Paywalls keep the public from seeing publicly funded research.
A huge proportion of scientific research is funded by governments. But a lot of publicly funded research either never gets published, or winds up behind a journal’s paywall, so you have to buy a subscription or be affiliated with a university to read it.
Now, the UK has announced that all research funded by its main grant-funding bodies must, within six months of being published, be made available “open access,” meaning that anyone can read it.
The lair of the “beast” in Lassen Volcanic National Park
It’s not often that a scientist will say “mythological beast” with a straight face, but that’s exactly what virologist Ken Stedman told Nature News about a new virus. In a recent paper in Biology Direct, Stedman and his research team describe a genetic sequence that suggests the existence of a DNA-RNA chimera virus.
RNA and DNA viruses, referring to the type of nucleic acid they use to store genetic information, are two very distinct groups—probably more evolutionary distant than a lion and a snake. That’s why researchers were so surprised when they found a DNA virus sequence encoding a protein only ever found in RNA viruses. The sample came from a Lassen Volcanic National Park hotspring, where viruses prey on the bacteria living in the acidic water.
So much adipose tissue…
Most of us think of our love handles as something we’d rather do without. Scientists would be glad to take them off your hips—er, hands.
In a feature for The Telegraph’s magazine, we learn that researchers at Bath University, who are trying to study the impact of exercise on fat tissue, had until recently been painstakingly recruiting volunteers to donate flab, a gram or less per person. But then they realized there’s a sizable population of people willing to pay to have their fat removed. After partnering up with a cosmetic surgery clinic in Bath, they’re rolling in the stuff: they’ve collected six kilograms of human fat, equal to 6000-12,000 volunteers at their previous rate. All that fat came from tummy tucks. (Liposuction fat, it turns out, is no good, because the procedure uses enzymes that break down the tissue too far for research.)
It’s hard to argue against repurposing plastic surgery leftovers for science research, but the ethical waters get murkier when money is involved. The Telegraph reporter goes inside a L’Oreal-affiliated lab that tests products on human skin from breast and tummy reductions. (The scientists there have preferences too: “I must admit I prefer to work with breast reduction skin because the skin is nicer. For the tummy, the skin has been extended,” one said to the Telegraph.)
The weave of the new translucent fabric traps sound, while letting light—and in this photo from the Swiss lab, a view of neighboring houses—through.
What’s the News: Noisy rooms are no fun, but neither are those smothered in heavy sound-canceling drapes. The solution? A translucent curtain that quenches sound by behaving like foam, developed by Swiss materials scientists and a textile designer.
What’s the News: A group of physicists say they’ve found a way to account for the mysterious radio signals that may be emanating from colonies of E. coli—and it’s not because they’re trying to get our attention.
Around 520 million years ago, a walking cactus roamed the Earth. Its body had nine segments, each bearing a pair of armour-plated legs, covered in thorns. It was an animal, but one that looked more like the concoction of a bad fantasy artist. Jianni Liu from Northwest University in Xi’an discovered this bundle of spines and named it Diania cactiformis – the “walking cactus from Yunnan”. And she thinks that it sits at the roots of the most successful group of animals on the planet.
If Liu is right, Diania is one of the earliest relatives of the arthropods – the group that includes insects, spiders, crabs, and more. These species all share a segmented body, a hard external skeleton and jointed legs. They are life’s winners, the most diverse of all animal groups.
For plenty more about this weird ancient armored creature, check out the rest of Ed’s post at Not Exactly Rocket Science.
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Death from disorder: scientists uncover secret of the velvet worm’s quick-setting slime
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Tardigrades become first animals to survive vacuum of space
80beats: Ancient Invertebrates May Have Formed Chains for Strength in Numbers
Coal ash: Two years after the coal ash spill in Roane County, Tennessee residents are still grappling with ash dust, housing buyouts, and potentially toxic water. The Tennessee Valley Authority, a government-owned corporation who runs the plant, claims the ash is non-toxic, while the EPA takes it’s time deciding if it should be classified as hazardous waste.
Wolves: Activist group Center For Biological Diversity is planning to sue the Department of the Interior if they don’t expand wolf ranges in the lower 48. Some states in the Northern Rocky Mountains, where the population has made a comeback, have legalized hunting to protect their herds.
Elephant genomes: New genetics data is showing that the African elephant is actually two species: the forest elephant is smaller than the savanna elephant and has a much smaller population. Dividing the “African elephant” into two species is going to be important to conservation of the forest elephant’s habitat and save them from poachers.