Curiosity Is Surprised by a Rock; Rejected Papers Come Back Stronger

Discovered: Martian rock has cousins on Earth; history of rejection brings increased attention to research; X-raying illuminated manuscripts; upsetting news affects men and women differently.

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Discovered: Martian rock has cousins on Earth; history of rejection brings increased attention to research; x-raying illuminated manuscripts; upsetting news affects men and women differently.

Curiosity finds Martian rock similar to ones found on Earth. Everyone's favorite NASA rover has stumbled on something surprising. When researchers had Curiosity study some random triangular rock, they didn't expect to find that an uncanny similarity to igneous rocks found on Earth. Igneous rocks, typically found on islands like Hawaii and St. Helena, are volcanic in origin. "It was a bit of a surprise, what we found with this rock," says Curiosity scientist Ralf Gellert. "It's igneous ... but it seems to be a new kind of rock type that we encountered on Mars." The rover shot the football sized rock with its Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer last month, then examined extracts and the divots left in the stone. The rock is named Jake Matijevic, after an engineer who helped build the rover but died just days after it landed on Mars. [The Guardian]

More attention given to papers with history of rejection. We all love success stories, especially when they involve huge hurdles before getting to the success part. Scientists appear to be no different, according to a survey of the publication history of more than 80,000 research papers. McGill University researchers were able to show that studies with a history of rejection received more citations than those that were published immediately upon submission. The survey encapsulated submissions to 923 journals from 2006 to 2008, and showed that studies rejected by one journal and picked up in another actually drew more attention than those published on "first intent." Vincent Calcagno, who initiated the survey, says, "We think the most likely explanation is that inputs from editors and peer reviewers, and the greater amount of time spent working on resubmissions, makes papers better and improves the citation impact of the final product." The takeaway? Don't despair, struggling scientists! "These results should help authors endure the frustration associated with long resubmission processes and encourage them to take the challenge," the researchers conclude. [McGill University]

Illuminating old manuscripts. After that ruined Jesus fresco became the laughing stock of the Internet, antiquarian want to avoid more botched restoration jobs at all costs. By using fiber optic and X-ray technology to study illuminated manuscripts, Cambridge University researchers hope to better understanding how the intricate texts were created. Their findings may help restorers touch up the priceless artifacts without scuffing them up. Describing the manuscripts dating from 1350 B.C. to 1900 A.D., lead researcher Spike Bucklow says, "Artists had a fantastic knowledge of how to get the effect they wanted from the pigments they used. How much they knew about why the materials worked is of great interest. This research will help to unpick the art of manuscript illumination." Illuminated manuscripts have been studied extensively by art historians, but the physical history of their creation remains in large part a mystery. Bucklow and his colleagues' new approach will shed light on the pigments used, and the sketches underlying the images. [BBC]

Disturbing news affects men and women differently. We've previously written about research that connects watching too much traumatic imagery (e.g. footage from 9/11) with increased physical and psychological illness. Now, new findings suggest that the mark left by upsetting news is greater for women than it is for men. Montreal's Center for Studies on Human Stress studied 30 male and 30 female subjects and their stress levels in response to newspaper stories. Half the group read "neutral" reports, while the rest read stories about violence, misfortune, and other mayhem. After these reading sessions, the scientists took samples of the subjects' cortisol, a stress-related hormone that triggers the "flight or fight" response.  The cortisol levels were same for both the men and women, for both the readers of the neutral and the disturbing stories. But the study doesn't end there! The researchers then subjected the participants to a stressful situation (job interview; pop math quiz). Taking cortisol samples after these tests, the readers of the disturbing news had higher levels of the stress hormone in their saliva, especially the female subjects. And, when asked the next day to recall the stories they had read, the women who read the disturbing reports exhibited the best memory, implying that the stressful effects stay with them longer. More women suffer from PTSD than men, and this research may help towards explaining why. [Los Angeles Times]

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