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Science

Scientific Journals Commit to Diversity, but Lack the Data

“Science is publicized as a meritocracy: a larger, data-driven enterprise in which the best work and the best people float to the top,” Dr. Extavour said. In truth, she added, universal, objective standards are lacking, and “the access that authors have to editors is variable.”To democratize this process, editors and reviewers need to level the playing field, in part by reflecting the diversity that journals claim they seek, Dr. Kamath said. “People think this is a cosmetic or surface issue,” she said. “But in reality, the very nature of your scholarship would change if you took diversity, equity and inclusion seriously.”In responses to The Times, several organizations, including A.A.A.S., Cell Press, the Lancet and PLoS, pointed to ongoing efforts to track and boost equitable gender re...

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Science

When It Comes to Octopuses, Taste Is for Suckers

Some cells, they discovered, were there to detect only touch, and responded to pressure. Another population of cells, called chemoreceptors, instead detected chemicals, such as those that imbued fish with flavor.A series of genetic experiments then revealed that the surfaces of these taste-tuned cells were covered with different types of proteins, each tailored to its own chemical trigger. By mixing and matching these proteins, cells could develop their own unique tasting profiles, allowing the octopus’s suckers to discern flavors in fine gradations, then shoot the sensation to other parts of the nervous system.It seems octopuses have “a very detailed taste map of what they’re touching,” Dr. Tarvin said. “They don’t even need to see it. They’re just responding to attractive and aversive...

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Health

Why False Positives Matter, Too

The ever-increasing availability of virtual platforms might make that transition easy for some, Dr. Mazer said. But for people whose work can only be done in person, or who lack a financial buffer, “this could be a huge deal,” he said. “They could lose their paycheck. They could lose their job.”Caregivers, too, may find themselves put in a precarious position by false positives, which could force them to separate from children, older family members or other vulnerable contacts. Should another person need to come in and take their place, the risks of exposure to the virus could increase for all involved.And for facilities with limited space, placing a person in unnecessary isolation could shift equipment, medical care and even follow-up tests away from someone who might need those resour...

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World

In coronavirus testing, false positives are more hazardous than they might seem.

In the high-stakes world of coronavirus testing, false positives are widely considered to be benign in comparison with false negatives, which can deprive infected people of treatment and embolden them to mingle with others, hastening the spread of disease.But false positives, which incorrectly identify a healthy person as infected by the virus, can have serious consequences as well, especially in places where the virus is scarce.False positives are generally very rare among tests that have been vetted by the Food and Drug Administration. But any test can be plagued by contamination, mishandling or technical glitches, leading a device to spot the coronavirus where it is not.In places where the virus is relatively scarce, false positives may even outnumber accurate positives — eroding tru...

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World

‘These are everyday people who are dying’: A study offers a new picture of the lives lost to the virus.

There have been more than 220,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States, and each one represents years of potential life lost.They are years that might otherwise have been filled with moments rich and mundane: Time spent with family and friends. Trips to the grocery store. Late-night conversations on the phone. Tearful firsts with a newborn baby.Staggering as the 220,000 number is, it may not fully capture the true toll of the pandemic, according to a recent analysis.Tabulating the ages of Americans known to have died of Covid-19, and tallying the number of years they might have lived had they reached a typical life expectancy, the report concluded that the virus had claimed more than 2.5 million years of potential life in the United States.“Think of everything that a person does in a...

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World

No, mouthwash will not save you from the coronavirus, despite that study going around.

A rash of provocative headlines this week flooded social media platforms with a tantalizing idea: that mouthwash can “inactivate” coronaviruses and help curb their spread.The idea came from a new study that found that a coronavirus that causes common colds — not the one that causes Covid-19 — could be killed in a laboratory by dousing virus-infected cells with mouthwash. The study’s authors concluded that the products they tested “may provide an additional level of protection against” the new coronavirus.But outside experts warned against overinterpreting the study’s results, which might not have practical relevance to the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 220,000 Americans. Not only did the study not investigate this deadly new virus, but it also did not test whether mouthwas...

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Health

The Coronavirus Has Claimed 2.5 Million Years of Potential Life in the U.S., Study Finds

Still, life-years is only one metric by which to measure loss, said Ayesha Mahmud, a health demographer and epidemiologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was not involved in the analysis. Dr. Mahmud stressed the importance of not undervaluing the lives of older people simply because they might have fewer potential years left — a mind-set that can disadvantage older populations and minimize their disease burden.Several other researchers have published similar observations on the number of years of potential life eliminated by the pandemic.Every new analysis can serve as an important reminder of the staggering pace at which the coronavirus has torn through the nation, Dr. Mahmud said. “For me, what’s striking is that this has happened in such a short period of time,” she s...

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Health

No, Mouthwash Will Not Save You From the Coronavirus

Dr. Meyers said he hoped his team would undertake such studies soon, and noted that a handful of clinical trials had already begun investigating these questions.The study’s findings aren’t necessarily surprising, or even unprecedented. Other researchers have conducted similar experiments, including one that looked at the effects of mouthwash on the new coronavirus, with comparable results. And since the early days of the pandemic, scientists have stressed the effectiveness of hand-washing and disinfection with soap, alcohol and other similar chemicals that can bust through the new coronavirus’s fragile outer layer, or envelope. (Not all mouthwashes or nasal rinses contain such potent ingredients, however.)Dr. Valerie Fitzhugh, a pathologist at Rutgers University, pointed to a study from...

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Science

Meet the Diabolical Ironclad Beetle. It’s Almost Uncrushable.

In 2015, Jesus Rivera filmed a very unusual science experiment for posterity.On the asphalt of a sun-soaked parking lot, he placed a mottled black beetle on a pillow of dirt and had a colleague run it over with a Toyota Camry. Twice.Just about any other bug would have died. This one, a species called Phloeodes diabolicus, did not.“Yeah, it’s still alive,” Dr. Rivera narrated matter-of-factly, as he prodded the still-intact beetle on the video. “It’s playing dead. But it’s still alive.”Bashed beneath the wheels of a 3,500-pound sedan, the inch-long insect made it through without a scratch. It was a seemingly impossible physical puzzle that Dr. Rivera spent his doctoral career obsessively trying to solve.Some five years later, he and his colleagues have figured out how this unbreakable bu...

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Technology

Trump Official’s Tweet, and Its Removal, Set Off Flurry of Anti-Mask Posts

For months, public health experts — backed by guidelines from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — have stood firm on one resounding refrain: Against the coronavirus, masks work.But on Saturday, Dr. Scott Atlas, one of President Trump’s most prominent science advisers, took to Twitter to say otherwise.“Masks work? NO: LA, Miami, Hawaii, Alabama, France, Phlippnes, UK, Spain, Israel,” Dr. Atlas tweeted, rattling off a list of locations where masks had, in his view, failed to protect large swaths of the population.Not long after, Dr. Atlas reshared his first tweet with a message that seemed to walk back his original statement: “Use masks for their intended purpose — when close to others especially hi risk,” he said. “Otherwise, social distance...

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