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Weekly PLoS ONE News and Blog Round-Up

In this week’s PLoS ONE media digest: converting a cell phone into a clinical microscope, the effects of climate change on California’s fruit and nut crops and capturing on camera the glowing of human bodies.

In their PLoS ONE article published on Wednesday, Daniel Fletcher and colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, report a new technology, which could be used by doctors in developing countries to diagnose diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria. The device, known as CellScope, is a microscope, which attaches to camera-enabled cell phones and captures high-resolution color images of malaria parasites and of tuberculosis bacteria labeled with fluorescent markers. News coverage of the study has included reports in Scientific American, New Scientist, the Guardian and the BBC News and in the blogosphere, there have been posts at io9, Gizmodo and Engadget, along with a number of other technology and business blogs. If you listen to this week’s Science Talk podcast from Scientific American, check out the “Totally Bogus” section at the end (the findings of this study weren’t totally bogus, of course!).

Cool temperatures in the winter are essential for successful cultivation of many tree crops. However, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, this winter chill will decrease considerably during the 21st century, which will have potentially devastating effects on fruit and nut tree production in California, making the region unsuitable for growing many tree crops. The article, published in PLoS ONE on Wednesday, has been covered by the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Reuters and Discovery News.

We all know that fireflies, glow worms and a number of other organisms sometimes emit bright light as the result of a specialized chemical reaction (known as bioluminescence)—but what about humans? It seems that we don’t need superhero powers to glow like Dr Manhattan. In their recent PLoS ONE article, Masaki Kobayashi and colleagues report the surprising finding that the human body emits visible light in very small quantities and at levels that vary throughout the day, which can be captured by an ultra-sensitive CCD camera, which can detect single photons. The researchers found that photon emission was weak in the morning, increased in the afternoon and peaked in the late afternoon. You can see some of the images of the glowing by visiting the published article. The Guardian, LiveScience and Not Exactly Rocket Science have all discussed this study.

A paper by scientists at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, on the evolution of lactase persistence has also picked up some attention in the blogosphere. Write-ups of the study have been posted on both and Gene Expression.

And finally, if you’re interested in marine sciences—and particularly in coral reef ecosystems—you may want to check out this blog post by PLoS ONE Academic Editor John Bruno, who has listed a selection of papers on this topic, which have been published in PLoS ONE. Bruno also explains why he thinks PLoS ONE has become such a popular venue for coral reef scientists:

I love it because it is very fast and open access, meaning anybody, anywhere (with internet access) can read about your findings.  If you are doing science relevant to the public or management, it just makes sense not to have your results hidden behind a wall erected by corporate publishing houses that charge enormous fees to access their journals.

Marine science fans can also sign up for our marine and aquatic sciences RSS feed to find out whenever new papers in this field are published in PLoS ONE.

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