RealClearScience Articles

Age-Related Cognitive Decline Reversed in Mice. Can We Extend the Result to Humans?

Richard Faragher - January 25, 2021

The ageing global population is the greatest challenge faced by 21st-century healthcare systems. Even COVID-19 is, in a sense, a disease of ageing. The risk of death from the virus roughly doubles for every nine years of life, a pattern that is almost identical to a host of other illnesses. But why are old people vulnerable to so many different things? It turns out that a major hallmark of the ageing process in many mammals is inflammation. By that, I don’t mean intense local response we typically associate with an infected wound, but a low grade, grinding, inflammatory background noise...

Why Is Blue So Rare in the World of Plants?

Adrian Dyer - January 25, 2021

At a dinner party, or in the schoolyard, the question of favourite colour frequently results in an answer of “blue”. Why is it that humans are so fond of blue? And why does it seem to be so rare in the world of plants and animals? We studied these questions and concluded blue pigment is rare at least in part because it’s often difficult for plants to produce. They may only have evolved to do so when it brings them a real benefit: specifically, attracting bees or other pollinating insects. We also discovered that the scarcity of blue flowers is partly due to the limits of our...

Six Underprescribed Lifestyle Medicines for a Better, Longer Life

Yoram Vodovotz & Michael Parkinson - January 23, 2021

The majority of Americans are stressed, sleep-deprived and overweight and suffer from largely preventable lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. Being overweight or obese contributes to the 50% of adults who suffer high blood pressure, 10% with diabetes and additional 35% with pre-diabetes. And the costs are unaffordable and growing. About 90% of the nearly $4 trillion Americans spend annually for health care in the U.S. is for chronic diseases and mental health conditions. But there are new lifestyle “medicines” that are free that doctors could be...

A Surprising Reason Eating Less Meat Is Linked to a Longer Life

Rui Wang - January 22, 2021

High-protein diets are having a moment. In any grocery store you can now buy a protein bowl, pick up a protein box of eggs and nuts for lunch, or snack on a protein bar. But there’s evidence that restricting which proteins you eat — particularly cutting back on meat — could be important for healthy aging. The surprising reason: it forces the tissues to make hydrogen sulphide (H2S), a gas that’s poisonous if inhaled and smells like rotten eggs, but promotes health inside the body. As a physiology researcher, I have long been interested in the strange role of H2S in the...


Earth's Outer Shell Ballooned 3 Billion Years Ago

Harry Baker - January 21, 2021

Around 3 billion years ago, Earth's crust ballooned during a massive growth spurt, geoscientists have found. At that time, just 1.5 billion years after Earth formed, the mantle — the layer of silicate rock between the crust and the outer core that was more active in the past — heated up, causing magma from that layer to ooze into fragments of older crust above it. Those fragments acted as "seeds" for the growth of modern-day continents. The researchers found evidence for this growth spurt hiding in ancient zircon crystals in stream sediments in Greenland. These...

Schools Are Spending Millions on Ionization Technology to Fight the Coronavirus. There's No Good Evidence It Works.

Ross Pomeroy - January 21, 2021

In October, Tulare City School District in California announced it would spend more than $400,000 to install needlepoint bipolar ionization technology into the ventilation systems of its 15 schools. Gloucester County Schools in Virginia completed a similar undertaking in all of its buildings in December. The bill? $923,488. Anoka-Hennepin School District in Minnesota recently spent $1.4 million installing the technology in all of its schools. Near identical stories are playing out in public school districts across the United States – with total expenditures in the tens of millions of...

Are the Brains of Atheists Different to Those of Religious People?

Miguel Farias - January 20, 2021

The cognitive study of religion has recently reached a new, unknown land: the minds of unbelievers. Do atheists think differently from religious people? Is there something special about how their brains work? To illustrate what they’ve found, I will focus on three key snapshots. The first one, from 2003, is probably the most photogenic moment of “neuro-atheism”. Biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins travelled to the lab of Canadian neuroscientist Michael Persinger in the hope of having a religious experience. In this BBC Horizon film, God on the Brain, a retro...

The Pfizer Vaccine May Not Be the Best for Frail People, But It's Still Too Early to Tell for Sure

Nathan Bartlett - January 19, 2021

Reports of about 30 deaths among elderly nursing home residents who received the Pfizer vaccine have made international headlines. With Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) expected to approve the vaccine imminently and the roll out set to begin next month, this development might seem like cause for concern around the safety of the vaccine. But there are a few reasons it shouldn’t be. Read more: The Oxford vaccine has unique advantages, as does Pfizer's. Using both is Australia's best strategy What we know We haven’t seen this issue reported in any other...


How the River Thames Once Became a Cesspool in the Name of Public Health

Ross Pomeroy - January 18, 2021

The River Thames has a storied history. Stretching 215 miles from Kemble to Southend, it is the longest river in England. Archaeological evidence suggests that humans were living along its shores in Neolithic times. Around the dawn of the Common Era, ancient Romans navigated its waters and constructed fortifications nearby. Nine hundred years later, Vikings from Scandinavia sailed up the Thames, leaving destruction in their wake. In the 1700s, the river served as a major hub for the thriving British Empire. Throughout all this time, the Thames remained a fertile fishing ground and...

How to Bond With Your Kids, According to Neuroscience

Pascal Vrticka - January 18, 2021

Many people across the world are still living under tough restrictions or lockdowns because of the pandemic, staying home as much as possible. This means that a lot of parents are spending more time than ever with their children. But how do you turn that time into a deeper relationship? New research, simultaneously measuring brain activity of parents and children, offers some insights. To effectively interact with others, we must establish an emotional connection as well as swiftly and accurately infer each other’s goals and intentions. Research shows that this works best if we...

New EPA Rule Simply Follows the Scientific Method

Joseph Annotti - January 15, 2021

Scientific research is composed of several fundamental elements. Without these core steps, the results of any experiment should be considered questionable, if not outright invalid. These elements include making observations, forming a hypothesis, designing and conducting experiments, documenting the results, and sharing all the data so that the work can be peer-reviewed and replicated. The final element, sharing the data so that the experiment can be reviewed and replicated by other scientists, is at the heart of a final Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule to increase the transparency...

Earth's First Life Could Have Evolved on Ancient Islands

Stephanie Pappas - January 15, 2021

  The first life on Earth could have evolved in warm pools of water on islands speckling a vast, planet-wide ocean. The oldest confirmed life on Earth is  3.5 billion years old, only a billion years after the planet formed. Traces of possible life have also been found in rocks dating back 3.7 billion years and 3.95 billion years. These specimens are controversial, but they could hint that life evolved very soon after the planet's atmosphere and oceans developed. The origins of said life are also controversial. Life — on Earth, anyway — requires basic...


We Continue to Gradually Defeat Cancer

Ross Pomeroy - January 14, 2021

Cancer will not be vanquished in one fell swoop. No singular breakthrough will blare across television, smartphone, and computer screens signaling once-and-for-all victory, sending jubilant thousands into the streets to cheer the demise of one of humankind's greatest mortal foes. Instead, many small advances wrought by dedicated scientists building off prior research will gradually bring malignant tumors to heel. A recent example: researchers in Israel used CRISPR gene editing to destroy cancerous cells in mice without harming other cells, doubling the creatures' life expectancy compared to...

New Studies Propose Ways of Potentially Finding Wormholes

Andreea Font - January 14, 2021

Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity profoundly changed our thinking about fundamental concepts in physics, such as space and time. But it also left us with some deep mysteries. One was black holes, which were only unequivocally detected over the past few years. Another was “wormholes” – bridges connecting different points in spacetime, in theory providing shortcuts for space travellers. Wormholes are still in the realm of the imagination. But some scientists think we will soon be able to find them, too. Over the past few months, several new studies have...

Oldest Known Cave Painting of Animals Discovered

Adam Brumm & Adhi Oktaviana & Basran Burhan & Maxime Aubert - January 14, 2021

The dating of an exceptionally old cave painting of animals that was found recently on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi is reported in our paper out today. The painting portrays images of the Sulawesi warty pig (Sus celebensis), which is a small (40-85kg) short-legged wild boar endemic to the island. Dating to at least 45,500 years ago, this cave painting may be the oldest depiction of the animal world, and possibly the earliest figurative art (an image that resembles the thing it is intended to represent), yet uncovered. Oldest cave art found in Sulawesi. Ice age art in Indonesia Sulawesi...

A New Way Around Superbug Defenses

Fernando Gordillo-Altamirano & Jeremy J. Barr - January 13, 2021

Researchers have not discovered any new antibiotics in decades. But our new research, published today in Nature Microbiology, has found a way to give a second wind to the antibiotics we do have. It involves the use of viruses that kill bacteria. The problem Hospitals are scary, and the longer you remain in them, the greater your risk. Among these risks, hospital-acquired infections are probably the biggest. Each year in Australia, 180,000 patients suffer infections that prolong their hospital stays, increase costs, and sadly, increase the risk of death. It sounds absurd — hospitals are...


Anti-Nutrients Aren't as Bad as They Sound

Jill Joyce - January 13, 2021

Maybe you’re trying to eat healthier these days, aiming to get enough of the good stuff and limit the less-good stuff. You’re paying attention to things like fiber and fat and vitamins… and anti-nutrients? What the heck are anti-nutrients and are they something you need to be concerned about in your diet? Let me, as a public health nutrition researcher, reassure you that anti-nutrients aren’t the evil nemesis of all the nutritious foods you eat. As long as you’re consuming a balanced and varied diet, anti-nutrients are not a concern. In fact, scientists are...

How Alcohol Saved Humanity From Crappy Water

Ross Pomeroy - January 12, 2021

Humans' knack for consuming alcohol dates back around ten million years, long before Homo sapiens were a distinct species. A single gene mutation granted our evolutionary ancestors an enhanced ability to break down ethanol – drinking alcohol. Suddenly, some individuals could metabolize the alcohol from fermenting fruits on forest floors, converting it to energy and alleviating its toxic, incapacitating effects. Over time, these individuals survived and procreated more often, gradually granting almost all humans alcohol-imbibing abilities. Fast forward to between 10,000 and 14,000 years...

Why Was Stonehenge Built?

Benjamin Plackett - January 11, 2021

Stonehenge is perhaps the most famous of all the henges, vast circular monuments constructed from wood or stone that litter the British countryside. The prehistoric monument was most likely erected in what is now England sometime between 3000 B.C. and 2000 B.C. and some of the stones were transported all the way from neighboring Wales — no small feat for a Stone Age civilization.  It must have surely been a gargantuan effort and it begs the question: Why on Earth did they bother? Why did Stone Age people build so many henges?  "The short answer is that I don't know...

Giant Ancient Sharks Had Enormous Babies That Ate Their Siblings in the Womb

Tom Fletcher - January 11, 2021

Made famous by the 2018 blockbuster The Meg, the largest predatory shark ever discovered, the megalodon, is a bit of a mystery. We know it lived between 15 and 3.6 million years ago and it reached at least 14 metres in length, more than double the size of an adult great white. But learning any more about the giant shark requires a bit of detective work. Because of its soft cartilaginous skeleton, only a few parts of the shark’s body are mineralised and preserved, including its teeth, skull and spine. This means the fossil record is very poor for this animal. Unsurprisingly, the...