Friday, September 30, 2005
Married women have more sexual problems than single ones. This may be due to screaming children.
Habitual liars' brains are 'better wired' for lying.
As if paramilitary dolphins weren't enough, gorillas are using tools. Dr. Zaius, I presume?
Also, I am addicted to Foster's Home For Imaginary Friends. I just downloaded the theme song, which is genius.
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Beer and music, of course, go together. Another thing that goes with beer, is more beer. Thus, German researchers (of course they're German) have developed a beer mat - a coaster on this side of the pond - which senses when the mug is almost empty, and pages the barkeep for a refill. This is a brilliant concept, except for being a bit daft. What if you hold your beer aloft the whole time? If you're really just sitting at a bar (the only time you use a mat anyways), a decent bartender will see you're low and offer a refresh anyways. I really don't want anything that will make bad bartenders have an easier time of it!
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Guess which one I think is the better option.
[UPDATE 7:45 AM]: There are some days when waking up to any song called "Farewell Blues" is just not a good idea.
New British treatment guidelines call for kids with depression to be treated with therapy before and in addition to being medicated. Not that this is actually any sort of change - everyone has always said that meds were supposed to be a last resort. People just can't be bothered to seek treatment, they just want a pill to make it better. Nevermind that these drugs have profound effects on kids, and that many times kids are just kids - emotionally labile, prone to tantrums, etc. - and it's just parents demanding that they act like they're not kids. I don't really have more to say, but it pisses me off that we medicate our kids out of their minds.
[UPDATE]: A leading SSRI, Paxil, may cause birth defects, according to a GlaxoSmithKline press release (PDF). Not that this should really surprise anyone, but still.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
The author calls for more science blogging, and I wholeheartedly agree. More Public Library of Science too.
In what may pave the way for some really silly bureaucratic regulations, English researchers say that adding a tasteless, odorless seaweed extract, alginate, to junk foods would make them healthier. Alginate is essentially dietary fiber, and is added to many things already as a thickening or gelling agent. No one disputes the claim that most people (at least in the West) should be getting more fiber in their diets, and clearly it's easier to just add fiber to foods that people eat than to change their habits. I wonder, however, if the effects will be what people seem to expect: research indicates that people who eat high-fiber diets are healthier, but how much is due to the fiber itself and how much to the foods (fruits, veggies, etc.) from which they get it?
Monday, September 26, 2005
I'm not saying there's nothing wrong with people living long periods on full-support, tubes coming out all over the place and taking millions of pills, with no hope of recovery, just because they (or in the case of many elders, their families) just don't want to let go. There is. There is, however, nothing wrong with making someone's last years as comfortable and dignified as possible, and keeping them going as long as they can really go.
Medicare doesn't pay for much of that. In my grandfather's last years, living with Alzheimer's and Parkinson's and heart trouble and hip trouble and more, he used up his Medicare allotment in just the first few weeks of a year. Luckily, he had supplemental coverage, and family to help out, but Medicare did not bear the costs of keeping him going.
Trying to quantify how much it's worth paying to keep someone alive is as crass as it gets. Keeping Terri Schiavo plugged in was a disgrace, not because her life wasn't worth saving, but because it couldn't be, and prolonging her non-life was denigrating, as opposed to enriching her and those around her.
The great threat to Medicare's financial stability is the price gouging practiced by our pharmaceutical company overlords, and their brothers-in-extortion, the private insurance sector.
Serenity is a movie based on the ill-fated (but reportedly awesome) series called Firefly, about people who band together struggling to survive in space, amidst much mystery and secret-keeping. And probably some secret-revealing, but not too much.
I'm all for it. Yay movies.
[UPDATED]: I thought the preview was tomorrow, but it's tonight and tonight I volunteer. So I will not be previewing Serenity. Oh well. Hopefully those who do will like it and it will be worth my seeing in the future.
Yeah. Dolphin assassins. With guns. Apparently they don't even need opposable thumbs.
Shame, shame, shame on NS for giving any space at all to this crap, and double shame for them giving it any credence. Journalistic balance is nice, but it is not appropriate to science.
Friday, September 23, 2005
Valence is a totally subjective, cultural phenomenon: "FLY" wasn't positive 50 years ago, "KKK" is unfortunately not negative to some. Then there's the homogeneous sample group - mostly white folks.
Check out the typos in the press release. "Then" does not equal "than." There's a stunning lack of definition of which data was from which study. But you should still not name your kids after the city in which they were conceived. That is tacky, Mr. and Mrs. Beckham.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Not seeing the paper, I can't say for sure that the results aren't as famously biased as many tobacco and other drug studies, but it does make sense. Drat.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Wholly unrelated, but also interesting: Israeli researchers claim that many kids diagnosed with ADHD are, in fact, just tired. The team says that when kids are sleepy, they tend to be cranky, impulsive, and may be overactive in attempting to compensate and keep themselves awake, and that giving them stimulants (like Ritalin) is effective because it reduces tiredness.
Now, I would love to believe that ADHD could be cured by letting kids get more/better sleep - I have a long series of thoughts about how kids today are pressured by over-achieving parents to do everything - but I seriously doubt this is the case.
First of all. Stimulants' work against ADHD is fairly well explained by the reaction curve,* and while the tiredness hypothesis makes intuitive sense, intuitive sense is not always a good bet in biology. Secondly, I'd have to see the data to be sure, but there is little doubt that improving sleep quality will improve school performance, so that could easily be an artifact.
* Imagine your state of arousal like a curve or half-circle. If non-ADHD people are naturally at about 30 degrees on that curve, taking stimulants pushes them 'forward' 60 degrees to 90 - the top, so they get hyper. Similarly, if ADHD people are naturally at 80 degrees, taking stimulants pushes them 60 degree 'forward' to 140 - which is lower on the arousal scale than where they started.
Any bukkake fans out there will really enjoy this news: scientists have found a way to make hamster sperm glow green. The point is to better study sperm development and gene expression, but there's so much more potential for entertainment here. On literally the other end of the hamster-amusement lifespan, BoingBoing points us to Hamster Death Match.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Compliments of non-blogger b. and wherever she found it on Shanghaiist.
The Future Bible Heroes last album, Eternal Youth has been on my playlist since it came out over a year ago. On shuffle today, the song "Kiss Me Only With Your Eyes" is playing. A prime example of Stephin Merrit's lyrics, the story in this song could almost seem quaint and funny - a woman who coyly refuses to be kissed, and corrects anyone who tries by 'rapping his knuckles with her fan' - but the sounds, both the gorgeously atmospheric instrumentation and Claudia Gonson's airy swoon, convey a compelling sadness and loneliness.
It's probably not good for my mental health to listen to too much music like this, but it's so good, how can I not? Plus, Tuscadero and Ace of Base are coming up.
"House-Senate Katrina probe dies as Dems refuse to participate in GOP-controlled probe. Mammalian biologists cite development as new evidence for late-stage testiculogenesis."
Also, as if it wasn't already bad enough to be a bit pudgy in elementary and middle school, it appears that kids who are not really overweight but just a but, err, soft around the edges, have warning signs of later cardiovascular problems. The thing is, I almost wonder if the traits they see in these kids don't mean something entirely different in kids than in adults. It wouldn't be so shocking - kids bodies react in different ways to lots of things. And I am still against putting kids who don't really need it through the stress and humiliation of being on a diet.
Monday, September 19, 2005
They may also not make it to market in the US, due to political interference. The idiot brigade opposing these vaccines is not the one I'’d expect: it'’s the 'moral conservatives,'” who believe that protecting their kids from debilitating and often lethal diseases will encourage them to have more sex, and thus isn't worthwhile.
I cannot even begin to find words to express how angry this makes me. People who are so caught up in their own self-righteousness that they would put their own children at risk. Granted that they have already demonstrated this in their relentless push for abstinence-only '‘sex ed,'’ but still; this is even more direct. If you get cervical cancer, you will probably die. Gonorrhea and Chlamydia, while curable, are nasty and can be debilitating and disfiguring. If you are willing to refuse to vaccinate your kid for any reason, you should not have kids, but especially for shots like this. 'Culture of life'’ my ass.
Upside: people with STI's that their parents could have prevented them getting will (I hope and pray) be less likely to adopt said parents' psychotic viewpoints.
Arrrr! Shiver me timbers! I've been touched by his noodly appendage! It's talk like a pirate day!
Friday, September 16, 2005
1. Shakira - Escondito Ingles
2. Serge Gainsbourg - Comic Strip
3. Self - While the Gangsters Sleep
4. Yoko Kanno - (Live in) Baghdad (audio)
(via Dave Barry)
A Sydney, Australia man very nearly spontaneously combusted on Thursday, due to the 40,000 volts of static electricity he'd built up in wool-and-nylon outfit. Now, this story has hoax written all over it, but if it's even a little bit true, I'm happy. Because now we know a good reason to wear nylon and wool together.
Perhaps. University of Michigan researchers claim to have found that self-applied accupressure, applied at mid-day, helps students be more alert. The n is tiny, the control is abysmal, and it screams placebo effect, but hey, I'd give it a shot. Hopefully the authors can come up with a good follow-up study before the DOQRAPS squad arrives.
Thursday, September 15, 2005
The more you eat, the more you....don't get cancer?Cool.
I don't like Carlton, but anything that abuses the Carmina Burana in way not yet achieved by a Stallone or Schwarzenegger movie makes me happy. Here.
Alas, with today's spiraling healthcare costs, even the fabulously successful coffee giant is feeling the burn of its
We need a solution ASAP, or even the good guys will have to stop giving benefits, or go out of business.
Crybabies may be annoying, but they may also remember things better than the more stoic among us.
I am, unsurprisingly, all for the efficient disposal of dead cats.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Also, I declare obiang to be Word of The Day.
"Dude, Atkins is so obiang - I just take Tungslim!"
I was unaware that there was ever a time when kids didn’t help take care of their older relatives. My dad’s grandparents lived with him and his parents, and he certainly helped take care for them as necessary, and I’ve always helped with my grandparents when needed. It’s what family is supposed to do.
The article suggests that tasks, such as helping their relatives with bathing, dressing, cooking, eating, shopping, and household tasks, are more suited to adults and that the kids performing them are “vulnerable” and victims of a health system failure. Now, I will be the first to say that we have a failing health care system, but that’s due to stuff like lack of insurance, quality controls, and decent patient education, not kids helping around the house.
I did a lot of shopping, cooking, ‘household tasks,’ and even helping older relatives with other stuff when I was younger, and it wasn’t a burden, it was what you did. Because that’s what family does. And frankly, making kids help around the house is hardly an abuse or exploitation, like, say, keeping them in cages.
The trouble is that believing something is infallible is dangerous: new evidence suggests that there could be as many as 2000 fingerprint ID errors in the US each year, leading perhaps to wrongful convictions or worse. Beyond the simple problem of believing that something which is not infallible is infallible, there is the problem that, in believing fingerprints infallible, investigators could be sloppy about them, leading to more errors.
This revelation does not bode well for biometric ID systems, for which I will shed na'ry a tear.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
I've come up with a bunch of basic ideas and some variations, and would love feedback. Thanks!
See the stuff....
Also, since the White House has recently proven so good at determining who intends to do what with WMDs, how is the Pentagon even vaguely considering this? Oh yeah, people who say 'no' to dubya don't stick around.
* Any preemptive nuclear strike will, it's probably safe to assume, trigger other preemptive nuclear strikes by any number of countries, probably heralding in a nuclear winter**.
**Of course, dubya et al. may view this as a solution to the global warming in which they do not believe.
In a new issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers say they may have found a solution: DNA enclosed in crystalline bone matrix fossils. It's a long way from Jurassic Park, which hopefully no one will actually decide might be a good idea (I'm looking at you, Heber C. Jentzsch), but it has great potential for better understanding not only on evolution of modern species, but also perhaps on why many failed to survive.
Monday, September 12, 2005
New research suggests that our immune systems are evolved to not work as swiftly as they might, in order to reduce autoimmune diseases. It's a fascinating idea, and such an elegant one too; perhaps all that 'balance' crap the New Agers talk about turns out to be a bit useful. The point, aside from a better understanding of how the system works, is that perhaps the controls can be tweaked, to reduce autoimmune disease symptoms and/or to improve immune responses to diseases. A few of my close relatives and friends have Addison's, and a professor's daughter has lupus, so I'm fairly tuned to autoimmune disease research.
UK researchers are infecting allergy and asthma sufferers with the human hookworm, Necator americanus, in a trial to see if these parasites can reduce the immune hyperactivity associated with those conditions. Now, I'm all for alternative therapies and bizarre experiments, but infecting patients with parasites seems a bit nasty.
The concept seems sound, but I would think it'd be better to figure out how the hookworms stimulate regulatory T-cell production, and see about inducing it pharmacologically. I mean, do they expect to have patients permanently trade their asthma for anemia?
Saturday, September 10, 2005
- The Magnetic Fields. Granted, almost everything Stephin Merrit's ever touched has been gold, but "Reno Dakota" really just might be the perfect pop song.
- Self. Speaking of guys who can rarely do any wrong in my book, we have Matt Mahaffey. He even made his latest efforts free for download. My current faves are "With You Somehow" and "Busy Sending Me," though as usual, it's all awesome.
- Serge Gainsbourg. Not only did he manage to piss off just about everyone in the world, but he did it all with such gorgeously sculpted songs. "Marilu" is tamely evil, "Ford Mustang" is a raunchy laugh, and "Je t'aime...moi non plus" ... well, you really don't need to speak French to get this one.
Friday, September 09, 2005
For a whole different kind of stress, try going into a coma. It's loads of fun, I swear*. The Mayo Clinic has developed a replacement for the 30-something-year-old Glasgow Coma Scale, which has a number of serious limitations, particularly in severe trauma cases. The new system, called FOUR (Full Outline of UnResponsiveness), takes into account new data that were uncollectable when Glasgow was developed. Progress is good.
But again, stress can be a useful thing, even in avoiding stress. How much does it suck to be out for a nice hike, only to have your cell phone
*This may be how I deal with daily crappy-job stress: "I've had worse."
Thursday, September 08, 2005
I'm not sure who this John Camm character is, but I like him. He's come up with a list of the Modern Rules of Advertising, which is a fairly good start to a list of things I never want to see again. I do have to add one though:
- 27. Heterosexual men will always react with terror and loud affirmation of non-homosexuality when in close proximity to other heterosexual men in a non-sporting context.
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
For those with family, friends, homes in New Orleans: Kathryn Cramer's mapping activities.
For everyone in DC: DCist's Katrina benefit.
Not very insightful or anything, just what I got.
I think that'd be neat.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
It is entirely possible that these results are good; they do come from a reputable institution and a good journal, though those things have become less and less convincing in recent years. It just seems that the definition of what is a 'creative' response is fairly subjective, and that there are many other factors involved. Schizophrenics, as I recall, tend to have lower brain activation overall for almost any task than do controls, so it might follow that they would have lower activation than schizotypes.
But I do like saying that you have to be a bit crazy to be brilliant. Makes me feel better.
Sunday, September 04, 2005
7 things I plan to do before I die:
1) Learn at least two more languages
2) Climb Mt. Kilamanjaro
3) Live at least six months on each continent
4) Fall in love
5) Do photography more than just now and again
6) Fly to the moon
7) Learn how to Salsa
7 things I can do:
1) Make almost anyone look good in a photo
2) Forget that we already discussed this ten minutes (or days) ago
3) Make a tasty meal out of whatever's in the cupboard
4) Pretend convincingly to be happier than I am
5) Convert between farenheight and centigrade in my head
6) Drink massively and still walk home unaided.
7) Overanalyze anything
7 things I cannot do:
1) Stay focused on one thing at a time
2) Tolerate willfully ignorant people
3) Get used to digital photography
4) Figure out what is so great about Sex and the City
5) Restrain myself
6) Give myself a proper manicure
7) Find pants that fit properly without alterations
7 things that attract me to the [opposite of my] opposite sex:
3) Twisted humor
5) Subtle toughness
7 things that I say most often:
3) Whats up?
4) Cool beans
6) To be fair
7 celebrity crushes:
1) Jake Gyllenhaal
2) Phil Turner (from House Invaders)
3) Colin Farrel
4) Jared Leto
5) Matthew Fox
6) Gavin Henson
7) Zach Braff
7 people I want to do this
Well, since nobody asked me, and I did it anyways, I'm setting this meme free upon the internet! If you feel like doing it, do it, and lemmie know in comments!
Friday, September 02, 2005
All this of course highlights not only how little we know about things as basic to our nutrition as vitamins, but also the critical importance of reproducibility in science. An interesting finding is only that until it happens again. And again. And again. And (generally) doesn't stop.
UPDATE: Not the same exact topic, but the Sardonic Bomb is pissed, and has some excellent points. This is an absolute disgrace. If only those in power knew that (or cared).
Thursday, September 01, 2005
I'm incredibly annoyed about this situation: the FDA is supposed to regulate based on science and safety issues, not political gamesplaying. The only reason Plan B is not approved is because the dubya administration (the parts not on perpetual vacation, that is) claim to view it as an "abortion drug" - which it plainly is not. They really view it as an advancement of womens' rights, something neoconservatives really abhor, and is the true raison d'être behind all this "culture of life" bullshit.
I do understand Dr. Wood's frustrations with the FDA - a good friend of mine also tired of the political atmosphere there and resigned under the Clinton administration - but in her case, stepping down was the most counter-productive thing to do. Her successor will no doubt be someone who follows the Party Line, and we will have lost another voice for reason in our government.
Until I see a real publication, I am withholding belief: Wistar Institute researchers claim to have produced mice with Wolverine-like regenerative abilities. That's Wolverine the superhero, not the vicious weasel. If it does turn out to be true, the implications for medicine (not to mention agriculture!) are stunning.
Everyone knows that olive oil is good for you (and tasty with spinach, eh Popeye?), but exactly how it has its beneficial effects remains a mystery. Well, less so now: researchers have found that a compound in olives, oleocanthal, has a similar anti-inflammatory effect to ibuprofen, which has itself been found beneficial against heart disease and other problems.
We all know that cigarettes are bad for us, but they are so much fun to smoke! The thing is, they're also bad for people around us, particularly kids. A new Singaporean study indicates that children from smokers' households suffer more respiratory problems later in life than do kids from non-smoking households (the effect is dose-dependent: kids with 2 smoking parents had more trouble than those with one smoking parent). Most interestingly, the study also found that higher daily fiber intake as adults helped reduce these symptoms: as little as two apples a day!