Great recent science posts

Somehow I kept noticing really snazzy posts this week, starting with this from the Smithsonian: The Great Chinese Dinosaur Boom

In the mid-1990s, on that hillside in Sihetun, a farmer stumbled onto the world’s first known feathered dinosaur, a creature now named Sinosauropteryx (“the China dragon bird”). Actually, the farmer found two halves of a slab, each preserving a mirror image of this dinosaur. In the freewheeling spirit that has characterized the fossil trade in the area ever since, he sold one half to one unwitting museum, and one half to another. It was the start of a fossil gold rush.The region has yielded more than 40 dinosaur species to date… Standing on a slope a few minutes’ walk from the museum site, my guide pointed out the hills of a nearby farm where Yutyrannus, a 3,100-pound feathered dinosaur, turned up a few years ago. (Think Tyrannosaurus rex, but plumed like a Mardi Gras Indian.) This was also the former home range of Anchiornis huxleyi, a chicken-size creature with enough preserved detail to become the first dinosaur ever described feather by feather in its authentic colors—an event one paleontologist likened to “the birth of color TV.”

The Smithsonian has such great articles. I used to subscribe. Maybe I should again; I never think to check in unless I happen across an article like this one. Okay, there, just signed up for their newsletter.

Click through to enjoy the picture of the dinosaur sushi plate.

Meanwhile, this completely different article: Why a ‘Lifesaving’ Depression Treatment Didn’t Pass Clinical Trials

Short version: Because of the unfortunate short-term design of the clinical trial, that’s why.

In the months and years after the 2013 halt [of the trial], as data accrued from patients who continued with the treatment, it became clear that more and more of them were moving toward and past the 40 percent improvement threshold; some were even in remission….When tracked for two years instead of the six months used for the futility analysis, the percentage of active-treatment patients whose depression scores dropped by at least 40 percent more than doubled, to 50 percent of all those in the original active group. The remission rate also rose, from 10 percent at six months to 31 percent at 24 months.

What we have here is a failed clinical trial—of a treatment that seems to work.

It’s a nasty conundrum. As Paul Holtzheimer, a lead author on the broaden study, put it at a conference last year, “To imagine that 50 percent of patients that are this severely ill, this treatment-resistant, would get better and stay better for this period of time … [We] have [a large failed study], we have these really amazing open-label pilot data—it is hard to reconcile those two.”

If I suffered from untreatable depression, I would certainly see if I could get into some kind of new trial. Or more likely I wouldn’t, as my depression would probably prevent me from aggressively pursuing treatment. But I hope in that case a loved one would look into this on my behalf.

The whole fascinating story is at the link.

Last, for something much less important but fun: These Are Some of The Strangest Optical Illusions Known to Science

Who doesn’t love illusions? These are great. Just don’t try to tell me those strawberries aren’t red. They are definitely red. And the dress is gold and white.

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1 thought on “Great recent science posts”

  1. The square candies, er, plastic tubes that look round are the weirdest. He really needs to use candy though!
    Rald Dahl would approve.

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