Content about science

An Old Abstract Field of Math Is Unlocking the Deep Complexity of Spacecraft Orbits (

In 2021, Koh came across a paper that discussed how to grapple with chaotic orbits from the perspective of symplectic geometry, an abstract field of math that is generally far removed from messy real-world details. She started to suspect that symplectic geometry might have the tools she needed to better understand orbits, and she got in touch with Agustin Moreno, the author of the paper. Moreno, then a postdoctoral fellow at Uppsala University in Sweden, was surprised and pleased to hear that someone at NASA was interested in his work. “It was unexpected, but it was also quite interesting and sort of motivating at the same time,” he said.

This is the beauty of pure academic research – someone makes an unforeseen connection and our collective knowledge grows. You never know how people will apply your work later. Pretty neat and compelling example of the value of basic research.

tags: research math science space

posted by matt in Sunday, May 5, 2024

Evaluation of ChatGPT’s responses to information needs and information seeking of dementia patients - Scientific Reports (

[L]arge language models such as ChatGPT can serve as valuable sources of information for informal caregivers, although they may not fully meet the needs of formal caregivers who seek specialized (clinical) answers. Nevertheless, even in its current state, ChatGPT was able to provide responses to some of the clinical questions related to dementia that were asked.

I suspect this is true for medical information on the web, too — good for most of us, incomplete for medical folks.

tags: science ai chatgpt

posted by matt in Saturday, May 4, 2024

Lithium-free sodium batteries exit the lab and enter US production (

Sodium-ion tech has received heightened interest in recent years as a more reliable, potentially cheaper energy storage medium. While its energy density lags behind lithium-ion, advantages such as faster cycling, longer lifespan and safer, non-flammable end use have made sodium-ion an attractive alternative, especially for stationary uses like data center and EV charger backup storage.

This is going to be interesting to watch over the next few years and decades. Battery technology is having a moment, for obvious reasons, and the Midwest stands to benefit if interest in sodium-ion technology continues to grow. There's a giant salt mine in Cleveland that extends beneath Lake Erie and another under Detroit.

tags: science ev ohio michigan midwest

posted by matt in Saturday, May 4, 2024

Wild Orangutan Observed Using First Aid on a Wound in a Scientific First (

Three days after his wound appeared, Rakus did something that the researchers had never seen before. He ingested, chewed, and spit out bits of a nearby plant, then dabbed his wound with the resulting plant mix.

This is pretty remarkable. I'd really like to know if Rakus discovered the healing properties of the plant on his own, or if he learned it from another orangutan. If the latter, did the other teach him, or did he just observe the other healing his wounds?

tags: science

posted by matt in Thursday, May 2, 2024

Two Lifeforms Merge Into One Organism For First Time In a Billion Years - Slashdot (

A discovery on par with the genesis of the mitochondria. That's truly amazing. Of course, the presence of the mitochondria in the evolution of life is what allows us to view this discovery as something that "hold[s]...the potential to fundamentally change agriculture."

Biology never ceases to amaze me.

tags: science

posted by matt in Saturday, April 27, 2024

Bioluminescence first evolved in animals at least 540 million years ago (

Statistically speaking, bioluminescence first appeared on earth at least as early as 540 million years ago. That's incredible, though there's something in this article that I find even more remarkable - "Bioluminescence...has independently evolved at least 94 times in nature." Talk about a winning strategy.

tags: science nature

posted by matt in Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Slashdot (

"It was lucky [that we survived], but we know from evolutionary biology that the emergence of a new species can happen in small, isolated populations...."

This is fascinating, perhaps morbidly so. Are we smart enough to avoid repeating history? We may be on the verge of finding out, measured on a scale of thousands (or maybe tens or hundreds of thousands) of years.

Here's the original research published in Science.

tags: science research

posted by matt in Saturday, September 2, 2023

Moths are more efficient pollinators than bees, shows new research (

Amid widespread concern about the decline of wild pollinating insects like bees and butterflies, University of Sussex researchers have discovered that moths are particularly vital pollinators for nature.

Save the bees. And the moths.

tags: science nature

posted by matt in Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Cancer and heart disease vaccines ‘ready by end of the decade’ (

"Dr Paul Burton, the chief medical officer of pharmaceutical company Moderna, said he believes the firm will be able to offer such treatments for “all sorts of disease areas” in as little as five years."

This lightning speed timeframe still leaves plenty of time for anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists to ramp up their efforts.

tags: science medicine

posted by matt in Saturday, April 8, 2023

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Yes. Yes I am.

Getting my second COVID booster shot this morning. I've got the first appointment of the day, but I could have any time I wanted—every single time slot was available when I scheduled it online last night.

At 52, I've been eligible for my second booster for some time now. I waited, though, waiting for signs of another surge and hoping to maximize the window during which it gives me elevated antibody levels. A bit of a game, I know, but not entirely without merit. As an immunologist, I bank more on long term memory and the T-cell response, but feel I might as well try to leverage the "sugar high" of an antibody surge.

The pharmacist let me leave right after the shot; she made no mention of a waiting period. So, I'm now sitting in my car in the parking lot for a self-imposed fifteen minute watch period.

tags: covid vaccine science

photo posted by matt in Wednesday, July 20, 2022

High-precision measurement of the W boson mass with the CDF II detector - PubMed (

"A sample of approximately 4 million W boson candidates is used to obtain [a mass W bosun], the precision of which exceeds that of all previous measurements combined....This measurement is in significant tension with the standard model expectation."

Down goes Frazier?

I love science, both the knowledge and the process of science. This paper, published with nearly 400 authors and in Science, likely the world's most respected peer-reviewed scientific journal, presents surprising results on the mass of W bosuns that lie way outside the value predicted by the standard model of physics. As such, it puts that model—which has guided physics research and understanding for decades—on the ropes.

But, the process of science won't let anyone jump to conclusions, not even four hundred authors writing in this journal. Nope, in a way, this paper really just kicks the process into the next gear. Testing and the oh-so-important work to verify the results come next. And, with this sort of work, that will take years.

So, is Frazier down?

Maybe, but in science and boxing, that doesn't mean the fight is over. This paper probably represents an early knockdown of the standard model (it's not the first). It took six for Foreman to be declared the winner over Frazier. So, now we wait. In the meantime, enjoy knowing that a revolution in our understanding of physics may be underway.

That doesn't mean the parlor games can't start now, though. And surely they have. Has Frazier fallen? We'll know someday,

tags: science research physics

posted by matt in Sunday, April 24, 2022

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We met Jonathan for lunch in Harvard Square, dropped our bags in his dorm room, and headed to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. This is the third museum we've visited since he started here. It was fantastic, just like the others.

tags: science museum cambridge harvard

photo posted by matt in Friday, April 22, 2022

On Oreology, the fracture and flow of “milk's favorite cookie®” (

I love everything about this, including the fact that the research was supported by the federal government. I'm sure, sooner or later, some anti-science, clueless politician will cite it as an example of wasteful spending on basic research.

tags: science research

posted by matt in Thursday, April 21, 2022

Ambitious scientists reach one of the deep seas' most inaccessible places (

The earth still has a lot to reveal. And exploration like this, into the previously unexplored depths of the ocean, will likely support applied research and innovation for decades to come.

"'Systematic searches for new drugs have shown that marine invertebrates produce more antibiotic, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory substances than any group of terrestrial organisms,' says the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration."

tags: science ocean environment earth

posted by matt in Saturday, October 30, 2021

Evidence for European presence in the Americas in ad 1021 - Nature (

"Here we provide evidence that the Vikings were present in Newfoundland in AD 1021."

Science sorting out history. Now the question becomes, how long will it take history to apply the science and teach this to children?

tags: science history education

posted by matt in Saturday, October 23, 2021

‘Impossible’ Particle Discovery Adds Key Piece to the Strong Force Puzzle | Quanta Magazine (

"Polyakov’s analysis suggested that the four quarks banded together for a glorious 12 sextillionths of a second before an energy fluctuation conjured up two extra quarks and the group disintegrated into three mesons."

The contrast between the precision of "12 sextillitionths of a second" and the vagueness of "an energy fluctuation" that "conjures up two extra quarks" is somewhat hilarious. This is fascinating otherwise.

tags: science physics research

posted by matt in Sunday, October 17, 2021

‘I hope you die’: how the COVID pandemic unleashed attacks on scientists (

"But Nature’s survey suggests that even though researchers try to shrug off abuse, it might already have had a chilling effect on scientific communication. Those scientists who reported higher frequencies of trolling or personal attacks were also most likely to say that their experiences had greatly affected their willingness to speak to the media in the future...."

The pandemic, and our collective handling of it, has already had societal impacts that we fail to appreciate. A chilling effect on science, and its role in the distribution of knowledge, is disturbing. And that might not be the worst of it. Have we discouraged a generation of people from going into science as a career? Medicine? I don't know, maybe it's had the opposite effect in that regard. I have heard that applications to medical school are up. I didn't expect that.

tags: covid science medicine

posted by matt in Wednesday, October 13, 2021

China pledges to stop building new coal energy plants abroad (

It sort of feels like countries have finally realized they've been procrastinating on changing policies to address climate change, and are now scrambling to do so. Good and not good at the same time.

tags: science policy climate

posted by matt in Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Four dinosaurs discovered in Montana, including a possible rare ostrich-mimic Anzu: Fieldwork pieces together life at the end of ‘Dinosaur Era’ (

The find includes a triceratops specimen, and another that could be a new species.

tags: science

posted by matt in Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Covid is officially America's deadliest pandemic as U.S. fatalities surpass 1918 flu estimates (

This could be viewed as reflective of the relative virulence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus compared to the virus responsible for the 1918 flu pandemic. It could also be viewed as reflective of the ability of misinformation to overcome 100+ years of scientific and medical progress in combating deadly viruses.

tags: science covid

posted by matt in Tuesday, September 21, 2021

High genetic barrier to SARS-CoV-2 polyclonal neutralizing antibody escape - Nature (

A combination of natural infection with SARS-CoV-2 and an mRNA vaccine might provide some level of super protection. I think there's a subset of the unvaccinated who are relying on their prior natural infection as justification for skipping the vaccine. Turns out, getting the vaccine might make them the fittest of all.

tags: covid vaccine science

posted by matt in Monday, September 20, 2021

Engineers Have Proposed The First Model For a Physically Possible Warp Drive (

Turns out we don't need to break the speed of light barrier to become an interstellar species. We just need enormously powerful gravitational fields, like those provided by planets, to bend space time inside a warp drive.

Thinking about riding a warp drive around a planet makes me think of the song #Spacegrass# by Clutch:

Lay low, watch the universe expand.
Skyway, permanent Saturday.
Oh, by the way, Saturn is my rotary.

tags: physics space science

posted by matt in Thursday, March 4, 2021

United States Patent: 8278036 (

Oh, and applications of the mRNA technology in the Kariko paper were patented in 2012. The patents describe the process for practicing the technology in painstaking detail, as the law requires. And they expire in five years - in 2026, opening up incredible opportunities for new applications of the technology.

tags: patents science law covid19 vaccine

posted by matt in Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Suppression of RNA Recognition by Toll-like Receptors: The Impact of Nucleoside Modification and the Evolutionary Origin of RNA (

This is the paper that lead directly to the mRNA technology underlying both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines. Talk of a Nobel Prize has started.

"This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grants...."

This paper is, quite possibly, the best argument of all time for supporting federal spending on basic scientific research. The entire world is aware of the benefit the research produced.

Whatever we're spending on basic research isn't enough. Figure out how to pay for it...and triple it.

tags: science research vaccine pfizer moderna

posted by matt in Wednesday, March 3, 2021

How a 1960s discovery in Yellowstone made millions of COVID-19 PCR tests possible (

This is a wonderful story on the basic research and the scientist behind the key enzyme that enables PCR. We need more stories like this in the popular media. People need to understand and appreciate the importance of basic research.

tags: science research

posted by matt in Thursday, February 25, 2021

‘It will change everything’: DeepMind’s AI makes gigantic leap in solving protein structures (

This is really cool...and exciting. Combining this huge advance in protein structure prediction with the development and deployment of mRNA vaccines, 2020 will eventually be viewed as the starting point of multiple revolutions in biology and medicine. Exciting times for sure.

tags: biology medicine science

posted by matt in Tuesday, December 1, 2020