SSIMWave: Seeing the screen

“We want to become synonymous with good user experience for video,” says Abdul Rehman, co-founder and chief executive of SSIMWave. The start-up, which was spun out of the University of Waterloo in Canada in 2013, wants to improve how people watch videos online.

The company’s technology is based on a family of algorithms developed by Zhou Wang, a computer engineer at Waterloo and Rehman’s PhD supervisor. The structural similarity, or SSIM, algorithms can predict how someone will perceive the technical quality of a video, and thus help to ensure that viewers have the best possible experience. Read more in Nature.

Snowball Earth melting led to freshwater ocean 2 kilometres deep

A little more than 600 million years ago, you could have drunk from the ocean.

After an extreme ice age known as snowball Earth, in which glaciers extended to the tropics and ice up to a kilometre thick covered the oceans, the melt formed a thick freshwater layer that floated on the super-salty oceans. Read more in New Scientist.

Isolated crayfish are more resistant to the effects of alcohol

For crayfish at least, a more sociable life makes booze work quicker. When crayfish were put in water containing a little alcohol, the ones who had been kept on their own over the preceding week took longer to show signs of alcohol exposure – such as tail flips – than those who had been living with others of their kind. Read more in New Scientist.

Review of Canadian science calls for better oversight, coordination—and more money

To reinvigorate its science base, Canada needs to “reinvest” almost CAD$500 million in basic, investigator-led research over the next 4 years, according to a long-awaited review of the country’s science and innovation landscape released today.

“A crucial shortcoming in the system is the level of support for independent investigator-initiated research,” David Naylor, a former president of the University of Toronto in Canada who led the nine-person review panel, told ScienceInsider. “That support has been squeezed for about a decade.” Read more in Science.

Oldest tooth filling was made by an Ice Age dentist in Italy

Scared of the dentist? Be glad you don’t live in the Ice Age. A pair of 13,000-year-old front teeth found in Italy contain the earliest known use of fillings – made out of bitumen.

The teeth, two upper central incisors belonging to one person, were discovered at the Riparo Fredian site near Lucca in northern Italy.

Each tooth has a large hole in the incisor’s surface that extends down into the pulp chamber deep in the tooth. “It is quite unusual, not something you see in normal teeth,” says Stephano Benazzi, an archaeologist at the University of Bologna. Read more in New Scientist.

Fish Farms Can Be Disease Accelerators

Much like terrestrial animal farms, fish farms are incubators for disease.

Last summer, more than half a million farmed salmon died from a sea lice outbreak in New Brunswick’s Passamaquoddy Bay. More than 250,000 died directly from the parasites, which attach themselves to the fish and feed on their skin, blood, and mucus, while another 284,000 were euthanized to try to contain the spread.

The outbreak, which affected two sites owned by Gray Group, a bankrupt aquaculture company that still had fish in its pens, was a “catastrophic loss,” says Matthew Abbott, an environmentalist who monitors Passamaquoddy Bay for the Conservation Council of New Brunswick. “Both sites were wiped out.” Read more in Hakai Magazine.

US bill restricts use of science in environmental policymaking

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is facing a future in which its hands will be tied on making many policies if a new bill becomes law.

Last week the US House of Representatives passed a bill, the HONEST Act, that would prevent the EPA from basing any of its regulations on science that is not publicly accessible – not just journal articles themselves, but all of the underlying data, models and computer code. Read more in New Scientist.

Flying foxes are facing extinction on islands across the world

Flying foxes are in deep trouble. Almost half the species of this type of fruit bat are now threatened with extinction.

The bats face a variety of threats, including deforestation and invasive species, but the main one is hunting by humans, says Christian Vincenot, an ecological modeller at Kyoto University in Japan, who highlights their plight in a perspective article in Science this week. Read more in New Scientist.

Seven scientists win the 2017 Gairdner Awards

Seven researchers have each been awarded a 2017 Gairdner Award for seminal work in areas including child nutrition and treatment for cardiovascular disease.

Cesar Victora, an epidemiologist at the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil, has won the 2017 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award for his work on maternal and child health in developing countries.

When Victora graduated from medical school in 1976, he went to work in community health in a slum in Porto Allegre, Brazil. He saw a lot of malnutrition, diarrhoea, and other infectious diseases, and the same children kept coming back. “I was treating disease episodes, but these kids remained vulnerable, and many ended up dying”, he tells The LancetRead more in The Lancet.

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