Remote, Polluted Lakes; Comet Crossbow
Discovered: remote, polluted lakes, uninformed fish, a comet crossbow, clinical trial check-up and one place to be to find undiscovered invertebrates.
- Fossil fuel fallout data point: A study, published in the journal Science, had a team of researchers investigate why over three dozen remote lakes scattered across the globe were found to have increased amounts of nitrogen deposits. After ruling out several different possibilities for what was described by the Vancouver Sun as "elevated nitrogen levels" they appeared to settle on this conclusion: "Given the broad geographic distribution of our sites ... we believe the best explanation is that human-derived nitrogen was deposited from the atmosphere," said the lead author of a new study, a University of Washington researcher in a news release. Meaning: it's from decades of fossil fuel burning. [Eurekalert, Vancouver Sun]
- NASA researchers devise a six-foot crossbow to 'harpoon' comets. You'd think that NASA could piece together a tractor beam to "grab a chunk of the icy body" of a comet "for study back on Earth," rather than using something that sounds as medieval as a six-foot crossbow. But, as National Geographic informs, scientists are just testing the thing out for future use: "The crossbow is helping the researchers fire tips at various speeds into different materials—such as sand, ice, pebbles, and salt—thought to be similar in texture to comets." It even apparently sounds like something that would be used to breach a castle wall: "The ballista produces a uniquely impressive thud upon firing, somewhere between a rifle and a cannon blast," went the NASA release. [National Geographic, NASA]
- New theory: disinterested fish are great for democracy. It seems like it takes a leap to equate one's experiments with prodding "groups of shiner fish" toward color-coded underwater rewards to find parallels for evaluating participatory democracy, but that's what one team, led by Dr Iain Couzin, from Princeton University, did. We'll spare the technical process (it's here at BBC News). But from Couzin's explanation to to Miller-McCune it seems that the "uninformed" fish tend to embolden the majority and "inhibit the minority" by negating their views. Except when there's "too many" uninformed fish at which point "the process breaks down." [BBC News, Miller-McCune]
- The Australian Outback: a frontier of undiscovered invertebrates. University of Adelaide researchers have been steadily identifying a host of critters in the outback for years and estimate that there's still 3,500 more left underground. Calling all critter-loving scientists: You too could one day unearth a "crustacean that has fangs connected to secretory glands" under arid topsoil in the Outback. And you'd get to name them too, right? [MSNBC]
- Research done on humans still needs to be more transparent. Yesterday, scientists appeared to be coalescing around the idea of ending most invasive research on chimpanzees. Today, a new report by the presidential bioethics commission checks in on how clinical trials conducted on humans by government agencies are progressing. According to Reuters, the report utters a familiar complaint about bureaucracy: it's not very transparent. Even though, "U.S. government agencies fund thousands of studies on human subjects, [they] do not have a very good handle on the basic information about that research -- possibly putting participants in harm's way." [Reuters]
Image credit: NASA/Rob Andreoli