Sewage measures global levels of antimicrobial resistance

❝ A comprehensive analysis of sewage collected in 74 cities in 60 countries has yielded the first, comparable global data, which show the levels and types of antimicrobial resistant bacteria that are present in mainly healthy people in these countries. The National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, headed the study, which was conducted by an international team of researchers.

❝ In a metagenomics study, the researchers have mapped out all the DNA material in the sewage samples and found that according to antimicrobial resistance the world’s countries fall within two groups. North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand generally have the lowest levels of antimicrobial resistance, while Asia, Africa and South America have the highest levels.

Brazil, India and Vietnam have the greatest diversity in resistance genes, while Australia and New Zealand have the lowest…

❝ According to the researchers, the use of antimicrobials only explains a minor part of the occurrence of antimicrobial resistance in the various countries…Their work shows that most of the variables, which are associated with the occurrence of antimicrobial resistance in a country, are related to the sanitary conditions in the country and the population’s general state of health.

Nothing startling. Still, worth keeping your brain – and behavior – up to date on news about a growing problem.

Melting glaciers reveal Canadian land hidden for 40,000 years


Southern Baffin IslandKike Calvo/AP

Melting ice is exposing hidden landscapes in the Canadian Arctic that haven’t been seen in more than 40,000 years, new research published in Nature Communications reveals.

Unsurprisingly, the study suggests climate change is the driving force behind this record-breaking glacial retreat and with Arctic temps rising at increasing speed thanks to strong positive feedback loops in the polar regions, we can expect things to heat up even quicker in the near future. According to researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Canadian Arctic may be seeing its warmest century in as many as 115,000 years…

❝ Simon Pendleton and colleagues’ research is based on plants collected at the edge of ice caps on Baffin Island, the fifth-largest island in the world. The landscape is dominated by deeply incised fjords and high-elevation, low-relief plateaus. The latter conserves lichens and moss in their original position in the ice for periods of time lasting thousands of years — a little like a cryogenic chamber.

RTFA to learn why scientists like Pendleton have to be hot on the spot to gather samples of vegetation as it becomes exposed.

Millennials & Generation Z differ with their predecessors

❝ No longer the new kids on the block, Millennials have moved firmly into their 20s and 30s, and a new generation is coming into focus. Generation Z – diverse and on track to be the most well-educated generation yet – is moving toward adulthood with a liberal set of attitudes and an openness to emerging social trends.

❝ On a range of issues, from Donald Trump’s presidency to the role of government to racial equality and climate change, the views of Gen Z – those ages 13 to 21 in 2018 – mirror those of Millennials. In each of these realms, the two younger generations hold views that differ significantly from those of their older counterparts. In most cases, members of the Silent Generation are at the opposite end, and Baby Boomers and Gen Xers fall in between.

RTFA. Usual thorough and well-thought out job of surveying from Pew. They’ve become the standard-setters in recent years. My generation invented selling-out.

Giant ice disc rotating in the Presumpscot River in Maine

❝ A disk of ice roughly 100 yards across that formed on the Presumpscot River and was slowly rotating and gaining size Monday had Westbrook buzzing almost as much as when city police spotted a giant snake eating a beaver in roughly the same location in June 2016.

Nothing ever came of those mysterious snake sightings – the reptile was dubbed “Wessie” by locals – but the sight of an alien-looking circle of ice stuck in the river had some people wondering about that section of the river’s knack for producing weird events.

And little ice discs in the Housatonic River in Connecticut

❝ Cliff Bates was hiking the Appalachian Trail in Northwest Connecticut with his dog in 9-degree weather Jan. 1 when he saw slowly-rotating discs of ice on the Housatonic River that resembled UFO saucers…

“It was just down there in the gorge…it was this kind of weird triangle and the ice chunks slowly circled inside that but never really left it,” Bates said…

❝ The discs are found in the cold climates of North America and Europe, Ryan Hanrahan, chief meteorologist for NBC Connecticut, said the past two weeks are the longest stretch on record of consecutive subfreezing temperatures. Given the extreme cold, he said it’s not a surprise to see things like the ice discs across the state.

Along with being rare, they are a more recently-documented phenomenon. Gil Simmons, chief meteorologist for WTNH said research has been ongoing for only 100 years, trying to understand the occurrence…

Read both articles – especially the second – which seems to explain how and why the discs rotate. At least in a laboratory. 🙂

Taking aim

❝ Rebecca Cunningham of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor became acquainted with guns at a tender age: When she was 5 years old, her mother kicked out her violent husband, who had beaten her and threatened to kill her. And she bought a gun.

❝ Today, Cunningham, who once watched her mother tuck that pistol in her purse as she headed to the shooting range, is directing the largest gun research grant that the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded in at least 30 years. With $4.9 million from NIH’s child health institute and a team of 27 researchers at 12 institutions, she is on a mission to jump-start gun injury research on a population as vulnerable as she once was: U.S. children and teenagers, for whom guns are the second-leading cause of death.

As a hunter [in younger years] and gun owner with ethical concerns, I have to endorse this sort of research. The cynic in me still says cowardly politicians have no interest in the popular will of Americans vis-a-vis guns and gun control – but, it’s always worth extending our knowledge and continuing the fight.

Junk Science can be as harmful as Fake News

❝ Brian Wansink may have helped shape our country’s relationship with food. As director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab and in roles for the US Department of Agriculture, Wansink has led headline-grabbing research on healthy eating, portion control and food psychology.

…concerns about his research came to a head last week when leading medical journals retracted six of his articles, the Journal of the American Medical Association announced…

❝ The journal’s announcement nearly doubled the number of papers he’s had retracted — now 13 — according to a database maintained by Retraction Watch, a blog that covers retractions in the scientific community…

❝ Wansink is far from the only researcher to have more than a dozen retractions. Topping Retraction Watch’s “leaderboard” are scientists with 183, 96 and 58 retractions. Wansink doesn’t even make the top 30…

❝ Although retracted articles account for far less than 1% of published papers, they can have an outsize impact.

Famously, a retracted 1998 study reported that autism was linked to childhood vaccines. It was retracted after the lead researcher, who subsequently lost his medical license, was found to have altered or misrepresented information on study participants. Still, the paper led to some parents not vaccinating their children for measles, mumps and rubella.

“Famously” in the scientific community, perhaps. A significant chunk of folks silly enough to stop vaccinating their kids used reports of that crap study to justify their suspicion of science and forbade their children the protection of vaccination. And still do.

Swatting mosquitos teaches them to avoid you

❝ In a paper published Jan. 25 in Current Biology, University of Washington researchers report that mosquitoes can in fact learn to associate a particular odor with an unpleasant mechanical shock akin to being swatted. As a result, they’ll avoid that scent the next time.

“Once mosquitoes learned odors in an aversive manner, those odors caused aversive responses on the same order as responses to DEET, which is one of the most effective mosquito repellents,” said senior author Jeff Riffell, a UW professor of biology. “Moreover, mosquitoes remember the trained odors for days…”

❝ “By understanding how mosquitoes are making decisions on whom to bite, and how learning influences those behaviors, we can better understand the genes and neuronal bases of the behaviors,” said Riffell. “This could lead to more effective tools for mosquito control.”

I can think of other relevant settings for the same process. Bigger animals. 🙂

Chandra Gives Us the Elementary Nature of Cassiopeia A

❝ Where do most of the elements essential for life on Earth come from? The answer: inside the furnaces of stars and the explosions that mark the end of some stars’ lives.

❝ X-ray telescopes such as Chandra are important to study supernova remnants and the elements they produce because these events generate extremely high temperatures — millions of degrees — even thousands of years after the explosion. This means that many supernova remnants, including Cas A, glow most strongly at X-ray wavelengths that are undetectable with other types of telescopes.