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Corruption of science: Breakthrough research that turns out to be fraudulent

stem cells

One case involving stem cells occurred in the past year with Haruko Obokata, a young cell biologist at the Riken research institute in Japan
It is in the nature of scientists to argue over the evidence for or against any important breakthrough. Sometimes announcements made in good faith do not stand up to detailed scrutiny, namely the replication of the research by other experts.

On other occasions, scientists can be duped by the misconduct of their own colleagues prepared to cherry-pick favourable data to suit their conclusions, or, even worse, to fabricate data and commit outright scientific fraud - the most heinous crime in science.

One of the best examples of fraudulent research in recent years was the work on the cloning of human embryos by the South Korean researcher Hwang Woo-Suk of Seoul National University who announced in two scientific studies published in 2004 and 2005 that he had isolated human embryonic stem cells.

It turned out that he had faked many of the results and that he had engaged in dubious ethical practices in obtaining the human eggs needed for the research. He was eventually charged and found guilty of embezzlement and bioethical violations.

Comment: Unfortunately these cases are becoming all too common:

The Corruption of Science: Pressure for positive results puts science under threat, study shows
Corrupt Science: Cancer Research of 10 Years Useless: Fraudulent Studies, Says Mayo Clinic
Research Integrity? What a Joke! A New Code of Conduct for Researchers
Psychopaths in Academia: Report finds massive research fraud at Dutch universities
Netherlands: Tilburg Professor Faked Data in at Least 30 Academic Publications
FDA secretly retests 100 drugs after testing company admits work was all fraudulent

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Revealed: First glimpse of Higgs Bosons at work

© Credit: sakkmesterke/Shutterstock.com
An extremely rare collision of massive subatomic particles could reveal the nuts and bolts of how the subatomic particles called Higgs bosons impart mass to other particles.

The Higgs boson particle, which was detected for the first time in 2012, is essentially tossed around like a ball between two force-carrying particles known as W-bosons when they scatter, or bounce off of one another, a new data analysis revealed.

The data comes from the ATLAS experiment, the same proton-collision experiment that revealed the Higgs boson, at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a 17-mille-long (27 kilometers) underground atom smasher on the border of Switzerland and France.

By studying how much the Higgs sticks to the W-bosons during this scattering process, the team could learn new details about how strongly the elusive Higgs bosoninteracts with the field that gives all particles their mass.

"We are basically observing the Higgs boson at work to see whether it does its job the way we expect it to," said study co-author Marc-André Pleier, a physicist with the ATLAS project, and a researcher at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. [Beyond Higgs: 5 Elusive Particles That May Lurk in the Universe]
Beaker

Genetic fragments of MERS virus detected in air in camel barn

© Globalbiodefense.com
Genetic fragments of the deadly MERS virus were detected in the air of a barn where an infected camel was kept, a new study says.

The findings show the need for further studies to determine if Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) can be transmitted through the air, the researchers said.

Researchers collected air samples over three consecutive days from a camel barn owned by a 43-year-old male MERS patient who lived south of the town of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The man later died. One of the camels in the barn was later confirmed to have MERS.

The air samples contained genetic fragments of MERS that were identical to those detected in the infected camel and its owner, according to the study in the July 22 issue of the journal mBio.

The findings show the need for "further investigations and measures to prevent possible airborne transmission of this deadly virus," lead author Esam Azhar, said in a news release from the American Society for Microbiology. Azhar is the head of the Special Infectious Agents Unit at King Fahd Medical Research Center and associate professor of medical virology at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, according to the news release.
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Florida university students create prosthetic arm for 6yo boy using 3D printer

3D printer prosthetic arm
© http://today.ucf.edu
A 6 year-old boy from Florida born with right arm deficiency has received a prosthetic replacement. Now climbing a tree and catching a ball will be easier for him. Students from Florida University made it on a 3D printer for just $350 in just 8 weeks.

Help for little Alex Pring, missing his right arm from just above the elbow, came from students at the University of Central Florida. An engineering doctoral student, Albert Manero, heard about the boy's needs and decided to recruit a team of students to create a solution for the boy.

"I mean, I'm me. So I don't have an arm," little Alex said. "I still try real hard to do things like other kids using what I've got. But it's getting harder the more I grow," according to the official website of University of Central Florida.

The arm and part of the hand were made on a 3D printer. They run with off-the-shelf servos and batteries that are activated by the electromyography muscle energy in Alex's bicep.

Alex's new limb only cost $350 to build. In comparison, prosthetic arms for children cost much more - about $40,000 - and they have to be replaced often as children grow.
Galaxy

Oh no! Dwarf galaxies do not follow models

ESO 540-31
© Wikimedia Commons
Dwarf galaxy ESO 540-31 lies over 11 million light-years from Earth, in the constellation of Cetus.
The discovery that many small galaxies throughout the universe do not 'swarm' around larger ones like bees do but 'dance' in orderly disc-shaped orbits is a challenge to our understanding of how the universe formed and evolved.

The finding, by an international team of astronomers, including Professor Geraint Lewis from the University of Sydney's School of Physics, is announced today in Nature.

"Early in 2013 we announced our startling discovery that half of the dwarf galaxies surrounding the Andromeda Galaxy are orbiting it in an immense plane" said Professor Lewis. "This plane is more than a million light years in diameter, but is very thin, with a width of only 300 000 light years."

Comment: Publication is behind paywall here

Telescope

'Hot Jupiter' measurements do not follow models

209458b
© NASA/JPL-Caltech
The exoplanet 209458b, located 150 light-years from Earth. [Artist's concept]
Dry atmospheres of three exoplanets challenge ideas of how planets form.

Scientists searching for worlds outside of the Solar System say that three such planets - distant gas giants that resemble Jupiter - are surprisingly dry.

The atmospheres of these exoplanets, known as 'hot Jupiters', contain between one-tenth and one-thousandth water vapour than predicted, measurements from the Hubble Space Telescope show. The findings, published 24 July in Astrophysical Journal Letters, are at odds with theories of how planets form.

The study re-analyses observations of the exoplanets HD 189733b, HD 209458b and WASP-12b, which are 20 - 270 parsecs (60 - 870 light years) away from Earth. As each exoplanet crossed in front of its host star, Hubble observed the spectrum of infrared light filtering through the planet's atmosphere. A team led by Nikku Madhusudhan, an astronomer at the University of Cambridge, UK, then used atmospheric models to determine the combination of elements that produced each planet's spectrum.

Comment: A preprint of the paper can be found here

Eye 1

Google wants to get inside your body: Baseline Study aims to find the picture of perfect human health

Google Inc. has embarked on what may be its most ambitious and difficult science project ever: a quest inside the human body.
human skeleton
© Getty Images
The project will collect anonymous genetic and molecular information from 175 people.
Called Baseline Study, the project will collect anonymous genetic and molecular information from 175 people - and later thousands more - to create what the company hopes will be the fullest picture of what a healthy human being should be.

The early-stage project is run by Andrew Conrad, a 50-year-old molecular biologist who pioneered cheap, high-volume tests for HIV in blood-plasma donations.

Dr. Conrad joined Google X - the company's research arm - in March 2013, and he has built a team of about 70-to-100 experts from fields including physiology, biochemistry, optics, imaging and molecular biology.

Other mass medical and genomics studies exist. But Baseline will amass a much larger and broader set of new data. The hope is that this will help researchers detect killers such as heart disease and cancer far earlier, pushing medicine more toward prevention rather than the treatment of illness.

Comment: Quest for the picture of perfect health or the corporatocracy's quest for total information awareness down to the DNA level? You be the judge.

Galaxy

Information Paradox: Mysterious black holes may be exploding into 'white holes'

galaxy
© Reuters /NASA
A new scientific theory suggests that when black holes reach the end of their lifespan, they explode into "white holes" and release all of their matter into space.

If true, the theory could help put to rest the debate over whether or not black holes actually destroy the matter they end up devouring.

As noted by Albert Einstein's theory of relativity, when a dying star ends up collapsing under its own weight, at some point the collapse becomes irreversible, resulting in a black hole that consumes light and anything else within its surrounding area. Although Vice noted that black holes do slowly leak radiation over time - ultimately draining the black hole completely - this doesn't account for all the other matter that the dying star has consumed.
Laptop

US responsible for more spam sent than any other country

computer spam
© AFP Photo / Mike Clarke
The United States sends more spam by volume than any other country in the world, while Bulgaria emails the most per capita, according to a new tally by security company Sophos. The report covers the second quarter of 2014.

The US has placed first in Sophos' dubious "Dirty Dozen Spampionship," which looks at the top spam-producing countries in the world, for the last four quarters. The US sent 24.2 percent of the world's spam in the past three months, with France sending just 6.7 percent, China 6.2 percent and Italy 5.2 percent, according to the company's data.

Playing off the popularity of the 2014 World Cup and the upcoming Commonwealth Games, SophosLabs created two league tables to show off the results of its study. "Just as the soccer World Cup reminds us that football is the 'World Game', because it's played so keenly in so many countries, we hope the Spampionship Tables are a reminder that spam is a global problem that affects us all," the company wrote on its Naked Security blog.
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Edward Snowden announces plans to work on anti-surveillance tech

Edward Snowden
© ZDnet
The former NSA contractor, still hidden within Russia, plans to develop anti-surveillance technology following the US government spying scandal.
Edward Snowden says he plans to develop and promote anti-surveillance technology to hamper government spying across the globe.

The former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, who leaked confidential documents detailing the extensive surveillance activities of the NSA and the UK's GCHQ, called for support at the Hackers On Planet Earth (HOPE) conference via a video link from Moscow, Russia.

Snowden addressed the conference on Saturday, requesting that the hacking community channel its resources into developing anti-surveillance technologies which will make government spying more difficult - and said that he planned to spend much of his future time doing the same.

The former NSA contractor said:
We the people - you the people, you in this room right now - have both the means and the capability to improve the future by encoding our rights into programs and protocols by which we rely every day. [..] and that's what a lot of my future work is going to be involved in, and I hope you'll join me in making that a reality.
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