Monday, July 31, 2006
Radiation-killed bacteria may be more effective as vaccines than heat or chemically killed ones. Such vaccines could have many advantages, such as reduced need for refrigeration.
A common ingredient in air fresheners and cleansers may damage your lungs. So cleanliness is next to godliness, presuming that you are closer to god when dead.
Researchers have found a pheromone receptor gene, analogous to the one in mice, in humans. This suggests that we may use them as well.
HIV seems to be 'hiding out' in the gut, avoiding drug treatments to attack it. This virus is fucking amazingly clever.
SSRI antidepressant Celexa seems to be helpful in treating irritable bowel syndrome. Cool.
Fatties are fucking up their own radiology results: more and more patients are too fat to have X-rays read reliably.
12-step programs probably not more effective than other quitting methods, but letting kids have more playtime is effective at making them healthier.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
A rat study indicates that smoking interferes with alcohol absorption into the bloodstream, meaning that if you smoke you get less drunk from the same amount of booze. The result could be totally different in humans, but hey - just another reason not to smoke! (and for bar owners to fight against smoking bans)
And in good news, an Australian firm claims to have developed a once-a-day pill that can possibly stop Alzheimers in its tracks: PBT2 seems to stop beta-amyloid plaques from accumulating in the brain, restoring memory function in lab animals. If human trials are successful, this is truly phenomenal news!
Also, I'm still in Prague (which is gorgeous), having lots of fun, and my sister still needs housing help in New York.
Monday, July 24, 2006
UPDATE: Seriously ya'll, her current situation is a disaster and could literally dissolve any minute, and she doesn't have a real new place until October. Someone must know of something! Anyone? Drop me a line
Saturday, July 22, 2006
So now we're in Prague, at this totally fantastic hotel (hotel Josef). Coming in yesterday I was reminded of some of the things that struck me last time I was here - the city is just so full of amazing juxtapositions. Old, old, old buildings right next to and often added on to by modern ones, which are often of the totally heinous Soviet concrete box variety, with gorgeous art-nouveau and classical and gothic facades on the other side. It works, somehow.
Thursday, July 20, 2006
You see, even on vacation in such a gorgeous place, there is still science that I want to remember to look in to further when I return.
Researchers may have found a way to use C. elegans in drug testing, which seems pretty cool, and Dubya has been evil again, this time going against even his own (fracturing) party.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Warning! Possibly obnoxious rant ahead.
But then, there's the trouble with traveling with my family. For all the upsides (we go places I can't afford on my own, do things I couldn't/wouldn't do on my own, etc.), there are the downsides. The first is, obviously, that I'm traveling with my parents. And sharing a hotel room with my younger sister. This means those hot Hungarian boys are for looking only ;-(
Also, my parents and sister have a habit of playing the Ugly Americans; our parents are rather experienced travelers, and my sister has lived abroad, so this never ceases to shock me. They really ought to know better.
My dad makes the same joke he makes with waiters in the US: telling them that the food was terrible, and that we couldn't eat it, as they clear away empty plates. This is obnoxious at home, but where the servers' command of the subtleties of English are less than perfect, it leads to visible confusion and consternation. Visible, that is, to everyone but him. My mom is perpetually asking "what's in that" and, following the response, saying "oh, I don't want that, do you have (insert other dish that may or may not resemble what's on the menu)?" And my sister, who above all should know better, today at lunch began loudly reading and making fun of the mistakes in the English version of our menu, which included a detailed (and, I think, interesting) history of Hungarian cuisine. The waiters all spoke enough English to know what pointing and laughing means.
None of us speak Magyar, or German, or Czech, or any of the local languages, and while less than ideal, that's the way it is. The thing my family does that makes me CRAZY is that they make no effort whatsoever to learn even the basics, like 'hello,' 'goodbye,' 'thank you,' etc. Which I feel is the least I can do (since learning a language for every trip, while a nice goal, is not gonna happen) And what's worse: when I point out to them that what they're doing is rude/inappropriate, they tell me to 'have a sense of humor' and tell me I'm being immature.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Vienna was fun, and we saw lots of art. I've also gained about 800 lbs. worth of pastries and sausage, but it's well worth it. We took a boat up the Danube to Budapest passing Bratislava, where I really wanted to stop but my parents (who get to pick as they are footing the bill) did not. My sister slept most of the way, missing the scenery, etc.
Budapest is every bit as lovely as I remember, although my parents' preference for things written up heavily in guide books does make the experience a bit, well, kitschier: we had dinner at a place that got 'starred' reviews in all the guidebooks which, needless to say, was perfectly acceptable but overpriced, and catering entirely to
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Today we will hopefully be visiting the Klimpt museum, among others.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
I'm leaving for a two-week vacation in central Europe today, so posting will be light and photo-intensive (I hope!) for a while.
Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Tangentially related, paleontologists have unearthed a number of new fossils in northern Australia, which represent a group of carnivores not before seen: a killer kangaroo and a demon duck of doom. I want pictures and Pixar movies!!!
Finally, it's possible to live happily and eat well without destroying the planet in the process. A large international survey of happiness (warning: details sketchy, methodology unclear) has ranked the south Pacific nation Vanatu as happiest, with Japan 95th, the UK 108th, and the US 150th. Interesting idea, but the external validity is dubious.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Once born, people like to be able to see, and losing one's vision is a terrible experience. Age-related macular degeneration is an increasingly common form of vision loss, but it is one that could be preventable. A pair of small American studies seem to confirm earlier findings that regularly eating fish may help protect against age-related macular degeneration. Now if we could only get the fish sans mercury!
Some people also like to see things ... differently. Mystics and hippies (not to mention plain old junkies) have long sung the praises of psilocybin, the active ingredient in Magic Mushrooms, for opening up new spiritual doors and expanding consciousness. Hopkins researchers have 'confirmed' that the drug causes spiritual experiences, in that many subjects claimed that taking the drug lead to them.
Now, I'm firmly in favor of studying the stuff, as its effects can clearly show us a great deal about how the brain works and how chemicals can affect it, but this study rubs me the wrong way.
There seem to be too many confounds, especially people's preconceived notions of the drug including fears of a 'bad trip' or of 'flashbacks.' Also, 36 is an extremely small n. But I am thrilled that the research got done, and the DEA hasn't had anyone's head for it (yet). Small studies with promising results lead to bigger ones.
Monday, July 10, 2006
Friday, July 07, 2006
Ever wonder why your team's colors are so compelling? Well, research suggests that color grouping is just a naturally very good way to keep track of large numbers of items. Humans can generally subitize - instantly enumerate - up to about four items, but that doesn't help in a melee or on the hunt. Color grouping talents could have been very helpful, in evolutionary terms, and become hard wired. Interesting.
Speaking of colors from the past, geneticists have gone a bit
And, some good news for Hepatitis C sufferers, and also for Novartis: the drug fluvastatin (Lescol) seems to be a potent inhibitor of HCV replication. Besides being a strange finding, it's very good news for HCV patients, many of whom have no treatment options at all and the rest of whom are stuck with ribaverin and its nasty side effects.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
A Seattle research group has found that obese people are more likely to be depressed and less likely to have substance abuse problems. Well, duh, I say. Depression often leads to lethargy and overeating, which lead to obesity, and being obese inhibits social contacts which can lead to depression. Plus, if we believe the (somewhat dubious) study which suggests that early drinking increases alcoholism risk, fat kids get invited to fewer high school parties and so probably don't start drinking as early...etc. Still no cure for cancer. Or obesity.
Monday, July 03, 2006
See? Technology makes our lives better. Also, Dutch researchers have developed a promising new form of plasma needle, which they hope can be used to kill cancer cells, unclog arteries, and even replace the dreaded dentist's drill. I'm not at all clear from the article, however, how the technology promises to accomplish the latter, which is the hype-line of the article.