Archive for July, 2010

NCBI ROFL: Might as well face it, you're addicted to love.

By ncbi rofl | July 27, 2010 7:00 pm

medicine_pills_heart_shape-otherIs Love Passion an Addictive Disorder?

“Aims: Inquiry regarding the relationship between passionate love and addiction has long been a topic of intense debate. Recent advances in neurobiology now allow for an examination between these two states. Methods: After describing the clinical distinctions between “love passion,” “love addiction,” and “sex addiction,” we compare clinical, neuropsychological, neurobiological, and neuroimaging data on love, passion, pathological gambling (PG) and substance dependence. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: analysis taken too far, NCBI ROFL

Video: A Hairy Carpet of Daddy Longlegs Fends off Predators

By Allison Bond | July 27, 2010 5:12 pm

Look closely: This hairy, pulsating carpet is actually a group of harvestmen, an arachnid commonly known as daddy longlegs.

This aggregation of harvestmen helps fend off potential predators. When one of the arachnids senses danger, he moves his body up and down to create a vibration; a whole jiggling group of daddy longlegs provides an even greater deterrent. There’s nothing quite like teamwork to make your skin crawl. Via Boingboing:

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Finally! A Self-Sustaining, Sewage-Processing, Poop-Powered Rocket

By Allison Bond | July 27, 2010 12:51 pm

rocketToday’s sewage is tomorrow’s rocket fuel–at least, according to Stanford researchers. Raw sewage has long posed a problem for scientists who aim to get rid of it. That’s because the chemical byproduct of the bacteria that break down waste is nitrous oxide–a greenhouse gas also known as laughing gas.

The proposed solution? Using the nitrous oxide produced by waste as rocket fuel, of course, according to Popular Science:

“[The] rocket thruster, which was designed for use in spacecraft, can consume the excess nitrous oxide to produce heat. In a Stanford press release, [researcher] Cantwell says the nitrous oxide can heat an engine to almost 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit and expel nitrogen and oxygen at 5,000 feet per second.”

Hot oxygen and nitrogen are far less harmful to the environment than nitrous oxide, and the methane that also is produced can help power other wastewater plants, the researchers say. This method, in which bacteria break down the waste in the absence of oxygen, is faster and cheaper than letting sewage decompose in an oxygenated environment, in which “wastewater treatment plants pump oxygen into a roiling mix of raw sewage, to encourage good bacteria to break down organic matter.”

So the next time you head to the bathroom, remember that your contribution could one day prove valuable to rocket scientists. Just another reason to flush with pride.

Image: flickr / ecsuecsu

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Discoblog: A Novel Geoengineering Idea: Increase the Ocean’s Quotient of Whale Poop
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By ncbi rofl | July 26, 2010 7:00 pm

alcohol researchThe acute effects of alcohol on auditory thresholds.

“BACKGROUND: There is very little knowledge about alcohol-induced hearing loss. Alcohol consumption and tolerance to loud noise is a well observed phenomenon as seen in the Western world where parties get noisier by the hour as the evening matures. This leads to increase in the referrals to the “hearing aid clinic” and the diagnosis of “cocktail party deafness” which may not necessarily be only due to presbyacusis or noise-induced hearing loss. METHODS: 30 healthy volunteers were recruited for this trial which took place in a controlled acoustic environment. Each of the individuals was required to consume a pre-set amount of alcohol and the hearing was tested (using full pure tone audiogram) pre- and post- alcohol consumption over a broad range of 6 frequencies. Volunteers who achieve a minimum breath alcohol threshold level of 30 u/l had to have second audiogram testing. All the volunteers underwent timed psychometric and visuo-spatial skills tests to detect the effect of alcohol on the decision-making and psychomotor co-ordination. Read More


Scientists Find Giant, 15-Pound Rat. (Don't Worry, It's Extinct.)

By Allison Bond | July 26, 2010 5:23 pm

giant ratThe rats scuttling around the tracks of the New York City subway pale in comparison to a gargantuan species recently discovered in East Indonesia. In fact, the recently discovered rat tipped the scales at a somewhat frightening 13 pounds. That’s sizably heftier than today’s house rat (which averages 5 ounces) and burliest wild rats (which weigh about four-and-a-half pounds). This mega-rat lived in Timor until it went extinct between 1,000 and 2,000 years ago. It was one of 11 new species discovered at the excavation site–eight of which weighed more than two pounds, and only one of which survives today.

But the now-extinct rats didn’t die off until well after humans first arrived, according to LiveScience:

“People have lived on the island of Timor for over 40,000 years and hunted and ate rats throughout this period, yet extinctions did not occur until quite recently,” said study researcher Ken Aplin… adding that the arrival of humans to an area doesn’t necessarily have to equate with extinctions… “Large-scale clearing of forest for agriculture probably caused the extinctions, and this may have only been possible following the introduction of metal tools.”

East Indonesia is a hotspot for rat evolution, with unique species found on each island, and the possibility of finding more.

“Although less than 15 percent of Timor’s original forest cover remains, parts of the island are still heavily forested, so who knows what might be out there?” [researcher] Aplin said.

Which is fine with us–as long as they stay far, far away from our homes.

Related content:
Discoblog: Weird Science Roundup: Super-Rats, Heart-Attack Virus, and the Real Breakfast of Champions
Magazine: English Super-Rats
Magazine: A-maze-ing Mole Rats

Image: flickr / korobukkuru

MORE ABOUT: evolution, Indonesia, rats

Study: Belly-Flopping Frogs Evolved Big Jumps Before Smooth Landings

By Joseph Calamia | July 26, 2010 1:31 pm

Apparently it’s hard to teach an old frog a new trick: landing on its legs. As painfully demonstrated in the video below, the primitive frog family Leiopelmatidae prefers to belly-flop.

Read More

NCBI ROFL: And the most awkward sex of all time award goes to…

By ncbi rofl | July 23, 2010 7:00 pm

49836398_d660043ade_bCoitus as Revealed by Ultrasound in One Volunteer Couple.

“The anatomy and function of the G-spot remain highly controversial. Ultrasound studies of the clitoral complex during intercourse have been conducted to gain insight into the role of the clitoris and its relation to vagina and urethra during arousal and penetration. Aim. Our task was to visualize the anterior vaginal wall and its relationship to the clitoris during intercourse. Methods. The ultrasound was performed during coitus of a volunteer couple with the Voluson(R) General Electric(R) Sonography system (Zipf, Austria) and a 12-MHz flat probe. Read More


Stop and Smell the Corpse Flower

By Joseph Calamia | July 23, 2010 1:12 pm

corpseflowerAt the the Houston Museum of Natural Science thousands of visitors are lining up for the smell of rotting bodies. They want a look at a five-foot-tall plant affectionately called the “corpse flower,” or more specifically, Lois. The flower will bloom for the first time in seven years and release its stench for an expected three days.

The flower, native to Indonesia, will be the 29th to bloom in the United States; another bloomed last summer at San Francisco State University. Sporting buttons that say “Bring on the Funk” and Amorphophallus titanum (Latin for AWESOME),” 4,000 to 5,000 visitors a day have been coming to the Houston museum to sniff, Reuters reports. In its pre-bloom phase, it smells a bit like rotting pumpkins–which is disappointing to museum visitors with a nose for rancid corpses, museum spokeswoman Latha Thomas told Reuters.

“They want to smell the flower. I think that’s why they keep coming back over and over because they are so excited about smelling it.”

The AP reports that not everyone is excited. Jessica Zabala has booked the museum for her wedding this week and is hoping the flower doesn’t foul up her ceremony.

The museum has provided a live webcam, for those who want to see without smelling.

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Discoblog: DNA Cops Crack Down on Flower Theft and Other High Crimes

Image: Wikimedia


Using Urine to Make the Garden Grow

By Eliza Strickland | July 23, 2010 10:03 am

beetsBy Mara Grunbaum

They were perfectly lovely, the beets Surendra Pradhan and Helvi Heinonen-Tanski grew: round and hefty, a rich burgundy, their flavor sweet and faintly earthy like the dirt from which they came. Unless someone told you, you’d never know the beets were grown with human urine.

Pradhan and Heinonen-Tanski, environmental scientists at the University of Kuopio in Finland, grew the beets as an experiment in sustainable fertilization. They nourished them with a combination of urine and wood ash, which they found worked as well as traditional mineral fertilizer.

“It is totally possible to use human urine as a fertilizer instead of industrial fertilizer,” said Heinonen-Tanski, whose research group has also used urine to cultivate cucumbers, cabbage and tomatoes. Recycling urine as fertilizer could not only make agriculture and wastewater treatment more sustainable in industrialized countries, the researchers say, but also bolster food production and improve sanitation in developing countries.

Urine is chock full of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus, which are the nutrients plants need to thrive—and the main ingredients in common mineral fertilizers. There is, of course, a steady supply of this man-made plant food: An adult on a typical Western diet urinates about 130 gallons a year, enough to fill three standard bathtubs. And despite the gross-out potential, urine is practically sterile when it leaves the body, Heinonen-Tanski pointed out.
Read More

NCBI ROFL: Writing emails as part of sleepwalking after increase in Zolpidem [Ambien].

By ncbi rofl | July 22, 2010 7:00 pm

sleep computer“Sleepwalkers have been described to be involved in complex motor activities like cooking, eating, driving a car, playing an instrument, stabbing and murder [1]. We describe a case of a 44-year-old woman with idiopathic insomnia almost all her life. She tried various medications, psychotherapy and behavioral techniques for the treatment of her insomnia without any significant effects. She was started on Zolpidem 10 mg 4 years ago. She was able to sleep 4–5 h each night, but then the effects started wearing off. She increased the dose of Zolpidem by herself to 15 mg every night; she would take 10 mg tablet around 10 p.m. and 5 mg around 3 a.m. With this regimen she started sleeping for 5 h every night and felt alert during the daytime. After increasing the dose, she began to have episodes of sleepwalking. During one such episode, she went to bed around 10 p.m., she woke up 2 h later, and walked to the next room on the same floor. She turned on the computer and connected to the internet. She logged in by typing her user ID and password to her email account. She sent three emails to her friend inviting her to come over for dinner and drinks (Fig. 1A and B). Read More


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