Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Saving the Largest Online Linguistics Database

In 2015, spare funds started to dry up at the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), a Bible translation group that revolutionized the documentation of endangered languages in the mid–20th century. SIL’s budget had long supported a massive online database considered by many to be the definitive source for information on the world’s languages.

The SIL Ethnologue has served anthropological and linguistic research for decades, but it has become to expense for many researchers.

Simon Greenhill, a linguist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, said, “In the last few years, [Ethnologue has] gotten increasingly expensive and locked down."

Since 2013, SIL Chief Innovation Development Officer Stephen Moitozo has been trying to grow Ethnologue and make it self-sustaining. After the first paywall went up, interactive maps and customer service chatbots were added. Ongoing costs include website maintenance, security, and paying researchers to update the databases whenever new information comes in from independent researchers or SIL’s 5000 field linguists.

To pay for its valuable data, SIL is counting on institutions and corporations, as well as individual subscribers. SIL is planning to sell tailored access to corporations, including business intelligence firms, and Fortune 500 companies.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Gene Edited for Sickle Cell Disease

Victoria Gray is the first person with a genetic disorder to be treated in the United States with the revolutionary gene-editing technique called CRISPR.

As the one-year anniversary of her landmark treatment approaches, Gray has received good news: She is functionally cured. The billions of genetically modified cells infused into her body are alleviating virtually all the complications of her sickle cell disease.

Gray hasn’t had any severe pain attacks since the treatment one year ago. Nor has she had to receive any emergency room treatments, hospitalizations, or blood transfusions.

In each of the previous two years, Gray required an average of seven hospitalizations and emergency room visits due to severe pain episodes as well as requiring regular blood transfusions. She has been able to significantly reduce her need for narcotics to relieve her pain.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Mapping the Earth's Interior

Using a new technique originally designed to explore the cosmos, scientists have unveiled structures deep inside the Earth, paving the way for a new map revealing what Earth's interior looks like.

Brice Ménard, an astrophysicist at Johns Hopkins University, reports, "We were finally able to identify the seismic echoes and use them to create a map."

Doyeon Kim, a seismologist at the University of Maryland and co-author on the paper, explains: "Imagine you're outside in the dark. If you clap your hands and then hear an echo, you know that a wall or vertical structure is in front of you. This is how bats echolocate their surroundings."

Using this principle, the team used the Sequencer algorithm to parse through thousands of seismograms for echoes to create a new map showing details of the Earth's mantle, just above the liquid iron core.

Read more here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

CWiS Live in June

Loryn Phillips
CWiS Coordinator
The American Scientific Affiliation
218 Boston Street, Suite 208
Topsfield, MA 01983
O: 978.887.8833 

The June CWiS LIVE online meetings are coming up! Please join us and invite a friend. Here are links for the online meetings. These are also on our website.

Join the women of CWiS for a time of fellowship and discussion about being a "good and faithful servant" in the current socio-political environment. Some questions to consider for discussion include:

+ Are the words we use and the actions we take reflecting our own selfish desires or God's plan and heart?

+ Do you believe defending yourself is important?

+ What does science say about group thinking and systemic thinking?

+ What guidance does the bible provide?

Sunday, June 14 at 5:00 pm EDT
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 861 3543 3330
Password: 138240

Tuesday, June 23 at 7:30 pm EDT
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 865 0565 6903
Password: 779945

We invite you to join us at one or both of the June meetings.



Friday, June 5, 2020

Moving Toward Artificial Photosynthetic Energy

Credit: Jan Kern and Isabel Bogacz/Berkeley Lab

Using a unique combination of nanoscale imaging and chemical analysis, an international team of researchers has revealed a key step in the molecular mechanism behind the water splitting reaction of photosynthesis, a finding that could help inform the design of renewable energy technology.

Vittal K. Yachandra, senior scientist at the Department of Energy's Berkeley Laboratory believes this is a step toward building artificial photosynthetic systems that can produce clean, renewable energy from sunlight.

Researchers from around the world have contributed to this potentially ground-breaking technology. The chemical process of Photosynthesis is now being captured in a “molecular movie” that shows the S2 to S3 transition step, where the first water (as shown in Ox) comes into the catalytic center after the photochemical reaction at the reaction center. 

Related Reading:  Showtime for Photosynthesis

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Don't Give Up on Science!

In an article entitled "Stop Believing in Science" journalist Daniel Greenfield states, "Science is not a religion. It doesn’t offer virtue or certainty."

The sciences are not the problem. They seek confirmed data and often that takes many years to establish. The trouble comes when the authority of "science" is claimed by ideologues and politicians.

This journalist's facts are wrong from the first paragraph. The forebears of the sciences were rulers and their royal priests, not alchemists and astrologers. Among the royal priests were pioneers of physics, geometry, medicine, and animal husbandry. By 4245 BC, the priests of the Upper Nile had established a calendar based on the appearance of Sirius. Apparently, they had been tracking this star and connecting it to seasonal impacts on agriculture for thousands of years. The priest Manetho reported in his history (c. 241 BC) that Nilotic Africans had been “star-gazing” as early as 40,000 years ago.

Greenfield writes, "Politicized science does not seek to learn, but to affirm the cultural convictions of its class. It is not searching for the truth, because it already knows it. Its only purpose is to uphold the ruling class."

Clearly, Daniel Greenfield is not describing science, an empirical approach based on observations that can present reliable data. He is describing scientism. His vitriol equals that of those who arrogantly claim science as their highest authority. The sciences have brought advances to the benefit of humans throughout history. Don't give up on science.

Related reading: Ancient Wisdom, Science and TechnologyThe Arrogance of Scientism; Pursuing Truth as Persons of Faith; Science and Miracles; The Bible and Science; The Relation of Faith and Science; Reading the Bible as a ChristianScience and Religion in a Time of Plague

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

COVID-19 Confinements Clear the Air

Satellite images have shown a dramatic decline in pollution levels over China, which is "at least partly" due to an economic slowdown prompted by the Coronavirus, according to Nasa.

Daily global carbon dioxide emissions dropped 17 percent, from about 100 million metric tons to about 83 million metric tons, in early April compared with average daily emissions in 2019, researchers report May 19 in Nature Climate Change.

During the most stringent confinement periods, when only essential workers were permitted to commute, daily aviation activity shrank by 75 percent, the team reports. Surface transportation was reduced by about 50 percent, while power use shrank by about 15 percent.

Read more here.