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

Concept: Phenomenon


Cracking sounds emitted from human synovial joints have been attributed historically to the sudden collapse of a cavitation bubble formed as articular surfaces are separated. Unfortunately, bubble collapse as the source of joint cracking is inconsistent with many physical phenomena that define the joint cracking phenomenon. Here we present direct evidence from real-time magnetic resonance imaging that the mechanism of joint cracking is related to cavity formation rather than bubble collapse. In this study, ten metacarpophalangeal joints were studied by inserting the finger of interest into a flexible tube tightened around a length of cable used to provide long-axis traction. Before and after traction, static 3D T1-weighted magnetic resonance images were acquired. During traction, rapid cine magnetic resonance images were obtained from the joint midline at a rate of 3.2 frames per second until the cracking event occurred. As traction forces increased, real-time cine magnetic resonance imaging demonstrated rapid cavity inception at the time of joint separation and sound production after which the resulting cavity remained visible. Our results offer direct experimental evidence that joint cracking is associated with cavity inception rather than collapse of a pre-existing bubble. These observations are consistent with tribonucleation, a known process where opposing surfaces resist separation until a critical point where they then separate rapidly creating sustained gas cavities. Observed previously in vitro, this is the first in-vivo macroscopic demonstration of tribonucleation and as such, provides a new theoretical framework to investigate health outcomes associated with joint cracking.

Concepts: Magnetic resonance imaging, Observation, Joint, Synovial joint, Joints, Phenomenon, Cavitation, Cracking joints


In recent years, cyberculture has informally reported a phenomenon named the 1% rule, or 90-9-1 principle, which seeks to explain participatory patterns and network effects within Internet communities. The rule states that 90% of actors observe and do not participate, 9% contribute sparingly, and 1% of actors create the vast majority of new content. This 90%, 9%, and 1% are also known as Lurkers, Contributors, and Superusers, respectively. To date, very little empirical research has been conducted to verify the 1% rule.

Concepts: Scientific method, Observation, Knowledge, Networks, Phenomenon, Internet culture, Lurker, 1% rule


Social media like blogs, micro-blogs or social networks are increasingly being investigated and employed to detect and predict trends for not only social and physical phenomena, but also to capture environmental information. Here we argue that opportunistic biodiversity observations published through Twitter represent one promising and until now unexplored example of such data mining. As we elaborate, it can contribute to real-time information to traditional ecological monitoring programmes including those sourced via citizen science activities. Using Twitter data collected for a generic assessment of social media data in ecological monitoring we investigated a sample of what we denote biodiversity observations with species determination requests (N = 191). These entail images posted as messages on the micro-blog service Twitter. As we show, these frequently trigger conversations leading to taxonomic determinations of those observations. All analysed Tweets were posted with species determination requests, which generated replies for 64% of Tweets, 86% of those contained at least one suggested determination, of which 76% were assessed as correct. All posted observations included or linked to images with the overall image quality categorised as satisfactory or better for 81% of the sample and leading to taxonomic determinations at the species level in 71% of provided determinations. We claim that the original message authors and conversation participants can be viewed as implicit or embryonic citizen science communities which have to offer valuable contributions both as an opportunistic data source in ecological monitoring as well as potential active contributors to citizen science programmes.

Concepts: Scientific method, Biodiversity, Conservation biology, Evolution, Observation, Nature, Phenomenon, Twitter


The spread of social phenomena such as behaviors, ideas or products is an ubiquitous but remarkably complex phenomenon. A successful avenue to study the spread of social phenomena relies on epidemic models by establishing analogies between the transmission of social phenomena and infectious diseases. Such models typically assume simple social interactions restricted to pairs of individuals; effects of the context are often neglected. Here we show that local synergistic effects associated with acquaintances of pairs of individuals can have striking consequences on the spread of social phenomena at large scales. The most interesting predictions are found for a scenario in which the contagion ability of a spreader decreases with the number of ignorant individuals surrounding the target ignorant. This mechanism mimics ubiquitous situations in which the willingness of individuals to adopt a new product depends not only on the intrinsic value of the product but also on whether his acquaintances will adopt this product or not. In these situations, we show that the typically smooth (second order) transitions towards large social contagion become explosive (first order). The proposed synergistic mechanisms therefore explain why ideas, rumours or products can suddenly and sometimes unexpectedly catch on.

Concepts: Psychology, Epidemiology, Infectious disease, Infection, Sociology, The Target, Rate equation, Phenomenon


Several studies have shown that a deterioration of skin properties, an impaired cutaneous microcirculation function and an imbalance of autonomic nervous activity are observed in smokers and in patients with diabetes mellitus or Raynaud’s phenomenon. These observations suggest that skin properties are associated with cutaneous microcirculatory function and autonomic nervous activity in pathological conditions. However, there is no published evidence to support the concept that these two functions have any relationship with skin properties even in healthy subjects. In order to investigate the hypothesis that these properties are related, we conducted a survey of healthy adult subjects to investigate the relationships between cutaneous microcirculatory function and autonomic nervous activity and skin properties.

Concepts: Scientific method, Nutrition, Biology, Diabetes mellitus, Observation, Skin, Hypothesis, Phenomenon


Strong coupling between discrete phonon and continuous electron-hole pair excitations can induce a pronounced asymmetry in the phonon line shape, known as the Fano resonance. This effect has been observed in various systems. Here we reveal explicit evidence for strong coupling between an infrared-active phonon and electronic transitions near the Weyl points through the observation of a Fano resonance in the Weyl semimetal TaAs. The resulting asymmetry in the phonon line shape, conspicuous at low temperatures, diminishes continuously with increasing temperature. This behaviour originates from the suppression of electronic transitions near the Weyl points due to the decreasing occupation of electronic states below the Fermi level (EF) with increasing temperature, as well as Pauli blocking caused by thermally excited electrons above EF. Our findings not only elucidate the mechanism governing the tunable Fano resonance but also open a route for exploring exotic physical phenomena through phonon properties in Weyl semimetals.

Concepts: Quantum mechanics, Particle physics, Condensed matter physics, Quantum field theory, Neutron, Observation, Semiconductor, Phenomenon


Many physical phenomena deviate from their established frameworks when the system approaches relevant length scales governing the phenomena. In crystallization, the relevant length scales are the nucleation length set by the nucleus size and density, and the growth length set by diffusion fields. Here we observe unexpected crystallization phenomena at the nanoscale, using metallic glass (MG) nanorods and in situ transmission electron microscopy. The asymmetry between critical heating and cooling rates disappears for small MG nanorods. Strikingly, an apparent single crystalline phase with its composition similar to the glass composition is observed for very small rods, in contrast to bulk samples. We attribute this to the lack of nuclei in small MG nanorods that approach the nucleation length, thus coined the term, nucleus starvation. By controlling the MG nanorod diameter and crystallization kinetics, we can tune the number of nuclei in a nanorod, thereby tailoring the resulting crystallization phases.

Concepts: Electron, Crystal, Observation, Nanotechnology, Transmission electron microscopy, Crystallization, Atomic nucleus, Phenomenon


Among the many fascinating examples of collective behavior exhibited by animal groups, some species are known to alternate slow group dispersion in space with rapid aggregation phenomena induced by a sudden behavioral shift at the individual level. We study this phenomenon quantitatively in large groups of grazing Merino sheep under controlled experimental conditions. Our analysis reveals strongly intermittent collective dynamics consisting of fast, avalanche-like regrouping events distributed on all experimentally accessible scales. As a proof of principle, we introduce an agent-based model with individual behavioral shifts, which we show to account faithfully for all collective properties observed. This offers, in turn, an insight on the individual stimulus/response functions that can generate such intermittent behavior. In particular, the intensity of sheep allelomimetic behavior plays a key role in the group’s ability to increase the per capita grazing surface while minimizing the time needed to regroup into a tightly packed configuration. We conclude that the emergent behavior reported probably arises from the necessity to balance two conflicting imperatives: (i) the exploration of foraging space by individuals and (ii) the protection from predators offered by being part of large, cohesive groups. We discuss our results in the context of the current debate about criticality in biology.

Concepts: Psychology, Emergence, Phenomenon, Merino, Theories of political behavior


To understand ecological phenomena, it is necessary to observe their behaviour across multiple spatial and temporal scales. Since this need was first highlighted in the 1980s, technology has opened previously inaccessible scales to observation. To help to determine whether there have been corresponding changes in the scales observed by modern ecologists, we analysed the resolution, extent, interval and duration of observations (excluding experiments) in 348 studies that have been published between 2004 and 2014. We found that observational scales were generally narrow, because ecologists still primarily use conventional field techniques. In the spatial domain, most observations had resolutions ≤1 m2and extents ≤10,000 ha. In the temporal domain, most observations were either unreplicated or infrequently repeated (>1 month interval) and ≤1 year in duration. Compared with studies conducted before 2004, observational durations and resolutions appear largely unchanged, but intervals have become finer and extents larger. We also found a large gulf between the scales at which phenomena are actually observed and the scales those observations ostensibly represent, raising concerns about observational comprehensiveness. Furthermore, most studies did not clearly report scale, suggesting that it remains a minor concern. Ecologists can better understand the scales represented by observations by incorporating autocorrelation measures, while journals can promote attentiveness to scale by implementing scale-reporting standards.

Concepts: Scientific method, Observation, Philosophy of science, Hypothesis, Knowledge, Phenomenon


We implemented a Choice Blindness Paradigm containing political statements in Argentina to reveal the existence of categorical ranges of introspective reports, identified by confidence and agreement levels, separating easy from very hard to manipulate decisions. CBP was implemented in both live and web-based forms. Importantly, and contrary to what was observed in Sweden, we did not observe changes in voting intentions. Also, confidence levels in the manipulated replies where significantly lower than in non-manipulated cases even in undetected manipulations. We name this phenomenon unconscious detection of self-deception. Results also show that females are more difficult to manipulate than men.

Concepts: Scientific method, Cognition, Observation, Philosophy of science, Hypothesis, Confidence interval, Phenomenon, 2008 albums