Category Archives: Science/Medicine


Slashdot has an excited item about a new catalyst that turns CO2 dissolved in water into ethanol. CO2 To Ethanol In One Step With Cheap Catalyst Sounds great, right?

Not so fast: if I understand it (corrections welcomed!) the paper itself warns it still takes too much energy to be worthwhile:

We report an electrocatalyst which operates at room temperature and in water for the electroreduction of dissolved CO2 with high selectivity for ethanol. The overpotential (which might be lowered with the proper electrolyte, and by separating the hydrogen production to another catalyst) probably precludes economic viability for this catalyst, but the high selectivity for a 12-electron reaction suggests that nanostructured surfaces with multiple reactive sites in close proximity can yield novel reaction mechanisms. This suggests that the synergistic effect from interactions between Cu and CNS presents a novel strategy for designing highly selective electrocatalysts.

Guess we haven’t solved global warming yet.

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Seems Like a Big Deal

Quantum entanglement achieved at room temperature in semiconductor wafers –

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Y2K Watershed for Medical Studies

Scary news via Slashdot:

The requirement that medical researchers register in detail the methods they intend to use in their clinical trials, both to record their data as well as document their outcomes, caused a significant drop in trials producing positive results. From Nature: “The study found that in a sample of 55 large trials testing heart-disease treatments, 57% of those published before 2000 reported positive effects from the treatments. But that figure plunged to just 8% in studies that were conducted after 2000. Study author Veronica Irvin, a health scientist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, says this suggests that registering clinical studies is leading to more rigorous research. Writing on his NeuroLogica Blog, neurologist Steven Novella of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, called the study “encouraging” but also “a bit frightening” because it casts doubt on previous positive results.”

In other words, before they were required to document their methods, research into new drugs or treatments would prove the success of those drugs or treatment more than half the time. Once they had to document their research methods, however, the drugs or treatments being tested almost never worked.

According to the Nature article, the reason is this:

… by having to state their methods and measurements before starting their trial, researchers cannot then cherry-pick data to find an effect once the study is over. “It’s more difficult for investigators to selectively report some outcomes and exclude others,” …

But is anyone going back to review the last 40 years of studies with positive results? I doubt it.

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Pluto and Charon



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Swiss Cheese Hole Crisis Averted

Best story in today’s paper:

The mystery of Swiss cheese and its disappearing holes has been solved: The milk is too clean. A Swiss agricultural institute discovered that tiny specks of hay are responsible for the famous holes in traditional Swiss cheeses like Emmentaler and Appenzeller. As milk matures into cheese, these microscopically small hay particles help create the holes in the cheese. The government-funded Agroscope Institute said in a statement on Thursday that the transition from age-old milking methods in barns to fully automated, industrial milking systems had caused the holes to decline during the past 15 years. In a series of tests, scientists added different amounts of hay dust to the milk and discovered that it allowed them to regulate the number of holes.

Switzerland: Scientists Find the Secret to the Holes in Swiss Cheese: Hay Dust

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It’s Working!

Ebola Outbreak Finally Receding in Sierra Leone; CDC Modeling Was Incredibly Accurate

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I Like This Study

Electric shock study suggests we’d rather hurt ourselves than others:

[A] new study that forced people into the dilemma of choosing between pain and profit finds that participants cared more about other people’s well-being than their own. It is hailed as the first hard evidence of altruism for the young field of behavioral economics.

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