Time travel has captured the public imagination for much of the past century, but little has been done to actually search for time travelers. Here, three implementations of Internet searches for time travelers are described, all seeking a prescient mention of information not previously available. The first search covered prescient content placed on the Internet, highlighted by a comprehensive search for specific terms in tweets on Twitter. The second search examined prescient inquiries submitted to a search engine, highlighted by a comprehensive search for specific search terms submitted to a popular astronomy web site. The third search involved a request for a direct Internet communication, either by email or tweet, pre-dating to the time of the inquiry. Given practical verifiability concerns, only time travelers from the future were investigated. No time travelers were discovered. Although these negative results do not disprove time travel, given the great reach of the Internet, this search is perhaps the most comprehensive to date.
ACS AMA Hi Reddit! My name is Neelesh A. Patankar, and I am the Charles Deering McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence and Associate Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University. Following my Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at University of Pennsylvania, I was a post-doctoral associate with Prof. Daniel D. Joseph at the University of Minnesota until 2000. I then joined the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Northwestern University as an Assistant Professor in 2000, and have been a Professor since 2011. My research area is developing computational methods for immersed bodies in fluids and applying them to problems in biology (fish swimming, esophageal transport, rat whiskers) and engineering (vehicle aerodynamics). I have also been active in designing rough surfaces for non-wetting, super-wetting, anti-icing, and novel phase change properties. My group has published a series of papers on the thermodynamics of phase change on rough surfaces. Topics include keeping surfaces dry under water (see a short video here), restoring underwater superhydrophobicity, changing the boiling curve by extending or delaying the Leidenfrost regime, and the thermodynamics of sustaining vapor, “non-condensable” gases, and superheated liquids in roughness pores. I also recently acted as a scientific consultant for an ACS Reactions video on the Leidenfrost effect. The broader research vision is to engineer metasurfaces, that is surfaces that exhibit novel interfacial interactions during heterogeneous phase transition (e.g. condensation, boiling, freezing). Potential application areas include boiling and condensation heat transfer (e.g. in power plants), anti-icing, anti-fouling, and atmospheric water harvesting, among others. I will be answering your questions on the topics of rough surfaces for non-wetting, super-wetting, or novel phase change properties at 11am EDT (10am CDT, 8am PDT, 3pm UTC) -ACS edit text formatting 08:45 ET
Every day I work on the cutting edge of science and technology and I love it. Our team at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, works specifically with advanced optical imaging technologies which work to help map the ocean floor. It is my passion for the science and for mentoring others to help to navigating the maze of challenges, opportunities and achievements in the field. Have a question on the latest in active imaging research? Are you looking to make your own impact on the science community? I will be online at 1:00 pm to answer your questions – Ask Me Anything!
What we do: Dark matter is a mysterious form of matter that makes up 80% of the matter in the universe. We call it dark matter because it doesn’t emit or reflect any light or radiation, so it’s basically invisible. The ADMX experiment looks for a theoretical type of dark matter known as the axion. These hypothetical particles were developed to solve problems in nuclear physics, but its properties also make it a very promising dark matter candidate. The detection of axion dark matter would solve two of the biggest mysteries in physics. ADMX is an incredibly sensitive detector that functions a lot like an AM radio and tries to “hear” a particular signal from axions. We just published results from our most recent science run, where we achieved an unprecedented sensitivity to axion dark matter that makes us the first experiment to probe the most likely areas for axions. Ask us all your axion, dark matter, and science questions! The ADMX Answering Board: University of Washington (UW) Gray Rybka: Gray is a professor at the University of Washington and a spokesperson of the ADMX experiment. He works on data taking and development of the analysis package for the main experiment housed at UW. Rakshya Khatiwada: Rakshya is a postdoc at the University of Washington. She works on the development and implementation of the current and future ADMX detectors containing cryogenic electronics package along with the system noise temperature characterization. This package houses a number of radio frequency electronics components, including quantum-noise-limited amplifiers, which allow ADMX to reach its high sensitivity. Chelsea Bartram: Chelsea is an incoming postdoc to the University of Washington. She is currently finishing her PhD at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, working on searching for CP violation in lepton number with the CALIOPE experiment. Nick Du: Nick is a graduate student at the University of Washington. He works on the main ADMX experiment developing the sensors package for the experiment and implementing a blind axion injection scheme for the experiment. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) Gianpaolo Carosi: Gianpaolo is a staff scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a spokesperson of the ADMX experiment. His group works on designing and implementing the motion control systems for the cavity and coming up with future designs for higher mass axion experiments. Nathan Woollett: Nathan is a postdoc at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. His group works on testing components of the ADMX cold electronics package before it gets added to the main experiment. He is also working on different detector designs for higher mass axion searches. Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory (FNAL) Daniel Bowring: Daniel (@doctorbowring) is a physicist at Fermilab, working to design, build, and control new types of particle accelerator. His work for ADMX focuses on detector design, and specifically on cooking up new ways to improve our signal-to-noise ratio. Akash Dixit: Akash is a graduate student at the University of Chicago. He is working on developing photon amplifier and detector technology for use in axion searches at higher masses. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) Christian Boutan: Christian is a postdoc at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He started out as a graduate student at the University of Washington where he created an experiment looking for higher mass axions known as Sidecar. He now works at PNNL on designs for the next run of ADMX which will feature an array of 4 cavities tuned to the same frequency. University of California Berkeley (UCB) Sean O’Kelley: Sean O’Kelley is a graduate student at the University of California Berkeley. His lab works on developing extremely low noise amplifiers, known as Superconducting QUantum Interference Device (SQUID) amplifiers. The ultra-low noise of these amplifiers is part of what allows the experiment to reach its high sensitivity. Publication: Search for Invisible Axion Dark Matter with the Axion Dark Matter Experiment Press Releases: University of Washington Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Fermilab University of California, Berkeley Social Media: Web Page Twitter Edit: Hi all! Thanks for all of your great questions. We had a lot of fun answering all of your questions! Until next time!
Hi reddit, My name is Marc Hurlbert and I am the Chief Mission Officer of The Breast Cancer Research Foundation https://www.bcrf.org/, the nation’s highest rated breast cancer organization. I lead BCRF’s $59.5 million research portfolio which is distributed in grants to over 275 scientists this year alone. We fund the best and brightest researchers in the world. They come from all disciplines of science and are given the freedom to pursue their most creative ideas and promising research leads. A scientist myself, I am particularly interested in metastatic disease and disparities that exist among various ethnic groups in breast cancer care. I will be answering your questions at 1PM ET today – Ask Me Anything!
Quantum theory has found that elementary particles in addition to the classic field quantity have also quantum-mechanical degree of freedom. This research paper defines another hypothetical intrinsic degree of freedom which has a topological nature. A topological quantum field theory is constructed to this hypothetical degree of freedom.
I’m Mike Liemohn, a Professor in the Department of Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering (http://clasp.engin.umich.edu/) at the University of Michigan (umich.edu). You’ve probably seen Gravity, The Martian, or The Fantastic Four, so you know that outer space is a dangerous place. But isn’t outer space a vacuum of nothingness? Beyond no air to breathe, what else could possibly hurt you? It turns out…lots! I investigate the physics at work in the almost-nothingness of our solar system. I am also the Editor in Chief of the Journal of Geophysical Research – Space Physics2169-9402/) a leading journal in this field of understanding the Sun, solar eruptions, magnetic storms, the radiation belts, and the aurora at Earth and other planets. I am also currently teaching a very fun course at U-M called SPACE 101: Intro to Rocket Science. I hope to have an engaging discussion with you about the fascinating physics happening in the near-emptiness of outer space, and explore the many ways that space might pose a danger to astronauts, to satellites, or even to power grids here on Earth. I’ll be back at 12 pm ET to answer your questions, Ask Me Anything! The AGU AMA series is conducted by the Sharing Science (sharingscience.org) program. Sharing Science: By scientists, for everyone. More at sharingscience.agu.org.
Immersive modes, such as Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality headsets, have the power to revolutionize how we work, play, teach, learn and shop. Enterprise already offers solutions for specific AR tasks in engineering, manufacturing, design, health care, architecture, retail and gaming; return on investment is mainly cost avoidance (shorter learning cycles, less errors, better communication, productivity and yields, etc.). However, most actors involved in developing the AR ecosystem (from hardware to app development platform to apps and content) agree that it will take a long time for hardware to hit the consumer level comfort required for mass adoption (5 to 10 years). Some of the hardware issues to solve, specifically from an optical engineering point of view, are: • Higher FOV and higher resolution through active foveation • Vergence Accommodation Conflict (VAC) mitigation through varifocal, multifocal, light field or true holographic display • Pixel occlusion for HDR for more “realistic” holograms • Higher brightness over a decent eye box for external usage (lower power, higher brightness / contrast displays and high efficient optics) • More accurate, less power, more compact IR and visible sensors (sensor hardware fusion: Head tracking, eye tracking, gesture tracking, 3D scanning, multispectral) There are many other challenges for the ultimate consumer AR experience (such as overall CG, size and weight, battery life, head dissipation, 5G connectivity for cloud rendering, etc…) which we will not discuss today. If you would like more information outside of this AMA, I will be at SPIE Photonics Europe in Strasbourg, France next month for the Digital Optics for Immersive Displays conference. You can also take my free course “An Introduction to VR, AR, MR and Smart Eyewear: Market Expectations, Hardware Requirements and Investment Patterns” on the SPIE Digital Library. It was recorded live at SPIE Photonics West in January. Enjoy!
Hello, Reddit! My name is Aydogan Ozcan, and I am currently a Chancellor’s Professor at UCLA, in Electrical & Computer Engineering, and Bioengineering. I am also an HHMI Professor at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, an Associate Director of the California NanoSystems Institute, and a Fellow of SPIE, IEEE, OSA, AIMBE, RSC and the Guggenheim Foundation. My research focuses on the use of computation/algorithms to create new optical microscopy, sensing, and diagnostic techniques, significantly improving measurement existing tools for probing micro- and nano-objects while also simplifying the designs of these analysis tools. Some examples include smartphone-based microscopes, cell counters, diagnostic test readers, bacteria sensors, blood analyzers, allergen detectors, heavy metal sensors among others. I have authored, and will be presenting, multiple papers on these technologies at SPIE Photonics West in February 2018. More information about this conference can be found here. Let’s get the discussion started. I’ll be back at 2 pm Et to answer your questions, Ask me anything
I’m Debra Satz, the Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University and co-host of the Philosophy Talk radio program. I grew up in the Bronx, and was the first of my family to go to college. From there, I graduated from City College of New York and received my PhD from M.I.T. where – after toying with the idea of writing on the philosophy of logic – I wrote a dissertation focusing on Marx’s theory of social progress. Although I have traveled far from where I began, my experiences growing up in the Bronx continue to influence my work and thought. My philosophical work has been broadly concerned with the economic preconditions for a democratic society of equals. But rather than approaching this question at a very high level of abstraction, I have focused on the ethics behind the creation and operation of particular markets. Markets in the abstract are models of freedom and equality. Freedom because each has the choice to enter into, or refrain from entering, any particular exchange. Moreover, because each of us is linked through countless others, no one is under the thumb of any particular person. This latter point also underwrites our equality. In theory, neither is dependent on the other and each has the right to refuse a deal which we view as unfair. But, in reality, many markets depart very far from that theory. Some markets involve agents who are asymmetrically situated: One person desperately needs a good that only the other has (think of credit markets in the developing world); or, one person has relevant knowledge that another person lacks (think of the market for used cars). Moreover, some markets involve risks that fall on others besides the transacting agent (think of exchanges that generate pollution); or markets where others are transacting on our behalf (think of child labor markets where parents transact on behalf of their children, or governments where dictators transact debt on behalf of their populations). My book, Why Some Things Should Not be For Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets develops a theory that distinguishes between ordinary markets that resemble abstract markets and what I call noxious markets. Noxious markets are characterized along four parameters: weak agency, background vulnerability and inequality of the transacting agents, harms to individuals, and harms to society. My book examines markets in body parts, commercial surrogacy, child labor and prostitution. Importantly, I argue that the fact that a market is noxious does not entail the conclusion that we should ban it. It may be possible to increase agency (by giving parties better information) or address third party harms through regulation. But a message of my work, which resonates with a long tradition of political economy (where figures such as Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Karl Marx and RH Tawney are central) is that not all markets are the same. I also have interests in the distribution of educational opportunities, where I have argued that the sharp divide policy makers and philosophers draw between adequacy approaches and equality approaches is overdrawn. A theory of distributing educational opportunity that is adequate for a democratic society will have strong egalitarian elements. In addition to pursuing my interests in education (which was my path out of poverty), I am writing a paper which examines the role of the state’s distribution of in kind goods (such as health care) for a democratic society of equals. I look forward to discussing my work with you on reddit! Links of Interest: My book: Why Some Things Should Not be For Sale: The Moral Limits of Markets. Thanks to OUP can purchase it 30% off from their site with promocode AAFLYG6. A newer co-authored book dealing with the relations between ethics and economics: Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy and Public Policy, Third Edition My Stanford Encyclopedia Article on Feminist Perspectives on Reproduction and the Family My Ethics article “Equality, Adequacy and Education for Citizenship” My class day speech at Stanford University on the Moral Limits of Markets The Philosophy Talk radio program which I co-host
Hi Reddit, My name is Lillian L. M. Shapiro and I am a postdoctoral scientist at Vanderbilt University. My research focuses on how environmental changes affect the biology of mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit. I recently published a methods & resources study titled “Quantifying the effects of temperature on mosquito and parasite traits that determine the transmission potential of human malaria” in PLOS Biology. This work was part of my PhD studies and concerns how temperature shapes mosquito and malaria parasite traits, and how changes in these traits impact malaria transmission. We found that warmer temperatures increase the potential of malaria transmission up to about 26ºC (79ºF), but temperatures hotter than this may actually decrease risk, suggesting that the range where malaria can flourish could shift geographically under predicted climate change scenarios. I will be answering your questions at 1pm ET. Ask me Anything! EDIT: Because this AMA started a little late, I can continue answering questions (today) beyond the normal 2pm ET cutoff, I just might be a little bit slower in responding.
The mods of /r/philosophy are pleased to announce an upcoming AMA by Rivka Weinberg, Professor of Philosophy at Scripps College, who works on procreative ethics, bioethics and the metaphysics of life and death. She is the author of The Risk of a Lifetime: How, When, and Why Procreation Might Be Permissible (OUP, 2015). Professor Weinberg will be joining us on Monday November 27th at 1PM EST to discuss issues in procreative ethics, bioethics and more. Hear it from her: Rivka Weinberg I’m Professor of Philosophy at Scripps College, which is one of the Claremont Colleges, in way too sunny California. I grew up in Brooklyn (before it was cool), worked my way through Brooklyn College as a paralegal, and got my PhD. from the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. Most of my philosophical work has focused on the ethics and metaphysics of creating people. It still surprises me that so many people just go ahead and create an entire new human without really thinking through what they are doing to that person. It surprises me even more that so many people seem to think that life is inherently good and that living is a privilege and a treat. I find that outlook very hard to understand, though I haven’t given up trying. My book, The Risk of a Lifetime: How, When, and Why Procreation May Be Permissible, is a culmination of my many years of thinking about what we are doing when we create a person. As the title reveals, I think we are imposing life’s risks on that person, and I consider when and why that set of risks may be permissible to impose. Although it might seem foreign to think about having a baby as imposing life’s risks on someone, I don’t think it’s as counterintuitive a conception of procreation as it might initially seem. It’s not odd to think that a teenager shouldn’t have a baby because that baby will have lots of disadvantages, i.e., face the high degree of significant life risks that are associated with being born to teen parents. It’s not unusual to think that people who carry genes for terrible diseases, such as Tay Sachs, should try to make sure that they don’t partner with another carrier and bear a child who will have to suffer so terribly. Many people think that they shouldn’t have children who would be at a high risk for a life of abject poverty. And those are all ways of thinking about whether the life risks we impose on those we create are permissible for us to impose. So that is my framework for thinking about procreative ethics. Within that framework, I think about what kind of act procreation is, whether it is always wrong, whether metaphysical puzzles such as Parfit’s famous non-identity problem make it almost always permissible (short answer: so not!), and what makes someone parentally responsible. In my book, I arrive at principles of procreative permissibility based on a broadly contractualist framework of permissible risk imposition. I am currently finishing up some papers on whether parental responsibility has a set endpoint, or indeed any endpoint; and on some aspects of risk imposition that are unique to, and uniquely problematic for, procreative acts. I am also thinking a lot about pointlessness, about how life is not the kind of thing that can have a point or purpose, and whether we can rationally find that disappointing or even tragic. I probably should have thought that through before I had children who now have to live pointless lives, like everyone else. Ah well. Fun fact: I have two children, and ten siblings. Links of Interest: Her book: The Risk of a Lifetime: How, When, and Why Procreation Might Be Permissible An article reviewing David Benatar’s antinalist book (Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence): “Is Having Children Always Wrong?” NewBooksNetwork podcast interview on her book “The Moral Complexity of Sperm Donation” Short piece in Quartz: “Is it unethical to have children in the era of climate change?” Another short piece in Quartz: “When is it immoral to have children?” AMA Please feel free to post questions for Professor Weinbreg here. She will look at this thread before she starts and begin with some questions from here while the initial questions in the new thread come in. Please join us in welcoming Professor Rivka Weinberg to our community!
The mods of /r/philosophy are pleased to announce an upcoming AMA by Michael Cholbi, Professor of Philosophy and Director, California Center for Ethics and Policy, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. This AMA is the second in our Spring 2018 AMA Series; you can find more details on all of this semester’s AMAs with philosophers by going to the AMA Hub Post. You can find all of our previous AMAs over the years by going to the AMA wiki. Professor Cholbi will be joining us on Thursday January 25th at 1PM ET to discuss issues in ethical theory, moral psychology, practical ethics, Kant and the philosophy of death and dying. Hear it from him: Michael Cholbi I’m Professor of Philosophy at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. I work and publish in a number of area of ethics, including ethical theory, moral psychology, practical ethics, and the history of moral philosophy. Much (though not all) of my work has a Kantian flavor – but do note I’m willing to take Kant and Kantians to task when need be! (For a good overview of my work on Kant’s ethics, check out my book Understanding Kant’s Ethics). Here are some more specifics about my research: I’m perhaps best known for my work on philosophy of death and dying, including my work on suicide and grief. With respect to suicide, my views are complicated: I argue that most acts of suicide violate our Kantian duty to preserve our rational agency, but precisely because this is a self-regarding duty or duty to self, then at a social level, individuals have an autonomy-based right to shorten their lives, consistent with their moral obligations to others; that medically assisted dying is not contrary to the moral norms of medicine and that the medical profession should not monopolize access to desirable ways of shortening our lives; that, all other things being equal, mental health problems provide equally strong justifications for suicide as do ‘physical’ ailments, etc.; and that non-invasive public health measures to prevent suicide are typically defensible. Grief is an understudied phenomenon among philosophers. Much of my work here is concerned with understanding how grief can makes our lives better — why we wouldn’t find it desirable to be unable to grieve, like Meursault in Camus’ The Stranger — despite the fact that it involves pain or mental distress. In the book I’m writing, I propose that grief represents an especially fruitful opportunity to know ourselves and understand our own commitments and values more deeply. In other areas of social ethics, I write on paternalism, defending what I call the ‘rational will’ conception of paternalism, wherein paternalism is wrong because it intercedes in our powers of rational agency in various ways; on race and criminal justice, where I argue (in a forthcoming paper in Ethics) that racial bias in the administration of the death penalty in the U.S. merits its de facto abolition; and on the philosophy of work and labor, a new area of research where I’m exploring universal basic income and notions of meaningful work. As you can tell, my work is very diverse, both topically and methodologically. I try to integrate empirical work from economics, legal studies, and psychiatry into my research where appropriate. I look forward to discussing any and all of my work with the reddit audience! Links of Interest: My Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on suicide My review of Fischer and Mitchell-Yellin’s book on near death experiences A piece on grief in Four By Three A blog post on paternalism from LSE’s The Forum AMA Please feel free to post questions for Professor Cholbi here. He will look at this thread before he starts and begin with some questions from here while the initial questions in the new thread come in. Please join me in welcoming Professor Michael Cholbi to our community!
Discoveries of planets outside our solar system have burst from a trickle to a flood in recent years, transforming our understanding of the Universe. NASA’s Kepler exoplanet-hunting spacecraft and other missions have shown that the Milky Way Galaxy is teeming with at least tens of billions of planets. These exoplanets come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from smaller than Earth to larger than Jupiter, and include a small number of Earth-size planets in the “habitable zones” of their stars. Telescopes like the Hubble Space Telescope are carefully examining the atmospheric compositions of many of these alien worlds. However, the goals of imaging an Earth-size planet around another star and comprehensively understanding surface properties and atmospheric characteristics remain elusive. The launch of the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018 will help move comparative planetology forward, while astronomers are continuing to design and develop the next generation of observatories. As scientists deeply involved in this research, we welcome your questions about the current state of knowledge about the diversity of exoplanetary systems, and the challenges of direct imaging and atmospheric characterization in particular. We’re especially interested in telescope concepts under development to directly image exoplanets and search for water, ozone, oxygen, and other potential markers of habitability, and envision where these may take our understanding of exoplanets in the next decade. Ask us anything! Debra Fischer, Professor of Astronomy at Yale University. Jessie Christiansen, Astronomer at the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena CA. Aki Roberge, Research Astrophysicist & Study Scientist for the LUVOIR space telescope concept, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD Jennifer Wiseman, Hubble Space Telescope Senior Project Scientist, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Dr. Patricia Boyd Chief, Exoplanets and Stellar Astrophysics Laboratory & Director Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Guest Investigator Program, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) is hosting the SETAC North America 38th annual meeting this week and we have tied this AMA to a specific session, “Pharmaceuticals in the environment: Potential environmental and human health impacts.” Experts from across academia, government and industry are here to answer questions on this topic. The research being presented at our meeting will cover topics such as how fish react when a variety of medicines get through wastewater treatment and into their environment, to what levels of detection in water is risky to human health, to how veterinary medicines given to cattle get into the environment, among others. Please do note that we are asking members of the society who represent researchers from a variety of disciplines and sectors; the answers are not official SETAC positions. We encourage discussion and debate! Just please keep it professional. For more information on SETAC see http://www.setac.org Post your question and the organizers of the conference will find someone to answer it as soon as possible. Answers to questions will be most active during the session break at 10AM-11AM EST and immediately following 12PM-2PM EST, ending at 2PM EST.
Hi reddit, I’m a physicist at the University of Bath, UK, working on microscopy and automated instrumentation. I’m very interested in using and developing open source hardware for scientific applications – particularly microscopes. Two projects I’m working on at the moment are developing high-precision positioning mechanisms that can be 3D printed, and creating automated microscopes for analysing blood smears to diagnose malaria. The project teams include scientists and engineers from the Universities of Bath and Cambridge, and Ifakara Health Institute and STICLab in Tanzania. All the hardware we’ve developed so far on these projects is open-source, available on GitHub, for example: https://github.com/rwb27/openflexure_microscope/ I hope that, by sharing our designs, we can enable small maker spaces and engineers like STICLab (https://www.sticlab.co.tz/) to produce, and indeed customise, sophisticated products with less reliance on expensive imported goods. It also makes it much easier for people to get involved with the research project, by hacking, tweaking, or replicating our hardware for their own use. Science relies on experiments being repeatable, but often University labs are full of black boxes (metaphorically – they’re usually beige) which are expensive, hard to customise, and sealed up so you can’t see how they work. Even worse, this proprietary hardware often won’t talk to open software, making it difficult to integrate into complicated, automated experiments. There’s a growing movement of people trying to open up scientific hardware – because this is good for science, even without the cost savings that can come from 3D printing many components in your lab. This is all explained much more eloquently in the GOSH manifesto and roadmap: http://openhardware.science/gosh-manifesto/ http://openhardware.science/global-open-science-hardware-roadmap/ I’m quite new to reddit, but I guess this is the part where I stop and let you take over – I’ll be back at 10 am ET to answer your questions, ask me anything! Thanks everyone for the questions - it’s been fun! I’m signing off now, though I’ll try to keep an eye out in case there are any follow-up questions. I should also take a moment to thank my sponsors - I have the privilege of being funded to work on this project, by the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EP/P029426/1), the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, and the University of Bath.
Hey reddit, Today, in the journal Science, you can find our paper which describes the function of TDP-43, an important protein in ALS (the disease that the ice bucket challenge raised money for) tl;dr: TDP-43 doesn’t do its job in 97% of all ALS cases. Scientists didn’t really know its function—now we do. We also show that it’s something that can be fixed! ELI5 Cells in your body are constantly reading your DNA to make proteins. DNA is located in the nucleus of a cell. You can think of a nucleus as a library except that instead of having books neatly lined up on shelves, the books in a nucleus have all of their pages ripped out and thrown around randomly. To sort through this mess, the cell has great librarians that go around collecting all these pages, collating them and neatly binding them together as books. These librarians then ship these “books” out of the nucleus so that other workers in the cell can do their jobs. Think of these books as instruction manuals. TDP-43 is a very special type of librarian. TDP-43’s job is to ensure that nucleus librarians don’t accidentally make a mistake and put a random nonsense page (usually filled with gibberish) into the books that they ship out. If one of these nonsense pages makes it into an “instruction manual”, the workers in the cell get really confused and mess things up. For terminology, we call these nonsense pages “cryptic exons”. Here’s an image to help illustrate my analogy. In the brains of ALS patients, some cells begin to get sick because TDP-43 becomes really sticky and clumps together outside the nucleus, where it can’t do its job. See this image here. We’ve known about TDP-43 for nearly a decade but never really understood what it did. Today, in our Science paper, we actually show evidence of cryptic exons in the brain autopsies of ALS cases, suggesting that some of our theories were right all along: TDP-43 isn’t doing its job correctly in ALS. So, what does this mean for potential therapies? Well, we took mouse stem cells and completely deleted TDP-43 to show that without TDP-43, a cell can’t survive more than 2-3 days. However, when we genetically inserted a special protein designed to mimic TDP-43’s “librarian” function (i.e. prevent random nonsense pages from entering the instruction books of the cell), these cells came back to life and looked completely normal. In other words, these cells had absolutely no TDP-43 inside them but were almost completely healthy. Here’s an image of those cells. If we are able to mimic TDP-43’s function in the human neurons of ALS patients, there’s a good chance that we could slow down progression of the disease! And that’s what we’re putting all our efforts into right now. Quick note for readers who are well versed in biology TDP-43’s splicing repression mechanism is actually quite interesting and hints at a model for the evolution of exon-intron definition. I think biologists have long wondered how the cell can recognize short 50-200bp exons that are separated by gigantic 100kb introns. How is it that random exons don’t just pop up in the intron region by chance? Well, it seems like the cell recruits microsatellite targeting RNA-binding proteins that act as general splicing repressors. This is further supported by the observation that the mechanism of cryptic exon repression is highly conserved across species but the targets are actually 100% different. Furthermore, expansions or contractions of these microsatellite “intronic splicing suppressor” elements could represent loci for disease risk. I think it’s an exciting time for this discovery, especially with the advent of whole genome sequencing. Anyways I mainly wanted to do this AMA because I remember reading a lot of stories about people complaining that the ice bucket challenge was a waste and that scientists weren’t using the money to do research, etc. I assure you that this is absolutely false. All of your donations have been amazingly helpful and we have been working tirelessly to find a cure. With the amount of money that the ice bucket challenge raised, I feel that there’s a lot of hope and optimism now for real, meaningful therapies. After all, the best medicines come from a full understanding of a disease and without the financial stability to do high risk, high reward research, none of this would be possible! Of course, there is always more to be done so please consider donating to the ALS Association or the Packard Center for ALS here at Johns Hopkins. If you’re interested in supporting the work of our lab directly, you can also do so here. Here is a gallery of images as well That’s it. I’ll be back at 1 pm ET to answer your questions, Ask Me Anything! EDIT: Thank you everyone for all the questions! Sorry if I didn’t get to you, I will check back on the AMA later and try to respond. -Jon
Edit: Hi everyone! Many thanks for those who were interested in this topic, I really enjoyed answering your thought-provoking questions. I am signing out now, but will try to check back later and answer a few more. Hello Reddit! I’m a chemical ecologist at Rothamsted Research in the UK. Up until the age of eight I had wanted to become a pilot, an ambition that was stopped short after a failed attempt to fly a home-made glider. However, I think it was my innate curiosity that eventually made me realise that I wanted to do something connected to nature. Endless hours a day spent in the back garden, natural history books, influential teachers and, later in life, great mentors supported me on my way to becoming an ecologist. First at the Plant Protection Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (http://marton.agrar.mta.hu/start.php?lang=en), and later at Rothamsted (https://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/). I was amazed by the dedication and focussed work of inspiring scientists who wanted to make a difference, thereby setting a standard for me. After my third level studies, I was introduced into the amazing world of semiochemicals (behaviour- and development-modifying chemicals). Since then, I have found myself immersed in this magical world of chemical communication that invisibly governs key interactions among organisms! It is fascinating stuff! I mainly work with insect pests in agro- and forest ecosystems. I identify volatile compounds from the pests’ host plants or the insects themselves. I then use these compounds to manipulate the behaviour and development of the plant, or the insect, to help keep the pest’s population under control. I recently also started to study the chemical ecology under our feet. The soil is a tough one, because it is much less accessible, and therefore harder to research, than the environment above the ground. However, when something is discovered here, it has the potential to be ground-breaking! In a world where environmental, human and food safety are fortunately becoming increasingly important, we need alternative, non-toxic ways to tackle pests, and chemical ecology research offers such solutions. The recent ban of many key pesticides is also driving the focus of plant protection in this direction. It would be great to discuss my research with you. Feel free to ask me anything! On Thursday 26th October at 4pm (BST) I will be live on Reddit Science AMA. In the meantime, you are welcome to find out more about me in a blog entry I wrote for Rothamsted’s ‘A day in the life of a research scientist’ blog series (https://www.rothamsted.ac.uk/articles/day-life-dr-jozsef-vuts). (Rothamsted Research is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England at Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2JQ under the registration number 2393175 and a not for profit charity number 802038.)