the organ where it originated. [...]
Over the past year, as part of this project, researchers have reported striking genetic changes in breast, colon and lung cancers that link them to other cancers. One kind of breast cancer was closely related to ovarian cancer. Colon cancers often had a genetic change found in breast cancer. And about half of squamous cell lung cancers might be attacked by drugs being developed for other cancers.
The endometrial cancer and leukemia efforts alone involved more than 100 researchers who studied close to 400 endometrial tumors and 200 leukemias. Endometrial cancer is the most common gynecological cancer in American women and strikes nearly 50,000 of them a year, killing about 8,000. Acute myeloid leukemia, the most prevalent acute adult leukemia, is diagnosed in about 14,000 Americans a year and kills about 10,000.
“This is exploring the landscape of cancer genomics,” said Dr. David P. Steensma, a leukemia researcher at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute who was not involved with the studies. “Many developments in medicine are about treatments or tests that are only useful for a certain period of time until something better comes by. But this is something that will be useful 200 years from now. This is a landmark that will stand the test of time.”
Dr. Douglas Levine of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the principal investigator on the endometrial cancer study, said the group scoured the country for samples of this cancer.
The cancer has long been evaluated by pathologists who examine thin slices of endometrial tumors under a microscope and put them in one of two broad categories. But the method is not ideal. In general, one category predicts a good prognosis and tumors that could be treated with surgery and radiation, while the other holds a poorer prognosis and requires chemotherapy after surgery. But pathologists often disagree about how to classify the tumors and can find it difficult to distinguish between the two types, Dr. Levine said.
The new genetic analysis of hundreds of tumors found patterns of genetic aberrations that more precisely classify the tumors, dividing them into four distinct groups. About 10 percent of tumors that had seemed easily treated with the old type of exam now appear to be more deadly according to the genetic analysis and would require chemotherapy.
Another finding was that many endometrial cancers had a mutation in a gene that had been seen before only in colon cancers. The mutation disables a system for repairing DNA damage, resulting in 100 times more mutations than typically occur in cancer cells.
“That was a complete surprise,” Dr. Levine said.
It turned out to be good news. Endometrial cancers with the mutation had better outcomes, perhaps because the accumulating DNA damage is devastating to cancer cells.
Another surprise was that the worst endometrial tumors were so similar to the most lethal ovarian and breast cancers, raising the tantalizing possibility that the three deadly cancers might respond to the same drugs.
The bottom line: cancers shouldn’t really be classified by what organ they attack but rather by their genomes; it is this classification which should determine which treatment to use.
Why are some drugs so effective at treating cancer cells? It might depend on how the drug causes proteins to be polarized in the cell: (via University of Manchester):
Professor Daniel Davis and his team used high quality video imaging to investigate why the drug rituximab is so effective at killing cancerous B cells. It is widely used in the treatment of B cell malignancies, such as lymphoma and leukaemia – as well as in autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
Using high-powered laser-based microscopes, researchers made videos of the process by which rituximab binds to a diseased cell and then attracts white blood cells known as natural killer (NK) cells to attack. They discovered that rituximab tended to stick to one side of the cancer cell, forming a cap and drawing a number of proteins over to that side. It effectively created a front and back to the cell – with a cluster of protein molecules massed on one side.
But what surprised the scientists most was how this changed the effectiveness of natural killer cells in destroying these diseased cells. When the NK cell latched onto the rituximab cap on the B cell, it had an 80% success rate at killing the cell. In contrast, when the B cell lacked this cluster of proteins on one side, it was killed only 40% of the time.
Professor Davis says: “These results were really unexpected. It was only possible for us to unravel the mystery of why this drug was so effective, through the use of video microscopy. By watching what happened within the cells we could clearly identify just why rituximab is such an effective drug – because it tended to reorganise the cancerous cell and make it especially prone to being killed.”
He continues: “What our findings demonstrate is that this ability to polarise a cell by moving proteins within it should be taken into consideration when new antibodies are being tested as potential treatments for cancer cells. It appears that they can be up to twice as effective if they bind to a cell and reorganise it.”
Hurray for Science!
Something Good about Peoria, IL
We do have first rank science being done here:
It began in South Korea with a baby girl born without a windpipe. Unable to eat, drink or swallow on her own, she breathed through a tube inserted into her esophagus. She was a prisoner of the neo-natal intensive care unit, her father said.
The next chapter moved to Peoria, where about three weeks ago doctors performed the experimental surgery that could change her life and upend traditional organ transplantation.
Her name is Hannah, she’s almost 3 and she tasted her first lollipop Friday.
With an artificial windpipe made of plastic fibers bathed in Hannah’s own living cells, surgeons at Children’s Hospital of Illinois at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center successfully performed the first bio-engineered transplant on a child in the United States and the first bio-engineered trachea transplant on a child in the world. It also was the first stem cell therapy at the Catholic hospital.
“I cannot express what it means to me as a scientist, a man, a father,” said Dr. Paolo Macchiarini, the expert in regenerative medicine and tracheal transplantation from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, who led the intricate 11-hour surgery on April 9.
Officials at Children’s Hospital and St. Francis announced the ground-breaking surgery Tuesday in a St. Francis conference room packed with media, either live or online, from throughout the world, plus the surgical team, researchers and businesses involved in building the expensive devices needed to regenerate human tissue into organs.
It doesn’t get more big-time than this folks!
Now in another “man-bites-dog” story, Paul Krugman points out something:
Brad DeLong directs me to a screed by Clive Crook, who sort of admits that I’ve been right about a lot of things but accuses me of being, well, shrill. Where have I heard that before?
But the Crook piece is actually useful, in an unintended way.
Brad points out, correctly, that Crook demands that I engage respectfully with reasonable people on the other side, but somehow fails to offer even one example of such a person. Not long ago Crook was offering Paul Ryan as an exemplar of serious, honest conservatism, while I was shrilly declaring Ryan a con man. But I suspect that even Crook now admits, at least to himself, that Ryan is indeed a con man.
But in a way the most revealing point here is Crook’s demand that I engage with
thoughtful, public-spirited Americans whose views on the proper scale and scope of government are different from his, yet worthy of respect.
Wait — is that what it’s about? If you read my original post, and Noah Smith’s KrugTron the Invincible post that inspired it, you’ll see that it’s all about macroeconomics — about questions like whether budget deficits in a depressed economy drive up interest rates and crowd out private investment, about whether printing money in a depressed economy is inflationary, about whether rising government debt has severe negative impacts on growth.
What do these questions have in common? They’re factual questions, with factual answers — and they have absolutely no necessary relationship to the “proper scale and scope of government”. You could, in principle, believe that we need a drastically downsized government, and at the same time believe that cutting government spending right now will increase unemployment. You could believe that discretionary policy of any kind is a mistake, and at the same time admit that the expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet isn’t at all inflationary under current circumstances.
So where’s this stuff about the scale of government coming from? Well, in practice it turns out that many conservatives are unwilling to concede that Keynesian macro has any validity to it, or that you can sometimes run the printing presses without unleashing runaway inflation, because they fear that any such admission would open the doors to much wider government intervention. But that’s exactly my point! They’re letting their views about how the world works be dictated by their vision of the kind of society they want; they’re politicizing their economic analysis. And that’s why they keep getting everything wrong.
They do the same in science; after all creationists and intelligent design advocates say that standard science “is only a theory; only one point of view”.
Conservatives might bash liberals for “moral relativism” but they are happy to use “relativism” themselves when the facts don’t fit their world view.
Oh yes, liberals do that to, but liberals don’t accuse conservatives of being “relativists”. But in fact, we should, because they are!
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