Science & Society

Autistic children are doubly stigmatized. On the one hand, they are often dismissed as “low functioning” or mentally retarded, especially if they have poor speaking skills as many do. Yet when autistics do show exceptional abilities—uncanny visual discrimination and memory for detail, for example—their flashes of brilliance are marginalized as aberrations, mere symptoms of their higher order cognitive deficit. They often earn a dubious promotion to “idiot savant.”

The theoretical justification for this view is that prototypical autistic skills are not true intelligence at all, but really just low-level perceptual abilities. Indeed, in this view autistics are missing the big picture because they are obsessed with the detail.

A woman, whose ovaries had failed due to damage caused by chemotherapy and radiotherapy, has received a successful ovarian transplant from her genetically non-identical sister. The transplant restored her ovarian function, she started to menstruate and, after a year, doctors were able to recover two mature oocytes from her ovaries and fertilise them to produce two embryos.

This first case of a successful transplantation of ovarian tissue between two non-identical sisters is reported today by Professor Jacques Donnez, head of the department of gynecology and professor and chairman at the Catholic University of Louvain in Brussels, Belgium, who led the team that carried out the work.

From the Shangri-La Diet forums:

I stumbled on SLD when I, after a sinus-infection, lost my ability to smell and therefore also taste the flavor of the food I was eating. I could only tell if the food was sweet, sour or salty. I was devastated especially after reading that it could very well be permanent. During those days I noticed how much the flavor of the food means to me but also how my appetite was affected. I just didn´t want to eat. After 3-4 days my ability to smell started to return slowly slowly to my great joy and so did my appetite.

The concept of the memory of water goes back to 1988 when the late Professor Jacques Benveniste published, in the international scientific journal Nature, claims that extremely high ‘ultramolecular’ dilutions of an antibody had effects in the human basophil degranulation test, a laboratory model of immune response.

In other words, the water diluent ‘remembered’ the antibody long after it was gone. His findings were subsequently denounced as ‘pseudoscience’ and yet, despite the negative impact this had at the time, the idea has not gone away.

The concept of memory of water is important to homeopathy because it offers a potential explanation of the mechanism of action of very high dilutions often used in homeopathy.

Many scientists assume people have sex for simple and straightforward reasons such as to experience sexual pleasure or to reproduce, but new research at The University of Texas at Austin reveals hundreds of varied and complex motivations that range from the spiritual to the vengeful.

After conducting one of the most comprehensive studies on why people have sex, psychology researchers David Buss and Cindy Meston uncovered 237 motivations, which appear in the August issue of Archives of Sexual Behavior.

In order for the best baseball team to win, the National League would have to extend its season to 256 games say a pair of physicists at the Los Alamos national Laboratory in New Mexico.

Because of randomness, there's always a chance a bad team can win so mathematically a certain outcome for the best team requires a number of games equal to roughly the cube of the number of teams. In the National League, with its 16 teams, that means 4096 regular season games or 256 per season, almost 100 more than the 162 games they play now.

Riders in the Tour de France are not only tremendous competitors, they are huge eaters, collectively polishing off enough food to feed a small village – more than 20 million calories – just to stay in the race, according to a fitness and nutrition researcher.

“That’s about the same as 72,000 cheeseburgers,” said Conrad Earnest, Ph.D., of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

“The riders have been in the saddle for more than 80 hours at full tilt,” Earnest said, “Each day, they put out more energy than it takes to run a marathon. So the 20-stage tour is like 20 marathons in a row, and to gain the necessary energy, each rider needs to eat the equivalent of 25 cheeseburgers a day to keep from losing too much weight, which ultimately hurts performance.”

The blue coloring in tortillas is more than just appearance. The color is due to the presence of anthocyanins in the corn and these are the same health promoting compounds found in purple berries and red wine.

Scientists in Mexico, home of the taco, found that tortillas made from blue corn had less starch and a lower glycæmic index than their white counter parts. They also found that the blue tortillas had 20% more protein than white.

The glycæmic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates according to their effects on blood glucose levels. Foods with a lower GI are considered healthier as they slowly release sugar into the bloodstream. This reduces fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels, helping to maintain a steady supply of energy.

Working mothers have it easier now than their own mothers did, at least with respect to childcare, a University of Leicester study has found.

The Labour government’s National Childcare Strategy, aimed at encouraging mothers to return to work, has simplified childcare, benefiting the younger generation of mothers, according to doctoral research by Dr Henrietta O’Connor in the University’s renowned Centre for Labour Market Studies.

In the course of the study, grandmothers and mothers in fourteen families were asked about their strategies for combining paid work and domestic responsibilities.

Heather Piwowar has collected an impressive set of notes on Open Notebook Science. From her blog post:
In anticipation of the ISMB BoF session on Open Notebook Science (ONS),I’m trying to come up to speed on ONS discourse. In between ISMBsessions, I’ve started consolidating snippets of blogposts and articles discussing ONS into a single document (in the open here).