Nov 292016
 
Don't wank in front of puppies

As it turns out, our adorable and fluffy room-clearing-fart-friends share some of our mental ability when it comes to remembering and reenacting events. Besides providing a seemingly endless supply of turds and happiness, our poochy wet-nosed-companions are able to remember things even though they don’t know that they’ll be tested on it later – in this respect, they are well ahead a room full of undergraduate students.

Most people I hang out with are able to recall events from the past even when they hold little or no importance in their life, this is called “episodic memory”. The ability of people to remember pointless events becomes apparent when someone with a loud voice starts telling a story at a party. Everyone listens in bemusement as the I-wish-they’d-shut-up-story is shared and we all wait in hope for the fun friend to save the party by talking about dicks and drugs again.

Now, researchers from the Comparative Ethology Research Group in Hungary (it’s OK not to have heard of them before) have somehow been able to pass off playing with dogs as “research”. They reported in the journal Current Biology (IF=9.571, yep, seriously) that dogs have a kind of “episodic memory” too. The lead researcher said through gritted teeth,

You’re a fucking fluffy, squish face, aren’t you?

As an aside, their website looks like someone has captured the thoughts of a 12-year-old aspiring veterinarian and translated them to HTML.

Between belly rubs and trying not to kill the canine participants with love, the study found that dogs can recall a person’s complex actions even though they have no motivation to remember.

The researchers trained 17 dogs to imitate human actions with a “Do as I Do” training method. Like teaching your toddler swear words. Next, they did another round of training in which dogs were trained to lie down after watching the human action, no matter what it was.

After the dogs had learned to lie down reliably, the researchers surprised them by saying “Do It” and the dogs did. The dogs recalled what they’d seen the person do even though they had no particular reason to think they’d need to remember. You can see this technique in the video below:

Although wanking is not always a complex task, it’s advisable that you get your dog to look the other way before you start. If you don’t, take solace in the fact that the researchers discovered that the dogs will eventually forget about your shared sexual preference for doggy style and face licking.

 

References

  1. Claudia Fugazza, Ákos Pogány, Ádám Miklósi. Recall of Others’ Actions after Incidental Encoding Reveals Episodic-like Memory in Dogs. Current Biology, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.09.057
  2. Cell Press. “Your dog remembers what you did.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 November 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161123141547.htm>.

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Nov 222016
 
Naked Burglar

The Australian police have been called all sorts of things – sweaty rule-keeping bastards, koala-chasing law wankers, useless BBQ-eating fun spoilers, to list only three of the common ones. But this week, they have really shown their worth by solving an elaborate crime in Wodonga (definitely not a made up place).

The koala-chasing law wankers investigated a robbery at the Wodonga community hall, in southeast Australia (near the not so hot bit). But, instead of fingerprints, police found the offenders had left a big arse mark on a glass door.

One of the sweaty rule-keeping bastards said:

“It’s a big arse, mate. We used $100 dollars worth of that dusty shit, mate. We can, fair dinkum, pinpoint the age and sex of the offender by looking for evidence of hemorrhoids and skid marks”

Arse print on a door

To help the residents of Wodonga overcome their fear of pantless break-ins, they could be provided with a recent therapy created by researchers at a university everyone says they want to go to, but only a few can actually be arsed to work “that hard” – Oxford Cambridge University.

These tea sipping researchers have discovered a way to remove specific fears from the brain, using a combination of artificial intelligence and brain scanning technology.

Currently, one of the most common approaches to help with fears is aversion therapy. This is where a sweaty-palmed individual confronts their fear by being exposed to it while someone says “see it’s not scary”. I’m sure this is just as effective as telling a miserable sibling to “cheer up”.

The new technique is called ‘Decoded Neurofeedback’. It uses brain scanning to monitor activity in the brain and identify complex patterns of activity which resemble a specific fear memory. Even when the volunteers are simply resting, there are moments when the pattern of fluctuating brain activity has partial features of the specific fear memory, even though the volunteers aren’t consciously aware of it. Once the patient’s brain starts to show the same activity as a fear memory the researchers simply reward the patient with something nice, such as money or a kiss from a virgin.

Although this will help the residents of Wodonga with the fear of a naked break-in. It will not help with the fact they live in Wodonga whose Wikipedia page is so dull it will make you want to get nude, high on ice, and rob a community hall just so there’d be something mildly interesting on it.

 

References:

  1. Ai Koizumi, Kaoru Amano, Aurelio Cortese, Kazuhisa Shibata, Wako Yoshida, Ben Seymour, Mitsuo Kawato, Hakwan Lau. Fear reduction without fear through reinforcement of neural activity that bypasses conscious exposure. Nature Human Behaviour, 2016; 1: 0006 DOI: 10.1038/s41562-016-0006
  2. http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/reconditioning-the-brain-to-overcome-fear

In other news, this week I’m curating the @iamscicomm twitter handle

Come and join in the sweary fun!

 

Nov 152016
 
Moon behind the clouds

Last night, people in Sydney, the UK, and US were disappointed to find out they would not be treated to a much anticipated astronomical display of a supermoon. The non-circular path of the moon as it passes around the earth, combined with its full phase, meant that it was supposed to be the perfect night to go out, be romantic and moonlit and shit. However, the weather didn’t hold up and clouds filled the sky the same way fake happiness fills the heart of a Christian minister.

Josh, a 26-year-old plumber, said “the weather’s fucked, mate”.

Instead of witnessing a supermoon, the crowd was forced to return home, finish a two-day old bottle of wine and treat themselves to some mutual masturbation while sitting on “the old towels”. You know, the towels that are too good to chuck away but scratchy enough not to give to guests.

Today, in another expectation-smashing event, it was revealed that scientists, from the cereal grain inspired institution, Rice University, discovered that an atom-thick material being eyed for making the future awesome, is fucked.

The material is molybdenum diselenide (MoSe2). It was touted as being a main component of some future gadgets such as flexible/wearable electronics, next-generation solar cells, and fancy, really expensive TV’s. The biggest problem with MoSe2  is that even the slightest flaw in the atomic structure, as small as one missing atom, can initiate catastrophic cracking when the material is bent. So, despite the hype, it’s back to the drawing board for this material.

Watch what happens to MoSe2 in the video below:

Given the bad news, transition-lens-wearing scientists who work with this MoSe2 are encouraged to follow the lead of Sydneysiders. That is, leave work early, finish off a bottle of wine and participate in activities that you wouldn’t want your dad/mum to do to your mum/dad.

References

  1. http://news.rice.edu/2016/11/14/2-d-material-a-brittle-surprise-2/
  2. Yingchao Yang, Xing Li, Minru Wen, Emily Hacopian, Weibing Chen, Yongji Gong, Jing Zhang, Bo Li, Wu Zhou, Pulickel M. Ajayan, Qing Chen, Ting Zhu, Jun Lou. Brittle Fracture of 2D MoSe2. Advanced Materials, 2016; DOI: 10.1002/adma.201604201

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Nov 082016
 
Trump Stupid Smile

As the US presidential battle comes to an end, we will soon be able to look back in awe at the sorts of commentaries provided by Trump supporters in the name of “Making America Great Again”. They were able to say all sorts of horrible things and get away with it. Unfortunately, in the land free speech, the opinions of these misguided individuals curdle the avocado and tofu scramble in my stomach.

One example of the types of opinions which are apparently OK to flaunt in public, is shown in this vile viral video following a traffic incident in Memphis (United S’s of America):

Now dear reader, please remember that this video was recorded after an accident. We can’t be sure that this poor individual didn’t suffer a concussion and is wandering the streets dazed and confused. Stumbling around while spouting hate speak that he’d accidentally heard on aryanradio.com (yep, that exists) at his cousin’s house. A cousin that he doesn’t like to visit but his mum forces him to visit when the cousin gets out of jail.

Typically, medical doctors would have to rely on a combination of patient symptom assessment and clinician judgement to determine whether something was seriously wrong with the patient. Don’t worry, socially awkward scientists to the rescue! Scientists from Children’s Health Research Institute, a program of Lawson Health Research Institute, and Western University have developed a test to distinguish racists from those in need of medical intervention.

These fancy, lab-coat-wearing, vampires have developed a new, inexpensive, blood test that identifies (with greater than 90 per cent certainty) whether or not an adolescent athlete has suffered a concussion for up to 72 hours. This blood test uses a technique called metabolomics to determine whether someone is concussed.

Metabolomics looks for distinct patterns of chemical markers found in the body to determine if a concussion has occurred. Kind of like the smelling for BO, stale alcohol, and latex in a hotel room to determine if shame has occurred. In the event of a concussion, the researchers can look for sets of as little as 20-40 specific metabolites to diagnose a concussion.

One thing is for sure, based on the number of questionable things trump has said throughout his campaign, it would be interesting to test him for concussion using this new metabolomic test. Let’s face it, there is a non-zero chance that Melania Trump is hitting him over the head with a sizable, sticky dildo every night to help him sleep – every little helps, the campaign trail is quite the marathon.

References

Daley, M., Dekaban, G., Bartha, R. et al. Metabolomics (2016) 12: 185. doi:10.1007/s11306-016-1131-5

https://www.lawsonresearch.ca/western-and-lawson-scientists-develop-game-changing-blood-test-concussions


 

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Nov 012016
 

Occupational health and safety (OH&S) essentially provides science and research with unsolicited parental advice. That is, something you hate hearing, never really listen to but know you should’ve when things go wrong and you end up with gravel rash, bloody knees and snot running into your mouth. Every university has a dedicated OH&S Nazi who’s just itching for their phone to ring so they can rush to the lab, clipboard in hand, and explain in intimate detail all the things you have done, and will do wrong.

My opinion of OH&S has softened over the years. Of course, people should expect to go to work and return home with all of their important bits unchanged or improved (limbs, face, and reproductive organs). It seems the easiest way to ensure scientists remain safe is to keep them occupied with 2 days worth of paperwork so they’re not in the lab, which is where most of the accidents happen. Instead, they can sit at their desks and fill out forms which, never have enough space for the chemical you want to use (this one takes 3.5 hours to say out loud and someone has actually read the whole thing). Oh…and to sit at their desks and fill out forms, researchers need to fill out a form so they can sit at their desks and fill out forms safely.

Every field of research has the standard lab safety requirements. In chemistry, we have rules that every swimming pool attendee would know such as, no running, no splashing, no heavy petting and no bombs. A science lab is full of really fun and potentially dangerous tools and equipment. There are, however, some other rules that take all of your effort not to break. And if you’re a scientist and haven’t thought about breaking them, you’ve actually broken them. (I take no responsibility for injuries caused by this post).

Don’t spray stuff on people

Lab solvent bottles

If I had to design a water fight side arm or handgun, I’d design it exactly like a solvent bottle that you’d find in nearly every lab in the world. There’s nothing more tempting than to have a solvent bottle full of water and a friend/colleague who needs to look like they’ve wet themselves. The danger is that you’ll pick up the wrong squirt bottle and dissolve their pubes.

 

No sitting in the lab

Now, imagine this: You have been in the lab for 6 hours, your lab partner has just screwed up a part of the experiment and no-one has noticed your awesome new shoes. Go on, take a seat:

Relief

NOPE, fuck you and your squished buttocks – no sitting in the lab. Well, at the very least you’re not allowed to sit while someone important is looking. The risk being that you may spill something on your pant area and dissolve your pubes.

Do not get naked and use the safety showers

If you do spill something, labs also contain safety showers to wash away any chemicals. Although there’s no specific rule stopping you from doing this, don’t pretend that you haven’t wanted to sneak into the lab at night and have a proper soapy shampoo shower while the creepy, racist security guard watches. You sick bastard.

To overcome these inappropriate urges, fill out a standard operating procedure and watch as your will to live slowly fades…


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