Archive for April, 2009

Weird Science Roundup: Special Animal-Only Edition!

By Rachel Cernansky | April 24, 2009 3:32 pm

Yee-haw! It’s the blog roundup.• If you thought things were bad on Wall Street, zoo animals laid off at the Bronx Zoo may have it much worse.

• A family looking for relaxation at a Florida beach found adventure instead, when they discovered a one-eyed, three-legged alligator. (It was captured and returned safely to the wild.)

• A glowing frog became a charm on a string of Christmas lights, while the first transgenic puppy glows under ultraviolet light.

The Telegraph reports that scientists have found, literally, a smiley-faced spider from Hawaii.

• Not so smiley, however, are horse fans around the world, after a group of 21 polo horses died from a supplement prepared at a Florida pharmacy with the wrong proportion of ingredients.

• Non-animal-related: but if you happen to find yourself at the top of Mount Everest, you may soon get decent cell reception.

MORE ABOUT: animals, New York, zoos

"Electric Fart Machine" Could Lead to Greater Fuel Storage Efficiency

By Rachel Cernansky | April 24, 2009 12:59 pm

fartmachine4.jpgWhile it may sound like every six-year-old boy’s dream, a new electric fart machine could actually improve fuel cell technology.

The machine takes single-celled microoranisms called archea and gives them little electric jolts, which trigger the organisms to turn carbon dioxide from the air into methane and release it as, um, micro-farts.  The methane can then be used to power fuel cells or store the electrical energy chemically until it’s needed.

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NCBI ROFL: At least my experiments don't require fresh slug feces…

By ncbi rofl | April 24, 2009 12:01 am

Ingestion and excretion of two transgenic Bt corn varieties by slugs.

Most Offensive iPhone App Ever? "Baby Shaker" Endorses Infanticide

By Rachel Cernansky | April 23, 2009 11:51 am

amd_baby_shaker.jpgApple has released some controversial applications for the iPhone, but Baby Shaker may be its most offensive yet. At least, it was for child welfare advocates who called Apple to protest the game, which consists of stopping a virtual baby’s crying by shaking the phone until two red “X”s appear over the baby’s eyes.

The game, created by a company called Sikalosoft, went on sale on Monday. By Wednesday, Apple pulled Baby Shaker amid protest and outrage from the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, child welfare advocates, and a mother whose son was shaken by his biological father and now has brain damage.

The sales pitch for the game included, “See how long you can endure his or her adorable cries before you just have to find a way to quiet the baby down!” and does include the warning, “Never, never shake a baby.” How about never, never create the temptation?

Related Content:
Reality Base: The Shaken Baby Debate: When Law and Medicine Collide
DISCOVER: Does Shaken Baby Syndrome Really Exist?
Discoblog: From iFart to iSperm: Apple Apps Go Highbrow


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

Earth Day Roundup: Green Charcoal, Polluted Fish Feast, and Earth Heroes

By Rachel Cernansky | April 22, 2009 6:00 pm

earthday.jpg• Greener cooking methods have been quite the craze lately, but the search for the perfect solution will (hopefully) continue until there is one. In Senegal, “green charcoal” is now being produced from agricultural waste materials to replace the black kind that has caused the destruction of so many trees.

“Bell-bottoms and gas masks”: Check out National Geographic‘s slideshow of the first Earth Day, back in 1970. (And learn here about its history—why is it April 22, anyway?)

• Gotta pay some respect to history’s Earth Day heroes, whether they be from comic books or real life.

• Here’s the bad news first: Dow Chemical is sponsoring a fish festival near a polluted Michigan river where the (toxic) fish that are caught will be donated to the poor. But the good news: If you like SunChips, you can soon rest assured about their packaging—by 2010, it will be fully compostable.

Image: Flickr / kimberlyfaye

Can Scientists Put All the Good Parts of Pot In a Pill?

By Boonsri Dickinson | April 22, 2009 4:44 pm

pot.jpgEveryone can make “marijuana” in their heads. We don’t mean this literally.

Recently, researchers found that our brains produce proteins that mimic the effects of marijuana. The active ingredient in hash—tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC for short—is the reason why people feel high when they smoke pot. While the exact mechanism of how the brain takes in cannabis isn’t completely understood, THC is thought to play a significant role. After marijuana is inhaled, THC enters the lungs and the bloodstream, and then attaches to a certain type of cannabinoid receptor in the brain. That’s when the known effects of pot start to kick in: A person’s appetite increases (a.k.a the munchies), pain dissipates, and a heightened mental state sets in.

The psychoactive effect of pot is widely used in the medical community to treat symptoms of pain and inflammation in a slew of chronic illnesses. Now, Mount Sinai researchers have figured out which proteins made naturally in the brain can act like THC, so that someday they can produce marijuana-type drugs that don’t come with the side effects of smoking actual pot.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?
MORE ABOUT: brain, drugs, marijuana, medicine

"The Cloned Child is Coming": Doctor Claims He's On the Verge

By Rachel Cernansky | April 22, 2009 12:30 pm

ttbaby.jpgA U.S. fertility doctor has claimed that he can clone human embryos—and plant them inside the wombs of women who want cloned babies.

So far, none of his implantations have led to successful pregnancies, but Panayiotis Zavos is certain that the first cloned baby is not far off. Britain’s The Independent, a less-than-the-most-reliable source for science news, reports that Zavos can be seen here creating human embryos before injecting them into the the womb.

Zavos says he has transferred 11 of a total of 14 cloned embryos to the wombs of female patients, and that this is only the “first chapter” in his research—which he is confident will eventually produce successful results.

“I may not be the one that does it, but the cloned child is coming. There is absolutely no way that it will not happen,” Zavos told The Independent. He isn’t sure whether the research can be expedited to produce a cloned baby within a year or two. But then again, rushing it would emphasize the wrong priority: “We’re not really under pressure to deliver a cloned baby to this world. What we are under pressure to do is to deliver a cloned baby that is a healthy one.”

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Sex & Mating, Technology Attacks!

NCBI ROFL: Fresh squeezed orange juice odor: a review

By ncbi rofl | April 22, 2009 12:41 am


Composting Robot Can Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle Your Scraps

By Boonsri Dickinson | April 21, 2009 4:00 pm

nature-mill.jpgWe never eat 27 percent of the food that exists on the shelves in grocery stores or that is served in restaurants and kitchens. There is one way to save the fate of wasted food ending up in landfills. You’ve all heard of it, but probably never tried it: composting.

People who do compost know that it smells terrible and requires a host of bacteria, earthworms, and fruit flies to turn into soil—which is why apartment and city dwellers typically avoid the practice. But now those problems may be eliminated. The San Francisco-based company NatureMill is selling a composting “robot” to make composting hassle-free, and the machine might soon become an American household mainstay.

All you have to do is plug it in, and the robot does all the work. The machine can chomp on up to 5 pounds of food a day— turning dinner leftovers into soil in less than two weeks.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food
MORE ABOUT: compost, food, robot, waste

Does the Taste of Semen Have Evolutionary Roots?

By Melissa Lafsky | April 21, 2009 11:50 am

MilkJerry Coyne—author and renowned evolutionistthinks so:

It is the conventional wisdom in human sexuality that semen tastes bad. Anyone with minimal sexual experience knows that although many women will perform fellatio on their partners, most bridle at the thought of swallowing the ejaculate. Its flavor is frequently characterized as revoltingly bitter or salty. The “swallow or spit” dilemma faces any woman who performs such an act, and whose partner regards swallowing as a gesture of love…

Why does semen taste so foul? One answer, of course, is that the chemicals necessary to make an ejaculate effective have the side effect of tasting bad. Semen is only about 5% sperm, with the remainder of the fluid consisting of a complex mixture of compounds from the prostate gland and seminal vesicle…

But this proximate answer will not satisfy the diligent evolutionary psychologist. After all, natural selection could presumably add some sugars or good-tasting stuff to semen if it were advantageous to do so. Why does it not do so?

A moment’s reflection gives the answer.

Natural selection maintains the repugnant taste of semen so that a man’s sperm will wind up in the appropriate place: the vagina and not the stomach. So long as sperm tastes bad, women will not be tempted to swallow it, but will turn their male partner towards conventional intercourse, which of course is the only act that will produce children.

Well, there you have it! Now all we need is a way to test this hypothesis. Volunteers?

Disco: Love Potion Number 10: Oxytocin Spray Said to Increase Attraction
Disco: What Viagra? New Spray Increases Male Performance Time
Disco: Men, Beware! Sketchy Sexual Performance Drugs Prove Fatal

Image: iStockphoto [not actual semen]

MORE ABOUT: evolution, men, sex

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