Jun 132017
 

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

vr sex robot

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

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

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





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

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

Check out this video to see how it was done:

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12 of the volunteers did not complete the study because of dizziness and software malfunctions with one person being withdrawn from the study because they did not understand what they were meant to do.

The results?

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

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

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





Read more:

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

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

You don’t need science to tell you that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Read more:

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

 

May 302017
 
Matterhorn mountain climbing

espressoscience

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

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

 


 

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Read more:

  1. Metabolic basis to Sherpa altitude adaptation




May 092017
 

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

I think not.

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

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

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

Happy to be corrected.

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

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

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

Tell me about being nude with your bromance

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

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

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

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

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


References

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

Adelaidians!

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

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

 

May 022017
 
woman in dress

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


You’ll never guess what! I’m on Patreon.

For as little as $1 a month you can support me, Andy, your friend and secret crush, to write science news and avoid sadness.

patreon page


References

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

 

 

Apr 252017
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I’m so sorry that I’m even asking: fancy becoming a patron on Patreon?

Become a Patron!


References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


References

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

Support with site by becoming a supporter on Patreon!

Become a Patron!

Apr 112017
 
fig leaf willy

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

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

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

Willy veins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I will never run adverts so I’d love for you to buy me a coffee:

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com


References

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

 

Apr 042017
 
Cancer Cells

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


Support Andy Matter and buy new designs at the shop:

Science Pocket   TEM T-Shirt      

 


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 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.

 

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 242017
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

Remember to like Andy Matter on SadBook and TwatSpace

Jan 172017
 
Game of thrones throne

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan 102017
 
Fancy New Labs

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

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




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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.





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

Check out my Shop – it’s excellent.

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

You can now buy an article like this for your own blog or publication:

CHECK OUT MY NEW SHOP

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>.

WANT MORE SWEARY SCIENCE?

Check out more irreverent science on the blog page! My personal favourites:

An open letter to Professors – your presentations suck

The alternative to boring academic introductions

How to avoid being a boring science twat

Academic Writing

How not to give a shit presentation