Sunday, July 29, 2007

Readings, 29 July 2007

Comments, if any, apply to the article that precedes them.

Sea Anemone Genome Provides New View Of Our Multi-celled Ancestors
The first analysis of the genome of the sea anemone shows it to be nearly as complex as the human genome, providing major insights into the common ancestor of not only humans and sea anemones, but of nearly all multi-celled animals.

A new type of spin valve that uses graphene
“Some people think that graphene, a form of carbon, is the material of the future,” Allen Goldman tells “It’s of high scientific interest because of its unusual electronic properties.”

Secrets of a Heavyweight
A dozen years after it first appeared on the world stage, the top quark is still one of the hottest topics in particle physics. Why is it so much heavier than any other particle? And what can it tell us about the origin of mass and other quantum mysteries? Here’s a look at the top’s quirky nature, its fevered past and its promising future.

[Comment: This is not a bad overview of top quarks – if you can stand the odd formatting and silly cartoons in here. -ed.]

Finding Clues to Aging in the Fraying Tips of Chromosomes
When Time magazine named Elizabeth H. Blackburn, a cell biologist, one of this year’s “100 Most Influential People in the World,” it listed her age as 44.

“Don’t think I’m going to ask for a correction on that one,” Dr. Blackburn, 58, a biochemistry professor at the University of California, San Francisco, said in a recent visit to New York City. “If they want to turn back the clock, that’s lovely.”

Dr. Blackburn, a winner of the 2006 Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, studies aging and biochemical changes in cells that are related to the diseases of old age.

Whatever Dr. Blackburn’s own chronologic age, the buzz in scientific circles is that she is likely to be the next woman awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

[Comment: Here's an example of much better than average New York Times science writing. It's structured as an interview, so the expert's insights don't get obscured by the reporter's paraphrasing. The interviewee has eye-opening things to say about telomeres, telomerase, and the significant harmful effects of psychological stress. As well as the inner workings and unethical practices of the government's phony "Council on Bioethics" with regard to embryonic stem cells. -ed.]

Vitamin C Is Not Much Help Fighting Colds, Study Shows
A large review of placebo-controlled trials of vitamin C for cold prevention and treatment has concluded that it is largely ineffective.

In 30 trials involving 11,350 participants who took at least 200 milligrams of vitamin C a day, researchers found no reduction in the incidence of common colds. Vitamin C did reduce the duration and severity of cold symptoms slightly, but the effect was so small as to be clinically insignificant.

[Comment: True believers in the value of vitamin C advocate daily doses of a few grams, not fractions of a gram. It's hard to tell from this article whether the review in question focused at all on the possible efficacy of large doses. And the reporter fails to raise that important issue. The ambiguity regarding dose size and lack of objectivity that can be seen in the press release leaves one still wondering about the real truth of the matter. -ed.]

At Fermilab, the Race Is on for the ‘God Particle’
For physicists, this is a summer of rumors, hope and hype as rival collaborations race to capture the legendary particle known as the Higgs boson.

[Comment: Here's another specimen of overwritten New York Times science journalism, heavily laden with gooey, sticky "human interest" and pop sociology of science – on top of that fatuous theistic epithet in the headline. There's interesting information on the high-energy physics culture in here, but you may need an extra shot of insulin after reading it. -ed.]

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