Tag Archives | Scientific Research

How To Read And Comprehend A Scientific Paper

scientific paperFind primary research literature baffling? Violent Metaphors has step-by-step instructions on how to cut through the jargon and interpret experimental scientific findings for yourself:

Before you begin reading, take note of the authors and their institutional affiliations. Some institutions (e.g. University of Texas) are well-respected; others (e.g. the “Discovery Institute”) are actually agenda-driven.

As you read, write down every single word that you don’t understand. You’re going to have to look them all up.

Begin by reading the introduction, not the abstract.

Identify the BIG QUESTION. Not “What is this paper about”, but “What problem is this entire field trying to solve?”

Identify the SPECIFIC QUESTION(S) What exactly are the authors trying to answer with their research? What are the authors going to do to answer the SPECIFIC QUESTION(S)?

Now read the methods section. Draw a diagram for each experiment, showing exactly what the authors did. Include as much detail as you need to fully understand the work.

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Bucky’s Balls Can Double Your Lifespan

Photo: Jynto (CC)

Buckminster Fuller (1895 – 1983) was the quintessential polymath: inventor, researcher, engineer, philosopher, mathematician, architect, teacher, archivist, author, social theorist, futurist, mystic & poet.

Best known for inventing (or more accurately ‘discovering’) the Geodesic Dome. *There were a few earlier domes built but no evidence the designers understood the engineering & mathematical implications of the shape*. He didn’t live to see the discovery of C-60, formally named Buckminsterfullerine in his honor, or the novel variant fullerines which, as minimum-case geometric shapes, are the essential building blocks of nanotechnology.

Fullerines were discovered in the lab, but quickly thereafter found to be ubiquitous in nature. These little 60-atom carbon soccer-balls are produced every time you strike a match or smoke a joint. They are also seen in deep space in large quantities (created in stellar explosions), and may have a cosmic function in kickstarting self-replicatory life processes.

Now the word is in … Buckyballs mixed in olive oil are like a super-mega antioxidant.… Read the rest

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How Corporations Corrupt Science At The Public’s Expense

moldybreadThe Union of Concerned Scientists explains how they do it. To sum up:

Corporations suppress research. (“After pork producers contacted his supervisors, a USDA microbiologist was prevented from publishing research showing that emissions from industrial hog farms contained antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”)

They ghostwrite articles. (“A 2011 analysis found evidence of corporate authorship in research articles on a variety of drugs, including Avandia, Paxil, Tylenol, and Vioxx.”)

They create front organizations. (“The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit that targets dietary guidelines recommended by the FDA, other government agencies, medical associations, and consumer groups. It was founded with a $600,000 grant from Philip Morris, but has also received funding from Cargill, National Steak and Poultry, Monsanto, and Coca-Cola.”)

They corrupt advisory panels. (“A few weeks before a CDC advisory panel met to discuss federal lead standards, two scientists with ties to the lead industry were added to the panel. The committee voted against tightening standards.”)… Read the rest

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Chemical Agent Turns Tissue Transparent

Screen shot 2011-09-07 at 10.14.35.png.jpegOlivia Solon writes on Wired:

Japanese researchers have developed a chemical agent that turns biological tissue transparent, allowing for vivid imaging of neurons and blood vessels deep inside mouse brains.

The aqueous reagent — referred to as Scale — offers a way of analyzing complex organs and networks in tissue samples, without having to dissect them into smaller pieces. Developed by Atsushi Miyawaki and his team at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, Scale performs better than other clearing reagents because it doesn’t affect the shape or proportions of the sample. It also manages to avoid decreasing the strength of signals emitted by genetically-encoded fluorescent proteins in the tissue, which are frequently used by researchers as markers to flag up specific cells.

This means that neuroscientists can visualise fluorescently-labelled brain samples at a depth of several millimetres (as opposed to just one millimetre) and see neural networks at sub-cellular resolution.

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Test Tube DNA Brain Gets Quiz Questions Right

Neuron-SEM-2A step closer to artificial intelligence? Discovery News reports:

A team of researchers lead by Lulu Qian from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have for the first developed an artificial neural network — that is, the beginnings of a brain — out of DNA molecules. And when quizzed, the brain answered the questions correctly.

They turned to molecules because they knew that before the neural-based brain evolved, single-celled organisms showed limited forms of intelligence. These microorganisms did not have brains, but instead had molecules that interacted with each other and spurred the creatures to search for food and avoid toxins. The bottom line is that molecules can act like circuits, processing and transmitting information and computing data.

The Caltech used DNA molecules specifically for the experiment, because these molecules interact in specific ways determined by the sequence of their four bases: adenine (abbreviated A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T).

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