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
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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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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Nov 222016
 
Naked Burglar

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

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

One of the sweaty rule-keeping bastards said:

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

Arse print on a door

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

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

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

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

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

 

References:

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

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

Come and join in the sweary fun!

 

Nov 152016
 
Moon behind the clouds

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

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

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

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

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

Watch what happens to MoSe2 in the video below:

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

References

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

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Nov 082016
 
Trump Stupid Smile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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


 

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Oct 112016
 
Lecture room and lectern

When a fancy scientist goes to another university, part of their payment for a free lunch includes having to endure a lab tour and also give a talk to anyone who is required to listen. Lab tours have always been a bit of a mystery to me. A lab looks like a lab. Sure, sometimes there’s a fancy bit of equipment in there and you get to see it. But it takes me back to the times when I was over my friends house and they wouldn’t shut up about their commodore 64, I get it, you’re a rich twat who likes to show off and your room smells funny, like socks and old cum.

Before the talk, a reluctant post-doc (who’s been coerced into organising talks) will say a few words about the speaker. It’s their science obituary. They will typically list they awards and achievements, how much money they have been awarded over the course of their career. My favourite thing to do is to look at the expressions on the visiting academics face. They’ll typically fall into two categories:

  1. Embarrassment. This academic want’s this person to shut up as soon as possible. They don’t want their best bits talked about. Perhaps it’s because what they don’t list on their intro is all of the stuff they didn’t get – I’m sure that would make for a much more interesting introduction.
  2. Smug orgasm. This academic fucking loves it. They don’t want it to stop. You can see that it’s taking all of their effort not to chest bump someone, lick them on their face and roar at the audience.

The thing is, all of the stuff they talk about is really boring. I suppose it’s meant to inspire me, but all it does is make it perfectly clear of how much I’m lacking in the ol’ science department – like hearing “is it in yet?”.

So, here’s my template for the sorts of information that I want included and I encourage you to use it when you next give an academic introduction:

Ladies and gentlemen. It’s with reserved excitement that I introduce [insert full name here – leave out title, it annoys them]. [Name] has been a [job title] at [place of work] for [this long].

Since receiving their PhD in [year of graduation] they have been wondering randomly through the academic system hoping that [their research topic] remained popular, and topical enough, to receive funding. They have applied for [number of grants applied] grants and received [number actually obtained] making a [percentage] % success rate.

They have considered giving up science [number of times very sad] but continue to fight their way through competitive grant applications because they are too far in to give up. And no one will pay them to [their favorite hobby].

In their spare time they like to take [their favourite recreational drug] with friends which helps numb the pain and dull the internal dialogue. They trim their pubes [this many] times a year because [insert reason].

Please join me in welcoming [invent nickname for them] who will speak on [mispronounced title of talk]. [nickname] has encouraged me to stop them after 45 minutes, regardless of if they are actually finished, because that’s how long any one person can listen to anything, let alone [topic] which only excites [the person that invited them] and [take a guess at how many people in the audience like the topic] people in this room.

Over to you [nickname].

There you have it. Sounds much more interesting, right?

Respond with what your introduction would be in the comments. That’ll be really fucking interesting…


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Let’s play a game…

 Science communication  Comments Off on Let’s play a game…
Aug 302016
 
Saw Puppet - Lets' play a game!

Hello academics, I want to play a game.

Where you are doesn’t matter. What you know does.

You have spent your life collecting badges of honour – peer-reviewed papers. You’ve worked long and hard to ensure that your name appears on as many as possible. Perhaps your name shouldn’t have appeared on some of those papers. Do you think this is right?

This is your punishment.

While you’ve been reading to this, I have collected your publication list and academic credentials from Scopus and your institution’s website.

I have written a virus which will be released through the internet when this timer gets to zero:

The virus will remove any trace of every paper you have ever produced – erasing you and your life’s work from science’s history.

Below, there are three chemical inventions, two true and one completely fabricated. To stop the virus you have to click on the fabricated invention. If you identify the fake, the virus will not be released. However, should you get it wrong, the virus will be sent on it’s way and a media release will be sent from your institution stating that you sold drugs to your students and your favourite musical group is The Vengaboys. Don’t use Google – you will be punished.

The clock is ticking.

 

Organinc Chemistry Arsoles

Copper Nanotubes

Polonium Oxide Core Shell Particles

 


 

This game has been re-purposed from a presentation I gave at an excellent event organised by The Science Nation: “Spot the Bull S…cience

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Aug 232016
 
Willy Nelson Waiving

I’d love to say that success in the scientific realm is always preceded by application of considerable intellect over many years of self-doubting research. In a media hungry world, scientific success is increasingly following those willing to blow their own trumpet. In other words, science is starting to reward the people who believe their own bullshit the most. I make the same face when I hear someone talk about how great they are at science that I do when I hear someone describe which parts of the body are prone to ripping during childbirth.

Disgusted face of Clint Eastwood

Unfortunately, neither is likely to be stopped anytime soon. How do you respond? Well, I’d suggest looking deep into their eyes, tilting your head and leaning in for a kiss – they’ll shut up very quickly and the worst case scenario is you”ll get a moment to reflect on the consequences of bad choices.

Scientists should be allowed to be proud of what they have achieved. After all, it’s not easy. And when it all goes well there needs to be some public recognition and dissemination of the findings. So, unzip those metaphorical pants and set those science genitals free. Flap ’em all up in peoples faces, they will be very happy for you for about 10 minutes. Savor those sweet free genital moments because, very quickly, the novelty will wear off, the room will start to smell, and it’ll be time to stop. The same is true for any science brag. The media department at any given university will very happily support a science willy waiver, quickly becoming their genitalia cheerleaders. Much like the career and life expectancy of a Hollywood child actor: let that shit decay away over a short period time.

With the perpetual grant cycle and continuous requirements for academics to create high profile science, I’m sure that bragging is around to stay. After all, who else is going to sing your praises from the hill tops if it is not you? Let’s just make sure that the bragging is targeted to the right audience and not to people trying to enjoy their lunch or attempting to end conversations with you. Finally, if you can’t beat them, join them. Perhaps we all have something to learn from the not-so-humble scientist.

Lets make science stanky!


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Aug 162016
 
Grumpy cat face

Science has a PR problem. You only have to look at the recent interaction between heartthrob scientist Professor Brian Cox and climate change denier MP Malcolm Roberts to see that, obviously, something has been lost in translation. Ol’ Malco’ doesn’t trust scientists and is very happy not to listen to them. There will always be people who believe in things regardless of how much evidence you show them to the contrary. We are all susceptible to it. I used to have a goatee and was convinced I didn’t look like a sex offender accidentally allowed out on day release. The question is – why don’t people listen to scientists?

I know why. The majority of scientists are boring science twats. In the past, that actually was OK. There was a certain charm about boring science twats with their big shiny foreheads avoiding eye contact as if their life depended on it. As times have moved on, we can’t pretend that the skills associated with being a successful scientist are the same as those required to talk to people on a human level about science.

So don’t worry, read on. I have some advice for you.

If you find yourself talking to an actual, real life person don’t be fooled into thinking that they care about your research in the same way you do.  When Bob from next door invites you over for a drink he’ll ask you about your research. This is not the time to actually tell Bob how much funding you expect to receive, or how many papers you have got this year – these facts are to Bob as Bob’s new tarot cards are to you – pointless. What Bob wants is a one sentence summary of your entire life’s work that’s also a euphemism for sex (preferably one that isn’t funny or clever). For example, Prof Brian Cox could respond like this:

I just released a television series where I used a telescope to explore a black hole” – Brian Cox

Next, If you are talking about science to anyone and you see something similar to this expression:

Oprah looking unimpressed

STOP! You are officially being a boring science twat. The thing is, as a scientist you get used to seeing this face. You see it in lectures, meetings, conferences and on the faces of post-docs when they are told to publish more. But in the real world this is a very bad sign. At this point, ask a question about the other person and pretend to listen as you think about all the papers you have got this year and how they make you feel warm in the pant area.

Finally, when people first meet you and discover that you work in a University some may feel intimidated. Little do they know it’s essentially a hideaway for the unfortunate who were bullied in high school. I like to demystify the ivory towers by talking about my favorite toilets in each building. Everyone has their favorite toilet, you know, the ones that are warm, not busy with good WiFi signal.

Actual humans don’t care about citations, papers and impact factors. They care about stories. Sad ones, happy ones and ones that don’t include boring long words and self-promoting bullshit. Tell them a story about what you get up to. There’s lots of articles and advice available about the storytelling of science. A clever man said:

“Science stories differ from stories in the humanities in at least two critical aspects, namely, the purpose of the story and the role of the reader or listener. The central purpose of the science story is, after all, to improve the teaching and learning of science, not to just entertain or to communicate a message as is the case for a story in the humanities.” (Klassen, 2009)

After a scientist – non-scientist interaction, your aim is to make the person think “That scientist wasn’t a boring twat at all. Maybe there’s something to this anthropogenic climate change”.


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Jul 262016
 
The rock hugging a rock

Stale air is gross. Anyone who has let rip in a closed room, and immediately prayed to the fart gods that no-one enters, is aware that smells linger for a long time. I have actually always wondered whether the ground crew who first open up the door of a long haul flight are witness to more than 10 hours and 200 passengers worth of vomit inducing bum smell. That being said, if Brazilian fart porn is your particular fetish, perhaps working as ground crew for Brazilian Airways would be a dream come true.

Rock boffins (which, by the way, is the appropriate term to encompass geochemists, geologists and ACDC enthusiasts) from the famous rock loving countries of Canada, USA, Scotland, France and China, have found and analysed the most stale air ever found. The air has been locked up in a rock for 815 ± 15 million years or, to put that into perspective, about as long as it feels when you are sat in a geology lecture.

The rock was crushed, presumably between the buttocks of the wrestler and actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and the released gas was analysed for its oxygen content. The boffins found that the oxygen level was far higher than than expected – oxygen made up 10.9 percent of the gas. This is five times more than they were expecting for the age of the sample and about half of what we have today (about 21%). This amount of oxygen is more than enough to support life, calling into question our current understanding of why life didn’t appear earlier and why The Rock is still cast in movies.

Party pooper geochemist, Noah Planavsky, says that the result may be wrong as over millions of years other gasses may have diffused into the rock sample changing the gaseous composition. Although, they probably asked for his opinion at an inconvenient moment.

To read more, click on the link:

RESEARCH FOCUS: Cracking the Neoproterozoic atmosphere?Geology, August 1, 2016, v. 44, p. 687688

Jul 192016
 
Comparison of safe sex with a condom and safe science communication with peer-reviewed journals

Science communication is a strange mistress. People like it done in different ways and most will be happy to tell you the way they prefer it. Here are the other ways that science communication (or as the cool kids are saying – SciComm) is like sex:

Don’t start doing it in public unless you are invited

This one should, hopefully, come as no surprise – at least in regards to the sex bit. In terms of science communication however, maybe it isn’t as obvious. As a young, and not so young, scientist I’d quite happily shout down anyone I encountered at social gathering who dare spout unscientific nonsense in my vicinity. I’d think to myself “how dare they not know everything that I know!” and proceed to unleash a barrage of, what I thought, was a very useful explanation of why the foot detox machine their Auntie sells is rubbish. Sometimes I’d squeeze an entire university module into about 10 minutes of explanation. This approach can leave the person you are trying to “communicate” with convinced that science is “preachy” and “thinks it has all the answers”. Of course, if asked a specific question about science, and I knew the answer, I’d happily whip it out for people to be in awe of.

Sometimes people do it better than you –  and that is OK

We all had a friend while growing up who loved to tell you that they were having frequent, wild sex which definitely did NOT include premature ejaculation. Your experience was, at best, tepid and scary.. But, just like science communication, practice makes perfect. Don’t let those awesome science communicators put you off, you can take inspiration from their best bits and apply them to your own performance. You can also find many talks and tips online that will help you hone your skills and impress the other people in the room.

You don’t need a partner – it’s just more fun if you have one

Both sex and science communication can be done a variety of ways – on your own, in a group, while thinking about other things and in the back seat of a car. Doing it solo means that it can be done anywhere and at anytime according to your work schedule. I have really enjoyed my solo activities since it is me, and me alone, who decides how it turns out. However, I am confident that we can all agree that when two or more people are involved it makes a huge difference to motivation levels. I have particularly enjoyed my interactions with The Science Nation and hanging out with good friends and producing Publish, Perish or Podcast. Including more people draws on different skills, which some people are better at than others. Collaborations also share the work load required to satisfy your audience – particularly if they are a little more fussy.

Start slow and build it up

The act of communicating science should follow a narrative in order to draw in your audience. In other words, tell a story. Don’t rush in, build a story that the audience is willing to invest time in. If you give away all of your best bits within two minutes you risk leaving people underwhelmed and bored. Work your way up to a satisfying end and, as I have said before, know who your audience is and adapt your performance for them.

 

What other ways do you think science communication is like sex?


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Jul 122016
 
audience sat in a conference

Yes, we get it. You’re clever. Or at very least, you have played the academic game well enough to have manoeuvred yourself to the top of the academic ladder. A while back I wrote about how not to give a shit presentation, but now it’s time to address you and your shitty, always over time, overly complicated and patchwork-like presentation.

Without a doubt, Professors have given some of the worst scientific presentations I have ever seen. It’s the perfect storm of self-importance and complicated graphs which make professor level presentations insufferable. I’d much rather listen to a PhD student who has taken the time and effort to rehearse and, most importantly, cares about giving a well thought out presentation than sit through another look-at-all-the-cool-things-I-had-my-students-do presentation.

Alright, first things first, we know what happened. You got invited to give a talk because you are a well-known scientist and, because you haven’t stepped in the lab for the best part of a decade, you asked your PhD students and/or post-docs to send you “a couple of slides about your research”. So far, you have not done anything wrong. We know being a professor is a tough gig. You have to secure grant funding, publish papers and more recently, hobnob with industry, in order to convince the Vice-Chancellor not to sack you when the inevitable latest round of redundancies happen.




What you continue to get wrong is assuming your notoriety excludes you from providing a well-structured and focused presentation that…wait for it…runs on time – you can’t rely on the chair person with an anxiety disorder to stop you when your time is up.

Perhaps you think a sizable portion of the people who are attending your talk will know who you are and also be familiar with your acronyms and field specific language. The reality is that a large portion of the audience have been told to turn up because “it makes the department look like a busy and thriving research environment”. These people will be the ones sneaking a look at their phone while you’re distracted trying to operate the laser pointer (middle button).

Before your talk ask yourself these simple yes or no questions:

  1. Do I know who my audience are? If it’s a general audience, chill out. We don’t want a run down on your entire career. Choose your favourite bit(s) and stick to it.
  2. Have I looked over all the slides and made sure I can connect them with a coherent story? You should not be surprised by any of the slides your post-doc gave you and the story should flow nicely between them.
  3. Have I removed slides that I plan on skipping over? It is not OK to say “ignore these slides, and if you have epilepsy, cover your eyes”.
  4. Have I been to the toilet? Your bladder isn’t what it used to be.
  5. Are my slides free of any undefined, not commonly used, acronyms or specialised language that a non-specific science audience would not know? – save the specific terminology stuff for a conference that’s in your field.
  6. Did I practice my talk in front of an audience before today? Just like talking dirty, if you haven’t said it out loud it’s probably going to come out wrong.
  7. Can people read the axis of my graphs? Copy and pasting from the Nature paper you’re desperate to talk about is not going to help.
  8. Are all these slides necessary?

If you have answered “no” to any of these questions you need to stop and ask what the f**k you are doing.

Failing everything, pay careful attention to your audience. They’re the best indicators of whether you need to stop talking. Once the lecture theatre chairs start squeaking, as the audience shuffle around to get blood back into their legs and bums, consider stopping and letting the person who invited you ask a couple questions. They will always start with “Thank you for a great presentation”, don’t be fooled, they are lying.





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Jun 282016
 
university of southampton and sex

I currently have no proof that I have done it (the slippery skin thing) with an actual person. To the best of my knowledge, there are no videos, photographs or artist, court-room-like sketches of me doing “it”.

Unless you are caught in the act, take grainy pictures or are an exhibitionist and do it in front of a lecture theater full of people, there really is no actual proof that you have participated in the willy-in-fanny dance. Potentially, in an attempt to create an average looking baby for empirical evidence that they have “punched above their weight”, it may not be surprising that white heterosexual males are less likely to use a condom when doing it with an attractive female. Or, they may also want to absorb the attractiveness through skin on skin contact.

The 51 male participants were also asked to rate the attractiveness of 20 women on the basis of facial photographs, and estimate the likelihood that each woman had a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d need a very specific photograph to determine the latter and this question surely only demonstrates white, heterosexual, South Hamptonite’s ability to make shit up based on facial photographs alone. After making shit up, the participants where asked to indicate their willingness to have sex with or without a condom with each woman.

The study, from the University of Southampton (4.3/5 stars on Facebook), includes contributions from the Institute for Complex Systems Simulation which may be overkill since the way most Englishmen do “it” is certainly not complex. Although, every good pork pie eating Brit will certainly have a “system” put together from many hours of lonely “research” and sock-based “investigation”.

Read more about the study here.

 

For Simon.