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Jun 132017
 

Virtual reality is the future. It offers people the ability to be completely immersed in another world and, obviously, part of that future is looking like a massive twat and masturbating with something more expensive than a real doll:

vr sex robot

Besides using it to please the devil, scientists from the University of Barcelona (rating of 4.2 on Facebook) have used virtual reality to create out-of-body experiences and found that it reduces the fear of death. They report their findings in PLOS one.

A Near-Death Experience (NDE) is a state of consciousness where you leave your body and realise how out of shape you are, it occurs during clinical death—typically following the cardiac arrest that happens when you decide to do something about having to buy reinforced toilet seats.

Characteristics of NDEs can vary widely, but generally include the perception of moving through a tunnel, bright lights, meeting spiritual beings, a panoramic life review, euphoria, and an out-of-body experience – just like smoking DMT.





The high-tech-wank scientists took 32 female volunteers over the age of 18 and used VR to elicit the “full body ownership illusion”. That means making the volunteer believe that the virtual representation of their body was actually theirs. They did this by placing small vibrators on their arms and legs to provide physical feedback on what was happening visually.

Another 16 women, who were used as a control group, experienced a similar virtual reality simulation except they did not experience an out-of-body experience while the headset was on. After the virtual reality experience had finished, the volunteers were given a questionnaire and a hug.

Check out this video to see how it was done:

In the paper, they stated that 12 of the volunteers did not complete the study because of dizziness and software malfunctions with one person being withdrawn from the study because they did not understand what they were meant to do.

The results?

The group that had the out of body experience felt a greater disownership towards their virtual body compared to the control group. Fear of death in the experimental group was found to be lower than in the control group. This is in line with previous reports that naturally occurring out-of-body experiences are often associated with enhanced belief in life after death.

The research is “implicit evidence that it is possible to separate consciousness from the body, which may have the impact of changing attitudes towards death” says lead researcher Mel Slater, “vibrators were sourced ethically” she added.

In the future, the researchers want to simulate near-death experiences to really scare the shit out of people.





Read more:

  1. A Virtual Out-of-Body Experience Reduces Fear of Death
  2. Scientists reduce fear of death by using virtual reality to induce an out-of-body experience
Jun 062017
 
woman too high and hiding

Smoking marijuana or, as it is more commonly known, Pot, Weed, Grass, 420, Ganga, Dope, Herb, Joint, Blunt, Cannabis, Reefer, Mary Jane, Buds, Stinkweed, Nuggets, Chronic, Gangster, Skunk and Wacky Backy, is cool.

You don’t need science to tell you that.

Although there’s lots of evidence that smoking weed makes you really hungry and everyone knows you’re high, there’s actually no evidence from peer-reviewed studies to back up the relaxing effects reported by most of the cannabis enthusiast community or, as they preferred to be called, jazz musicians.

Researchers, at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Chicago (where Carl Sagan was educated – I guess this explains the weed connection) report that low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana, does reduce stress. In higher doses, like those required to start feeling empathy for the dog not having a comfortable place to sit, actually increased anxiety when performing particular tasks.

Instead of rolling a phat one on the back of their lab book, the participants were given tablets containing the active component, THC. The drug dealer research team took 42 (I guess 420 would have been too many) volunteers and got some of them a little bit high (7.5 milligrams of THC), others a little higher (12.5 milligrams) and, to a third group, they gave a placebo (big, fat zero milligrams of THC). Imagine the disappointment you’d have if you received the placebo after telling your mates you are getting high for science…probably like the time you bought parsley from a street dealer in Camden, London…or, you know, something like that.The researchers selected people who had smoked weed in the past but weren’t regular users.

The researchers selected people who had smoked weed in the past but weren’t regular users. A person rejected from the study, Mr Dogg, said: “aw shit”.

Once the volunteers were appropriately inebriated, they were put through a series of stress-inducing tasks and had their blood pressure, heart rate and stress hormone (cortisol) levels measured. They also had the hungry participants to fill out a form to measure their psychological responses to getting high in public. The tasks included having to prepare for 10 minutes and then undergo a mock interview with one of the researchers. In another scenario, they were given a five digit number and asked to subtract 13 continuously for five minutes or until they forgot why they were there – whichever came first.

The participants who received 7.5 milligrams of THC reported less stress after the psychosocial test than those given a placebo, and their stress levels dissipated faster after the test. Participants who received 12.5 milligrams of THC before the two tasks reported greater negative mood before and throughout the task, and were more likely to rate the psychosocial task as “challenging” and “threatening” beforehand. Participants who received the higher dose also had more pauses during the mock interview compared to those in the placebo group, presumably to eat something.

There were no significant differences in participants’ blood pressure, heart rate or cortisol levels — before, during or after the doses or the tasks – so, just like masturbating before the invention of smartphones, it was all in the mind.

The lead researcher, Emma Childs said “it’s really fun to get people high and freak them the fuck out, I can’t believe that this study was funded”, she added, “next, we’ll be making them dab and telling them it’s a strain that never wears off.”





Read more:

  1. Dose-related effects of delta-9-THC on emotional responses to acute psychosocial stress
  2. Low-dose THC can relieve stress; more does just the opposite

 

May 302017
 
Matterhorn mountain climbing

espressoscience

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

Check out Espresso Science on their website, HERE, on Twitter, @scidocmartin, and Soundcloud.

 


 

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

 

 

Apr 252017
 

I have always tried to stay up to date with the latest trends in genital hygiene, and vaginal douching is one that I have been conflicted about.

Sure, I’m all for a super clean vagina but I worry about two things. Firstly, doctors actually recommend that women don’t douche their vagina. It changes the balance of bacteria and can cause the growth of harmful bacteria leading to a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. As a 1973 commercial once said, “our oven is as self-cleaning as a vagina”, so it’s best to let it clean itself.

Secondly, as douching becomes more popular among teens, the number of plastic douches embarrassingly tossed from cars, while they speed down the motorway, increases. We can all agree that the only acceptable thing to be thrown out of cars on the motorway is a bag of vomit.

Douches are typically made from polyethylene. Polyethylene is a plastic that accounts for about 40% of the worldwide demand for plastics, and douches, probably, make up most of that demand.

Fear not, my clean as a whistle friends, scientists from the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria (CSIC), Spain, and the University of Cambridge’s Department of Biochemistry, have found a caterpillar that can break down polyethylene and cover up your earth-hating habits.

Dr Bertocchini, the supervising researcher, accidently stumbled upon the discovery when she was removing pest wax moth caterpillars from her hobby beehive. Placing them in a plastic bag she noticed that the caterpillars seemed to be eating the bag and holes started to appear.

Bertocchini said: “it was fucking unbelievable”. She added, “I went from hating them to realising they’ll get me loads of media attention”.

The team then did a timed experiment by placing the wax moth caterpillars into a Marks & Spencer plastic bag and monitoring the by-products and holes produced. Also, it goes to show that if you can get a job at the University of Cambridge you can afford to do all of your shopping at Marks & Spencer, not just at Christmas like most of the UK’s families.

After 40 minutes, holes started to appear in the bag and, after 12 hours, the hungry caterpillars had eaten through 92 mg of the plastic. This worked out to be a rate of 2.2 holes per worm per hour (unit not in the International System of Units, yet). This is over 1000 times faster than the rate achieved by bacterial breakdown of plastic.

The future direction for the research is to find the chemical that is responsible for breaking down the plastic and isolating the enzyme responsible for its creation.

As pointed out by the leftist dictator, Waleed Aly, there’s a huge amount of plastic circulating in the ocean. Bertocchini said: “fitting the caterpillars with life jackets is not a viable solution and please don’t include it in your waste of time blog”.


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References

  1. Polyethylene bio-degradation by caterpillars of the wax moth Galleria mellonella
  2. Caterpillar found to eat shopping bags, suggesting biodegradable solution to plastic pollution
Apr 182017
 
crystals

Despite what most social media science news publications will lead you to believe, science doesn’t, and shouldn’t, always have an end application. In that way, it’s similar to the trend of stretching out ear lobes or, for that matter, any body modification that leaves your dear old granny nauseous.

Take a recent discovery from Harvard University (home of the sexually harassing football team): the creation of “time crystals”. Just that name alone makes me imagine a glowing, angular rod of awesomeness which, when slipped into the rectum, has the ability to manipulate time and transport you back to when you didn’t care about interest rates. The reality, however, is that the applications of time crystals are currently unknown. So, if it doesn’t cure cancer or make your smartphone better, why has it been published in the super fancy journal, Nature?

Reading the peer-reviewed paper (here) to find out, is about as useful as a magician with no palms.

Unless you have a PhD in physics, you’ll get lost pretty quickly. For example, this sentence is only 5 sentences in:

“We observe long-lived temporal correlations, experimentally identify the phase boundary and find that the temporal order is protected by strong interactions. This order is remarkably stable to perturbations, even in the presence of slow thermalization.”

What the fuck is going on? It’s like it was written by a person who hasn’t had any intimate contact with actual humans, due to a sexual attraction to anime characters. I guess that makes sense…

Luckily for you, I had nothing better to do today and made the easy version:

Time crystals are a new form of matter that, until now, have only existed in theory.

In normal crystals, atoms are arranged in repeating and predictable patterns. In the common crystal example, table salt, there’s a neat structure of sodium and chlorine atoms repeated over and over again. In time crystals, the structure of the atoms operates in relation to time rather than in relation to space. (stay with me…I understand that your brain has just decided it’s not worth reading on)

The time crystals, created by the Harvard scientists, were small diamonds which had been treated so that loads of impurities were present in the crystal structure. Within each of these impurities, there are electrons. The electrons in the impurities have a property which is known as spin – either up spin or down spin.

The electron’s spin direction reacts to microwave pulses by flipping 180 degrees. Typically, we’d expect an electron’s spin to change with each pulse, but in the case of the time crystals, the spin changes after two or three pulses, not every time you microwave it. In other words, this structure responds to time, not just external forces.

After a load of microwave pulses, the spins could start to get out of sync and become randomly orientated. In the time crystal, however, the interactions between the impurities keeps all of the electrons spinning in the same direction.

So, I guess that’s cool but what about applications? Does it cure cancer or make smartphones better?

No. The anime bothering scientists don’t really know what the applications are yet, but to make themselves sound more sciency, they included the words “quantum” and “computing” so other researchers would take them seriously.

The lead researcher Mikhail D. Lukin said: “I haven’t got time to explain my research to you for your stupid blog”.


References

  1. Observation of discrete time-crystalline order in a disordered dipolar many-body system
  2. Creating time crystals

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Apr 112017
 
fig leaf willy

It seems like everything we own is now rechargeable: phones, lights, watches, and internet connected dildos. To facilitate our sexy, cordless existence, all of these devices need a battery. The problem is that the batteries used for our strangulation-proof-life become degraded by frequent recharging. The sort of frequent recharging required during an all-night, swipe right binge on tinder so you can confidently look your mum in the eye and say that you are trying to find someone.

Scientists from the fancy university in Cambridge (home of the “rear of the year” competition), report in Nature Communications, that they have developed a new type of battery which, can withstand the effects of social isolation and is based on the structures found in nature’s vascular systems.

The vascular structures created by the scientists are similar to those you’d find on the back of leaves, in circulatory systems and, even though the scientists don’t explicitly mention it in their paper, on the top of willies so big they have their own soul.

Willy veins

In a first of its kind demonstration, the superficial-dorsal-vein-loving-scientists use what is known as Murray’s Law to inspire material design. Murry’s Law is basically a formula to explain how natural systems minimise resistance in vessels. It all starts with a big vessel which has “daughter” branches that are smaller in diameter.

In the case of a willy, the superficial dorsal vein is the main pathway which then branches off into smaller and smaller veins. This hierarchal structure ensures the hard working willy gets all of the nutrients it needs in a super efficient way.

The blue-vein-imitating-scientists created their Murry material by allowing zinc-oxide nanoparticles to self-arrange through a simple layer by layer evaporation process. By changing the solvent and temperature used for the evaporation of different layers, the “rear of the year” scientists were able to change the size of the pores created by the nanoparticles.

Prof Bao-Lian Su, who holds a number of positions: as a life member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge, Wuhan University of Technology in China and at the University of Namur in Belgium because he hates spending time with his family said,

“sometimes all the inspiration you need is right under your nose…or between your knees and nipples to be exact”

When used in a battery, the zinc oxide Murray material had a reversible capacity 25 times higher than that of a state-of-art graphite Li-ion battery electrode. The bio-inspired ZnO Murray network, with its vascular network of pores, delivered ultra-high capacities and rate capabilities, along with long-life cycling stability.

The branching nature of the pores also reduces the stresses in these electrodes during the charge/discharge processes, improving their structural stability and resulting in a longer lifetime for energy storage devices.

The team envisions that the same willy inspired structures could be used effectively in material designs for energy and environmental applications and promise that their next paper will mention where they really got the inspiration from.


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References

  1. Bio-inspired Murray materials for mass transfer and activity
  2. Leaf vein structure could hold key to extending battery life

 

Apr 042017
 
Cancer Cells

Being told “you have skin cancer” is pretty rubbish. It’s up there with “your brother and I have been shagging on your favorite Egyptian cotton sheets” and “please get out of the swimming pool, I think you have just shit yourself”. Skin cancer is a really aggressive form of cancer which, if left untreated, can spread really quickly. Scientists from The University of Iowa (rating of 4.8 on Facebook) watched and modeled how skin cancer grows so they could identify a drug to stop it as well as over-enthusiastic tongue movements stop a kiss.

In Australia, melanoma is the third most common cancer and is followed closely by facebook invites for Candy Crush Saga and Farmville. Biology professor David Soll (aka slippery D) and his team used really fancy 3-D reconstruction software to work out how both breast tissue cancer cells and melanoma cells form tumors. The team watched cells under a microscope and used the software to create a 3D representation of what was happening. Slippery D said, “I have to stop the PhD students from using the computer for playing online poker”.

To look at the difference between the normal cells and cancerous cells, they first modeled the movements of normal healthy cells and it looked like this:

You can see in the video that the yellow blobs (representing cells) grow in an even way. Just like a career in science, the cells don’t move very far very fast. Slippery D’s team then modeled the movement of cancerous cells and it looked like this:

The first thing you would have noticed (because you’re either a clever person or lucky) is that the cells start reaching out to form bridges much quicker than the normal cells. It’s this rapid movement in combination with speedy cell division that makes skin cancer cells such wankers.

One of the tests showed a single cell moving three times its diameter to join with a small cancerous cluster in just four hours. In another instance, within 72 hours, 24 individual melanoma cells or small clusters of cells had combined into one large cancerous clot.

One important finding was that the skin cancer cells acted in a similar way to breast cancer cells, sending out cables to reel in other cells and clusters. It means that a drug that stops breast cancers from joining together can also stop skin cancers from doing the same thing.

One way of combatting cancer is to use chemicals that attach to the outside of the cell and tell the body to attack it, like sticking a “kick me” sign on its back. Slippery D’s science buddies looked at a load of the “kick me” chemicals before finding two that worked and stopped the tumor from growing, he said, “can you stop calling me? I have no idea why anyone would want to read your blog”.

 


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References

  1. Paper: Melanoma cells undergo aggressive coalescence in a 3D Matrigel model that is repressed by anti-CD44
  2. UI researchers document how melanoma tumors form

 

Mar 282017
 
Snoop Dog and Munchies

This week, the Canadian government announced that it is drafting some really boring paperwork to allow something that is anything but boring: the legalisation of recreational marijuana. The legislation is to be passed before 1 July 2018, which means Canadians have plenty of time to increase their tolerance before the arrival of the types of edibles that’ll make them consider composing some jazz.

The good news is people who love to get high won’t have to pretend they’re injured or ill to get hold of the icky sticky, like they do in places with medical marijuana laws.

Once you have smoked all of the devil’s lettuce and finally found where you left the lighter, you’ll probably get quite hungry. The problem is, it’s all too easy to stuff your disgustingly dry mouth with chocolate, Doritos and cheese based goodies. Even though they taste as amazing as a wizards taint, they’re not real good for you. Surely, there’s a way to push your colon to the limits while also being healthy…

Well, my red-eyed friends, yes, yes there is.

Researchers from Monash University (4.2 stars on Facebook) and CSIRO (unrated on Facebook), in Melbourne, have found the ultimate munchy health food. They report in Nature immunology that they have found a diet that will protect you against type 1 diabetes (that’s not the type of diabetes caused by being a fatty-fat-fat).

Type 1 diabetes is caused when your immune system has a “bit of a domestic” with the cells that create insulin; the chemical that controls your blood sugar levels.

The stoner loving researchers found that some starches from fruits and vegetables resist digestion, while in the stomach, and pass through to the large bowel and poop shoot. Here, they are broken down by bacteria into chemicals called acetate and butyrate which, together, acted as a superhero team and stopped the immune system from attacking the insulin-producing cells.

The researchers only looked at the role of these chemicals in mice, but I’m pretty sure that you could eat those mice and obtain their protection against diabetes. Dr Marino, the lead researcher for the paper said “are you fucking crazy. Do not eat mice” and that “it would be irresponsible to suggest such a thing on your blog, no matter how unpopular you claim it is”.

Unfortunately, it’s not just a case of eating more fruit, veg or laboratory mice. Here’s Dr Carly Rosewarne (via twitter) to explain how it works:

Carley Twitter

Next on the list for the research team is to investigate the diet’s effect on obesity and other inflammatory diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, food allergies and Inflammatory Bowel Disease…

yes they will

…fucking over achievers.

References

  1. The paper:  Gut microbial metabolites limit the frequency of autoimmune T cells and protect against type 1 diabetes

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Mar 212017
 
time for a career change

If you’ve come across this post because your last set of experiments went to shit and your supervisor is currently being a massive paper-demanding douche, now is absolutely not the time for you to leave research. I know that it would feel awesome to march into your supervisor’s office, flip the bird, expose yourself and leave a shit in the corner of the room, but this need’s a little more thought than your last break up.

On the other hand, if you can’t get to sleep at night for thinking about ripping off your lab coat and fingering it, unceremoniously, into the vice chancellor’s bum, and you’re desperate to try something else, perhaps it is time to for an exit strategy.

This is assuming that you’ve got the time to figure something out. More than ever, post-docs are relying on short-term contracts to feed and clothe themselves. If this is you, do what you can to live – don’t make any rash decisions.

Before you start planning your exit, you have to remember that short-term disappointment, feelings of anxiety and self-negativity are normal in the research arena. They shouldn’t be, but they are. Addressing them, and seeking help if they persist, will ensure that you start your new career path in the right frame of mind and not as a way of running away from problems. Mental health issues have a way of following you wherever you go.

The start part:

You have got to where you are because there’s something you like about science. Perhaps there are things that you prefer over everything else. Maybe it’s the fact you’re teaching, writing, doing new experiments, presenting your research, learning new skills, operating fancy equipment. Whatever it is, find it and write it down. Don’t rush this part – it’ll be the foundations for your new career.

 

There are certain professions that will absorb science graduates in all their forms. Some even love Ph.D. graduates. Patent Attorneys, IP examiners, and R&D companies are examples of places that employ PhD graduates. If you want to use all of your skills in a new forum then this is a great option for you. If you are not sure if you’d enjoy these jobs speak to someone who’s doing one.

You could be in the “I fucking hate science in all its forms and wish I could do *insert hobby here* as a job” box. That is OK too. All we need to do at this point is identify what you enjoy doing.

The hard part:

Once you have identified what you like doing (besides wanking and injecting marijuana) you need to start doing more of those things. Simply build skills in the things you like doing.

For skills like writing, consider starting a blog (not like this one, you fucking copy cat), you could write alongside your day job for a publication in order to produce a portfolio of work. Many publications offer internships and opportunities, all you have to do is ask.

Get actual qualifications, if you can. Real paper qualifications that your mum hangs on the wall. There are plenty of masters courses, diplomas and vocational courses that you can take alongside your job, in the evenings for example. Like I said, it won’t be easy, but it is completely doable. And, if you like what you are doing, you’ll make time for it.

If you want to turn your hobby into a job, start small. One day/evening a week and see how you go. The important question when turning a hobby into a job is: Do you actually like it as a job or do you prefer it as a hobby? It’s fine that it’s the latter, now you know.

NETWORK YOUR FUCKING ARSE OFF.

Start making contacts in jobs you may want to do. Sneak your way into their office by asking for a discussion about their profession. Everyone I’ve asked is more than happy to help. Once they’ve seen that you aren’t a psycho, and you don’t have sticky hands, you’ve made a new professional friend that may help you in the future.

The scary part:

After a while, apply for those dream jobs with the new skills you’ve gained. If the answer is no, ask why. Put that academic thick skin to work and think of it as professional peer-review. You may not like what you hear but it’ll make sure you are focused on the skills that your dream job needs.

 

It’s rare that as one job finishes your next begins. You may find yourself having to take a leap into the unknown. If you’ve done the hard part, it’ll be way less scary. Leverage your networks, let them know about your new availability, get a mentor and be open to new opportunities. These things, along with some good old fashioned hard work, will eventually pay off and you’ll be on your way to a brand new career.

What’s your story? Do you have any advice for leaving research?


Further reading:

Young researchers thrive in life after academia

Is academia a happier life than a life in industry?

Why So Many Academics Quit and Tell

The ‘system’ failed me. It should have failed me sooner.

 

Mar 142017
 

Accidental or not, once hot, fresh jizzum comes into contact with a lady egg you have a good chance of changing your life, forever. The good news is that having children is not only shitty nappies and sleepless nights. Scientists from the meatball scoffing country, The Kingdom of Sweden, have reported in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health that parenthood is associated with a longer life and it doesn’t depend on whether you have boys or girls.

Previous studies have shown that parents live longer. What is unclear, however, is why you’d live longer when there’s someone, who’s half you, strutting around like they own the place.

The ice-hockey-loving science team used a national registry to track the lifespan of all men and women born between 1911 and 1925, resulting in a database with a total of 1,430,000 people.  The study looked at the marital status of each person and the number and sex of the children they had. Using this information, an age-specific risk of death was calculated.

The first conclusion of the study was this: the risk of death rose with increasing age! Oh. My. Fucking. God. That’s right folks, you heard it here first, the older you are the more likely you are of dying.

A little bit more useful, however, was the finding that the risk of death was lower among those who had at least one child. For example, an 80-year-old man with a child was 0.9% less likely to die than an 80-year-old man without children.

Unmarried men with children had the biggest benefit over their childless counterparts. The IKEA-building researchers suspect that unmarried men would be relying more on their children than a partner as they grow older. In other words, the social support they receive is an important factor in keeping them alive.

Unlike the results of previous studies, the krona spending scientists found no correlation between the sex of the child(ren) and how long the parent lives.

Overall, the total difference in life expectancy between those with and without children may be as much (or as little) as two years. Although, the research doesn’t tell you if those are good years or the years where you’re fighting to stay out of the nursing home while pretending you didn’t fall down the stairs.

Read more:

  1. Payback time? Influence of having children on mortality in old age
  2. Parenthood linked to longer life
Mar 072017
 
old man laughing and smiling

Think back to when you were 14 years old. Did you know someone who was such a twat that you decided to never speak to them again? Well, if it’s been a long time, it may be worth reigniting the friendship.

A new study, from the University of Edinburgh (home of the “posh Scottish accent“, but that’s like saying the “soberest member of Black Sabbath“) found that someone’s personality can change dramatically – particularly later in life.

Up until now, it has been thought that once someone is a miserable bastard, they’re always a miserable bastard, grinding to a halt any lively conversation with a long list of things they don’t like. The haggis munching team puts that commonly held belief to bed in a recent paper published in Psychology and Aging.

The kilt-wearing scientists used data from a mental health survey conducted on school students in 1947 and contacted the participants again, in 2017, to ask them to fill out another survey. This is what the home of the “posh Scottish accent” looked like in 1947:

At about the age 14, the participants had six of their personality traits rated by their teachers. Teachers fucking love giving grades and I imagine the ability to grade someone’s personality, instead of English essays, was like all the teacher’s wet dreams come at once.

The six characteristics were combined into one metric called dependability, but included these things:

  • Self-confidence – Answer this: Are you the best motherfucker, ever?
  • Perseverance – Choose between: Follow your dreams or eat a big bag of Doritos while watching Netflix.
  • Stability of moods – Answer this: has anyone ever called you a “psycho?”
  • Conscientiousness – Answer this: would you able to organise a bukake world record attempt?
  • Originality – Make a hat from something around you.
  • The desire to learn – Did you make a shit hat? Would you be interested in learning how to make it better?

At 77 years old, the group was asked again to rate themselves on the six characteristics, and nominate a close friend or family member to do the same – I know exactly who I WOULDN’T choose, Leo Garcia. Of the 1208 questionnaires filled out in 1947, only 174 people agreed to participate in 2012 as some had died and some had very little desire to learn any more about personality stability (personality burn, ouch).

The braveheart reenacting scientists concluded that a person’s personality characteristics in later life were not closely related to the same traits in early life.

The limitations of the study were that it only contained a small sample of people, the limited personality characteristics, chosen in 1945, were not a good way of measuring a personality, and the study only measured two points in time – not saggy and saggy. In the future, they’ll need to include an age where the skin is starting to be affected by gravity, but in low light conditions, you can get away with it.

The next step is to repeat the experiment with current 14-year-olds and requestion them in 2080 when the world looks like this:

So there we have it. Your personality is able to change over time so if you have been called a dickhead in the past you may not be one now. That being said, you could be an even bigger dickhead, it doesn’t have to change for the better.


espressoscience

 

This week, I have teamed up with Espresso Science to give you a different perspective on the same science story.

Check out Espresso Science on their website, HERE, on Twitter, @scidocmartin, and Soundcloud.

 

 


References:

  1. Personality Stability From Age 14 to Age 77 Years
Feb 282017
 
Cute Cat on a Bed

Humans love to keep animals locked up for our enjoyment, we call them “pets” because “strokes” makes your uptight auntie feel uncomfortable. Keeping pets for entertainment means that they have to be enslaved in our homes for the entirety of their cute lives. While locked in your house, they are subjected to your questionable taste in music, the smell that you can’t get rid of from your genitals and, according to scientists from Stockholm University, they’re also exposed to the dangerous chemical leaching out of your cheap-arse furniture.

You know, the sort of furniture that you said you’d never buy because it was made in a Chinese sweatshop, but quickly let your ethics slip when the Ikea opened up in town. You disgust me.

Because you can’t be trusted to blow out the candles before falling asleep, the furniture and electronics in your home have been treated with flame retardant chemicals. If you must perform oral sex by candlelight, blow them out when your partner has arrived, otherwise, this can happen:

The retardant chemicals can leach out of your furniture and have been found to be health hazards and fuck up your hormones n shit. The chemicals can leach from the products for many years after production, in the same way, hatred can leach from your parents even though they have been divorced for years. They even have scary names with numbers (like the rapper, Andre 3000):

Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), decabromobiphenyl (BB-209), decabromodiphenyl ethane (DBDPE), 2,4,6-tribromophenol (2,4,6-TBP), OH-PBDEs) and organochlorines (polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), 1,1-bis(4,4′-dichlorodiphenyl)-2,2,2-trichloroethane (4,4′-DDT), 1,1-bis(4,4′-dichlorodiphenyl)-2,2-dichloroethene (4,4′-DDE), hexachlorobenzene (HCB), pentachlorophenol (PCP).

By taking blood samples from a number of cats and collecting dust from around their homes, Jana Weiss and team found that the harmful retardant chemicals were found in both. She said “Everything in our home is out to kill us and all the things we love”.

Not happy with the level of hysteria generated by the study, the researchers said that the chemicals may also affect our children and cause them to grow breasts and go bald. Weiss added, “It’ll be like sharing your home with Danny DeVito”. This makes the 30 members of the Danny DeVito fan club very happy.

The study concluded that dust was a major route for exposure to the toxic chemicals found in furniture and electronics.

References

  1. J. Norrgran Engdahl, A. Bignert, B. Jones, I. Athanassiadis, Å. Bergman, J. M. Weiss. Cats’ Internal Exposure to Selected Brominated Flame Retardants and Organochlorines Correlated to House Dust and Cat Food. Environmental Science & Technology, 2017; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b05025
  2. High levels of chemicals found in indoor cats
Feb 212017
 
smiling business man

Dear misogynist,

Maybe you have stumbled upon this post accidentally while looking for the men’s rights facebook page, or while trying to get your head around male privilege (That’s why I put google food in the first paragraph on these things). In the worst case, you are here because you have been sent a link to this article, anonymously. That’s almost certainly because someone thinks you have a serious personality flaw.

Whatever the reason, buckle up and strap those saggy testicles to your leg because you’re about to get the lesson of a lifetime. And don’t worry, I’ll be talking to you on your own level: I’ll be mansplaining everything you need to know so you won’t have to take advice from those annoying bossy women.




Recently, I was lucky enough to be a guest host of the @iamscicomm twitter handle. This came with tremendous power…tremendous power and I thought that I would use this power to ask the question that you are too scared to ask:

Now, we don’t want you to feel overwhelmed by the answers. So I have created a handy guide which will give you all the information you need. If in doubt print out this article and take it around with you as a quick reference guide.


You are on an organising committee because you are very important.

Look at you, you big successful hunk of burning man meat, you’ve made it onto a committee. How exciting! You get to make loads of decisions and talk loud at meetings – WAIT! Here comes the first bit of advice from twitter:

I know it’s tempting to fly all of your golf buddies over to give a talk, but this is where you need to use your power for good. Take a good hard, long look at the number of women and men in the room/ skype call – is it even close to the gender split in ABBA? Your first challenge will be to make it the committee like ABBA. Keep asking yourself the question and make changes until you can look at yourself in the urinal reflection and say “yes, the committee is like ABBA”.

Perhaps someone on the committee is being a massive pain in the arse about your new requirements for an equal representation of genders. The person may even say “you’ve changed” and it hurts your feelings. Stay strong, and don’t budge. You may not get invited to their next naked Man Kind retreat, but you’ll be able to sleep at night. Winning.


You are in a meeting

Meetings are a great place to dominate people and demand the admiration that your kids won’t give you. Luckily, you have a nice loud, boomy voice and you can talk over any meek individual with ease. But how about trying this for a change:

You’ll hear something that sounds like a voice but it won’t be coming from your mouth. That is the sound of someone else talking.

Have you ever wondered what other people are doing while you are talking? They are doing a thing called listening. Now it’s your turn. Try it, it’s fun.

Listening involves not making any mouth noise and using the things, that keep the glasses on your head, to absorb sound. The sound enters your head and if you listen to it close enough – it may form sentences that contain information that may be useful.

At some point, you’ll feel the need to interject with your own opinions and views. Push these urges down, way down, use your well-honed skills of oppression for this purpose. This is who you are now.


You are at a conference or networking event

How fun. A big meeting with loads of people that you can have unspoken power wars with. If you look a little closer, however, you’ll see that there are lots of different types of people there:

Even though it’s fun to find your doppelgangers and make jokes about football teams and cars, we need you to go and speak to other types of people. But don’t be scary or weird. Ask questions and, just like the previous tip, practice your listening skills.

Here’s the challenge: at the next conference you go to approach someone who you’d never normally talk to. Break out of the loud-laugh-man circle and go and ask them about their research. I bet that you’ll find out something new.


Oh no, someone wants mentoring

Because of your new found mission, you may find yourself with a few more female students that need mentoring.

You probably can’t remember what it is like to be at the bottom of the pile trying to make your voice heard, but it’s tough and it’s even tougher for women in STEM. Here’s your chance to build a philanthropic moment that you can brag about for years to come: you can help these promising young female scientists by using the power you have worked so hard to build to give them a voice.

And the biggest thing for your new mentoring relationship:

In other words, don’t be a massive dick head about feelings and shit. Remember – you have developed a really thick skin from years of combative peer-review others haven’t…yet!


You have now gained an interest supporting women in STEM

Check out whether your university or research institute has any women-in-STEM meetups.

I’ve asked the question for you and there’s nothing to be afraid of:


The last bit of advice from twitter:


So here is some further reading as recommended by the twitter, IAmScicomm, community:

  1. What can men do to stem the exodus of women from science?
  2. Ask us anything: how to be an ally
  3. Ally Skills Workshop
Feb 142017
 
Mouse that hates cocaine

Even your favourite teacher loves doing drugs. Drugs are one of the cornerstones of life along with food, sex and using internet explorer to download chrome or firefox.

If someone’s love of drugs becomes an obsession it can completely alter the reward system in the brain and lead to long-lasting behavioral changes that make them a junkie. In other words: the brain learns that drugs are fun and wants to do them more and more. In the worst cases of addiction, addicts even stop correcting someone’s online grammar in favour of doing more drugs.

Scientists at the University of British Columbia report in Nature Neuroscience that they have genetically engineered a mouse that would leave Charlie Sheen’s parties at a reasonable hour because it doesn’t become addicted to cocaine.

The finding adds to the evidence that drug addiction is more a matter of genetics and brain chemistry than just someone saying “fuck it” and taking drugs to impress their friends and piss off their parents.

Despite having access to a big bowl of cocaine and working in the academic environment it was also found that none of the researchers became addicted to cocaine. Probably the more surprising conclusion.

In a moment of accidental honesty, the researchers stated that they were trying to create the biggest rodent drug fiend EVER by engineering the mouse to have higher levels of a protein that strengthens the signals between cells in the brain.

By strengthening the signals in the brain the researchers were hoping to increase the rodents reward response to cocaine but actually managed to decrease it. In other words, their experiment went wrong – but wrong enough to be able to publish it in a fancy journal – lucky them.

The team of scientists injected cocaine into mice over a number of days and immediately placed them in a distinctly decorated compartment in a three-room cage, over time they associated the drug with that compartment. After several days of receiving cocaine this way, the mice were put into the cage and allowed to spend time in any compartments they preferred. Normal mice gravitated towards the psychedelic room while the engineered mice didn’t go in there as often.

Watch the mice here:

Looking into the brain revealed that an important message chemical had been blocked by the protein in the engineered mice. The mice just hadn’t managed to create a strong association with cocaine, despite having a fucking great time on drugs bought by someone else – the best sort of drugs.

This study revealed the importance of brain chemistry on addiction, and it could lead to greater confidence in predicting who is more vulnerable to drug abuse, helping them before they take that first smooth, life destroying hit.

References

  1. Fergil Mills, Andrea K Globa, Shuai Liu, Catherine M Cowan, Mahsan Mobasser, Anthony G Phillips, Stephanie L Borgland, Shernaz X Bamji. Cadherins mediate cocaine-induced synaptic plasticity and behavioral conditioning. Nature Neuroscience, 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nn.4503