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stapleton.aj

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
Feb 072017
 
Ugly face completely bandaged

YOU LOOK FABULOUS DARLING! And a little bit like an android…

Bandaged faces and leaky wounds are one side effect of facial cosmetic surgery. Now researchers from Australia (Oi, Oi, Oi) have found one side effect that doesn’t make your friends throw up in their mouths – increased job satisfaction.

Fear not you ugly fuckers. This week, researchers from the University of Melbourne have found that, following facial surgery, ugly-in-the-face-region people had more self esteem and experienced higher levels of job satisfaction, both in the short and long term.

The world we live in is a horrible place. We judge people on their looks and we shout across the street to them: “Hey, you! You look like a melted bag of used waxing strips!”

As people grow old, wrinkly and see-through, they may start to feel down about how they look. Whilst others have always looked like they fell out of the ugly tree and hit all the branches on the way down.

Confidence is an important part of attacking the day with your head held high and is the boost you need to high five a barista like in an advert made by a shit advertising company.

Researchers analysed responses from 121 adults who had recently undergone facial surgery. Unfortunately, because some people didn’t answer the questions properly the study ended up with a sample size of 106.

Proving that people can be both stupid and ugly simultaneously.

Not only did the results show that people were more satisfied in their jobs after surgery, there was also a negative correlation with respect to job burnout (that’s a good thing).

Researchers Alicia Kalus and Christina Cregan, from the Faculty of Business and Economics, said “some of the participants looked surprised” and they were unsure whether that was due to the surgery.

In the future, researchers hope that objective processes for selection and promotion will help break the attractiveness bias found in the study.

“If workplaces reward talent and effort, women and girls may come to rely less on the traditional emphasis on beauty as a basis for self-esteem.” Ms Kalus says.

 

References

  1. Kalus, A. R. and Cregan, C. (2017), Cosmetic facial surgery: the influence of self-esteem on job satisfaction and burnout. Asia Pac J Hum Resour. doi:10.1111/1744-7941.12137

 

 

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

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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.

Dec 202016
 

Last week, while most young scientists were participating in awkward Christmas parties and celebrating the prospect of another 3-month contract extension, a publication was released which looked at the career aspirations and postdoctoral experiences in Australia. The question posed by the publication is “What do postdocs need to succeed?.

The publication is co-authored by Margaret Hardy, Adrian Carter and Nikola Bowden and, even though they look like the cast of an ALDI version of Three’s Company,

ecrs

the clever trio analysed the responses of 284 early career researchers (ECRs) to questions including “How many hours a week do you work on average?” and “How confident do you feel that your career aims will be met?”. Should the study be repeated I think the question “Are you sad?” would be much more revealing.

Between the moments of watery eyed self-realisation, ECRs have revealed that although 80% of them have a plan to stay in research for the medium to long-term, there’s a significant amount of concern around long-term viability due to job security and the shortage of funding. These results will come as no surprise to those currently fighting their way through the system, or to the unemployed scientists currently sat on a stained sofa wearing nothing but a rented academic robe.

The paper also revealed that 75% of the ECR respondents work more than 41 hours per week (above the 30 hours legal maximum for full time-work). Perhaps the study can be re-titled “How much free labour do universities receive from success hungry ECR’s?”.

The report culminates in a number of recommendations such as mentoring, closer connection to industry partners/collaborators and more high fives in the workplace. Although they’re all probably useful, they’ll do nothing to actually help the plight of ECRs because they rely solely on Australian Universities implementing change. It’s as futile as asking your dog to stop humping its toys when guests are over because it makes you feel uncomfortable.

References

  1. What do postdocs need to succeed? A survey of current standing and future directions for Australian researchers
Dec 132016
 
dominatrix and a man on all fours

Are you a powerful vice-chancellor just looking for a little down time whilst satisfying your urge for industry engagement? Do you feel the need to be treated like shit whilst wearing your university-branded gimp mask? Perhaps, you are into a little bit of needle play? Well, now you can satisfy all of your darkest desires in an industry-focused, sciency way.

Dominatrix from the global S&M industry are spanking each other with joy with the announcement of research from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology which highlights the fabrication of a fuck load of needles embedded into an easy to apply dermal patch.

Gone are the days of forcefully applying needles individually to scrota or areolae. 50 needles are now able to be applied to any part of the body in one foul swoop of mistresses’ open palm – who’s been a naughty slave?

Even though the researchers state that the penetration depth of the needles is not deep enough to reach nerves, the words “comfortable” and “unobtrusive” do not come to mind when looking at it and we can see that the patch clearly has other plans for the vice-chancellor’s perineum:

Niclas Roxhed, research leader at the Department of Micro and Nano Systems said:

“I’m fed up of all of my friends talking about tiny pricks…”

In addition to providing a new way to deliver pain to bad slaves, the patch may also have application in the delivery of drugs, extraction of physiological signals for fitness monitoring devices, extracting body fluids for real-time monitoring of glucose, pH level and other diagnostic markers, as well as skin treatments in cosmetics and bioelectric treatments and anything else that came to mind.

Future work will look at the appropriate way to prepare people for application of the patch because “just 50 little scratches” has a less than calming effect on the patient.

References

  1. Flexible and Stretchable Microneedle Patches with Integrated Rigid Stainless Steel Microneedles for Transdermal Biointerfacing
  2. Skin patch with microneedles proves effective alternative to injections

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Dec 062016
 
post apocolypse

As the catalyst for the next world war waits patiently in the draft message section of Donald Trump’s twitter account, the world can rest assured that academics are able to ignore imminent global destruction as well as they are able to ignore imminent unemployment.

Considering the majority of tweeting is done from the privacy of a toilet, I take perverted solace in the fact that Donald Trump’s gold plated and diamond bejeweled toilet is ground zero of diplomatic tensions.

Hopefully, before the world is brought into disrepair in 140 characters, we would at least have the science to improve the chances we have of surviving. This would, in an ideal world, include the generation of personal energy (so we don’t have to fight with sharpened stones for whale fat and ear wax candles) and turning wee into drinking water. By the way, when world war 3 eventually breaks out I will not think twice about offering a sexual service in exchange for protection and access to water.

Researchers from The University of New South Wales, Sydney (the city containing the opera house and Hugh Jackman’s virginity) have made a new type of “trendy” solar cell more efficient.

The type of solar cell that these researchers are perfecting are called perovskites (pronounced “fan-see so-lar-sell”). Even though they sound like a leading Russian mafia family, these solar cells are trending in the same way man-buns were a thing. They’re the latest type of solar cell to get researchers wet in the pant region as they have the potential for use in flexible applications such as solar powered vibrating wank mitts.

Speaking at an excuse to get drunk and flirt with your post-docs, also known as the Asia-Pacific Solar Research Conference in Canberra, Anita Ho-Baillie, a Senior Research Fellow announced that her team at UNSW has achieved the highest efficiency rating with the largest perovskite solar cells to date. Luckily, the researchers didn’t have to write a paper to get the news of this achievement out there – papers are boring to write. Even though Dr Ho-Baille was happy about the result, her boss looked like he’d just been asked about his erectile dysfunction:

sad looking academic

I’d tell you the numbers but no one gives a shit about the actual efficiency in a quantifiable way. Let’s face it, you’ll be telling someone about this excellent blog post and say “it was, like, um, higher than other ones…I forget the value” – so just say that.

References

  1. Trendy solar cells hit new world efficiency record, UNSW Newsroom
  2. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/12/161201114543.htm

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Nov 292016
 
Don't wank in front of puppies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

References

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

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