Midichlorian: A New Scam
This story is pretty disappointing but necessary for science to move forward. A blogging neuroscientist who goes by the pseudonym Neuroskeptic created a scientific paper which he then published to numerous journals. The article was titled, “Mitochondria: Structure, Function and Clinical Relevance” a fairly innocuous title given the importance the mitochondria plays in our Cells. The problem with this is that the paper only goes over some general information occasionally and contains serious additions which have nothing to do with the title. The paper was largely based on midichlorians, the fictional organisms responsible for the Force in the Star Wars universe. The paper was accepted by 4 journals:
- International Journal of Molecular Biology: Open Access (MedCrave)
- Austin Journal of Pharmacology and Therapeutics (Austin)
- American Research Journal of Biosciences (ARJ)
- The American Journal of Medical and Biological Research (SciEP). This journal accepted his paper but required a $360 fee which Neuroskeptic was unwilling to pay.
The issue here is that these journals are claiming that they peer-review work before publishing, legitimizing them as scientific institutions. This easily makes the case that in some circumstances there is no peer-review and they’ll publish anything as long as it looks good. All of the entries have been deleted by the way; at least they got that right. Let’s go into a little discussion of the paper.
The paper is only 3 pages long, one of which is mainly citations. Even a high school student skimming the paper would find the problems. The references to Star Wars are everywhere; here are a few examples:
- Mitochondria are never mentioned and always replaced with Midichlorian
- “…the midichlorian itself has a genome that shows substantial Force capability.”
- “Midichlorian dysfunction may be responsible for several human diseases, including autism, midichlorian disorders, cardiac dysfunction, and Force failure.”
- “The majority of the text of this paper was Rogeted .” (Neuroskeptic even wrote about that too http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/2015/02/07/plagiarism-thesaurus/#.WbkF38gjFPY)
- Ewok cardiac tissue
- Kyloren cycle
- Light saber’s hereditary optic neuropathy
- JARJAR syndrome
- Yoda’s ataxia
- Wookie’s disease
- There’s even an entire passage on Darth Plagueis
I highly recommend the paper and the blog entry where he elaborates further on some interesting developments. This is personally my favorite part, ”At JSM Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (JSciMedCentral) both of the two peer reviewers spotted and seemingly enjoyed the Star Wars spoof, with one commenting that “The authors have neglected to add the following references: Lucas et al., 1977, Palpatine et al., 1980, and Calrissian et al., 1983”. Despite this, the journal asked me to revise and resubmit.” This isn’t to say all journals are scamming you but some of them certainly do not check articles, sources or credentials as much as they claim to and need to be thoroughly investigated. Happy reading!
Here is his article on the aftermath:
Here is the original paper:
This is an interview with co-creator Dr. Emily Partridge
Credit: CTV News
The Biobag is essentially an artificial womb invented to aid early child deliveries from humans which tend to be fatal for newborns. It contains a fluid similar to the amniotic fluid which is filled with nutrients and is meant to be breathed in by the infant. The test subject in this case was a baby lamb. She was very clear in saying that this is not intended for simple fertilized eggs in a scenario where we just perform in vitro fertilization and then insert the egg into a Biobag, allowing it to mature in there. Hospitals should pay attention as this invention could soon be implemented to save children who are delivered too early.
Tunisian Solar Plant
TuNur Limited is a British solar company that has submitted a request to the government of Tunisia to allow them to develop a solar plant in southwest Tunisia, an area mostly covered in desert. At 4.5 GW it will probably be one of the largest solar plants in the world. The company hopes to utilize this sparsely populated area to produce more electricity for Europe than they could in Europe as well as produce more economic growth in the region. Due to the higher demand for clean energy in Europe they hope to fill this need in the market while reducing our dependence on more dirty means of energy production.
A Quantum Sensing Detector
The usual method you have to undergo when analyzing proteins is to perform x-ray crystallography to analyze a pattern you can determine later. This new technique is entirely different. It utilizes a quantum sensor based on nuclear magnetic resonance tomography (NMR) to detect individual atoms in biomolecules, allowing them to be precisely mapped and detailed. The NMR isn’t unknown to you though; it’s been used for a while now as MRI’s that you get at the hospital. The device was constructed by Professor Jörg Wrachtrup, University of Stuttgart, along with his team and others at the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research. The device has more applications than just identifying new proteins though. It is also envisioned as a sensor for degraded and malformed proteins you’ll see in certain diseases (allowing earlier detection) as well as a brain sensor to detect weak magnetic fields, similar to an EEG.
Ancient Babylonian Tablet Revisited
A Babylonian tablet discovered in southern Iraq by Edgar Banks (he was the real life Indiana Jones by the way) is now believed to have been used as a trigonometric table for construction purposes. Called Plimpton 322 (I’m not even going to talk about that name) its usage had long been assumed to be a, “…teacher’s aid for checking students’ solutions of quadratic problems.” The discovery was made by Dr. Daniel Mansfield and Norman Wildberger, UNSW Associate Proffesor. It wasn’t even on their minds until Dr. Daniel Mansfield came across the subject and then involved Professor Norman Wildberger. There are far more Babylonian artifacts to go and let this be an inspiration for scientists who want to explore the field more. There are plenty of secrets to uncover, if you know the right people.
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