Science Doesn’t Start Wars

August 25th, 2008

Nina Fedoroff is my new favorite scientist ever. This interview makes me happy.

12_Science Word 08_08_18

August 22nd, 2008

Ear Infections Might Cause Obesity – Ear infections during childhood might make you crave fatty foods. Patients who suffered from such infections rated fatty foods as 18% more pleasurable than patients who had not had childhood ear problems.

Could Moisturizing be Bad for You? – A study investigating the effect of caffeine on skin cancer inadvertently found that moisturizer has a tumorogenic effect in mice, increasing number and rate of tumor formation.

Potatoes Might Carry the Cure to Alzheimers – Mice injected with a potato virus developed antibodies that attached to amyloid-beta protein. This could be the beginning of a vaccine for Alzheimer’s disease.

Blue Dye For Aging – A compound called methylene-blue, which has been around for over a century, was just found to improve mitochondrial function and slow cellular decline at very low doses. It might eventually be used to prevent age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Flu Survivors Still Protected – Survivors of the 1918 flu still have antibodies to the H1N1 virus, which killed around 50 million people, and are probably still protected. Antibodies taken from surviving individuals were able to cure mice infected with the virus.

Telling the Saharan Story – Archeological evidence from a gravesite preserved in sand dunes suggests that from 5 to 10 thousand years ago, the Sahara desert was a green oasis that supported at least two completely different cultures: the tall hunter-gathering Kiffians, and the short and lean Tenerians.

Ancient Human Impact – It’s hard to say what killed the mega-fauna of Australia and Tasmania some 40 – 46,000 years ago, but a new study centered around the fossil skull of a giant kangaroo places the blame on humans.

11_Science Word 08_08_16

August 22nd, 2008

Persistent Free Radicals – Chemists have discovered a new class of air pollutant, persistent free-radicals, which form and last on fine airborne particles indefinitely, and might contribute substantially to cardio-pulmonary diseases.

Flesh-eating Bacteria’s Weapon Figured Out – Flesh-eating bacteria release a special compound called Strep pyogenes cell envelope protease or SpyCEP for short, which inactivates white blood cells and blocks the body from defending itself against the necrotizing infection.

Memory of a Robot Brain – Scientists are figuring out how the brain works by using rat brain cells to control a robot.

How to Stop Addiction – Researchers kept mice from becoming addicted to cocaine by blocking glutamate receptors on dopamine producing brain cells.

Eyes Do More than See – Mice were switched from night to daytime activity by messing with the amount of light in the room and the sensitivity of their eyes to light suggesting that they eyes play a major role in setting the body’s internal clock.

Depression is Bad for Driving – A study of 60 individuals found that people who were depressed and taking anti-depressant medication performed worse on simulated driving tests than both medicated and unmedicated individuals who weren’t depressed. So, don’t be depressed and drive.

Humans Like Pretty People – Analysis of contestant behavior on a Dutch game show called Shafted supports the idea that humans have a bias for beautiful people.

Beer Goggles – Beer goggles are for real! Drunk students rated pictures of people of both sexes more attractive.

A Reason For Sexual Preference? – Homosexual and bisexual men had female relatives with more children than heterosexual men. So, whatever makes women like men and have more children might make men like men as well.

Smell What You Like? –If you’re a woman on the contraceptive pill, you could be with the wrong partner. Women preferred different body odors before and after beginning to take the pill. It’s thought that women use smell to choose an immunologically compatible partner.

Science Channel Website

August 21st, 2008

So, today I randomly decided to check whether the Science Channel had decided to make use of any of the interviews I did during the World Science Festival. It turns out that several of them are up on their website. Buried, yes, but there just the same.

I am extremely excited to see myself affiliated with the Science Channel. Unfortunately, one must sit through an ad before each video, but I promise it’s worth it. I would really appreciate it if anyone who watches the Science Channel could let me know of they’ve seen anything on the cable channel.

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August 21st, 2008

Science news headlines from the week of 08/12/08 with Dr. Kiki Sanford. Distributed by Tubemogul.

Formats available:Quicktime (.mov), Flash Video (.flv)

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Show Notes:

Arsenic-eating bacteria found – Arsenic isn’t usually thought of as delicious and nutritious, but a new species of bacteria found in hot pools at Mono Lake in California thrives on the stuff, using it instead of water in the process of photosynthesis.

Cassini Takes Pictures
– The space probe Cassini imaged giant cracks in the surface of Enceladus to investigate the source of giant geysers of liquid water that shoot from the moon’s surface.

Where For Art Thou Meteorite? – Meteorites that landed here on earth are more like the space rocks in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter than like low metal content LL chondrite asteroids found closer to the earth.

Something Like a Comet – Researchers using the Sloan Digital Sky Survey reported finding a comet-like object in a 22,500 year orbit around the sun. It doesn’t have a comet tail because it never gets close enough to the sun.

How to Get There – Theoretical physicists have come up with a new idea for space travel. They suggest manipulating dark energy through another dimension of space, shrinking space in front of a ship and expanding it behind. The trouble is that it requires a quantity of energy equal to converting something like the planet Jupiter into pure energy.

Entangled particles really are “spooky” – Nothing travels faster than light, but two entangled particles separated by 18 kilometers and located in two different Swiss towns were able to communicate with instantaneous precision, thereby validating quantum mechanics and spooky action at a distance.

10_Science Word 08_08_14

August 21st, 2008

Science news headlines from the week of 08/12/08 with Dr. Kiki Sanford. Distributed by Tubemogul.

Formats available:Quicktime (.mov), Flash Video (.flv)

Tags: , , , ,


Show Notes:

Best Thing About a Big Laser – The Advanced Tactical Laser will give the United States plausible deniability, says the chief engineer of the Directed Energy Directorate in describing its benefits.

Nanotubes Are Strong – Experiments at Northwestern University proved that carbon nanotubes really are as strong as calculations predicted, and that radiation makes them even stronger. I’m still waiting for that space elevator.

A Limit to Tall –  Physics imposes a limit on the height of trees. The maximum height to which Douglas Firs should be able to transport water is between 131 to 145 meters. That’s also the limit of their height.

Nature is the Best Teacher – Scientists mimicked photosynthesis in the lab, and were able to split water into hydrogen and oxygen using the power of light.

Asphalt into Energy – Hot asphalt roads and parking lots may produce energy one day. Scientists are experimenting with the idea of adding a heat exchanger that would convert the heat absorbed by asphalt into energy.

Planet Friendly Paper Coating – A replacement for the waterproof wax coating that’s used on paper products like drink boxes has been created from the lignin of sugarcane, which unlike wax leaves the paper it coats completely recyclable.

The Effect of Climate change – A recent study found that 9 out of 10 tree species measured in the Santa Rosa mountains of California have increased the elevation of their habitat by 213 feet. The change in growing range was linked to changes in local climate.

Antarctica is not Alone – Ice cores revealed that West Antarctica is highly affected by atmospheric and oceanic changes in the tropics of the Pacific Ocean.

Dead Zones of the World – The number of oxygen poor dead zones in the world’s oceans has doubled to 400 in just the past two years. These dead zones are linked to algae blooms fed by fertilizer run-off, sewage, and the burning of fossil fuels.

Science Word Needs A Logo

August 15th, 2008

After receiving the comment below, I changed my mind about having an official contest. I think contests are great and all, but I don’t want to be a part of the problem.

I need help creating a logo for The Science Word, the new video series that I’ve been playing with the past couple of weeks. I think it would do well as a vid-cast, and need some help making it come to life.

So, since I am terrible at graphic design, I am holding a contest  asking for help to create The Science word logo. I know that there are people out there with amazing abilities. Send me something that can be the face of The Science Word to the world. If you have any ideas, or would like to help just because you’re nice like that I’d love to hear from you. I can’t pay cash money, and if I could it wouldn’t be much, but I can pimp the hell out of you and your work.

The contest starts today, and the deadline is next Friday, August 23rd.

If I pick your design, you will get all credit for creating the design, and I will pimp you like crazy on this website and all places related to The Science Word.

Send your logo designs (300 dpi and 300 x 300 min. size) to

Please, email me at kirsten at this week in science dot com.

This Week’s Science Word Videos Are Out!

August 14th, 2008

I’ve published another set of Science Word videos… the science headlines in brief. Here’s the first of the set of four:

Hubble Space Telescope – What’s up in space, travels 5 miles per second, and has offered us an unparalleled view of our universe? The Hubble Space telescope, which just passed 100,000 times around the planet.

Size Doesn’t Matter – In nanotech, it’s apparently not the size of the particle that determines cell penetration, but the shape. Rods do much better than spheres.

Invisibility? – Harry Potter might have worn invisibility chain mail instead of a cloak if J.K Rowling had been paying attention to science. Researchers have created a new metal material that bends light backwards through electromagnetic interactions with the light istelf.

Large Hadron Collider – The Large Hadron Collider will officially begin operations on September 10th, but won’t get to full strength until sometime next spring.

Bicycle Saddles and the Police – The results are in… bike seats without noses keep bike cops frisky. Cops testing the special saddles had less genital numbing and better penile sensation.

Is Infertility Treatment Worth It? – Intrauterine insemination was only 6% more effective in producing a live birth than no treatment at all in a group of 580 women experiencing unexplained infertility. However, women who had insemination felt more reassured during the process.

Females Are The Same – Sexual harassment doesn’t just bother human females. It also bugs female guppies who tend to prefer the risk of being eaten to hanging out around pushy males.

Complete Neanderthal Mitochondrial Genome
– The most complete and accurate Neanderthal mitochondrial genome to date was produced from a 38,000 year old fossil. Whether or not humans and Neanderthals ever got jiggy wid it is still in question.

A Pill For Alcoholics – Researchers in Oregon are testing a drug called CRF 154,526, which blocks all of the good, but none of the bad effects of alcohol– none of the euphoria, and the hangover’s still waiting. They say CRF is meant for treating hedonistic dysregulation.

Gene Link to Smoking Addiction
People who say they got hooked on the first puff of a cigarette are likely to have a gene variant called CHRNA5.
You can find this video all these places:

YouTube, MySpace, Metacafe, Google, DailyMotion, and Viddler

Evolving Landscapes

August 13th, 2008

Two articles today got me thinking today (because you know I wouldn’t have been thinking otherwise).

The first, from SF Gate, described the recent decision allowing the University of California to reject high school credits for courses using textbooks that don’t meet the accepted admissions standards. Rejection of course credits can ultimately block the admission of students to the University.

It’s too bad that some students can be kept from attending a school because of decisions that their teachers and school boards make. However, admissions standards are used for a reason, namely to be sure that students are prepared for the next level of their education. And, if a student has been taught inadequately it will at best be difficult for them to do well within the university environment. Allowing such students entry to a university would be a disservice not only to those students, but to the university environment as a whole.

Unfortunately, the case in question is being turned into a religious freedom issue rather than the simple matter of standards that it really is. The textbooks being rejected leave out evolution in favor of Creationism or focus on “supernatural” causes/events. The plaintiffs in the case argue that these texts aren’t incorrect, they just present an alternative view of science and/or history.

Ok, so if that’s the case, I should be able to start a school that teaches only from texts promoting the history and science of the Flying Spaghetti Monster and Unicorns. Or, maybe I teach my home-schooled kids from texts that contain the history of the human race as being cultivated by aliens. Either way, I should expect that my students will gain entry to the UC system as long as they have good grades (and test scores, and of course, the appropriate extra-curricular activities).

It seems like the plaintiffs have the following view on getting into a STATE FUNDED university: it doesn’t matter what you learn, as long as you learn something.

I’ll stop with that soapbox now before I become even more snarky.

The second article that caught my eye was an editorial in the New York Times promoting the teaching of evolution in schools. The author lays out several great reasons why teaching and learning about evolution is important. In the process, she uses several examples of evolution in action to make her points. Unfortunately, I have to be the nit-picky scientists and point out that many of those examples are not necessarily evolution, but rather adaptations. Still, the ideas in the essay are solid. Many thanks to both the author and the New York Times for defending the teaching of evolution in schools by publishing the piece.

Finally, this all brought me to consider an interview with the US President on NBC I saw the other night. During the interview, Bob Costas did a pretty good job of asking hard-hitting questions, and Mr. Bush talked fairly openly about his visit to China. Three answers stood out to me, and I thought them especially telling of the President’s mind-set as he ends his tenure:

“…I think you should look at the relationship as one of constructive engagement, where you can find common areas like North Korea and Iran. But also be in a position where they can respect you enough to listen to your views on religious freedom and political liberty.”

Why just religious freedom? Why not personal freedom?

“…if you are a religious person you understand that once religion takes hold in a society it can’t be stopped.”

Uhhh… what? Excuse me, did he just say what I think he did? Sounds a little like zealotry to me.

“I went to church here. And I’m sure the cynics say ‘Well, you know, it was just a state sponsored church.’ On the other hand, and that’s true, it gave me a chance to say to the Chinese people, religion won’t hurt you, you ought to welcome religious people. And it gave me a chance to say to the Chinese government, ‘Why don’t you register the underground churches and give them a chance to flourish?’ And he listened politely. I can’t read his mind, but I do know that every time I met with him, I pressed the point.”

Right. So, he disrespected the beliefs of the Chinese President and the ruling party in order to promote his own religious views while acting as the President and official representative of the United States, which officially doesn’t promote religion what with the separation of church and state and all that silly stuff. And, he did it over and over again.

Thank you, Mr. President, for your efforts.

The Science Word – Episode #4

August 8th, 2008

Alzheimer’s drug ‘halts’ decline – A drug called Rember showed promise in treating patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Bees join hunt for serial killers
– Scientists in England are tracking bumblebees in order to understand serial killers.

Gene flaws link to schizophrenia
– Researchers have uncovered several genes involved in schizophrenia, but say predicting the disease from genetics will never be very likely.

Vitamin C jabs may combat cancer – Vitamin C injected into rats given aggressive human cancers by researchers was found to slow tumor growth. That doesn’t mean it’s proven to work in people yet.

Hungry seals ‘steer by the stars’ – Researchers taught seals how to use stars to navigate, and think they might do it naturally in the wild.

‘Fitness pill’ being developed – Mice given a new drug called AICAR ran 44% further on a treadmill without any training. Mice given GW1516 ran 77% longer with training than undoped mice. Athletes will be tested for the use of these drugs.

World’s smallest snake discovered – Barbados is the home of the world’s smallest snake.

SpaceX launch fails a third time – The SpaceX rocket, Falcon 1, failed its third attempt to reach orbit.

Firm claims first pet dog clones – A former beauty queen from California cloned her pet pitbull, named Booger, in South Korea. It made her happy.

Pet dogs can ‘catch’ human yawns – Dogs can catch a human yawn.