Archive for January, 2010

To See the Brain Better, Cut Away Some of That Pesky Skull

By Smriti Rao | January 26, 2010 11:09 am

brain-chunkWhat do your cell-phone and a brain scan have in common? Both need clear signals for optimal efficacy.

Doctors often have to work with sketchy data when it comes to brain scans–but the solution to that problem isn’t one that many patients will clamor to try. A new study to be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience says the best way to get clearer EEG brain scans is to remove a part of the skull.

For years, doctors have been treating patients who have suffered severe head trauma like a gunshot or knife wound by cutting out a chunk of the skull–a procedure called a hemicraniectomy. This gives the brain room to swell, and when the wound heals they re-attach the chunk of skull.

Neuroscientist Bradley Voytek of the University of California at Berkeley, the lead author of this study, worked with hemicraniectomy patients and utilized this window to see how the skull acts as a barrier to EEG’s–a brain scan that is done to assess the brain’s electrical activity.

Read More

NCBI ROFL: Why some women look young for their age.

By ncbi rofl | January 26, 2010 9:00 am

452px-Old_woman_BM_GR1852.3-27.9“The desire of many to look young for their age has led to the establishment of a large cosmetics industry. However, the features of appearance that primarily determine how old women look for their age and whether genetic or environmental factors predominately influence such features are largely unknown. Read More


The Pope to His Priests: Why Aren't You Blogging?

By Smriti Rao | January 25, 2010 5:35 pm

popeGo where the flock goes: That seems to be the new message from the Vatican last Saturday, when Pope Benedict XVI sent a message instructing his priests to adopt a “new media mindset.” The pope encouraged his priests to use all the digital tools at their disposal to preach the Gospel, version 2.0. Expect to see more priests online engaging in dialogue with the faithful, and maybe even a priestly Facebook page or two.

The Washington Post reports:

The Vatican has tried hard to keep up to speed with the rapidly changing field. Last year it opened a YouTube channel as well as a portal dedicated to the pope. The Pope2You site gives news on the pontiff’s trips and speeches and features a Facebook application that allows users to send postcards with photos of Benedict and excerpts from his messages to their friends.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

For Guilt-Free Fur, Wear a Coat Made From an Invasive Water Rat

By Eliza Strickland | January 25, 2010 3:02 pm

nutriaBy Anna Rothschild

At a time when wearing fur is generally considered a fashion faux pas, designers like Oscar de le Renta and Billy Reid are taking a big fashion risk. They are selling pelts from an unusual source: the nutria.

Ever heard of the nutria? It’s a nocturnal, semi-aquatic rodent that weighs around 12 pounds. It has the body of a beaver, the tail of a rat, the feet of a duck, and it wears its nipples on the sides of its body rather than on its belly. It is also destroying Louisiana’s wetlands.

In the 1930s, Louisiana fur farms imported these animals from Argentina for their supple pelts. Unfortunately, some nutria got loose and made Louisiana’s marshes their new home. As the demand for nutria fur diminished in the 1980s, these animals went from posh fashion statement to ecological pest.

Read More

Ape Auteurs: BBC to Premiere Documentary Shot Entirely by Chimps

By Smriti Rao | January 25, 2010 11:22 am

chimpanzeesIf you thought a zoo chimpanzee’s life was a simple sequence of “see banana… peel… eat,” then think again.

The BBC is set to air a new documentary titled “The Chimpcam Project,” that has been shot entirely by chimpanzees at Scotland’s Edinburgh Zoo. We’re guessing it won’t quite match the high-tech joys of “Avatar,” but the film is expected to provide fascinating clues as to how chimps view the world around them.

The movie was primatologist Betsy Herrelko’s idea.  She introduced video technology to a group of 11 chimps living in a newly built enclosure at the Edinburgh Zoo.  At first she just wanted to see if chimps could use a touchscreen to select different videos, thereby offering her a chance to study what images chimps liked.

The BBC reports:

Initially, the chimps were more interested in each other than the video technology, as two male chimps within the study group vied to become the alpha male, disrupting the experiment. But over time, some of the chimps learned how to select different videos to watch.

Read More

MORE ABOUT: chimpcam, chimps, filming

NCBI ROFL: Impact of Yankee Stadium Bat Day on blunt trauma in northern New York City.

By ncbi rofl | January 25, 2010 9:00 am

“STUDY OBJECTIVE: To determine the incidence of blunt trauma in northern New York City before and after the distribution of 25,000 baseball bats at Yankee Stadium… …MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Seventy-seven patients sustained bat injuries, 38 (49%) before and 36 (47%) after Bat Day. There were no significant differences between the two groups with respect to age, sex, time of injury, number and distribution of fractures and lacerations, incidence of loss of consciousness, source of history, or dispostion. There was a positive association between the number of cases on a given day and the average temperature that day (r = .5; P < .01). CONCLUSION: The distribution of 25,000 wooden baseball bats to attendees at Yankee Stadium did not increase the incidence of bat-related trauma in the Bronx and northern Manhattan. There was a positive correlation between daily temperature and the incidence of bat injury. The informal but common impressions of emergency clinicians about the cause-and-effect relationship between Bat Day and bat trauma were unfounded.”

yankee bat

Thanks to Timon for today’s ROFL!

Astronauts in Space Finally Enter the Intertubes

By Smriti Rao | January 22, 2010 5:33 pm

nasa-twitterIt’s official. Even people in space are tweeting. NASA announced today that astronaut T.J. Creamer on the International Space Station has become the first person to tweet directly from space, making use of a brand new direct Internet connection. Creamer tweeted: “Hello Twitterverse! We r now LIVE tweeting from the International Space Station — the 1st live tweet from Space! More soon, send your ?s”

Yay. Space tweets. Sweet.

In the past, astronauts could use email and twitter–but they had to relay their messages to ground control in Houston, who then sent them on. But now, thanks to the new system of personal Web access, called the Crew Support LAN, astronauts can take advantage of existing communication links to and from the station and browse the Web directly.

Read More

Public Health Authorities: Couch Potato Syndrome Leads to Rickets

By Smriti Rao | January 22, 2010 5:23 pm

video-game-controllerIs your child practically a vampire? Avoiding the sun, holed up at home, and playing video games non-stop? Two scientists in Britain now suggest there might be link between such inactivity and rickets–a painful bone condition caused by lack of vitamin D, and which is much more common in malnourished children of the developing world.

Researchers Simon Pearce and Tim Cheetham of Newcastle University have published a clinical review in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal blaming the rickets resurgence on our more interior lifestyle. According to The Guardian, Pearce said:

“Vitamin D levels in parts of the population are precarious. The average worker nowadays is in a call center, not out in the field. People tend to stay at home rather than going outside to kick a ball around. They stay at home on computer games.”

Read More

Lawsuit Claims Jenny Craig's Diet Isn't Backed by "Serious Lab Geeks"

By Smriti Rao | January 22, 2010 9:31 am

You’ve seen this ad before.

Weight loss program Jenny Craig’s spokeswoman, actress Valerie Bertinelli, is hanging out in a gleaming white “lab,” surrounded by guys in thick-framed glasses and lab coats. She gleefully announces that people on the Jenny diet lost two times as much weight as those who were on the other big diet program (read: Weight Watchers). She also claims that the results were an outcome of a “major clinical trial run by serious lab geeks.”

Now, Weight Watchers has lashed back, dragging Jenny to court–alleging that the ad campaign makes “deceptive claims” about its success rate.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food
MORE ABOUT: diets, health, nutrition, obesity

NCBI ROFL: The case of the haunted scrotum.

By ncbi rofl | January 22, 2010 9:00 am

“A 45-year-old man was referred for investigation of an undescended right testis by computed tomography (CT). An ultra-sound scan showed a normal testis and epididymis on the left side. The right testis was not visualized in the scrotal sac or in the right inguinal region. On CT scanning of the abdomen and pelvis, the right testis was not identified but the left side of the scrotum seemed to be occupied by a screaming ghost-like apparition (Figure 1). By chance, the distribution of normal anatomical structures within the left side of the scrotum had combined to produce this image. What of the undescended right testis? None was found. If you were a right testis, would you want to share the scrotum with that?”


And for your enjoyment, Figure 1 (the free PDF is available here):


Thanks to Tom for today’s ROFL!


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Quirky, funny, and surprising science news from the edge of the known universe.

See More

Collapse bottom bar