Archive for October, 2010

NCBI ROFL: Halloween special feature: Top 6 spooky articles!

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

haunted scrotumNCBI ROFL: The case of the haunted scrotum. “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).”

NCBI ROFL: Does garlic protect against vampires? An experimental study. “Garlic has been regarded as an effective prophylactic against vampires. We wanted to explore this alleged effect experimentally. Owing to the lack of vampires, we used leeches instead.”

NCBI ROFL: Exorcism-resistant ghost possession treated with clopenthixol. “An Indian man now in Britain explained his criminal behaviour as episodic ghost possession. Traditional exorcisms failed to help. ”
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CATEGORIZED UNDER: NCBI ROFL

Don’t Try This at Home: Flamingos Get Their Blush From Oily Rump Glands

By Jennifer Welsh | October 29, 2010 5:55 pm

flamingoResearchers found new evidence of the importance of make-up while studying Spanish flamenco dancers flamingos. The scientists discovered that the birds augment their signature coloring by applying tints drawn from their own glands–and they use their painted plumage to attract mates.

The hue of the leggy birds’ feathers come primarily from the pigments in their diet, but researcher Juan Amat found that they also secrete the colored pigments, called carotenoids, from their preen glands. Flamingos (and many other birds) press their heads to the preen glands at the base of their tails to pick up feather-protecting oils, which they then spread around their bodies.

The researchers realized that those oils contain pigments, ranging from red to yellow, by keeping an eye on the flamingos’ feathers and behavior: They noticed that the coloring of the birds was brightest during the mating season, and quickly diminished after they found a mate. Amat told BBC News:

“The rubbing is time-consuming,” Dr Amat told BBC News. “And the more frequently the birds practise it, the more coloured they appear. If the birds stop the rubbing, [their] plumage colour fades in a few days because carotenoids[pigments] bleach quickly in the sunlight.”

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"Octopus Head War" Pits Korean Health Officials Against Fishermen

By Jennifer Welsh | October 29, 2010 2:16 pm

tentacleCharges by South Korean health officials that octopus heads contain large and unhealthy amounts of the heavy medal cadmium have sparked a war with the fishermen who profit from the $35 million-a-year trade.

Octopus heads are a popular delicacy in South Korea, revered by locals for their health benefits and their supposed role as an aphrodisiac. About 12 million octopuses are sold for eating every year, says the LA Times:

Nakji, a dish featuring baby octopuses, head and all, is a popular snack at sporting events. Another dish, sannakji (“live octopus”), features squirming tentacles dipped in a sesame oil and salt sauce. Enthusiasts have been hospitalized after a wiggling tentacle lodged in the throat.

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Everest Gets 3G Coverage; Avalanche of Tweets & Status Updates to Follow

By Jennifer Welsh | October 29, 2010 10:49 am

everestNcell, a subsidiary of the Swedish telecom company TeliaSonera, has installed a 3G data network in a Nepalese town that should reach the summit of Mount Everest. This high up, high-tech improvement will allow summit-ers to communicate with friends, family, and organizers from the top of the world.

A phone base station was set up near the town of Gorakshep at 17,000 feet above sea level, and the signal should reach to the peak about 12,000 feet above that, telecom officials said–but it hasn’t been tested yet. The service should be fast enough to allow adventurers to make video calls and surf the Internet from their phones.

Lars Nyberg, CEO of TeliaSonera, told the Associated Foreign Press how excited they were to take the mountain into the wireless internet age:

“This is a great milestone for mobile communications as the 3G high speed internet will bring faster, more affordable telecommunication services from the world’s tallest mountain,” said Lars Nyberg.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

NCBI ROFL: Election week flashback: Democrats and Republicans can be differentiated from their faces.

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

Portrait bust of a man, 1st century b.c.“BACKGROUND: Individuals’ faces communicate a great deal of information about them. Although some of this information tends to be perceptually obvious (such as race and sex), much of it is perceptually ambiguous, without clear or obvious visual cues. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Here we found that individuals’ political affiliations could be accurately discerned from their faces. Read More

Take the "Ultimate Intelligence Test" to Find out if You're Ultimately Smart

By Jennifer Welsh | October 28, 2010 5:54 pm

geniusThere are many different kinds of intelligent. Are you book smart? Street smart? Good at school and test-taking smart? Good at schmoozing your way out of deadlines and into jobs smart? Better at writing or math?

One new intelligence test, put online today by New Scientist and the Discovery Channel, claims to be the best test of overall smarts. The test was designed by neuropsychologist Adrian Owen to test 12 different “pillars” of wisdom, and to work every part of your mind.

From Owen’s article about the test for New Scientist:

Like many researchers before us, we began by looking for the smallest number of tests that could cover the broadest range of cognitive skills that are believed to contribute to intelligence, from memory to planning.

But we went one step further. Thanks to recent work with brain scanners, we could make sure that the tests involved as much of the brain as possible – from the outer layers, responsible for higher thought, to deeper-lying structures such as the hippocampus, which is involved in memory.

As an intrepid blogger, I went ahead and took the test. Some of the exercises resembled classic games like “Memory” (to test paired associates learning, you’re asked to remember what items are hidden where) and “Simon” (to test working memory, you have to remember sequences). Others are more similar to cognitive psychology tests like the Stroop test (which tests focused attention), and there are also some puzzle-solving tests (to test your ability to plan for the future).

The 12 tests are designed to test 12 different aspects of working memory, reasoning, focus, and planning. I did the worst on the “verbal working memory” test, which was reading a string of numbers and typing it in from memory. This actually makes sense, because I’ve always known myself to be a physical learner, and highlight or write down everything I hear that I need to remember. I wonder if there is a correlation there?

You can only take the test once, so make sure to do some mental push-ups first before diving in. Then come back here and tell us what you thought! Also, visit www.cambridgebrainsciences.com to play additional games, to train your brain, and to test your 12 pillars.

Related content:
DISCOVER: Teen Genius: 5 Promising Scientists Under 20
DISCOVER: 20 Things You Didn’t Know About… Genius
The Intersection: ‘Are Men Smarter Than Women?‘ The Verdict
Gene Expression: More exercise = more I.Q.?
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Single memory training task improves overall problem-solving intelligence

Image: Flickr/B Rosen

CATEGORIZED UNDER: What’s Inside Your Brain?

For Bees, Solving Tricky Math Problems Is All in a Day’s Work

By Jennifer Welsh | October 28, 2010 12:23 pm

beeHaving a bee brain might not be so bad after all, since new research shows that bees are faster than supercomputers when it came to solving one of those dreadful “word problems” from (probably very advanced) high school math class.

Co-author Mathieu Lihoreau explained the significance of this discovery in a press release:

“There is a common perception that smaller brains constrain animals to be simple reflex machines. But our work with bees shows advanced cognitive capacities with very limited neuron numbers.”

The problem is called the traveling salesman problem, and the bees’ lives actually depend on solving it every day. The traveling salesman needs to visit a number of cities in the shortest amount of time, without repeating a visit. The traveling bumblebee needs to visit a number of flowers everyday, while expending as little energy as possible. Queen Mary University of London researcher Lars Chittka explained in the press release why studying bees’ habits is important:

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NCBI ROFL: Voters' testosterone changes on the night of the 2008 United States presidential election.

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

2636802659_590893887cDominance, politics, and physiology: voters’ testosterone changes on the night of the 2008 United States presidential election.

“BACKGROUND: Political elections are dominance competitions. When men win a dominance competition, their testosterone levels rise or remain stable to resist a circadian decline; and when they lose, their testosterone levels fall. However, it is unknown whether this pattern of testosterone change extends beyond interpersonal competitions to the vicarious experience of winning or losing in the context of political elections. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: election week, NCBI ROFL

Kid Spyware Brings Helicopter Parenting to a Whole New Level

By Eliza Strickland | October 27, 2010 1:39 pm

kidsFor those hyper parents who must know exactly what their kindergartner is doing at every moment–including how she’s interacting with her peers, and how that will ultimately affect her chances of being accepted to an Ivy League school–here’s a nifty bit of technology. Researchers in Japan are testing out a device for kids to wear that gives parents the ability to see everything that passes before their kid’s eyes.

New Scientist reports:

The technology builds on existing devices that can track the location of a child, but this gadget also monitors what the child is seeing, and even their pulse. If a child’s heart rate is faster than usual, it snaps a photo of their point-of-view and alerts parents via email…. A password-protected website allows parents to access an activity log and photos taken during the day.

Seung-Hee Lee of the University of Tsukuba, who led the team that built the device, says it could help parents find out about bullying or could be used to track down a missing child, but we can think of lots of other handy uses. Parents can find out if their kid’s eyes waver from the blackboard, and punish them accordingly. They can find out who their kid has a raging crush on by keeping a close watch on that heart rate.

The gadget is currently being tested on 10 children aged 2 to 6, and further trials are planned for slightly older school children. The device’s makers also hope to add a microphone and software that will store the child’s conversations. As for privacy concerns, Lee scoffs at them. She’s a mother, she told New Scientist, and she’d choose safety over privacy for her child any day.

Related Content:
Discoblog: Ontario Parents Try to Protect School Kids From Dangerous WiFi Rays
Discoblog: Teen Sues Mom for Hacking His Facebook Account
80beats: School Spying Case: School Accused of Taking Thousands of Webcam Photos
80beats: Lesbian Parents & Their Well-Adjusted Kids: What the Study Really Means
80beats: Generation iPod: Young’Uns Spend 53 Hours a Week Consuming Media

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!

To Find This Snub-Nosed Monkey, Follow the Sneezes

By Eliza Strickland | October 27, 2010 12:00 pm

snub-nosed-1The locals living in a remote Burmese forest gave wildlife biologists very clear instructions on how to find a rare species of monkey: Just go out on a rainy day, and listen for sneezes in the treetops. The snub-nosed monkey has nostrils that point up, they said, and it sneezes when rainwater drips into its nose.

Even with these amazingly great directions, the biologists failed to photograph a live specimen of the Burmese snub-nosed monkey–the image at right is a digital reconstruction of what the monkey probably looks like. Still, their examination of skins and skulls in the villagers’ possession provided enough evidence to declare that the monkey was a new species that had never before been described in the scientific literature. BBC reports:

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