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  • November 11, 2013
  • 07:34 AM

Biology of Love: are we made to live happily ever after?

by Koko Beers in United Academics

While we learn from songs, movies and fairy tales that life is all about finding the perfect partner, about romance, soul mates and lifelong relationships; biology tells us otherwise.

Neuroscientists and neurobiologists have looked at the neuronal correlates of love, using brain imaging techniques and animal models. Reviewing various studies, Dutch researchers explain the evolution and neurobiological factors of our romantic love. Learn what evolution, biological substances and the course of relationships tell us about human relationships. Is romance and monogamy nothing but a myth?... Read more »

  • November 4, 2013
  • 06:31 AM

How To End HIV in Africa

by Patrícia Fonseca Pedro in United Academics

South Africa is known to have a major burden of HIV infection cases. As Pieter Fourie put it in 2006: “AIDS is killing South Africans at a rate equivalent to one September 11th attack every three days”. The situation still is as serious as this: life expectancy should have reached 64 years by now, but with the HIV pandemic it has regressed to about 47 years.... Read more »

  • October 31, 2013
  • 02:30 AM

Give Your Halloween Candy a Flavor Boost with Psychological Science

by amikulak in Daily Observations

Late on Halloween night, with candy strewn across the dining room table, millions of children across the United States will enjoy the hard-earned fruits of their trick-or-treating labors. After picking […]... Read more »

Vohs, K.D., Wang, Y., Gino, F., & Norton, M.I. (2013) Rituals Enhance Consumption. Psychological Science, 24(9), 1714-1721. DOI: 10.1177/0956797613478949  

Cole, G.G., & Wilkins, A.J. (2013) Fear of Holes. Psychological Science, 24(10), 1980-1985. DOI: 10.1177/0956797613484937  

  • October 27, 2013
  • 06:56 AM

When equipment fails: paws and assess

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Photo: Steven PamThere is an industry in Australia that relies on an integral piece of equipment, but the system behind product development process is flawed, and lives are at stake. From farm dogs to military explosive detection dogs, guide dogs to greyhounds, Australia’s working and sporting dog industry claims a 50-70% fail rate as normal. The welfare of these dogs is intimately linked to their working performance. It can be an emotive topic, so let’s take the emotion out of it and objectively consider current practice.A diverse industry, with four sectors operating in different domains, is dependent on one key piece of equipment. A tool that can vary in price from free to $40,000, can be purchased new or second hand, but is unequivocally required to get the job done. Hundreds of thousands of units are currently used daily throughout Australia in government, human health, sporting and private operations.SourcePractitioners invest resources in this equipment, only to find that the tool doesn't work. It’s unsuitable. It operates at the wrong speed. It breaks. It just doesn't do the work it was meant to - at least half of the time! In some industry sectors, the equipment fail rate is estimated as high as eighty percent. Waste units are disposed of and new ones sourced. Perhaps from a large scale manufacturer, perhaps from a private artisan, or some people go ahead and take a crack at making their own. Recycling within the industry is extremely low, at less than ten percent. The production of this equipment is currently inefficient; the industry has no validated minimum standards in place and the product lacks quality assurance. From an industry business and performance perspective, what should be done? A review of the purpose and production life-cycle analysis for this tool seems indicated? Absolutely. A review of how the equipment is being employed, handled, maintained and stored by practitioners? Yes. Perhaps a review of the training courses and educational materials available to the practitioners and the people who train them? For sure.SourceWithout objective review and subsequent improvement, this industry is leaving itself open to scrutiny by the media and risks losing public support. Review of this kind is common. In industrial design and quality management fields, validation of product integrity, ongoing review and updating of evidence-based best practice are standard. Re-purposing of surplus or malfunctioning stock into other areas rather than directly to landfill may require additional resources. However, this extra spend is important as tolerance for unnecessary waste in the 21st century is limited. Indeed, the sustainability and economic viability of this industry into the future relies on improved accountability, higher transparency and demonstrated responsibility.We owe this commitment to review and refine the production, management and education surrounding this device to the industry, the people involved and the tasks they achieve. It’s sound business practice. And we owe it to the dogs.Hi Julie,I wrote this because I wanted to consider if there was a good case to be made for improving the welfare of working dogs, without the emotion or emotive slant often inherent in animal welfare discussions. This came about after recent conversations with people who have suggested my work towards improved working dog welfare is based on me 'loving dogs' or having bleeding-heart, idealistic expectations about the way dogs should be cared for. I hope I have been able to demonstrate that this is a) not about me, and b) that a good argument for objective review and assessment of how working dogs are produced can be made, even before adding consideration for the fact these are sentient animals with capacity to thrive or suffer as a result of how we manage their lives.I'm looking forward to continuing these conversations at the Working Dog Conference 2013 next week.Wish you were here,... Read more »

  • October 24, 2013
  • 08:00 AM

To Call a Player’s Poker Hand, Look to the Arms

by amikulak in Daily Observations

Professional poker players rely on the ability to divorce their facial expressions from their emotional state – no matter how good, or how bad, their hand is, they have to maintain an inscrutable “poker face.” But new research suggests that they may do well to focus on another body part: The arms. The research, published in Psychological Science, suggests that homing in on only the player’s arms may be the most reliable way to call a bluff.... Read more »

  • October 24, 2013
  • 04:16 AM

Black Suits, Gowns, & Skin: SAT Scores by Income, Education, & Race

by nooffensebut in The Unsilenced Science

The latest SAT and ACT data show record declines for men, whites, and Native Americans. Analysis of state SAT data suggests that family income does not significantly affect scores when controlled for parents’ education and race.... Read more »

Anonymous. (2008) Why Family Income Differences Don't Explain the Racial Gap in SAT Scores. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 10-12. info:/

  • October 19, 2013
  • 06:29 AM

The Selective Clearance of Senescent Cells – a Promising Target for Ageing

by Robert Seymour in NeuroFractal

When cells are put under stress (e.g. UV light, ionising radiation, reactive oxygen species) they undergo a process known as cellular senescence in which cell division (mitosis) is arrested. This is thought to contribute to ageing. In their 2013 paper Naylor and colleagues outline a strategy to selectively remove in vivo senescent cells expressing p16Ink4A .... Read more »

  • October 16, 2013
  • 09:37 AM

Open Access Journals: Overgrowth and Erosion of Quality?

by Nura Rutten in United Academics

Last week, Science published an article that exposed the shortcomings of open-access journals. Author John Bohannon, a science journalist, created fake papers to evaluate the quality of peer review and to find out whether they would be submitted.... Read more »

  • October 12, 2013
  • 11:09 AM

Researchers Discover Link Obesity And Liver Cancer

by Pieter Carrière in United Academics

Is life worth living? It all depends on the liver, postulated ‘Father of American psychology’ William James (1842-1910). His famous quote underlines the central role the liver plays in detoxification, digestion of lipids, storage of nutrients to maintain homeostasis and so on.

Sadly, liver cancer is one the most common cancers worldwide, with 750.000 new patients each year and presumably causing almost 700.000 deaths annually. These figures reveal that liver cancer is extremely lethal and we need to understand more about its etiology.... Read more »

Yoshimoto S, Loo TM, Atarashi K, Kanda H, Sato S, Oyadomari S, Iwakura Y, Oshima K, Morita H, Hattori M.... (2013) Obesity-induced gut microbial metabolite promotes liver cancer through senescence secretome. Nature, 499(7456), 97-101. PMID: 23803760  

Stephenson G.D. and Rose D.P. (2003) Breast cancer and obesity: an update. Nutrition and cancer. DOI: 10.2741/S253  

Ridaura VK, Faith JJ, Rey FE, Cheng J, Duncan AE, Kau AL, Griffin NW, Lombard V, Henrissat B, Bain JR.... (2013) Gut microbiota from twins discordant for obesity modulate metabolism in mice. Science (New York, N.Y.), 341(6150), 1241214. PMID: 24009397  

Swartz MA, Iida N, Roberts EW, Sangaletti S, Wong MH, Yull FE, Coussens LM, & DeClerck YA. (2012) Tumor microenvironment complexity: emerging roles in cancer therapy. Cancer research, 72(10), 2473-80. PMID: 22414581  

Williams S.C.P. (2013) Link between obesity and cancer. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. info:/

  • October 8, 2013
  • 11:08 AM

The Scientific Publishing Sting: a Missed Opportunity? | @GrrlScientist

by GrrlScientist in GrrlScientist

The Science of Science's Open Access Sting: don't shoot the messenger, or you might shoot yourself in the foot... Read more »

Bohannon J. (2013) Who's Afraid of Peer Review?. Science, 342(6154), 60-65. DOI: 10.1126/science.342.6154.60  

  • October 3, 2013
  • 06:34 PM

Take a walk on the wild side: Dingo science

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Image: Bradley SmithHi Mia and Julie,As one of the few in the world exploring the ‘mind’ of the dingo, the highly controversial wild dog of Australia, I consider myself quite a rare ‘breed’ of scientist. So I thought I would let you know about some of the recent work I have done with dingoes, including a few world first discoveries. It seems dingoes are becoming just as famous for solving problems as they are for causing them!I find the differences between the way wild and domestic dogs think and behave fascinating.  The dingo just happens to be a great model for investigating the influence that domestication has on the canine mind because they are considered by many to be a ‘proto dog’. That is, they are thought to be one of the earliest forms of the domestic dog. Not a domestic dog as we know today, but one representing an early transition from the more-wolf-like common ancestor, to dog. What makes dingoes really interesting and unique is that they are wild living and genetically, behaviourally and physically more wolf-like than dog-like, yet are able to communicate with humans (see my paper on their ability to follow human social cues) and in the right environments, can be successful pets - whereas wolves cannot.Dr Bradley Smith (and dingo pup friend!)Domestic dogs are what we call ‘socially’ intelligent , which means they are highly adept at communicating with people. For example, they can read our behaviours, and express to us what they want. This has a lot to do with why we love them so much, why we can create such a close bond, and why they are such successful companions. But this social intelligence may have come at a cost. When faced with a problem that they cannot solve, dogs will often ‘look’ towards their owners for help instead of trying to solve it on their own. The dog’s wild counterparts - wolves and dingoes - however, have to solve problems on their own.  In problem solving situations where a human is present, wild canids rarely look back to a human for assistance, and choose to keep trying to solve the task or simply give up (for more information see my experiment on looking back behaviour).   It seems to me that humans have become tools in the dog’s problem solving ‘bag of tricks’, and the selection pressure for independent problem solving has been relaxed. It's not that dogs are lazy or dumb - they know exactly what they want, and how to get it! Image: Bradley SmithWhen talking about 'intelligence' in animals it is important to distinguish between different kinds of behaviour and the thinking that goes on behind them. Dogs performing fancy tricks, although impressive and fun to show your guests at parties, are learnt through operant or classical conditioning and therefore not really abilities we would consider higher-order. Perhaps the best example is tool use, which has only been reported in a select group of species. Tool-using animals are those that establish the effective orientation of an object to alter some condition and attain an incentive. This has not been reported in any canid (wild or domestic), although there are many anecdotal accounts floating around the You Tube. So to my surprise, when I began working with dingoes at the Dingo Discovery Centre in Melbourne, Australia, and I came across a dingo that had learned to use tools! Sterling, a sub-adult male had discovered that by manipulating things in his environment, he could get up to all sorts of mischief. In one instance Sterling dragged a plastic table from one end of his enclosure to the other. By jumping on the repositioned table he was able to reach a parcel of food that was placed high on the mesh of his enclosure. Take a look:On another occasion, I captured Sterling moving around his portable plastic kennel. He would use the kennel as a lookout to see his neighbours over the 1m high opaque wall of his enclosure. His manipulation of objects instantly remind me of Wolfgang Kohlers observations of chimpanzees stacking crates in order to reach bananas that were hanging out of reach.Another relatively recent phenomena, considered unique to higher order creatures, are the reactions of animals to the death of conspecifics. Originally thought to only be evident in primates, it has now been documented in a variety of species such as elephants and dolphins. Similar behaviour had yet to be reported in any domestic or wild canid until an ecologist friend of mine Rob Appleby (a PhD candidate from Griffith University) spotted a dingo mother and four littermates respond rather remarkably to the death of a pup on Fraser Island (Queensland, Australia). Over multiple days, the mother transported the pup on at least four instances around the islan... Read more »

  • September 29, 2013
  • 06:54 PM

Coaxed yeast secrete omega-3

by Valerie Ashton in The Molecular Scribe

A team of researchers at DuPont have engineered novel yeast that produce omega-3 fatty acids at levels much higher than previously achievable...... Read more »

Xue Z, Sharpe PL, Hong SP, Yadav NS, Xie D, Short DR, Damude HG, Rupert RA, Seip JE, Wang J.... (2013) Production of omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid by metabolic engineering of Yarrowia lipolytica. Nature biotechnology, 31(8), 734-40. PMID: 23873085  

Wynn JP. (2013) Taking the fish out of fish oil. Nature biotechnology, 31(8), 716-7. PMID: 23929348  

Kromhout D, Giltay EJ, Geleijnse JM, & Alpha Omega Trial Group. (2010) n-3 fatty acids and cardiovascular events after myocardial infarction. The New England journal of medicine, 363(21), 2015-26. PMID: 20929341  

  • September 26, 2013
  • 10:12 AM

Predicting Who Will Publish or Perish as Career Academics

by Bill Laurance et al in United Academics

It doesn’t matter whether or not you think it’s fair: if you’re an academic, your publishing record will have a crucial impact on your career.

It can profoundly affect your prospects for employment, for winning research grants, for climbing the academic ladder, for having a teaching load that doesn’t absorb all your time, for winning academic prizes and fellowships, and for gaining the respect of your peers.... Read more »

Dr. William F Laurance,, Diane Carolina Useche, Susan Gai Laurance and Prof. Corey J. A. Bradshaw. (2013) Predicting Publication Success for Biologists. BioScience. info:/

  • September 26, 2013
  • 05:45 AM

High Achieving Students Are Better off In Worse Schools

by Josephine Lethbridge in United Academics

The significance of rank and confidence play an important role for school pupils. There is an assumption that children perform better amongst highly achieving peers. High class achievement might be thought to indicate better teaching, or to induce academic competition between students. However, new research counters this common assumption.... Read more »

  • September 26, 2013
  • 05:44 AM

Violence Against Women Starts With School Stereotypes

by Nancy Lombard in United Academics

Gender based violence is a deeply embedded problem in many societies and cultures. Despite this, efforts to challenge it are rarely seen at a primary school level. There is a perception that children aged 11 and 12 are too young to “know” about violence, or to offer opinions on it. But this is something that has to change if we are ever going to combat the attitudes and behaviour that can lead to this type of violence.... Read more »

  • September 25, 2013
  • 09:29 AM

Computer Simulations Reveal War Drove the Rise of Civilisations

by Akshat Rathi. in United Academics

According to British historian Arnold Toynbee, “History is just one damned thing after another.” Or is it? That is the question Peter Turchin of the University of Connecticut in Storrs tries to answer in a new study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He and his colleagues show history may be deterministic, at least to a certain extent. Their computer simulations show that warfare may have been the main driver behind the formation of empires, bureaucracies and religions.... Read more »

Peter Turchin et al. (2013) War, space, and the evolution of Old World complex societies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1308825110  

  • September 25, 2013
  • 09:19 AM

Sex 4 Days Per Week Will Raise Your Salary Up To 5%

by Simone Munao in United Academics

Researchers have studied the correlation between the activity in bed and the salary of some workers. As it turns out, those who do not have such an intense sex life, have lower salaries (3 percent less) than those who do.

Sex will make you rich. No, this is not an advertisement to promote prostitution, but the result of a research conducted by Nick Drydakis from the Anglia Ruskin University of Cambridge. His paper, which was terminated in July after one year of research, tested over 7500 persons in Greece. The results show that the more passion one has the more he earns: those who have sex more than four times per week have a salary 5% higher than average. On the other hand, for those who do not practice the ars amatoria regularly, the salary drops down to 3,2% below average.... Read more »

Nick Drydakis. (2013) The effect of sexual activity on wages. IZA. info:/

  • September 23, 2013
  • 07:04 AM

Pet loss, grief and bereavement: Resources

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

(source)When Dogs Die: ResourcesWe have been overwhelmed by the response of the Do You Believe in Dog? community to the death of Mia's dog, Elke. It's obvious this has struck a chord because so many people can relate to this emotional time of losing a much loved canine companion.  Thank you all for your messages of sympathy and support. We decided to compile some resources to help you, or a friend, prepare for and cope with this difficult (and inevitable) part of sharing our lives with dogs.Understanding Grief: The Australian centre for grief and bereavement offer excellent information on their website. We have included some key excerpts and links.About Grief Suggestions to help you get through this difficult time: Create a memorial - do or make something to honour your loved one.Develop your own rituals - light a candle, listen to special music, make a special place to think.Allowing yourself to express your thoughts and feelings privately can help. Write a letter or a poem (or a blog post!), draw, collect photos, cry.Exercise - do something to use pent-up energy, walk, swim, garden, chop wood.Draw on religious and spiritual beliefs, if this is helpful.Read about other people's experience - find books and articles.Do things that are relaxing and soothing.Some holistic or self care ideas that may assist include meditation, distractions, relaxation, massage, aromatherapy and warmth.To help with sleeplessness: exercise, limit alcohol, eat well before sleeping, and try to have a routine.(source)Sharing with other people can reduce the sense of isolation and aloneness that comes with grief.Allow people to help you, don't be embarrassed to accept their help. You will be able to help someone else at another time. It is your turn now. Talk to family and friends; sharing memories and stories, thoughts and feelings can be comforting and strengthen our connection with our loved one. Consider joining a support group to share with others who have had similar experiences.Talk with a counsellor to focus on your unique situation, to find support and comfort, and to find other ways to manage, especially when either your life or your grief seems to be complicated and particularly difficult.  Advice from the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement:How to Support Grieving ChildrenHow to Support Grieving Adults Explaining Death to Children:PsychCentral - helpful guide to explaining pet loss with age-group specific suggestionsHow to talk to your pre-schooler about deathASPCA Helping your child when the family pet diesFact Sheets and Support Services:ASPCA: Pet Loss FAQ, End of life FAQ, Pet loss helpline (USA) detailsDogs Trust (UK) Fact Sheet: Coping with the death of your dogRSPCA Victoria (Australia): Grieving for a lost petPatricia McConnell: Helping your dog with the loss of a companionDog dogs mourn?... Read more »

Packman Wendy, Field Nigel P., Carmack Betty J., & Ronen Rama. (2011) Continuing Bonds and Psychosocial Adjustment in Pet Loss. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 16(4), 341-357. DOI: 10.1080/15325024.2011.572046  

  • September 19, 2013
  • 10:31 AM

Mammals, Machines and Mind Games. Who’s the Smartest?

by David Dowe in United Academics

We’re all familiar with the idea of an IQ test, and we might know where we stand on the IQ scale – but what about the rest of the animal world? And how smart are machines becoming? At present, it’s hard to tell.... Read more »

David L. Dowe. (2005) A computer program capable of passing I.Q. tests. School of Computer Science and Software Engineering. info:/

  • September 19, 2013
  • 07:25 AM

When dogs die: the science of sad

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Farewell to ElkeAh, Julie...I’m not even really sure where to start. "On Sunday I sat outside in the sun, stroking Elke's so-soft ears, while my husband patted her long, sleek back, and we farewelled our first girl. We learned on Friday that her liver and spleen were full of cancer. We are so grateful to have shared 12.5yrs with her and will miss her dearly." is what my Facebook status update said.But let's start at the beginning...Little Elke-Moo and her cow hips, at RSPCAI met Elke (pronounced Ell-kee) when I was in my third week of employment in the RSPCA shelter. What a sucker I was! She was seized as part of a cruelty case from a property where an elderly man with dementia had over forty dogs. Because of the dementia, the dogs weren’t receiving proper care and he sometimes fed them chicken pellets. Of her litter, Elke was the only survivor. She looked like a 5 week old puppy but she was actually 12 weeks old. She was always small. Our ‘bonsai pointer’, we called her. We joked that she was little, but could lay a good egg.  My boyfriend at the time and I had been speaking about getting a dog, and pointers had come up as a breed we were interested in – he wanted a dog to run with him. After three weeks of rehabilitation at RSPCA, she came home with me. I was 23 years old. Since then, she has been a fixture in the landscape of our lives - through house moves, our engagement and marriage, the death of my father, the arrival of our daughter, the comings and goings of oh-so-many other dogs (occupational hazard!).Elke and my daughter - a fantastic introduction to dogsElke was energetic, excitable and hilarious. She wasn't perfect, but neither were we. We were a perfect match. She realised, as a young dog, that she could redirect attention to herself if visitors were over, by trawling our dirty clothes basket for recent underwear and then parading it through the lounge room for everyone to see.  Post-beach snooze with our other dog, CalebShe didn’t like thunderstorms or fireworks. She loved running off lead at the park, the beach or through the bush and she adored retrieving. She would regularly throw herself into water without stopping to check for a way out. One time I had to walk along a river back for about 500m while she swam and we looked for a place where she could scramble up the riverbank to get out again! We took Elke to obedience training and she taught us so much. Elke was also more than our pet. She helped as a friendly adult dog at puppy preschool classes, she posed as a jaunty model as Australia legislated for the end of tail docking, she tried to distract trainee guide dogs and she visited nursing homes as a certified visiting therapy dog. They were all things we did together, my spotty dog and I.Elke loved playing swim-retrieve in the water She and our other dog Caleb were very close. They had a silly play ritual they indulged in every day. Twice a day. A close-quarters mouthing and growling game that ended in howling calamity. It was sometimes annoying (working from home, it wasn’t always compatible with work-related phone calls!), but always made me smile. But now our house is very quiet.We all loved time at the beachWe didn’t know Elke was sick until a week before she was euthanased. We took her to the vet, her temperature was up, a blood sample was taken, antibiotics were commenced. We didn’t know just how si... Read more »

Archer John, & Winchester Gillian. (1994) Bereavement following death of a pet. British Journal of Psychology, 85(2), 259-271. DOI: 10.1111/j.2044-8295.1994.tb02522.x  

Weisman Avery D. (1990) Bereavement and Companion Animals. OMEGA--Journal of Death and Dying, 22(4), 241-248. DOI: 10.2190/C54Y-UGMH-QGR4-CWTL  

Podrazik Donna, Shackford Shane, Becker Louis, & Heckert Troy. (2000) The Death of a Pet: Implications for Loss and Bereavement Across the Lifespan. Journal of Personal and Interpersonal Loss, 5(4), 361-395. DOI: 10.1080/10811440008407852  

Field Nigel, Orsini Lisa, Gavish Roni, & Packman Wendy. (2009) Role of Attachment in Response to Pet Loss. Death Studies, 33(4), 334-355. DOI: 10.1080/07481180802705783  

Crossley Michelle. (2013) Pet Loss and Human Bereavement: A Phenomenological Study of Attachment and the Grieving Process. PhD Thesis. info:other/

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