Shuttle returns, Statistical Fights and Space Beer: What NewsHour Science is Reading


Endeavour Returns for Last Time

Space shuttle Endeavour has completed its final mission in space, which included four spacewalks and the installation of a $2 billion, 15,000-pound Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which is already collecting data. The shuttle returned to earth early this morning, touching down at Kennedy Space Center and then passed shuttle Atlantis, the Orlando Sentinel reports, as Atlantis “crawled slowly toward its final turn on the launch pad.”   All eyes are now on Atlantis, which is scheduled to launch July 8 on the final mission of the 30-year space program.  (Scott Powers, Orlando Sentinel)


New Doubt Cast on Study of Chronic Fatigue

A 2009 paper in the journal Science linked a retrovirus called XMRV to chronic fatigue syndrome.  Now editors from Science are asking the authors to retract the article, after Science published two follow-up papers and an “editorial expression of concern” that undermined the association.  The association was more likely a result of contamination, said Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of Science. Authors say retracting would be “premature.” (Amy Dockser Marcus, Wall Street Journal)

Extinction and its Discontents

New York Times journalist and blogger Andrew Revkin has an interesting post on a statistical fight that stemmed from a study published in May in the journal Nature, which concluded that common calculations used to estimate species extinction rates are too high.  Authors say they have mathematical proof, but that doesn’t negate that species loss is still under way. Duke University ecologist Stuart Pimm calls the paper a sham. This post includes comments by Pimm and a response by study author Stephen Hubbell.   (Andrew Revkin, Dot Earth) 

Space Beer BrewedSpecifically for Astronauts

It’s astronaut ice cream for adults. An Australian microbrewery claims it has developed “a full body brew that can be enjoyed in space.” This looks at how it’s been designed both for taste, which changes in space, but also to prevent wet burps –  explained here.  The beer is made with reduced carbon dioxide to reduce this not-so-delightful side effect. (Lisa Mullins, Public Radio International’s The World)