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A mysterious company’s coronavirus papers in top medical journals may be unraveling

a mysterious company’s coronavirus papers in top medical journals may be unraveling

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A hydroxychloroquine study is being audited.

AP Photo/John Locher

By Kelly Servick, Martin EnserinkJun. 2, 2020 , 7:55 PM

Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.

On its face, it was a major finding: Antimalarial drugs touted by the White House as possible COVID-19 treatments looked to be not just ineffective, but downright deadly. A study published on 22 May in The Lancet used hospital records procured by a little-known data analytics company called Surgisphere to conclude that coronavirus patients taking chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine were more likely to show an irregular heart rhythm—a known side effect thought to be rare—and were more likely to die in the hospital.

Within days, some large randomized trials of the drugs—the type that might prove or disprove the retrospective study’s analysis—screeched to a halt. Solidarity, the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) megatrial of potential COVID-19 treatments, paused recruitment into its hydroxychloroquine arm, for example.

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But just as quickly, the Lancet results have begun to unravel—and Surgisphere, which provided patient data for two other high-profile COVID-19 papers, has come under withering online scrutiny from researchers and amateur sleuths. They have pointed out many red flags in the Lancet paper, …

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Urban foxes may be self-domesticating in our midst

urban foxes may be self-domesticating in our midst

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A fox on the prowl in its Bristol, U.K., home

Sam Hobson/Minden Pictures

By Virginia MorellJun. 2, 2020 , 7:01 PM

In a famous Siberian experiment carried out the 1950s, scientists turned foxes into tame, doglike canines by breeding only the least aggressive ones generation after generation. The creatures developed stubby snouts, floppy ears, and even began to bark.

Now, it appears that some rural red foxes in the United Kingdom are doing this on their own. When the animals moved from the forest to city habitats, they began to evolve doglike traits, new research reveals, potentially setting themselves on the path to domestication.

“I’m not so much surprised as delighted,” by this study, says Lee Dugatkin, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Louisville, who has written about the Russian fox experiment but was not involved with the new work. “This is a ‘natural experiment’ that is very much in line with what the Russian experiment has found.”

The renowned Siberian study immediately came to mind when Kevin Parsons heard about a large collection of red fox skulls at National Museums Scotland. A native Canadian and evolutionary biologist at the University of Glasgow, Parsons had already been struck by the …

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Insect wings evolved from legs, mayfly genome suggests

insect wings evolved from legs, mayfly genome suggests

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No bigger than a mosquito, this mayfly swarms by the millions in late spring.

Isabel Almudi

By Elizabeth PennisiJun. 2, 2020 , 5:20 PM

Along rivers and streams around the world, mayflies are a rite of spring. The mosquito-size insects lead double lives, with the young thriving in water and the adults emerging by the millions around June for just a few hours to mate and quickly die. There can be so many that they clog traffic, make roads slick, and even create a smelly mess.

Now, by sequencing the genome of one remarkable mayfly species—whose males have a second set of skyward-pointing eyes—researchers have learned how aquatic young transform into airborne adults. They’ve also discovered new clues about how all insects evolved to fly in the first place.

The amount of information gleaned from the study is impressive, says Craig Macadam, an entomologist at the U.K.-based nonprofit insect conservation organization Buglife. “It really shows that once we know the genetic makeup of a species, we can start to work out a huge amount about [it].”

Because of their sheer numbers, mayflies are important food for birds, fish, and mammals. They spend most of their lives underwater eating dead …

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Science from home: Walking Rainbow

science from home: walking rainbow

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What you need:

Clear cups (recommend 6-7) WaterFood coloringPaper towels Spoon/ something to stir withTime: 2 hours (can vary)

Steps:

Fill every other cup about 3/4 full of waterAdd food coloring to the water (recommend adding primary colors: red, yellow & blue) Stir in food coloring so it is evenly dispersedFold paper towel in half longways (creating a skinnier, but still tall paper towel) Fold paper towel longways again, keeping height, but making it skinnierPlace half of the paper towel into the water, and put the other half into the dry cupRepeat steps 4-6 until folded paper towels connect all of the cupsWait and watch what happens

The science and how this applies to the Earth:

Just like us, plants need water they need to survive. But, unlike humans who can just drink the water, they have roots that transfer it through the plant.

In this experiment, the paper towels will act as the roots of the plant, and the empty cups represent the leaves of the plant (which might be dry after a couple of days without rain).

You might have noticed that right away, the paper towel starts to absorb the water, much like roots absorb water from the ground.

But, …

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Citizen scientists spot closest young brown dwarf disk yet

citizen scientists spot closest young brown dwarf disk yet

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This artist’s conception illustrates the brown dwarf named 2MASSJ22282889-431026. NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes observed the object to learn more about its turbulent atmosphere. Brown dwarfs are more massive and hotter than planets but lack the mass required to become sizzling stars. Their atmospheres can be similar to the giant planet Jupiter’s. Spitzer and Hubble simultaneously observed the object as it rotated every 1.4 hours. The results suggest wind-driven, planet-size clouds. Credit: NASA

Brown dwarfs are the middle child of astronomy, too big to be a planet yet not big enough to be a star. Like their stellar siblings, these objects form from the gravitational collapse of gas and dust. But rather than condensing into a star’s fiery hot nuclear core, brown dwarfs find a more zen-like equilibrium, somehow reaching a stable, milder state compared to fusion-powered stars.

Brown dwarfs are considered to be the missing link between the most massive gas giant planets and the smallest stars, and because they glow relatively dimly they have been difficult to spot in the night sky. Like stars, some brown dwarfs can retain the disk of swirling gas and dust left over from their initial formation. This material can collide and …

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Scientists rush to defend Venezuelan colleagues threatened over coronavirus study

scientists rush to defend venezuelan colleagues threatened over coronavirus study

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Masked pedestrians crowded a sidewalk near a bus stop in Caracas, Venezuela, on Monday.

Ariana Cubillos/AP

By Rodrigo Pérez Ortega Jun. 2, 2020 , 12:45 PM

Science’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Pulitzer Center.

Scientific and human rights groups in Venezuela and abroad have rushed to defend the Venezuelan Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Natural Sciences (ACFIMAN) after a high-level government official suggested raids or arrests to punish the academy for “causing alarm” in a report that suggested the country’s coronavirus epidemic is far worse than official numbers show.

In the unsigned 18-page report, released on 8 May, scientists at ACFIMAN used mathematical models to estimate the current and future size of the epidemic in the country. As of 30 March, up to 883 people in Venezuela had been infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, they concluded—well above the 135 reported confirmed infections at the time. The report also said the government’s reassurances that it had “flattened the curve” of exponentially increasing infections were wrong. Without additional control measures, Venezuela could see between 1000 and to 4000 cases daily during the pandemic’s expected peak between June and September, according to the study.

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The conclusions didn’t sit well with Diosdado …

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Extinction of land-based vertebrate species risks ‘catastrophic ecosystem collapse’

extinction of land-based vertebrate species risks ‘catastrophic ecosystem collapse’

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More than 500 land-based vertebrate species are on the brink of extinction in the next two decades as a result of human activities, scientists have warned.

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Researchers believe the rate of decline of these species to be much higher than previously thought and could have a devastating impact on the world’s ecosystems.
The new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences comes from scientists at the universities of Stanford and Mexico City who published a report in 2015 declaring the world’s sixth mass extinction was already under way.

Based on their findings, the researchers now believe this mass extinction is currently accelerating and are calling for immediate global conservation actions to prevent a “catastrophic ecosystem collapse”.
Read more about extinction:

Paul Ehrlich, from Stanford University in California and one of the authors on the study, said: “When humanity exterminates populations and species of other creatures, it is sawing off the limb on which it is sitting, destroying working parts of our own life-support system.
“The conservation of endangered species should be elevated to a national and global emergency for governments and institutions, equal to climate disruption to which it is linked.”
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More than 400 …

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Atmospheric scientists identify cleanest air on Earth in first-of-its-kind study

atmospheric scientists identify cleanest air on earth in first-of-its-kind study

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Aerosol filter samplers probe the air over the Southern Ocean on the Australian Marine National Facility’s R/V Investigator Credit: Kathryn Moore/Colorado State University

Colorado State University Distinguished Professor Sonia Kreidenweis and her research group identified an atmospheric region unchanged by human-related activities in the first study to measure bioaerosol composition of the Southern Ocean south of 40 degrees south latitude.

Kreidenweis’ group, based in the Department of Atmospheric Science, found the boundary layer air that feeds the lower clouds over the Southern Ocean to be pristine—free from particles, called aerosols, produced by anthropogenic activities or transported from distant lands. Their findings are published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Weather and climate are complex processes connecting each part of the world to every other region, and with climate changing rapidly as a result of human activity, it’s difficult to find any area or process on Earth untouched by people. Kreidenweis and her team suspected the air directly over the remote Southern Ocean that encircles Antarctica would be least affected by humans and dust from continents. They set out to discover what was in the air and where it came from.
“We were able to use the …

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