Thursday, March 14, 2013

Science stuff around the net

Is it ethical to conceive a child in space?

the crux of the question is this part of the article:

Although we've been studying the health of astronauts in orbit for fifty plus years, we’ve never really looked into how the human reproductive system responds to the microgravity of Earth orbit, the low gravity of the Moon or Mars, or the hyper-gravity of a giant planet. It's an understandably sensitive topic, especially for a public agency such as NASA or the ESA.
The news that University of Montreal researchers found that reproductive processes in plants were affected by changes in gravity is very important because it gives us a clue as to how the human reproductive system might react to micro- or hyper-gravity. That study only increases my concern that there could be trouble ahead for babies conceived in space, as well as for the mothers.
hmm...maybe they should try it with mice first...


The comets are coming The Comets are coming.

If one comet is supposed to predict disaster, what do we make about two of them, one of which might hit Mars?
The first of the comets, often referred to as dirty snowballs, is PANSTARRS, at its brightest for skywatchers between Mar 8 and 24. Comet  ISON is November’s attraction. At its closest to the Sun, PANSTARRS could outshine the brightest stars and even Planet Venus. 
 Astrophotographer Josh Knutson captured this amazing photo of Comet Pan-STARRS (left) and the crescent moon on March 12, 2013 just after a desert sunset near Rio Rancho, New Mexico.
CREDIT: Josh Knutson

Photo of comet PanStarrs from

time lapse photo taken in the Philippines LINK.
No, I didn't see it: bad thunderstorm last evening: we even lost the cable for awhile.

Medical news you can use if you are a doc:

two percent pay cut on April 2. actually it's not the only problem: the real problem is inflation:
The flawed Medicare pay system has increased doctors' rates by only 4% since 2001, even though the cost of operating a practice has risen by more than 20%, said AMA President Jeremy A. Lazarus, MD. The 2% cut only will widen that gap and cause problems that go beyond the pocketbook.
and another problem: all those nice "practice improvements" demanded by Obamacare:
“At the same time that Medicare physician payment rates have been frozen, physicians need to make investments in their practices to help design, lead and adopt new models of care delivery that can increase quality and reduce costs now and in the future,” Dr. Lazarus said. “Further cuts are counterproductive and stifle important progress while placing an unsustainable burden on physician practices.”
Here's an example of the complex codes docs are supposed to learn and "implement" if they want to get paid:
  For coding multiple injections provided to patients with pain, for example, ICD-9 has two codes — one for knee pain (719.46) and one for limb pain (729.5). The ICD-10 library would offer significantly more options, including:
M25.561: pain in right knee.
M25.562: pain in left knee.
M79.601: pain in right arm.
M79.602: pain in left arm.
M79.604: pain in right leg.
M79.605: pain in left leg.
all of this means more expense (passed onto you)
Practice administrators also have shared the AMA’s concerns. MGMA-ACMPE, the medical practice management association, projects that adopting ICD-10 would cost a 10-physician practice $285,000. The implementation price for smaller practices is about $83,000.
Overlapping federal regulations, such as those governing electronic health records and quality reporting under Medicare, also make the ICD-10 mandate especially burdensome, organized medicine groups have said.

And, of course, not only do docs have to spend time to figure out the right code and fill in all the blanks, along with pressure on docs (by the HMO's that hire them) to see more patients faster means missing stuff (and lower patient satisfaction).

Professor Mary Beard reviews a new book on ancient Crete and points out a lot of what we "know" about the Minoan civilization is suppositions and imagination.
Fresco of the 'Prince of the Lilies' at Knossos, circa 1500 BC, assembled from three separate plaster fragments and restored by Émile Gilliéron in 1905

ah, but the good Professor points out:
The prehistoric world they evoke seems in some ways distant and strange—yet, at the same time, reassuringly recognizable and almost modern.
The truth is that these famous icons are largely modern. As any sharp-eyed visitor to the Heraklion museum can spot, what survives of the original paintings amounts in most cases to no more than a few square inches. The rest is more or less imaginative reconstruction, commissioned in the first half of the twentieth century by Sir Arthur Evans.... As a general rule of thumb, the more famous the image now is, the less of it is actually ancient.
Read the whole thing.
The fantasy projected onto Knossis included the fiction that it was a peaceful utopia ruled by women under a mother goddess; alas, no one except radical feminists think that is true today:

Soon after the 1960s, when the Minoans had been conscripted into the popular imagination as a prehistoric version of hippie culture (lilies pointing to the ancient equivalent of flower power), the archaeological mood changed. Some controversial discoveries close to Knossos of children’s bones (carrying suspicious marks of butchery) raised the nasty possibility that the peace-loving Minoans had actually been human sacrificers. New research projects in the 1970s and 1980s focused on the networks of roads and fortifications with which the prehistoric elite of the palace of Knossos had strictly controlled their home territory—while scholarly attention also turned to the high- quality state-of-the-art weaponry that had generally been ignored (by Evans and his followers)...

headsup Paleoglot

Slideshow of bug-eyed bugs

Ireneusz Irass Waledzik, 29, from Poland, uses macro photography to reveal the fascinating colours and shapes of tiny insects. He said: "I love macro photography, I spend a lot of time at it. The different shapes of insects' eyes fascinates me.

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