In January 1958, two medical officers at Porton Down, Britain’s military science facility, exposed their forearms to 50-microgram droplets of a substance called VX, which was a new, fast-acting nerve agent that could kill by seeping through the skin.
VX, short for “venomous agent X,” is tasteless, odorless and causes uncontrollable muscle contractions that eventually stop a person’s breathing within minutes. That experiment in 1958, according to University of Kent historian Ulf Schmidt, was perhaps the first human test of VX in the Western world. Read More
If you have ever been nervous about something that is about to happen, then you may have felt the sensations of nausea and “fluttering”—the recognizable and odd sensation deep in your gut known as having “butterflies in the stomach.”
Perhaps you were about to give a speech to a large audience, were in the waiting room for a big interview, were about to step up and take a key penalty shot or about to meet a potential love interest. Rather than actual butterflies bouncing around your large intestine, of course, there is of course something more scientific going on—and it’s all down to your nervous system. Read More
Would you trust a memory that felt as real as all your other memories, and if other people confirmed that they remembered it too? What if the memory turned out to be false? This scenario was named the ‘Mandela effect’ by the self-described ‘paranormal consultant’ Fiona Broome after she discovered that other people shared her (false) memory of the South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s.
Is a shared false memory really due to a so-called ‘glitch in the matrix’, or is there some other explanation for what’s happening? Broome attributes the disparity to the many-worlds or ‘multiverse’ interpretation of quantum mechanics. Read More
Pathogens move fast.
You wake up one morning feeling ready to take on the world. On your way to work, you notice your throat’s a bit scratchy, your forehead a bit warm. By lunch you’ve got a pounding headache and it hurts to breathe. Co-workers agree, you’ve got whatever’s been going around. You end the day early, using the last of your strength to drag yourself to bed. Read More
We glimpsed Earth’s curvature in 1946, via a repurposed German V-2 rocket that flew 65 miles above the surface. Year-by-year, we climbed a little higher, engineering a means to comprehend the magnitude of our home.
In 1968, Apollo 8 lunar module pilot William Anders captured the iconic Earthrise photo. We contemplated the beauty of our home. Read More
According to mainstream researchers, the vast majority of the matter in the Universe is invisible: it consists of dark-matter particles that do not interact with radiation and cannot be seen through any telescope. The case for dark matter is regarded as so overwhelming that its existence is often reported as fact. Lately, though, cracks of doubt have started to appear. In July, the LUX experiment in South Dakota came up empty in its search for dark particles – the latest failure in a planet-wide, decades-long effort to find them. Some cosmic surveys also suggest that dark particles cannot be there, which is especially confounding since astronomical observations were the original impetus for the dark-matter hypothesis. Read More
For over two decades, 45-year-old, French documentary maker Jerome Delafosse has been diving into oceans the world over to film marine life, and he’s thrilled about his next expedition—above water. This spring, he will serve as chief explorer aboard the Energy Observer, a boat powered by the sun, wind and hydrogen. In a first-of-its-kind endeavor, Delafosse and his team plan to circumnavigate the globe over six years, visiting 101 ports in 50 countries, while relying entirely on renewable energy sources to reach their destinations.
Delafosse and his compatriot, 37-year-old Victorien Erussard, who is the boat’s captain, hope to renew the legend of this 30-meter-long, 13-meter-wide catamaran, which was built in 1982 and named Formule Tag. It won the Trophéé Jules Vernes for the team Enza New Zealand skippered by Sir Peter Blake. Currently, it’s being equipped with its new energy systems in the northwestern French port of Saint Malo. Read More
ResearchGate-gate isn’t quite as catchy as other scandals, but it is something we might be hearing more about in the future.
A recent article published by Sarah Bond at Forbes encouraged researchers to remove all of their articles from the for-profit company, Academia.edu. This has led to a wave of account deletions at the site, and also at ResearchGate, two sites dueling with each other to become the “Facebook for academics.”
The issue Bond raises is this: Why should companies generate profits from research with little transparency? It’s a good question.
This sounds suspiciously like the entire scholarly publishing ecosystem to me, and it is not clear why Academia.edu is in Bond’s crosshairs. For decades, for-profit companies have been making vast sums of money from researchers’ work, and often with profit margins in excess of 35 percent, greater than those even of Google (25 percent) Apple (29 percent) and even the largest oil companies like Rio Tinto (23 percent). Read More
How does one get stuck studying frog tongues? Our study into the sticky, slimy world of frogs all began with a humorous video of a real African bullfrog lunging at fake insects in a mobile game. This frog was clearly an expert at gaming; the speed and accuracy of its tongue could rival the thumbs of texting teenagers. Read More
In the long view, modern history is the story of increasing rights of control over your body – for instance, in matters of reproduction, sex, where you live and whom you marry. Medical experimentation is supposed to be following the same historical trend – increasing rights of autonomy for those whose bodies are used for research.
Indeed, the Nuremberg Code, the founding document of modern medical research ethics developed after the Second World War in response to Nazi medical experiments, stated unequivocally that the voluntary, informed consent of the human subject is essential. Every research ethics code since then has incorporated this most fundamental principle. Exceptions to this rule are supposed to be truly exceptional. Read More