Archive for September, 2009

NCBI ROFL: On how not to lose your marbles.

By ncbi rofl | September 25, 2009 3:00 pm

Fijian penis marbles: an example of artificial penile nodules.

“Artificial penile nodules are inert objects inserted beneath the skin of the penis to enhance the pleasure of female sexual partners during intercourse. The practice is most common among men from southeast Asia. This report describes a Fijian man who had an artificial penile nodule made from a whittled-down plastic toothbrush handle. Although some authors believe that the use of artificial penile nodules arose after World War II, the practice was discussed in the Kama Sutra, the classic Indian treatise on love.”


Weekly News Roundup: The Passion of Kirk Cameron

By Melissa Lafsky | September 25, 2009 12:28 pm

Yee-haw! It’s the blog roundup. • The “iFart” v. “Pull My Finger” legal battle comes to a close. The solution? Release a new app, “Clear the Air.”

He’s ba-ack: Kirk Cameron defends his nutbag anti-evolution claims, and proposed vandalism.

• How Wal-Mart gift cards are being used to battle STDs.

• Can Xbox 360 fight heart disease?

• Indonesian woman gives birth to a 19-pound baby. As in, 19 pounds AT BIRTH.

• The Huffington Post launches No Impact Challenge: Can you make no environmental impact for a week?


Woman Gets Pregnant…While Already Pregnant

By Melissa Lafsky | September 25, 2009 11:00 am

babyA woman in Arkansas is pregnant with two babies at the same time…except they aren’t twins. ABC News reports:

Doctors successfully located Todd and Julia Grovenburg’s growing baby girl Jillian, but then discovered another smaller baby — what could be Jillian’s younger brother — growing beside her.

The Grovenburgs may have conceived their son Hudson a full two-and-a-half weeks after Jillian, according to statements given to KFSM-TV in Ft. Smith-Fayetteville, Ark.

There’s even a name for what happened: superfetation, or conceiving while pregnant. Unsurprisingly, it’s extraordinarily rare—one doctor said she could only track down 10 reported cases.

Granted, there’s a big problem—what happens to the younger baby when the older fetus is born?

“It [the second conception] can happen up to 24 days later than the first conception, and then you’re putting the second baby at risk for lung development problems,” said [OB-GYN Karen Boyle].

However, in the Grovenburg’s case, Boyle said the difference of two weeks would not put the younger baby at much of a risk for health problems.

Talk about dodging a bullet—though birthdays in the Grovenburg household should be interesting.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Girl or Boy? At-Home Test Reveals Baby’s Gender During Pregnancy
Discoblog: When Technology Gets Creepy: Giving Birth in Second Life
Discoblog: Pregnant Woman Discovers She Has an Extra Womb

Image: iStockphoto


Should We Be Funding Studies on the Perfect Piece of Toast?

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 24, 2009 6:34 pm

toastWe here at Discoblog consider it our duty to bring attention to terrible science stories. Some recent notable bombs include “Woman are evil and want your husband” and “Twitter Will Make You Eeevil.”

Now, here’s an example of a good story about some bad research: The BBC reports that British researchers are conducting all manner of frivolous experiments, including how to make the perfect piece of toast. The study isn’t new— the flurry of news about it occurred in 2003—but the debate over the need for important research versus, well, silly work is as fresh as ever.

Here are the details: Leeds University food scientist Bronek Wedzicha studied what temperature of bread and butter would make the most delicious toast. The research was part of a PR effort by butter company Lurpak to get the word out—in case you were wondering—that butter is tasty.

BBC reports:

“The equation, which was spurious, captured the imagination but we didn’t get the flavour-release message across. It was aimed at the food industry and scientists working in flavour science and people who are formulating food and trying to work out what properties they need,” says Wedzicha…

“We wouldn’t work exclusively to do PR, we have to have an economic return, which in this case was a greater understanding of flavour release mechanism,” says Wedzicha. “We got £10,000 and Lurpak got some very good PR out of it.”

Granted, some areas of frivolous research have turned up interesting results. Students from University of Plymouth studied the infinite monkey theory by putting a computer in a cage with six primates, but the monkeys destroyed the computer and managed to type the letter “s” over and over again. And when a sword swallower and a radiologist surveyed 100 sword swallowers about their injuries, they learned that many suffered from major bleeding of the stomach.

There’s talk about revising the distribution of research money, so that funds go to researchers working on projects with the most social, economic, and cultural impact. However, silly science isn’t always a bad thing, some researchers argue—if someone finds something interesting while researching their life-long work, then the extra attention can only help them.

Related Content:
Discoblog: The World’s First “All Synthetic” Meal Graces a Five-Star Table

Image: flickr/ westwrite

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food
MORE ABOUT: funding, research, science, toast

NCBI ROFL: I'm pretty sure this is how the Civil War started…

By ncbi rofl | September 24, 2009 3:00 pm

Insult, aggression, and the southern culture of honor: an “experimental ethnography”.

“Three experiments examined how norms characteristic of a “culture of honor” manifest themselves in the cognitions, emotions, behaviors, and physiological reactions of southern White males. Participants were University of Michigan students who grew up in the North or South. In 3 experiments they were insulted by a confederate who bumped into the participant and called him an “asshole”. Compared with northerners–who were relatively unaffected by the insult–southerners were (a) more likely to think their masculine reputation was threatened, (b) more upset (as shown by a rise in cortisol levels), (c) more physiologically primed for aggression (as shown by a rise in testosterone levels), (d) more cognitively primed for aggression, and (e) more likely to engage in aggressive and dominant behavior.”


Swine Flu v. Idiocy: Inmates Drink Anti-Flu Gel to Get Drunk

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 24, 2009 2:36 pm

swine fluHere you’ll find the everything you need to know about swine flu. We recently reported that up to half of Americans could catch the virus, with the illness already spreading rapidly in colleges. Plus the Internet has helped spread panic to critical mass. And we’ve seen governments try (often ineptly) to stop the flu in its tracks.

Now there’s another unexpected side effect of efforts to control swine flu worldwide: A prison in Dorset thought they’d stave off the flu by stocking their bathrooms with antibacterial gel. But the prisoners learned pretty quickly that the gel contained alcohol, and began ingesting it.

One prisoner was discovered to be drunk after he gulped down a decent amount of the gel. The Guardian reports:

The Prison Service confirmed that this case was being investigated but meanwhile antibacterial gel pumps had been removed as a “precautionary measure”.

“The suspicion that was reported to us was that some of the inmates had drunk them. Of course some of the officers expressed concerns over potentially having to deal with prisoners who have had a drink,” [says Andy Fear, a member of the Verne’s Prison Officers Association]

Hospitals have also been battling the misuse of antibacterial gel, and in one case, it might have actually been responsible for someone’s death. Back in August, patients were reportedly making cocktails by mixing gel with orange juice or soda. [ed. note: They couldn’t just round up some morphine? Sure tastes better.]

So as swine season approaches, the real question is, what is worse: Having people get drunk on antibacterial gel, or having them get swine flu? If you asked Dr. Sanjay Gupta , he’d probably say the flu.

Related Content:
Discoblog: U.S. Government Brings In The Muppets To Fight Swine Flu
DISCOVER: The Five Worst Government Responses To Swine Flu

Image: flickr/ Brandon Hambright // The FireStarter Group

Gupta Gets Swine Flu, Blogs About It

By Brett Israel | September 24, 2009 10:34 am

swine-flu-news_webAmerica’s favorite neurosurgeon/T.V. doc has caught the dreaded H1N1 (and so has his camera man). He was on a trip to war-torn Afghanistan when he started feeling sick and developed a painful cough and other symptoms, which he initially blamed on the stress of working in 100-degree heat in a bulletproof vest. However, his symptoms quickly escalated, and he was diagnosed with swine flu.

Dr. Gupta describes his experience on his blog, Paging Dr. Gupta:

I was nauseated and my entire body hurt. I tried to explain away my symptoms with lots of different excuses. You don’t sleep much while covering a war. My bulletproof jacket didn’t fit perfectly and was very heavy. There was a lot of dust and dirt, and maybe I had what the Marines referred to as the Kandahar Krud. It turned out to be none of those things.

You can read about his entire experience on his blog. Here’s wishing the good doctor a speedy recovery (though it sounds like he’s pretty much there already).

Still no word from  the swine flu twitter feed about its latest victim.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Fuzzy, Cuddly Swine Flu: The Next Big Holiday Toy?
Discoblog: Want to Up Your Chances of Dying From Swine Flu? Be Obese
Discoblog: To Halt Swine Flu, U.S. Government Brings in Big Guns: Muppets

Image: iStockphoto

“Tree Man” Upstaged By "Coral Boy"

By Boonsri Dickinson | September 23, 2009 5:10 pm

coralYou may recall the case of Dede Koswara who was dubbed the “tree man” after he developed an unsightly amount of bark-like warts on his skin due to an immune deficiency that did not allow his body to fight off the human papilloma virus. As it turns out, he’s not the only one with this bizarre condition.

Lin Tianzhuan, 38, is known in his town as  “coral boy” for good reason. From Shuimen in southern China, he suffered a similar skin problem to Koswara—he began to develop shell-like growths on his skin beginning at age 13.

The Telegraph reports:

“It started with a few hard bumps so I tried to apply antibiotics and creams but it didn’t get better,” he explained.

“Instead it just got worse. They grew and grew and soon they were all over my arms and legs, my back and even my head. Ii was as if I was turning to stone and it was terrifying,” he added.

“Gradually my shell became thicker and thicker and I could no longer bend my arms or my legs. It was very frightening,” Lin said.

“If I had to go out I wrapped myself up in blankets because people would scream when they saw me,” he added.

Fortunately, Tianzhuan has nearly recovered after receiving a year of  radiotherapy treatment at Fuzhou Dermatosis Prevention Hospital.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Tree Found Growing In Man’s Lung

Image: flickr/ cpjmazz

MORE ABOUT: coral, HPV, medicine

NCBI ROFL: But I want to eat my cheese-pie now!

By ncbi rofl | September 23, 2009 3:00 pm

Thermal burn of palate caused by microwave heated cheese-pie: A case report.

“ABSTRACT: A female patient, 36-years-old, complained of bilateral palatal pain on the anatomical area of upper second molars. The painful condition of palatal mucosa erosion was observed. Palatal erosions or ulcerations may be caused by heated food cooked in microwave ovens. We present a case of a bilateral palatal burn caused by cheese-pie. Concluding, any food containing cheese, when heated in microwave oven, may cause palatal burn if eaten immediately.”

Thanks to Rebecca for today’s ROFL!


New Shark Has "Retractable Sex Appendage" on Its Forehead

By Brett Israel | September 23, 2009 12:40 pm

shark_web“Really! I was born that way! I swear!” A new species of shark was discovered in California recently, called the Eastern Pacific black ghostshark. It’s part of a group known as big black chimeras, and members of the species have actually been laying around pickled in museums since the 1960s—but only recently have scientists realized that the black ghostsharks were in fact a separate species.

One possibility is that past scientists were too distracted by the sharks’, er, highly unusual feature that they lumped them in with the other chimeras.

Douglass Long, author of the study (PDF) detailing the new species, described the shark to National Geographic News:

Male chimeras…have retractable sexual appendages sprouting from their foreheads. These organs, which resemble a spiked club at the end of a stalk, may be used to stimulate a female or to pull her closer—though these are still assumptions, Long said.

So basically these guys have a mace swinging from their forehead that they use to club female sharks. Talk about a remarkable trick of animal mating.

Related Content:
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Discoblog: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Squid Sex
Discoblog: Internet Dating a New Option for Zoo Animals

Image: MBARI


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