This Week in Science (March 20 – 27)

Mar 27, 2016

This is a collection of the 10 best and most popular stories from science and technology over the past 7 days. Scroll down and click the individual images below to read the stories and follow the This Week in Science on Wakelet (here) to get these weekly updates straight to your inbox every Sunday.

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9 comments on “This Week in Science (March 20 – 27)

  • It’s always a difficult problem, whether it’s better to allow erroneous ideas a platform and then expose them, or to keep them from the public domain. Censorship is not a concept that can be applied to privately-owned media outlets, which have the right to show/publish or not to do so. Censorship has to be by the state, although with the concentration of media ownership, and covert pressure, the question is not as clear-cut as it was in Wilkes’ day. Still the Internet subverts all media and whatever decision is made, the film will get plenty of viewers.

    I believe in freedom of expression, in theory, though in practice I often have my doubts. On balance I think that it would have been better to let the film be shown, particularly as it had been put on the programme. Then, when it is shown in an open forum, to expose its nonsense, thus undercutting the conspiracy theorists whose primary case is that “they” are determined to supress the truth.



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  • eejit #3
    Mar 28, 2016 at 6:36 am

    On balance I think that it would have been better to let the film be shown, particularly as it had been put on the programme. Then, when it is shown in an open forum, to expose its nonsense, thus undercutting the conspiracy theorists whose primary case is that “they” are determined to suppress the truth.

    I would have to disagree!
    Showing a pseudo-science film produced by the charlatan quackologist, and unrepentant liar, Andrew Wakefield, to a non-specialist audience of film critics, would be just be like giving Ken Ham a public platform at a science education exhibition!

    Ex-Doctor Wakefield was struck off the UK medical register for falsifying research, and dishonestly denigrating honest research, to promote a rival product from which he would benefit financially! Far from reforming, he has persisted in promoting his lies and disinformation which have already done huge amounts of damage to children’s health world wide.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-35906470

    New York’s Tribeca Film Festival will not show Vaxxed, a controversial film about the MMR vaccine, its founder Robert De Niro says.

    As recently as Friday, Mr De Niro stood by his decision to include the film by anti-vaccination activist Andrew Wakefield in next month’s festival.

    The link the film makes between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism has been widely discredited.

    “We have concerns with certain things in this film,” said Mr De Niro.

    .Mr De Niro, who has a child with autism, said he had hoped the film would provide the opportunity for discussion of the issue.

    But after reviewing the film with festival organisers and scientists, he said: “We do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for.”

    Wakefield in medicine, is the equivalent of Ken Ham or Eric Hovind, in science. – A lying charlatan who will pollute any evidence-based rational debate, with carefully concocted, strongly asserted, wilfully misleading, and incompetent, disinformation!

    There is no point in trying to have an honest medical or scientific debate, with delusional pseudo-science as a main agenda item, and posturing pseudo-expert liars called as witnesses!

    It is quite proper for reputable organisations to insist of standards of integrity in material they present!



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  • I have always wondered how the gene mechanism can find the proper sequence to decode for a certain function.
    Or another way of looking at the question, how does the mechanism know a given segment encodes ear length rather than eye colour. This article points at a solution, though it was over my head. It looks as though each gene gets tagged with an identifier. It is found by that, not by location.



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  • Alan4discussion: I would have to disagree!
    Showing a pseudo-science film produced by the charlatan quackologist, and unrepentant liar, Andrew Wakefield, to a non-specialist audience of film critics, would be just be like giving Ken Ham a public platform at a science education exhibition!

    I don’t think that what I wrote was totally clear. What I meant was to have a panel of experts handy to debunk the claims made in the film. On the point of Ken Ham being invited to a science conference, as I said last week, I’d be all for it, especially if Alan4discussion was on the panel, instead of inviting Ham, it might be more of a case of serving him up cold, with plenty of hot mustard!



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  • eejit #6
    Mar 28, 2016 at 11:03 am

    I don’t think that what I wrote was totally clear. What I meant was to have a panel of experts handy to debunk the claims made in the film.

    I think there are two separate issues here, which should be dealt with on separate occasions at separate venues.

    One is the need for an informed scientific and medical educational discussion on the merits of vaccination, for Mr De Niro, and other parents, who have, or may have, a child with autism. This should be conducted exclusively with honest and competent expert presenters.

    The second situation is the debunking of the thoroughly dishonest media and public statements of Andrew Wakefield and Co.

    This is probably best done as a TV documentary in which an expert panel shows extracts and reviews his film, exposing the false claims.

    Showing a film full of carefully crafted lies and deception, to a non-specialist audience and leaving them to decide, “which side of the (pseudo-)controversy” to believe, is just giving publicity to the charlatans, who will inevitably claim that honest competent testimony, is false, flawed, or a conspiracy.

    I think Robert De Niro has made the right call.



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  • @link – A new map of Mars’ gravity made with three NASA spacecraft is the most detailed to date, providing a revealing glimpse into the hidden interior of the Red Planet.

    Changes in Martian gravity over time have been previously measured using the MGS and ODY missions to monitor the polar ice caps. For the first time, the team used MRO data to continue monitoring their mass. The team has determined that when one hemisphere experiences winter, approximately 3 trillion to 4 trillion tons of carbon dioxide freezes out of the atmosphere onto the northern and southern polar caps, respectively. This is about 12 to 16 percent of the mass of the entire Martian atmosphere.

    Yet there are arrogant, ignorant, people on Earth, who have no idea whatever about how planetary measurements are made, but are prepared to insist that planetary scientists don’t know how to measure and analyse climate changes on Earth!



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  • Meanwhile, new imaging techniques suggest that Beagle 2 was a much more marginal failure than previously thought.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-36136035

    Supporting evidence that the Beagle-2 probe is sitting intact on the surface of Mars has come from a new imaging technique developed by UCL scientists.

    Their method stacks and matches multiple pictures taken from orbit to resolve more detail than can be retrieved through standard processing.

    When applied to satellite views of what is thought to be the UK-led lander, a more definitive shape emerges.

    Beagle-2 was despatched to touch down on Mars’ surface in December 2003.

    When it failed to radio home, many researchers just assumed it had been destroyed in a high-velocity impact with the ground.

    But then new pictures came out last year that hinted at what might really have happened to the European Space Agency mission.

    These suggested Beagle did indeed land safely, but for some reason did not deploy its solar panels fully. This would have obstructed its radio antenna.



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