"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!!

Friday, March 31, 2006

Douchebag of the Week 

"If this plan crashes, regardless of the cause I will shove that blackberry up your ass, followed by your head, and use you as my personal inner-tube raft."

- Me, to the mid-level executive manager-type, sitting next to me on my flight back from Atlanta, who insisted on taktaktaking on his Blackberry the entire flight - taxi, takeoff, through landing - despite the oft-repeated ban on communications devices and electronics in general during parts of the flight.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


Doctors in Islamabad have unsuccessfully removed not one but two (!) vestigial fetuses from a two month-old girl (pics). It's estimated that fetus-in-fetu - where twins (or in this case, triplets) are conceived, but one dies and is absorbed into the other - happen in about 1 per 500,000 births. Must be even rarer for it triplets.

As cool as it is, it does remind me of a rather poor Steven King book.

Lonely on a Jet Plane 

Loneliness in people over 50 years old seems to be linked to as much as a 30 mmHg increase in systolic blood pressure, pushing many over the 150 mmHg mark that defines hypertension. How this happens is unclear, but figuring it out could lead to major improvements in our understanding of social/psychological effects on the body. Without even knowing how it works, knowing that it happens is a great place to start some public health interventions: get seniors out of the house, into social situations. (great idea, but doing it will be a challenge)

Researchers have successfully powered a helicopter jet engine with a largely coal-based fuel. While this in and of itself is cool, the claim is that this will help us be independent of foreign oil is preposterous. Coal is at least as limited a resource as oil, and the US certainly has no monopoly on its production. Still, an interesting concept.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Pimp My Brand 

Pimp My Brand
Originally uploaded by The Michael.
My graphic designer coworker got a call for entries, and this poster was included. It is now on the wall in my office because, well, it's just so gloriously awful!

Monday, March 27, 2006

What's Good is Bad 

...or at least not good.

A review of randomized-controlled trials suggests that the much-touted health benefits of oily fish are not so clear. There's lots of data in this study, and I haven't the time to properly look at it now, but the basic message is clear: the Omega-3 fad is, like every other miracle food, just a fad. Eat a balanced diet, kids.

Something else that we've all known forever, that drinking milk helps build stronger bones and is a Health Food, may not be true. Women who got a high proportion of calcium from milk were more prone to fractures than others, a few studies have linked dairy products to cancer, and then there's the question of how much pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics get passed on to milk drinkers. Eat a balanced diet, kids.

One of the long-standing tenants of the pro-marijuana campaign, and certainly part of pot smokers' dogma, is that smoking pot is less "bad for you" than smoking cigarettes. There is certainly some debate on that matter, but a French study suggests that this is not the case. They found that cannabis smoke contains "seven times more tar and carbon monoxide...twice the amount of benzene and three times as much toluene" as tobacco smoke. The question on studies like this is always the methodology - how do the studied joints compare to what real people smoke, how do smokers smoke pot and cigarettes differently, etc., but the implication (if the study is even a little valid) is that smoking pot is bad for you. Smoking is bad for you. duh.


My weekend visit to Ann Arbor can really be summed up in two and a half words: windowsill dancing. And there's some really cool science popping up too!

German researchers seem to have gotten embryonic stem cell-like cells from testicular biopsy. Hopefully the cells will turn out to work like proper stem cells, and be used to treat disease. (Yes, I said "testicular biopsy." As in "chopping bits of the balls to get cells.")

Identification of the gene for a receptor which seems to be responsible for sensing the spiciness of garlic, mustards, and wasabi may lead to breakthroughs in pain therapy. Or a new extreme sport.
European Space Agency scientists seem to have discovered a strong "gravitomagnetic field." Physics has always been my weakness, so I don't really get much of the detail, but it's clear that this is really cool. I want my anti-gravity car!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Old Foes, New Blame 

Cigarette smoking gets blamed for any number of health problems, and everyone likes to pin as much as possible on their incompetent boss. Well guess what? Here's some more stuff to blame away!

Cigarette smoking seems to be linked to impotence in men aged 16-59. Not a shock, given that it damages your cardiovascular system and affects NO metabolism and transmission, but a good excuse not to light up.

And workers with various cold-like symptoms - coughs, sneezes, tiredness, etc. - who thought that poor physical working conditions were to blame may now get the infinitely more satisfying chance to blame their bosses. "Sick building syndrome" seems to really be caused by bad vibes at work.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Making Choices 

Best cartoon activism I've seen in quite a while:

Via Boingboing.

Bad for Teeth and Sperm, Good for Hair 

Fluoride's supposed to be good for your teeth, right? That's why we put it in our water supply, and if you compare our teeth in the US to teeth in places where they don't fluoridate (the UK, Japan), it seems to work. However, a National Research Council study suggests that naturally fluoridated water - with fluoride concentrations as much as twice what's added to artificially fluoridated water - may cause tooth enamel damage and bone brittleness. Ruh-roh...

Exposure to high levels of ozone seems to lower mens' sperm counts. The effect seems to be indirect, via some inflammatory response, but could lead to interesting follow-up.

And in the world of extreme art, a Chinese artist used a single rabbit hair to paint a panda onto a single human hair. Who wouldn't want a head covered in Butterstick?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Deep in the Lungs? 

This is the bit where I look to the real live medical professionals who pass through here* for some help. There's a bit on CNN right now, saying that research indicates that the H5N1 (avian) flu "concentrates itself too deep in the respiratory tract" to be easily transmitted between humans.

It makes sense, I guess - one of the reasons asbestos is so bad is because it gets lodged in the deep lungs where you can't cough it up - but I also wonder if maybe this also contributes to its virulence/high mortality rates? Would a person's inability to cough up the particles (so that all newly released ones are just tossed directly on to neighboring lung cells) expose them to an inherently higher dose than they'd get if the virus lived where it could be coughed out? Or am I being totally far-fetched?

*Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, Partners Healthcare, and UHS, etc., I know you're here!

A Different View on Alzheimers 

Much of the research into Alzheimers Disease focuses on the beta amyloid protein, which builds up in the brains of AD patients (it's still not totally clear whether it's a primary cause or a symptom), and how/why it is overproduced.

A study from Purdue suggests that overproduction may not be the problem - instead, it's possible that underclearance is. They've also discovered a new place that clearance happens: at the choroid plexus. This body, part of the brain's vascular system, acts as filter for things coming in to the brain, but the new research suggests that it also helps clear thing out.

This is really cool, not only because it may provide a totally new target for intervention in AD, but also because it's yet another reminder that there is so much more going on with every organ in our bodies than we can even imagine.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Genes: Fat and Angry 

A gene discovered by Rutgers researchers, Lipin, and its associated protein (PAP), seem to be key to fat regulation. Lack of the gene causes a loss of body fat, and more of it causes excess body fat. Potential uses for this discovery are, besides the obvious weight-loss craze (I'll take a lifetime supply of Lipin-inhibitors please), in the facial wasting symptoms suffered by HIV/AIDS patients.

Another gene, which is related to aggressive behavior in men seems also to lead to weakened impulse control and increased alarm responses. But, the men were only really more prone to violence if they'd been abused as children.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Steps to Myelin 

Myelin, the fatty insulating coating on many neurons in your brain, is one of those really cool things in biology. That demyelination, or simple lack of myelin, is involved in numerous problems is nothing new, but no one knows really how to address it.

That may be changing: NIH researchers have found that neuronal activity - specifically the electrical impulses that myelin facilitates - seems to stimulate myelination. But there are steps involved. They found that electrical signal transmission causes the active neurons to release ATP (I presume into the extracellular space), where it binds receptors on astrocytes, which in turn release leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF), which stimulates oligodendrocytes to myelinate the active neurons.

It's a pretty classic example of how neuronal survival is linked to activity: the ones involved in a worthwhile pathway will be active, and thus myelinated, those in less useful ones won't be.

Foggy Monday 

My brain seems to have stayed at home in bed today, instead of coming to the office with me. I don't blame it, really.

Those Vermont folks really take their maple syrup seriously. The University of Vermont has opened a new research center dedicated to testing whether and how more efficient modern production techniques affect syrup's taste. Do you think they pay the taste testers?

Researchers have found a pair or new DNA repair proteins which seem to also destroy invading HIV cDNA. This is a very exciting possible new target for HIV treatments.

Case Western researchers have discovered that a previsously-unstudied type of neuron, Blanes cells, are critical to formation and maintenance of olfactory perception and memory. As we all know, smell is the most potent memory stimulus, so this is really cool.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Yuppie Scum du Jour 

The place: Tenley Whole FoodsPaycheck.

The offender: a young-ish (probably 35-40) woman and her 5-year-old.

The crime: the woman is walking through the (narrow) aisles, attempting to push two carts - hers, containing her groceries, and the one claimed by her son, containing a GI Joe - with her left hand and hold on to her kid with her right hand. She takes up the whole aisle, and makes no real effort to move aside when anyone wants to go the other way.

I'm all for letting kids be kids - I think we should do more of it. We should even allow them some license with adult rules of conduct. I draw the line, however, at disruptive rudeness in the name of indulgence. If the kid wants to push the cart, let him do so, but if he cannot do so, he does not need his own cart.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Bad Atkins, Good Ginseng, Memory. 

More bad news for the Atkins Diet: a single case study published in the Lancet claims that the low-carb diet caused severe ketoacidosis in a patient. Yes, it's just an n of 1, but to get it published in the Lancet it may well have some merit.

A large, longitudinal study suggests that ginseng may improve survival and quality of life ratings for breast cancer patients. There are lots of confounds, but this is a first step towards getting a real clinical trial done, which is what's needed.

UMn and Hopkins researchers have found a type of the amyloid-beta protein - famous for its accumulation in Alzheimers Disease - that seems to be a direct cause of memory loss in mice. If this pans out, it could lead to a breakthrough in targeted drug development and treatment of AD and other cognitive disorders. Cool!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Why I Love Craigslist 

Number 8,543,231.4:

Do I have AIDS now?

Answer/PSA: Go get tested, and also, "I'm not even gay" is not an good way of saying 'no.' "Please refrain from fucking me in the ass" will be more effective.

HPV and Cancer 

Human Papillomavirus, most famous for causing some types of cervical cancer, has been linked to skin cancers as well. But the fundies probably still don't want you to get the vaccine, because it may somehow encourage premarital sex. You know, as in 'hey baby, I don't have cancer...wanna fuck?'

And the double-helix galaxy? So cool!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Mad Cow, Cholesterol, Peppered Snake Oil 

Another case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or Mad Cow Disease, in the United States was announced on Monday. The cow's meat is said not to have re-entered the food chain, and we are assured that the U.S. beef supply is safe. The government is so sure of our safety, in fact, that they are reducing testing rates for BSE by nearly 90 per cent. Whuuhh?

UK researchers claim that a painful Achilles tendon could be a warning sign that you have high cholesterol. Yes, and it also may be a sign that you need to stretch more. There are far too many confounds for this to be a useful guideline.

Capsaicin, the chemical that makes hot peppers burn, seems to induce apoptosis in prostate cancer cells. Pass the habaneros!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Afternoon Snark 

There are things about technology that frustrate us all. The thing is, most people don't ever experience the most frustrating thing of all: other users' problems. As the vast majority of my job is now acting as tech support for our web site, I get to see this in all of its glory.

My personal favorite, of course, is Mr. Groundhog Day. This client calls me, reliably, every 4-5 weeks, claiming that he has never received his password. I have nearly two years of assistance tickets documenting that he has, repeatedly and consistently, received his password, logged in once or twice, and forgotten that any of it ever happened. MGD is also famous for falling asleep and snoring (loudly) at meetings.

There's also Ms. Subject Line, who only reads that part of emails. She has yet, as far as I know, to discover that the Outlook's preview pane is only that. I try to deal with her on the phone.

Today, I got an email from a new client, and while not as dramatic or annoying as MGD or MSL, it combined with my recent abandonment of the caffeine holiday to make me laugh out loud. This character is a librarian, and a fairly accomplished one at that. Yes, I too was shocked to learn that there was a pecking order among librarians. Anyways, IL sent me an email today which contained 27 words, four of which were fabulously misspelled. "bag," "tanning," "hasp," and "kilts."

I know that IL uses Outlook, and I know that Outlook has splices. Thus, IL stands for Illiterate Librarian, who demonstrates the value of a PhD.

Lots of Goodies 

There's a lot of good science out there this morning, and also lots of paperwork on my desk. So, I would love to hear what others know about these things...

A study of rosuvastatin (Crestor) suggests that high doses of the drug may not only slow the process of arterial deterioration, but could reverse it as well. Crestor has serious side effects, even at normal doses - so much so that some experts say it oughtn't be on the market at all - but the concept is intriguing.

It seems that infants who are treated with antibiotics are more likely to develop asthma later on. I am fully in support of doctors being more cautious about prescribing antibiotics, especially in kids, but I also worry about this becoming the latest parental craze, wherein people ignore doctors' advice (fail to give their kid prescribed treatments) and/or start suing.

Nanofibre scaffolding has been successful in partially regrowing the optic nerve (restoring vision) in blinded hamsters. Cool!

A small, retrospective study suggests that long-term marijuana use may damage cognitive ability. Not great data, and pretty poorly controlled, but worth taking note.

Coffee continues to be good for you. Researchers have discovered how caffeine acts to protect against pancratitis: it closes calcium channels inside the cells, preventing the CAM-Kinase cascade leading to cell death. Yay coffee!

Monday, March 13, 2006

A New Excuse 

My grades dropped pretty heavily once I entered high school, and did not reliably recover in college (despite this post). I always associated this with my discovery, at some point in the 8th grade, that my school was structured in a way that meant that, if I worked my ass off and learned a lot, I could get 'A's, but if I played Street Fighter 2 and made stuff up in class, I could get 'B's.

I did the obvious, and played video games. I payed for it in college, when such tricks were not effective, and I think the residual 'catching up' on work habits still lingers over me.

But, you see, there was another incident in the 8th grade that I pretty much wrote off as an excuse after the 9th grade. I won't go into it, but the relevant result is that I have persistent tinnitus in my right ear. An Australian study suggests that chronic tinnitus may impair performance on demanding working memory and attention tasks. No wonder all that ADD medication didn't work!

Now all I want is my bionic ear.

Good Reporting 

Bad science journalism is a pet peeve of mine. Consequently, examples to the contrary - good science journalism - make me very happy. Especially when they're on topics of particular interest to me.

Via Queerty, we find a 60 Minutes piece about research into how sexual orientation develops. It's basic, not attempting to delve into the meat of the research (which I would love, but which would be confusing and drive away most readers), but doesn't fall into the trap of politics. There is mention of how much a hot-button issue sexual orientation can be, but from the first paragraph it's clear that this has nothing to do with that: "It's not only a political, social, and religious question but also a scientific question, one that might someday have an actual, provable answer."

That's the key that science journalism misses all to often. This in not politics, this is not a debate. This is about reliable, replicable evidence. The article discusses some of that evidence, saying what's well established (birth order effects) and what isn't (how hormones affect things), and presents it as an exciting, interesting field (that needs more funding).

New Treatments 

You never know where you'll find the next treatment for a disease. Many drugs are discovered by accidental synthesis, some by design, and sometimes, an old drug has an interesting side effect. D-cycloserine (DCS), an antibiotic often used to treat tuberculosis, has been previously shown to stimulate learning (remind me of this for my first exam period!), seems also to help in overcoming Social Anxiety Disorder. I'll be very interested to learn about its mechanism of action here, especially given the various links between stress, anxiety, and learning.

A group at UIUC has successfully synthesized and characterized the antibiotic nisin in test tube. This is a major step, promising faster development of new antibiotics (as opposed to stumbling upon them in nature), which could help treat antibiotic-resistant disease strains. Cool!

Researchers have found that overweight people seem to have higher levels of sE-selectin, an inflammatory protein produced by artery vessel walls. Blood vessel inflammation can contribute to many serious conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, but it's possible that anti-inflammatory treatments might help people who are unable to lose weight. Interesting.

Friday, March 10, 2006


WARNING: This is a flagrantly self-indulgent post, but some days I can't help myself. Also, it does involve science, to some extent.

I actually learned this on the phone yesterday, but I decided that I would wait until I had actual physical evidence to get really excited about it.

After being (unsurprisingly) shot down by Berkeley, I got my first grad school acceptance: the Michigan School of Public Health's Epidemiology program. It's probably my first choice, so I figure it's the best one to get into first. I'm going to wait for it to sink in (and for what will hopefully be three or so more acceptance letters), and then decide what I'm gonna do about it.

Anyone who knows anything about the program: your thoughts are most appreciated!

Drinking will commence later tonight, probably at The Agenda. I hope to see you there!

Toy Day! 

It may prove beyond any doubt that I am terminally nerdy, but I think that this is really bloody cool. It's an automatic, super-fast, disposable PCR machine, that does 30 cycles in under five minutes.

Oy, science makes you feel your age faster than anything else: I remember hearing about PCR in high school as this hallowed higher art that only really well funded NIH mukkity-mucks got to use. heh.
(via Medgadget)

Into the Matrix 

German engineers may have developed what I regard as the Ultimate Computer Toy: a mind-reading input device. If this really works, and if the EEG cap can be made somehow less unattractive, wow. Say goodbye to carpal tunnel, gamers' thumb, and hello to whatever pops up in their place. But we won't know till much later, so it'll be a fun few years!

The real question is, though, how many words per minute second?

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Abortion in Texas 

A study indicates that a Texas law requiring parental notification (and a delay thereafter) before girls under 18 can have an abortion has lowered abortion rates. And raised birthrates. Guess which part you'll be hearing spouted off by the wingnuts?

The thing about this kind of study is that they very explicitly can only find good news for the pro-life folks. It did not measure illegal (read: "most likely unsafe") abortions, or the effects on the young girls and their families who had unwanted kids. Let alone examine the effects of being unwanted on the kids themselves.

Abortions are pretty obviously a bad thing; I'm all for reducing the number of abortions people have. The thing is, that to really do that, you have to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and the only realistic way of doing that is to have honest, reality-based education about How Things Work. Faith-based sex ed doesn't work. I wonder if this lesson will ever penetrate?

Encore de Clarika 

I really like the new album, Joker, and sometimes it pops into my head to Blingo things randomly, and so I found this little interview with Clarika that makes me even more fond of her. I think the title track , "Joker," is now my favorite on the disc.

J'aime bien sa disque, Joker, et puis quelquefois je me demande que trouverai-je si je fais Blingo de quelque chose. Donc, j'ai encontré cette petite entrevue avec Clairka qui me fait l'aimer encore plus. Et bien, je pense que "Joker" c'est maintenant ma chanson préférée sur la disque.

MS Week 

Yesterday, and FDA advisory panel recommended that an MS drug, Tysabri, be returned to the market, despite the possibility of severe side effects. I fully think that in cases like this, where a drug is one of the few (only?) effective options for disease management but has serious side-effects, it should be up to patients and doctors to evaluate the individual risk-benefit balance. This does of course require that doctors have a good enough understanding of risk-benefit AND the ability to explain things to patients, but that's another story.

Also this week, the FDA agreed to begin trials of a potential MS vaccine. The vaccine does not prevent people from developing MS, but instead reduces flare-ups. It works like this: clinicians take a sample of the MS patient's blood, including the myelin-specific white blood cells that cause MS. The cells are grown in culture, inactivated, and re-injected. The healthy immune system then becomes sensitized to these 'renegade' cells, and seems to kill off even new non-inactivated ones. That is really cool.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Happy Hump Day...Almost Over! 

Because someone thought that there wasn't enough gay on this blog.

Or is this more ghey?

Big Hopes 

Researchers have found that the parasite that causes African Sleeping Sickness, Trypanosoma brucei, seems to need its flagellum to divide. This could be a major breakthrough in treatment of this major killer.

Somewhat similarly, MIT researchers have found a compound which could help stem the progress of Huntington's Disease. Not a good month if you're a neurodegenerative disorder!

Coffee, Brains, and the Fuzzy Lobster 

With all the recent good news about how coffee is good for you, it's important to remember that it's quite possible for too much of a good thing to become a bad thing. A fairly large study of Costa Ricans suggests that people with a 'slower version' of the gene for the enzyme cytochrome (CYP1A2) may suffer increased cardiovascular risks when drinking lots of coffee. To this I say, "duh." Anyone who drinks too much coffee is likely to do some damage to their system. This just seems to suggest that a certain population (I have no idea how widespread this gene variant is) has a lower tolerance. Still, it's interesting.

Children in Ecuador whose mothers were exposed to pesticides while pregnant show higher blood pressure and lower shape-copying ability than others. The study is small, and there are a few confounds that seem to linger, but I'd be confident suggesting that pregnant women (or anyone, for that matter) avoid exposure to pesticides as much as possible.

And the good news? This cutie pie:
Meet Kiwa hirsuta, the only member of an entirely new family of crustacean. This character lives in the extreme depths and toxic thermal vents of the South Pacific. Cool!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sleep is the Enemy 

I have a fairly antagonistic relationship with sleep. When I was in high school and college, I thought nothing of going on three or fewer hours of sleep a night for extended periods. These days, I am a mess if I get less than 5-6 hours every night, and I seriously lament the amount of stuff I could be doing with all those extra hours.

I've also never been able to sleep more than, say, 10 hours at the extreme, and am baffled by people who can (much less want to) sleep for 12 or 14 hours in a stretch. And now I get to feel smug about this for reasons beyond all those early-morning loads of laundry: long sleeping may be a sign of serious health problems. A study in progress at the University of South Carolina is testing how sleep restriction affects long sleepers, who research suggests may be at risk of increased cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and mortality. Pass the CX717 please!!

Unshocking News 

News that erectile dysfunction is linked to heart disease was so unremarkable to me that I didn't even blog about it. But, another study, pointed out by JK, indicates (also totally unsurprisingly) that a healthy diet and exercise can reduce the symptoms of ED and the risk of heart trouble. I guess this is kindof a no-brainer for me: we know that being unfit hurts your performance in bed, and that it increases the risk of cardiovascular problems. I guess this goes back to why I initially ignored the ED-CVD link, which is because it seemed like there had to be a common factor. Bad science, I know, but if I'd had funding/a lab, I'd have done a similar follow up before bothering to publish.

It certainly seems that organic farming should be less harmful to the environment than is artificial-fertilizer agrobiz style farming, but perhaps only because we woolley-headed liberals like to think that anything natural is inherently better. Lucky for us, research suggests that organic farming really is better for the environment. Yay.

Last but not least, BoingBoing tempts me with a new toy: a kitchen freezing table. So awesome!

Monday, March 06, 2006

TV and ADHD - Another Reason to Blame Your Mom 

TV rots your brains, right? I won't argue to the contrary, but a new study contradicts a previous one that suggested that TV viewing in early childhood causes ADHD. I'm not totally clear on the methodology of the survey, but it seems to suggest that the increased TV viewing associated with ADHD may be more of a symptom than a cause: parents of hyperactive kids may put them in front of the TV more to avoid dealing with them.

So, basically, bad parenting is involved: parents who have hyperactive kids and don't want to take the time to, you know, raise them, end up with older kids with worse (more frequently diagnosed) ADHD....hey, let's go ride our bikes!

Noni Juice? 

We already know that grapefruit is good for your cholesterol, and now a small study suggests that Noni juice may also be. I don't know what Noni is, but it'd be great if it was helpful. The thing is, In don't really like this study: first of all, the n is incredibly small (26), and second of all, the Noni juice used is mixed with grape and blueberry juice. If the placebo juice contained those ingredients as well, I'd be more inclined to believe the study, but there is no indication that it did. Methods, methods, methods!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Ear Infection Vaccine? 

Czech researchers seem to have found an effective vaccine against childhood ear infections. While this would undoubtedly make many kids lives easier (but cut down on sick days, sadly), there are questions as to whether kids should be vaccinated against something that's so rarely more than a nuisance.

But, doesn't S. pneumoniae cause strep throat too? Getting rid of that would be awesome. Since I get it three times a year.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Chocolate Milk and Chimpanzees 

A New Zealand study is looking to see if consuming a carbohydrate-protein mixture such as chocolate milk after exercise helps elders recover better. I think. Either the press release is so poorly written as to be incomprehensible, or the study is so poorly designed as to be meaningless, but either way I can't really figure out what it's talking about. I really just want to keep track of this study, because chocolate milk is a health plan I can support!

Evidence suggests that some of humans' 'higher' social traits may be more ancient than believed - so much so that we share them with chimpanzees. Cool.

Good, Very Good, and Acupuncture 

A German study of using acupuncture to treat migranes could be really good news to migrane sufferers, or really embarrassing. Though the article does not note enough of the experiment's design for me to judge properly, it seems that it may suggest that migranes are entirely psychosomatic. They found that migranes were similarly alleviated by drugs, acupuncture, and sham acupuncture. Sorry girls, but this may mean the old "I have a headache" excuse stops working. Or leads to your boyfriend poking you with...err...needles.

The Royal Society of Chemistry has opened its archives to Africa for free. Hopefully, other publishers will follow suit, and soon open access to the scientific literature will become the norm, instead of a rarity. That would, hopefully, lead to much improved science across the globe.

Finally, in what could be the best news I've heard all week, UC-Irvine researchers believe that they may have found the first chemical to block progression of Alzheimer's disease. Theh compound, AF267B, is an acetylcholine analog, and not only relieved cognitive impairment in mice, but also reduced the appearance of AD's characteristic plaques and tangles, thus slowing the disease process. Very cool!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Cry, Fatty, Cry 

It turns out that maybe there's reason behind the schoolyard stereotype of the fat kid who cries at the littlest injury: obese people seem to be more sensitive to pain. All snark aside, this is an interesting finding (though the small n of 62 is suspect), and could lead to all sorts of questions surrounding both perception and regulation of pain. And less pain is good.

More Bad News for Dr. Atkins 

Science has not been kind to Dr. Atkins' diet, or to its heir South Beach. This month, a University of South Carolina study throws doubt on the centerpiece of these diets, the Glycemic Index (GI). The study followed 1000 volunteers over five years, tracking those who followed low versus high GI diets, and found that the GI of the diet was not related to blood glucose levels, as the diet sellers' claims would suggest.

Diva Night? 

Anyone wanna go see Eartha Kitt with me this weekend?

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