One in 16 American women were either forced or coerced into their first sexual encounter, according to a study investigating the long-term negative impacts of such "trauma" on women's health. In the US, "the #MeToo movement has highlighted how frequently women experience sexual violence," the researchers wrote in the introduction. Published Monday in the American Medical Association's peer-reviewed journal (JAMA Internal Medicine), the study is based on a sample of more than 13,000 women aged 18 to 44, who were interviewed as part of a survey conducted between 2011 and 2017 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Black carbon particles typically emitted by vehicle exhaust and coal-fired power plants have been detected on the foetus-facing side of placentas, researchers said Tuesday. The concentration of particles was highest in the placentas of women most exposed to airborn pollutants in their daily life, according to a study in Nature Communications. "Our study provides compelling evidence for the presence of black carbon particles originating from air pollution in human placenta," the authors said.
Astronomers have discovered the "most massive neutron star ever measured," amassing to more than two times the mass of our sun, that they dub "almost too massive to exist," according to a statement from researchers at the Green Bank Observatory. "A neutron star is what remains when a very massive star goes supernova and dies, it is an extremely dense dead stellar core," Thankful Cromartie, 27, a graduate student at the University of Virginia and Grote Reber pre-doctoral fellow at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, as well as lead author on the study published Monday in Nature Astronomy, explained to ABC News. Cromartie and her colleagues at the NANOGrav Physics Frontiers Centered measured the neutron star, dubbed J0740+6620, as 2.17 times the mass of our sun but packed into a sphere only 30 kilometers (approximately 18 miles) wide.
Members of Congress hailed Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg as a "superpower" for her work to spark a worldwide, youth-driven push to fight climate change. Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey said the 16-year-old Thunberg and other young activists bring "moral clarity" to the fight against global warming. Thunberg was not impressed.
Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture and Elon Musk's SpaceX are often at odds, but there's at least one place where those two space-industry rivals are on the same page: the newly unveiled Space Talent job database. The search engine for careers in the space industry is a project of Space Angels, a nationwide network designed to link angel investors with space entrepreneurs. "If you've ever considered working in space, this jobs board has 3,000 reasons to make the leap," Space Angels CEO Chad Anderson said in a tweet. The database aggregates job postings from Blue Origin and SpaceX as… Read More
Those fortunate enough to have a head of hair generally leave 50 to 100 strands behind on any given day. Those hairs are hardy, capable of withstanding years or even centuries of rain, heat and wind.The trouble for detectives, or anyone else seeking to figure out who a strand of hair belonged to, is that unless it contains a root, which only a tiny percentage do, it's about as helpful as a nearby rock.These limitations emerge at trials, where forensic scientists have to explain to juries why, contrary to what's seen on TV, they can't get sufficient DNA out of a hair plucked from a sweater, and when amateur family historians stumble upon a deceased relative's hairbrush. Without a root, labs will tell them, there's no hope of generating a DNA profile for a genealogy site.Until now. Ed Green, a paleogeneticist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, known in the scientific community for his work on the Neanderthal genome, has developed a technique that makes it possible to recover and sequence DNA from hair without the root.And during the past 18 months, he has been quietly cooperating with several law enforcement agencies, using this method to extract genetic profiles from the hairs of killers and victims in long unsolved crimes."It was kind of written in stone that you can't do it, and now he's doing it," said Deputy Pete Headley of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department in California, who was involved in a case in New Hampshire that Green's technique helped crack.Justin Loe, the chief executive of Full Genomes, a genetics services company, called the technique "a game-changer.""Criminals think of wearing gloves or wiping down blood," he said, "but fewer think to shave their head."Though he's already begun directing some clients to Green, Loe, whose company often works with law enforcement, cautioned that as the technique becomes more widely known, it will create new possibilities for surveillance operatives. It would make real a sci-fi future in which evading detection requires carefully sweeping up hair from a room.The hair sent to Green is usually hand-delivered by law enforcement to his lab on the campus of the University of California, Santa Cruz.Some packages contain a single lock, shorter than a thumbnail; others hold long clumps, twisted like spaghetti. Some belong to serial killers who have evaded detectives for decades; others to murder victims.Once the DNA is extracted it is kept in a liquid, in a rack just across the room from the cold storage refrigerator containing mammoth bones, several dodo birds and an extinct American cheetah, among other treasures.Green is not at liberty to share details of the investigations he's involved in, beyond the one case in New Hampshire. Neither can he say with whom he is collaborating, beyond that his point people are often Steve Kramer, a lawyer in the FBI's Los Angeles office, and Barbara Rae-Venter, a genetic genealogist.In April of 2018, the duo cracked the Golden State Killer case by finding relatives of the suspect in a genealogy database, spawning a new approach to solving crimes. (The FBI declined to comment on Kramer's collaboration with Green.)"I discovered him," said Rae-Venter of Green. In 2017, she was recovering from heart surgery and "bored out of my mind."While reading a newspaper, she stumbled across something that excited her. It was the word "hair" in an article about a tiny coffin found in a San Francisco couple's yard. While renovating, they had unearthed the remains of a mystery child in a white embroidered dress, who had likely died in the early 1900s. Volunteers had identified likely family. And using her hair, Green had confirmed that they were related.At that time, Rae-Venter was working with authorities in New Hampshire to identify a woman and three girls found in barrels in a state park. The bodies had been exposed to decades of sunlight and water, degrading the DNA, even in their bones."Suddenly here was the solution," she said.Since then, many articles and a podcast series have been dedicated to the case, known as the Bear Brook murders. But when the hair first arrived at his lab, Green knew little beyond the fact that another lab had failed to get what was needed.Once Green had the locks in hand, his team rinsed them in a bleach solution. The novel part came next. Traditional forensic labs do work with old and rootless hair. They have a technique to obtain mitochondrial DNA -- which is passed from mother to child. At most it could tell them, whether the source of one hair is related to the source of another.In order to identify a person, nuclear DNA is required. Traditional methods can get it out of hair with a root, though if it fell out more than a week ago it could be a problem, said Suzanna Ryan, a forensic consultant and lab director. "Hairs need to be in a growth stage in order to obtain nuclear DNA," she said.Through his previous work, Green knew that was not necessarily true.In 2005, Green was part of a team at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, which developed an advanced genetic sequencing technology to read DNA extracted from fossilized bones. In 2010, he was involved in sequencing the entire Neanderthal genome from a shards of bone that were at least 38,000 years old.Carlos Bustamante, a geneticist at Stanford University, credited Green with creating a series of technologies that enabled extracting more from less. The technique transformed scientists' ability to track the evolutionary history of human populations."We went from zero reliable ancient genomes to thousands and thousands of ancient genomes," he said.Green called hair an "interesting little organ." But it was not a focus of his, until Rae-Venter called him."For really old things it's hard to find hair," he said. "It blows away."Fine-tuning the process a took about a year.To test if he was on the right track, he took a genotype file created from his own hair and uploaded it to GEDmatch, a DNA database of around 1 million people. "That was the Eureka moment," he said. He generated the same relatives as he had with a file created the traditional way using saliva.By the time he finished with the mystery hairs from New Hampshire, he was confident that he had given Rae-Venter what she needed, but he did not feel the effect until June.That is when the authorities announced that after decades without names, three of the four murder victims had been identified as Marlyse Elizabeth Honeychurch and her two daughters, Marie Elizabeth Vaughn and Sarah Lynn McWaters."It's like someone invents the rocket to go to the moon," he said. "And then they see the moon landing on TV."Many novel methods played a role in solving the case -- DNA was ultimately extracted from one girl's liver -- but Green's technique was central to the breakthrough, said Jeffery Strelzin, New Hampshire's associate attorney general.From there the requests just flowed in. Green's discovery came at a crucial -- and contentious -- moment for genetic identification.It used to be that DNA could only solve a case if it matched someone in a criminal database or an existing suspect. But with the rise of genetic genealogy, which enables identifying DNA through cousins in genealogy databases, DNA's value to investigators has skyrocketed.Nearly half the time, genetic genealogists will tell you, they can turn a DNA profile into a suspect's name.But the willingness of so many private citizens to help law enforcement use genealogy databases to solve crimes, before the field has been regulated, is causing alarm.Natalie Ram, a law professor focused on genetic privacy at the University of Maryland, said that though she sees enormous potential, this could amplify a trend toward overcollection of DNA from the public.It is also unclear how reliable the technique is. If it fails with a given hair, it would not point to the wrong person -- it would not hit to anyone, Green and Bustamante both said. But a larger study examining success rates is still underway.Green recently submitted a paper to scientific journal. Once published, he is aware that the technique could be used for trivial crimes, corporate espionage or harassment and said that "there need to be rules or how that power is wielded," he said.But he is hopeful it will be used for good. Ryan, who recently forwarded him a case involving a woman's embalmed head, shares this wish.There are 200,000 to 250,000 cold cases in the United States, she said, and even if hair was collected in just 10%, that's 20,000 cases that could benefit.Still, neither she nor Green thinks the technique is likely to be widely embraced any time soon. Forensic labs are not set up to implement it and it is expensive. Each hair costs several thousand dollars to sequence, and that's before hiring a genetic genealogist to try to identify its source.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2019 The New York Times Company
A new small-scale study has found evidence to suggest that following a vegan diet could boost levels of the microbes in our gut, which are related to improvements in body weight, body composition and blood sugar control. The participants were randomly placed into two groups, with 73 told to follow a low-fat vegan diet for 16 weeks, while the remaining 74 were told to make no changes to their diet. At the beginning of the study and at the end of the 16 weeks, the researchers assessed the gut microbiota composition, body composition, and insulin sensitivity.
Scientists from the University of Washington and other institutions around the world say they've reduced the upper limit for the mass of the neutrino by half. Thanks to findings from the Karlsruhe Tritium Neutrino Experiment, or KATRIN, physicists now know to a 90% confidence level that the neutrino has a rest mass no greater than 1.1 electron volts, or 1.1 eV. The previous upper limit was 2 eV. Nailing down the neutrino's mass could solidify scientists' grasp on the Standard Model, which describes the subatomic world in fine detail. It could also open a path to the mysterious realm beyond… Read More
SpaceX is seeking approval from the Federal Communications Commission for changes in the spacing of its Starlink broadband satellites, in order to extend internet services to a wider swath of the United States on a faster timetable. "This adjustment will accelerate coverage to southern states and U.S. territories, potentially expediting coverage to the southern continental United States by the end of the next hurricane season and reaching other U.S. territories by the following hurricane season," SpaceX said in an application filed on Aug. 30 and accepted last week. If SpaceX follows that schedule, Starlink coverage could be available throughout the… Read More
Imagine the taglines in the movie ads: "Really good" portrayal of zero-gravity! "Absolutely" better than George Clooney! There'd be some justification for Brad Pitt's space movie, "Ad Astra," to use those lines after today's Earth-to-space video call between the A-list Hollywood star and NASA astronaut Nick Hague, who's finishing up a six-month tour of duty on the International Space Station. Pitt said the linkup, arranged through NASA, was a "real treat." And he didn't waste any time getting a film review from Hague, who watched an advance screening of "Ad Astra" with his crewmates on the station. "Now that I… Read More
GeekWire's Alan Boyle reports on a $90 million science project with a diplomatic twist in Jordan, one of the stops on this summer's Middle East science tour. ALLAN, Jordan — For Israeli researchers, SESAME could open up a path for finding out exactly what the frankincense mentioned in the Bible was made of. For Arab researchers, SESAME could reveal how the awe-inspiring structures built thousands of years ago at Jordan's Petra archaeological site were decorated. And what's nearly as awesome as the potential discoveries is the fact that Israelis and Arabs are working together at SESAME to make them. So… Read More