Oona M. Lönnstedt
Oona M. Lönnstedt

Major Journal Retracts Controversial Paper on the Dangers of Microbeads

Oona M. Lönnstedt
Oona M. Lönnstedt

A wave-making article on the effects of plastic microbeads on sea life has been retracted by the journal Science after an independent review board found its authors “guilty of scientific dishonesty.”

The original study, published in June 2016, reported that ingesting plastic microparticles like those found in cosmetics and toiletries made baby fish “smaller, slower, and more stupid,” and overall less likely to survive, as Mental Floss reported at the time.


Oona M. Lönnstedt

These conclusions were not terribly surprising, as other studies have found that plastics and the chemicals that cling to them can significantly affect animal behavior, growth, and mortality. But this particular study raised some serious red flags for other experts in the field.

In response to allegations of misconduct from the scientific community, the authors’ institution, Uppsala University, ordered a preliminary investigation, which was inconclusive. But the concerned researchers had also notified the Central Ethical Review Board of Sweden (CEPN), which launched a more thorough investigation of its own.

As experts began poring through their files, authors Oona Lönnstedt and Peter Eklöv contacted Science to notify the publication that their data was missing and could not be recovered or examined—the result, they claimed, of a stolen laptop. In response, Science published an Editorial Expression of Concern.

Back in Sweden, CEPN hired ichthyologist Bertil Borg of Stockholm University to review the work, and Borg found Lönnstedt and Eklöv’s paper to be riddled with problems and holes. “The suspicions of deceit cannot be denied,” he wrote to the board.

The CEPN group’s final report [PDF] was damning. In addition to the missing data, the board found that the authors had failed to acquire the right ethics-board permissions to experiment on the fish—and that it’s possible they may never even have conducted the experiments. The report concluded that Lönnstedt and Eklöv’s responses to the allegations “have been in all essentials deficient, at times contradictory and have not infrequently given rise to further questions.”

The report chided Science, one of the most prominent scientific journals in the world, for ever publishing the study in the first place.

Despite telling the journal that they disagreed with elements of the report, the authors requested on April 28 that it retract their study, and on May 3, Science did just that.

Some researchers feel a retraction is not a sufficient response to the extent of the authors’ misconduct, and have pressed Uppsala to investigate further.

“We take what has happened very seriously,” university representative Johan Tysk said in a statement. “It may damage confidence in the University and in research. It is also very difficult for all those involved. We intend to thoroughly review all aspects of the case, but we cannot say at present exactly how we will go about this.”

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6 Signs You're Getting Hangry
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Hangry (adjective): Bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger. This portmanteau (of hungry and angry) is not only officially recognized as a word by the Oxford English Dictionary, but it's also recognized by health experts as a real physiological state with mood-altering consequences.

That hangry feeling results from your body's glucose level dropping, putting you into a state of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Glucose is the body's primary source of energy, so when you don't have enough, it affects your brain and other bodily functions, including the production of the hormones insulin and glucagon, which help regulate blood sugar. Check out the symptoms below to see if you've crossed over into the hanger danger zone.

1. IT TAKES EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER JUST TO KEEP YOUR EYES OPEN.

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Glucose equals energy, so when your blood sugar levels are low, you may start wishing you were back in bed with the shades drawn. If you start feeling sluggish or tired even though you’re well-rested, you might just need to eat something.

2. THE EASIEST ITEM ON YOUR TO-DO LIST SEEMS LIKE AN IMPOSSIBLE TASK …

It’s hard to concentrate when all you can think about is whether you're going to order the fish or beef tacos for lunch. The distraction goes beyond fantasies about food, though. The brain derives most of its energy from glucose, so when it's low on fuel, a serious case of brain fog can set in. Confusion and difficulty speaking are among the more serious symptoms you may experience when you're hangry.

3. … AND YOU HAVE A BAD CASE OF WORD VOMIT.

Blame this on brain fog too. The gray matter in your noggin goes a little haywire when blood sugar is in short supply. That's why you may start stuttering or slurring your words. You might also have difficulty finding your words at all—it can feel like your mouth and brain are disconnected.

4. YOU’RE SHAKING LIKE A LEAF AND FEEL LIGHTHEADED.

Tremors and dizziness are both signs that you should pay closer attention to your body, which is screaming, "Feed me!" Once again, low blood sugar is often the culprit of trembling hands and feeling faint, and exhaustion and stress make the symptoms worse.

5. YOUR COWORKERS SEEM ESPECIALLY ANNOYING.

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You’re tense and irritable, and it’s starting to show. Hunger causes your body to release cortisol and adrenaline, the same hormones responsible for stress. This can put you on edge and lower your tolerance for other people’s quirks and irksome habits, which suddenly seem a lot less bearable.

6. YOU SNAPPED AT YOUR FRIEND OR PARTNER FOR NO GOOD REASON.

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Not only are you irritable, but you’re more likely to lash out at others because of it. The doses of adrenaline and cortisol in your body can induce a fight-or-flight response and make you go on the attack over matters that—if you had some food in you—would seem unimportant.

So what should you do if these descriptions sound all too familiar? Eat a snack, pronto—one with complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats. The first one brings up your blood sugar level, and the other two slow down how fast the carbohydrates are absorbed, helping you to avoid a sugar crash and maintain a normal blood sugar level. Eating small meals every few hours also helps to keep hanger at bay.

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Astronomers Discover 12 New Moons Around Jupiter
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As the largest planet with the largest moon in our solar system, Jupiter is a body of record-setting proportions. The fifth planet from the Sun also boasts the most moons—and scientists just raised the count to 79.

A team of astronomers led by Scott S. Sheppard of the Carnegie Institute for Science confirmed the existence of 12 additional moons of Jupiter, 11 of which are “normal” outer moons, according to a statement from the institute. The outlier is being called an “oddball” for its bizarre orbit and diminutive size, which is about six-tenths of a mile in diameter.

The moons were first observed in the spring of 2017 while scientists looked for theoretical planet beyond Pluto, but several additional observations were needed to confirm that the celestial bodies were in fact orbiting around Jupiter. That process took a year.

“Jupiter just happened to be in the sky near the search fields where we were looking for extremely distant solar system objects, so we were serendipitously able to look for new moons around Jupiter while at the same time looking for planets at the fringes of our solar system,” Sheppard said in a statement.

Nine of the "normal" moons take about two years to orbit Jupiter in retrograde, or counter to the direction in which Jupiter spins. Scientists believe these moons are what’s left of three larger parent bodies that splintered in collisions with asteroids, comets, or other objects. The two other "normal" moons orbit in the prograde (same direction as Jupiter) and take less than a year to travel around the planet. They’re also thought to be chunks of a once-larger moon.

The oddball, on the other hand, is “more distant and more inclined” than the prograde moons. Although it orbits in prograde, it crosses the orbits of the retrograde moons, which could lead to some head-on collisions. The mass is believed to be Jupiter’s smallest moon, and scientists have suggested naming it Valetudo after the Roman goddess of health and hygiene, who happens to be the great-granddaughter of the god Jupiter.

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