SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

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Little is known about the climate of the scientific fieldwork setting as it relates to gendered experiences, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. We conducted an internet-based survey of field scientists (N = 666) to characterize these experiences. Codes of conduct and sexual harassment policies were not regularly encountered by respondents, while harassment and assault were commonly experienced by respondents during trainee career stages. Women trainees were the primary targets; their perpetrators were predominantly senior to them professionally within the research team. Male trainees were more often targeted by their peers at the research site. Few respondents were aware of mechanisms to report incidents; most who did report were unsatisfied with the outcome. These findings suggest that policies emphasizing safety, inclusivity, and collegiality have the potential to improve field experiences of a diversity of researchers, especially during early career stages. These include better awareness of mechanisms for direct and oblique reporting of harassment and assault and, the implementation of productive response mechanisms when such behaviors are reported. Principal investigators are particularly well positioned to influence workplace culture at their field sites.

Concepts: Report, Research, Profession, Training, Experience, Knowledge, Gender studies, Sexism

37

Depression and stress promote obesity. This study addressed the impact of daily stressors and a history of major depressive disorder (MDD) on obesity-related metabolic responses to high-fat meals.

Concepts: Serotonin, Major depressive disorder, Dysthymia

35

Recent studies have shown that neonicotinoid insecticides have adverse effects on non-target invertebrate species. Invertebrates constitute a substantial part of the diet of many bird species during the breeding season and are indispensable for raising offspring. We investigated the hypothesis that the most widely used neonicotinoid insecticide, imidacloprid, has a negative impact on insectivorous bird populations. Here we show that, in the Netherlands, local population trends were significantly more negative in areas with higher surface-water concentrations of imidacloprid. At imidacloprid concentrations of more than 20 nanograms per litre, bird populations tended to decline by 3.5 per cent on average annually. Additional analyses revealed that this spatial pattern of decline appeared only after the introduction of imidacloprid to the Netherlands, in the mid-1990s. We further show that the recent negative relationship remains after correcting for spatial differences in land-use changes that are known to affect bird populations in farmland. Our results suggest that the impact of neonicotinoids on the natural environment is even more substantial than has recently been reported and is reminiscent of the effects of persistent insecticides in the past. Future legislation should take into account the potential cascading effects of neonicotinoids on ecosystems.

Concepts: Biology, Insect, Bird, Invertebrate, Insecticide, Pesticide toxicity to bees, Neonicotinoid, Imidacloprid

34

Cadmium telluride, CdTe, is now firmly established as the basis for the market-leading thin-film solar-cell technology. With laboratory efficiencies approaching 20 per cent, the research and development targets for CdTe are to reduce the cost of power generation further to less than half a US dollar per watt (ref. 2) and to minimize the environmental impact. A central part of the manufacturing process involves doping the polycrystalline thin-film CdTe with CdCl2. This acts to form the photovoltaic junction at the CdTe/CdS interface and to passivate the grain boundaries, making it essential in achieving high device efficiencies. However, although such doping has been almost ubiquitous since the development of this processing route over 25 years ago, CdCl2 has two severe disadvantages; it is both expensive (about 30 cents per gram) and a water-soluble source of toxic cadmium ions, presenting a risk to both operators and the environment during manufacture. Here we demonstrate that solar cells prepared using MgCl2, which is non-toxic and costs less than a cent per gram, have efficiencies (around 13%) identical to those of a CdCl2-processed control group. They have similar hole densities in the active layer (9 × 10(14) cm(-3)) and comparable impurity profiles for Cl and O, these elements being important p-type dopants for CdTe thin films. Contrary to expectation, CdCl2-processed and MgCl2-processed solar cells contain similar concentrations of Mg; this is because of Mg out-diffusion from the soda-lime glass substrates and is not disadvantageous to device performance. However, treatment with other low-cost chlorides such as NaCl, KCl and MnCl2 leads to the introduction of electrically active impurities that do compromise device performance. Our results demonstrate that CdCl2 may simply be replaced directly with MgCl2 in the existing fabrication process, thus both minimizing the environmental risk and reducing the cost of CdTe solar-cell production.

Concepts: Semiconductor, Cadmium, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Cost, Cadmium telluride, Cadmium sulfide, United States dollar

32

Historic theories of speech perception (Motor Theory and Analysis by Synthesis) invoked listeners' knowledge of speech production to explain speech perception. Neuroimaging data show that adult listeners activate motor brain areas during speech perception. In two experiments using magnetoencephalography (MEG), we investigated motor brain activation, as well as auditory brain activation, during discrimination of native and nonnative syllables in infants at two ages that straddle the developmental transition from language-universal to language-specific speech perception. Adults are also tested in Exp. 1. MEG data revealed that 7-mo-old infants activate auditory (superior temporal) as well as motor brain areas (Broca’s area, cerebellum) in response to speech, and equivalently for native and nonnative syllables. However, in 11- and 12-mo-old infants, native speech activates auditory brain areas to a greater degree than nonnative, whereas nonnative speech activates motor brain areas to a greater degree than native speech. This double dissociation in 11- to 12-mo-old infants matches the pattern of results obtained in adult listeners. Our infant data are consistent with Analysis by Synthesis: auditory analysis of speech is coupled with synthesis of the motor plans necessary to produce the speech signal. The findings have implications for: (i) perception-action theories of speech perception, (ii) the impact of “motherese” on early language learning, and (iii) the “social-gating” hypothesis and humans' development of social understanding.

Concepts: Scientific method, Brain, Cognition, Language, Developmental psychology, Theory, Haskins Laboratories, Broca's area

31

We report the whole-genome sequence of the common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus). The 2.26-Gb genome of a female marmoset was assembled using Sanger read data (6×) and a whole-genome shotgun strategy. A first analysis has permitted comparison with the genomes of apes and Old World monkeys and the identification of specific features that might contribute to the unique biology of this diminutive primate, including genetic changes that may influence body size, frequent twinning and chimerism. We observed positive selection in growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor genes (growth pathways), respiratory complex I genes (metabolic pathways), and genes encoding immunobiological factors and proteases (reproductive and immunity pathways). In addition, both protein-coding and microRNA genes related to reproduction exhibited evidence of rapid sequence evolution. This genome sequence for a New World monkey enables increased power for comparative analyses among available primate genomes and facilitates biomedical research application.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Organism, Virus, Genome, Callithrix, Primate

31

Accessing information on plant consumption before the adoption of agriculture is challenging. However, there is growing evidence for use of locally available wild plants from an increasing number of pre-agrarian sites, suggesting broad ecological knowledge. The extraction of chemical compounds and microfossils from dental calculus removed from ancient teeth offers an entirely new perspective on dietary reconstruction, as it provides empirical results on material that is already in the mouth. Here we present a suite of results from the multi-period Central Sudanese site of Al Khiday. We demonstrate the ingestion in both pre-agricultural and agricultural periods of Cyperus rotundus tubers. This plant is a good source of carbohydrates and has many useful medicinal and aromatic qualities, though today it is considered to be the world’s most costly weed. Its ability to inhibit Streptococcus mutans may have contributed to the unexpectedly low level of caries found in the agricultural population. Other evidence extracted from the dental calculus includes smoke inhalation, dry (roasting) and wet (heating in water) cooking, a second plant possibly from the Triticaceae tribe and plant fibres suggestive of raw material preparation through chewing.

Concepts: Food, Starch, Chemical compound, Dental caries, Dental plaque, Cyperus rotundus, Dentistry, Streptococcus mutans

31

In recent years, fisheries management has succeeded in stabilizing and even improving the state of many global fisheries resources [1-5]. This is particularly evident in areas where stocks are exploited in compliance with scientific advice and strong institutional structures are in place [1, 5]. In Europe, the well-managed northeast (NE) Atlantic fish stocks have been recovering in response to decreasing fishing pressure over the past decade [3-6], albeit with a long way to go for a universal stock rebuild [3, 7]. Meanwhile, little is known about the temporal development of the European Mediterranean stocks, whose management relies on input controls that are often poorly enforced. Here, we perform a meta-analysis of 42 European Mediterranean stocks of nine species in 1990-2010, showing that exploitation rate has been steadily increasing, selectivity (proportional exploitation of juveniles) has been deteriorating, and stocks have been shrinking. We implement species-specific simulation models to quantify changes in exploitation rate and selectivity that would maximize long-term yields and halt stock depletion. We show that stocks would be more resilient to fishing and produce higher long-term yields if harvested a few years after maturation because current selectivity is far from optimal, especially for demersal stocks. The European Common Fisheries Policy that has assisted in improving the state of NE Atlantic fish stocks in the past 10 years has failed to deliver similar results for Mediterranean stocks managed under the same policy. Limiting juvenile exploitation, advancing management plans, and strengthening compliance, control, and enforcement could promote fisheries sustainability in the Mediterranean.

Concepts: Time, European Union, Fish, United States, Atlantic Ocean, Europe, Overfishing, Common Fisheries Policy

29

Paranoia is receiving increasing attention in its own right, since it is a central experience of psychotic disorders and a marker of the health of a society. Paranoia is associated with use of the most commonly taken illicit drug, cannabis. The objective was to determine whether the principal psychoactive ingredient of cannabis-∆(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-causes paranoia and to use the drug as a probe to identify key cognitive mechanisms underlying paranoia. A randomized, placebo-controlled, between-groups test of the effects of intravenous THC was conducted. A total of 121 individuals with paranoid ideation were randomized to receive placebo, THC, or THC preceded by a cognitive awareness condition. Paranoia was assessed extensively via a real social situation, an immersive virtual reality experiment, and standard self-report and interviewer measures. Putative causal factors were assessed. Principal components analysis was used to create a composite paranoia score and composite causal variables to be tested in a mediation analysis. THC significantly increased paranoia, negative affect (anxiety, worry, depression, negative thoughts about the self), and a range of anomalous experiences, and reduced working memory capacity. The increase in negative affect and in anomalous experiences fully accounted for the increase in paranoia. Working memory changes did not lead to paranoia. Making participants aware of the effects of THC had little impact. In this largest study of intravenous THC, it was definitively demonstrated that the drug triggers paranoid thoughts in vulnerable individuals. The most likely mechanism of action causing paranoia was the generation of negative affect and anomalous experiences.

Concepts: Anxiety, Psychology, Greek loanwords, Schizophrenia, Psychosis, Fear, Delusional disorder, Paranoia

29

Why does a relentless stream of experiences normally fill your mind? No answer is entirely satisfactory. We are not sure how the normal operation of the human brain might exude subjective experiences. Consciousness can thus seem miraculous, and research on consciousness a waste of time and money, ultimately doomed to fail. Yet, there are good reasons for optimism that should be shared with the public to justify research in this area.

Concepts: Neuron, Neuroanatomy, Brain, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Cerebellum, Mind, Normal distribution