Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Determinism


We conducted the first synthesis of theories on causal associations and pathways connecting degree of control in the living environment to socio-economic inequalities in health-related outcomes. We identified the main theories about how differences in ‘control over destiny’ could lead to socio-economic inequalities in health, and conceptualised these at three distinct explanatory levels: micro/personal; meso/community; and macro/societal. These levels are interrelated but have rarely been considered together in the disparate literatures in which they are located. This synthesis of theories provides new conceptual frameworks to contribute to the design and conduct of theory-led evaluations of actions to tackle inequalities in health.

Concepts: Scientific method, Energy, Truth, Ontology, Concept, Conceptual framework, Determinism, Concepts


Bombardier beetles (Brachinini) use a rapid series of discrete explosions inside their pygidial gland reaction chambers to produce a hot, pulsed, quinone-based defensive spray. The mechanism of brachinines' spray pulsation was explored using anatomical studies and direct observation of explosions inside living beetles using synchrotron x-ray imaging. Quantification of the dynamics of vapor inside the reaction chamber indicates that spray pulsation is controlled by specialized, contiguous cuticular structures located at the junction between the reservoir (reactant) and reaction chambers. Kinematics models suggest passive mediation of spray pulsation by mechanical feedback from the explosion, causing displacement of these structures.

Concepts: Beetle, Metaphysics, Ground beetle, Determinism, Bombardier beetle


Dietary sugars have been suggested as a cause of obesity, several chronic diseases, and a range of cardiometabolic risk factors, but there is no convincing evidence of a causal relation between sugars and risk factors other than body weight.

Concepts: Medicine, Epidemiology, Nutrition, Evidence-based medicine, Systematic review, Randomized controlled trial, Free will, Determinism


Later puberty associates with lower areal bone mineral density (aBMD), and both are risk factors for osteoporosis. However, the association between puberty timing-associated genetic variants and aBMD during development, and the causal relationship between puberty timing and aBMD, remain uncharacterized.

Concepts: Osteoporosis, Genetics, Causality, Biology, Bone density, The Association, Adolescence, Determinism


The idea that events obey a definite causal order is deeply rooted in our understanding of the world and at the basis of the very notion of time. But where does causal order come from, and is it a necessary property of nature? Here, we address these questions from the standpoint of quantum mechanics in a new framework for multipartite correlations that does not assume a pre-defined global causal structure but only the validity of quantum mechanics locally. All known situations that respect causal order, including space-like and time-like separated experiments, are captured by this framework in a unified way. Surprisingly, we find correlations that cannot be understood in terms of definite causal order. These correlations violate a ‘causal inequality’ that is satisfied by all space-like and time-like correlations. We further show that in a classical limit causal order always arises, which suggests that space-time may emerge from a more fundamental structure in a quantum-to-classical transition.

Concepts: Causality, Quantum mechanics, Fundamental physics concepts, Physics, General relativity, Classical mechanics, Determinism, Theoretical physics


In the past three decades, Echinococcus multilocularis, the cause of human alveolar echinococcosis, has been reported in several new countries both in definitive hosts (canids) as well as in people. Unless treated, infection with this cestode in people is fatal. In previously endemic countries throughout the Northern Hemisphere, geographic ranges and human and animal prevalence levels seem to be increasing. Anthropogenic influences, including increased globalisation of animals and animal products, and altered human/animal interfaces are thought to play a vital role in the global emergence of this pathogenic cestode. Molecular epidemiological techniques are a useful tool for detecting and tracing introductions, and differentiating these from range expansions.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Disease, Infectious disease, Free will, Cestoda, Determinism, Southern Hemisphere, Echinococcus multilocularis


Although recent correlational studies have found a relationship between fantasy orientation (FO; i.e., a child’s propensity to play in a fantastical realm) and higher order cognitive skills called executive functions (EFs), no work has addressed the causality and directionality of this relationship. The current study experimentally examined the directionality of the observed relationship between FO and EF development in preschool-aged children through an innovative play intervention employing a randomized controlled design. A sample of 110 children between the ages of 3 and 5years were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: fantastical pretend-play intervention, non-imaginative play intervention, or business-as-usual control. Results revealed that children who participated in a 5-week fantastical pretend-play intervention showed improvements in EFs, whereas children in the other two conditions did not. Within the fantastical pretend-play condition, children who were highly engaged in the play and those who were highly fantastical demonstrated the greatest gains in EFs. These data provide evidence for the equifinal relationship between fantasy-oriented play and EF development, such that engaging in fantasy-oriented play may be one of many ways to directly enhance EF development.

Concepts: Cognition, Learning, Randomness, Free will, Executive functions, Determinism, The Play, Probability interpretations


 Unintentional drowning is the most common cause of childhood death in rural China. Global intervention efforts offer mixed results regarding the efficacy of educational programs.  METHODS:  Using a randomized controlled design, we evaluated a testimonial-based intervention to reduce drowning risk among 280 3rd- and 4th-grade rural Chinese children. Children were randomly assigned to view either testimonials on drowning risk (intervention) or dog-bite risk (control). Safety knowledge and perceived vulnerability were measured by self-report questionnaires, and simulated behaviors in and near water were assessed with a culturally appropriate dollhouse task.  RESULTS:  Children in the intervention group had improved children’s safety knowledge and simulated behaviors but not perceived vulnerability compared with controls.  CONCLUSIONS:  The testimonial-based intervention’s efficacy appears promising, as it improved safety knowledge and simulated risk behaviors with water among rural Chinese children.

Concepts: Psychology, Randomized controlled trial, Monte Carlo method, Randomness, Free will, Security, Determinism, Testimonial


Lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 (Lp-PLA2) has been implicated in development of atherosclerosis; however, recent randomized trials of Lp-PLA2 inhibition reported no beneficial effects on vascular diseases. In East Asians, a loss-of-function variant in the PLA2G7 gene can be used to assess the effects of genetically determined lower Lp-PLA2 METHODS: PLA2G7 V279F (rs76863441) was genotyped in 91 428 individuals randomly selected from the China Kadoorie Biobank of 0.5 M participants recruited in 2004-08 from 10 regions of China, with 7 years' follow-up. Linear regression was used to assess effects of V279F on baseline traits. Logistic regression was conducted for a range of vascular and non-vascular diseases, including 41 ICD-10 coded disease categories.

Concepts: DNA, Regression analysis, Genetics, Evolution, Chaos theory, Randomness, East Asia, Determinism


There is evidence that the sharing of intentions was an important factor in the evolution of humans' unique cognitive abilities. Here, for the first time, we formally model the coevolution of jointly intentional behavior and cumulative culture, showing that rapid techno-cultural advance goes hand in hand with the emergence of the ability to participate in jointly intentional behavior. Conversely, in the absence of opportunities for significant techno-cultural improvement, the ability to undertake jointly intentional behavior is selected against. Thus, we provide a unified mechanism for the suppression or emergence of shared intentions and collaborative behavior in humans, as well as a potential cause of inter-species diversity in the prevalence of such behavior.

Concepts: Psychology, Evolution, Culture, Mind, Thought, Intention, Determinism, Sociocultural evolution