News from AAAS

Some highlights from the annual AAAS conference, held in Washington, DC, this past weekend

By | February 21, 2011

This year's American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference gathered researchers, educators, and policy makers from around the world to present on topics ranging from the state of US science to behavioral research in monkeys to possible new alternative fuel sources. Below are some highlights from the past weekend of talks and symposia. US losing lead in science? The United States will lose its spot as the dominant leader in science and technology research as more countries increase their scientific output, according to Penn State researcher linkurl:Caroline Wagner,; who presented her findings on Friday (February 18). The proportion of papers authored by US researchers, Wagner repoorted, dropped by 20 percent from 1996 to 2008. Not surprisingly, China is one of the biggest emerging players in the scientific community. The country is already publishing more papers in natural science and engineering, and some estimate that it will be more prolific in all fields by 2015. Furthermore, Chinese researchers will soon outnumber American scientists due to increased university enrollment in China. "What is emerging is a global science system in which the U.S. will be one player among many," Wagner, an associate professor of international affairs, linkurl:said in a press release.; Monkey uncertainty
Image: Wikimedia commons, Mieciu K2
Macaques may be capable of assessing their own knowledge, as they choose to pass on a question to avoid the risk of answering incorrectly. Such metacognition -- awareness of one's own thoughts -- has long been argued to be a trait unique to humans. linkurl:John David Smith; of the State University of New York at Buffalo and linkurl:Michael Beran; of Georgia State University trained macaques to look at a computer screen and determine if the pixels displayed were either "sparse" or "dense." If the monkeys chose correctly, they were rewarded with food. If they chose incorrectly, the game was paused. If the monkeys chose to pass, which they did by choosing the question mark instead of the S (for sparse) or D (for dense) answers, they simply moved on to the next question -- no treat, no pause. Sure enough, just like humans, the monkeys chose to pass on the more difficult trials. "Monkeys apparently appreciate when they are likely to make an error," Smith linkurl:told BBC News.; "They seem to know when they don't know." Constructing plant-inspired movement Engineers often draw inspiration from nature: lizard movements have spawned new robot designs, linkurl:a worm adhesive holds promise for bone reconstruction,; the iridescence of butterfly wings and beetles has yielded technologies for brighter cell phone screens and novel anti-counterfeiting techniques. Now, a plant, known as the Mimosa plant, whose leaves fold when touched is inspiring University of Michigan and Penn State researchers to create artificial structures that can twist, bend, stiffen and maybe even heal themselves. The plant's movements are made possible by the process of osmosis. As the plant cells take in and release water, they collapse and expand, causing the plants to move and change shape. If the researchers can harness this mechanism artificially, they may one day be able to produce advanced robots capable of changing shape for increased maneuverability, or becoming rigid to grab objects. "This is really a unique concept inspired by biology," linkurl:Kon-Well Wang,; chair of the mechanical engineering department at the University of Michigan, linkurl:said in a press release.; Asthma-parasite resistance link While studying a parasitic worm, Schistosoma mansoni, in rural fishing villages in Brazil, researchers at Johns Hopkins University identified a gene that's associated with resistance against it. But that resistance to infection comes at a cost -- an increased risk of asthma. The first hint that such a gene may exist came when the researchers administered medication to fight S. mansoni infection and noticed an increase in the incidence of asthma and allergy symptoms, linkurl:according to ScienceNOW.; Sure enough, upon investigating blood and stool samples from the local people, the team found that IL-33, a gene associated with inflammation known to be overexpressed in the lungs of asthmatics, also seemed to be linked with worm resistance. Photosynthesizing for fuel Mimicking photosynthesis may one day be able to produce inexpensive hydrogen for fuel to run automobiles and jet airplanes. While the technology is not yet cost or energy efficient, materials chemist linkurl:Thomas Mallouk; of Penn State University hopes that by continuing to improve the technology, which uses light to change water into hydrogen and oxygen, it will one day prove its worth. "We are creating an artificial system that mimics photosynthesis," Mallouk linkurl:said in a press release,; "but it will be practical only when it is as cheap as gasoline or jet fuel."
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Opening a Can of Worms;
[February 2011]*linkurl:Are monkeys self-aware?;
30th September 2010]*linkurl:Science goes to China;
[May 2007]


Avatar of: Dov Henis

Dov Henis

Posts: 97

February 24, 2011

US losing lead in science? \n\n"The proportion of papers authored by US researchers, Wagner reported, dropped by 20 percent from 1996 to 2008."\n\nJust the proportion of the "papers"? \nOtherwise the US "papers" have been, are, and prospected to be of scientific value? \n\n\nSee "Hope For Science?"\n\n\n\nAnd see the following two samples of presently taboo, nonAAASkoshered nonpeerreviewable notes:\n\n===========================\n\n1st sample\n\nGenes And Genomes Are Both Organisms\n\nGenomes Are RNA-Evolved Template ORGANISMS \nEpiDNAtics Is Not Epigenetics\n\n\nFrom "Dispel Some Figments Of 2010 Science Imagination"\n\n\nThe "heritable or enduring changes" are epiDNAtics, not epigenetics. Alternative splicing is not epigenetics, even if/when not involving alteration of the DNA sequence. Earth life is an RNA world.\n\nIt's the RNAs that evolve proteins. AND IT'S THE RNAs THAT HAVE EVOLVED AND PRODUCE AND EMPLOY THE RNA and (stabler) DNA template genome organisms for carrying out life processes, i.e. for enhancing Earth's biosphere by proliferating RNAs, for augmenting and constraining as long as possible some energy by augmenting its, RNA's, self-propagation, constraining temporarily some of the total energy of the universe, all of which is nevertheless destined to fuel the ongoing cosmic expansion. \n\nIT HAS ALWAYS BEEN AND IT STILL IS AN RNA EARTH LIFE.\n\nScience should adjust its vision, comprehension and concepts. \n\n\nDov Henis \n(comments from 22nd century)\nSeed of Human-Chimp Genomes Diversity\n\n03.2010 Updated Life Manifest\n\n\n==========================\n\n2nd sample\n\nSuggested 2010 Updated Concepts Of Evolution, Natural Selection\n\n\n\nOn The Nature And Origin Of Cosmic, Including Life, Evolution, Beyond Darwin And Einstein\n\nThe purpose of OUR life and of its promotion is ours to formulate and set. It derives solely from our cognition. The nature and origin of cosmic, including life, evolution:\n\nNatural Selection Derives From Cosmic Expansion\n\n"Evolution is energy temporarily constrained in a mass format to postpone reconversion of the mass to the energy fueling the cosmic expansion".\n\n\nI.\n\nOrigin And Nature Of Natural Selection\n\nLife is another mass format, a self-replicating mass format.\nAll mass formats are subject to natural selection.\nNatural selection is the delaying conversion of mass to the energy fueling cosmic expansion.\nCosmic expansion is the reconversion of all mass to energy.\n\nNatural Selection Updated 2010, Beyond Historical Concepts:\n\nNatural Selection applies to ALL mass formats. Life, self-replicating format, is just one of them.\nNatural Selection Defined:\n\n Natural selection is E (energy) temporarily constrained in an m (mass) format. Period. \n\nNatural selection is a ubiquitous property of each and every and all cosmic mass, spin array, formats. Mass strives to increase its constrained energy content in attempt to postpone its reconversion to energy and to postpone addition of its constitutional energy to the totality of the cosmic energy that fuels the cosmic expansion going on since Big Bang. \n\n\nDov Henis\n(Comments From The 22nd Century)\n\nCosmic Evolution Simplified\n\nGravity Is The Monotheism Of The Cosmos\n\n\n------------------------------------------\n\nII.\n\nLongevity Schmongevity Genes?\n\nIt's Not The Procedure, But The Concept That Is Absurd \n\nLongevity Genes Search Reflects Science Decadence \n\n\nA. For most centenarians, longevity is written in the DNA.\nA study of people who live past 100 reveals many genetic paths to a long life.\n\n\n\nB. Longevity is about survival, which is about "natural selection", which is about energy constrainment, which is about life evolution, which is about cosmic evolution. All mass is destined to reconvert to energy to fuel the ongoing cosmic expansion. This is why organisms and black holes etc., eat, digest energy in mass forms, to delay-postpone conversion to energy. This is evolution, which is natural selection, which is survival, which is longevity.\n\nAll mass formats age, degenerate back into enery. Life is a mass format. Searching for longevity genes is searching for evolution genes...\n\n\nC. The search for longevity genes is a reflection of the 20th-21st centuries science decadence\n\nIts concepts and terminology reflect the abandonment of basic science for adoption of the pretentious cancerous capitalist 20th-21st century technology culture.\n\n\nDov Henis\n(Comments From The 22nd Century)\n\n-------------------------------------\n\n\nIII.\n\nRethink Astronomy And The Universe\n( even without Quantum Unique Ergodicity, but with plain commonsense )\n\nGalactic clusters formed by dispersion, not by conglomeration. The proof of this is their behaviour, including acceleration, as Newtonian bodies. \n\nThese bodies formed at the start of inflation, when all energy was still in mass format, and the inflation was the start of reconversion of cosmic mass into energy. Cosmic expansion acceleration rate differs for galactic clusters, proceeding according to Newton's laws, proportional to the various galactic clusters' masses.\n\n\nRethink\n- A Basic Physics Tenet\n- The Universe In Which We Live\n\nA. Neutrino quick-change artist caught in the act\nA transformation from one ?flavor? to another confirms the elusive elementary particles have mass and suggests a need for new physics.\n\n\n\nB. Adopt \n\n- Each and every particle has mass. \n- Dark energy and dark matter YOK. All the universe energy and mass are plainly accounted for.\n- Higgs field/particle YOK. Mass forms below some value of D in E=Total[m(1 + D)] .\n- Do not be afraid of embarrassingly obvious answers. Adopt space-distance in lieu of space-time. \n\n\nC. And Rethink The Universe\n\nBy the presently available data our universe is a dual-cycle array, between the mass and energy poles.\n\nOne cycle, the present, started from singularity, with all cosmic energy in mass format, and it has been proceeding to reconvert all the mass resolved at the Big Bang back to energy, by expanding the cosmos, by accelerating away the galaxy clusters. \n\nThe other cycle, the cycle leading to singularity, will re-start when expansion consumes most of the mass that fuels it. Gravity will then overcome expansion and initiate reconversion of all the energy back to mass, to singularity, again. \n\n\nDov Henis\n(Comments From The 22nd Century)\n\nDispel Some Figments Of 2010 Science Imagination\n\n03.2010 Updated Life Manifest \n\n28Dec09 Updated "Implications Of E=Total[m(1 + D)] "\n\nEvolution, Natural Selection, Derive From Cosmic Expansion\n

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