Archive for September, 2010

In the Light of a Streetlamp, Young Blue Tits Get More Action

By Jennifer Welsh | September 16, 2010 4:46 pm

slutty-titIt can be hard to sleep with a light shining in your window, but for the male blue tit, this night-lighting gives him a sexual advantage. Researchers have found that male tits that live near streetlights wake up and start to sing on average three minutes earlier than the rest of the gang.

These birds are more likely to be chosen as mates because under normal conditions, early risers are the strongest fully grown birds. When adventurous lady-birds go looking for extramarital affairs in the morning light they are attracted to early risers because they assume they are the macho, macho men of the group.

As a result, any male blue tit–even a young and scrawny fellow–that lives within 50 feet of a streetlight gets about twice as much extramarital action, and has more offspring than male tits that live in other parts of the neighborhood.

Study author Bart Kempenaers told Science News that they don’t know what effect this might have on the population:

From an otherwise unattractive male’s point of view, streetlights must be great. But Kempenaers says he doesn’t have data on the consequences for the blue tit population as a whole if artificial light inspires many females to mate with males that they would normally shun.

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iPhone App Lets You Tell Drivers Exactly What You Think of Them

By Jennifer Welsh | September 16, 2010 1:33 pm

Who needs to drive with two phones?A new smart phone app aims to get you communicating with the drivers around you, and we don’t mean yelling choice obscenities through the window or shaking your fist of rage when someone cuts you off.

By photographing, typing, or saying a license plate number and state you’ll be able to message the driver–if they’re also signed up for the service, named Bump. The message recipient can choose how they get their messages, through text or the website. Bump launches today on iPhones, and an Android app will soon be ready as well.

Venture Beat talked to Bump’s CEO, Mitch Thrower about the idea:

Thrower says his social network for cars brings to mind a classic scene in the film American Graffiti…. Actor Richard Dreyfuss sees a beautiful blonde played by Suzanne Somers in a white T-Bird. She blows a kiss at him. He tries to follow her but can’t catch up. Maddeningly, he never sees her again. Oh, if he had only gotten her license plate.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!, Top Posts

NCBI ROFL: Chewing gum won't help you walk, anyway.

By ncbi rofl | September 15, 2010 7:00 pm

4847423942_4488c7b79fChew on this: No support for facilitating effects of gum on spatial task performance.

” To determine whether chewing of gum facilitates spatial task performance in healthy participants, two behavioral experiments were performed. In the first experiment, spatial task performance of 349 men and women preceding and after treatment administration (saccharated chewing gum, sugar-free chewing gum, no chewing gum) was assessed using effect modeling by means of Item Response Theory. Read More


Mexican Religious Rite Has Created Super Poison-Tolerant Cave Fish

By Eliza Strickland | September 15, 2010 5:54 pm

cave-riteAny culture’s religious ceremonies can seem strange to outsiders: For example, take the indigenous Zoque people of southern Mexico. To ask their gods for bountiful rains during the growing season they head to a sulfur cave where molly fish swim in the subterranean lake. They then toss in leaf bundles that contain a paste made from the mashed-up root of the Barbasco plant, which has a powerful anesthetic effect.

When the stunned fish–which the Zoque people consider a gift from underworld gods–go belly-up, people scoop them from the water and bring them home for supper. This fishy protein helps them make it through until the harvest.

This ritual came to the attention of scientists studying the molly fish, who wondered how the toxic root might be affecting fish populations in the caves. So evolutionary ecologist Michael Tobler and his colleagues did a little field research.

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MORE ABOUT: evolution, fish, mexico, religion

Pregnant Women Need Fear No Cell Phone Radiation: Belly Armor Is Here!

By Jennifer Welsh | September 15, 2010 3:02 pm

prego phoneIf requiring stores to label their cell phones with radiation-output levels wasn’t enough, San Francisco has found a new way to revel in cell phone hysteria: Now one of its trendy maternity boutiques sells radiation-shielding maternity clothes.

These clothes are specifically designed to shield their little unborn hipster babies from computer and cell phone radiation. Radiation-shielding maternity clothing has been popular in China for years, but a young company is now marketing its line of Belly Armor directly to San Francisco’s expectant mothers.

The clothing, which start at $59 for a T-shirt, is made by a company called RadiaShield, whose website encourages expectant mothers to “protect their child within” from the radiation of daily lives. Fact check: most of the radiation that a cell phone emits is actually a low-frequency, non-harmful type of radiation called non-ionizing radiation. It doesn’t contain enough energy to remove electrons from an atom, unlike higher-energy, higher-frequency, known-to-be harmful radiations like x-rays and UV light.

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NCBI ROFL: When your sweat turns red, maybe it's time to eat less food coloring.

By ncbi rofl | September 14, 2010 7:00 pm

3703494528_84ec9b33b2The case of the red lingerie – chromhidrosis revisited.

“Chromhidrosis or the production of coloured sweat is a rare clinical finding. A 26-year-old female presented with marked pink staining of her uniform and lingerie. Read More

Citizen Scientists Take Charge of California's Roadkill

By Eliza Strickland | September 14, 2010 4:07 pm

roadkill-mapCalifornia science needs a favor from you. Can you drive around until you spot some roadkill, and then–instead of jerking the wheel, squealing in disgust, and averting your eyes–can you instead take careful note of the species and location?

For one year now, helpful motorists have been contributing info to the online California Roadkill Observation System, and lead scientist Fraser Shilling of the University of California, Davis has just released the data from this citizen science survey. The press release reports that over 6,700 roadkill observations were made by 300 people, and the road victims covered 205 animal species “from acorn woodpeckers to zebratail lizards.” Raccoons were the most common casualties.

Shilling hopes the data from this ongoing project will eventually help transportation planners design more wildlife-friendly roads, and is grateful to the motorists who have contributed their time. Like the man known to his friends as Doctor Roadkill, a 69-year-old retired veterinarian named Ron Ringen who has logged more than 1,000 dead animals into the system.

The New York Times reports that Shilling and his colleagues hope to expand the project by building a smartphone app.

They think one would attract new and younger volunteers, speed up the process, and, with built-in GPS function, assure more accurate location information.

Which means you may one day be able to say, “Roadkill? There’s an app for that.”

Related Content:
Discoblog: High-Tech Roadkill Prevention, Coming Soon to a Highway Near You
Discoblog: “Gravestone Project” Takes Citizen Science to the Cemetery
80beats: Crowdsourced Science: 5 Ways You Can Help the Hive-Mind
80beats: Citizen Scientists Find Interstellar Dust Retrieved From Space

Image: UC Davis

Astronauts' Occupational Hazard: Falling-Off Fingernails

By Eliza Strickland | September 14, 2010 12:14 pm

astronaut-handAlong with the rest of the criteria that make for a good astronaut–some heavy degrees in science or technology, a tolerance for cramped spaces and freeze-dried food–let’s add another one. The ideal astronaut should have narrow hands to prevent his or her fingernails from falling off.

National Geographic reports that the design of astronauts’ space suit gloves can lead to hand and finger injuries, including an icky condition called fingernail delamination in which the nail completely detaches from the nailbed. While missing nails do grow back in time, if the nail falls off in the middle of a spacewalk it can snag inside the glove, and moisture inside the glove can lead to bacterial or fungal infections in the exposed nailbed. MIT astronautics professor Dava Newman told National Geographic that astronauts take this medical prospect seriously:

For now, the only solutions are to apply protective dressings, keep nails trimmed short—or do some extreme preventative maintenance. “I have heard of a couple people who’ve removed their fingernails in advance of an EVA,” Newman said.

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NCBI ROFL: 'Lager, lager shouting': the role of music and DJs in nightclub disorder control.

By ncbi rofl | September 13, 2010 7:00 pm

285672542_5b122987c7_o“This paper explores how music and music genre can govern the nightlife experience, specifically how a nightclub’s music policy can impact on clientele, health behaviours, bar sales and levels of disorder. Read More

Why Did the Children of Samurai Have Lead Poisoning?

By Eliza Strickland | September 13, 2010 2:00 pm

edo-periodBeing in the upper crust of Japanese society during the Edo Period may have come with a serious drawback–a new analysis of the remains of samurai warriors and their wives and children suggests that many of the kids had lead poisoning. The suspected culprit: the make-up that mothers wore.

In the Edo Period, which lasted from 1603 to 1868, the military nobles known as samurai protected castle towns like Kokura, where this study was carried out. Researcher Tamiji Nakashima delved into a graveyard where samurai and their families were buried in large clay pots, and examined the remains of 70 people.

The study, which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science, showed that adult women had more lead in their bones than adult men, but the kids were in the worst trouble. LiveScience reports:

[The researchers found] kids with enough lead in their systems to cause severe intellectual impairment. Children under age 3 were the worst off, with a median level of 1,241 micrograms of lead per gram of dry bone. That’s more than 120 times the level thought to cause neurological and behavioral problems today and as much as 50 times higher than levels the team found in samurai adults. Older kids’ levels were lower, but still very high.

The researchers say that lead-based white face powder was in vogue at the time, as it was used by geisha and Kabuki actors. But although the study suggests that elite children of the era had serious developmental difficulties, those in the lower classes probably escaped that particular fate. Nakashima told LiveScience that people from farming and fishing families were forbidden from using luxurious cosmetics, and were thus spared the luxury of lead poisoning.

Related Content:
80beats: Did the Lead in His Paints Kill the Baroque Artist Caravaggio?
80beats: Andean People Discovered Mercury Mining—and Mercury Pollution—in 1400 B.C.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: The history of poisoning in the future: lessons from Star Trek.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


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