NASA puzzled by strange shiny spots on Ceres

nobel intent - søn, 01/03/2015 - 19:00

NASA researchers have spotted something weird on the surface of the dwarf planet Ceres—a pair of mysterious shiny patches that reflect sunlight.

The bright spots were imaged by the Dawn spacecraft, which is whizzing through space on its way to Ceres, and should arrive in orbit on March 6. It'll be the first spacecraft to study a protoplanet at such close range.

"As we slowly approach the stage, our eyes transfixed on Ceres and her planetary dance, we find she has beguiled us but left us none the wiser," said Chris Russell, principal investigator of the Dawn mission. "We expected to be surprised; we did not expect to be this puzzled."

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Extreme weather events in our future climate

nobel intent - lør, 28/02/2015 - 20:00

"When an extreme weather event happens, the public wants to know—is this climate change?" That statement by Lawrence Berkeley Lab's Michael Wehner provided a good background for the session on climate change and unusual weather events that happened at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The fact is, scientists aren't well equipped to answer that question—at least not in a way the public's likely to find satisfying.

Instead, Wehner said, science is on solid ground when it examines weather events in terms of probabilities: is the risk of a given event higher? Will the magnitude of a given type of event change?

Wehner went through some historic events and examined how climate change shifted these probabilities. For example, events similar to Europe's 2003 heat wave (which saw 70,000 deaths) are already twice as likely to occur given the amount we've warmed over pre-industrial conditions. If we allow the globe to warm by 2°C over preindustrial levels, that probability goes up to 154 times. "By the end of the century," Wehner said, "when we're likely to see 4°C warming, this event will likely seem cold."

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[Editorial] Urban health post-2015

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
In Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, Kublai Khan says to Marco Polo “you take delight not in a city's seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours”.

[Editorial] Antimicrobial espionage?

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
Antimicrobial resistance is no longer a future concern—it is happening now. Although the antimicrobial pipeline is sparse, resistance is increasing, partly because of over-prescription. Between 2010 and 2013, antibiotic prescriptions rose by 6% in England. A post-antimicrobial era, in which a cough or cut could once again kill, is not a scenario to be dismissed lightly.

[Editorial] Reducing the cost of rare disease drugs

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
Feb 28 marks Rare Disease Day, organised by EURORDIS, a non-governmental alliance of patient organisations, and its partners. The day, first launched in 2008, aims to raise awareness of rare diseases and the impact they have on patients' lives. A key objective is to get WHO to recognise Feb 28 as the official Rare Disease Day and amplify advocacy and action worldwide.

[Comment] The future of mental health in the UK: an election manifesto

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
Alastair Campbell recently told The Sunday Times that 100% of British politicians would benefit from seeing a psychiatrist.1 We would not go so far, but believe that every politician would benefit from thinking more about mental health care and how to improve it. To help them with this, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has already published Making Parity a Reality, a mental health manifesto for the next UK Government.2 It is disheartening that half of the things we called for—proper liaison psychiatry services, a minimum unit price for alcohol, and investment in parenting programmes—have such robust evidence bases that they should have happened years ago.

[Comment] 2018 FIFA World Cup: isolating Russia could harm global health

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
Western sanctions have isolated Russia from key international systems. Putting aside controversial questions about Russia's motivations for retaking Crimea, their involvement in the Donbas region, or even the potential for sanctions to bring peace, the west faces unexpected health-related dangers in its pursuit of the politics of isolation.

[Comment] Rare diseases and effective treatments: are we delivering?

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
Rare diseases afflict millions of individuals: they cause loss of life and impose a huge physical, psychological, and socioeconomic burden on patients and their families. There are almost 7000 rare diseases (defined in the European Union as diseases that affect fewer than five people per 10 000), although fewer than 100 rare diseases account for about 80% of affected patients.1,2 For most rare diseases there are no effective treatments.

[Comment] Cardiology: a call for papers

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
The Lancet is planning a special issue to coincide with the European Society of Cardiology congress to be held on Aug 29–Sept 2, 2015 in London, UK. We will consider high quality original research papers that will influence clinical practice—especially those that describe the results of randomised trials.

[Comment] Offline: The “chronic pandemic” that just won't go away

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
“I strongly encourage you to be cynical about the whole Sustainable Development Goal framework.” Dirk Engels is Director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases at WHO. He was speaking the day after a successful launch of the agency's third report on NTDs. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had convened a small group at its new headquarters in London to discuss this disparate collection of 17 diseases, affecting over 1 billion people in 149 countries worldwide. The Foundation sought a vision for NTDs in the coming era of sustainable development.

[World Report] US FDA: the Margaret Hamburg years

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
US Food and Drug Administration commisioner Margaret Hamburg is stepping down after nearly 6 years in office. The Lancet's Washington correspondent Susan Jaffe reports on her achievements.

[World Report] Greek Government plans health system overhaul

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
Greece's new Government promises to substantially reform the health system. But experts wonder whether the pledges can be implemented. Eva Karamanoli reports from Athens.

[Perspectives] Balancing unreason: vaccine myths and metaphors

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
Is any medical procedure more misunderstood or charged with anxiety than vaccination? “We have more microorganisms in our guts”, observes Eula Biss, “than we have cells in our bodies—we are crawling with bacteria and we are full of chemicals”. Yet, to judge by the popularity of anti-vaccination forums, increasing numbers of people believe that introducing an attenuated virus into one's bloodstream to kick start a life-saving immune response is unnatural and dangerous.

[Perspectives] The art of losing

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
Once you know that Still Alice is about one patient's battle with dementia, you know more or less how it will end. There is, unfortunately, for the many millions of patients living with dementia only one way that their illness can end. But Still Alice is about the journey rather than the destination. And although the film is at times mundane and disjointed, the raw portrayal of what it is like to lose your memory makes it worth the ride.

[Perspectives] Robert Califf: leading cardiologist is new FDA Deputy Commissioner

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
As the new Deputy Commissioner for Medical Products and Tobacco at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), world-renowned cardiologist Robert Califf arrives at a time when the FDA's overall responsibilities have grown exponentially as a result of five new major legislative mandates, more complex regulatory science, and an increase in health-care data, despite a tightening federal budget. Califf will oversee an annual budget of about US$2·3 billion and about half the agency's 16 000 employees working at the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, Center for Devices and Radiological Health, and Center for Tobacco Products.

[Perspectives] The library card

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
There was a library card and a pre-paid cell phone. The library card had a woman's name listed on it. The phone revealed the patient's final actions: he had called 911 twice. The rest of the details we knew from the emergency medical services report. They had found the patient gasping for air. He seemed to be having an allergic reaction so they gave him epinephrine and steroids. His respiratory distress worsened and they tried to intubate him, but were unsuccessful. He had been without a pulse for about 10 minutes when they did an emergency cricothyrotomy to access his airway.

[Perspectives] The body virtual

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
Ex Machina (from the machine), makes you think of the “deus ex machina” of Greek theatre—the god, mechanically suspended above the stage, who orchestrated the play's deft denouement. It also invokes “ghost in the machine”, a phrase often heard in debates about consciousness and artificial intelligence (AI). It's a title that prepares you nicely for an intricate drama of ideas concerning AI, and a movie that has no intention of wearing its culture lightly.

[Obituary] Mary Frances Lyon

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
Geneticist who gave her name to the process of X-chromosome inactivation. Born in Norwich, UK, on May 15, 1925, she died in Drayton, UK, on Dec 25, 2014, aged 89 years.

[Correspondence] Urban health in the post-2015 agenda

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
With the rapid rate of urbanisation in developing countries across Asia and Africa, about 70% of the world's population is expected to be living in cities by 2050.1 In their density and complexity, cities often drive national economies, provide a rich array of specialised services, ideas and innovation, with diverse social and cultural populations. However, with an estimated one billion people living in slums—according to UN Habitat, cities are also sites of extreme poverty and environmental degradation with some missing basic infrastructure and services including sanitation, electricity, and health care.

[Correspondence] Putting health first in universal health coverage

The Lancet - lør, 28/02/2015 - 00:00
The Lancet's Editorial on universal health coverage (UHC; Dec 13, p 2083)1 states “putting people first” in its title. Yet, ironically, the entire UHC initiative really puts process ahead of people and their actual health—as shown by Robert Marten and colleagues' Health Policy paper.2 Their descriptions of UHC in Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) focus entirely on the process of health-care services. Of course, clinical services are important. But by jumping to focus on factors such as providers, health plans, and insurance, UHC projects only the clinical model of promotion of health.