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Science and Research / Re: Ten women in science you should know
« on: January 28, 2020, 03:35:38 PM »

Tu Youyou (1930-present)

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Pharmaceutical chemist Tu Youyou's discovery of a new malaria treatment has saved millions of lives. Tu, who studied traditional Chinese and herbal medicines, found a reference in ancient medical texts to using sweet wormwood to treat intermittent fevers -- a symptom of malaria.

Tu and her research team were able to extract a malaria-inhibiting substance called artemisinin (or qinghaosu in Chinese) from wormwood. She even volunteered to be the first human subject to test the substance. Since her discovery of artemisinin in the 1970s, antimalarial drugs based on the substance have saved millions of lives.

Tu is now chief scientist at the China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine -- a position she reached without a medical degree, a PhD, or research training abroad. She won the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for her discovery, which has been deemed "arguably the most important pharmaceutical intervention in the last half-century" by the Lasker Foundation for medical research.

Science and Research / Re: Ten women in science you should know
« on: January 28, 2020, 03:32:04 PM »

Sally Ride (1951-2012)

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NASA astronaut Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, serving as a mission specialist on the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. At 32 years old, she was also the youngest American to ever leave the atmosphere. (She wasn't the first woman in space, though -- that title belongs to Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova.)

After the Challenger disaster in 1986, in which an explosion occurred shortly after takeoff and claimed the lives of seven astronauts, Ride served on the Rogers Commission, which investigated the tragedy. She also helped investigate the space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, during which the shuttle disintegrated as it re-entered the atmosphere, making Ride the only person to serve on both investigation commissions.

Ride went on to have an award-winning career as a public servant and as a physics professor at the University of California, San Diego. She also founded "Sally Ride Science," an organization that aims to inspire young people in STEM, and she wrote several books about her experience in space to teach kids about science.

Science and Research / Re: Ten women in science you should know
« on: January 28, 2020, 03:29:30 PM »

Lise Meitner (1878-1968)

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Austrian physicist Lise Meitner contributed significant advancements to the field of nuclear physics. She was also the first woman to become a physics professor in Germany.

Meitner's work on nuclear fission was instrumental in her longtime research collaborator Otto Hahn winning the 1944 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, so much so that many scientists later argued it was unfair for her contributions to not have been recognized equally by the Nobel Committee. Meitner was also an advocate for the peaceful use of atomic energy and flatly refused to work on the Manhattan Project because she strongly opposed using fission to create an atom bomb.

Today, multiple prestigious awards in physics are named in honor of Meitner and she even has a chemical element -- meitnerium -- named after her.

Science and Research / Re: Ten women in science you should know
« on: January 28, 2020, 03:28:11 PM »

Barbara McClintock (1902-1992)

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American botanist Barbara McClintock was responsible for several groundbreaking discoveries in the field of genetics following her decades-long career studying the genetic structure of maize. McClintock studied how genetic characteristics are passed down through generations, eventually uncovering that some genes could be mobile.

In the 1940s and 1950s, McClintock's research revealed that genetic elements could sometimes move on a chromosome and thus cause nearby genes to activate. But it wasn't until decades later that scientists apart from maize specialists understood and recognized the immense value of her discovery.

McClintock was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1971 and won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1983 "for her discovery of mobile genetic elements," now called transposons.

Science and Research / Re: Ten women in science you should know
« on: January 28, 2020, 03:26:45 PM »

Grace Hopper (1906-1992)

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Grace Hopper was a trailblazing computer programmer who helped develop multiple computer languages and is considered one of the first programmers of the modern computing age.

Armed with a master's degree and PhD in mathematics from Yale, Hopper went on to have an influential career in the private sector and the US Navy. She joined the US Naval Reserve in 1943 to help with the American war effort, and throughout WWII she worked in a prestigious lab responsible for top-secret calculations such as calibrating minesweepers, calculating the ranges of anti-aircraft guns and checking the math behind the creation of the plutonium bomb.

Her career also contributed to modern computer vernacular. While Hopper was developing some of the earliest electromechanical computers -- MARK I and MARK II -- she dismantled a malfunctioning computer to find that a dead moth was causing the problem. She became the first person to call computer problems "bugs" in the system.

Science and Research / Re: Ten women in science you should know
« on: January 28, 2020, 03:24:20 PM »

Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-1994)

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Dorothy Hodgkin was a British chemist on the cutting edge of X-ray crystallography. In 1964, Hodgkin became the first and only British woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry "for her determinations by X-ray techniques of the structures of important biochemical substances."

Throughout her career, she made numerous breakthrough discoveries, including the atomic structure of penicillin, the structure of vitamin B12 and the structure of insulin. Hodgkin also spent decades improving X-ray crystallography techniques, which made it possible for her to complete her innovative research on insulin and improve treatments for diabetes.

She also became the second woman to win the UK's prestigious Order of Merit in 1965. While Hodgin was a professor at Oxford University, she even mentored Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who would go on to win the Order of Merit herself.

Science and Research / Re: Ten women in science you should know
« on: January 28, 2020, 03:22:53 PM »

Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)

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Legend has it that British chemist and DNA researcher Rosalind Franklin knew she wanted to be a scientist since she was 15 years old. That dream went on to become a reality when she was offered a prestigious scholarship to King's College London, where she became an expert in the X-ray crystallography unit.

Franklin's research data was the first to demonstrate the basic dimensions of DNA strands and reveal the molecule was in two matching parts, running in opposite directions. Her data was used by James Watson and Francis Crick to get their research on the DNA model across the finish line and was published separately as supporting data alongside Watson, Crick and Maurice Wilkins' research articles in Nature.

Many people in the scientific community argue that Franklin should have been awarded a Nobel Prize alongside Watson, Crick and Maurice Wilkins, who won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material." Unfortunately, Franklin died from ovarian cancer in 1958, just four years before the prize was awarded, even though at the time the organization could have awarded it posthumously.

Science and Research / Re: Ten women in science you should know
« on: January 28, 2020, 03:20:43 PM »

Alice Ball (1892-1916)

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American chemist Alice Ball was the first woman and first African American to receive a master's from the University of Hawaii and went on to become the university's first female chemistry professor. At just 23 years old, Ball developed a groundbreaking treatment for leprosy -- a disease which previously had little chance of recovery and forced victims into exile.

Prior to Ball's research on leprosy, the best treatment available was chaulmoogra oil, which was difficult for patients to ingest or apply topically and too thick to inject. While working as a research assistant at Kalihi Hospital in Hawaii, Ball developed an easily injectable form of the oil that ultimately saved countless lives and became the best treatment for leprosy until the 1940s.

Unfortunately, she died before she was able to publish the findings, and the president of the University of Hawaii attempted to claim the research as his own until Ball's former supervisor publicly spoke out that she deserved the credit for the lifesaving injection. It wasn't until the 21st century that her achievements were fully recognized and the governor of Hawaii declared February 29 "Alice Ball Day."

Science and Research / Ten women in science you should know
« on: January 28, 2020, 03:17:54 PM »

The heroines STEM: Ten women in science you should know

By Lauren Kent, CNN
January 27, 2020

(CNN)Science is often considered a male-dominated field.

In fact, according to United Nations data, less than 30% of scientific researchers worldwide are women.

Studies have shown that women are discouraged from, or become less interested in, entering the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) beginning at a young age. And according to the Pew Research Center, women remain underrepresented in engineering, computer science, and physical science.

But despite challenges of gender discrimination and lack of recognition in the scientific community, countless inspiring women in these fields have made historic contributions to science and helped advance understanding of the world around us. Many were not recognized in their own lifetimes, but their achievements have helped generations of female scientists to come.

We all learned about Marie Curie and Jane Goodall, but here are 10 more women in science you should know.


This fat can be turned into cholesterol that can start collecting along and hardening your arteries, perhaps ultimately leading to a heart attack or stroke.

"In women, it is thought that a greater portion of the abdominal fat is constituted by subcutaneous fat which is relatively harmless," she said.

However, the lower numbers of women included in the study meant the findings had less "statistical power" and more research was needed to draw definite conclusions, Mohammadi said.

The risk of cardiovascular disease like heart attacks or strokes is considered to be higher in those with a waist measurement of above 94 cm in men and above 80 cm in women, according to the World Health Organization. The risk is thought to be substantially increased in men with a waist wider than 102 cm and 88 cm in women.

The authors said that belly fat was best tackled by a healthy diet and regular exercise. Earlier studies have shown that regular moderate cardio, like walking for at least 30 minutes a day, can help fight a widening waistline. Strength training with weights may also help but spot exercises like sit-ups that can tighten abs won't touch visceral fat.


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The study found that belly fat was associated with heart attacks and stroke independent of other risk factors like smoking, diabetes, hypertension, body mass index and prevention treatments. The researchers stressed that waist circumference was a more important marker than overall obesity and advised doctors to measure their patient's waists to identify those at risk.

However, they said that the link was stronger and more linear in men, who made up nearly three-fourths of the patients included in the study, than women.

In women, Mohammadi said the relationship was "U-shaped" rather than linear, meaning that the mid-range waist measurement, rather than the narrowest, was least risky. What's more, the mid-range waist measurement was in the range traditionally recognized as at risk for abdominal obesity: more than 80 cm wide.

The reason for this could be down to the type of fat that tends to hang out on men's and women's bellies. Mohammadi said some studies have suggested that men may have more visceral fat that goes deep inside your body and wraps around your vital organs.


"Maintaining a healthy waist circumference is important for preventing future heart attacks and strokes regardless of how many drugs you may be taking or how healthy your blood tests are."

The study tracked more than 22,000 Swedish patients after their first heart attack and looked at the link between their waist circumference and events caused by clogged arteries like fatal and non-fatal heart attacks and stroke. Patients were followed for nearly four years, with 1,232 men (7.3%) and 469 women (7.9%) experiencing a heart attack or stroke.

Most patients — 78% of men and 90% of women — had abdominal obesity, defined as a waist circumference of 94 cm (37.6 inches) or above for men, and 80 cm (32 inches) or above for women.

The study found that belly fat was associated with heart attacks and stroke independent of other risk factors like smoking, diabetes, hypertension, body mass index and prevention treatments. The researchers stressed that waist circumference was a more important marker than overall obesity and advised doctors to measure their patient's waists to identify those at risk.


Your waist size may be more important than weight for multiple heart attack risk

By Katie Hunt, CNN

January 21, 2020

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(CNN)Heart attack survivors who carry extra weight around their belly are at greater risk of another heart attack, new research has found, another reason why measuring your waist may be more important than stepping on the scale.

It's been known for a while that having a pot belly, even if you are slim elsewhere, increases the odds of having a first heart attack, but the latest study, which published Monday in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, is the first time researchers have found a link between belly fat and the risk of a subsequent heart attack or stroke.

The link was particularly strong in men, researchers said.

"Abdominal obesity not only increases your risk for a first heart attack or stroke, but also the risk for recurrent events after the first misfortune," said Dr. Hanieh Mohammadi of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, in a news release.

Learn English Online / Selenophile
« on: January 21, 2020, 04:16:19 PM »

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We don’t know exactly where ‘the’ comes from – it doesn’t have a precise ancestor in Old English grammar. The Anglo Saxons didn’t say ‘the’, but had their own versions. These haven’t completely died out, according to historical linguist Laura Wright. In parts of Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumberland there is a remnant of Old English inflective forms of the definite article – t’ (as in “going t’ pub”).

The letter y in terms like ‘ye olde tea shop’ is from the old rune Thorn, part of a writing system used across northern Europe for centuries. It’s only relatively recently, with the introduction of the Roman alphabet, that ‘th’ has come into being.

‘The’ deserves to be celebrated. The three-letter word punches well above its weight in terms of impact and breadth of contextual meaning. It can be political, it can be dramatic – it can even bring non-existent concepts into being.


Deborah Tannen, a US linguist,
has a hypothesis that men
deal more in report
and women more in rapport
– this could explain why men use ‘the’ more often

According to Culpeper, men say ‘the’ significantly more frequently. Deborah Tannen, an American linguist, has a hypothesis that men deal more in report and women more in rapport – this could explain why men use ‘the’ more often. Depending on context and background, in more traditional power structures, a woman may also have been socialised not to take the voice of authority so might use ‘the’ less frequently. Though any such gender-based generalisations also depend on the nature of the topic being studied.

Those in higher status positions also use ‘the’ more – it can be a signal of their prestige and (self) importance. And when we talk about ‘the prime minister’ or ‘the president’ it gives more power and authority to that role. It can also give a concept credibility or push an agenda. Talking about ‘the greenhouse effect’ or ‘the migration problem’ makes those ideas definite and presupposes their existence.

‘The’ can be a “very volatile” word, says Murphy. Someone who refers to ‘the Americans’ versus simply ‘Americans’ is more likely to be critical of that particular nationality in some capacity. When people referred to ‘the Jews’ in the build-up to the Holocaust, it became othering and objectifying. According to Murphy, “‘The’ makes the group seem like it’s a large, uniform mass, rather than a diverse group of individuals.” It’s why Trump was criticised for using the word in that context during a 2016 US presidential debate.


Atlantic divide

Even within the language, there are subtle differences in how ‘the’ is used in British and American English, such as when talking about playing a musical instrument. An American might be more likely to say ‘I play guitar’ whereas a British person might opt for ‘I play the guitar’. But there are some instruments where both nationalities might happily omit ‘the’, such as ‘I play drums’. Equally the same person might interchangeably refer to their playing of any given instrument with or without the definite article – because both are correct and both make sense.

And yet, keeping with the musical vibe, there’s a subtle difference in meaning of ‘the’ in the phrases ‘I play the piano’ and ‘I clean the piano’. We instinctively understand the former to mean the piano playing is general and not restricted to one instrument, and yet in the latter, we know that it is one specific piano that is being rendered spick and span.

Culpeper says ‘the’ occurs about a third less in spoken language. Though of course whether it is used more frequently in text or speech depends on the subject in question. A more personal, emotional topic might have fewer instances of ‘the’ than something more formal. ‘The’ appears most frequently in academic prose, offering a useful word when imparting information – whether it’s scientific papers, legal contracts or the news. Novels use ‘the’ least, partly because they have conversation embedded in them.


Lynne Murphy, professor of linguistics at the University of Sussex, spoke at the Boring Conference in 2019, an event celebrating topics that are mundane, ordinary and overlooked, but are revealed to be fascinating. She pointed out how strange it is that our most commonly used word is one that many of the world’s languages don’t have. And how amazing English speakers are for getting to grips with the myriad ways in which it’s used.

Scandinavian languages such as Danish or Norwegian and some Semitic languages like Hebrew or Arabic use an affix (or a short addition to the end of a word) to determine whether the speaker is referring to a particular object or using a more general term. Latvian or Indonesian deploy a demonstrative – words like ‘this’ and ‘that’ – to do the job of ‘the’. There’s another group of languages that don’t use any of those resources, such as Urdu or Japanese.

Function words are very specific to each language. So, someone who is a native Hindi or Russian speaker is going to have to think very differently when constructing a sentence in English. Murphy says that she has noticed, for instance, that sometimes her Chinese students hedge their bets and include ‘the’ where it is not required. Conversely, Smith describes Russian friends who are so unsure when to use ‘the’ that they sometimes leave a little pause: ‘I went into... bank. I picked up... pen.’ English speakers learning a language with no equivalent of ‘the’ also struggle and might overcompensate by using words like ‘this’ and ‘that’ instead.


This simplest of words can be used for dramatic effect. At the start of Hamlet, a guard’s utterance of ‘Long live the King’ is soon followed by the apparition of the ghost: ‘Looks it not like the King?’ Who, the audience wonders, does ‘the’ refer to? The living King or a dead King? This kind of ambiguity is the kind of ‘hook’ that writers use to make us quizzical, a bit uneasy even. “‘The’ is doing a lot of work here,” says Rosen.

Deeper meaning

‘The’ can even have philosophical implications. The Austrian philosopher Alexius Meinong said a denoting phrase like ‘the round square’ introduced that object; there was now such a thing. According to Meinong, the word itself created non-existent objects, arguing that there are objects that exist and ones that don’t – but they are all created by language. “‘The’ has a kind of magical property in philosophy,” says Barry C Smith, director of the Institute of Philosophy, University of London.

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‘The’ adds substance to phrases like ‘the man in the Moon’, implying that he exists (Credit: Alamy)

The British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote a paper in 1905 called On Denoting, all about the definite article. Russell put forward a theory of definite descriptions. He thought it intolerable that phrases like ‘the man in the Moon’ were used as though they actually existed. He wanted to revise the surface grammar of English, as it was misleading and “not a good guide to the logic of the language”, explains Smith. This topic has been argued about, in a philosophical context, ever since. “Despite the simplicity of the word,” observes Thoms, “it’s been evading definition in a very precise way for a long time.”


‘Scoring the goal’ seems more important than ‘scoring a goal’ (Credit: Alamy)
But although ‘the’ has no meaning in itself, “it seems to be able to do things in subtle and miraculous ways,” says Michael Rosen, poet and author. Consider the difference between ‘he scored a goal’ and ‘he scored the goal’. The inclusion of ‘the’ immediately signals something important about that goal. Perhaps it was the only one of the match? Or maybe it was the clincher that won the league? Context very often determines sense.

There are many exceptions regarding the use of the definite article, for example in relation to proper nouns. We wouldn’t expect someone to say ‘the Jonathan’ but it’s not incorrect to say ‘you’re not the Jonathan I thought you were’. And a football commentator might deliberately create a generic vibe by saying, ‘you’ve got the Lampards in midfield’ to mean players like Lampard.

The use of ‘the’ could have increased as trade and manufacture grew in the run-up to the industrial revolution when we needed to be referential about things and processes. ‘The’ helped distinguish clearly and could act as a quantifier, for example, ‘the slab of butter’.

This could lead to a belief that ‘the’ is a workhorse of English; functional but boring. Yet Rosen rejects that view. While primary school children are taught to use ‘wow’ words, choosing ‘exclaimed’ rather than ‘said’, he doesn’t think any word has more or less ‘wow’ factor than any other; it all depends on how it’s used. “Power in language comes from context... ‘the’ can be a wow word,” he says.

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