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Skeptical Reporter @ 2012-09-14

Skeptical Reporter for September 14th, 2012

TruthMarket, a division of Truth Seal Corporation, announced it plans to play an aggressive role in improving the state of political and commercial communications by launching its Marketplace for Truth Telling. TruthMarket offers the public a platform that enables grass-roots crowd-funding of citizen campaigns to publicly expose false claims and reinforce true claims. Cash incentives will encourage individuals to initiate, challenge or prove political, commercial and science claims. Rick Hayes-Roth, Ph.D., the founder of TruthMarket, states that "false claims, half-truths and biased polls are polluting public dialogue, tainting public opinion and undermining politics, commerce and public trust. Instead of getting angry, he adds, it is time to do something constructive and give the public a mechanism to openly challenge false claims and reinforce honest dialogue.

Add Bigfoot research to the recession-proof industries. A website called All over Albany has alerted the Internet to a job opening on Craigslist that "for a primate-lover with an open mind and a (preferably) four-wheel-drive vehicle" could be the opportunity of a lifetime. The Craigslist post, which seeks a research assistant, explains: "Not for profit organization, located in Whitehall, NY is a high-energy, team-oriented research entity that is involved in the tracking, documenting, and study of cryptozoological creatures, with a deep interest in the study and search of bipedal primitive apes. We seek an experienced researcher with a deep understanding of cryptozoology, primatology, with a good background with scientific research and interest in great apes." Some of the research assistant's responsibilities will be to "investigate, document and interview individuals with reported Bigfoot sitings," and an appropriate candidate must be prepared for "occasional travel to remote areas."

The first ever study of the adverse effects of acupuncture in state-funded acupuncture clinics in the UK has found that the procedure is largely safe, but not as safe as advertised. In extreme cases, it could even put lives at risk. Despite this, claims that acupuncture is completely safe could soon lead to the procedure being funded by Medicare, the US government-funded medical benefits programme. Acupuncture is already government-funded in much of Europe. Investigators from the National Patient Safety Agency assembled all reports of adverse events following acupuncture treatment in NHS clinics between 2009 and 2011. In these clinics, acupuncture is provided by conventionally qualified doctors and therapists, who are also trained to perform acupuncture. The investigators found 325 reports of adverse effects. Some of the reports were merely of sloppy practice. In 100 cases, patients were left with needles still in them, sometimes hours longer than intended or even after they or the staff went home. Some needles subsequently had to be surgically removed.

Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline will open a new research unit in China to look at traditional Chinese medicine. According to the company, Innovative TCM will be one of GSK's R&D programs in China, aiming to transform TCM from an experience-based practice to evidence-based medicines through innovation and differentiation. Zang Jingwu, senior vice president and head of R&D China, explained that the newly formed unit is working with academic TCM experts in China to develop new TCM products for the benefits of patients in China and the rest of the world. The strategy is to integrate the existing TCM knowledge of diseases with modern drug discovery technology and clinical trial methodology. "We are developing novel therapeutic TCM mixtures as prescription medicines through innovative extraction methods and combinations, and we use clinical data/evidence to differentiate from existing TCM products on the market," he said.

And now let’s look at some news in science.

A Japanese mathematician claims to have the proof for the ABC conjecture, a statement about the relationship between prime numbers that has been called the most important unsolved problem in number theory. If Shinichi Mochizuki's 500-page proof stands up to scrutiny, mathematicians say it will represent one of the most astounding achievements of mathematics of the twenty-first century. The proof will also have ramifications all over mathematics, and even in the real-world field of data encryption. The ABC conjecture, proposed independently by the mathematicians David Masser and Joseph Oesterle in 1985 but not proven by them, involves the concept of square-free numbers, or numbers that cannot be divided by the square of any number. The conjecture has also been described as a sort of grand unified theory of whole numbers, in that the proofs of many other important theorems follow immediately from it. "If the ABC conjecture yields, mathematicians will find themselves staring into a cornucopia of solutions to long-standing problems," the mathematician Dorian Goldfeld of Columbia University explained.

Social isolation in youth may wreak havoc on the brain by disrupting a protein crucial to the development of the nervous system's support cells, new research finds. A new study in mice finds that when the animals are isolated during a crucial early period, brain cells called oligodendrocytes fail to mature properly. Oligodendrocytes build the fatty, insulating sheathes that cushion neurons, and their dysfunction seems to cause long-lasting behavioral changes. Research in rhesus monkeys and humans has shown that social isolation during childhood has an array of nasty and lifelong effects, from cognitive and social problems in neglected children to working memory troubles in isolated monkeys. These children and monkeys also show abnormalities in the white matter of the brain, which includes support cells such as oligodendrocytes as well as the fat-covered neural projections that act as the brain's communication system.

The giant rocket NASA is building to carry astronauts to Mars and other destinations in deep space may cost $500 million per launch when it's flying regularly, space agency officials have declared. NASA is eyeing $500 million as a target right now for the Space Launch System (SLS) when it begins making roughly one flight per year, which could begin happening after 2023. But things could change as the SLS program ” which was just announced in September 2011” matures, officials said. "We still are working on our contracts and where we're going. Plus we're in the development phase, and you really have to have a little bit more of a steady-state flight launch to be able to get the more efficient launch rate. But that's the number we're using right now" SLS deputy project manager Jody Singer, of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., said during a presentation at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SPACE 2012 conference in Pasadena, Calif. NASA unveiled the SLS just two months after the last flight of its venerable space shuttle program, which was grounded in July 2011 after 30 years of orbital service.

Dark energy, the mysterious substance thought to be accelerating the expansion of the universe, almost certainly exists despite some astronomers' doubts, a new study says. After a two-year study, an international team of researchers concluded that the probability of dark energy being real stands at 99.996 percent. But the scientists still don't know what the stuff is. "Dark energy is one of the great scientific mysteries of our time, so it isn't surprising that so many researchers question its existence. But with our new work we're more confident than ever that this exotic component of the universe is real even if we still have no idea what it consists of" co-author Bob Nichol, of the University of Portsmouth in Engalnd, said in a statement. Scientists have known since the 1920s that the universe is expanding. Most assumed that gravity would slow this expansion gradually, or even cause the universe to begin contracting one day. But in 1998, two separate teams of researchers discovered that the universe's expansion is actually speeding up. In the wake of this shocking find which earned three of the discoverers the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011 researchers proposed the existence of dark energy, an enigmatic force pushing the cosmos apart. Dark energy is thought to make up 73 percent of the universe, though no one can say exactly what it is.

And, now, in local news from Romania, we learn that

Romanian students could soon be learning using e-books. Minister of Education Ecaterina Andronescu has declared that ebooks represent a necessity for the countries education and could help make learning more fun for students. "We have introduced this system of learning in graduate education and it has been received very well by students and I think the same ebook would be appreciated by pupils as well. If we introduce e books, students wouldn't have to carry as much to school, a problem that has been long raised by parents, the press and teachers. Also, I believe the younger generation is much more attracted to new things. An e-book would represent new technology that would be interesting to the young students", the minister has explained.


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