Archive for December, 2010

NCBI ROFL: The real reason Rudolph's nose is red.

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

rudolph picEpidemiology of reindeer parasites.

“Every Christmas we sing about Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer, but do we give much thought to why his nose is red? The general consensus is that Rudolf has caught a cold, but as far as I know no proper diagnosis has been made of his abnormal condition. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, NCBI ROFL, rated G

NCBI ROFL: A new scientific source of bias: SILLY bias. Analysis of citations of BMJ's Christmas articles.

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

angel facepalm“We analysed the scientific impact of systematic reviews and randomised trials published in the BMJ Christmas issues 1997-2006. The articles were mostly interpreted correctly as humorous, but the humorous dimension was overlooked with surprising ease. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NCBI ROFL, rated G, ridiculous titles

Rogue Performer Turns Friend’s Face Into Drum Kit—All for Science!

By Jennifer Welsh | December 23, 2010 9:57 am

There are oodles of instruments and websites out there to help you make funky sounds, but for some reason, artist/performer/DJ/composer Daito Manabe feels the need to torture his friends instead. He uses a combination of electric shock pads and muscle electricity sensors to both conduct a drum show and contort his friend’s facial expressions.

When the drummer touches the drum he sets up myoeletcric currents in his fingers. The sensors attached to his fingers pick up this charge and use it to beat a virtual drum machine.

The shock pads on the drum’s face respond to the specific sounds of the drum, giving him a shock in specific places and causing his facial contraction and crazy expressions. This half of the video was performed by Manabe himself in an earlier video.

Manabe’s homebrew experiments are inspired by work started 150 years ago, explains Technology Review:
Read More

MORE ABOUT: drums, music

NCBI ROFL: If Christmas doesn't kill you, New Year's Eve just might.

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

2123448460_7e0ca30c0d_zChristmas and New Year as risk factors for death.

“This paper poses three questions: (1) Does mortality from natural causes spike around Christmas and New Year? (2) If so, does this spike exist for all major disease groups or only specialized groups? (3) If twin holiday spikes exist, need this imply that Christmas and New Year are risk factors for death? To answer these questions, we used all official U.S. death certificates, 1979-2004 (n = 57,451,944) in various hospital settings to examine daily mortality levels around Christmas and New Year. Read More


Weirdest of the Weird: Discoblog's Favorite Stories of 2010

By Jennifer Welsh | December 22, 2010 2:51 pm

For more top lists check out DISCOVER’s top 100 stories of the year and the 2010 top ten most-read stories from 80beats.

How do you accidentally impregnate someone who doesn’t have a vagina? Stab her in the stomach after having her perform oral sex on you. Wow, did I just really write that? No wonder this is the weirdest story of 2010…

Mutant Mice Chirp Like Birds. So What Are They Saying?

By Jennifer Welsh | December 22, 2010 11:55 am

It’s furry like a mouse but sings like a bird. What is it? It’s a mutant mouse developed by the genetic engineers at the University of Osaka that is able to tweet and chip like a bird, instead of a mouse’s normal squeak.

Like dog breeders, who actively select for certain traits (like size, hair color, or disposition) the researchers from the Evolved Mouse Project crossbred their mutant mice to select for various traits. When they find one they like, like this singing mouse or the one that looks like a miniature Dachshund, they breed them until they have a sizable breeding stock of animals to establish a new breed.

The research group currently has over a hundred singing mice (it must get noisy in those labs) and they are continuing to study how they use their chirps, researcher Arikuni Uchimura told the AFP:

“Mice are better than birds to study because they are mammals and much closer to humans in their brain structures and other biological aspects,” Uchimura said. “We are watching how a mouse that emits new sounds would affect ordinary mice in the same group… in other words if it has social connotations.”

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NCBI ROFL: And the holiday "No sh*t, Sherlock" award goes to…

By ncbi rofl | December 21, 2010 7:00 pm

cinnamonOdor attributes change in relation to the time of the year. Cinnamon odor is more familiar and pleasant during Christmas season than summertime.

“Aim of the present study was to examine whether odor attributes like pleasantness and familiarity change in relation to the time of the year. In the first part of the study a total of 100 subjects answered to questions without odor presentation whether a certain odor was more related to summertime or Christmas season. Read More


GM Recycles Oil-Soaked Booms From BP Spill Into Parts for Chevy Volt

By Jennifer Welsh | December 21, 2010 4:00 pm

oil-boomsThe Chevy Volt is taking aim at the green market. Not only did it nab the 2010 green car of the year award, but it’s also helping to clean up the mess that big oil company BP made in the Gulf of Mexico.

GM is recycling 10,000 pounds of oil-soaked booms from the gulf into parts for the Volt. Instead of sending the booms to landfills, their absorbent polypropylene (which bears plastic-recycling #5) filler will be cleaned and recycled, GM said in the press release:

“This was purely a matter of helping out,” said John Bradburn, manager of GM’s waste-reduction efforts. “If sent to a landfill, these materials would have taken hundreds of years to begin to break down, and we didn’t want to see the spill further impact the environment. We knew we could identify a beneficial reuse of this material given our experience.”

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NCBI ROFL: Top 10 most popular posts of the year!

By ncbi rofl | December 20, 2010 7:00 pm

Spinal-Tap-movie-0511. President Kennedy’s death: A poison arrow-assisted homicide.
“The convergence of three independent actions, or the signature traits of a neurotoxin-assisted homicide- the emergence of neurological signs consistent with a neurotoxin-induced paralysis, the induction of a small neck wound consistent with a flechette-transported neurotoxin entry wound, and the execution of a coverup to eliminate neurotoxin evidence, supports this hypothesis.”

10. Double feature: Personalities of punks and perils of their pointy parkas.
“The purpose of this study was to provide some understanding of punk rockers. Although they have received media attention in the depiction of their unusual hair and clothing styles, there is limited information about their personalities.”

9. Finally, a male contraceptive: behold the ball cozy!
“Every 2 weeks, a physician at the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University in Egypt examined 14 32-47 year old male volunteers wearing a polyester scrotal sling day and night for 12 months to determine if polyester fabrics can act as a contraceptive in men. They changed the sling only when it became dirty.” Read More


Elephant Bird's Tasty, Giant Eggs Were Most Likely Its Downfall

By Jennifer Welsh | December 20, 2010 12:59 pm


The extinct elephant bird could grow to over ten feet tall and weigh in at around half a ton, with its eggs about 180 times the size of a chicken egg. They lived well in Madagascar until about 2,000 years ago, when humans first settled the island; then, about 1,000 years later, they were extinct. In an upcoming documentary, Sir David Attenborough says it wasn’t the skill of human hunters that caused the big bird’s demise:

“I doubt it was hunted to extinction – anyone who has seen an ostrich in a zoo knows that it has a kick which can open a man’s stomach and an enraged elephant bird, many times the size of an ostrich, must have been a truly formidable opponent.”

Instead, he says, humans probably killed off the elephant bird by eating all their eggs—someone stumbling on a nest and stealing one of it’s calorie-rich eggs could keep their family happy for several meals.

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