People have been whipping racehorses since time immemorial, but until now there has been little research into whether it actually goads them into running faster. Well, it doesn't, according to the authors of a new study, who also suggest the practice is unethical. "It's the first study to confirm that whipping does not increase the chances of the horse finishing first , second or third," said Paul McGreevy, a veterinary ethologist at the University of Sydney who is a co-author of the new paper. "Ninety-eight percent of the horses were whipped in this study without, on the whole, influencing race outcome." The study, which has stirred some debate in Australia, was funded by RSPCA Australia, an animal welfare group thatopposes the use of whips in horse racing . One U.S. jockey advocacy group has questioned whether the source of the funding biased the results. Another horse expert says the study was not set up to determine the effect of whips. Horse whipper … [Read more...] about Horsewhipping Study Whips Up Controversy
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By Jon Cohen May. 6, 2021 , 2:45 PM Science ’s COVID-19 reporting is supported by the Heising-Simons Foundation. A team of prominent scientists has doubled down on its controversial hypothesis that genetic bits of the pandemic coronavirus can integrate into our chromosomes and stick around long after the infection is over. If they are right—skeptics have argued that their results are likely lab artifacts—the insertions could explain the rare finding that people can recover from COVID-19 but then test positive for SARS-CoV-2 again months later. Stem cell biologist Rudolf Jaenisch and gene regulation specialist Richard Young of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led the work, triggered a Twitter storm in December 2020, when their team first presented the idea in a preprint on bioRxiv. The researchers emphasized that viral integration did not mean people who recovered from COVID-19 remain infectious. But critics charged them with stoking unfounded fears that … [Read more...] about Further evidence offered for claim that genes of pandemic coronavirus can integrate with human DNA
In the next few weeks, President Joe Biden is expected to choose a new director for the US Patent and Trademark Office. In recent days, I've talked to a dozen people who are deeply involved in the patent system. During these conversations, three names came up over and over again as leading candidates. One is patent lawyer Ellisen Turner. Over an 18-year career, Turner has represented a wide range of clients, from big tech companies to companies that do little more than collect patent-licensing revenue. Included in this latter category is a firm that might sound familiar to longtime Ars readers: Intellectual Ventures. Back in 2014, my colleague Joe Mullin described Intellectual Ventures as the "world's biggest troll." Instead of developing products to sell to customers, Intellectual Ventures has mostly focused on accumulating a massive patent portfolio and then threatening to sue companies that refuse to license its patents. Another leading candidate is Jannie Lau, a patent … [Read more...] about How the next Patent Office director could shape the patent system
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect additional comment from researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who disputed the characterization of their study by MIT's researcher. When a roadside bomb blast hits an unprotected face, the pressure and the shear waves can squeeze the brain out of shape and cause tiny tears that disrupt brain connections built up over a lifetime. MIT's rocket scientists have teamed up with a brain-injury expert in the military to show that a face shield could block much of the blast waves, boosting protection for U.S. soldiers. Brain simulations backed by field and lab blast tests showed how blast wave energy can easily reach the brain through the soft tissues of the face – the eyes and sinuses. A simulated face shield blocked that direct path for the blast wave and eliminated some of the stress waves that typically affect the brain. "There's a passageway through those soft tissues directly into the brain … [Read more...] about Face Shield for Soldiers Could Shield Brain, Too
Humans haven't always been great to nature. But at least our ancestors may not have killed off island megafauna in the distant past, so that's something. New research , published in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, suggests that there's not enough data to say that hominids in the Pleistocene—2.6 million to 11,700 years ago—were responsible for most of the extinctions on the islands they traveled to. Overkill The hypothesis that homo sapiens' distant ancestors killed off the world’s myriad ancient megafauna (not just on islands) dates back to 1966, with geoscientist Paul Martin 's "overkill" proposal. But the idea has been floating around for far longer than the formal proposal. According to Julien Louys—associate professor of paleontology at Griffiths University in Australia and an author of the new research—the question of what caused the death of the world's megafauna dates back to the 19th century. “It has, in certain circles, become very polarized,” … [Read more...] about Did our ancestors kill all the island megafauna?