Archive for April, 2010

NCBI ROFL: For some reason, med students don't want to show their genitals in class.

By ncbi rofl | April 30, 2010 7:00 pm

2446536264_822f20b28cDon’t want to show fellow students my naughty bits: medical students’ anxieties about peer examination of intimate body regions at six schools across UK, Australasia and Far-East Asia.

“BACKGROUND: Although recent quantitative research suggests that medical students are reluctant to engage in peer physical examination (PPE) of intimate body regions, we do not know why. Read More


Turn a Man Into Mush With a Nasal Spray of Pure Oxytocin

By Smriti Rao | April 30, 2010 4:52 pm

aging-romance-loveWho ever thought that couples could bond over nasal spray? But new research shows that a nasal spray containing the “love hormone” oxytocin helped make regular guys more empathetic and less gruff. Oxytocin is the hormone that strengthens the bond between nursing moms and their babies, and it’s also involved in pair bonding, love, and sex.

The spray was tested on a group of 48 healthy males–half received a spritz of the nose spray at the start of the experiment and the other half received a placebo. The researchers then showed their test subjects emotion-inducing photos like a bawling child, a girl hugging her cat, and a grieving man. Finally, they asked the guys to express how they felt.

The placebo group men reacted normally to the soppy pictures; which is to say they were either mildly uncomfortable or stoic. Whereas the group that had used the nasal spray were markedly more empathetic. The Register reports:

“The males under test achieved levels [of emotion] which would normally only be expected in women,” says a statement from Bonn University, indicating that they had cooed or even blubbed at the sight of the affecting images.

The study’s findings, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, suggest one trite application of the hormonal spray: Maybe a woman could give her undemonstrative husband a quick spritz to get him to really feel her pain, or to get him to coo over a kitten properly. But there might be a larger medical purpose too.

Researchers recently found that a dose of oxytocin can help autistic people become less awkward and more social. Now, they’re hoping that medication can also be developed to help socially withdrawn schizophrenics.

Related Content:
80beats: Study: The “Love Hormone” Oxytocin Can Improve Autistic People’s Social Skills
80beats: The “Love Hormone” Oxytocin Helps People Recognize Faces They’ve Seen Before
DISCOVER: A Dose of Human Kindness, Now in Chemical Form

Image: iStockphoto


How to Save Gorillas: Turn People on to Snail Farming

By Smriti Rao | April 30, 2010 12:38 pm

04-29-Cross_river_gorilla_2Gorilla conservationists in Nigeria have a new ally–snails.

The critically endangered Cross River gorilla is under constant threat from poachers in this poor nation, as poachers kill the animals for their bushmeat or sell them illegally to traffickers in the exotic pet trade. With just 300 Cross River gorillas left, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) hopes to offer locals an alternate source of both food and revenue so they’ll leave the poor apes alone. Enter the snail.

For this conservation project, the WCS picked eight former gorilla poachers and got them to start farming African giant snails, a local delicacy. The WCS helped the poachers construct snail pens and stocked each pen with 230 giant snails, writes Scientific American. As the snails breed quickly, farmers can expect a harvest of 3,000 snails per year. Scientific American adds:

According to WCS, this should end up being a fairly profitable enterprise for local farmers. Annual costs are estimated at just $87 per farmer, with profits around $413 per year. The meat of one gorilla, says the WCS, would net a poacher around $70.

Related Content:
80beats: Bushmeat Debate: How Can We Save Gorillas Without Starving People?
80beats: New Threat to Primates Worldwide: Being “Eaten Into Extinction”
DISCOVER: Extinction–It’s What’s for Dinner

Image: Wikipedia

NCBI ROFL: How to turn your scrapbooking obsession into a dissertation.

By ncbi rofl | April 29, 2010 7:00 pm

2953124038_c12c867c21Friends for better or for worse: interracial friendship in the United States as seen through wedding party photos.

“Friendship patterns are instrumental for testing important hypotheses about assimilation processes and group boundaries. Wedding photos provide an opportunity to directly observe a realistic representation of close interracial friendships and race relations. Read More

A Stupid Way to Get Electricity for Free: Meat Hook + Power Line

By Eliza Strickland | April 29, 2010 3:34 pm

power line
Power line, meet hook

Having the power shut off in your home due to lack of payments can really motivate you to pay your bills—or perhaps to begin siphoning electricity with a meat hook.

A recent report from Reuters describes a middle-aged man in Germany who has been stealing electricity from a high-voltage overhead transmission line using a run-of-the-mill meat hook. After getting cut off by the power company for not paying his bills, the energy thief decided he would acquire the necessary power on his own; he attached a meat hook to the end of a long cable, and hurled the hook onto an overhead power line 150 meters from his house. By routing some of the electricity to his meter box, the man powered his home illegally for an entire month before anyone noticed.

Read More

MORE ABOUT: crime, electricity, energy, theft

Need to Find the Big Dipper? There's an App for That

By Smriti Rao | April 29, 2010 1:58 pm

20091112-2-pocketuniverseThere used to be a time when you could easily impress a date by pointing to the night sky and dreamily rattling off names of major stars, constellations, and the like. Now, instead of cramming your head full of names or making up stuff as you go along, you can use your trusty iPhone to guide you through your stargazing.

There are a bunch of apps that you can download, depending on your interest level and degree of expertise. Most of the apps are based on augmented reality–so all you have to do is point your phone towards the sky and the app does the rest.

If you’re a beginner, Pocket Universe ($3) and Star Walk ($3) are recommended by The New York Times for iPhone users; while Google Sky Map is great for Android users.

With Pocket Universe, you can use the camera view to look at the evening or morning sky, and the app will overlay the labeled view over the real sky. (The iPhone’s camera isn’t good enough yet to pull off this feat with a dark night’s sky.) The app also plots the position of the sun, moon, and planets, displays 10,000 stars, and traces the shapes of the constellations. Pocket Universe also features a “Tonight’s Sky” option, showing you a list of planets you can spot with the naked eye.

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How to Cook Steak in Your Beer Cooler

By Smriti Rao | April 29, 2010 11:54 am

20100418-ghetto-sous-vide-2After years of serving as your faithful companion to ball games and keeping the brewskies frosty at backyard barbecues, your trusty beer cooler now has a new assignment–cooking up a gourmet meal, sous-vide style.

For those of you who don’t keep up with high-tech cookery, sous-vide is a method of cooking where food is heated for an extended period at relatively low temperatures. Unlike a slow cooker or Crock pot, the sous-vide process uses airtight plastic bags placed in hot water well below boiling point (usually around 140 Fahrenheit). The idea is to maintain the integrity and flavor of the food without overcooking it (but while still killing any bacteria that may be present).

Normally, a sous-vide cooker like the Sous-Vide Supreme would set you back hundreds of dollars, but chef J. Kenzi Lopez-Alt shows us how to use a beer cooler to cook a perfect piece of meat.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food

NCBI ROFL: Finally, science brings you…the baby poop predictor (with alarm)!

By ncbi rofl | April 28, 2010 7:00 pm

diaperDetection of predefecatory rectosigmoid wave activity for prevention of fecal soiling in infants.

“Identification of an electrophysiologic sign before defecation can prevent fecal soiling in infants. To identify such a sign, the contractile activity of sigmoid colon was recorded percutaneously in 48 healthy infants. The recorder was equipped with a digital clock synchronized to the recorder so as to set off an alarm upon significantly increased electromyographic activity of sigmoid colon. Read More

Magic or Science? At an L.A. Festival, It's Hard to Tell the Difference

By Eliza Strickland | April 28, 2010 6:57 pm

science-magicIt’s Science vs. Magic week at L.A.’s Magic Castle, where comic magician Rudy Coby and his friends have taken over the Victorian mansion-styled club, and where waitresses are sporting lab coats and serving drinks in test tubes.

Coby is reprising his mad scientist alter-ego Labman after a 15-year hiatus–during which time he crafted stage shows for one-time roommate goth rocker Marilyn Manson, who threatens a surprise cameo as “The Evil Magician” at one of Coby’s performances.

The event is an ode to magic’s time-honored and gleeful distortion of scientific and technological principals. Coby’s Hypnotron 2000 makes it look like your skin moves after staring at a spinning wheel. Andrew Mayne–who creates illusions for David Blaine and Penn & Teller, and also produced the G4 Network’s quirky G4 Underground–unveils a don’t-try-this-at-home effect that has him drinking –320 Fahrenheit liquid nitrogen.

College favorite Brian Brushwood has audience members use cell phones to capture a ghostly image on TV static patterns that their eyes miss (pictured). For the kids this weekend, mad scientist Prof. Wes Weasely wields audio magic with his theremin.

More surprise guests are planned Thursday through Sunday.

— by Sue Karlin

Related Content:
Discoblog: Crazy Optical Illusion of the Day
Discoblog: To Levitate Water, Turn on the Strobe Lights
Discoblog: Prepare to Be Amazed… An iPhone App That Can Read Minds!
DISCOVER: The Mathematics of… Shuffling

MORE ABOUT: comedy, illusions, magic

Fierce, Territorial Llamas Act as Bouncers for a Wildlife Refuge

By Smriti Rao | April 28, 2010 2:37 pm

29696004_5bc6891117_oThe guys guarding the velvet rope at downtown’s hottest nightspot may be tough–but at least they don’t spit like these llama bouncers.

The BBC reports that two llamas, Willy and Jack, have been drafted to protect the eggs and chicks of wading birds at the Merseyside nature park in Britain–in particular, they’ll guard lapwing and redshank birds, which are threatened species in England.

Researchers say that the highly territorial llamas will kick up a fuss if intruders drop by, and will scare away foxes and other predators looking to snack on eggs or chicks. With the llamas on watch, the park officers hope, the young birds will have a shot at survival.

This is not the first time that llamas have been deployed to protect livestock. The llama and its relative the alpaca have previous work experience protecting lambs and sheep from predators. Alpacas, in fact, come with great references—having been employed by the Prince of Wales to protect his lambs from foxes during lambing season at his Gloucestershire estate.

Looking at the llamas’ resumes, it’s their bouncing skills that stand out. The BBC describes:

It is hoped their slightly erratic behavior, along with the groaning noises and the sound they make when afraid or angry, will be a deterrent. They are also known to spit at and attack each other when provoked, but are gentle creatures when calm.

When they’re off duty, Willy and Jack are quite the charmers; with a local farmer telling the BBC, “The ‘boys’ are a great hit with locals and visitors to the reserve.”

Related Content:
Discoblog: Last Night a Llama Saved My Life: Animal Antibodies Could Treat Cancer, Diabetese
DISCOVER: Secrets of the Alpaca Mummies

Image: Flickr / Nao-Cha

MORE ABOUT: alpacas, birds, foxes, llamas

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