December 30, 2019
SIGMAXI SmartBrief
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Editor's Note
A note to our readers
Happy holidays! This is SmartBrief's last publication for 2019. To close out the year, we have selected the most-read stories that have caught readers' attention and informed their workday. Hope you enjoy this special edition, and we look forward to keeping you smart in 2020!
Top Story
Saturn and its rings shine in an image captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and released by NASA and the European Space Agency on Thursday. The image, taken on June 20, also shows four of Saturn's moons: Enceladus, Mimas, Janus and Tethys.
Full Story: Space (9/12) 
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The Hubble Space Telescope has captured a new image of Jupiter, featuring the Great Red Spot. The image, just released by NASA, was taken in late June when the planet was coming out of opposition with the sun.
Full Story: ScienceAlert (Australia) (8/9) 
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A tiny knee bone called the fabella is reappearing in humans after having been lost to evolution early on, according to a study published in the Journal of Anatomy. About 39% of people had the bone in 2018, compared to 11% in 1918, and researchers say the return may be due to genetic as well as environmental factors.
Full Story: The Scientist online (4/19) 
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Science in the News
Photo captures merging shock waves made by jets
(Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Merging shock waves created by the supersonic speeds of two Air Force jets can be seen for the first time in photos taken by NASA. A plane flying over the two T-38 planes snapped the photos using air-to-air schlieren photographic technology.
Full Story: LiveScience (3/7) 
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Dogs reach sexual maturity and old age faster than humans, but the popular idea that one year in a dog's life equates to seven for people has little basis in reality. To gain a clearer understanding of dog ages, a University of California at San Diego-led team looked at DNA methylation as a kind of epigenetic clock in Labrador retrievers, and when researchers matched it to human epigenetic data, they were able to create a formula for comparing dog and human ages.
Full Story: Science (tiered subscription model) (11/16) 
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An image released by NASA shows landslides on Mars. The picture of an area called Cerberus Fossae was taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter earlier this year.
Full Story: Space (4/24) 
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Funding Watch
The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has unveiled the 26 recipients of its 2019 MacArthur Fellowships, also known as genius grants, who will each receive $625,000. Recipients from scientific fields are geochemist and paleoclimatologist Andrea Dutton; marine scientist Stacy Jupiter; biologist Zachary Lippman; theoretical geophysicist Jerry Mitrovica; neuroscientist Vanessa Ruta; cognitive scientist Joshua Tenenbaum; and evolutionary anthropologist Jenny Tung.
Full Story: The Associated Press (9/25),  Grist (9/25),  National Public Radio (9/25),  WRAL-TV (Raleigh, N.C.) (9/25) 
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A settlement between Duke University and the Justice Department requires Duke to pay $112.5 million to settle claims that it used falsified data in applications for grants from the NIH and the Environmental Protection Agency. The claims involved up to $200 million in research funding that federal agencies had awarded the university over roughly a decade.
Full Story: The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (3/25) 
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Emory University has parted ways with two researchers who university officials say received funding from sources in China but did not disclose it. Concerns over possible attempts by China to steal US research have been heightened recently as the NIH conducts investigations into roughly six research facilities.
Full Story: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (free content) (5/23) 
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Research Policy Regulations
Female scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies say they struggled for years to obtain parity with their male counterparts at the renowned California research facility, and that while changes have been made, disparities still exist. In an in-depth report, Salk scientists Kathy Jones and Vicki Lundblad, along with former Salk scientist Beverly Emerson, discuss what drove them to file gender discrimination lawsuits against the institute.
Full Story: The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (4/19) 
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Universal language models and other forms of artificial intelligence based on digitized books, news articles and Wikipedia entries are likely to produce biased results if the data used to build the programs is subtly or overtly biased, scientists say. Computer scientist Robert Munro found racial and sexual bias in results produced by Google's BERT AI platform, and researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found similar bias.
Full Story: The New York Times (tiered subscription model) (11/11) 
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Fictional works about science support efforts to create effective policy and should not be viewed as inaccurate distractions, writes Lindy Orthia. "Fiction enhances, rather than undermines, democratic involvement in debates about science because it gives people diverse resources to draw upon in discussion," she writes.
Full Story: Asia & the Pacific Policy Society (8/14) 
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Sigma Xi News
Registration opens January 2 for the 2020 Annual Meeting and Student Research Conference. The theme will be Hacking the Brain: The Intersection of Art and Neuroscience. The meeting will be November 5-8 in Alexandria, Va.
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The University of Nebraska at Kearney Chapter recently hosted a Science Cafe on December 9 about forest recovery following an insect outbreak. A recording is available on their Facebook page.
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Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.
Hal Borland,
writer, journalist, naturalist
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