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Friday Coffee Break: Gamers Solve AIDS Enzyme, Texas Fights for Stem Cells, and Further Fantastic Feats of Science

September 23, 2011

Bits and pieces (largely but not always entirely related to life science) to muse over–or check out and save for later–while enjoying a well-deserved Friday coffee. Or tea. Enjoy!

ONLINE GAMERS CRACK AIDS ENZYME PUZZLE
Online gamers have achieved a feat beyond the realm of Second Life or Dungeons and Dragons: they have deciphered the structure of an enzyme of an AIDS-like virus that had thwarted scientists for a decade.
GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE THERMOMETER
Watch the Golden Gate Bridge rise and fall as much as 16 feet based on the temperature.
THE UNITED STATES OF AWESOME/SHAME
They can’t all have the most organic farms or the lowest air pollution, but every U.S. state is No. 1 in some environmental or public health category … and No. 50 in another. These infographics show each state’s strengths and weaknesses.
TEXAS FIGHTS FOR STEM CELLS
Governor Rick Perry prepares to face off against the FDA over stem cell treatments.

Friday Coffee Break: Dance Moves for Men, Inventions from High Schoolers, and Other Intriguing Science

September 16, 2011

Bits and pieces (largely but not always entirely related to life science) to muse over–or check out and save for later–while enjoying a well-deserved Friday coffee. Or tea. Enjoy!

ON MEN AND HOW THEY SHOULD DANCE
A recent article in Biology Letters shows that certain dance moves are more likely to ignite the passions of a woman.
ANCIENT CROCODILE BATTLED WORLD’S LARGEST SNAKE FOR FOOD
Did an ancient crocodile relative give the world’s largest (42-foot-long) snake a run for its money?
DEBATING HUMAN ENHANCEMENT
Check out an ongoing feature on transhumanism, with conversations and debates over things like what transhumanism really is; how much control society has over advances in human enhancement; and how to determine whether or not a proposed enhancement is ethical.
HIGH SCHOOL INVENTORS
In between pep rallies and history tests, ten brainy students are refining cancer treatments, cleaning up car exhaust systems, and improving communication between humans and robots.

Could Your Mobile Phone Reveal Hidden Ingredients in Food and Drink?

September 14, 2011

The development of advanced mobile phone cameras are used by doctors and patients as an aid to diagnosis and self-diagnosis, but now Zafar Iqbal and Robert Bjorklund, from Linköping University in Sweden, consider how the same devices could reveal the hidden ingredients of your food and drink. The research1 focused on identifying the authenticity and chemical makeup of food using samples of onion and lamb. If developed the technology could allow shoppers to scan their food for additives, e-numbers and other chemicals before purchasing.

Read more about the research here.

Resources from Wiley on This Topic
Functional Foods, Nutraceuticals and Degenerative Disease Prevention

by Gopinadhan Paliyath, Ph.D., Marica Bakovic, Kalidas Shetty

Food Additives Data Book, 2nd Edition

Jim Smith and Lily Hong-Shum

Iqbal, Z., & Bjorklund, R. (2011). Assessment of a mobile phone for use as a spectroscopic analytical tool for foods and beverages International Journal of Food Science & Technology DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2621.2011.02766.x

Friday Coffee Break: Social Networks for Guts, Golf for Neuro-rehab, and Other Unusual Uses for Science

September 9, 2011

Bits and pieces (largely but not always entirely related to life science) to muse over–or check out and save for later–while enjoying a well-deserved Friday coffee. Or tea. Enjoy!

SOCIAL NETWORK FOR GASTROINTESTINAL BACTERIA
Get your bacteria’s genomes sequenced, and join an exclusive social network to talk with others about . . . your gut.
THEORIES OF THE FEMALE ORGASM
Is the female orgasm merely a byproduct of choosing the right partner? Or does it serve an evolutionary purpose? Answers remain elusive.
SPACE JUNK ABOUNDS
Experts advise NASA to clean up litter left in space, or face increased risk to future spacecraft.
GOLF CHANGES THE BRAIN
Practicing golf is shown to change brain structure, demonstrating that similar structured leisure activities could be used for neuro-rehabilitation.

Friday Coffee Break: Pig Guts, Diamond Planets, and Other Stunning Science Surprises

September 2, 2011

Bits and pieces (largely but not always entirely related to life science) to muse over–or check out and save for later–while enjoying a well-deserved Friday coffee. Or tea. Enjoy!

PIG GUTS OFFER HOPE FOR REGENERATING HUMAN LIMBS
A remarkable substance 
extracted from pigs enables the body to 
regenerate lost muscle tissue, including fingertips and big chunks of muscle.
A PLANET MADE OF DIAMOND
A large part of a spinning star called a pulsar may be similar to a diamond.
HOW TO SEE A SUPERNOVA FROM YOUR BACK YARD
In this video, Dr. Peter Nugent describes how to spot the closest supernova found in at least 25 years, set to reach peak brightness September 9th.
NEUROIMAGING RESULTS REDUCE MURDER SENTENCE
A judge in Milan, Italy reduced the sentence of a convicted murderer from life to 20 years, after ruling that neuroimaging and genetic tests proved the partial mental illness of the defendant.

Personality Trumps Appearance . . . at Least for Female Birds

August 31, 2011

For an adventurous female zebra finch a similar personality is more important than a male’s appearance or the condition of their beak, reveals research led by the University of Exeter and published in Ethology.1 This is the first study to show that personalities influence partner choice in non-humans.

The study focused on a population of more than 150 zebra finches, Taeniopygia guttata, as the research team used a series of behavioural tests to assess male and female birds for personality traits.

In one series of tests the team measured levels of adventurous behaviour by assessing a bird’s willingness to explore new environments and reactions to new objects. Each female watched as a pair of brothers explored strange new cages.

Unbeknown to the female one of the brothers was made to look less exploratory than the other as it was restrained within an invisible box. The team then put the female together with the brothers and observed which male she spent the most time with. Read more here! ⇒

Friday Coffee Break: Peecycling, Star Swallowing, and Other Marvelous Feats of Science

August 26, 2011

Bits and pieces (largely but not always entirely related to life science) to muse over–or check out and save for later–while enjoying a well-deserved Friday coffee. Or tea. Enjoy!

WORLD’S FIRST FINGERNAILS
The world’s oldest and smallest known fingernails belonged to a primate that lived about 55.8 million years ago.
PEECYCLING: HOW TO MAKE PHOSPHORUS FROM YOUR OWN PEE
Grab a few disposable jars, fill your bladder, and make your own home-grown glow-in-the-dark phosphorus!
CHARGE YOUR PHONE WITH YOUR FEET
Scientists are developing a device that might eventually use human footfalls to power small electronics.
WATCH A BLACK HOLE SWALLOW A STAR
For the first time, a black hole has been caught in the act of tearing apart and swallowing a star that got too close.