Why are viruses hard to kill?

Viruses are among the biggest threats to humanity, with the current pandemic showing how these pathogens can shut down countries, halt entire industries and cause untold human suffering as they spread through communities.

Viruses have also evolved in such a way that they are difficult to kill. What makes them, including the coronavirus, so tricky to cure?

Part of the problem is the nature of viruses themselves. They exist like freeloading zombies — not quite dead, yet certainly not alive.

“Viruses don’t really do anything — they’re effectively inert until they come into contact with a host cell,” said Derek Gatherer, a virologist at Lancaster University in the

— source nbcnews.com | Denise Chow | May 7, 2020

Nullius in verba

Medical science should be at the service of humanity

Bolivian President Luis Arce :
“Capitalism has commodified all aspects of social life, and health is not the exception. Medical science should be at the service of humanity without any sort of geographical, political, social or nationality discrimination. The access to the vaccine must be considered as a human right.”

Nullius in verba

What if Science Had Evolved like Religion?

One key difference between religion and science, according to many scientists at least, is that religion posits one unchanging and absolute truth, while science produces a flow of provisional, replaceable truths. According to this view, the foundations of religious knowledge were revealed and locked in place at a particular point in time, while scientific knowledge has continued to evolve and grow over time.

Now imagine that their histories had been reversed. Imagine that scientific knowledge had been revealed once and for all in antiquity, while religious knowledge had been open-ended. In other words, imagine early science morphing into a religion. What might that have looked like, and meant for the world?

So how do you turn science into a religion? Easy. By making a great scientist divine. And how do you make a scientist divine? Again, easy. By writing a book claiming he is divine. And how do you make the book believable? Yet again, by claiming it’s divine (or

— source counterpunch.org | Paul Strutynski | Sep 13, 2021

Nullius in verba

Building bonds between males leads to more offspring for chimpanzees

A study led by the University of Michigan, in collaboration with Arizona State and Duke universities, examined why male chimpanzees form close relationships with each other, and found that male chimpanzees that build strong bonds with the alpha male of the group, or with a large network of other males, are more successful at siring offspring. The results are published in the journal iScience. For males, the biggest task is getting reproductive access to females. One function of these social bonds, the researchers found, is to help males gain access to mating opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise be able to get without help from their friends.

They found that males with more strong association ties — males with the highest number of social bonds with other males — had a higher likelihood of siring offspring. In fact, two or more strong association ties meant a male chimpanzee was more than 50% more likely to sire a given offspring.

— source University of Michigan | Aug 17, 2021

[agressiveness is the rule of capitalism. not natural.]

Nullius in verba

Why Anthropology Matters

In 2012, both Kiplinger and Forbes ranked anthropology as the least valuable undergraduate major, unleashing a small wave of indignation as many outside the field rushed to defend the study of culture as ideal preparation for any life or career in an interconnected and globalized world. The response from professional anthropologists, confronted by both an existential challenge and public humiliation, was earnest but largely ineffective, for the voice of the discipline had been muted by a generation of self-absorption, tempered by a disregard for popular engagement that borders on contempt.

Ruth Benedict, acolyte of the great Franz Boas and in 1947 president of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), reputedly said that the very purpose of anthropology was to make the world safe for human differences.

Today, such activism seems as passé as a pith helmet. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the AAA met in Washington, D.C. Four thousand anthropologists were in the nation’s capital in the wake of the biggest story of culture they or the country would ever encounter. The entire gathering earned but a mention in The Washington Post, a few lines in the gossip section essentially noting that the nutcases were back in town. It was hard to know who was more remiss, the government for failing to listen to the one profession that

— source scientificamerican.com | Wade Davis | Feb 1, 2021

Nullius in verba

11 Characteristics of Pseudoscience

Throughout most of our history, humans have sought to understand the world around us. Why do people get sick? What causes storms? How can we grow more food? Unfortunately, until relatively recently our progress was limited by our faulty perceptions and biases.

Modern science was a game changer for humanity. At its core, science is a way of learning about the natural world that demands evidence and logical reasoning. The process is designed to identify and minimize our biases. Scientists follow evidence wherever it leads, regardless of what they want (or don’t want) to be true. Scientific knowledge progresses by weeding out bad ideas and building on good ones. We owe much of the increase in the quality and quantity of our lives over the last century to scientific advancements.

It’s no wonder then that people trust science. The problem is, many don’t understand how science works and what makes it reliable, leaving them vulnerable to claims that seem scientific…but aren’t. By cloaking itself in the trappings of science, pseudoscience appeals to the part of us that recognizes science is a reliable way of knowing. But pseudoscience doesn’t adhere to science’s method. It’s masquerading. It’s cheating.

It’s easy to be misled by pseudoscience because we often want to believe. One of the defining features of pseudoscience is that it starts with the desired conclusion in mind and works backwards to find evidence to justify the belief. It would be incredible if the Loch Ness monster existed. Or if the planets and stars could predict our future. Or if we

— source thinkingispower.com

Nullius in verba

War on Science Persists Within Biden EPA

Staffers Allege Chemical Reports Altered

Four scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency are alleging that the “war on science” is continuing under the Biden administration, with managers at the agency altering reports about the risks posed by chemicals and retaliating against employees who report the misconduct. The government watchdog Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a formal complaint Friday on behalf of the scientists with the EPA’s Office of the Inspector General, calling for an investigation into reports that high-level employees routinely delete crucial information from chemical risk assessments or change the documents’ conclusions to give the impression that the chemicals in question are not toxic.

Under the Toxic Substances Control Act, the agency is responsible for evaluating the risks of existing chemicals as well as those slated to be manufactured in or imported to the United States. The four employees said in the complaint that they’ve observed “numerous instances” in which significant changes were made to their own assessments, including:

The removal of language identifying possible adverse effects of chemicals, including developmental toxicity, neurotoxicity, mutagenicity, and/or carcinogenicity;

Changes to report conclusions to indicate that there are no signs of toxicity “despite significant data to the contrary”; and
Risk assessments being reassigned to inexperienced employees “to secure their agreement to remove issues whose inclusion would be protective of human health.”

In one case, managers increased the dose considered safe for consumption for a certain chemical by nearly 10,000-fold, according to The Hill. According to PEER, staff scientists at EPA have spent months raising concerns internally and filing a formal complaint on their own—only to face “harassment from managers named in the complaints.”

— source commondreams.org | Jul 7, 2021

Nullius in verba

COVID-19 infection changes blood cells in the long run

Using real-time deformability cytometry, researchers at the Max-Planck-Zentrum für Physik und Medizin in Erlangen were able to show for the first time: Covid-19 significantly changes the size and stiffness of red and white blood cells — sometimes over months. These results may help to explain why some affected people continue to complain of symptoms long after an infection (long Covid).

Shortness of breath, fatigue and headaches: some patients still struggle with the long-term effects of a severe infection by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus after six months or more. This post Covid-19 syndrome, also called long covid, is still not properly understood. What is clear is that — during the course of the disease — often blood circulation is impaired, dangerous vascular occlusions can occur and oxygen transport in is limited. These are all phenomena in which the blood cells and their physical properties play a key role.

— source Max-Planck-Gesellschaft | Jun 29, 2021

Nullius in verba

This 5,000-year-old man had the earliest known strain of plague

The oldest strain of Yersinia pestis — the bacteria behind the plague that caused the Black Death, which may have killed as much as half of Europe’s population in the 1300s — has been found in the remains of a 5,000-year-old hunter-gatherer. A genetic analysis publishing June 29 in the journal Cell Reports reveals that this ancient strain was likely less contagious and not as deadly as its medieval version.

“What’s most astonishing is that we can push back the appearance of Y. pestis 2,000 years farther than previously published studies suggested,” says senior author Ben Krause-Kyora, head of the aDNA Laboratory at the University of Kiel in Germany. “It seems that we are really close to the origin of the bacteria.”

The plague-carrying hunter-gatherer was a 20- to 30-year old man called “RV 2039.” He was one of two people whose skeletons were excavated in the late 1800s in a region called Rinnukalns in present-day Latvia. Soon after, the remains of both vanished until 2011, when they reappeared as part of German anthropologist Rudolph Virchow’s collection. After this re-discovery, two more burials were uncovered from the site for a total of four specimens, likely from the same group of hunter-fisher-gatherers.

Krause-Kyora and his team used samples from the teeth and bone of all four hunter-gatherers to sequence their genomes and then tested them for bacterial and viral pathogens. They

— source sciencedaily.com | Jun 29, 2021

Nullius in verba

There’s more to genes than DNA

Biologists at the Universities of Bath and Vienna have discovered 71 new ‘imprinted’ genes in the mouse genome, a finding that takes them a step closer to unravelling some of the mysteries of epigenetics — an area of science that describes how genes are switched on (and off) in different cells, at different stages in development and adulthood.

To understand the importance of imprinted genes to inheritance, we need to step back and ask how inheritance works in general. Most of the thirty trillion cells in a person’s body contain genes that come from both their mother and father, with each parent contributing one version of each gene. The unique combination of genes goes part of the way to making an individual unique. Usually, each gene in a pair is equally active or inactive in a given cell. This is not the case for imprinted genes. These genes — which make up less than one percent of the total of 20,000+ genes — tend to be more active (sometimes much more active) in one parental version than the other.

Until now, researchers were aware of around 130 well-documented imprinted genes in the mouse genome — the new additions take this number to over 200.

— source University of Bath | Jun 21, 2021

Nullius in verba