A panoramic view of human genetic diversity has been achieved, scientists report in this week’s Nature. The international team, including Jennifer Schymick from Oxford’s Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics has examined 29 populations, tracking over 500,000 markers in the human genome. It’s one of the most comprehensive studies of its kind and shows increased associations between genetic markers (increased linkage disequilibrium) the further away a population is from Africa. Their research gives additional evidence that a ‘migration bottleneck’ occured as early humans slowly made their way out of Africa and populated Europe before spreading to the rest of the world. It also demonstrates how useful studying the number of copies of a gene can be in population-genetic studies.
Scintella is another new service from Nature Publishing Group that employs web 2.0 technology in the service of scientific communication. The site aggregates content from hundreds of science blogs, news sites and databases using RSS feeds. Scientella tailors content to a user’s specified interests and relies on a user ranking system to sort content Registering gives each users the option to save their searches to a ’sources’ page where they can organise their sources according to interest or media type. It also has a social element, allowing users to form groups around sites or subjects: already including ‘creatures from the deep’, ‘adult stem cells’ and ‘protocols’. An interesting service, although perhaps strangely detached from the array of other Nature tools; integration with Connotea or Nature Protocols, for example, might prove useful. There is - of course - a blog about the site, Scintillation, with news of new and forthcoming features.
According to the Guardian, the social networking site Facebook is to open up its pages to third-party developers, who will be able to create applications that will run on users’ pages. The company says it has 65 partners in the development, including Amazon and Microsoft, offering 85 different applications including embeddable video.
The move is being seen as the antithesis of the policy at MySpace, the largest social networking site, which has occasionally reined in the use of outside “widgets” or designs on its pages, and blocked the hosting of pictures from Photobucket, the most popular photo-sharing site - earning it the ire of some of users who found that restrictive.
But crucially the opening of the interface could turn Facebook into an online platform that will attract developers, and hence more users, to the site which is growing at 3%, or about 100,000 users, every week, with half of the registered users returning every day.
Microsoft has already said it will integrate its PopFly web application, which lets people mix and mash together data from other online sites and applications, into Facebook, while iLike.com, a social music service, has developed a widget that can be incorporated into a Facebook page that shows what friends are listening to.
Both virtual worlds released updates early this year: Google Earth 4 and World Wind 1.4 offer enhanced 3D imaging and extra tools including the ability to annotate Google Earth using built-in drawing tools and to set the angle of the sun in World Wind. Like Google Maps the virtual worlds are also keen to allow users to incorporate and map external data. World Wind 1.4 includes a ‘web map server (WMS)’ to include maps provided by external servers as ‘layers’ using xml. Google Earth continues to develop its kml format.
These overtures are being responded to as repositories of primary data make use of the range of ‘virtual’ earths to expand the range of visualisation tools available to users of their data sets. For example, the Global Diversity Information Facility provide data in the kml format.
Chemistry Central Journal has recently published its first research articles. A broad ranging open access chemistry journal divided into 55 subject-specific sections, Chemistry Central Journal is the first journal from Chemistry Central, BioMed Central’s chemistry platform.
Meanwhile, Biomed Central’s Physics platform, PhysMath Central, has announced the launch of its first journal and launched its website. PMC Physics A, which covers particle physics and related topics, is now open for submissions.