Posts Tagged ‘Science’

Study: How Suspects’ DNA Traces Can Reveal Their Hair Color

January 4th, 2011 01:06 admin View Comments

However far-fetched some of their science has been, the barrage of forensic science TV shows during the last decade has ingrained into people the idea that even the most cautious criminals (we’re looking at you here, Dexter) leave something of themselves behind at the scene of the crime. And thanks to the march of genetic science and sequencing, those bits of someone can tell more and more about them. Even their hair.

In a study coming soon to the journal Human Genetics, Manfred Kayser and colleagues identify genetic markers that can predict a person’s hair color.

The researchers studied DNA and hair colour information from hundreds of Europeans. They investigated genes previously known to influence the differences in hair colour. “We identified 13 ‘DNA markers’ from 11 genes that are informative to predict a person’s hair colour,” said Professor Kayser. [BBC News]

The researchers report that examining these 13 markers let them predict red and black hair with about 90 percent accuracy, and blond and brown at about 80 percent.

“That we are now making it possible to predict different hair colors from DNA represents a major breakthrough because, so far, only red hair color, which is rare, could be estimated from DNA,” said Manfred Kayser, head of forensic molecular biology at the Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands. [LiveScience]

Having a good guess that you’re searching for someone with jet black locks rather than a strawberry blonde is no guarantee to catching a crook (especially if the hunted is a hair dye enthusiast), but it’s yet another secret that DNA could spill.

The same team has also studied eye color prediction using DNA, and in November, Erasmus MC researchers published a study detailing how to estimate age on the basis of DNA material. Certain immune-related DNA molecules inside blood cells decrease with age, according to the researchers. [Popular Science]

Note to self: If wanted by law enforcement, remember to change hair color, eye color, apparent age, last name…

Image: flickr / s-a-m

Source: Study: How Suspects’ DNA Traces Can Reveal Their Hair Color

Double Eclipse Photographed, Sun, Moon, and ISS

January 4th, 2011 01:44 admin View Comments

The Bad Astronomer writes “The exceptionally talented astrophotographer Thierry Legault captured a picture extraordinary even for him: the space station passing in front of the Sun while the Sun was being partially eclipsed by the Moon! He traveled all the way from France to the Sultanate of Oman to take this amazing shot. I have more information about the picture itself on the Bad Astronomy blog, but you should go to Thierry’s website to see more amazing pictures he’s taken over the years. They’re simply jaw-dropping.”

Source: Double Eclipse Photographed, Sun, Moon, and ISS

NASA Names Best & Worst Sci-Fi Movies of All Time

January 4th, 2011 01:10 admin View Comments

mvar writes “Working through the year-end best/worst movie lists can be a feat of Olympic proportions, but there’s one list which is so damn cool you’ll definitely want to give it a whirl. NASA and the Science and Entertainment Exchange have compiled a list of the ‘least plausible science fiction movies ever made,’ and they ranked the disastrous (in more ways than one) 2012 as the most ‘absurd’ sci-fi flick of all time.


Source: NASA Names Best & Worst Sci-Fi Movies of All Time

French Use Space Tech To Find Parking Spots

January 3rd, 2011 01:06 admin View Comments

itwbennett writes “Using technology developed by French space agency CNES (Centre Nationale d’Etudes Spatiales) to explore the planet Venus, drivers in the city of Toulouse are discovering something much more down-to-earth: vacant parking spots. The system is based on 3,000 sensors buried just under the pavement that detect changes in the electromagnetic environment around them and communicate the results via coaxial cable to a server, which makes the information available in real time to drivers’ smartphones.”

Source: French Use Space Tech To Find Parking Spots

Radiation Detection Goes Digital

January 3rd, 2011 01:25 admin View Comments

RedEaredSlider writes “In science fiction, explorers wave around a single device and pick up many kinds of radiation — think of the tricorders on Star Trek or Dr. Who’s sonic screwdriver. A professor at Oregon State University is bringing that a bit closer to reality, though in this case it’s for finding radioactive material. It’s a radiation spectrometer, and it works on a very old principle: particles and photons that hit certain materials will make them emit flashes of light. But for decades, radiation spectrometers had been limited to detecting only one kind of radiation at a time. David Hamby, an OSU professor of health physics, felt that there was a need for a device that could see at least two kinds of radiation, as well as be smaller than the models currently available.”

Source: Radiation Detection Goes Digital

How a Guy Found 4 New Planets Without a Telescope

January 3rd, 2011 01:37 admin View Comments

An anonymous reader writes “Peter Jalowiczor is a gas worker from South Yorkshire, England. He’s also the discoverer of four giant exoplanets, according to the University of California’s Lick-Carnegie Planet Search Team. But he’s not an astronomer and he doesn’t even have a telescope. ‘…in 2005, astronomers at the university released millions of space measurements collected over several decades and asked enthusiasts to make of them what they would. … From March 2007 Peter, 45, spent entire nights reading the data, working the figures, creating graphs. … He then sent discrepancies he discovered back to the scientists in California where they were further analyzed to see if the quirks were caused by the existence of an exoplanet.’”

Source: How a Guy Found 4 New Planets Without a Telescope

Thousands of Blackbirds Fall From Sky Dead

January 2nd, 2011 01:04 admin View Comments

Dan East writes “In a fashion worthy of a King or Hitchcock novel, blackbirds began to fall from the sky dead in Arkansas yesterday. Somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 birds rained down on the small town of Beeb, Arkansas, with no visible trauma. Officials are making wild guesses as to what happened — lightning strike, high-altitude hail, or perhaps trauma from the sound of New Year’s fireworks killed them.”

Source: Thousands of Blackbirds Fall From Sky Dead

Why Published Research Findings Are Often False

January 2nd, 2011 01:27 admin View Comments

Hugh Pickens writes “Jonah Lehrer has an interesting article in the New Yorker reporting that all sorts of well-established, multiply confirmed findings in science have started to look increasingly uncertain as they cannot be replicated. This phenomenon doesn’t yet have an official name, but it’s occurring across a wide range of fields, from psychology to ecology and in the field of medicine, the phenomenon seems extremely widespread, affecting not only anti-psychotics but also therapies ranging from cardiac stents to Vitamin E and antidepressants. ‘One of my mentors told me that my real mistake was trying to replicate my work,’ says researcher Jonathon Schooler. ‘He told me doing that was just setting myself up for disappointment.’ For many scientists, the effect is especially troubling because of what it exposes about the scientific process. ‘If replication is what separates the rigor of science from the squishiness of pseudoscience, where do we put all these rigorously validated findings that can no longer be proved?’ writes Lehrer. ‘Which results should we believe?’ Francis Bacon, the early-modern philosopher and pioneer of the scientific method, once declared that experiments were essential, because they allowed us to ‘put nature to the question’ but it now appears that nature often gives us different answers. According to John Ioannidis, author of Why Most Published Research Findings Are False, the main problem is that too many researchers engage in what he calls ‘significance chasing,’ or finding ways to interpret the data so that it passes the statistical test of significance—the ninety-five-per-cent boundary invented by Ronald Fisher. ‘The scientists are so eager to pass this magical test that they start playing around with the numbers, trying to find anything that seems worthy,’”

Source: Why Published Research Findings Are Often False

Do Sleepy Surgeons Have a Right To Operate?

January 1st, 2011 01:14 admin View Comments

Hugh Pickens writes “BusinessWeek reports that a commentary from the New England Journal of Medicine calls on doctors to disclose when they’re deprived of sleep and not perform surgery unless a patient gives written consent after being informed of their surgeon’s status. ‘We think that institutions have a responsibility to minimize the chances that patients are going to be cared for by sleep-deprived clinicians,’ writes Dr. Michael Nurok, an anesthesiologist and intensive care physician. Research suggests that sleep deprivation impairs a person’s psychomotor skills — those that require coordination and precision — as much as alcohol consumption and increases the risk of complications in patients whose surgeons failed to get much shuteye.”

Source: Do Sleepy Surgeons Have a Right To Operate?

Our Lazy Solar Dynamo — Hello Dalton Minimum?

December 31st, 2010 12:13 admin View Comments

tetrahedrassface writes “Solar maximum is supposed to be occurring, and everything from satellite communications to your toaster or radio could be affected. The only problem is that this just isn’t happening, and NASA continues to revise downward the original prediction. In fact, the new forecast for Solar Cycle 24 is a lot smaller, and is now pegged at almost 40% of what was previously predicted. Recently, two scientists at the National Solar Observatory have followed the lead of a prominent Russian scientist, who almost five years ago forecast a dearth of sunspots and the subsequent cooling of Earth for the next several cycles. With Britain currently experiencing the coldest winter in over 300 years, and no new sunspots for the last week, are we heading for a Dalton Minimum, or worse still, yet another Maunder?”

Source: Our Lazy Solar Dynamo — Hello Dalton Minimum?