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

Concept: Philosophy of science


The Zika virus has spread rapidly in the Americas since its first identification in Brazil in early 2015. Prenatal Zika virus infection has been linked to adverse pregnancy and birth outcomes, most notably microcephaly and other serious brain anomalies. To determine whether Zika virus infection during pregnancy causes these adverse outcomes, we evaluated available data using criteria that have been proposed for the assessment of potential teratogens. On the basis of this review, we conclude that a causal relationship exists between prenatal Zika virus infection and microcephaly and other serious brain anomalies. Evidence that was used to support this . . .

Concepts: Causality, Ontology, Philosophy of science, Metaphysics, Free will, Cosmological argument


Human dental enamel, the hardest tissue in the body, plays a vital role in protecting teeth from wear as a result of daily grinding and chewing as well as from chemical attack. It is well established that the mechanical strength and fatigue resistance of dental enamel are derived from its hierarchical structure, which consists of periodically arranged bundles of hydroxyapatite (HAP) nanowires. However, we do not yet have a full understanding of the in vivo HAP crystallization process that leads to this structure. Mg(2+) ions, which are present in many biological systems, regulate HAP crystallization by stabilizing its precursor, amorphous calcium phosphate (ACP), but their atomic-scale distribution within HAP is unknown. We use atom probe tomography to provide the first direct observations of an intergranular Mg-rich ACP phase between the HAP nanowires in mature human dental enamel. We also observe Mg-rich elongated precipitates and pockets of organic material among the HAP nanowires. These observations support the postclassical theory of amelogenesis (that is, enamel formation) and suggest that decay occurs via dissolution of the intergranular phase. This information is also useful for the development of more accurate models to describe the mechanical behavior of teeth.

Concepts: Hierarchy, Solubility, Philosophy of science, Teeth, Crystallization, Tooth enamel, Nucleation, Remineralisation of teeth


An incremental, loosely planned development approach is often used in bioinformatic studies when dealing with custom data analysis in a rapidly changing environment. Unfortunately, the lack of a rigorous software structuring can undermine the maintainability, communicability and replicability of the process. To ameliorate this problem we propose the Leaf system, the aim of which is to seamlessly introduce the pipeline formality on top of a dynamical development process with minimum overhead for the programmer, thus providing a simple layer of software structuring.

Concepts: Scientific method, Data, Philosophy of science, Computer, Computer program, Computer software, Pipeline transport


Provenance is a critical ingredient for establishing trust of published scientific content. This is true whether we are considering a data set, a computational workflow, a peer-reviewed publication or a simple scientific claim with supportive evidence. Existing vocabularies such as Dublin Core Terms (DC Terms) and the W3C Provenance Ontology (PROV-O) are domain-independent and general-purpose and they allow and encourage for extensions to cover more specific needs. In particular, to track authoring and versioning information of web resources, PROV-O provides a basic methodology but not any specific classes and properties for identifying or distinguishing between the various roles assumed by agents manipulating digital artifacts, such as author, contributor and curator.

Concepts: Scientific method, Epistemology, Academic publishing, Philosophy of science, Controlled vocabulary, Peer review, Metaphysics, Semantic Web


Most economic theories are based on the premise that individuals maximize their own self-interest and correctly incorporate the structure of their environment into all decisions, thanks to human intelligence. The influence of this paradigm goes far beyond academia-it underlies current macroeconomic and monetary policies, and is also an integral part of existing financial regulations. However, there is mounting empirical and experimental evidence, including the recent financial crisis, suggesting that humans do not always behave rationally, but often make seemingly random and suboptimal decisions.

Concepts: Economics, Science, Mammal, Philosophy of science, Macroeconomics, Unemployment, Monetary policy, Rational choice theory


In sports such as golf and darts it is important that one can produce ballistic movements of an object towards a goal location with as little variability as possible. A factor that influences this variability is the extent to which motor planning is updated from movement to movement based on observed errors. Previous work has shown that for reaching movements, our motor system uses the learning rate (the proportion of an error that is corrected for in the planning of the next movement) that is optimal for minimizing the endpoint variability. Here we examined whether the learning rate is hard-wired and therefore automatically optimal, or whether it is optimized through experience. We compared the performance of experienced dart players and beginners in a dart task. A hallmark of the optimal learning rate is that the lag-1 autocorrelation of movement endpoints is zero. We found that the lag-1 autocorrelation of experienced dart players was near zero, implying a near-optimal learning rate, whereas it was negative for beginners, suggesting a larger than optimal learning rate. We conclude that learning rates for trial-by-trial motor learning are optimized through experience. This study also highlights the usefulness of the lag-1 autocorrelation as an index of performance in studying motor-skill learning.

Concepts: Motor control, Error, Experience, Philosophy of science, Study skills, Knowledge, Negative and non-negative numbers, Motor system


Tobacco use causes at least 12 types of cancer and is the leading preventable cause of cancer.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Oncology, Tobacco, Tobacco smoking, Philosophy of science


In this paper we present a new method for retrieving tropospheric NO2 Vertical Column Density (VCD) from zenith-sky Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy (DOAS) measurements using mobile observations. This method was used during three days in the summer of 2011 in Romania, being to our knowledge the first mobile DOAS measurements peformed in this country. The measurements were carried out over large and different areas using a mobile DOAS system installed in a car. We present here a step-by-step retrieval of tropospheric VCD using complementary observations from ground and space which take into account the stratospheric contribution, which is a step forward compared to other similar studies. The detailed error budget indicates that the typical uncertainty on the retrieved NO2tropospheric VCD is less than 25%. The resulting ground-based data set is compared to satellite measurements from the Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) and the Global Ozone Monitoring Experiment-2 (GOME-2). For instance, on 18 July 2011, in an industrial area located at 47.03°N, 22.45°E, GOME-2 observes a tropospheric VCD value of (3.4 ± 1.9) × 1015 molec./cm2, while average mobile measurements in the same area give a value of (3.4 ± 0.7) × 1015 molec./cm2. On 22 August 2011, around Ploiesti city (44.99°N, 26.1°E), the tropospheric VCD observed by satellites is (3.3 ± 1.9) × 1015 molec./cm2 (GOME-2) and (3.2 ± 3.2) × 1015 molec./cm2 (OMI), while average mobile measurements give (3.8 ± 0.8) × 1015 molec./cm2. Average ground measurements over “clean areas”, on 18 July 2011, give (2.5 ± 0.6) × 1015 molec./cm2 while the satellite observes a value of (1.8 ± 1.3) × 1015 molec./cm2.

Concepts: Scientific method, Observation, Philosophy of science, Hypothesis, Absorption, Knowledge, Absorption spectroscopy, Stratosphere


In recent times, the use of health technologies in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases experienced considerable and accelerated growth. The goal of the present study was to describe the designated pilot MCDM (Multiple Criteria Decision Making) model for priority setting of health technology assessment in Iran.

Concepts: Time, Decision theory, Decision making software, Philosophy of science, Technology, Neolithic, Technology assessment, Multi-criteria decision analysis


The importance of how disease and illness are conceptualised lies in the fact that such definition is paramount to understand the boundaries and scope of responsibility associated with medical work. In this paper, we aim to provide an overview of the interplay of these understandings in shaping the nature of medical work, philosophically, and in practice. We first discuss the emergence of the biopsychosocial model as an attempt to both challenge and broaden the traditional biomedical model. Then, we outline the main criticisms associated with the biopsychosocial model and note a range of contributions addressing the shortcomings of the model as initially formulated. Despite recurrent criticisms and uneven uptake, the biopsychosocial model has gone on to influence core aspects of medical practice, education, and research across many areas of medicine. One of these areas is adolescent medicine, which provides a particularly good exemplar to examine the contemporary challenges associated with the practical application of the biopsychosocial model. We conclude that a more optimal use of existing bodies of evidence, bringing together evidence-based methodological advances of the biopsychosocial model and existing evidence on the psychosocial needs associated with specific conditions/populations, can help to bridge the gap between philosophy and practice.

Concepts: Medicine, Disease, Avicenna, Philosophy of science, Psychiatry, Biopsychosocial model, Biomedical model, Medical models