Replicability of results. A problem we choose to ignore.

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Can companies rely on the results of one or two scientific studies to design a new industrial process or launch a new product? In at least one area of materials chemistry, the answer may be yes – but only 80 percent of the time.

The replicability of results from scientific studies has become a major source of concern in the research community, particularly in the social sciences and biomedical sciences. But many researchers in the fields of engineering and the hard sciences haven’t felt the same level of concern for independent validation of their results.

A new study that compared the results reported in thousands of papers published about the properties of metal organic framework (MOF) materials – which are prominent candidates for carbon dioxide adsorption and other separations – suggests the replicability problem should be a concern for materials researchers, too.

One in five studies of MOF materials examined by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology were judged to be “outliers,” with results far beyond the error bars normally used to evaluate study results. The thousands of research papers yielded just nine MOF compounds for which four or more independent studies allowed appropriate comparison of results. (1)

We like to believe science and data are reliable.

But real life has nothing to do with science and data.

Everything changes. There is chaos everywhere.

And yet, we see order. Order not existing out there. But inside us.

There is nothing to replicate.

Nothing stays the same.

It was us from the very beginning.

Seeing similarities in dissimilar situations.

Because deep inside us we know…

That this is the only thing we should be seeing…

Not dying…

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An international team of astronomers led by Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO) has made a bizarre discovery; a star that refuses to stop shining.

Supernovae, the explosions of stars, have been observed in the thousands and in all cases, they marked the death of a star. But in a study published last year in the journal Nature, the team discovered a remarkable exception; a star that exploded multiple times over a period of more than fifty years. Their observations, which include data from Keck Observatory on Maunakea, Hawaii, are challenging existing theories on these cosmic catastrophes.

The supernova, named iPTF14hls, was discovered in September of 2014 by the Palomar Transient Factory. At the time, it looked like an ordinary supernova. Several months later, LCO astronomers noticed the supernova was growing brighter again after it had faded. When astronomers went back and looked at archival data, they were astonished to find evidence of an explosion in 1954 at the same location. This star somehow survived that explosion and exploded again in 2014.

“This supernova breaks everything we thought we knew about how they work. It’s the biggest puzzle I’ve encountered in almost a decade of studying stellar explosions,” said lead author Iair Arcavi, a NASA Einstein postdoctoral fellow at LCO and the University of California Santa Barbara.

Supernova iPTF14hls may be the first example of a “Pulsational Pair Instability Supernova”. “According to this theory, it is possible that this was the result of star so massive and hot that it generated antimatter in its core,” said co-author Daniel Kasen, an associate professor in the Physics and Astronomy Departments at UC Berkeley and a scientist at Lawrence Berkeley Lab. “That would cause the star to go violently unstable, and undergo repeated bright eruptions over periods of years”. That process may even repeat over decades before the star’s large final explosion and collapse to a black hole. (1)

Like that star we are dying (changing) every passing moment.

And we are re-born again the very next moment we speak again…

We die every time we stop speaking…

Only to be reborn the next time we feel the cosmos again…

The universe seems dark and calm.

But it is full of violence and destruction.

Full of life and creation.

The cosmos seems dark, with tiny specks of light.

And yet the cosmos is just light.

With a large shroud of darkness covering everything.

Our existence seems agonizing and full of sorrow.

And yet it is only happiness.

Cloaked under a dark veil of matter not allowing the light to burst out…

Don’t feel awe for that star exploding.

It feels greater awe.

By just watching you watching…

Re-mapping the brain… Moving mountains…

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Targeted motor and sensory reinnervation (TMSR) is a surgical procedure on patients with amputations that reroutes residual limb nerves towards intact muscles and skin in order to fit them with a limb prosthesis allowing unprecedented control.

By its nature, TMSR changes the way the brain processes motor control and somatosensory input; however, the detailed brain mechanisms have never been investigated before and the success of TMSR prostheses will depend on our ability to understand the ways the brain re-maps these pathways. In a research conducted last year, EPFL scientists used ultra-high field 7 Tesla fMRI to show how TMSR affects upper-limb representations in the brains of patients with amputations, in particular in primary motor cortex and the somatosensory cortex and regions processing more complex brain functions. The findings were published in Brain.

Surprisingly, the study showed that motor cortex maps of the amputated limb were similar in terms of extent, strength, and topography to individuals without limb amputation, but they were different from patients with amputations that did not receive TMSR, but were using standard prostheses. This shows the unique impact of the surgical TMSR procedure on the brain’s motor map.

The approach was even able to identify maps of missing (phantom) fingers in the somatosensory cortex of the TMSR patients that were activated through the reinnervated skin regions from the chest or residual limb. (1)

We are part of the cosmos, feeling and sensing everything.

But senses can be lost. Senses can be regained.

The brain can learn to move arms which are not anymore.

But only because they were once there.

We can learn again to move mountains.

Only because we once used to…

See that mountain. It seems big.

Start with that small rock.

Try to move it.

Then the other one.

And another.

See?

Neuron connections… Not so important?

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Neurons are connected to each other to form networks that underlie behaviors. Drs. Akira Sakurai and Paul Katz of Georgia State’s Neuroscience Institute study the brains of sea slugs, more specifically nudibranchs, which have large neurons that form simple circuits and produce simple behaviors. In this study, they examined how the brains of these sea creatures produce swimming behaviors. They found that even though the brains of two species – the giant nudibranch and the hooded nudibranch – had the same neurons, and even though the behaviors were the same, the wiring was different.

The researchers blocked some of the connections in the giant nudibranch using curare, a paralyzing poison used on blow darts by indigenous South Americans. This prevented the brain of the giant nudibranch from producing the pattern of impulses that would normally cause the animal to swim. Then, they inserted electrodes into the neurons to create artificial connections between the brain cells that were based on connections from the hooded nudibranch. The brain was able to produce rhythmic, alternating activity that would underlie the swimming behavior, showing these two species produce their swimming behavior using very different brain mechanisms.

The findings are published in the journal Current Biology.

“Behaviors that are homologous and similar in form would naturally be assumed to be produced by similar neural mechanisms,” said Katz, co-author of the study and a Regent’s Professor in the Neuroscience Institute at Georgia State. “This and previous studies show that connectivity of the neural circuits of two different species of sea slugs differ substantially from each other despite the presence of homologous neurons and behaviors. Thus, the evolution of microcircuitry could play a role in the evolution of behavior”. (1)

Change the brain and you will still have a being which swims.

Change the brain and you will still have a being that thinks.

Change the brain and you will still have a human who is self-conscious.

Your brain changes all the time and yet you are still “you”.

The cosmos changes all the time and yet the laws governing it are the same.

The universe changes all the time and yet it is eternal.

Everything seem different and yet similar patterns arise everywhere.

Time seems to pass and yet you can always remember.

People die only to show that they are still alive.

Things change only to prove that they do not…

Go swimming.

We all do.

Editing DNA vs. Evolution. Change vs. One. A battle lost before it even starts.

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Octopus, squid, and cuttlefish are famous for engaging in complex behavior, from unlocking an aquarium tank and escaping to instantaneous skin camouflage to hide from predators. A new study suggests their evolutionary path to neural sophistication includes a novel mechanism: Prolific RNA editing at the expense of evolution in their genomic DNA.

Continue reading “Editing DNA vs. Evolution. Change vs. One. A battle lost before it even starts.”

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