"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

Science is best when discussed: leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!!

Sunday, February 29, 2004


The First African Conference on Sexual Health and Rights has announced its priorities, including education, prevention and breaking of taboos. And breaking up the sex slave trade. This is a Good Thing, but I always am amazed people need to have conferences to figure basic shit like this out.

But now the bad news: Studies of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), best known for being a sexually transmitted cause of cervical cancer, seems to also cause oral cancer. As in, from oral sex. D'oh!

But there is good news: Scientists have found a protein, TRIM5-alpha, in monkeys which blocks HIV infection. So this is a veryveryvery good sign.


BBC reports on a J Neurosci article in which Harvard scientists have gotten some optic nerve regrowth. Very cool.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Free Speech 

I have my issues, in general, with the idea people have that kids need to be 'protected' from seeing things like naked bodies or hearing "naughty" words. Kids in many parts of the world see/hear that sort of stuff all the time, and grow up to be happy, healthy, and probably with less psychological baggage. However, misleading kids looking for teletubbies into seeing porn is nasty.

Why we need a specific law against this, as opposed to just using the ones we have about kids and porn, is another question.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Starve the Bastards 

A new treatment for colon cancer has been approved. I works by blocking blood-vessel attracting factors from tumors, thus preventing them from taking root. The improvement in prognosis isn't huge, but its a step in the right direction.

And also, some very, very good PR for biotechnology in its purest sense.


Every now and again, certain groups that belong on the fringe get mainstream attention. The BBC, for instance, gives us the headline "Scientists Doubt Animal Research." As someone who's done a good deal of animal research, this pushed a few buttons.

This may be, in its purest meaning, true: some scientists doubt some animal research. The spin, of course, is just what the anti-experimentation nutjobs want.

Now, I understand how the animal-rights types feel: that animal experimentation shouldn't happen, and if it must there ought to be stricter standards. The article talks about these scientists wanting said stricter standards, but, well, we already have them.

What the "anti-vivisectionists" refuse to realize, of course, is that modern science, particularly medicine, is simply not possible without animal research. Even they occasionally acknowledge that performing basic experiments on humans is even less acceptable than doing so on animals, but they always say "what about computer models?" Computer models are nice, but they'll never actually predict a biological system, which have the nasty habit of doing unpredictable things.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Surprisingly Rational 

Georgia is not a place particularly famous for progressive, egalitarian politics. Relative to Alabama, yes, but not compared to the Damn Yankees.

The Ga. House of representatives has, however, rejected an amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriages. There may be hope, after all.

(via OldDemocrat, at DKos)


The New Scientist reports that teenagers are unmotivated.

Maybe they've never seen a teenage male looking for sex?

But seriously, this could lead to some cool studies. And bad parenting books. Oh well.

Leaking Life 

So the Earth may be 'leaking' life to the rest of the universe. Which may be how it came here in the first place. Damn cool idea. Might be plausible....any expert readers care to enlighten?

DNA de Carnival 

(If you say "DNA" really slow, it might almost sound like "Mahna")

Dancers at Rio's Carnival this year:
"The school's 4,000 dancers wore outfits and danced in a manner depicting blood flow, atomic energy and
the double helix of DNA. Other parts of the display were more science fiction than science fact - some
dancers dressed as Frankenstein."
Very, very cool. If only science could be so cool to more people in this country.

Free the Radicals 

Free radical theory has been a pretty important bit of conventional medical/scientific wisdom for some time. It may be wrong, changing lots of stuff. Cool.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Rant part II 

This guy says it best.

Insert Expletives Here 

I have to stop reading the news. Because every time Dubya opens his mouth, I get so totally, insanely steamed that I lose rational thought. The gay issue is the worst. What an utterly appalling bit of tripe. These people are the worst kinds of bigots. They know exactly what they're doing and won''t even own up to it and cop an excuse, because they know there is none.
And the bloody Log Cabin Republicans? Well, if there are any left after this, they deserve what they get. Sadly, the rest of us are gonna get it too. And if any of them still believes s/he is "changing the party from the inside," well, they're either stupid or naive, and I've no time or respect for either.

So there.

< /rant>

Virtual Medicine 

Researchers in Seattle have found that virtual reality program routines reduce pain sensation. I'm not sure this isn't just a distraction effect, but there's other cool stuff in there as well.

Gender Bending 

Or really the opposite. Researchers have found that some mammal mothers can 'pick' their offsprings' genders. Here comes the next craze in herbal supplements/crazy diets.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Les Deux Maggots 

Or actually, many more. Apparently the old wives were right....maggots are good for infected wounds!


Social Science 

This is pretty cool....photographs at The Guardian.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Ginsu II 

A liquid nitrogen jet used as a super-sharp, no-sharpening "knife" is being developed for commercial release. There's only an abstract available online (BASTARDS!), but it's a cool idea...

More Reasons.... 

....to sue your boss. A Finnish study has concluded that corporate downsizing increases death risks for all employees, not just those laid off.


Saturday, February 21, 2004

Call for physicists... 

This sounds really cool. Storing light in microchips could be really revolutionary.

Problem is, I don't understand enough about quantum physics or computer chips....any readers care to enlighten me??

Friday, February 20, 2004

More Vaccines 

Hopefully this kind of treatment gets going for other cancers FAST. Particularly on Leukemia.

Holiday in Cambodia 

King Norodom Sihanouk, who is apparently rather more progressive than his subjects, has come out in support of gay marriage.

Lovely. The more this stuff happens, the more asinine the bigots sound. To everyone. And the less tenable their views are.

More monarchs like that!


To the beat of my own drum. Pennsylvania nursing home staff who participated in group drumming activities seem less stressed about and less likely to leave their jobs.


So group activities, breaking up a workday and providing bond-making opportunities make people happier. Earth-bloody-shattering.

Black Death Vaccine Created 

A little bit late, considering it can nowadays be treated with penicillin.

But new vaccines are generally good, anyways.

Fatty McOversized, Part 2 

Downing Street has proposed a fat tax. It would be a VAT-like duty on foods of low nutritional and high fat values.....

You gotta laugh...it's a bloody good idea. Probably not because it'll actually succeed in "signaling to society that nutritional content in food is important," but in that people buy cheaper foods, and right now fatty, unhealthy foods are much cheaper. But making them more expensive, without lowering other food prices, may just lead to price inflation. Oops.

We're pretty cash strapped here, and I think such a tax wouldn't be a bad idea (especially since I don't eat many of the things that'd be taxed!)

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Things that bug me 

So in my reading at work today, I was reviewing FY 2004 budgets. The 2004 HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration, HHS) budget includes $123 million for abstinence education....which everyone knows don't actually work. But they can only afford $17M to address the critical nursing shortages and $60M for bioterrorism training.

Priorities, anyone??

My Rumsfeld-fu is Much Stronger Than Yours 

This is even better than the poetry book. I really like the "Grimace Palm."

Wednesday, February 18, 2004


Sci-fi technology timeline.
Pretty cool, I say.

It's Tough to be a Star 

Especially when you get ripped off.

I want more pictures!!!


The BBC reports about how the human brain seems to have differentiated itself from ape brains earlier than previously thought. This could have some very interesting consequences. I'm looking forward to reports!

Anyone know more??

Also in the BBC Brains department, Uppsala University researchers have used advanced PET techniques to track Alzheimer's, something which could previously only be done post-mortem. This opens all sorts of avenues into research. Cool!


Why on Earth is THIS not the top story at either The Post or NYT? I mean...a nobody Democrat beating a Republican in solid Republican territory??

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

This Machine Kills Fascists 

It's really a sad statement on the state of our world, and nation.

"Dude, where's my country?"

Closing the Health Care Gap Bill 

A group of lobbies, including the Urban League and National Medical Association have endorsed Bill Frist and Mary Landrieu's "Closing the Health Care Gap" bill today.

I got the bill in .pdf at work (and can't post here, but I'm sure a google would turn it up). It's designed to be "the most comprehensive national initiative to address disparities in health care access and quality."

The bill focuses on a few areas: "Improved healthcare data and quality efforts," which seems essentially to be a provision for standardization of data collection and research reporting. Which may or may not be a good thing. Standardization often means details get lost in the mix. This section also calls for "Access and Awareness Grants" for promotion of healthcare access programs. The thing is, THIS IS TOTALLY REDUNDANT to current programs. We already have a thriving system of grants under HCAP ("Healthy Communities Access Program"), which award over 150 grants annually to increase healthcare access for the uninsured....why create a new program and more bureaucracy instead of just expanding current programs? I thought Republicans were into smaller government!

A bit of this bill I would really like if I thought it was going to get implemented as advertised is expansion of the HHS Office of Minority Health. OMH is currently just an ad-hoc subsidiary of ASPE (Office of the Assistant Secretary (HHS) for Planning and Evaluation), and ought to be made into a real thing. But coming from Bill Frist, well....I doubt it.

Another good idea is reauthorization of title VII of the Public Health Service Act, which gives federal support to increase diversity of medical and health professionals serving minority communities...plus giving better access to Higher Education Act funds to historically Black graduate institutions. Sounds good to me...whats a GOoPer doing sponsoring it??

My favorite part of this bill is the increased funding for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) for research into strategies for decreasing disparities...this agency funds a lot of good work, including my job!!! Also there's funding in this bill for NIH to do similar stuff.

The problem is, this bill just says "we should establish these programs," but says not one word about funding them. *oops.*


The New Scientist reports that researchers have used viruses to deliver IGF1 to muscles, causing rapid growth.
The idea is to create treatments for things like muscular dystrophy, but of course we all know it'll be used as a performance-enhancer by cheating athletes and thus banned before any actual patients get treated. It's a really cool application, and I hope it goes somewhere useful.

Speaking of too many hormones.....women at the most fertile part of their menstrual cycles rate other women more harshly than do women at less fertile stages.

How bout some fun debate about the sociobiology of this finding, please?

Censorship in the USA 

As usual, the armchair puritans have done it again. They've decided that hundreds of shows, like "I Dream of Jeanie," "Dexter's Lab" and "CNN En Espagnol" are inappropriate and shouldn't get closed-caption funding. It's too bad it hasn't made the news yet. Link.
(via Neil Gaiman)

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Calcium and Mules 

University of Idaho scientists cloned a few mules last year, and they're now alive and healthy, and providing an interesting model system for developmental control, and possibly cancer control.

Calcium gradients are very important in all systems...too much of it can activate apoptosis, or "cell suicide," and with too little cells die, or fail to develop. All in all, this sounds pretty cool, and hopefully there'll soon be a full paper to read.

Life In Plastic 

I understand we live in a world ruled by marketing and PR campaigns, and that there are people who actually take such things seriously. But this is just bloody stupid.

I mean, are the kids really going to notice?

Alien Nation, Part II 

So recent specrometry readings indicate that Jupiter's moon, Europa, may be a b all of acid and peroxide, not salt water as previously thought. Which is bad news for the development of life there.....life as we conceive it, anyways.

As I noted earlier, there's this maddeningly persistent habit scientific journalists (and scientists) have of assuming that life everywhere has to conform to what it looks like on Earth: organic compounds, cells, electricity, etc.

Come on guys! Have a little imagination...that's the fun of being a scientist!

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Mental Health Day 

I majored in psychology at university, so these two BBC bits interested me.

Researchers seem to have found a link between lead exposure (from leaded gasoline) and schizophrenia. This will have the immediate effect of furthering the push to ban leaded gas worldwide, but may not really be such a big deal in terms of schizophrenia research (an area in which I worked for a few years): there are tons of things linked to schizophrenia, including genetics, virus infections, and traumatic events. Inhaled pollution (i.e., smog) was in fact already one of those things. It would be nice if a key ingredient in said smog were identified, but the thing about schizophrenia is: there's almost certainly more than one cause. This is a disease so ridiculously complicated we don't know, as the article mentions, whether it's even a disease or if it's a number of diseases.
But it's cool nonetheless.

Suicide prevention could be said to be the basic goal of clinical psychology. I'm not sure how meaningful this study is, but it's certainly interesting. Seeing how governments might generalize the finding to other events could get bizarre, though.

Drinking or Driving 

The idea of a hydrogen power economy has been around for some time (even El Busho himself talked about it, although one presumes he was unaware of it at the time). But Minnesota researchers may have found a way to make it work, using an ethanol reactor small enough to fit in a car.

It sounds from CNN's summary that this process would require lots of ethanol, and we needn't look much farther than Brazil to see that an ethanol economy is less than ideal. (second thoughts: Brazil's ethanol is from sugar cane, a much more problematic crop than the corn-based ethanol used at UM for this....)

Be My Cosmic Valentine 

Via Slashdot, we learn of a 10000000000000000000000000000000000 karat diamond in the constellation Centaurus.

For the cheez-fans, there's a silly graphic of the thing.

So, if a guy offered you that thing on a ring, would you say 'yes'??

Les Miserables 

According to The Scotsman, Sir Cameron has decided to ahead with plans to replace half of his orchestra for the show in London's famous West End with a 2-PC synthesizer system.

I think this is a cool idea, in as much as it ought to help keep the show going (a nearly $10000/week savings!), but then again....synthesized music, no matter how good it is or how well it's done, never sounds like a real orchestra.

And I'll be very sad when this sort of thing starts going all the way.

Friday, February 13, 2004

M3d13v4l h4X0rZ 

Living up to its url, "Something Awful" has taken on the Bayeux Tapestry. The 'Oregon Trail' ones are my favorites.
(via Making Light)

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Alien Nation 

What would an alien look like? It's an interesting question, and this article provides a semi-decent summary of some ideas. Which are wrong. The author points out that they almost certainly won't be humanoid.

I agree with that, but more importantly, he touches on something less discussed in ET circles: we have a pretty narrow definition of life. Oxygen and carbon are not the most common elements in the universe. Why should other life be so based? And why should it look like anything we see on Earth, or even like anything we can comprehend?

Good read. Describe ET.

Stinky and Drink-y 

A new series of tests for alcohol consumption has been developed. These tests can say if you've been drinking in the last day, week, even a month.

The article touts how this can be used as evidence in drabs driving cases, post-facto, but I fail to see how. These sorts of tests may easily detect if you've had a drink within their sensitivity range but not necessarily when in that period. I was in a car accident once. It wasn't my fault, and I wasn't drunk. But I went home and had a drink to calm my nerves. By these tests, I'd have been "drunk driving."

Plus, it's kindof creepy, ever more insidious ways to monitor people. The necessary effect of technology, it's true, but as much as I like Asimov and Heinlein and Bradbury, I wish they weren't right so often about certain things.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Bookslut reviews the Democratic presidential candidates. This is possibly the best sum-ups that ever failed to contain any real information whatsoever. Mr. Schaub should write for The Onion.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Fatty McOversized 

Leptin has long been considered key to obesity. Now, researchers have used viruses to deliver large doses of it to rats fat cells (adipocytes), which then transform into lean, fat-burning cells. Pretty cool. A long way off human use, however. If it works, I'd like to catch that bug!

In a related yet completely opposite field, Japanese scientists seem to have found a way to use stem-cell enriched fat to....make bigger boobs. Which of course is the goal of all modern science and technology. Bigger and better and younger-longer boobs.

Too bad boobs aren't my cup of tea. Looks like there will be much more of them soon. Although hopefully they at least won't be attached to Jacksons.

Boolean Manners 

I DEMAND to speak with a manager!!!
A computer program is supposed to sense frustration with automated phone answering menu systems.
I'll believe it when it works.

Inappropriate Displays 

"In observance of President's Day on February 16, learn about First Ladies, their causes of death..."
The CDC seems to have some, uhm, *issues.*

Much Ado 

About virtually nothing. Telling people how cold it is may be a good marketing tool for weather forecasters, but honestly: there's only three things that matter. Hot, moderate, and cold. When it's cold enough to even talk about wind chill, you probably ought to wear a coat anyway.

Preventive Medicine 

This piece is interesting. It talks bout how more and more people in the US are being diagnosed and treated as having "pre-disease" conditions. And by "treated" they mean mostly pharmacologically. The author points out that much of this drive has come from drug companies, but doesn't really talk about the reasons not to prescribe.

Take hyperlipidema, aka high cholesterol, for example: the drugs used to treat this are "statins." Statins have a pretty good track record, but are associated with liver failure, require biannual blood tests (in excess of those otherwise recommended), and may or may not have been tested thoroughly in younger (under 40 years) patients. They are costly. And it's debatable how well they really prevent heart attacks.

Then there's treating pre-diabetes. I don't know, but it seems that pharmacological treatments there would potentiate the disease.

Anyone know anything?

Two Heads Not Better 

A girl born with an extra head has died after surgery to remove it. She was the first recorded case of a baby not stillborn with this 'condition.'
Probably it's more due to random chance (a twin neither fully formed nor fully reabsorbed, a la Stephen King's abysmal The Dark Half) than mutations, but why can't we get a few superpowers from all this shit, hmmmm????

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Gender Bending 

This is a really cool article on gender-switching in Albanian culture.
In this very strictly gender-segregated society, some women can achieve some level of power and self-determination...by ceasing to have one of the most basic powers of self-determination. It's all well and good that the Sworn Virgins get to have many of the rights and privileges of being a man, but they give up sexuality. And companionship, it seems. While it sounds 'better' on the surface than most repressive societies' systems, I'm not sure I buy that. At all.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Big Gay.... 

...Penguins. This isn't new, of course, I remember reading about it a few years ago. The article does, however, present a number of interesting points and discusses what gay animals may or may not mean to us. Well worth the read.

Fair and Balanced 

Not. The Washington Post used to be a pretty good paper. Now it caters to the White House's political wants. The evidence? This bit of tripe. In an article about the GAO's investigation of Bush administration Medicare ads, the writer, Amy Goldstein, cries "election-year jockeying" on the Democrats who called for the inquiry. First of all: duh. They're always pulling shit like this. But so is the other side. She never even hints that the ads may be, as suggested by there being an investigation in the first place, Republican jockeying. And she paints the Medicare bill as a wonderful, helpful thing. Which it is not. The added drug benefit is opt-in, at the cost of having any provider choice, quality control, not to mention about three times the budget that was given when the law was passed.


Friday, February 06, 2004

A Brain for My Mast...errrr...Valentine! 

"Brain regions associated with complex, organized neural processes—in addition to those linked to sexual arousal—light up when males encounter appealing mates." Uhm, I dunno, but in my not insubstantial experience on both sides of the equation, complex and organized are not the right words for male mating rituals.
But the brain is a funny place that way, I guess.
(via Kos)


In a move that has pissed off an amazing array of Capitol Hill People Who Don't Ever Agree on Anything, General Accounting Office (GAO) head David Walker has sacked managing director of healthcare William Scanlon.

Even I generally view the GAO as a force of good, and so this is distressing.

More to come.

Reading Material 

In 2002, Stephen Wolfram ruffled a good number of scientific feathers in publishing A New Kind of Science, and now he's posted it online.
It's on my reading list, add it to yours.
(via Slashdot)

Not a Duchene Smile 

He's just trying to look like a nice, trustworthy 'feller'.....

President Bush must now defend on
Capitol Hill his $2.4 trillion budget
proposal for fiscal year 2005

Since I doubt more than three of my readers have any reason to know what a Duchene Smile is, here's the story:
1862: Neurophysiologist and scientific photographer Duchene was interested in facial muscle structure. He used electrodes to artificially stimulate different facial expressions, and examined their relationships to natural emotional expressions.

The Duchene Smile
: A genuine (natural) smile can be distinguished from a fake one by ‘wincing’ of the eyes: they (and/or the cheeks) bunch up in real smiles. The concept pretty mucdisappeareded until resurrected by Paul Ekman eighty years later.

Pretty cool, huh?

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Amusements du Jour...

States I've visited,



Link to your results in comments, so I can be jealous!

Hellllooooooo Kitty! 

Thanks to Ernie for pointing out this monstrosity:


Yeah, this pretty much covers things. Being mentioned on Instapundit is a slightly questionable life goal, but hey, we can't all be superstars-in-our-own-minds.


The problem, for me, with taking advanced classes, was always that I'd forget the basics. So I have to remind myself.
Chi-squared is a measure of how much observed cell counts in a 2-way table diverge from the expected cell counts.
Thus, a large chi-squared value indicates a big difference, and provides evidence against a null hypothesis.
The chi-squared distribution is what's used to test the difference for significance. Use the chi-squared statistic, with df = (#rows-1)(#columns-1)
Pretty cool, huh?

By the way, Chi-squared was developed in 1900 by Karl Pearson, and is the oldest inference procedure still used in its original form. Pearson's work really set stats off as a separate discipline.

Toxic Sodas?? 

India has censured PepsiCo and CocaColaCo for excessively high levels of four pesticides: lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos. All of which are nerve toxins. They're not *targeted* at humans, but can't be healthy. The Soda companies are clamoring about how they care about their customers, &tc., &tc....

Ups and Downs 

This is a very good thing, except that it will also cause some annoyances. I'm breaking my no-politics policy rather blatantly here, because this is so important. And I take it very personally (duh).

Civil rights are crucial, and that's what we're talking about here. Anyone who says different can move someplace like Saudi Arabia or Kazakhstan, where they don't have constitutions protecting citizens from discrimination, or really much of anything.

The problem is: this is really major ammo for Republican wingnuttery. They know that if they scream loud and long enough, enough people are too stupid (due to poor education, as per Republican policy) to question or even know the difference.

Plus, the Post has gotten embarrassing. "The impending reality of court-ordered same-sex marriage in a U.S. state..." Could they spin it a little more obviously please?


Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Stupid Human Trick 

This if from hanging-fire.net via Teresa Nielsen Hayden's brilliant (as in, read it every day!) Making Light:

"While sitting in your chair, lift your right foot slightly off the ground and move it in clockwise circles. Now draw the numeral “6” in the air with your right hand. Your foot will involuntarily reverse direction."

A Sixth Sense, Enviro-paint, and More Mutant Mice 

It's been a pretty good day for science publishing. New Scientist has a few articles that I'm really keen on:

Here, Canadian psychologist Ronald Rensink has shown a pre-attentive "mindsight" in some subjects, whereby they detect a change or abnormality in a situation, without being able to say what's going on. A 'feeling' or 'sixth sense' if you will. I'd like to read the actual paper, as opposed to the NS summary, but I'm not buying bits of it. First of all, small sample size (N = 40). Second, I don't like trying to find an effect, like 'proving' or 'disproving' psychic abilities, or sixth senses. Often leads to really shaky science. But we'll see if it gets replicated or elaborated on.

Ecopaint goes on sale in Europe next month. The paint's base is a special polymer and mineral complex which absorbs and neutralizes NOx gases, which are common smog-causing pollutants. Pretty cool idea, but I worry when they say it produces "harmless quantities of carbon dioxide," because one car only produces harmless quantities of NOx, but 5 million...... Ditto for the nitric acid it releases. I guess gardens are gonna go out of fashion pretty soon then!

I'm not sure how I feel about eating fish-oil laden beef or chicken. That's the next step from this research producing the famously healthy omega-3 fatty acids in mice. One consideration not mentioned there, or really in any health-fad writing about these oils, is that while yes, they're good for you and most people don't get enough for optimal health benefit, too much of them is a bad thing. The cardiovascular benefits of omega-3's are quickly outweighed by oxidative liver damage when you get too much of them. I used to work in a biochem lab that did work on this stuff, so if there's interest, maybe I'll track down and review a few papers.

Tiny Mouse Balls.... 

Blogging now gets lighter, as I've started my new job. Yay employment!

The BBC reports that US scientists have gotten monkey testes grafted onto mice's backs to produce functional sperm, with lots of potential applications, from infertility therapies to male birth control experiments.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Don't just *read* the science.... 

FIGHT ABOUT IT!!!! Looking at my site meter, I wonder who's reading. There's a comments thingey for a reason people!


Something we should all be thinking about, and doing whatever we can to help.


The Public Library of Biology publishes about how monkeys will throw temper tantrums and refuse a reward if they see another monkey given a better one for similar performance. This points to an inherent cost-benefit analysis system, further wreaking havoc with economists theories.

The article further discusses how economists and neuroscientists are working together to get a better picture of (on the economists' side) how people make decisions and (the neuroscientists) how the brain controls things. Ventral midbrain dopamine seems to be involved. No big surprise there.....it's crucial to reward-based activities.

Further discussion of humans being hard-wired for cooperation, and thus not acting purely rationally in economists' terms.

Best quote: "This is starting to give economists a way to loop back into experiments—they realized they've got to crack the head open."

Monday, February 02, 2004

Commercial Bowl 

I didn't watch the Football Thing yesterday. I wasn't invited to a viewing party, and since commercials don't interest me any more than the actual game, I chose to go to my housemate (a truly first-rate jazz guitarist)'s show last night at Columbia Station instead. Which was a blast.

But anyway, come morning and more important news (at least in terms of front-page headline material) than bombings in Northern Iraq, all that I heard was about Janet's tit. Ho-frikin-hum. And not just because I'm gay and not swayed by breasts. Seeking Irony has the best comments I've seen on this.

Satire is Dead 

Neil Gaiman quotes Tom Lehrer to bring us the
most horrifying thing I have ever heard.
Please let them be kidding.
They must be kidding.

"I want a doctor to take your picture.... 

...So I can look at you from inside as well..." From the classic 80's cheeze-fest "Turning Japanese" to actual reality. Using gold-laden viruses, scientists can use refracted lasers to see inside cells like never before. There could be some really cool applications here.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

"The shoals of the island of stability" 

Two new elements have been synthesized by physical chemists in Russia, one (number 115) decays rapidly to the other (number 113), which is stable for about 1.2 seconds. Scientists are searching for an "island of stability" in the man-made, super-heavy regions of the periodic table where new atoms are stable and useful, as opposed to just fleeting and cool.
Thing is, they were produced at a facility of dubious repute. But more elements is a very cool concept, especially now that my periodic-table-memorizing days are over.

Similarly, Italian scientists have produced hypernuclei. Which are apparently very amazing, but I'm a biologist and don't really understand the physics here. Informative comments welcome!


Also from the BBC, this is incredibly useful.
Maybe not as good as the Merck Manual, but probably good enough for most non-medical-professionals.

Cue that Weird Al song... 

Grapefruit diet....lalalalala

According to The BBC, the grapefruit diet popular so many years ago may actually work. People who ate lots of grapefruit lost more weight than those who didn't. Pretty cool, and I love grapefruit too so yay.

The effect is hypothesized to result from lowering of insulin levels. The thing is, one of the properties of grapefruit, which may or may not be related to its diet-aiding powers, is that it alters the effects of many drugs, causing potentially lethal side effects.

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