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I had what seemed like rather a good idea a few weeks back. Building on some prominent findings in social psychology, I hypothesized that politicians on the right would wipe their bum with their left hand; and that politicians on the left would wipe with their right hand.

Ludicrous? Yes – absolutely. But for once my goal wasn’t to run a bona fide scientific study. Instead, I wanted to see if any “journal” would publish my ass-wiping “findings”.

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Everyone knows that water is a molecule in which a single oxygen atom is linked to two hydrogen atoms - H20.

But the story of water gets a lot more scientifically interesting the deeper you go. Water actually exists in two different forms, called isomers, at the molecular level.

They have almost identical physical properties, you can't tell the difference, but chemists can tell them apart by the relative orientation of the nuclear spins of the two hydrogen atoms.  They are called ortho- or para-water depending on whether the spins are aligned in the same or opposite direction.

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Across Europe, 95 percent of people claim to have seen seen litter when they visited the coast - yet they say they don't litter. And they don't trust scientists, corporations or government to solve it, which leaves environmentalists who don't ever actually send people into the wilderness to clean up litter.

Marine litter is a big deal thanks to environmental publicity but it is highly exaggerated - think mercury in salmon, alar on apples, floating barges of garbage, estrogen in drinking water and more to get an idea of how these issues get magnified. 

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Sub-Saharan Africa has around 80 million people infected with hepatitis B, a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus, but it infects around 250 million people worldwide. It can be a mild illness lasting a few weeks or a serious, lifelong condition. It is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids.  

An accurate diagnostic score that consists of inexpensive blood tests costing around $20 could help diagnose thousands of patients with hepatitis B in need of treatment in some of Africa's poorest regions, far more affordable than the $100-500 for current tests.

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A review of data on nearly 20 million people has concluded that having diabetes significantly raises the risk of developing cancer.

For women the risk is even higher, not just of cancer but also leukemia and cancers of the stomach, mouth and kidney. Men, however, had less risk for liver cancer. If none of that makes sense, you see the flaws in replacing science with epidemiological statistics.

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States that have expanded Medicaid coverage as part of the Affordable Care Act have higher numbers of individuals with disabilities employed that states that did not.

Medicaid is a taxpayer-funded program that provides free or low-cost health coverage to low-income people, the elderly, and people with disabilities.  As many states are considering work requirements for Medicaid eligibility, the authors of a new paper believe Medicaid expansion is acting as an employment incentive for people with disabilities.

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It isn't just human adults who regard youth as disease factories, in many species the young are often more susceptible to infection than adults, even after accounting for prior exposure to infection.

Evolution has an explanation for that. But like a lot of things in evolution, it may seem puzzling.

It shouldn't make sense, since dying young or becoming infertile due to infection means organisms will be unable to reproduce, but many species may have evolved to prioritize growth over immunity while maturing. And that complexity may be why immunity varies with age in different species.

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A new study shows that smokers who switch to nicotine vapor alternatives (e.g. e-cigarettes or iQOS) may be better able to stay smoke-free in the long term - even if they didn't set out to quit smoking. 

And that even people who didn't want to stop smoking have eventually quit because they found vaping more enjoyable.  E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is the addictive component of cigarettes also, but it's toxic chemicals in smoke that cause the harms of smoking. That is why e-cigarettes have caught on as an aid to help people quit smoking for good, whereas patches and gums are only effective for about 10 percent. 

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If you want to map opioid prescription use, you can do it, right down to Congressional district. The highest rates are in the southeastern U.S., Appalachia and the rural west, all areas where there is more manual labor, according to an analysis in American Journal of Public Health.

The authors believe this could help policy makers at the federal and state level better target intervention and prevention strategies, though statistics have shown prescription use is not the problem, illegal recreational use is.

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By using infrared wavelengths, the HAWK-I infrared imager mounted on ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile was able to capture this image of the star cluster RCW 38.

RCW 38 is over 5,00 light years away (look toward the constellation Vela) and is composed of several short-lived massive stars that will eventually supernovae, but also has some 8,000 other x-ray emitting objects.

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