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Skeptical Reporter @ 2012-09-28

Skeptical Reporter for September 28th, 2012

Chen Guangbiao, a famous Chinese businessman and philanthropist, has recently launched a line of canned fresh air collected from various parts of China and Taiwan. The product is called “Chen Guangbiao: Nice Guy” and sells for about 80 cents. It’s no secret China has a huge air pollution problem, but while authorities don’t seem to be taking any action to resolve it, billionaire Chen Guangbiao, aka “Brother Biao” is trying to raise awareness in a very original way. He has recently started selling canned fresh air collected from “revolutionary” areas of China, including Jinggang Mountain in Jiangxi Province, some ethnic minority areas and Taiwan. ”One only has to open the can, directly ‘drink’ it or put the nose close to the can to breath deeply,” Chen said. He has mentioned he will be donating part of the proceeds to the Chinese military, to support their effort in defending the Diaoyu Islands.

Fabrizio Freda, Estée Lauder’s chief, recently announced that he intended to make China the company’s “second home market”. Many multinational companies simply create a new product or two specifically for the Chinese market. But the Estée Lauder Company, which already sells 12 of its 28 cosmetics brands in China, is taking that concept further: adding an entirely new brand. Next month, the cosmetics company, known as the maker of popular brands like Estée Lauder, Clinique and Bobbi Brown, plans to introduce a hybrid East-meets-West beauty line called Osiao (pronounced O-Shao). In a nod to consumers who said they believed in the power of medicinal plants, the company developed formulas with ingredients like the Asiaatic Penny wort herb and ganoderma, a type of mushroom. The brand’s in-store counters are designed to emulate traditional apothecaries, with wooden drawers and cabinets. To further that theme, first-time customers will be invited to sit down with a skin care adviser who will take them through a questionnaire and observation process that echoes the diagnostic techniques used by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine. Afterward, the advisers will give clients suggested skin care regimens customized for their own skin type.

New South Wales is in the midst of the worst outbreak of measles in a decade with 124 cases reported so far this year. NSW Health says the numbers continue to rise and is appealing to people to ensure their family is fully vaccinated. “Anyone with symptoms of measles should not to go school, work or go out in public. Anyone who thinks they might be infected should see a doctor, but call ahead to make sure they don’t infect others at the doctor’s office,” said Dr Jeremy McAnulty, health director for health protection. Numbers began to spike in June in Western and South Western Sydney, two months after a young adult returned home from Thailand while infectious and transmitted the virus. The health authority said there had been clusters of cases at metropolitan Sydney emergency departments, one paediatrics ward, at several high schools and in the community generally. Children aged under five have been worst affected, largely as a result of transmission to babies too young to be vaccinated. There have also been high rates in 15 to 19-year-olds.

Taking Gingko biloba supplements does not improve memory, attention or problem solving in healthy individuals, according to researchers from the University of Hertfordshire. The paper is the first meta-analytic review examining the effects of Gingko biloba on healthy people across all age groups. The researchers led by Professor Keith Laws found zero impact on the cognitive functions whatever the age of the people, the dose taken or the length of time of taking Gingko biloba supplements. Keith Laws explained: “Gingko biloba has been widely used for a number of years to reduce the mental decline associated with aging. But more recently it has been marketed as a memory enhancing supplement for healthy individuals – and it is crucial to establish the validity for such claims. Our findings show that taking Gingko biloba supplements at any age to boost memory have no impact at all – and may be a waste of time and money.”

And now let's look at some news in science

The same "green revolution" concepts that have revolutionized crop agriculture and helped to feed billions of people around the world may now offer similar potential in forestry, scientists say, with benefits for wood, biomass production, drought stress and even greenhouse gas mitigation. Researchers at Oregon State University recently outlined the latest findings on reduced height growth in trees through genetic modification, and concluded that several advantageous growth traits could be achieved for short-rotation forestry, bio-energy, or more efficient water use in a drier, future climate. This approach runs contrary to conventional wisdom and centuries of tree breeding, which tried to produce forest trees that grow larger and taller, the researchers note. But just as the green revolution in agriculture helped crops such as wheat and rice produce more food - on smaller, sturdier plants, the opportunities in forestry could be significant. "Research now makes it clear that genetic modification of height growth is achievable," said Steven Strauss, an OSU professor of forest genetics.

NASA's Curiosity rover mission has found evidence a stream once ran vigorously across the area on Mars where the rover is driving. There is earlier evidence for the presence of water on Mars, but this evidence -- images of rocks containing ancient stream-bed gravels -- is the first of its kind. Scientists are studying the images of stones cemented into a layer of conglomerate rock. The sizes and shapes of stones offer clues to the speed and distance of a long-ago stream's flow. "From the size of gravels it carried, we can interpret the water was moving about 3 feet per second, with a depth somewhere between ankle and hip deep," said Curiosity science co-investigator William Dietrich of the University of California, Berkeley. The rounded shape of some stones in the conglomerate indicates long-distance transport from above the rim, where a channel named Peace Vallis feeds into the alluvial fan. The abundance of channels in the fan between the rim and conglomerate suggests flows continued or repeated over a long time, not just once or for a few years.

Physicians and environmentalists alike could soon be using a new class of electronic devices: small, robust and high performance, yet also bio compatible and capable of dissolving completely in water or in bodily fluids. Researchers at the University of Illinois, in collaboration with Tufts University and Northwestern University, have demonstrated a new type of biodegradable electronics technology that could introduce new design paradigms for medical implants, environmental monitors and consumer devices. "We refer to this type of technology as transient electronics," said John A. Rogers, Professor of Engineering, who led the multidisciplinary research team. Three application areas appear particularly promising. First are medical implants that perform important diagnostic or therapeutic functions for a useful amount of time and then simply dissolve and resorb in the body. Second are environmental monitors, such as wireless sensors that are dispersed after a chemical spill, that degrade over time to eliminate any ecological impact. Third are consumer electronic systems or sub-components that are compostable, to reduce electronic waste streams generated by devices that are frequently upgraded, such as cellphones or other portable devices.

The point of no return: In astronomy, it's known as a black hole, a region in space where the pull of gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape. Black holes that can be billions of times more massive than our sun may reside at the heart of most galaxies. Such supermassive black holes are so powerful that activity at their boundaries can ripple throughout their host galaxies. Now, an international team, led by researchers at MIT's Haystack Observatory, has for the first time measured the radius of a black hole at the center of a distant galaxy -- the closest distance at which matter can approach before being irretrievably pulled into the black hole. The scientists linked together radio dishes in Hawaii, Arizona and California to create a telescope array called the "Event Horizon Telescope" that can see details 2,000 times finer than what's visible to the Hubble Space Telescope. These radio dishes were trained on M87, a galaxy some 50 million light years from the Milky Way. M87 harbors a black hole 6 billion times more massive than our sun; using this array, the team observed the glow of matter near the edge of this black hole -- a region known as the "event horizon."

And in local news from Romania we learn that

Over 200 researchers working in foreign countries and in Romania are demanding that a conference organized under the auspices of prime minister Victor Ponta on "Diaspora in Scientific Research" be boycotted. The conference was announced from the 25th of September to the 28th of September. Cristian Dogaru, scientific researcher at the University of Bern is the person who created a petition to boicot the event. So far over 200 researchers have signed it. The petition specifies that Romanian researchers will not condone minster Ponta's behavior in the academia, after he has been accused of plagiarism.


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