Jan 312017
 
tomatoes that look like a willy and a vagina

Dissatisfied people from every part of the globe are rejoicing as two teams of researchers have identified how to put the flavour back into two important aspects of life – tomatoes and sex.

Although this week has been a fucking nightmare for the free world, two teams of researchers have tried to bring a little bit of happiness back into people’s lives. Thank you, science, thank you.

As my dear old granny used to say:

“…life is not worth living unless each day contains a rip-roaring orgasm and mouthwatering food”

She was such a wise woman, and explains why grandad’s hips were the first thing to go. RIP Gran.

In our first incidence of happiness, a person by the name of Denise Tieman was eating a tomato and thought to herself  “this is a bit shit, I wonder if I can make it better?” Luckily, Denise was a scientist with all of the right skills and decided to do something about it. Good on ya, Denise!

Dr Tieman and her team of clever foodies, from the University of Florida, decided that achieving the perfect tomato would require identification of the important flavour factors that have been lost.

In a study published in the really fancy journal Science, the tomato team found that modern tomatoes lack sufficient sugars and smelly chemicals. These are very important in achieving a better flavour. These sugars and smelly chemicals had been lost due to years of breeding without paying attention to how the tomatoes tasted.

Because breeding takes time, and the tomato team is studying five or more genes, the changes from their latest study may take three to four years to produce flavour in new tomatoes.

Yawn…

While you are waiting for science to actually live up to its promises, our second study may help you fill time more productively:

In our second incidence of improved happiness – scientists have finally worked out what women want in the bedroom department – and we are not just talking 1500 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. Although, I’m sure that would be nice too.

In a selection of 159 Swiss women, 61% of them were having sex and thinking to themselves “this is a bit shit, I wonder if I can make it better?”.

A study wanted to find out exactly how the dissatisfied majority wanted to make things better and, more specifically, looked at the attitudes towards sexuality-boosting medication.

The study found that the dissatisfied women wanted to use the pill to increase orgasm frequency and intensity and sexual desire. They wanted a pill that would take about an hour to get them going and not many wanted the pill to have an effect in less than 15 minutes. Once again, evidence that there’s a global conspiracy to manipulate partners into giving massages – “Just give me a massage while we wait for the sexy-pill to kick in. I’ve put a towel on the bed already”

As an interesting comparison between the two papers, while it takes twenty people to work out how to make a tomato not taste like shit, it only takes two people to find out what women want. Apparently, you just have to ask them – fancy that.

Also, this is what happens if you type tomato sex into Youtube. Magnets or stop motion? I can’t decide.

 

References

  1. A chemical genetic roadmap to improved tomato flavor. Science, 2017 DOI: 10.1126/science.aal1556
  2. What Women Want—An Explorative Study on Women’s Attitudes Toward Sexuality Boosting Medication in a Sample of Swiss Women, The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2017 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2016.12.238.
Jan 242017
 

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world marched in support of the Women’s March on Washington.

Arts and craft stores for kilometers (US translation: miles) around the Washington area had sold out of A2 sheets of cardboard and thick, sign writing pens. The most popular pen colours were: “back-to-the-dark-ages” black, “leave-my-pussy-alone” pink and “really-good-at-building-a-wall” brown.

Women, young and old, took to the streets to send a powerful message to the new president – “We really don’t like you and hope you get impeached”. Ashley Judd does an incredible, Andy Matter approved, speech that you can watch here:

According to a recent study, for the oldest women in the crowd, there would have been a welcome side effect to all this anarchistic marching and fist waving.

Old-women-bothering researchers from the University of California, San Diego (with a 4.5 star rating on Facebook) found that elderly women (between the ages of 64 – 95) who sit down for more than 10 hours a day have cells that are biologically older when compared to women who don’t regularly watch Dr Phil TV marathons.

Elderly women who remained glued to the moving-image-light-box for more than 10 hours a day had shorter telomeres – the protective caps on the end of chromosomes, like the roach you put in the end of a joint to protect it from your dribbly mate’s fat fingers. Shortening of the telomeres have been related to other bad life choices such as smoking, eating way to much, and they also shorten as we age.

Aladdin Shadyab, PhD, lead author of the study said of Donald Trump

“Given his expertise, if Donald were to grab the pussies of the grandmothers who were stationary for more than 10 hours a day he’d notice that they would be biologically older by approximately 8 years.”

Don’t worry, Gran. If you really can’t miss the midday re-run of Dr Phil you can do moderate exercise for more than 30 minutes a day to avoid premature aging. I hear the local community centre is running Zumba sessions.

References

  1. Aladdin H. Shadyab et al. Associations of Accelerometer-Measured and Self-Reported Sedentary Time With Leukocyte Telomere Length in Older Women. American Journal of Epidemiology, January 2017 DOI: 10.1093/aje/kww196

Remember to like Andy Matter on SadBook and TwatSpace

Jan 172017
 
Game of thrones throne

When you work in a university for long enough you start to notice a worrying trend: High (not the fun drug way) level professors are in a state of continuous flux, changing institution at the drop of a hat for a better offer elsewhere. The better offer is likely to include working at a more prestigious university, more money for research and lab monkeys and better labs. Or, perhaps, the aggressively ambitious professor has pissed off so many people while clamoring their way to the top that it is better for everyone if they fuck off – I know of a number of instances where this is certainly the case, because I love gossip.

These max-level professors are really, really expensive. Deakin University has the level E rate set at $171,299 per annum or, to put it another way, approximately 571 tweed jackets per anus. But to the university, that doesn’t matter. These professors satisfy all of the selection criteria universities drool over. They bring in loads of money, have a butt-load of collaborations and they publish papers by the adult nappy load. AND THEY DO IT NOW, right now, as in, the university can instantly get these things and make its statistics appear way better overnight – with very little effort. If institutions do this enough, they can fill every office with a success hungry professor. Just imagine the fun workplace environment – like going for a relaxing swim, in shark infested waters, with a self-harm support group.

But here’s the thing, for every professor who moves institution, the universities replace them with another shiny headed professor, like a really shit Game of Thrones. Giving them fancy names like “strategic professors” which satisfies the sticky soul of the egocentric professor. After years of researching the same area, it is very unlikely that any professor will bring new ideas to the table. I once sat in a room as scribe for the formation of a new institute. After hours of talking it was clear to me that the only thing each academic brought to the table was a different, watered-down version of their own research applied in a slightly different way, not innovative solutions for a changing world, but safe options that have worked in the past.

It is very short sighted of the universities to perpetually employ recycled professors instead of two fresh-faced and eager young academics, for the same amount of money, who will bring new ideas, new enthusiasm and new direction to a research institute. Sure, maybe one of the level B early career academics will be a lazy little shit who just wants an easy ride after landing a cushy position – but that’s no different to some tenured professors now.

With a little time, support and encouragement I am certain that early career academics will lead the way in providing Australia with the innovation boom they are looking for. It won’t happen overnight, but I can assure you that it is an investment worth making. Let’s put put the metrics aside for one moment and invest in people, not statistics.

It’s about time the universities got called out on their bullshit academic appointments, what do you think?

Jan 102017
 
Fancy New Labs

One thing that I’ve noticed during my 10 years in a moderately productive scientific career is that, over time, the laboratories have become less busy. I remember times, early in my PhD, having to elbow-fight for lab space on 1960’s style wooden benches. The labs looked like how an escape room business would furnish a murder mystery theme. The benches would be stained with decades worth of chemical spills and scorches from hot glassware. Each discolored ring telling the story of an experiment that could have gone a little better.

Nowadays, researchers regularly receive a call to action, flaccidly ejaculated from the supervisor’s omnipresent email account: “I have visitors/photographers/collaborators visiting this morning, please make the lab look busy by scheduling your experiments for this time.”




Here are some of my favorite pictures of academics holding things:

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A never ending battle is fought between research leaders over scientific territory. Once the territory is won, they need the troops to fill it, and sometimes they just don’t have the numbers. Instead of giving up some space to a larger group, academics will fiercely defend space by marking it with their expensive equipment and not-so-expensive urine. Gone are the days of finding out the door code from a drunk lab member. Should you want swipe card access to their lab, you’ll have to go through an extensive process of chasing the elusive academic around the various campuses of the university.  Should you trap them, this will be followed by *another* lab induction from a dead-eyed lab manager, come post-doc, who will un-enthusiastically gesture towards the first-aid kit and chemical manifests before asking you to kill them under their breath.

An overly excited OH&S representative will easily dash any hopes you have of entering the lab this week. I once wanted to dissolve magnesium sulfate in water for one of my experiments. It sounds scary, but it is most commonly found in bath salts. In order for my carbon nanotubes to take a relaxing bath, I was required to fill out a 24 page form, print off three copies, take them to my supervisor to be signed, place one in the tray in the office, take one to the OH&a;akkjnasljhvci[‘ae9qw[ewfj – what a fucking huge waste of time. To the best of my knowledge, the chemical is still sat in the store room waiting to be picked up. Every OH&S manager should have to shadow an active researcher so that they can see the effect one simple form can have on the productivity of a scientist.

Maybe, just maybe, the labs have always been this empty. The desire for senior management in a university to “show an active research environment” has seen the installation of scientist goldfish bowls and may have backfired. Big windows with inspirational quotes such as, “I will do myself proud” and “fuck yeah, science”, adorn the echoey glass science cage and researchers are forever on show. They cannot pick their noses, pick out their wedgies or scream-swear at the computer without the potential of being watched by a visiting member of parliament.

Surely, if Australia is to become an innovation nation the first thing to do is to remove the reasons for clever people to not be in the lab. That way, they are actually doing science. Give them the freedom to try new things without the burden of excessive paperwork. Allow them access to fancy new equipment without the invisible borders that dissect the research institute’s battleground. And get rid of those creativity killing glass cages of despair.





Jan 052017
 
2017 in light painting

I hope that you have all had a lovely Christmas and New Year and have managed to avoid work emails and food poisoning. As universities across the globe start to wake up from their holiday-induced comas, we can look forward to 2017 and hope that we don’t die, so that 2017 will yield a bumper crop of papers and successful grant applications in order to feed the ever hungry supervisor’s CV.

Since nothing is more sciency than making claims about the future that no-one can dispute, here are my science predictions for 2017:

1. Someone will regularly do a massive, humidifying poo in the toilet near your office.

It is inevitable that the smell of fresh turds will waft from toilets, but 2017 will see a resurgence of the anti-flush movement you’ll remember from the late 90’s.

2. Universities will force staff to sit through day-long workshops about personal branding and marketing.

How are you meant to do research without money? You can’t. How are you meant to bring in money if you spend all of your time doing research? You can’t.

Bringing in money isn’t about promising the unachievable, it’s about making the unachievable seem like a promise with fancy marketing words that I don’t know because I haven’t done the workshop yet.

3. Vice Chancellor’s will get smaller to make novelty checks appear larger.

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4. Grant applications will also include an X-factor style panel.

Nothing feels better than laughing at someone with a potential mental illness from the safety of an auditorium full of other people too scared to follow their dreams.
I hope I get to laugh at someone who has spent months writing a grant proposal only have their dreams dashed by Mel B from the spice girls.

5 Desperate for media attention, Universities will start leaking sex tapes of researchers fucking Kayne West.

Obviously…

So there we have it, folks. You heard it here first.