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  • July 9, 2013
  • 10:16 AM

Keep Calm and Carry On Exercising, It Relieves Stress

by Elisabeth Buhl Thubron in United Academics

Another work deadline is fast approaching and, yet again, you’re starting to feel the pressure. Need a permanent stress fix? Hit the gym and make it a regular habit. A new study conducted by a research team at Princeton University gives valuable insight into the contradictory links between physical exercise and changes to brain regions involved in anxiety.... Read more »

  • July 9, 2013
  • 10:11 AM

Lonely Lemurs Heed Warnings of Fellow Forest Creatures

by Michael Parker in United Academics

While not the brightest of primates, one species of lemur has shown it can still learn a trick or two, staying safe from predators by heeding the alarm calls of other creatures in the forest.

Of all the species of lemur living on the island of Madagascar only one, Lepilemur sahamalazensis, has been found to exhibit this trait. The solitary, nocturnal creatures were found to respond to the alarm calls of the blue-eyed black lemur, and to those from several different species of bird.... Read more »

  • July 8, 2013
  • 05:32 AM

Explainer: How Can We Build a Heart?

by Guillaume Cote-Maurais in United Academics

Tissue engineering is an extraordinary research field aim to engineer entire new organs from single cells. Not only would it resolve the problem of organs availability, but it would also annihilate the risk of graft rejection from the immune system.

The complexity of such process arise not only from a complex single organ cellular diversity, but also from the necessity of having the right cellular organization and complete networks of blood vessels to keep these cells alive. This complexity is particularly true for the heart, which has intricate networks of capillaries. Therefore, regenerative-medicine researchers are trying to reuse what biology has already created.... Read more »

  • July 6, 2013
  • 05:40 AM

Cunnilingus-Assisted Orgasm May Not Be a Big Mystery

by Rob Brooks in United Academics

This week I’ve been wrestling with a particularly large writing project which has kept me away from posting in this column. But, staring into my Twitter feed in procrastination, I spotted much outrage about a paper on the adaptive basis of cunnilingus-assisted orgasm. I had to head over to the journal Evolutionary Psychology to take a look.

The authors, Michael N. Pham, Todd K. Shackelford, Yael Sela and Lisa L. M. Welling, all of Oakland University in Michigan report the results of a simple survey they administered to 243 men in committed, heterosexual relationships. They predicted that, in their own words:

among men who perform cunnilingus on their partner, those at greater risk of sperm competition are more likely to perform cunnilingus until their partner achieves orgasm (Prediction 1), and that, among men who ejaculate during penile-vaginal intercourse and whose partner experiences a cunnilingus-assisted orgasm, ejaculation will occur during the brief period in which female orgasm might function to retain sperm (Prediction 2).... Read more »

Pham MN, Shackelford TK, Sela Y, & Welling LL. (2013) Is cunnilingus-assisted orgasm a male sperm-retention strategy?. Evolutionary psychology : an international journal of evolutionary approaches to psychology and behavior, 11(2), 405-14. PMID: 23744718  

Puts DA, Dawood K, & Welling LL. (2012) Why women have orgasms: an evolutionary analysis. Archives of sexual behavior, 41(5), 1127-43. PMID: 22733154  

  • July 5, 2013
  • 05:09 AM

Who’s a Clever Cocky, Then?

by Dyani Lewis in United Academics

With complex problems, we’re often told to break them down into smaller, more manageable tasks. By tackling these smaller tasks one at a time, our distant goal will eventually be reached.

Researchers have discovered that the Goffin’s cockatoo, a type of parrot native to Indonesia, can solve a sequence of five problems in order to obtain a treat.

The researchers, from the University of Oxford in the UK, the University of Vienna in Austria and the Max Planck Institute in Germany presented 10 cockatoos with a box containing a tantalizing cashew nut locked behind a see-through plastic door. A series of five locks needed to be unlocked in turn for the birds to reach their treat. The cockatoos needed to remove a pin, then a screw, then a bolt, then turn a wheel and then slide a bar sideways before the door to the cashew could be opened. The locks were interlocking – each lock was unable to be unlocked without the lock before it also being unlocked.... Read more »

  • July 5, 2013
  • 04:09 AM

Doing Arnie Impressions Can Activate Your Brain

by Carolyn McGettigan in United Academics

The voice is an important tool which we use to communicate and express ourselves. But our voices convey so much more than the words we say. Just a few words can reveal clues about someone’s gender, age, place of birth and mood.

The voice is also extremely flexible in its expressiveness. It’s under constant vocal modulation – one minute whispering in a library then involved in conversation in a noisy pub. There are also vocal changes that happen less deliberately when we speak, such as when we start to pronounce words in the same way as our friends or flatmates. This reflects friendship and mutual approval.... Read more »

  • July 4, 2013
  • 05:24 AM

Imprisoned Because of Bad Statistics

by Kate Blanchfield in United Academics

The name Lucia de Berk will always be associated with a huge miscarriage of justice in the Netherlands. Accused of murdering patients at the Juliana Children’s Hospital where she worked as a nurse, De Berk was arrested in 2001 and found guilty of seven counts of murder in addition to three counts of attempted murder that were added to her rap sheet in 2004. The case relied heavily on bad statistics that were wrongly interpreted, eventually leading to a life sentence.... Read more »

Ronald Meester, Marieke Collins, Richard Gill, & Michiel van Lambalgen. (2006) On the (ab)use of statistics in the legal case against the nurse Lucia de B. arXiv. arXiv: math/0607340v1

M. Zegers, M.C. de Bruijne, C. Wagner, L.H. Hoonhout, R. Waaijman, M. Smits, F.A. Hout, L. Zwaan, I. Christiaans-Dingelhoff, D.R. Timmermans, P.P Groenewegen, G. van der Wa. (2009) Adverse events and potentially preventable deaths in Dutch hospitals: results of a retrospective patient record review study. Qual Saf Health Care. DOI: 10.1136/qshc.2007.025924  

  • July 3, 2013
  • 11:28 AM

Long Solo Car Trips As Bad As Air Travel

by Matteo Gagliardi in United Academics

Air travel has the biggest impact on the climate per trip, but travelling long distances alone by car could be just as bad for one’s carbon footprint, a new study has found.

The study was conducted by researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo (CICERO) and published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

The researchers compared the climate impacts of different forms of transport for a travel distance of between 500km and 1000km, typical of business or holidays trips.... Read more »

Jens Borken-Kleefeld, Jan Fuglestvedt, & Terje Berntsen. (2013) Mode, Load, And Specific Climate Impact from Passenger Trips. Environmental Science. DOI: 10.1021/es4003718  

  • July 3, 2013
  • 09:33 AM

What’s the Best Moment to Buy a Plane Ticket?

by Simone Munao in United Academics

A Japanese economist has studied the mathematics used by air companies to set the prices of flights. According to his research, eight weeks before departure is the ideal timing to buy a travel ticket.

The best moment to book a flight is eight weeks before leaving. Dr. Makoto Watanabe is a Japanese economist, currently Associate Professor at the VU University Amsterdam, and he has just developed a mathematical formula to predict the best moment to buy airplane tickets. His research, published on the Economic Journal may help million passengers ready to fly to save up some money before leaving.... Read more »

  • July 3, 2013
  • 05:20 AM

Egypt Uprising: More Than Just a ‘Twitter revolt’

by Paul Reilly in United Academics

These days all you need to be a revolutionary is a mobile phone and a grievance. Some see what is happening on the streets of Cairo as the ultimate expression of democracy – millions of people using social media to express their unhappiness with their government.

Others see it as the exact opposite – and forecast that Egypt’s 12-month experiment with democracy, after 30 years of dictatorship, will have been cut off in its infancy if the army carries out its threat to intervene in order to stop events spiralling out of control.... Read more »

Tufekci, Zeynep; Wilson, Christopher. (2012) Social Media and the Decision to Participate in Political Protest: Observations From Tahrir Square . Journal of Communication. info:/

  • July 2, 2013
  • 12:00 PM

Super Intelligent Machines Aren’t to Be Feared

by Tony Prescott. in United Academics

Fear of machines becoming smarter than humans is a standard part of popular culture. In films like iRobot and Terminator, humans are usurped. Throughout history we can trace stories about humankind overreaching through a desire to understand and copy ourselves, from Ancient Greek mythology to Milton’s Paradise Lost and Shelley’s Frankenstein. Today’s Prometheans are supposedly scientists working on artificial intelligence (AI), who run the risk of creating machines intelligent enough to supercede us.... Read more »

  • July 2, 2013
  • 08:26 AM

#SPARCS2013: The Aftermath

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

Oh Julie! How great was #SPARCS2013? SO VERY, VERY GREAT! I love the buzz that comes from hearing presentations by experts in the various areas of canine science and what the Society for the Promotion of Applied Research in Canine Science achieved over 3 days, AND SHARED GLOBALLY FOR FREE, was just phenomenal!I love that we hung out in little parties in our respective parts of the world - with dogs present! I spent one morning (Australia time, end of a SPARCS day) with my colleague, Kate Mornement (and her dogs, Archie and Joseph!). The other days I spent waking up early and loving hearing from the likes of Adam Miklosi, Monique Udell and Clive Wynne. It was just FABULOUS. I hope everyone who enjoyed SPARCS2013, remembers to donate and/or become a SPARCS member so that this initiative can continue in the future. SPARCS parties around the world! Something that was also interesting to me, was watching the twitter-sphere light up in response to the #SPARCS2013 event hashtag. Seeing the canine science communication get further afield (through the free live streaming over the web) than it would usually in a regular scientific conference was interesting, entertaining and above all - BRILLIANT.Monique Udell breaking down canine cognition There was one thing I found particularly interesting, which was how exchanges of what I would call 'scientific discussion', for example, such as:"You're wrong!""What's the source of that data?""It's OK to not have all the answers""We should all be careful of over-generalising our results""I'm not interested in repeating your experiment, because I'm not interested in testing that hypothesis"were sometimes perceived as "silo" (divisive) attitudes, rather than people just expressing a professional difference of opinion or seeking further information. I think it's really important that when we communicate our science to a broader audience, we also take time to explain the scientific process and how scientific rigour operates as a self-correcting process, over time. Always advancing our understanding and moving towards the best grasp of concepts that we can have. This process doesn't do a disservice to "the dogs", each other, or our work. It is how we ensure we do the best by the dogs, each other, and our work. Sometimes in science, entire premises can get flipped on their heads, and initially, that can feel uncomfortable, or ridiculous, or really, very right.We're not fighting! (Flickr:JesseGardner)Clive Wynne acknowledged this toward the closing of his final presentation, when thanking the SPARCS2013 organisers. He said that it is good for the discipline of canine science to have a forum like SPARCS, where the experts can come and speak, listen to each other, discuss, perhaps even argue, because that process - provided we all stay open to the odd premise-flipping idea - drives our field forwards in a healthy direction for the future.Thank you #SPARCS2013, to the conference planning team for making this available for free, the live stream tech' team for being so responsive and ensuring we were all able to experience this amazing forum, the Twitter community who participated in the online discussion and to the scientists who shared their ideas and understanding with the world.&... Read more »

  • July 1, 2013
  • 11:24 AM

‘Mental Illness’ Isn’t all About Brain Chemistry

by Mary Boyle in United Academics

Do you believe ‘mental illness’ is all about brain chemistry? It wouldn’t be surprising if you did, because this is the message we regularly receive about various forms of troublesome feelings, thoughts and behaviour.

The publication of the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5) reinforced this picture. David Kupfer, chair of the manual’s taskforce, declared:

In the future, we hope to be able to identify disorders using biological and genetic markers that provide precise diagnoses that can be delivered with complete reliability and validity.... Read more »

  • June 30, 2013
  • 04:43 AM

Human Revolution Not Caused by Population Growth?

by Akshat Rathi. in United Academics

About 50,000 years ago, modern humans left Africa and began occupying the rest of the world. The common thought is that a sudden growth in population caused the so-called “human revolution”, which gave birth to language, art, and culture as we know it today. Now, based on something that’s not obviously related to human culture—the size of shellfish fossils—researchers have challenged that model.

Artifacts from two sites in South Africa, Still Bay and Howieson’s Poort, have convinced archaeologists that the period between 85,000 to 65,000 years ago was when the “human revolution” began. Humans from that time made jewellery from perforated shells and used objects as symbols. They made better tools than they had ever before. Some of these tools, made from ostrich eggshells, were even capable of slicing fruit.... Read more »

Klein RG, & Steele TE. (2013) Archaeological shellfish size and later human evolution in Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 23776248  

  • June 30, 2013
  • 04:34 AM

Grunting in Tennis: What’s the Racket?

by Pete Etchells in United Academics

Noise seems to be a bit of a problem in major sports tournaments. For many, vuvuzelas were the scourge of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. So much so that the BBC looked into ways of muting them on live sound feeds.

Now, with Wimbledon in full swing, an old favourite is back – the eponymous tennis grunt.... Read more »

Amy S. Welcha . (2012) Something to Shout About: A Simple, Quick Performance Enhancement Technique Improved Strength in Both Experts and Novices. Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. info:/

  • June 27, 2013
  • 09:06 AM

Quantum Mechanics Still Puzzles Scientists

by Kate Blanchfield in United Academics

The American physicist Richard Feynman is famously supposed to have once said “if you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics”. Whether or not he ever actually said it, the idea that quantum mechanics poses difficulties for scientists still seems to be true today. Two surveys from quantum mechanics conferences show that there are still many foundational issues over which scientists disagree.... Read more »

Maximilian Schlosshauer, Johannes Kofler, & Anton Zeilinger. (2013) A Snapshot of Foundational Attitudes Toward Quantum Mechanics. arXiv. arXiv: 1301.1069v1

Travis Norsen, & Sarah Nelson. (2013) Yet Another Snapshot of Foundational Attitudes Toward Quantum Mechanics. arXiv. arXiv: 1306.4646v2

  • June 27, 2013
  • 09:04 AM

Engineered Bacteria Becomes Biofuel Precursor

by Geetanjali Yadav in United Academics

Global population explosion puts us in a very difficult stage where it is very important to have alternatives to modern day fuels like gasoline that fuels million of cars with internal combustion engines as our current biofuels sources are exhaustible. In a recent finding published in PNAS, Scientists at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School have engineered a bacterium which is capable of producing biofuel precursors that is reported to have high-octane fatty acid moieties.... Read more »

Torella JP, Ford TJ, Kim SN, Chen AM, Way JC, & Silver PA. (2013) Tailored fatty acid synthesis via dynamic control of fatty acid elongation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 23798438  

  • June 27, 2013
  • 06:05 AM

Can fingers and limbs self-regenerate after a grievous injury or accident?

by Patrick Meyer in United Academics

Instead of creating scar tissue through an immune system response, extracellular matrix responds to injured areas by creating new cells that in turn divide and reproduce on top of themselves, creating a cellular foundation for new tissue to form.... Read more »

  • June 25, 2013
  • 09:59 AM

Dust Escaping from Black Holes May Form Stars

by Emily Brown in United Academics

Matter escaping from the clutches of mysterious black holes may be responsible for forming stars, according to new research that explores how galaxies are formed. Much has been learnt about black holes – which lurk at the centre of all large galaxies and suck up anything in their vicinity – over the past two decades. Yet the phenomena remain largely unexplained.... Read more »

Hönig, S., Kishimoto, M., Tristram, K., Prieto, M., Gandhi, P., Asmus, D., Antonucci, R., Burtscher, L., Duschl, W., & Weigelt, G. (2013) DUST IN THE POLAR REGION AS A MAJOR CONTRIBUTOR TO THE INFRARED EMISSION OF ACTIVE GALACTIC NUCLEI. The Astrophysical Journal, 771(2), 87. DOI: 10.1088/0004-637X/771/2/87  

  • June 25, 2013
  • 09:08 AM

Testosterone Improves Woman’s Brain Functions

by Alvin Lin in United Academics

It’s been said that hormonal young men with high levels of testosterone are constantly thinking about sex. Certainly, as we age, our libido decreases. Whether this is a result of a natural decline in testosterone or of cognitive maturity is open to debate. It’s also been reported that hypogonadal men are more depressed and perhaps not as sharp cognitively speaking. Some studies even show a benefit to testosterone replacement in such men with low testosterone levels.... Read more »

Davis S, et al. (2013) ransdermal testosterone improves verbal learning and memory in postmenopausal women not on estrogen therapy: a randomized placebo-controlled trial over 26 weeks. ENDO . info:/

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