Archive for February, 2012

NCBI ROFL: Doing math in a Speedo is always a bad idea.

By ncbi rofl | February 29, 2012 7:00 pm

The swimsuit becomes us all: ethnicity, gender, and vulnerability to self-objectification.

“Self-objectification theory posits and past research has found that Caucasian women’s body image is negatively affected by a stigma of obesity and sociocultural norm of thinness that leads women to self-focus from a critical external perspective. However, research in this area is limited by its methodology and the restricted demographic composition of its study participants. Read More

NCBI ROFL: It was as big as my head, I swear! Biased spider size estimation in spider phobia.

By ncbi rofl | February 28, 2012 7:00 pm

“The current study tested the association between fear and perception in spider phobic individuals (n=57) within the context of a treatment outcome study. Participants completed 5 post-treatment Behavioral Approach Tasks (BATs) in which they encountered a live spider and were asked to provide spider size estimates. Read More

NCBI ROFL: Probing pooch paw preferences.

By ncbi rofl | February 27, 2012 7:00 pm

Effect of use on the elective appearance of an instrumental reaction in dogs.

“Dogs were used to elaborate two instrumental reactions flexing the left or right forepaw respectively to pull a dish of food within reach of its mouth. If both paws were simultaneously fixed to levers, dog was faced with a choice between two reactions. Read More


Investigating the "Charlie Brown Effect": Astronauts' Chubby Faces and Hot-Sauce Cravings

By Sarah Zhang | February 27, 2012 8:45 am

spacing is importantOne of these pockets must have Tabasco.

Does this zero gravity make me look fat? Yup. It’s called the Charlie Brown effect, according to Michele Perchonok, NASA’s shuttle food system manager, and it’s not because she’s fattening them up with shrimp cocktail and chicken consommé. Without the benefit of gravity, bodily fluids accumulate in the head, giving the astronauts rounder, cartoon-like faces.

As anyone who’s had a cold knows, more fluid in our facial cavities also means congestion and weakening our sense of smell. But is lack of gravity actually responsible to for all this? There’s only one way to find out: “Perchonok has asked [food engineer Jean Hunter] and her crew at Cornell to test the stuffy nose theory. To do that on Earth, volunteers will spend several weeks in a bed where their heads are lower than their feet to try to re-create that Charlie Brown effect.” This might not be what people had in mind when they volunteered for astronaut simulations.

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NCBI ROFL: College hookup SMACKDOWN: Extroverts vs. Introverts!

By ncbi rofl | February 24, 2012 7:00 pm

Personality as a predictor of hooking up among college students.

“Hookups–casual sexual encounters that may or may not include intercourse – are common on college campuses. Previous research has suggested that these casual sexual encounters may have serious health-related consequences. Understanding the relationships among multiple predictors of hooking up is important if high-risk prevention programming among college students is to be effective. This study considers each of the Big Five personality traits as predictors of hooking-up behaviors in a sample of Midwestern undergraduates (N = 247). Read More


NCBI ROFL: And the February “no sh*t, Sherlock” award goes to…

By ncbi rofl | February 23, 2012 7:00 pm

Gender portrayals in telephone books for gay community versus Pacific-Bell Yellow Pages.

“Photographic images (N = 2,700) from three 1997 Pacific-Bell Yellow Pages (n = 1,976) and from three 1996-97 gay, lesbian, and bisexual community telephone books (n = 724) were classified into three groups by visible features (definite male, definite female, and gender nonspecific). Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: duh, NCBI ROFL, scientist...or perv?

Rainforest Science: Researcher Licks Frogs to Tell if They're Poisonous

By Sarah Zhang | February 23, 2012 10:19 am

There’s a certain school of thought among wildlife biologists (Exhibit A) that you should eat any organism you study. Frog scientists—who study toxic frogs, mind you—have a similar habit: lick any frog you study. “Sometimes I just can’t wait till I get back to the lab to do the chemistry, and I want to get an idea if there is something nasty,” said frog scientist Valerie Clark to National Geographic. With limited equipment out in the rainforest, a taste test is the quickest way to tell whether a frog is poisonous. Most of them can’t kill a human, but the poison can make your throat burn and constrict.

While frog-licking works in a pinch out in the field, discussing how skin secretions tickle your palate isn’t going to pass the rigors of peer review. Clark’s new study used electrical stimulation to extract skin secretions from frogs and analyzed them in a mass spectrometer. Among the products: sucrose and a new bile acid called tauromantellic acid.

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NCBI ROFL: Triple feature: Do the mystical healing powers of pyramids apply to rats?

By ncbi rofl | February 22, 2012 7:00 pm

Effect of housing rats within a pyramid on stress parameters.

“The Giza pyramids of Egypt have been the subject of much research. Pyramid models with the same base to height ratio as of the Great Pyramid of Giza, when aligned on a true north-south axis, are believed to generate, transform and transmit energy. Research done with such pyramid models has shown that they induced greater relaxation in human subjects, promoted better wound healing in rats and afforded protection against stress-induced neurodegnerative changes in mice. The present study was done to assess the effects of housing Wistar rats within the pyramid on the status of oxidative damage and antioxidant defense in their erythrocytes and cortisol levels in their plasma. Read More

How to Turn a Blazing-Hot Fusion Reactor Into a Sunny Paradise, in 10 Easy Steps

By Veronique Greenwood | February 22, 2012 3:49 pm

Stephen Gaskell is a British science fiction writer whose work has been published in Nature, Interzone, and Clarkesworld. A graduate of the Clarion East writing workshop, he recently released Strata, co-written with Bradley P. Beaulieu.

In many ways the interior of a star would be an ideal place to live for an advanced species. A near limitless source of energy. Camouflage from interstellar predators. And sunshine three hundred and sixty five days a year.

In our new novella, Strata, Bradley P. Beaulieu and I didn’t travel so far into the future that humankind had migrated to the sun, but we did imagine giant solar mining platforms that orbit through the sun’s chromosphere. Of course, at present such a feat of engineering is beyond the technological and economic reach of humanity, but we wondered if this might one day be a scientifically feasible enterprise. Here are 10 features of the extremely hostile solar environment that had to be overcome:

1. Pressure

You might think your boss is putting you under enormous pressure for next week’s deadline, but it ain’t got a patch on the kind of stress that the center of the sun’s under. At its core, the pressure of the sun is equal to 340 billion times the Earth’s surface atmospheric pressure. That’s a lot of elephants standing on your head. Fortunately for the future of humankind’s solar mining adventures, the sun’s internal structure is not uniform. The outer regions from the photosphere up (the chromosphere and corona) are actually very thin, with pressures generally 1% or less of Earth’s surface atmospheric pressure. Still, I wouldn’t hang out there.

2. Gravity

The sun’s big. Big like you can’t imagine. You thought Jupiter was big, but the sun makes Jupiter look like some snotty-nosed Mummy’s boy on his first day at school. And what does all that matter do? It does what gravity tells it, creating one serious gravitational well about which the planets orbit like toy ducks around a discharging plughole. Mercury completes one whole orbit every eighty-eight days. The orbital period for a mining platform situated in the sun’s chromosphere would be around one-tenth of a day. That’s a fair zip! And there’s an additional problem; any solar miners would be effectively weightless in the freefall orbit—the mass of the platform being negligible compared to a planet or moon.

In a fixed position the problem would be worse, the surface gravity of the sun some 28 times greater than the Earth. Even fighter pilots get nowhere near those g-forces. In the best traditions of science fiction we came up with an as yet undiscovered technology: gravity inhibitors, an idea first floated (ahem) in H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon with Dr. Cavor’s invention of the fictional material cavorite.

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Aliens Therefrom

NCBI ROFL: A field study of bar-sponsored drink specials and their associations with patron intoxication.

By ncbi rofl | February 21, 2012 7:00 pm

The study examined associations between bar-sponsored drink specials and alcohol intoxication at the patron level.
Data were collected in a college bar district located in a large campus community in the southeastern United States. Random and self-selected samples of patrons were interviewed after exiting college bars at night on four different nights (N=383). Anonymous interview and questionnaire data were collected as well as breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) readings. Read More


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