Archive for March 5, 2013

HIV has been cured in a child for the first time


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HIV has been cured in a child for the first time

In a monumental first for medicine, doctors announced today that a baby has been cured of an HIV infection. Dr. Deborah Persaud, who presented the child’s case today at the 20th annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infection, called it “definitely a game-changer.”

Persaud, of Johns Hopkins University Medical School, is the lead author of a report recounting the child’s treatment. The identity of the little girl, who was born to an HIV-positive woman in rural Mississippi, has yet to be released. What we do know is that she is only the second person in the world — and the first child — to be cured of HIV in its devastating 32-year history. If the case is confirmed, it is truly unprecedented.

The abstract for Persaud’s presentation (which can be found in its entirety here) provides details of the child’s treatment, which involved very early administration of antiretroviral therapy (ART), initiating treatment when the child was just 30 hours old (emphasis added):

Methods: Infant exposure to HIV was confirmed through review of maternal HIV antibody and plasma viral load tests, including HIV drug resistance testing. Infant infection was documented using standard HIV DNA polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and plasma viral load. ART administration was confirmed with medical and pharmacy records and maternal report of medication adherence. Persistence of HIV infection following treatment discontinuation was assessed using standard clinical assays that included plasma viral load, proviral DNA, and HIV antibody testing. Ultrasensitive HIV DNA (droplet digital PCR), plasma viral load (single copy) assays, and quantitative co-culture assays were done at age 24 and 26 months to further assess HIV persistence. HLA typing was done to confirm matching of the mother–infant pair.

Results: Maternal infection with wild type subtype B HIV was verified. The mother and infant shared HLA haplotypes. Infant infection was confirmed by positive HIV DNA and RNA testing on 2 separate blood samples obtained on the 2nd day of life. 3 additional plasma viral load tests (days of life 7, 12, and 20) were positive before reaching undetectable levels at age 29 days.

The child, who is now 2 and a half years old, has reportedly been off drugs for a year. Still, her blood tests continue to show no signs of a functioning virus.

The authors’ conclusions say it all: “This is the first well-documented case of functional cure in an [HIV-positive] child and suggests that very early [antiretroviral therapies] may prevent establishment of a latent reservoir and achieve cure in children.

We’ll keep you posted as more info comes to light. In the meantime, read the researchers’ account of the girl’s case at CROI: “Functional HIV Cure after Very Early ART of an Infected Infant.” See also: these general overviews by NPR and the NYT.

Above: a scanning electron microscope image of an HIV-infected T-cell, via NIAID

Archeologists Unearth Alien-Like Skulls In A Mexico Cemetery


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Archeologists Unearth Alien-Like Skulls In A Mexico Cemetery

December 27, 2012
Image Caption: 300 Meters from the village of Onavas, archaeologists discovered a site with 25 human burials, 13 of whom have cranial deformation. This image shows cranial deformation in one of the human skulls. Credit: Cristina Garcia / INAH 

[Watch Video: Alien-Like Skulls Unearthed In Mexican Cemetery]

Lee Rannals for – Your Universe Online

Archeologists have unearthed what looks like a cone-shaped alien skull from 1,000 years ago in Mexico.

The skull, which dates from 945 A.D. to 1308 A.D., was discovered accidentally while digging an irrigation system in the northwest state of Sonora in Mexico.

Cristina Garcia Moreno, who worked on the project with Arizona State University, explained that 13 of the 25 skulls found in the Hispanic cemetery had these deformed heads.

“We don’t know why this population specifically deformed their heads,” Moreno told ABC News.

The site, known as El Cementerio, was discovered in 1999, but the team just completed their analysis of the skeletal remains last month. They plan to continue their research during the next field season. Archaeologists also discovered artifacts on the site, like pendants, nose rings and jewelry.

They said the deformation of human skulls was part of an ancient ritual that took place 1,000 years ago. The deformation was achieved by binding a person’s head between two blocks of wood to apply pressure on the skull by wrapping the wood with bands.

“Cranial deformation has been used by different societies in the world as a ritual practice, or for distinction of status within a group or to distinguish between social groups,” Moreno told ABC News. “The reason why these individuals at El Cementerio deformed their skulls is still unknown.”

The team said that many of the bones unearthed were the remains of children, leading them to believe the practice of deforming skulls “may have been inlet and dangerous.”

The Chinook of the U.S. Northwest and the Choctaw of the U.S. Southeast both were known for practicing skull deformation as well.

Moreno told ABC that people deformed their heads in Mexico because they wanted to distinguish important people, or they wanted to distinguish people from one group from another.

Source: Lee Rannals for – Your Universe Online

Photos: Gladiators of the Roman Empire


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Photos: Gladiators of the Roman Empire

Owen Jarus, LiveScience Contributor
Gladiators of the Empire

Gladiators of the Empire

Credit: Razvy | Shutterstock
There were several different types of gladiators who fought at the time of the Roman Empire. Wearing different kinds of armor, and welding a mix of weapons, these fighters were pitted against each other in the arena and often enough met their death there. In this photo gallery, LiveScience takes a look at some of the more common types of gladiators that fought in the era of the empire.

 Female Gladiator
Female Gladiator
Credit: Photo by Alfonso Manas, University of Granada
Researcher Alfonso Manas has identified a small bronze statue, now in a museum in Germany, as being a depiction of a female gladiator. If this is correct it will be only the second image of a female gladiator known to exist. She is shown raising a small curved sword, known as a sica, in victory, and looking down at the ground, presumably at her fallen opponent, Manas reports in the International Journal of the History of Sport.
Credit: Photo by Matthias Kabel, showing a gladiator show in Carnuntum Austria, CC Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported
The newly identified female gladiator appears to have fought as a Thraex, a type of gladiator that was equipped with a sica (short curved sword), a small oblong shield and a helmet with an image of a griffin. Notably the female gladiator is depicted without the helmet, possibly because she took it off for the victory gesture. This picture shows a modern-day re-creation of a Thraex gladiator about to compete in a mock fight; notice that men, when they competed as a Thraex, fought topless as well.
Eques Gladiator
Eques Gladiator
Credit: Photo by Matthias Kabel, taken in Carnuntum Austria, CC Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported
One early medieval source suggests that the Eques, when they fought, were the opening act in gladiator games. “Two equites, preceded by military standards, entered the arena, one from the west, the other from the east, riding on white horses, wearing smallish golden helmets and carrying light weapons,” writes Isidore of Seville in the seventh century. Presumably they started fighting with lances and switched to swords if dismounted. This picture shows a modern-day re-creation of what they may have looked like.
The Provocator

The Provocator

Credit: Photo by Owen Jarus.
The Provocator was a gladiator who wore a substantial amount of armor. In addition to his sword he was equipped with a breastplate and wore a helmet with visor and neck guard, along with a rectangular shield. He had a greave (shin guard) on his left knee. This photo, from a relief now in the Royal Ontario Museum, appears to show two Provocators fighting.


Credit: Photo by Rama, via Wikimedia, CC Attribution share-alike 2.0 France, artifact in the Fourvière Gallo-Roman museum. 

The Hoplomachus was similar to an ancient Greek hoplite. Armed primarily with a thrusting spear, he carried a small circular shield and wore an armguard on his right arm. In this fragment from an oil lamp the gladiator at left appears to be a Hoplomachus.



Credit: Photo by Thurner Hof, CC Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Unported
The Murmillo wore a visored helmet with a distinctive crest at the top. He was equipped with a large shield that was oblong in shape. He was often matched up against the Thraex and, because of his larger shield, had the advantage when facing him. This flask shows a Murmillo who has just defeated a Thraex.



Credit: Photo by Owen Jarus, from a carved relief in the Royal Ontario Museum
The Retiarius, a “net man,” used no shield and welded a trident, dagger and net in combat. He also had a metal protector on his left shoulder. In battle he was often pitted against the secutor. Typically they wore no helmet.



Credit: Photo by Owen Jarus.
An Essedarius, “one who fought from a chariot,” was an individual who started the match in a chariot but could have finished it on foot. The lack of surviving representations means that scholars know little about their tactics or their equipment. Presumably two of these chariot gladiators would have fought each other. This photo shows a re-creation of two Roman chariots from a show in Jordan.

 The End of Gladiators

The End of Gladiators

Credit: Photo by Owen Jarus.
Gladiators, in all their forms, were popular, however cruel, entertainment throughout Roman history. The games died out in the early 5th century when the Emperor Honorius put a ban on them. Ironically Honorius’s rule would also see the sacking of Rome by the Visigoths, one of many events that would eventually culminate in the end of the Western Roman Empire. This gladiator helmet, now on display in the Royal Ontario Museum, is believed to date to the last century of these games.

Note: “Gladiators and Spectacle in Ancient Rome” (Pearson, 2008) by Professor Roger Dunkle, of Brooklyn College in New York, was an important source for this photo gallery.

Huge Canyon Discovered Beneath Red Sea


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Huge Canyon Discovered Beneath Red Sea

Andrea Thompson, OurAmazingPlanet Managing Editor – Feb 27, 2013 11:23 AM ET
A canyon on the floor of the Red Sea rendered in 3D and discovered by the UK Royal Navy’s HMS Enterprise.
CREDIT: Crown copyright  

A canyon more than 800-foot-deep has been discovered on the floor of the Red Sea by the U.K. Royal Navy’s HMS Enterprise, using an echo sounder that produce 3D images of the feature.

The survey ship was probing the topography of the bottom of the Red Seaas part of a mission to better understand the waters of the Red Sea west of Suez, Egypt, and their safety for shipping and navigation, according to a release from the U.K. Ministry of Defence (MoD).

The multibeam echo sounder used by the ship sends out pulses of sound waves that bounce of seafloor features and return back to the instrument. The longer it takes for a pulse echo to return, the deeper the seafloor feature off which it bounced. (This method has also been used to map the Challenger Deep, the deepest spot in the Earth’s oceans.)

The data from the sounder can be compiled into a 3D image of the ocean floor.

The “Grand Canyon-style” feature, as the MoD release calls it, measured 820 feet (250 meters) in depth. The find was initially reported by Discovery News.

The commanding office of the Enterprise, Derek Rae, said that the canyon could have been created by ancient rivers cutting through the layers of rock before the area was flooded and became the Red Sea.

There is also the possibility that it is a younger feature, he said in the release, scoured by underwater currents and still in the process of being formed. Or they could have been formed by some combination of the two processes, he added.

“It is, however, almost certain to say that this is the closest that humans will ever get to gaze upon these truly impressive sights hundreds of meters beneath the surface,” Rae said.

The Enterprise is scheduled to stay in the Middle East until the summer, further mapping the seafloor. Its sister ship, the HMS Echo, was previously in the region for a 19-month deployment and found several shipwrecks and other obstacles.

Reach Andrea Thompson at and follow her on Twitter @AndreaTOAPand on Pinterest. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We’re also on Facebook and Google+.

Underwater Eruption Shows How Volcanic Islands Grow


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Underwater Eruption Shows How Volcanic Islands Grow

Becky Oskin, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer – Feb 26, 2013 03:45 PM ET
The most recent topography of El Hierro volcano, part of the Canary Islands near Spain.
CREDIT: University of Barcelona  

From strange floating rocks to collapsing cones, an underwater eruption near Spain’s Canary Islands last year was a rare chance for scientists to watch how volcanic islands are built.

El Hierro volcano spewed “a modest quantity” of lava into the ocean — only enough to fill 120,000 swimming pools, according to a new report. But monitoring the submarine eruption was crucial, because shallow water volcanism can become explosive and endanger human life, said Miquel Canals Artigas, a geologist at the University of Barcelona in Spain.

Between October 2011 and February 2012, Artigas and his colleagues sailed the turbid, ash-filled waters above the erupting El Hierro volcano, scanning its changing shape with sonar to create high-resolution bathymetric maps. Their findings are detailed in the March 2013 issue of the journal Geology.

Birth of a volcano

El Hierro, the youngest of the Canary Islands, lies 290 miles (460 kilometers) west of the coast of Morocco and the Western Sahara. The new eruption occurred just off the island’s coast, near the fishing village of La Restinga. The underwater eruption closed fisheries on the island and forced residents to temporarily evacuate.

The cone-shaped underwater volcano was already more than 490 feet (150 meters) tall and growing ever closer to the ocean surface when the ship arrived two weeks after the eruption began on Oct. 10, 2011.

3D view of El Hierro volcano during its eruption between October 2011 and March 2012.
CREDIT: University of Barcelona 

“It was very exciting to be able to follow how the volcanic cone was growing up, from more than 350 meters [1,150 feet] depth [below the ocean’s surface] to barely 90 meters [295 feet],” Artigas told OurAmazingPlanet in an email interview. The survey found more than 200 similar cones on the island’s underwater flanks. [50 Amazing Volcano Facts]

The cone deflated or collapsed repeatedly during the ongoing eruption, the researchers found. By Nov. 13, 2011, a second cone-style vent opened, but landslides morphed the cones into a fissure eruption, with at least four vents burbling lava by Feb. 24, 2012.

Lava balloons

Odd-looking floating rocks, which geologists deem “bombs,” appeared in the waters above the volcano. The rocks had a white core filled with air bubbles called vesicles and a dark-colored rim of basanite rock, a different rock type than the core. While balloons of floating lava have been found at underwater eruptions before, these “restingolites” are new and scientists are hotly debating how they formed, Hans-Ulrich Schmincke, a geologist at GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Germany, wrote in an article accompanying the El Hierro research in the journal Geology.

The Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite acquired this natural-color image of El Hierro and a plume of volcanic material in the surrounding waters on Nov. 2, 2011.

El Hierro’s vents released at least 11 billion cubic feet (329 million cubic meters) of lava, not accounting for blobs carried away by currents or trundled into deeper water.

“It is a really modest quantity,” said Jesús Rivera, a geologist at the Spanish Institute of Oceanography and lead author of the study. “About 9,000 similar eruptions would be necessary to happen at 125 years intervals in order to construct an island [like] El Hierro,” Rivera said in a statement.

The eruption was accompanied by more than 12,500 earthquakes, from July 2011 through March 2012. The largest, a magnitude 4.4, struck on Oct. 8, 2011.

The upwelling lava and gas killed off fish and plankton, researchers reported last year. The water heated up by as much as 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18.8 degrees Celsius) and the pH of the water went down by 2.8, meaning it became more acidic.

New eruption possible

Though the volcanic activity was declared over on March 6 by officials, a burst of earthquakes in June and September of 2012 raised fears that the gushing lava might reappear.

Earlier this month, scientists with the Volcanological Institute of the Canary Islands (INVOLCAN) said there was a second eruption during the summer 2012 earthquake swarm, reported. Their research ship discovered a submarine eruption and discolored water, possibly from erupted material such as ash, west of El Hierro, the researchers announced. The INVOLCAN scientists plan to present their results at the European Geosciences Union conference in April.

Reach Becky Oskin at Follow her on Twitter @beckyoskin. Follow OurAmazingPlanet on Twitter @OAPlanet. We’re also on Facebook and Google+.

You won’t believe how fast this supermassive black hole is spinning

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags on March 5, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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You won’t believe how fast this supermassive black hole is spinning

For the first time ever, astrophysicists have reliably measured the spinning speed of a supermassive black hole. Let’s just say words like “blistering,” “breakneck” and “blinding” still manage to come up short.

A team of scientists led by Harvard astronomer Guido Risaliti recounts its findings in the latest issue of Nature. The researchers accomplished the feat by measuring electromagnetic radiation emanating from the center of spiral galaxy NGC 1365. There — not unlike the center of our own Milky Way — a spherical region of spacetime more than 2 million miles in diameter whirls violently, its gravity so strong it actually schleps surrounding space along with it. Any matter that trespasses beyond the black hole’s event horizon spirals inward and collects in what’s known as an accretion disc, where it is subjected to so much friction it emits X-rays. (In the image up top, a hot, swirling accretion disk drags a blue funnel of cosmic matter into the belly of a supermassive black hole.)

Thanks to a joint effort by the ESA’s XMM-Newton and NASA’s recently launched NuSTAR (both X-ray observatories, positioned in Earth orbit), Risaliti and his colleagues were able to locate the inner boundary of the accretion disc. Sometimes known as the Innermost Stable Circular Orbit, the position of this accretion disc “edge” depends on the speed of the black hole’s overall rotation. The astronomers used this relationship to calculate the spin rate of the black hole’s surface, which they estimate is is traveling at nearly the speed of light — about 84% as fast, to be exact.

In a statement, Risaliti says that it is “the first time anyone has accurately measured the spin of a supermassive black hole,” but insists that even more important is what his team’s findings can tell us about this black hole’s past, and the developmental history of its surrounding galaxy.

The spin of a black hole is thought to be affected by the way it pulls in matter. It stands to reason, for example, that a black hole that subsumes gas and stars at random is more likely to fetter its angular momentum than add to it. According to Risaliti and his team, that the supermassive black hole at the center of NGC 1365 is spinning at speeds approaching the cosmic speed limit would suggest it acquired mass through ordered accretion, as opposed to multiple random events.

For more details, visit, where Mike Wall has a great overview of the role that NASA’s NuSTAR (launched in July of last year) has played in resolving a longstanding debate over the implications of X-ray emission patterns emanating from black holes.

“It’s the first time that we can really say that black holes are spinning,” said study co-author Fiona Harrison in an interview with Wall. “The promise that this holds for being able to understand how black holes grow is, I think, the major implication.”

The researchers’ findings are published in the latest issue of Nature.

Top image by JPL via Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

11 Emerging Scientific Fields That Everyone Should Know About


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11 Emerging Scientific Fields That Everyone Should Know About

 11 Emerging Scientific Fields That Everyone Should Know About

There was a time when science could be broken down into neat-and-tidy disciplines — straightforward things like biology, chemistry, physics, and astronomy. But as science advances, these fields are becoming increasingly specialized and interdisciplinary, leading to entirely new avenues of inquiry. Here are 11 emerging scientific fields you should know about.

Top image: An artistic impression of HD 189733b, an exoplanet whose atmosphere is being blown off by its sun’s solar flares. It’s a discovery that was made possible by the emerging field of exo-meteorology. Source: Hubble Space Telescope.



1. Neuroparasitology

If you know about Toxoplasma gondii — the cat-spawned parasite that alters both rodent and human behavior — then you know about the work of neuroparasitologists. The fact that these eerie parasites now have their very own scientific discipline devoted to them shows just how prevalent they are in nature.

These parasites typically alter host behavior as a part of their reproductive strategy (often by being consumed and excreted by a third party). A good example is Euhaplorchis californiensis, which causes fish to shimmy and jump so wading birds will grab and eat them. Hairworms, which live inside grasshoppers, eventually need to leave their hosts to continue their life cycle. Rather than leave peacefully, however, they release a cocktail of chemicals that makes the grasshoppers commit suicide by leaping into water. The hairworms then swim away from their drowning hosts. Image: Fox.



2. Quantum Biology

This is a freaky one — but then again, anything with the word “quantum” in it is bound to be weird. Physicists have known about quantum effects for well over a hundred years, where particles defy our sensibilities by disappearing from one place and reappearing in other, or by being in two places at once. But these effects are not relegated to arcane lab experiments. As scientists are increasingly suspecting, quantum mechanics may also apply to biological processes.

Perhaps the best example is photosynthesis — a remarkably efficient system in which plants (and some bacteria) build the molecules they need by using energy from sunlight. It turns out that photosynthesis may in fact rely on the “superposition” phenomenon, where little packets of energy explore all possible paths, and then settle on the most efficient one. It’s also possible thatavian navigationDNA mutations (via quantum tunnelling), and even our sense of smell, relies on quantum effects. Though it’s a highly speculative and controversial field, its practitioners look to the day when insights gleaned may result in new drugs and biomimetic systems (with biomemetics being another emergent scientific field, where biological systems and structures are used to create new materials and machines). Image:

3. Exo-meteorology

Like exo-oceanographers and exo-geologists, exo-meteorologists are interested in studying natural processes which occur on planets other than Earth. Now that astronomers are able to peer more closely into the inner-workings of nearby planets and moons, they’re increasingly able to track atmospheric conditions and weather patterns. Jupiter and Saturn, with their impossibly large weather systems, are prime candidates for study. So is Mars, with it’s regularly occurring dust storms. Even planets outside our solar system are being studied by exo-meteorologists. And interestingly, exo-meteorologists may eventually find signs of extraterrestrial life on an exoplanet by detecting organic signatures in atmospheres, or elevated carbon dioxide levels — a possible sign of an industrial-age civilization.

4. Nutrigenomics

Also known as nutritional genomics, this is the study of the complex interplay between food and genetic expression. Scientists working in this field seek to understand the role of genetic variation, dietary response, and the ways in which nutrients affect our genes. And indeed, food has a profound effect on our health — and it starts quite literally at the molecular level. Nutrigenomics works both ways; our genes influence our dietary preferences, and vice-versa. A key goal of nutrigeneticists is to establish personalized nutrition — matching what we eat with our own unique genetic constitutions. More here.

11 Emerging Scientific Fields That Everyone Should Know About

5. Cliodynamics

Coined by the University of Connecticut’s Peter Turchin, cliodynamics is an interdisciplinary area of research that combines historical macrosociology, economic history (cliometrics), the mathematical modeling of long-term social processes, and the building and analysis of historical databases. It’s basically Asimov’s psychohistory come to life.

The name is a portmanteau of Clio, the muse of history, and dynamics, the study of changes over time. Simply put, it’s an effort to quantify and describe the broad social forces of history, both to study the past, and as a potential way to predict the future. An example of cliodynamics was Turchin’s recent paper forecasting social unrest.



6. Synthetic Biology

This is the big one, and it’s the emerging world-changing scientific discipline that many of us are already familiar with.

Synthetic biology is the design and construction of new biological parts, devices and systems. It also involves the redesign of existing biological systems for any number of useful purposes. Craig Venter, a leader in this field, shook the biology community in 2008 by announcing that he had manufactured the entire genome of a bacterium by piecing together its chemical components. Two years later his team created “synthetic life” — DNA created digitally, and then printed and inserted into a living bacterium. And last year, synbio scientists created the first complete computational model of an actual organism.

Looking ahead, synthetic biologists will sequence and analyze genomes to create custom-designed bootable organisms and biological robots that can produce chemicals from scratch, like biofuels. There’s also the potential for pollution devouring cyborg bacteria, and the downloading and printing of recently updated vaccines during a pandemic. The possibilities are almost endless.

7. Recombinant Memetics

This one’s quite speculative, and it’s technically speaking still in the proto-science phase. But it’ll only be a matter of time before scientists get a better handle on the human noosphere (the collective body of all human information) and how the proliferation of information within it impacts upon virtually all aspects of human life.

Similar to recombinant DNA (in which different genetic sequences are brought together to create something new), recombinant memetics is the study of how memes (ideas that spread from person to person) can be adjusted and merged with other memes and memeplexes (a cohesive collection of memes, like a religion) for beneficial or ‘socially therapeutic’ purposes (such as combating the spread of radical and violent ideologies). This is similar to the idea of ‘memetic engineering’ — which philosopher Daniel Dennett suggested could be used to maintain cultural health. Or what DARPA is currently doing via their ‘narrative control’ program.



8. Computational Social Science

Similar to cliodynamics, computational social science is the rigorous investigation of social phenomenon and trends over time. The use of computers and related information processing technologies is central to this discipline. Quite obviously, this field has only really been possible since the advent of computing, and most especially since the rise of the internet. Computational social scientists study the copious amounts of information left behind from emails, mobile phone calls, tweets, credit card purchases, Google searches, and on and on. It’s a field of study that’s attracting not just social scientists, but mathematicians and computer scientists as well. Examples of their work include studies into the structure of social networks and how information spreads across them, or how intimate relationships form on the Web. Image:Nature.

9. Cognitive Economics

Economics isn’t typically associated with science, but that could change as the field integrates with traditional scientific disciplines. Not to be confused with behavioral economics (the study of our behaviors — what we do — in the context of economic decision making), cognitive economics is about how we think. Leigh Caldwell, who runs a blog dedicated to the field, puts it this way:

Cognitive economics (or finance)…looks at what is actually going on within the individual’s mind when they make that choice. What is the internal structure of their decision-making, what are the influences on it, how does information enter the mind and how is it processed, what form do preferences take internally, and then ultimately how are all those processes expressed in our behaviour?

Looking at it another way, cognitive economics is to physics what behavioral economics is to engineering. To that end, cognitive economists begin their analysis at a lower, more reductionist level, and form microfounded models of how people make decisions to devise a model of large-scale economic behaviors. To help them with this, cognitive economists consider the related fields of cognitive science and computational economics, along with theories about rationality and decision making.

11 Emerging Scientific Fields That Everyone Should Know About

10. Organic Electronics

Normally, electronics are associated with inert and inorganic conductors and semiconductors, like copper and silicon. But a new branch of electronics is emerging that uses conductive polymers and conductive small molecules — both of which are carbon-based. It’s a highly interdisciplinary field that involves the design, synthesis, and processing of functional organic and inorganic materials, along with the development of advanced micro- and nanofabrication techniques and circuit design. To be fair, it’s not an entirely new field, as preliminary concepts and devices were first developed in the early 1970s. But it has only been recently that things have picked up, particularly on account of the nanotechnology revolution. Organic electronics introduces the potential for organic solar cells, self-assembling monolayers in functional electronic devices, and chemical circuits that could replace computer chips for human implantation (the cyborg of the future may very well be more organic than synthetic!). Image: AlphaGalileo Foundation.



11. Quantitative Biology

If you like both math and biology, this one’s for you. Quantitative biology, as its name implies, is an effort to understand biological processes through the language of mathematics. But it also applies other quantitative methods, like physics and computer science. The University of Ottawa explains how it came about:

With the advances in biological instrumentation and techniques, and easy access to computing power, biology is generating large amounts of data at an increasing speed. Acquiring the data and making sense of it increasingly requires quantitative approaches. At the same time, coming from a physicist’s or mathematician’s point of view, biology has reached a state of maturity where theoretical models of biological mechanisms can be tested experimentally. This has led to the development of the broad field of quantitative biology.

Scientists working in this field analyze and measure everything from the molecular scale right through to the organismal and ecosystem level. Image: AAAS.