Category Archives: Science/Medicine

Evidence that ‘Thinking With Your Gut’ Works?

The right gut bacteria can make you more or less stressful, and perhaps more or less clever too:

And now evidence is emerging that these tiny organisms may also have a profound impact on the brain too. They are a living augmentation of your body – and like any enhancement, this means they could, in principle, be upgraded.

His team tested the effects of two strains of bacteria, finding that one improved cognition in mice. His team is now embarking on human trials, to see if healthy volunteers can have their cognitive abilities enhanced or modulated by tweaking the gut microbiome.

— BBC, Body bacteria: Can your gut bugs make you smarter?, via Slashdot, Gut Bacteria Affect the Brain.

Apparently a very monotonous diet reduces the variety of gut bacteria. I’m just waiting to hear that processed food was a long-term Communist plot to make us dumber.

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Gators & Crocs Use Tools

croc3ScienceShot: First Example of Tool Use in Reptiles:

In what appears to be the first example of tool use among reptiles, researchers have discovered that both animals use twigs and sticks to attract nest-building birds. In 2007, behavioral ecologist Vladimir Dinets noticed that mugger crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris) at a zoo in India would balance small sticks on their snouts near a rookery where egrets compete for sticks to build their nests. Once, one of the crocs lunged at an egret that approached. Intrigued, Dinets studied alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) at four sites in Louisiana. The alligators put sticks on their snouts … much more frequently near egret rookeries and during the nest-building season, he and colleagues report online in Ethology Ecology & Evolution.

rsz_tauren01-fullArguably this shows gators and crocs have better sense when it comes to hunting than the NSA, which apparently spent millions of dollars spying on online gamers for fear terrorists might use World of Warcraft or Second Life as meeting sites. It was, for some reason, a very popular assignment all over the TLA world:

Meanwhile, the FBI, CIA, and the Defense Humint Service were all running human intelligence operations – undercover agents – within Second Life. In fact, so crowded were the virtual worlds with staff from the different agencies, that there was a need to try to “deconflict” their efforts – or, in other words, to make sure each agency wasn’t just duplicating what the others were doing.

Sticks would have been cheaper, and about as useful.

Posted in Science/Medicine, Surveillance | 1 Comment

Every Law Student (and Many Lawyers) Should Read This

Statistics Done Wrong: The woefully complete guide.

(Found via Cory)

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I Talk Funny?

Apparently I do, at least according to these maps of American dialect and pronunciation.

My pronunciations are most likely to be like New York City (where I was born, but moved away to DC at age six) but several of them are not. Although I spent five years in the UK, and hang around a Brit a great deal, I don’t think I have (m)any English pronunciations, although I may have the odd bit of British slang.

Posted in Science/Medicine | 1 Comment

Almost As Strange as Fiction

The discovery of a new, more solid, superionic phase of water, made me think of Kurt Vonnegut, who in his novel Cat’s Cradle imagined an ultimately deadly state of water he called ice-nine, which was solid at room temperature. Fortunately the real stuff requires vastly greater temperature and pressure than found on the Earth’s surface:

One lesser known phase of water is the superionic phase, which is considered an “ice” but exists somewhere between a solid and a liquid: while the oxygen atoms occupy fixed lattice positions as in a solid, the hydrogen atoms migrate through the lattice as in a fluid. Until now, scientists have thought that there was only one phase of superionic ice, but scientists in a new study have discovered a second phase that is more stable than the original. The new phase of superionic ice could make up a large component of the interiors of giant icy planets such as Uranus and Neptune.

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Sartre’s Little Helper

University of British Columbia researchers have found a new potential use for the over-the-counter pain drug Tylenol. Typically known to relieve physical pain, the study suggests the drug may also reduce the psychological effects of fear and anxiety over the human condition, or existential dread.

— Science News Anxious About Life and Afraid of Death? Tylenol May Do the Trick, Study Suggests

I think it would have been better poetic justice if the cure for existential angst were an anti-nausea drug.

Meanwhile, just remember: if it you take too much Acetaminophen, it will destroy your liver.

On the bright side, though, Acetaminophen is the only painkiller that doesn’t interact poorly with any of my meds….

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Giant Mosquitoes Coming My Way

Mosquitoes love me. In a crowd, I’m the one who gets bitten. So imagine my joy when I read about Gallinippers! Monster mosquitoes poised to strike Florida. I added the boldfacing in the quote from the NBC Science report that follows:

One of the most ferocious insects you’ve ever heard of — it’s the size of a quarter and its painful bite has been compared to being knifed — is set to invade Florida this summer.

The Sunshine State, already home to man-eating sinkholes, invading Burmese pythonsswarming sharks, tropical storms and other disasters, can expect to see an explosion of shaggy-haired gallinippers (Psorophora ciliata), a type of giant mosquito, according to entomologist Phil Kaufman of the University of Florida.

And as adults, the voracious pests feed day and night (unlike everyday mosquitoes, which generally feed only at dawn and dusk). Their bodies are strong enough to bite through clothing, and they’re known to go after pets, wild animals and even fish, reports.

“It’s about 20 times bigger than the sort of typical, Florida mosquito that you find,” Anthony Pelaez of Tampa’s Museum of Science and Industry told Fox Orlando. “And it’s mean, and it goes after people, and it bites, and it hurts.”

Pelaez described the gallinipper’s bite as so painful it “feels like you’re being stabbed.”

Although the article says they can be as big as a quarter, judging from photos Gallinippers are often only the size of a nickel. Even so …

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