Archive for September, 2010

It's a Bra! It's a Dust Mask! It's Both! And Now, It's for Sale

By Jennifer Welsh | September 27, 2010 1:44 pm

ebraThe Emergency Bra, which won both the Ig Nobel prize in public health and a spot on TIME’s list of the Worst Inventions of 2009 is now available through the website, for $29.99. CNET explains its intended use:

The bra is, of course, meant to be taken off, something most adults presumably have experience with. Once removed, it separates into two masks which, when placed over the nose and mouth, filter out particles….

While the emergency bra has both fans and haters, it didn’t take much effort to change an everyday undergarment into an emergency survival tool. While there is additional filtration (let’s just call it padding) built into the bra, the main additions are the extra clasps that enable it to divide into two masks, each with their own bands and and an adjustable nose pincher. As the inventor, Elena Bodnar, notes in her IgNobel acceptance speech:

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Don't Give Up Hope: Earth Has Not Yet Selected an Alien Ambassador

By Jennifer Welsh | September 27, 2010 12:22 pm

alienThe truth is out there… but it’s not that Mazlan Othman is going to be our space ambassador, as recently reported by The Sunday Times (paywall) and reprinted in The Australian:

The United Nations, tackling head-on the problem of what to do if an alien says “take me to your leader”, is poised to designate a specific individual for the task…. An obscure Malaysian astrophysicist who is head of its little-known Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa).

The story, which was widely reported over the weekend, was published on Sunday at 12:50 pm AEST (Saturday, 9:50 pm EDT). It compared Unoosa and Othman to the Men In Black and even quoted experts in space policy:

Professor Richard Crowther, an expert in space law and governance at the UK Space Agency and who leads British delegations to the UN on such matters, said: “Othman is absolutely the nearest thing we have to a ‘take me to your leader’ person.”

The story was then picked up by The Telegraph, which published on Sunday at 11:30 am BST (Sunday, 6am EDT), discussing the details of Othman’s push for her new role:

She will set out the details of her proposed new role at a Royal Society conference in Buckinghamshire next week. The 58-year-old is expected to tell delegates that the proposal has been prompted by the recent discovery of hundreds of planets orbiting other starts, which is thought to make the discovery of extraterrestrial life more probable than ever before.

From there the story spread to various other news sites, including CNET, Daily Mail,, and Time before anyone thought to actually check the facts of the Australian article. At around 8 am EDT on Monday The Guardian posted a story claiming that that Mazlan Othman has officially denied the statement:

Finally an email from Othman herself would have prompted our Martian to trudge back to his spaceship. “It sounds really cool but I have to deny it,” she said of the story. She will be attending a conference next week, but she’ll be talking about how the world deals with “near-Earth objects”. Our alien will just have to try someone else, or stop reading the Sunday Times.

Related content:
Discoblog: Man Claims That Aliens Are Pelting His House With Meteorites
80beats: Stephen Hawking, for One, Does Not Welcome Our Potential Alien Overlords
Bad Astronomy: Aliens can be prickly
Science Not Fiction: First Dinosaurs, Now Aliens Invade San Diego!
Gene Expression: Diplomacy among the aliens
Gene Expression: The aliens are out to get us!

Image: Flickr/Kevindooley

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Aliens Therefrom

NCBI ROFL: Munich Oktoberfest experience: remarkable impact of sex and age in ethanol intoxication.

By ncbi rofl | September 24, 2010 7:00 pm

beer“Approximately 5,000 of 6 million annual visitors of the Oktoberfest in Munich have to undergo medical treatment. Patients with alcohol intoxication without trauma or further complications are all treated in a specialized medical camp. We studied these patients in order to identify risk factors and to assess the relevance of the Glasgow Coma Score (GCS) and of ethanol blood concentrations for patient management. Read More


Touching a Boo-Boo Really Does Make It Feel Better

By Jennifer Welsh | September 24, 2010 2:48 pm

pain-flickr-RacchioClutching an injury does make it feel better, according to a study published in Current Biology, reducing the pain on average 64 percent. But only if the injured party is the one doing the clutching (insert your own self-touching joke here). It doesn’t work if someone else does it.

Study coauthor Marjolein Kammers explained to the Daily Mail what this means:

“Pain isn’t just the signals coming from the body to the brain, but it is also the way the brain processes those signals,” she said.

To test this, the Kammers and her team used a classical pain test called the thermal grill illusion, which causes pain without injuring someone. It creates a pain sensation by exploiting the brain’s natural interpretation of mixed signals.

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Modded iPod Nano Bot Dances to Its Own Music

By Jennifer Welsh | September 24, 2010 11:47 am

This little 6th generation iPod nano just wants to dance. Because that’s what its human programmed it to do. Kazu Terasaki, also known as YouTube user PachimonDotCom, is a Japanese software engineer from Silicon Valley, CA who is addicted to making apple products walk around.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
MORE ABOUT: iPhone, ipod nano, robot, walking

The Public Speaks: Best Insulting New Names for High Fructose Corn Syrup

By Jennifer Welsh | September 23, 2010 7:43 pm

HFCSodaThe New York Times’s health blog is asking scientists and readers what they would rename high fructose corn syrup, if they were given the chance.

The ubiquitous sticky sweetener is considered poison by many foodies and some public health officials, who worry that HFCS-packed processed foods contribute to obesity. But the companies that make the sweetener–the Corn Refiners Group–are hoping that changing the name of the product will change its image, as their president told the New York Times:

“Clearly the name is confusing consumers,” said Audrae Erickson, president of the Washington-based group, in an interview. “Research shows that ‘corn sugar’ better communicates the amount of calories, the level of fructose and the sweetness in this ingredient.”

The Times asked six leading nutritionists what they thought of the new name, and what they would rename it, given the chance. Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, would rename HFCS “enzymatically altered corn glucose” because he says:

The name also connotes a highly-processed, novel food ingredient, which has always been the best reason to avoid it….

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NCBI ROFL: Oktoberfest week: Development of a simulated drinking game procedure to study risky alcohol use.

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

beer pong“The aim of the current study was to initiate and describe the development of a Simulated Drinking Game Procedure (SDGP), a safe, efficient, and alcohol-free laboratory protocol for studying drinking game behavior. Fifty-two undergraduates completed the SDGP in a laboratory session, where participants played singles and/or doubles games of Beer Pong. Water was substituted for alcohol in all of the games. The number of drinks consumed during matches and 20-min play periods were coded during each session, and software was used to estimate the peak blood alcohol concentration (BAC) a participant would achieve if he or she had consumed actual alcohol while participating in the SDGP. Read More


How to Get Rid of Invasive Tree Snakes: Bomb Them With Parachuted, Poisonous Mice

By Jennifer Welsh | September 23, 2010 1:04 pm

BTSThe USDA and the EPA are in cahoots, scheming against Guam’s invasive brown tree snakes, or are they throwing a party?

Using streamers, cardboard, some acetaminophen (aka Tylenol, aka hangover medicine), some dead mice and a helicopter, the team is looking to destroy the island’s invasive snake population.

Guam has only two snake populations. The first is the island’s only other snake: a tiny, blind worm-like little guy. The second, and more obvious, is the invasive tree snake, which is mildly venomous, can reach 11 feet long, and can be found at up to 12,000 snakes per square mile. The native snake is no competition for this invasive beast, which was introduced to the island in the early 1950’s and quickly decimated native forest species, including all of the forests vertebrates.

It has also invaded the homes of the island’s human inhabitants, causing power outages by messing with electrical systems and biting and scaring people in their sleep. (And there is not much more scary than a snake biting you in your sleep.) The USDA and EPA have been working for decades to solve this problem, but nothing was working.

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NCBI ROFL: Oktoberfest week: I'm totally buzzzzzzzzed.

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

318555478_77ea6f7470The behavior and social communication of honey bees (Apis mellifera carnica Poll.) under the influence of alcohol.

“In this study, the effects of ethanol on honey bee social communication and behavior within the hive were studied to further investigate the usefulness of honey bees as an ethanol-abuse model. Control (1.5 M sucrose) and experimental (1.5 M sucrose, 2.5% w/v ethanol) solutions were directly administered to individual forager bees via proboscis contact with glass capillary tubes. The duration, frequency, and proportion of time spent performing social and nonsocial behaviors were the dependent variables of interest. Read More


The Fruit That Hit Newton's Head Is Down With the Fruit of Darwin's Head

By Jennifer Welsh | September 22, 2010 2:23 pm

CircularTimetreelargeApple may not allow porn on its product line, but it has no problem with another source of controversy: evolution. A new, free iPad/iPhone application called Timetree, distributed by Arizona and Penn State Universities, allows users to map how long ago two living creatures separated on the tree of life, a subject that can get a bit sticky with creationists, says The Register:

Now, Apple has taken a stance which will upset a lot of Americans: it has allowed an app which specifies quite clearly that evolution is real and that humans and monkeys share a common ancestor some 30 million years in the past.

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