Apr 252017
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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References

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

Apr 262016
 
Sexy Science Party

We are told as scientists to engage with the public. We are told to make our science “sexy” and relevant to a general audience. For some, that’s easy. Their science is naturally appealing to the public and their research has a simple but futuristic sounding application, like everlasting toilet paper or a contact lens that detects evil. The problem is, here are the things the general public google:

  1. Justin Bieber
  2. Sex
  3. Ice Bucket Challenge
  4. Boobs
  5. Robots
  6. IPhones
  7. How to be lazy and not fat
  8. Twerking
  9. Cats
  10. The lyrics from the famous song in Aladdin

For most scientists, it’s hard to make that small but important discovery sound like you’ve just solved the world’s erection problems. This is where the media department of a university can come in handy. They’re able to take any research from any field and write an article to make you sound like the savior of mankind. Science, which is the the systematic application of knowledge based on evidence, is not allowed to overstate it’s findings in papers. On the other hand, scientists are more than happy to get their 15 minutes of fame and nod along as the journalists ask: “could your findings be used to create a whole new world to be viewed from a magic carpet?”. Are we so desperate to get the names of our universities in glossy print, alongside the photoshopped image of Katy Perry, that we are are okay with stretching the truth to the point of lying?

Every scientist can become indoctrinated by their own research. We have to tell funding bodies how awesome out research is, and if you keep telling people how awesome you are, at some point you’ll probably start to believe it too. Unfortunately, just like J. Lo’s left buttock, just because you see it in the newspaper it doesn’t mean it’s real.

To help all budding researchers and media whores, here is a list of applications that will help you grab your the attention of your audience. Note: doesn’t have to be an actual application of your research.

  • Cancer Cure (particulary childhood cancer in orphans)
  • Iron man (or any robot super hero)
  • Longer lasting (insert anything here)
  • Invisibility cloak (perverts)
  • Helping cute dogs (obviously)
Apr 212016
 
Coral bleaching and simon cowell

Much like most of their policies, the Australian government’s position on the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef is outdated.

The Australian government has enlisted the help of Simon Cowell to reinvent the reef. As part of the proposed plan, the 6,000 year old reef will undergo a makeover to attract a younger demographic. Starting with the recently announced, and successful, large scale bleaching of its coral, the plan extends to dressing sea life in stonewashed denim and lace chokers. The Australian Prime Mister, Malcolm Turnbull, has stated that this excellent $20 million new image will help the reef connect with “the younger generation” and encourage teenage girls all over the country to put posters of the reef up on their walls and flock to the reef to scream at it. When asked about the changes, local teenager Amy Chofacer said “yeah, nah, what?”.

Parts of the reef will be doing an Australian tour later in the year to reach rural areas. Whilst this will inevitably kill the touring denim-clad members, the tour is expected to increase the reefs fan base by approximately 200 fans. Tourism Queensland are confident that the changes will make Simon Cowell very rich and, in combination with the proposed increase in global temperatures, will ensure that the sale of water-based merchandise will sky rocket.