Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Science Links, 7/30/14

Ebola, Roger Pielke, Jr. and climate change, Siberian holes, and autism

Article: Sierra Leone's top Ebola doctor dies from virus
The doctor leading Sierra Leone's fight against the worst Ebola outbreak on record died from the virus on Tuesday, the country's chief medical officer said.
The death of Sheik Umar Khan, who was credited with treating more than 100 patients, follows those of dozens of local health workers and the infection of two American medics in neighboring Liberia, highlighting the dangers faced by staff trying to halt the disease's spread across West Africa.

Link to graphic.

Article: Burn the Witch! Roger Pielke Jr. Out at FiveThirtyEight

FiveThirtyEight: "the site has published articles – typically creating or analyzing statistical information – on a wide variety of topics in current politics and political news.  These included a monthly update on the prospects for turnover in the U.S. Senate; federal economic policies; Congressional support for legislation; public support for health care reform, global warming legislation, gay rights; elections around the world; marijuana legalization; and numerous other topics."

Roger Pielke, Jr., is a well known, and widely respected, climate change skeptic with his own blog.

The stated purpose of "538" is to provide a statistical analysis. Pielke did so.

The stated purpose of "538" is to provide statistical analysis of global warming. Pielke did so.


He analyzed the statistics concerning the cost of natural disasters. He found that "...the increased cost of natural disasters is not the result of climate change — a premise that was heavily criticized."

He also found no trend in natural disasters, especially weather and climate related disasters.

Ad hominen logical fallacies were employed ("Disinformer." "Trickster"). Constructive criticism of his work, less so.

An interview with Roger Pielke, Jr., about the departure.

Article: Two New Mysterious Holes Discovered In Siberia

Article: Giant Hole Forms In Siberia, And Nobody Can Explain Why

One measured 260 feet across, another (?) was 230 feet deep.

The articles have cool pictures.

Meteors? Melting permafrost? Natural gas explosion?

Article: For children with autism, brain inflexibility may explain behavior
New research has found that the brains of children with autism are relatively inflexible at switching from rest to task and this inflexibility is correlated with behaviors characteristic of the disorder.
“One of the core clinical symptoms of autism is restricted interests and repetitive behaviors,” senior study author Vinod Menon, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, told “Autism is characterized by significant behavioral inflexibility and we were interested in finding out the brain basis of inflexibility.”

To study the autistic brain, Stanford researchers worked with two groups. The first group of 17 children with autism and 17 typically developing children did social face recognition tasks that required them to respond when there was a different face presented in the screen. The second equally sized group did a simple math problem solving task.

Researchers used the face recognition task because autism is characterized by social deficits. The math task was used because children with autism typically do not have deficits in that area.

All participants underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans during rest and during the tasks.

Compared to the typically developing participants, children with autism showed reduced differentiation between brain connectivity during rest and task— a phenomenon the researchers refer to as brain inflexibility. Additionally, researchers found a correlation between the degree of brain inflexibility shown in the fMRI scans and the severity of restrictive and repetitive behaviors in children with autism.

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