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Is Dyslexia an Evolutionary Advantage Rather Than a 'Disorder'?

Slashdot - Science - Sáb, 25/06/2022 - 17:49
LinkedIn recently added 'dyslexic thinking' as an official skill. And now the U.K. national newspaper the Telegraph reports on scientists arguing that dyslexia is not a "disorder" — but an evolutionarily beneficial willingness to explore: The experts suggested that dyslexia, which causes difficulty reading, writing and spelling, is a useful specialisation and not a "neurocognitive condition".... About one in five people have dyslexia, and their tendency to push the envelope would have been balanced out by other members of a prehistoric society, leading to a well-rounded group with equally useful skill sets. However, Dr Helen Taylor, from the University of Strathclyde, and Dr Martin Vestergaard, from the University of Cambridge, said that dyslexia was now seen as a problem because modern education systems focused on the things sufferers struggled with and neglected what they excelled at. They reassessed past studies on dyslexic individuals and disagreed with the prevailing theory that it was a cognitive deficit.... [S]ince the invention of written language, dyslexia has been seen as a problem, not a talent. "Schools, academic institutes and workplaces are not designed to make the most of explorative learning," said Dr Taylor. "We urgently need to start nurturing this way of thinking to allow humanity to continue to adapt and solve key challenges." They posit that dyslexic people are naturally more skilled "in realms like discovery, invention and creativity" and that this specialisation stems from millennia of human evolution.... Without the streak of curiosity and willingness to investigate that is commonplace in dyslexic brains, groups of people would likely struggle to survive, they said. "The deficit-centred view of dyslexia isn't telling the whole story," said Dr Taylor. "We believe that the areas of difficulty experienced by people with dyslexia result from a cognitive trade-off between exploration of new information and exploitation of existing knowledge, with the upside being an explorative bias that could explain enhanced abilities observed in certain realms like discovery, invention and creativity. The researchers argue this "explorative specialization in people with dyslexia could help explain why they have difficulties with tasks related to exploitation, such as reading and writing. "It could also explain why people with dyslexia appear to gravitate towards certain professions that require exploration-related abilities, such as arts, architecture, engineering and entrepreneurship." Thanks to Slashdot reader Bruce66423 for sharing the story

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A Single AI-Enhanced Brain Scan Can Diagnose Alzheimer's Disease

Slashdot - Science - Sáb, 25/06/2022 - 14:02
Long-time Slashdot reader schwit1 shares an announcement from London's Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine: A single MRI scan of the brain could be enough to diagnose Alzheimer's disease, according to new research by Imperial College London. The research uses machine learning technology to look at structural features within the brain, including in regions not previously associated with Alzheimer's. The advantage of the technique is its simplicity and the fact that it can identify the disease at an early stage when it can be very difficult to diagnose. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, getting a diagnosis quickly at an early stage helps patients. It allows them to access help and support, get treatment to manage their symptoms and plan for the future. Being able to accurately identify patients at an early stage of the disease will also help researchers to understand the brain changes that trigger the disease, and support development and trials of new treatments.... The researchers adapted an algorithm developed for use in classifying cancer tumours, and applied it to the brain. They divided the brain into 115 regions and allocated 660 different features, such as size, shape and texture, to assess each region. They then trained the algorithm to identify where changes to these features could accurately predict the existence of Alzheimer's disease... They found that in 98 per cent of cases, the MRI-based machine learning system alone could accurately predict whether the patient had Alzheimer's disease or not. It was also able to distinguish between early and late-stage Alzheimer's with fairly high accuracy, in 79 per cent of patients. Professor Eric Aboagye, from Imperial's Department of Surgery and Cancer, who led the research, said: "Currently no other simple and widely available methods can predict Alzheimer's disease with this level of accuracy, so our research is an important step forward...." The new system spotted changes in areas of the brain not previously associated with Alzheimer's disease, [which] opens up potential new avenues for research into these areas and their links to Alzheimer's disease. Professor Aboagye adds that this new approach "could also identify early-stage patients for clinical trials of new drug treatments or lifestyle changes, which is currently very hard to do."

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What is non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)?

Live Science - Sáb, 25/06/2022 - 12:00
Pondering the question ‘what is non-exercise activity thermogenesis?’ We reveal everything you need to know, including how many calories it burns and how to increase your NEAT

Monkeypox may have undergone 'accelerated evolution,' scientists say

Live Science - Sáb, 25/06/2022 - 09:10
The virus is mutating up to 12 times faster than expected.

How body fat is calculated

Live Science - Sáb, 25/06/2022 - 09:00
How body fat is calculated: how to measure body fat and why it’s important

Why does soda fizz?

Live Science - Sáb, 25/06/2022 - 08:54
Soda's effervescence comes from processes that super-saturate the liquid with carbon dioxide, which later escapes from the soft drink as tiny, effervescent bubbles.

Pig Heart Transplant Failure: Doctors Detail Everything That Went Wrong

Slashdot - Science - Sáb, 25/06/2022 - 08:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Earlier this year, news broke of the first experimental xenotransplantation: A human patient with heart disease received a heart from a pig that had been genetically engineered to avoid rejection. While initially successful, the experiment ended two months later when the transplant failed, leading to the death of the patient. At the time, the team didn't disclose any details regarding what went wrong. But this week saw the publication of a research paper that goes through everything that happened to prepare for the transplant and the weeks following. Critically, this includes the eventual failure of the transplant, which was triggered by the death of many of the muscle cells in the transplanted heart. But the reason for that death isn't clear, and the typical signs of rejection by the immune system weren't present. So, we're going to have to wait a while to understand what went wrong. [...] After death, the team performed an autopsy on the transplanted heart. They found that it had nearly doubled in weight, largely because of fluid (and some red blood cells) leaking out of blood vessels in the absence of clotting. There was significant death of heart muscle cells, but that was scattered across the heart, rather than being a general phenomenon. Critically, most of the indications of a strong immune rejection were missing. The presence of an apparent pig cytomegalovirus was worrying, but the researchers indicate there's some question about whether the tests that picked it up might have been recognizing a closely related human virus -- one that's often associated with organ transplant problems. So, for now, it's not clear what happened with this transplant or what the significance of the apparent viral infection is. Obviously, the team has lots of material to work with to try to figure out what went on, and there's a long, long list of potential experiments to do with it. And there are also additional xenotransplant trials in the works, so it may not be long before we have a better sense of whether this was something specific to this transplant or a general risk of xenotransplantation.

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The best and worst foods for teeth

Live Science - Sáb, 25/06/2022 - 07:00
Want a pearly white smile? Here’s what you need to know about the best and worst foods for teeth

Bizarre 'polygons' are cracking through the surface of Mars

Live Science - Sáb, 25/06/2022 - 06:00
A new image from NASA's HIRISE camera reveals strange 'polygons' cracking open the surface of Mars. It's just a typical sign of spring, scientists say.

Glycaemic index is a poor predictor of how foods raise blood sugar

New Scientist - Sáb, 25/06/2022 - 02:00
A study of people with prediabetes shows that the same foods affect blood sugar levels very differently. The findings add to a growing body of evidence undermining the idea of a standard glycaemic index

Rogue Rocket's Moon Crash Site Spotted By NASA Probe

Slashdot - Science - Sáb, 25/06/2022 - 02:00
The grave of a rocket body that slammed into the moon more than three months ago has been found. Space.com reports: Early this year, astronomers determined that a mysterious rocket body was on course to crash into the lunar surface on March 4. Their calculations suggested that the impact would occur inside Hertzsprung Crater, a 354-mile-wide (570 kilometers) feature on the far side of the moon. Their math was on the money, it turns out. Researchers with NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission announced last night (June 23) that the spacecraft had spotted a new crater in Hertzsprung -- almost certainly the resting place of the rogue rocket. Actually, LRO imagery shows that the impact created two craters, an eastern one about 59 feet (18 meters) wide superimposed over a western one roughly 52 feet (16 m) across. "The double crater was unexpected and may indicate that the rocket body had large masses at each end," Mark Robinson of Arizona State University, the principal investigator of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), wrote in an update last night. "Typically a spent rocket has mass concentrated at the motor end; the rest of the rocket stage mainly consists of an empty fuel tank," he added. "Since the origin of the rocket body remains uncertain, the double nature of the crater may help to indicate its identity." As Robinson noted, the moon-crashing rocket remains mysterious. Early speculation held that it was likely the upper stage of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) mission for NASA and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in February 2015. But further observations and calculations changed that thinking, leading many scientists to conclude that the rocket body was probably part of the Long March 3 booster that launched China's Chang'e 5T1 mission around the moon in October 2014. China has denied that claim.

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Engineers Demonstrate Quantum Integrated Circuit Made Up of Just a Few Atoms

Slashdot - Science - Vie, 24/06/2022 - 21:02
Engineers in Sydney have demonstrated a quantum integrated circuit made up of just a few atoms. By precisely controlling the quantum states of the atoms, the new processor can simulate the structure and properties of molecules in a way that could unlock new materials and catalysts. New Atlas reports: The new quantum circuit comes from researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and a start-up company called Silicon Quantum Computing (SQC). It's essentially made up of 10 carbon-based quantum dots embedded in silicon, with six metallic gates that control the flow of electrons through the circuit. It sounds simple enough, but the key lies in the arrangement of these carbon atoms down to the sub-nanometer scale. Relative to each other, they're precisely positioned to mimic the atomic structure of a particular molecule, allowing scientists to simulate and study the structure and energy states of that molecule more accurately than ever before. In this case, they arranged the carbon atoms into the shape of the organic compound polyacetylene, which is made up of a repeating chain of carbon and hydrogen atoms with an alternating pattern of single and double carbon bonds between them. To simulate those bonds, the team placed the carbon atoms at different distances apart. Next, the researchers ran an electrical current through the circuit to check whether it would match the signature of a natural polyacetylene molecule -- and sure enough, it did. In other tests, the team created two different versions of the chain by cutting bonds at different places, and the resulting currents matched theoretical predictions perfectly. The significance of this new quantum circuit, the team says, is that it could be used to study more complicated molecules, which could eventually yield new materials, pharmaceuticals, or catalysts. This 10-atom version is right on the limit of what classical computers can simulate, so the team's plans for a 20-atom quantum circuit would allow for simulation of more complex molecules for the first time. The research has been published in the journal Nature.

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The Mars Express Spacecraft Is Finally Getting a Windows 98 Upgrade

Slashdot - Science - Vie, 24/06/2022 - 20:25
Engineers at the European Space Agency (ESA) are getting ready for a Windows 98 upgrade on an orbiter circling Mars. The Verge reports: The Mars Express spacecraft has been operating for more than 19 years, and the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionospheric Sounding (MARSIS) instrument onboard has been using software built using Windows 98. Thankfully for humanity and the Red Planet's sake, the ESA isn't upgrading its systems to Windows ME. The MARSIS instrument on ESA's Mars Express was key to the discovery of a huge underground aquifer of liquid water on the Red Planet in 2018. This major new software upgrade "will allow it to see beneath the surfaces of Mars and its moon Phobos in more detail than ever before," according to the ESA. The agency originally launched the Mars Express into space in 2003 as its first mission to the Red Planet, and it has spent nearly two decades exploring the planet's surface. MARSIS uses low-frequency radio waves that bounce off the surface of Mars to search for water and study the Red Planet's atmosphere. The instrument's 130-foot antenna is capable of searching around three miles below the surface of Mars, and the software upgrades will enhance the signal reception and onboard data processing to improve the quality of data that's sent back to Earth. "We faced a number of challenges to improve the performance of MARSIS," explains Carlo Nenna, a software engineer at Enginium who is helping ESA with the upgrade. "Not least because the MARSIS software was originally designed over 20 years ago, using a development environment based on Microsoft Windows 98!"

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The Sleep Debt Collector Is Here

Slashdot - Science - Vie, 24/06/2022 - 19:01
Recent studies in humans and mice have shown that late nights and early mornings may cause long lasting damage to your brain. From a report: The sleep debt collectors are coming. They want you to know that there is no such thing as forgiveness, only a shifting expectation of how and when you're going to pay them back. You think of them as you lie in bed at night. How much will they ask for? Are you solvent? You fall asleep, then wake up in a cold sweat an hour later. You fall asleep, then wake up, drifting in and out of consciousness until morning. As most every human has discovered, a couple nights of bad sleep is often followed by grogginess, difficulty concentrating, irritability, mood swings and sleepiness. For years, it was thought that these effects, accompanied by cognitive impairments like lousy performances on short-term memory tests, could be primarily attributed to a chemical called adenosine, a neurotransmitter that inhibits electrical impulses in the brain. Spikes of adenosine had been consistently observed in sleep-deprived rats and humans. Adenosine levels can be quickly righted after a few nights of good sleep, however. This gave rise to a scientific consensus that sleep debt could be forgiven with a couple of quality snoozes -- as reflected in casual statements like "I'll catch up on sleep" or "I'll be more awake tomorrow." But a review article published recently in the journal Trends in Neurosciences contends that the folk concept of sleep as something that can be saved up and paid off is bunk. The review, which canvassed the last couple of decades of research on long term neural effects of sleep deprivation in both animals and humans, points to mounting evidence that getting too little sleep most likely leads to long-lasting brain damage and increased risk of neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's disease. "This is really, really important in setting the stage for what needs to be done in sleep health and sleep science," said Mary Ellen Wells, a sleep scientist at the University of North Carolina, who did not contribute to the review.

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Female Scientists Less Likely To Be Given Authorship Credits, Analysis Finds

Slashdot - Science - Vie, 24/06/2022 - 15:45
Female scientists are less likely to receive authorship credit or to be named on patents related to the work they do compared with their male counterparts -- including in fields such as healthcare, where women dominate -- data suggests. From a report: This gender gap may help to explain well-documented disparities in the apparent contributions of male and female scientists -- such as that of Rosalind Franklin, whose pivotal contribution to the discovery of the structure of DNA initially went unrecognised because she was not cited on the core Nature article by James Watson and Francis Crick. "We have known for a long time that women publish and patent at a lower rate than men. But, because previous data never showed who participated in research, no one knew why," said Prof Julia Lane at New York University in the US, who led the new research. Lane and her colleagues analysed administrative data on research projects conducted at 52 US colleges and universities between 2013 and 2016. They matched information about 128,859 scientists to 39,426 journal articles and 7,675 patents, looking at which people who worked on individual projects received credit and which did not.

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Chimpanzees hunt for fruit in video game to test navigation skills

New Scientist - Vie, 24/06/2022 - 14:00
Testing how chimpanzees navigate in virtual environments could help researchers understand why they prefer certain routes in the wild over others

Was warfare responsible for the origin of complex civilisation?

New Scientist - Vie, 24/06/2022 - 14:00
An effort to track global changes in human society over the past 10,000 years concludes that warfare drove an increase in social complexity – but others are unconvinced by the work

You're more likely to become friends with someone who smells like you

New Scientist - Vie, 24/06/2022 - 14:00
We subconsciously sniff people when we first meet them and are more likely to become friends with those who have similar body odours to our own

Roe v. Wade overturned by Supreme Court

Live Science - Vie, 24/06/2022 - 12:58
Thirteen states have "trigger laws" that will ban abortion almost immediately.

AI-powered robot learned to make letters out of Play-Doh on its own

New Scientist - Vie, 24/06/2022 - 12:54
A robot that learned to manipulate clay to make letters of the alphabet without any training could one day make dumplings for you

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