Archive for June, 2009

Got a Migraine? Chronic Pain? Epilepsy? Try Viagra

By Allison Bond | June 27, 2009 12:04 pm

ViagraThe active ingredient in Viagra might hold information leading to new treatments for chronic pain, migraines, Alzheimer’s disease, and epilepsy. Brain cells contain active enzymes that help produce nitric oxide, which gives the little blue pill its power, and scientists think this molecule might help brain cells pass signals to on another. BBC tells us:

Researcher Adam Tozer said: “This prompts the question ‘Why is a molecule that can produce penile erections necessary in the brain? It is hoped that this research will go some way to solving the complexity of communication between brain cells, and therefore provide openings for therapeutic strategies against debilitating conditions. It will also help to shed light on communication in the healthy brain and this will enable a greater understanding of how we think.”

The Leicester team will focus on the junctions – or synapses – between cells that enable them to “talk” to each other. They will examine how nitric oxide can influence this communication.There is evidence to suggest that high levels of nitric oxide have a toxic effect, and may trigger serious brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust said: “It will be interesting to find out what nitric oxide does in the brain, and if it has any role in Alzheimer’s.”This study may help researchers understand how the brain works and how nerve cells communicate with each other. Understanding our thought processes and the brain is crucial to understanding and defeating diseases that affect it.”

Still, we have to wonder about which possible side effects of treatment with nitric oxide might, er, pop up.

Related Content:
Discoblog: What Viagra? New Spray Increases Male Performance Time
Discoblog: Men, Beware! Sketchy Sexual Performance Drugs Prove Fatal
Discoblog: Erectile Dysfunction Could Signal a Heart Attack

Image: flickr /

MORE ABOUT: medicine, viagra

NCBI ROFL: Sorry Tommy, even this pigeon thinks your painting sucks

By ncbi rofl | June 26, 2009 7:33 pm

Pigeons can discriminate “good” and “bad” paintings by children

“…adult human observers first classified several children’s paintings as either “good” (beautiful) or “bad” (ugly). Using operant conditioning procedures, pigeons were then reinforced for pecking at “good” paintings. After the pigeons learned the discrimination task, they were presented with novel pictures of both “good” and “bad” children’s paintings to test whether they had successfully learned to discriminate between these two stimulus categories.”

Thanks to Ana for finding today’s ROFL!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, NCBI ROFL, rated G

Weird Science Roundup: Wallabies on Drugs, Microsoft Lawsuits, and Predatory Nymphs

By Allison Bond | June 26, 2009 1:31 pm

Yee-haw! It’s the blog roundup. • Humans aren’t the only ones who can feel the narcotic effects of opium; wallabies can, too. In fact, farmers in Australia have reported that the animals “get high” from munching on the stuff, which grows in open fields, then form crop circles when they repeatedly hop in circles.

• Hey, lay off my layout! Bing, Microsoft’s new search engine, has been accused of plagiarism by Kayak, a web site that helps customers find inexpensive plane fares. Apparently, Bing looks so similar to Kayak, it’s confounding customers.

•Talk about DIY: The woman who biopsied and treated her own breast cancer in 1999 while at the South Pole died on Tuesday, June 23.

•Remember those one-legged frogs deformed by chemical pollution? Turns out that there may be another explanation for those missing limbs: dragonfly nymphs, which feed on tadpole legs. Tasty!

Related Content:
Discoblog: It’s Raining Tadpoles? Fish, Frogs Shower Japanese Residents
Discoblog: Go To Jail—You Smell Like Drugs
Discoblog: Move Over, Google: The All-Knowing Search Engine Is Coming Soon

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Blog Roundup
MORE ABOUT: opium, plagiarism, roundup

Michael Jackson's Death Causes Internet to Slow

By Boonsri Dickinson | June 26, 2009 12:03 pm

Michael JacksonWhen TMZ broke the news yesterday that Michael Jackson had been rushed to the hospital for cardiac arrest, rumors about the King of Pop’s fate flooded Twitter. Sure enough, the dreaded (and beloved) fail whale soon began to appear, when the 66,500 tweets about Michael crashed the micro-blogging site’s servers.

Millions of people also turned to Google, searching for “Michael Jackson” to find out the latest on the singer’s health. The BBC reported that Google initially thought it was under attack, because the Web slowed down so drastically when the news broke:

Millions of people who Googled the star’s name were greeted with an error page rather than a list of results.

It warned users “your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application”.

Other mainstream media sites including AOL, CBS, and CNN all needed additional time to load as well. As for us here at DISCOVER…well, we’re sworn to secrecy.

Image: flickr/ Jason Edmonds

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

NCBI ROFL: The "Booty Call": A Compromise Between Men's and Women's Ideal Mating Strategies.

By ncbi rofl | June 25, 2009 9:46 pm

Surprise, surprise–the first author’s a guy!

Thanks to Patrick for finding today’s ROFL!

Why Our Oily Fingers Can Never Soil the iPhone's Pristine Screen

By Allison Bond | June 25, 2009 3:38 pm

iPhoneIf you’ve held the new iPhone 3GS in your sweaty palm, you might’ve marveled at the way its shiny touchscreen deflects fingerprints and smudges. For that feature, you can thank an organic polymer infused into the glass screen by way of an intermediate molecule. This polymeric coating is oleophobic…meaning the oil from your fingers or face is more apt to stick to itself and to your skin than to the iPhone’s screen.

Television host and science educator Bill Nye the Science Guy explained how it works via Gizmodo:

The Applers were able to do this by bonding this oleophobic polymer to glass. The polymer is an organic (from organisms) compound, carbon-based. The glass is nominally inorganic, silicon-based… solid rock. The trick is getting the one to stick to the other. Although it is nominally proprietary, this is probably done with a third molecule that sticks to silicon on one side and to carbon-based polymers on the other side. Chemical engineers get it to stay stuck by inducing compounds to diffuse or “inter-penetrate” into the polymer. The intermediate chemical is a “silane,” a molecule that has silicon and alkanes (chains of carbon atoms)….

The polymer that the 3GS iPhone screen is coated with doesn’t let the oil of your skin stick to it very much. So, you don’t leave fingerprints. The key is in the intermediate compounds, the silanes that hold the plastic to the glass.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

Military Members to Donate Their Brains to Science

By Allison Bond | June 25, 2009 11:37 am

brainResearchers hoping to literally get inside the heads of soldiers will have their chance: 20 retired and active members of the U.S. military have pledged to donate their brains for research on the physical effects of war on the brain.

The program will be looking for evidence of brain damage caused by explosions and other wartime trauma, and the researchers involved have already examined the brains of athletes for similar problems. According to the New York Times:

Just as researchers at the Boston University center and elsewhere have linked some athletes’ later-life emotional problems to their on-field brain trauma, the research on military personnel will try to determine whether some soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder—a psychological diagnosis—actually retain physical brain damage caused by battlefield blasts. Some signs of P.T.S.D., particularly depression, erratic behavior and the inability to concentrate, appear similar to those experienced by concussed athletes.

Such a link could have effects beyond medicine. Disability benefits for veterans can vary depending on whether an injury is considered psychological or physical. And veterans with P.T.S.D. alone do not receive the Purple Heart, the medal given to soldiers wounded or killed in enemy action, because it is not a physical wound.

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New Humanoid Robot Shows More Emotion Than Some Humans

By Boonsri Dickinson | June 24, 2009 6:29 pm

robot.jpgThese days, add an emotion, a personality type, or a body part to a robot and it will make the news. In March, Japanese researchers created a female humanoid that can display facial expressions. Last year, British scientists created a robot that can move and think like humans, while European researchers have created a robot that can become “emotionally attached” to you.

Now, Japanese researchers have created a humanoid robot that, they claim, is the first in the world to display multiple emotions, with its entire face and body showing what it’s feeling. CBS13 reports:

It is able to express…happiness, fear, surprise, sadness, anger, and disgust, by opening and closing its eyes, moving its lips and eyebrows, and using its arms and legs.

The robot is installed with 48 “actuators” which allow its face and body to move in a variety of ways.

It shows happiness by opening its eyes and mouth wide and raising its arms, and sorrow by drooping its head and covering its eyes.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

Pork Lovers Can Now "Pig Out" On a Ham Once Nearly Extinct

By Allison Bond | June 24, 2009 5:55 pm

pigIf your everyday ham and bacon have become boring, look no further than the Hungarian Mangalica pig. It’s a rare breed; in fact, 20 years ago, there were fewer than 200 of them left worldwide. But the Hungarian Mangalica has since been bred for food, and in the process, the population has swelled to 20,000 in Hungary and Spain.

The curly-haired oinker needs space to roam and grows very slowly, making it incompatible with modern pig farms. Luckily, other pig-ophiles stepped in to keep the breed afloat. Scientific American reports:

The resurrection of the Mangalica has been the mission of Juan Vicente Olmos, the head of Spain’s Monte Nevado ham company, and geneticist Peter Tóth, who tracked and purchased the last pigs from farms scattered throughout Hungary. After less than two decades of intense breeding, the Mangalica population has now increased one-hundred-fold, with 20,000 pigs living in Spain and Hungary.

Of course, a breed (like the Mangalica) is not a species, so it couldn’t technically go extinct. Still, the salvation of the pig and its unique genes remains a victory. The Mangalica may not be suited to modern commercial livestock production, but it does contain genes that don’t exist elsewhere. Some of those genes make it more suitable to cold, mountainous regions. Who knows when and where those rare genes could be of use?

Keep in mind that rare pork comes at a price: At nearly $55 per pound, an eight-to-10 pound ham will set you back $490.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Charge by the Hour? Scottish Volunteers Build Mating Motel for Frogs
Discoblog: Empty Nesters: Pigeons on the Pill See Their Egg-Laying Thwarted
Discoblog: Afghanistan’s Lone Pig Quarantined for Swine Flu

Image: flickr / Ken Wilcox.

Clubbers More Likely to Give Cigarettes If You Ask Their Right Ears

By Melissa Lafsky | June 24, 2009 12:00 pm

dance clubFrom 80Beats:

A noisy Italian disco may not seem like a conducive location for scientific experiments, but for a couple of researchers investigating hearing and language processing it was perfect. The undercover scientists studied clubbers who were trying to talk while the music was pumping, and found that they showed a decided preference for speaking into each other’s right ears. What’s more, when the researchers approached clubbers with a request for a cigarette, they found the unwitting test subjects were much more likely to comply if the petition was made in the right ear.

Previous lab studies have also suggested that “humans tend to have a preference for listening to verbal input with their right ears and that given stimulus in both ears, they’ll privilege the syllables that went into the right ear. Brain scientists hypothesize that the right ear auditory stream receives precedence in the left hemisphere of the brain, where the bulk of linguistic processing is carried out” [Wired.com]. Researchers say this bias holds true for both lefties and righties.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?
MORE ABOUT: hearing, language
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