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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘science

[LINK] “Massive drop in London HIV rates may be due to internet drugs”

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The New Scientist‘s Clare Wilson reports on a massive drop in new HIV infections in London that is more easily explained by growing use of PrEP, the prophylactic use of new HIV drugs to prevent infections.

Gay men who defied medical advice seem to have changed the course of the HIV epidemic in the UK – for the better.

Four London sexual health clinics saw dramatic falls in new HIV infections among gay men of around 40 per cent last year, compared with 2015, new figures show.

This decline may be mostly due to thousands of people buying medicines called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which cut the chance of catching the virus, online.

“We need to be very cautious at this stage, but I can’t see what else it can be,” says Will Nutland at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who has set up a website that gives people information on how to give themselves PrEP. “Something extraordinary has happened in the last 12 months because of a bunch of DIY activists working off our kitchen tables.”

The medicine has been approved in the UK as a drug for preventing HIV infection in both men and women, but it isn’t yet available on the National Health Service.

“People say, ‘Why don’t gay men just use condoms?’,” says Mags Portman of the Mortimer Market Centre in London, one of the clinics that has seen large declines in diagnoses. “They do, but not all the time. Straight people don’t use condoms all the time either.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 9, 2017 at 9:15 pm

[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • Bad Astronomy shares a photo of the Earth and Moon taken by a Mars probe.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money responds to a baffling claim by a New York City policeman that stranger rape is more of a concern than acquaintance rape.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw, returned from Denmark, wonders
    about the extent to which social happiness is maximized by stability and security.
  • Progressive Download’s John Farrell argues that scientists should approach the theory of evolution in a less mechanistic light.
  • Window on Eurasia reports on the transformation of United Russia into a parallel structure of government akin to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and engages with the possibility of a pro-Russian Ukrainian government-in-exile.
  • Alex Harrowell of Yorkshire Ranter looks at the problems of an independent central bank, finding that failings attributed to these are actually faults of government.
  • Arnold Zwicky looks at the highly evolved fashion sense of faggots, in the context of Italy’s divides and celebrities.

[BLOG] Some Monday links

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  • Anthropology.net looks at archeological findings revealing what people ate in the area of the Levant 780 thousand years ago.
  • D-Brief notes Amazon’s patenting of mothership and drone technology.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper looking at how quickly hot Jupiters lose their atmospheres.
  • Far Outliers notes the numerology of 1979.
  • Language Hat links to an essay by a writer of Chinese origin talking about what it means to abandon writing in one’s native language.
  • Language Log looks at European Union English’s latest definitions.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money argues in favour of holding corporations responsible for their supply chains, worldwide.
  • Marginal Revolution notes a San Francisco restaurant that serves food on Ipads.
  • Steve Munro calculates the effect of uneven headways on TTC bus routes.
  • Neuroskeptic notes that creationists who claim Charles Darwin contributed to the extinction of Tasmanian Aborigines appear to be lying.
  • The NYRB Daily reports on an exhibition of the abstract art of Carmen Herrera.
  • Towleroad notes an effort to recreate the sounds of 18th century Paris.
  • Transit Toronto notes higher TTC prices.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests Putin’s regime is increasingly totalitarian, argues the lessons some Russians take from stardom is that reforms lead to revolution, and notes Tatarstan’s being hauled back into line.
  • Arnold Zwicky pays tribute to departed soc.motsser Harold Arthur Faye.

[LINK] “Star-Gazing Women Made Trail-Blazing Discoveries”

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National Geographic‘s Simon Worrell interviews Dava Sobel, an author whose new book The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars takes a look at the late 19th century women whose observations basically created the framework for our understanding of stars and the universe.

Tell us about the glass universe—is this the ultimate glass ceiling or something else altogether?

[Laughs] It’s both. It’s about women and astronomy and also about a unique collection of half a million photographs on glass plates that are stored in the Harvard College Observatory. Women are traditionally underrepresented in science, so it’s interesting to look back to the 1870s to 1890s and find that as many as 20 women at a time were working at the Harvard Observatory.

You don’t think of Harvard as a place that’s particularly friendly to women, especially then. The observatory was a wholly disowned subsidiary and made their own rules and went their own way. The director, Edward Pickering, was very much in favor of higher education for women and for giving women a chance if they were interested in doing astronomical work. There had been a tradition of women working in the observatory, but the earliest were family members of the astronomers, the resident observers. By Pickering’s time, women he hired were reporting for seven hours a day, six days a week, and had no family connection to the place. They were just capable and interested.

Were they the ones that took the pictures?

No. At the beginning, there was a real separation of duties. The men would operate the telescopes partly because of propriety. You couldn’t have the women in there with the men, up all night. [Laughs] But by 1896, that changed with women coming in from college-level programs in astronomy, who had learned to observe. The first woman to use the telescopes was Annie Jump Cannon in 1896.

Written by Randy McDonald

December 28, 2016 at 4:15 pm

[LINK] “Vera Rubin, astronomer who proved existence of dark matter, dies at 88”

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The Washignton Post‘s Matt Schudel provides a fitting obituary for Vera Rubin, the astronomer whose observations of the wider universe confirmed the existence of dark matter (whatever it is).

Vera Rubin, an astronomer who proved the existence of dark matter, one of the fundamental principles in the study of the universe, but who battled sex discrimination throughout her career, died Dec. 25 at an assisted living facility in Princeton, N.J. She was 88.

She had dementia, said a son, Allan Rubin.

Dr. Rubin’s groundbreaking discoveries, made primarily with physicist W. Kent Ford, have revolutionized the way scientists observe, measure and understand the universe.

The concept of “dark matter,” an unknown substance among stars in distant galaxies, had existed since the 1930s, but it was not proved until Dr. Rubin’s studies with Ford in the 1970s. It is considered one of the most significant and fundamental advances in astronomy during the 20th century.

“The existence of dark matter has utterly revolutionized our concept of the universe and our entire field,” University of Washington astronomer Emily Levesque told Astronomy magazine this year. “The ongoing effort to understand the role of dark matter has basically spawned entire subfields within astrophysics and particle physics.”

Written by Randy McDonald

December 28, 2016 at 4:00 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • Bad Astronomy shares a video imagining of how Cassini will meet its end with Saturn.
  • Cody Delistraty shares an interview with Rebecca Solnit.
  • Far Outliers reports on Margaret Thatcher’s unorthodox campaign in 1979.
  • Joe. My. God. shares Hillary Clinton’s thanks to her 66 million voters.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at gender stereotypes among scientists.
  • The NYRB Daily talks about the visual art of Pipilotti Rist.
  • Otto Pohl commemorates the 73rd anniversary of the deportation of the Kalmyks.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests China might follow Russia’s Crimea strategy in invading Taiwan, and looks at the latest on controversies about Tatar identity and genetics.

[LINK] “Ceres holding onto water and really doesn’t want to let it go”

Astronomy‘s Shannon Stirone describes how Ceres has been confirmed as being a water-rich world, if not a world with actual oceans.

Ceres is best known for being the biggest rocky body in the entire asteroid belt, now considered a dwarf planet. The sister to the likes of Pluto, Eris and Makemake, Ceres is turning out to be more complex than scientists initially thought.

When the Dawn spacecraft entered orbit around Ceres in 2015, its mission was to study the planet since it can provide clues about the formation of our solar system and what that environment was like billions of years ago. The team thought they had a chance of finding ice on Ceres, since many asteroids are icy clumps of rock, but they never had evidence of it until now.

In an announcement yesterday at the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, researchers say they’ve found frozen water ice on the surface of Ceres, stored in its persistently shadowed craters in something called a cold trap.

Ceres, like our moon and Mercury, has a mild axial tilt, so the foot of the craters at their northern regions never see the sun, making sure that whatever water is there, stays put, and it’s likely stayed that way for the last few billion years. The temperature of these craters can get below -260 Fahrenheit, just cold enough that it can take a billion years for the water to turn to vapor.

“These studies support the idea that ice separated from rock early in Ceres’ history,” says Dawn Project Scientist Carol Raymond. “ This separation formed an ice-rich crustal layer, and that ice has remained near the surface over the history of the solar system.”

Written by Randy McDonald

December 19, 2016 at 8:30 pm

Posted in Science

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