May 302017
 
Matterhorn mountain climbing

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This week, I have teamed up with content partner, Espresso Science, to give you two different perspectives on the same science story.

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Matterhorn mountain climbingNow that I’m over 30, I can’t even stand up without having to hold on to a wall to brace for the inevitable head rush.

On the other end of the scale, Sherpas are the motherfuckers of high altitude living. Scientists from the ever so dapper Cambridge University have finally worked out that their ability to use oxygen more efficiently is what makes them so damn good at climbing up our biggest thing, Roberto Esquivel Cabrera’s penis Mount Everest.

I really have no idea who would want to climb up Mount Everest, it sounds dangerous and nothing like sitting inside watching TV. It feels to me like, somewhere along the line, a drunken dare has got out of hand.

Two hundred and ninety-eight explorers, desperate to say they have conquered Everest, have died since 1922. The most recent one (at the time of writing) was only nine days ago; they fell into a 200 m crevasse. The ascent is so dangerous that there’s even a section called ‘the death zone’.





Even if Brad Pitt‘s money was to ask me: “Hey, Andy, some friends and I are heading to the death zone this weekend to take some excellent drugs and draw each other, wanna come?” My reply would be a simple, but firm,”Fuck off”.

The things that kill people up there? Mainly avalanches and symptoms related to being in freezing temperatures at high altitudes. Out bodies suck at being high up. Sherpas, on the other hand, are really good at it and hold a load of the world records for most number of summits.

Sherpas are an ethnic group from the most mountainous region of Nepal, the Himalayas. Generations of Sherpas have lived at high altitudes so it stands to reason then, that they would have evolved to be awesome at high altitude climbing in the same way you are good at putting on weight for a food-scarce winter that will never come.

Scientists wanted to understand what gives Sherpas their home ground advantage. The posh team studied two groups of people on a recent expedition to Everest’s base camp, situated at 5,300 metres above sea level. One group consisted of mostly rich Europeans with an overactive sensitivity to locker-room bravado and the other group consisted of Sherpas. They analysed blood and bone samples from each of the two groups before and after they had ascended to base camp.

They found that mitochondria (the energy centres in the cell) were much more efficient in Sherpas than they were in Europeans. Not only that, the Sherpa’s mitochondria were much better at metabolising sugars rather than fat. Fat requires much more oxygen during metabolism, an element that becomes increasingly scarce at high altitudes, so it makes sense that the Sherpas have evolved not to use it as a fuel source often as us fatty-pumbas. The researchers attributed some of the Sherpas’ altitude advantages to a gene variation in the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor A (PPARA) gene, which favours glucose over fat for generating energy.

In the future, the scientists hope that the findings could lead to a better way of treating hypoxia (lack of oxygen) in emergency room situations.

To be honest, I’ll only be happy when they come up with a way to stop me from seeing stars every time I stand up to go grab something from the fridge.


Read more:

  1. Metabolic basis to Sherpa altitude adaptation




May 232017
 
sweaty mess

Sweating is a normal part of being a human, and stopping sweat from ruining social gatherings should be a normal part of being a functional member of society.

For the athletic few, sweat is worn as a badge of honour after a facebook brag-post workout. For most of us, human skin cordial is an inconvenient part of life that you hope doesn’t get on anything expensive or anyone important. If you are not in a gym, the only other place that is acceptable to sweat is during sex, and even then it’s preferable for everyone involved to pretend it’s not happening.

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (home of the MIT card-counting blackjack team) have made a futuristic looking suit that responds to body heat and sweat. They report their findings in Science Advances. The suit contains microbial cells that open and close flaps on the suit in response to humidity. Even though the suit looks like it has got some form of rare scab condition, it’s quite funky.

Credit: Hannah Cohen

For middle-aged divorcee’s everywhere, sweat is the ever-present hurdle to “third time’s a charm” life-long happiness. 18 billion dollars a year is spent on making people smell like anything but people – flowers, gravity, dark temptation, wood, dark vanilla, iced musk and ginger. If in doubt, buy a fragrance that sounds like something Brian Cox would talk about while stood in front of a gentle fan. Or, for all you Australians out there, anything you think Alan Duffy‘s silk pillow smells like.

To make sure sweat doesn’t get in the way of potential lovemaking, scientists have printed two lines of microbial cells on latex sheets to create humidity responsive materials. The cells expand and shrink in response to humidity. If the cells are dry, they shrink. If the cells are wet, they expand. It looks like this:

 

Image: Chin-Yi Cheng

Clearly, this wasn’t futuristic enough for the scientists to get into a high-impact journal because they also make the cells glow when they are wet. Great for science, but something you wouldn’t want to draw attention to if the only part of you glowing was your arse/testicle/under-boob region.

The microbial activated flaps were able to go through a wet and dry cycle up to 100 times without degrading enough for researchers to get annoyed.

Next on the list are clothes that not only respond to moisture but can also release a fragrance while doing so. At this rate, you’ll never have to shower after going to the gym or sitting down in a hot room for too long. Here is the fancy multimedia they put out:


More:

  1. Harnessing the hygroscopic and biofluorescent behaviors of genetically tractable microbial cells to design biohybrid wearables
  2. Researchers design moisture-responsive workout suit

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May 162017
 

Climate change is a really big deal…to most of us.

As humans, we have fancy ways of dealing with it, such as funding research into renewable energy and impeaching Donald Trump. Stupid ol’ nature, on the other hand, just doesn’t listen when famous climate change deniers such as Lord Mr Monkton explain “things are warming up, sure, but it’s all part of the natural cycle of the earth. Chill out and ignore the scientist’s conspiracy which, they seem to have done a suspiciously good job at creating”.

You see, migrating birds can’t rely on technology to get around the impending sweat pit that’ll be “the outside”, they can’t just download an app to find out the best times to make the trip north to get their fuck on – they rely on mother nature to be their fluffer (click the link, it’ll make sense then).

So, to understand the effect of a warming climate on migrating birds, scientists from The Memorial University of Newfoundland (with 16,720 followers on facebook) looked at the relationship between the beginning of spring and migration timing on migratory birds. They found that there were nine bird species not adjusting to spring’s shifting start date, threatening their survival. They report their finding in a journal that people brag about publishing in but is actually just OK, Scientific Reports.

Migratory songbirds rely on seasonal changes to trigger mass horniness. Unhappy with having sex at home, migratory songbirds prefer “doing it” on holiday, just like drunk adolescents on their first trip to Bali. Also, because the dirty little shits don’t use protection, they need to raise their offspring in a safe environment that contains plenty of food. Lead researcher, Stephen Mayor said “it kind of makes sense, everyone feels a little more naughty on holiday” he added, “it’s the only time I like to be peed on”.

The scientists used data from satellites and citizen scientists to study how quickly the interval between spring plant growth and the arrival of 48 songbird species across North America changed from 2001 to 2012. The researchers found the gap lengthened by over half a day per year across all species on average, a rate of five days per decade–but for some species, the mismatch is growing at double or triple that rate.

The researchers found that of the 48 species studied nine were clearly unable to keep up with the shift: great crested flycatchers, indigo buntings, scarlet tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, eastern wood-pewees, yellow-billed cuckoos, northern parulas, blue-winged warblers and Townsend’s warblers.

Great names we have the potential of losing. This is the real threat to our society.

The scientists hope that this news will make people feel sad enough to actually do something about climate change instead of driving to gym, and installing fountains in their gardens – energy used just to throw water in the air.

 

featured image credit: Elecia Crumpton, University of Florida


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References

  1. Increasing phenological asynchrony between spring green-up and arrival of migratory birds
  2. Migratory birds bumped off schedule as climate change shifts spring
May 092017
 

Is there anything more fulfilling than seeing two grown men lovingly embrace each other then get a little bit embarrassed?

I think not.

The relationship between same-sex, straight-identifying males is becoming increasingly emotionally intimate thanks to the leftist agenda sweeping across the nation. To get to the no-homo bottom of it, researchers from the University of Winchester, in the UK, have performed the first ever study of heterosexual men’s understanding and experiences of bromance, outside of how it’s portrayed in films. The researchers asked 30 men about their views and bromance activities and found that young men were socially encouraged to enjoy deep emotional and physically intimate friendships. They report their findings in the journal Sex Roles.

As an aside, I couldn’t believe it when I read that the University of Winchester’s chancellor is Alan Titmarsh, that’s right, the celebrity TV gardener. For those of you who don’t know who this conservative, lazy eyed, frogman is, he was on the telly in the 90’s and inspired everyone in the UK to build a deck. His rise to power, from mucky TV gardener to chancellor, is only surpassed by Trump’s recent ascent – perhaps Alan gave him the courage?

Anyway, to answer the ever-changing question of “how much touching is too much between straight men, who aren’t in the same rugby team?”, The deck-installing researchers found 30 undergraduate sporty-type students who identified as ‘straight’ or ‘mostly straight’ and asked them some pervy questions. I’m assuming that ‘mostly straight’ is someone who mainly dates women but doesn’t mind getting some uncovered penis in and around their mouth every now and again.

Happy to be corrected.

Lead researcher, Stefan Robinson said, “I asked the questions and gave them the option to hug me in between each one”.

Among the 20 set questions, probing whether they had participated in secret sharing, bed sharing and kissing, they asked the 30 male students:

Can you tell me what a bromance is? define it for me?

Tell me about being nude with your bromance

Tell me about threesomes, have or would you do one with your bromance? Are there limits to what one can do sexually with a bromance?

Are there limits to what one can do sexually with a bromance?

Their voyeuristic conclusions were simple. A decline in homophobic attitudes has significant positive implications for any flourishing bromance. Participating in a bromance improves mental health and social well-being because it is a safe space for men to talk about sensitive issues and for safe emotional disclosure.

The main limitation of the study was that it only asked young self-identifying straight white males who are doing a sports degree – potentially a biggie!

Go out there my ‘straight’ or ‘mostly straight’ identifying male readers and bromance the shit out of someone; it’s good for you! Just don’t be weird about it.


References

  1. The Bromance: Undergraduate Male Friendships and the Expansion of Contemporary Homosocial Boundaries
  2. Bromances flourish thanks to changing anti-gay sentiments

Adelaidians!

This event is almost sold out! They only have a few tickets left for Tuesday the 16th!

Go here to get your ticket NOW, motherfuckers…https://pintofscience.com.au/event/toxic

 

May 022017
 
woman in dress

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are very common in women. It’s probably because evolution is playing a cruel trick on them by placing all of the body’s dirty bits within bacteria’s commuting distance. UTIs can be caused by having sex and wearing luminous g-strings but, despite what your mum told you, not necessarily by wiping back to front.

Unfortunately, 25 – 30% of women who show up at the GP with UTI symptoms, are not given any treatment because their test for UTI has come back negative. Research from Belgium (the place with beer, chocolate, waffles and french fries with mayonnaise) used a fancy test that showed almost all of the women with urinary complaints, but negative test results, actually have a bacterial infection. They report their urine adventure in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection.

Once diagnosed, UTIs are fairly easy to treat. By scoffing the appropriate antibiotics and throwing the g-strings into the Salvo’s collection bin, you can kiss goodbye to the urge to wee all the time. In the past, women who had the symptoms of UTI but negative UTI test results were often diagnosed with “urethral syndrome” and some doctors said was psychosomatic. Really.


The flemish scientists took the mid-stream urine (the bit between the sigh of relief and wishing it would hurry up) and tested it for the presence of Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus saprophyticus. They tested the mid-stream urine of 220 women with symptoms and 86 women that didn’t have any symptoms and compared the outcomes.

Once the pee had been carefully directed towards, into and all over a sample container, it was tested for the presence of bacteria. Alongside the standard tests for UTIs, the researchers also used a technique called quantitative polymerase chain reaction, or qPCR. Apart from sounding like a home shopping channel, qPCR looks for the DNA that comes from the UTI bacteria and is way more sensitive than the standard tests.

Among the women with UTI symptoms, standard testing detected bacteria in 80.9% of urine samples. But the qPCR test found that 95.9% of samples contained Escherichia coli and 8.6% had Staphylococcus saprophyticus. Combining the results of both tests, the researchers found infections in 98.2% of women with symptoms.

In other words, if you be burning on urination you better start taking that medication.

In the women without symptoms, standard testing picked up Escherichia coli in 10.5% of samples and qPCR picked up E. coli in 11.6%. They did this bit to show that the findings in the symptomatic group were not caused by the detection of contamination due to the higher sensitivity of qPCR.

The clinical recommendations from the study are simple: if non-pregnant women consult their GP about UTI symptoms the diagnosis of a UTI can be accepted without further investigations and can be treated.  Instead of spending time and energy to prove an uncomplicated UTI, doctors can rely on a diagnosis based on the typical symptoms and focus on acknowledging and managing the patient’s complaints – such as how long they had to wait in the waiting room.


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References

  1. Symptoms of cystitis probably caused by bacterial infection, even when tests are negative
  2. Women with symptoms of a urinary tract infection but a negative urine culture: PCR-based quantification of Escherichia coli suggests infection in most cases