"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!!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Fossils, Living and Otherwise 

It turns out that Michael Crichton was right about Velociraptors. Sort of. Chinese geologists have found evidence in fossils that a similar dino species, Dromeosaurs, did seem to hunt in packs and walk upright. And were about the size of Jurassic Park's raptors, whereas the Velociraptors of old were turkey-sized.

A more modern fossil was dug up recently off the coast of Iceland. I say fossil, but the thing was really alive. 'Ming' is a 400-plus year-old quahog clam, who is being studied (no doubt at significant expense to its quality of life, whatever that means to a mollusk) in the hopes of discovering how it has avoided senescence so long.

Speaking of decreasing quality of life: I have another paper to write.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Little Green Men Get Stoned, Stupid, and Sick 

OK, this is America, so they're probably a little more like, uhm, larger green men. And women. And children.

Hopkins researchers have found that a topical application of broccoli extract 'activates' protective enzyme systems which reduce the harmful effects of UV rays, while still allowing stimulation of vitamin D production (which is deficient in people using sunscreen all the time). The problem? Thus far, there is no way to make the stuff so it doesn't turn you green. I suppose some people would be in to that.

Speaking of good greens, in what may be a first, UCSD researchers have published an actual clinical trial which indicates that moderate doses of THC, via smoked marijuana, reduce induced neuropathic pain. The more trials like this that get done, the closer we can (hopefully) get to a sensible pot policy. I just wish the trial had been done in actual neuropathy patients, as opposed to induced healthy ones...it's not like it's a rare condition!

The ban on marijuana leads to depriving many people of needed treatments and improved lifestyle, but possibly even more serious is the poor quality of care received by elderly Americans. A UCLA study of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries found that they are only getting about 65% of the care they ought to be getting. This includes really basic stuff, like diabetic sugar control and eye exams - things that cost nothing to provide, relative to their enormous costs after failure. YET ANOTHER reason we need a serious national health coverage adjustment. Hillary's isn't the best ever, but it's the best anybody's got now.

Finally, some good/bad news. There's a line of evidence that more education delays Alzheimer's onset, and a study in the current issue of Neurology confirms this, but also finds that it's associated with a more rapid decline once incidence occurs. This could seem like a wash, but I'd much rather be healthy for longer and die quicker, than linger on longer, unable to think or remember or do anything, really.

Now playing: Fancy Fruit - Kvarnen Vs Carmen
via FoxyTunes

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My Newest Hero 

Anyone who knows me knows that there are few companies I hate more than Comcast. Not just because their services are shoddy (random blackouts, digital cable that blips out all the time, etc.) and overpriced, but also because they consistently provide the worst customer service anywhere. Worse than the DC government, even.

Comcast knows it's the only game in town if you want cable TV and/or internet that's faster than DSL. Granted, some lucky folks can get satellite and FIOS, but those have never been an option where I live. So I deal with ever-increasing bills and shitty service and repairmen who show (or don't) at their own whim. Such is the power of a monopoly.

Mona Shaw, a 75-year-old retired nurse, had similar problems with Comcast, and reacted by doming something that, while completely ineffective in the long run, is gratifying just to hear of having happened: she stormed their local office with a claw hammer. This woman deserves a fucking medal. And better cable service.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Monday, October 15, 2007

Legally Blonde: The Musical 

I have to admit, I have a slight weakness for musical theater. When I was a kid my parents insisted that we see all the classics, if only because they deemed contemporary entertainment 'inappropriate.' We should've been playing outside anyways.

It's midterms, and last night I was looking for any excuse to not study or write papers for a while. Surfing through the channels, I noticed that MTV was playing something that was almost music: the Legally Blonde musical. That's right, a Broadway show, beamed straight (well, maybe bi?) to my living room. Sadly, I was nothing but disappointed.

For all the accolades, I found the music insipid at best, unlistenable at worst, and tired either way. The entire cast of presumably talented people all sounded like they were talking in rhythm, never actually singing but occasionally belting. Way more than in a normal musical. Also, why does Elle sound like she's from the Midwest?

What really annoyed me the most though was the bizarre plot rearrangements. Why did we need to see Warner and Vivian's engagement right in Elle's face, as opposed to it having happened over the summer? Why was there so much extra filler dialogue? And, most infuriatingly, why did the entire point of the film (which should have been insufferable, but turned out sweet and a bit inspiring) get swept away? Why does musical-Elle need Emmett there the whole time to push her to succeed and hold her hand and tell her what to do, instead of movie-Elle who got pissed off and did it all on her own? Ditzy language aside, movie-Elle was really a feminist model. Musical-Elle is anything but.

All in all, I don't know what the big deal is, except for audiences gobbling up whatever test-marketed pap served to them, just like always. Seriously. This show looks and sounds like something cooked up by the same folks who gave us Haley Duff and the Cheetah Girls (minus Raven Simone).

Now playing: Prototypes - Who's gonna sing
via FoxyTunes

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Sunday, October 14, 2007

It's Good for You, I Swear 

Plastics are all too often at the center of environmental crises. Petrol used to make them gets spilled, and plastic wastes clog landfills with their near-endless lifespan. And of course there's the cute stuff (see picture).

But now researchers have found a way for a plastic to be potentially Earth-saving: US and Korean scientists developed a plastic film with hourglass-shaped pores, which act like semi-permeable membranes found in plants, filtering CO2 and other smaller molecules selectively. The technology could go a long way not only in improving processing of waste gas and harvesting fuels, but also in cleanup of things like oil spills. Cool!

Speaking of novel, a phase I trial of an ovarian cancer vaccine yielded very encouraging results. The vaccine contains an immune stimulant and some surface proteins from common cancer cells, and seem to effectively stimulate the body to kill cancer cells (which it usually won't do). If this pans out in Phase II and III trials and in life, it would be huge, not only for cancer but potentially for many other diseases as well.

And finally, we have the oldest cure (and my favorite): booze! US researchers found that red wine (but not white) seems to inhibit infection by food-borne pathogens Listeria, Salmonella, E. coli, and H. pylori. Grape juice had a similar effect, but that's no fun. Plus, an Australian man's life was saved (after he drank antifreeze) by a three-day IV drip of vodka. Sadly, he was unconscious and didn't get to enjoy it.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, October 12, 2007

More Bivalve Madness 

So a quick look at my referral logs suggests that there are a lot of people, all over the world, looking here for information about geoducks. It's been well over two years since I mentioned those phallic clams, but all of a sudden all this interest.

Background: The geoduck is a giant clam, it can live more than 150 years and lay billions of eggs. It's also supposed to be really, really tasty. So, all you googlers, who wants to make me some geoduck???

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Monday, October 01, 2007

Dietary Matters 

I know it seems like all I do these days is harp on diet and nutrition, but that's much of what's in the news and I don't understand quantum cryptography, and the continuing Iraq and SCHIP* travesties just make me to angry to say anything coherent (or publishable).

First, the good news. A UVA professor has published a review of the literature on carb-based diets, and found that the whole good-versus-bad carb thing is pretty much crap. It seems that there is no real evidence that a low-glycemic index diet is better for you, or will even help you lose weight in the long term. Also, low-carbers may not be as quick-thinking. Heh.

As much as I like that news, this could be even better: a pilot study of chronic fatigue syndrome patients may have had significant symptom reduction from eating dark chocolate. Except, of course, that I don't buy the findings one bit. Even though chocolate's health and cognitive benefits are pretty safely established, I can't help but be really concerned that this study doesn't appear to have controlled for caffeine. Or sugar. Or much of anything, really. Oh well.

Now, the bad-but-still-kinda-funny news: One of the big things in modern medicine is people going on endlessly about lowering their cholesterol. As usual, it has become clear that too much of a good thing is in fact a bad thing...pregnant women with very low cholesterol are at higher risk for premature and other poor birth outcomes. So pregnant ladies? Have another plate of steak.

* If anyone still needs convincing that dubya and co. are actually evil, as opposed to just incompetent, this really should do it.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?