Discover Magazine, June 2010

I’d like to note two articles printed in the June issue of Discover magazine. One is a report by Douglas Fox on research into the hypothesis that the cause of schizophrenia is a childhood infection, as yet unspecified, that releases a retrovirus from human DNA and sends it to the brain, where it overstimulates neurons.  This hypothesis has been gaining credibility in recent years, and some tentative steps have been made to sketch out the sort of treatments for schizophrenia that might become possible if it is fully established. 

Another report is about the idea that “we have already found life on Mars.”  Some of the tests the Viking probes ran on Martian soil indicated chemical processes like those which represent life on earth; because the samples were so different from life-bearing soil with which science was familiar in the mid-1970s, these results were generally dismissed at the time.  Since then, extremophile organisms have been found that have led biologists to expand the range of conditions under which they can imagine life existing, and some biologists have therefore looked at the Viking results with new eyes.

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