Scientific American - Health
Science news and technology updates from Scientific American
Finding Alternatives to Toxic Cleaning Supplies
Fri, 14 Jun 2013 11:00:00 EST
Dear EarthTalk : I'm concerned about toxic ingredients in my cleaning supplies, especially now that I have young children. Where can I find safer alternatives? --Betsy, East Hartford, Conn.
Throes of Creation
Mon, 17 Jun 2013 11:34:00 EST
Image of the Week #96, June 17th, 2013: From: 3 Essential Qualities Up-and-coming Science Writers Should Develop by Khalil A. Cassimally at The SA Incubator . [More]
Decoding Annie Parker-A movie about the discovery of the BRCA1 gene
Tue, 18 Jun 2013 12:17:00 EST
I currently teach two online versions of a genomics course as a faculty lecturer at UIUC (one for undergraduates and one for certified teachers working on their Masters of Science Teaching Biology), and I love it when a topic I am teaching hits the news in a big way while the courses are in session.There has been quite a bit of buzz lately about the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene, from Angelina Jolie's decision to have a double mastectomy when she learned she had the BRCA1 mutation, which jumps her chances of getting breast cancer from 12 percent to 50-80 percent, to this week's US Supreme Court ruling that naturally occurring genes are not patentable. Myriad Genetics , a company that screens for the gene (and where Jolie had hers screened), claimed a patent on that gene, and with that, no other company could create a competing screening test which could influence market factors and lower the price. The cost for the screening, at over $3,000, is well out of reach for many women who are concerned about having a heritable component to their breast cancer risk. The invalidation of the patent opens the market for competition and more affordable tests. [More]
Night Noise: What a Sleeping Brain Hears
Mon, 17 Jun 2013 10:49:00 EST
[caption id="attachment_321" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Chinatown. Photo: Patrick Shen"] [/caption]Earlier this year, a Kickstarter campaign for a documentary film called "In Pursuit of Silence" raised $35,371, exceeding its goal in just a few weeks. On a crowdfunding platform where a new film proposal can pull in nearly 100 times that amount--for Zach Braff's follow-up to "Garden State," precisely $3,105,473--the financing feat was modest. Still, hundreds of contributors shelled out cash , remarkably, for nothing but onscreen peace and quiet. By "exploring the value of silence, our relationship with sound, and the implications of living in a noisy world," promised Patrick Shen, the documentary's director, viewers could indulge in 80 minutes of quiescence. And, for over 35 million Americans suffering from hearing loss, toiling in urban cacophonies roughly 1 decibel louder every year, perhaps that was worth the price of admission. [More]
Pesticides Spark Broad Biodiversity Loss
Tue, 18 Jun 2013 16:45:00 EST
Agricultural pesticides have been linked to widespread invertebrate biodiversity loss in two new research papers.
#SciAmBlogs Friday - Superman, flags and taxes, behavioral economics, lost cousins of Homo sapiens, and more.
Fri, 14 Jun 2013 21:29:00 EST
- E. Paul Zehr - The Man of Steel, Myostatin, and Super-Strength [More]
Dragonflies with Backpacks May Advance the Science of Prey Capture
Mon, 17 Jun 2013 13:23:00 EST
[caption id="attachment_2131" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Dragonfly sporting antenna-laden backpack"] [/caption]Dragonflies are straight "A" hunters, capturing fruit flies in mid-air about 95 percent of the time, a grade that puts a head-of-the-class predator like a lion to shame. [More]
#SciAmBlogs Tuesday - new astronauts, glass fossils, marine protected areas, emotional intelligence, and more.
Tue, 18 Jun 2013 22:32:00 EST
- Jag Bhalla - Game Theory And The Golden Punishment Rule [More]
Minnesota Attorney General Confirms They Did Not Exonerate UMN in Markingson Death
Fri, 14 Jun 2013 11:17:00 EST
[caption id="attachment_4128" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Dan and his mom, Mary Weiss"] [/caption] This research ethics series uses the story of Dan Markingson's participation in a clinical trial of anti-psychotic drugs at the University of Minnesota, his suicide 2004 while participating on the study, and subsequent events as a case study in which to explore various aspects of clinical trial conduct. In previous posts, I've looked at issues of "good clinical practices" and ethics: consent , investigator responsibilities and conflicts of interest . Then I examined the university's response and then turned to the importance of careful documentation of consent . Next, I explained how I was transformed by Dan's story from looking at it simply as an objective case lesson in clinical trial ethics, to an advocate for an independent investigation of the University of Minnesota . In a more recent post, I shared reactions to the announcement that Mark Rotenberg, the UMN's General Counsel, was leaving Minnesota to assume a similar post, now as Counsel and Vice-President at Johns Hopkins University. Most recently, I have asked Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, who was Principal Investigator on the CAFE and CATIE trials, to address concerns that have been raised about the ethics and conduct of that trial . [More]
U.S. Kids Born in Polluted Areas More Likely to Have Autism
Tue, 18 Jun 2013 11:00:00 EST
Women who live in areas with polluted air are up to twice as likely to have an autistic child than those living in communities with cleaner air, according to a new study published today.
Eye-Tracking Software May Reveal Autism and other Brain Disorders
Tue, 18 Jun 2013 07:30:00 EST
Eye-tracking has become the tech trend du jour . Advertisers use data on where you look and when to better capture your attention. Designers employ it to improve products. Game and phone developers utilize it to offer the latest in hands-free interaction .
Patients Prefer Diet Skinny from Big Docs
Fri, 14 Jun 2013 14:13:08 EST
With more than two-thirds of Americans now overweight or obese, finding the best way to help improve diet and exercise is key for the nation's health. So who do you trust to help you lose weight? A svelte celebrity on a magazine cover? Your buffest friend? What about a super-fit physician?
#SciAmBlogs Monday - health insurance, elephant shrews, Bloomsday, night noise, optogenetics, fathers, and more.
Mon, 17 Jun 2013 22:56:00 EST
See our new Image of the Week ! - Nortin M. Hadler and Janet Schwartz - The health insurance Shell Game [More]
What The Ruling on Gene Patenting Means
Mon, 17 Jun 2013 13:52:00 EST
Although I mostly think about conservation, ecology and nature, I have a soft spot for medicine and, in particular, genetics. It's partly due to my own family history and experience, partly my interest in how people think about medicine and death, and partly my 6-month internship at Nature Medicine , which began more than two years ago this month.So when Arikia Millikan , editor of LadyBits --a space for "tech-savvy women creating the content we want to consume"--asked me to write my own take on the recent Supreme Court case about gene patenting, I had to give it a go. I didn't write about incentivizing innovation, technical details, or loopholes. I just wrote about how the decision that genes can not be patented will affect our healthcare . And, in particular, I thought about how it should create a more open, positive conversation about genetics and medicine, and the choices it will allow us in the future. [More]
The Health Insurance Shell Game
Mon, 17 Jun 2013 09:04:00 EST
The insurance industry had a rocky start a century ago. It was clear that there were untoward events that could befall any of us with catastrophic results, from the incineration of a home to the loss of the ability to maintain gainful employment from injury or death.Insurance offers a mechanism to share this risk. The stumbling block was the possibility that the insured might burn down their home to collect. Once it was realized that "moral hazard" could be held at bay by investigating for fraud, there was little to hinder the growth of an industry designed to serve our risk adverse proclivities. Almost every adult has some experience valuing the expense of sharing risk for a variety of hazards. After all, automobile insurance is generally compulsory and most of us are familiar with notions of deductibles and riders when it comes to homeowners' policies. The possibilities are not an abstraction; we can envision the house or its contents damaged, destroyed, or stolen leaving us bereft. What would reducing that prospect be worth to us? As is true for many value-based decisions, the answer brings a mix of reason and intuition 1 that can produce surprising outcomes 2 . [More]
Liposuctioned Fat Reveals Valuable Stem Cells
Fri, 14 Jun 2013 20:12:08 EST
Stem cells are prized for their ability to give rise to a variety of specialized cell types, including heart, liver, nerve and bone. Unfortunately, it’s the stem cells from embryos that have shown the biggest potential, for generating both a range of tissues and a ton of controversy.
The Man of Steel, Myostatin, and Super Strength
Fri, 14 Jun 2013 09:03:00 EST
As an infant, the Man Of Steel escaped Krypton's red sun in a rocket lovingly prepared for him by his parents. Kal-L (but more commonly known as Kal-El) arrived under our yellow sun in Smallville to eventually become Clark Kent. Since his debut in Action Comics #1 in June of 1938 , Superman has accumulated a pretty long list of "super abilities".For me, though, I really like the list of his abilities that come from the 1940s radio serials. This was back when Superman was described as "faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound". These descriptions all have to do with super-strength when you get right down to it. And with this summer's "Man of Steel" Superman re-boot, super-strength is the focus of this post. [More]
Bora's Picks (June 14th, 2013)
Fri, 14 Jun 2013 09:34:00 EST
A Sunken Egyptian City is Rediscovered, Stunning Researchers and Enthusiasts Alike by Khalil A. Cassimally : Named Thonis by the Egyptians who built it but known as Heracleion to the Greeks of the time, this great city was once a central part of ancient Egypt. Older than Alexandria, Thonis was probably founded during the eighth century BC. The city began on a downstream shore of the great Nile river where the land was fertile and freshwater was abundant. Thonis was strategically situated between the Mediterranean Sea and a great mostly landlocked lake, which also linked to the Nile river. The lake could (and indeed would) essentially be used as a huge parking space for ships.... [More]
U.S. Bioterror Detection Program Comes Under Scrutiny
Mon, 17 Jun 2013 13:05:00 EST
A cutting-edge biological terror alert system detected a potential threat in the air one morning back in 2008, threatening to derail then-Sen. Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in Denver for his party’s presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention. Initial results from a pricey national air sampling system suggested that bacteria that could cause tularemia had been detected. The microbe, Francisella tularensis , might have been weaponized to cause the infectious disease.
Readers Respond to "The Myth of Antioxidants"
Fri, 14 Jun 2013 10:00:00 EST
ANTIOXIDANTS AND HEALTH