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Physicists propose a new method for monitoring nuclear waste

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 9:25am
New scientific findings suggest neutrino detectors may play an important role in ensuring better monitoring and safer storage of radioactive material in nuclear waste repository sites.
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How does it look when Earth is bombarded with dark matter?

Space and time from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 9:25am
A whole lot of zig-zagging: Perhaps that is what happens when the universe's mysterious dark matter particles hit the Earth. Researchers can now show through simulations how it might look.
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Hydrogen gas from enzyme production

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 9:25am
Researchers have uncovered a crucial reaction principle of hydrogen-producing enzymes. The scientists investigated the production of molecular hydrogen in single-cell green algae. They were able to demonstrate how the enzyme succeeds in transferring two electrons in succession to two hydrogen ions and thereby assume stable intermediate states.
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Flipping the electron spin

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 9:24am
When lithium-ion batteries are charged too quickly, metallic lithium gets deposited on the anodes. This reduces battery capacity and lifespan and can even destroy the batteries. Scientists have now presented a process that, for the first time ever, allows this so-called lithium plating process to be investigated directly. This puts new strategies for quick-charging strategies close at hand.
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Bioelectronic 'nose' can detect food spoilage by sensing the smell of death

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 9:24am
Strong odors are an indicator that food has gone bad, but there could soon be a new way to sniff foul smells earlier on. As reported in ACS Nano, researchers have developed a bioelectronic
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Go with the flow (or against it)

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 9:24am
Researchers are using magnetic fields to influence a specific type of bacteria to swim against strong currents, opening up the potential of using the microscopic organisms for drug delivery in environments with complex microflows- - like the human bloodstream.
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Smartphone health apps miss some daily activity of users

Computers and Math from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 9:24am
The iPhone's Health app and its built-in pedometer miss a significant number of users' steps during a typical day, a new study has found. That's good news for people who self-monitor their physical activity; they are probably getting more exercise than they realize. But the results should raise some caution among researchers who want to tap into the smartphone's enormous potential for gathering health data.
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Cell tissue must not freeze!

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 9:24am
Nature has evolved sugars, amino acids, and special antifreeze proteins as cryoprotectants. People use organic solvents and synthetic polymers as additives to prevent cell cultures from freezing damage. Now, scientists have combined both methods: They introduced polyproline, a polypeptide made of the natural amino acid proline, as an effective cryoprotectant for monolayers of cells.
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Try this! Researchers devise better recommendation algorithm

Computers and Math from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 9:24am
Most recommendation systems use a measure called cosine similarity, which seems to work well in practice. Last year, a team of researchers used a new theoretical framework to demonstrate why, indeed, cosine similarity yields such good results. Now they are reporting that they have used their framework to construct a new recommendation algorithm that should work better than those in use today, particularly when ratings data is "sparse" -- that is, when there is little overlap between the products reviewed and the ratings assigned by different customers.
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Towards data storage at the single molecule level

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 9:19am
Similar to normal hard drives, so-called spin-crossover molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team has now managed to place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve its storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold.
Categories: Science

Towards data storage at the single molecule level

Computers and Math from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 9:19am
Similar to normal hard drives, so-called spin-crossover molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team has now managed to place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve its storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold.
Categories: Science

Welcome to the limb lab where organs are kept alive on shelves

New Scientist Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 9:10am
Clare Wilson visits a body-parts workshop where limbs, hearts and kidneys are reanimated, with the aim of improving transplants and developing new treatments
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Harvard turns even more authoritarian, imposing sanctions on students who belong to off-campus, single-sex social clubs

Why Evolution is True Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 8:00am

Back in May I reported (see also here:123) how Harvard University, under the aegis and urging of President Drew Faust, had proposed punishing students who join single-sex (or rather, single-“gender”) social organizations that aren’t affiliated with the University. These include the famous “finals clubs,” which include all-male and all-female as well as co-ed versions.  And these punishments can be quite severe. As I wrote in May:

Beginning with the class of 2017 [now with students entering in 2018; see below], any Harvard student found belonging to a gender-exclusive group will experience these sanctions (taken from the Post article):

  • Those students won’t be able to hold any leadership position in Harvard’s undergraduate organizations, including sports teams. That means that if you belong to an off-campus fraternity, you can’t be captain of the all-male football team. Or if you belong to a sorority, you can’t be president of the women’s crew team. Ironic, isn’t it?
  • Those students will not be able to apply for prestigious fellowships, like the Rhodes and Marshall scholarships, that require endorsements from Harvard. Harvard will not support the students by sending the required university recommendation and endorsement.

I thought, and continue to think, that this is a terrible idea, for it violates Harvard’s own policy of allowing students freedom of association. Why should they be punished for what they do off campus so long as they adhere to the student code of conduct on campus? And I’m not the only one who thinks this; Steve Pinker weighed in here, agreeing with many Harvard faculty as well as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which sent a letter of protest to Harvard.

Under Drew Faust, Harvard hasn’t done much to burnish its image, but rather has descended into a form of authoritarian leftism increasingly afflicting Ivy League schools (see, for instance, here and here). I don’t think Faust’s been a particularly visionary President, and I’m not unhappy that she’ll be retiring next June after a decade on the job. Because I got my Ph.D. at Harvard, really enjoyed my time there, and am a bit protective of its academic reputation, I do care what happens to the school. And of course I’m always monitoring the attempts of colleges everywhere to erode student freedoms.

When I wrote Faust as a Harvard alumnus, I got this tepid response, but it was all I expected.

Dear Mr. Coyne,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write.  I appreciate having your perspective on this important set of issues, and I have taken the liberty of sharing your concerns with Dean Khurana.

Sincerely,
Drew Faust

It’s ironic that Faust, who has pushed these punishments for single-sex association to a faculty vote, is a member of Board of Trustees for her own alma mater, Bryn Mawr College, a college that does not accept men as undergraduates, even transgender men.

Nevertheless, as Harvard Magazine reported, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) voted on November 7 to impose the sanctions (rejecting a motion to derail them by a vote of 130 against, 90 in favor). And yesterday the same magazine reported that imposition of the sanctions will begin very soon: in May of 2018, before this year’s class of new students enters. The report quotes a statement by Faust and Harvard Corporation fellow William F. Lee that was read to the FAS meeting yesterday. All the sanctions above will be applied, and students who want postgraduate fellowships or hope to have a leadership role on a sports team will have to quit their clubs. And that, of course, may kill the clubs, which is surely a goal of the new policy.

Not that I like these clubs: I wouldn’t be a member (I didn’t participate in fraternity rush in college), and I object to their exclusionary policies. But that’s irrelevant to the principle of freedom of association. Further, Faust and Lee deny that they’re “punishing” the students; rather, they are simply controlling their behavior and defining their identity:

The policy does not discipline or punish the students; it instead recognizes that students who serve as leaders of our community should exemplify the characteristics of non-discrimination and inclusivity that are so important to our campus. Ultimately, students have the freedom to decide which is more important to them: membership in a gender-discriminatory organization or access to those privileges and resources. The process of making those types of judgments, the struggle of defining oneself, one’s identity, and one’s responsibilities to a broader community, is a valuable part of the personal growth and self-exploration we seek for our undergraduates. The USGSOs, in turn, have the choice to become gender-neutral and thus permit their members full access to all institutional privileges.

This is really disingenuous, because of course the new rule punishes and disciplines students who belong to off campus single-sex clubs (remember, several of these prohibit men from joining): it forbids them from getting certain positions on College teams and from applying for scholarships. You simply can’t get a Rhodes or Marshall scholarship, for instance, without a letter of endorsement from your college.

It’s perfectly acceptable (and laudable) for the College to prohibit sex discrimination in its own organizations, but I see no right they have to enforce such behavior for organizations that are private. It’s as if sexist, racist, or anti-religious epithets were also punished when uttered in students’ private homes or apartments—on the grounds that they don’t contribute to the “Harvard identity”. But that violates freedom of speech, and such a rule wouldn’t stand in court.

As Faust and Lee issued their statement, Dean Khurana (see above) also issued a statement to the incoming class—the first class subject to the new policy. While the goals outlined by the Dean are laudable, the sanctions they’ll impose smack of Big-Brotherism. Here’s an excerpt (see more documents and statements at the Harvard Magazine piece); noet the allusion to Trumpian America:

Because we are a diverse community, we will not always agree —on our priorities, on the right solutions to our problems, or even on what a Harvard education means and should be.  But we have much common ground. As applicants to Harvard, each of you inspired us with your plans to make a difference in the world and your hopes to inspire those around you. Each of you sought out this unique opportunity to learn from your peers who come from different backgrounds and from all over the world. Now, as Harvard students, you each play a part in helping Harvard College create this diverse, multi-generational, and inclusive community of learning. Our debates about how to create our community may be intense, but we must continue to see each other as fellow members of one community, with obligations to each other.

Changes here at Harvard are occurring against the backdrop of so much division and anger in the United States. Those divisions will not be easily repaired, and the community we create here on campus matters more than ever. . .

How will the University find out who belongs to single-sex clubs? A statement from another dean notes darkly that “enforcing any regulatory policy relies on self-reporting (or perhaps reports from other students.)” In other words, ratting is encouraged. Don’t like one of your classmates? If he or she is a member of a finals club, just tell the dean!

In the end, this is a black mark on Harvard, on the faculty who voted for the measure, and on the legacy of Drew Faust, which, I think, will not be a good one. I agree with what Professor of English Helen Vender said at the November 7 faculty meeting (Vender, like me, doesn’t like finals clubs). This is one of her five reasons for voting against the measure:

Punishing a student for having joined an unrecognized single-sex group by ruling out his or her access, on that account, to overseas fellowships and leadership positions on campus is to confuse two distinct areas of college life by making access to intellectual progress or leadership consequent on private behavior.

h/t: Greg Mayer

 


Categories: Science

Why brewing beer in space is more important than you think

New Scientist Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 7:42am
Budweiser is sending barley seeds into orbit next week. That's just the beginning of the challenge of trying to brew beer beyond Earth
Categories: Science

Turning beer into fuel

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 7:01am
Chemists have made the first steps towards making sustainable fuel using beer as a key ingredient, outlines a new report.
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Marshmallow-like silicone gels used as insulation in containers for cryopreserved embryos

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 7:01am
As the genetic modification of mice is increasingly used in medical and biological research, so too is the need for an efficient way to transport cryopreserved embryos and sperm.
Categories: Science

Jesus ‘n’ Mo ‘n’ feminism

Why Evolution is True Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 6:30am

The new Jesus and Mo strip is called “altar”, with the artist commenting, “And there have been lots of cover versions.” It’s not just religionists, of course, who “sacrifice the rights of women” because of religious beliefs. Many feminists do, so long as it’s Islam that abrogates those rights. And among them are atheists, who in their osculation of Islam have given up not just their concern for women’s welfare, but also their disdain for faith.


Categories: Science

Nanomaterials: How to separate linear and ring-shaped molecules

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 6:21am
What is the difference between linear chains and rings composed of the same material? The molecular building blocks are identical, but from a mathematical point of view the two structures have distinct topologies, namely ring and linear chain. This difference is readily recognizable on a macroscopic scale, as for example a golden ring and a gold bar, but represents a tricky task on the microscopic scale.
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Discovery about rare nitrogen molecules offers clues to makeup of life-supporting planets

Space and time from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 6:07am
A new study on atmospheric nitrogen provides a clue about what geochemical signatures of other planets might look like, especially if they are capable of supporting life as we know it.
Categories: Science

New methods of tracking hospital nurses could help make workflow more efficient

Matter and energy from Science Daily Feed - Wed, 12/06/2017 - 6:07am
Previous studies about nurse workflow have used time-motion study methods, which involve manually observing nurses in person or on video and then clocking how much time they spend on each task. Now, an engineer has developed a method for better tracking how nurses in an intensive care unit (ICU) spend their workday. Findings could help improve the health care delivery process in the ICU and could also be applied to other health care procedures.
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