Apr 252017
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


References

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

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Apr 112017
 
fig leaf willy

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

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

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

Willy veins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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References

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

 

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 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
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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