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  • May 27, 2013
  • 06:13 PM

Tapeworm genomes guide drug design

by Valerie Ashton in The Molecular Scribe

Thoughts of tapeworms conjure up horror stories. Visions of wriggling worms inching through intestines fill the mind.

Although this may be a disturbing reality in many tropical regions of the world, tapeworm infections are rare in temperate climes. Specifically, tapeworm diseases are prevalent in Africa, central Asia, southern South America, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, but are rare in the UK and the US. They are so uncommon that pharmacies in the UK do not stock anti-tapeworm drugs; they need to be ordered in specially on a case-by-case basis. In contrast, in some regions of Spain tapeworm infections of humans and livestock are rife, with the total loss in productively estimated to be $192 million in 2005, according to the World Health Organisation1. The same organisation highlighted tapeworm infections as two of the 17 most neglected tropical diseases.... Read more »

  • May 26, 2013
  • 06:16 AM

How to Best Talk About Sex, Research

by Annemarie van Oosten in United Academics

One of the most important things in sustaining a good relationship, and a sexual relationship for that matter, is good communication. But what exactly is good communication when it comes to sex? How should we talk about sex to our partners?... Read more »

  • May 24, 2013
  • 09:40 AM

Fluke or Trend? ‘Calcium Causes Heart Disease’

by Alvin Lin in United Academics

Snap! Ouch! That’s from my head doing a double take. All these years, I thought the calcium vs heart disease thing was a conspiracy arranged by one researcher and publication. However, 3 months ago, I stumbled upon some corroborating studies by other researchers in other journals. Even the US Preventive Services Task Force recently came out against low dose calcium (less than 1,000mg/d) in post-menopausal women because they could not find conclusive evidence of benefit in the face of a small risk of harm from kidney stone... Read more »

  • May 23, 2013
  • 09:14 AM

New Reliable Blood Test Can Detect Depression

by Pieter Carriere in United Academics

Depression or Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) has multiple genetic and environmental causes. Genetic factors are hard to find and the discovered factors usually are also associated with other mood disorders. Furthermore, twin studies reveal that genetics can predict 37% of the depressions, which is a much lower heritability than in bipolar disorder, a comparable mood disorder (reviewed in Belmaker et al., 2008). ... Read more »

  • May 22, 2013
  • 03:18 AM

Science Proves Connection Between Racism and Stupidity

by Simone Munao in United Academics

In a recent research conducted by two scientists from Brock University in Canada, the authors have proposed and tested several mediation models. With such models they have proven that lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice, an effect mediated through the endorsement of right-wing ideologies (social conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism) and low levels of contact with out-groups.... Read more »

  • May 21, 2013
  • 08:53 AM

Bright Lights, Cold Bodies - The Near-Death Experience Explained

by Anouk Vleugels in United Academics

Last February, Dr. Sam Parnia, an intensive care physician who has been researching near-death experiences for the past 15 years, published his new book ‘Erasing death: The Science That is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death’. Following the release of that book, Dr. Parnia was interviewed on National Public Radio in the US. It wasn’t so much this interview that sparked my interest, as much as the comments that followed. “It’s hard to believe that this guy is actually a doctor based on the junk he presents here,” commenter ‘Joe MARTYN’ says. And another user, ‘Steven Kay’, adds: “Oh, please.. Not this guy again. Why not interview the last person who claims to have seen the Virgin Mary?”

To be fair, many other commenters did appreciate the interview and the work that Dr. Parnia had done. But still, the virulent dismissiveness related to this subject baffled me. Why is research on near-death experiences received with such hostility?... Read more »

  • May 17, 2013
  • 06:17 PM

poly(A) messages: lost in traslation

by Andrew Shaw in Virus Musings

How do viruses translate their mRNA in the presence of cellular mRNA? Rotavirus finds a way.... Read more »

  • May 16, 2013
  • 01:42 PM

All Your Amphibian Are Belong To Us

by Chris Tucker in The Mycelium Connection

It is official, the chytrid Fungi have reached all three of the extant amphibian orders.Chytrid fungi are the cause of global decimation in frogs and toads, as well as newts and salamanders. But, until now, the lesser known caecilians had managed to evade their mycelial grasp. That ends now!Goodbye Mr. Bond CaecilianA recent study released in the journal EcoHealth has found the first cases of chytridiomycosis in the legless amphibians. Unfortunately, EcoHealth is not a free journal so all I can link you to for the article is the article front page, provided by Springer. You can read the intro but for the full article you gots to have the monies: Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis Infection and Lethal Chytridiomycosis in Caecilian Amphibians (Gymnophiona). But there is also an piece in PsyOrg discussing the Journal article: Fatal fungus found in third major amphibian group, caecilians. The team of researchers conducted a field swab of over 200 specimens across 20 different species in five countries of Africa and South America and ran what amounted to the worlds largest caecilian PCR survey for the presence of Batrachohytrium dendrobatidis, which is the fungi generally refered to as the chytrid fungus. There results? 58 specimens from Tanzania and Cameroon came back positive for it. That is over 25% of the total sample! Infection is a go!But, wait you say, haven't some frogs shown a certain resistance to infection? Could, perhaps, caecilians face fungal morbidity sans mortality? Nope, the team managed to report the first lethal infections as well. Noting that while the degree of infection in the wild samples were not very high, they were at the same levels observed to cause death in Gaboon caecilians held in captivity.So clearly, fungi have completed the dominance over the entire Amphibian Class. Who goes next? Bats? Bees?Well, whichever group it is, I am sure we humans will have our hands full trying to prevent a complete fungal victory.Awesome Reserachers:Gower, D., Doherty-Bone, T., Loader, S., Wilkinson, M., Kouete, M., Tapley, B., Orton, F., Daniel, O., Wynne, F., Flach, E., Müller, H., Menegon, M., Stephen, I., Browne, R., Fisher, M., Cunningham, A., & Garner, T. (2013). Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis Infection and Lethal Chytridiomycosis in Caecilian Amphibians (Gymnophiona) EcoHealth DOI: 10.1007/s10393-013-0831-9 Photo cred: By Franco Andreone - see authorization ( [CC-BY-SA-2.5 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia CommonsGif props: Arrested Development returns to Netflix on May 26. 2013... Read more »

Gower, D., Doherty-Bone, T., Loader, S., Wilkinson, M., Kouete, M., Tapley, B., Orton, F., Daniel, O., Wynne, F., Flach, E.... (2013) Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis Infection and Lethal Chytridiomycosis in Caecilian Amphibians (Gymnophiona). EcoHealth. DOI: 10.1007/s10393-013-0831-9  

  • May 14, 2013
  • 10:04 AM

Carnivorous Plant Ejects Junk DNA

by Geetanjali Yadav in United Academics

Research shows Utricularia gibba maintains a small genome size by resisting gene duplications.
... Read more »

Ibarra-Laclette, E., Lyons, E., Hernández-Guzmán, G., Pérez-Torres, C., Carretero-Paulet, L., Chang, T., Lan, T., Welch, A., Juárez, M., Simpson, J.... (2013) Architecture and evolution of a minute plant genome. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature12132  

  • May 13, 2013
  • 09:45 AM

A Quantum Version of Google

by Carian Thus in United Academics

A team of computer scientists in Spain applied a quantum PageRank algorithm to a network with 7 webpages. They found that the quantum PageRank sometimes ordered the webpages differently in terms of importance, but averaging the quantum PageRank score over time recovered the classical ordering.... Read more »

Paparo, G., & Martin-Delgado, M. (2012) Google in a Quantum Network. Scientific Reports. DOI: 10.1038/srep00444  

  • May 9, 2013
  • 11:05 PM

Stop to smell the flowers. Especially lavender.

by Cobb & Hecht in Do You Believe In Dog?

(source)Hi Julie, WOW!Dogs in clothes.  Corgis in bikinis at the beach. Greyhounds in onesies.  We people do some weird things to our canine friends, no?! I'm pretty sure I wouldn't enjoy being dressed up in a padded outfit all day long, so I think I'll pass on sharing that experience with my dogs. As you said, cultural perceptions, ethics and expectations add a whole layer of extra consideration. It's not always easy to work out what dogs want or need. That's why I like science. It helps us work this stuff out.I've been super busy this week - working hard (as always!) and still thinking a lot about dogs living in kennel facilities. So I wanted to pull your head away from dogs dressed as flowers, back to dogs getting the opportunity to smell the flowers.  No, really. Lavender in fact.(source)Dogs should stop to smell the flowers. Especially lavender.When I talk to people about the body of research that's been conducted in the area of environmental enrichment for dogs housed in kennels, they never fail to be amazed at what has been studied. Or what hasn't. One topic that usually results in a snort, a laugh or a quizzical raised eyebrow is olfactory (smelly) stimulation. Which is kind of weird. Because we know that dogs can smell on a level that's basically in another galaxy compared to our smelling experiences. Research conducted in a rescue shelter kennel in 2005 exposed dogs to five different diffused aromas: - a blank control, or essential oil of- chamomile - lavender - peppermint- rosemary The study showed that olfactory stimulation had a significant effect on behaviour.  Dogs were more likely to rest and less likely to bark when exposed to the smells of lavender and chamomile. Peppermint and rosemary exposure resulted in more active and noisy behaviour. The researchers suggested that the welfare of dogs in shelter kennel environments (and also their attractiveness to potential adopters) could be improved by using this kind of aromatherapy.  What a dog's nose knows.Further research has shown a similar effect of lavender in effecting the behaviour of dogs with travel-induced excitement in cars: they spent more time sitting, resting and less time vocalising when they were exposed to the smell of lavender.Interestingly, human studies show a similar effect of lavender on us: reduced mental stress.So if a dog is in a kennel environment and can't get out to romp in a field of flowers, or chomp them up (as dogs tend to do!), perhaps we can help them out by giving them something... Read more »

Wells Deborah L. (2006) Aromatherapy for travel-induced excitement in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 229(6), 964-967. DOI: 10.2460/javma.229.6.964  

MOTOMURA NAOYASU, SAKURAI AKIHIRO, & YOTSUYA YUKIKO. (2001) REDUCTION OF MENTAL STRESS WITH LAVENDER ODORANT. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 93(3), 713-718. DOI: 10.2466/pms.2001.93.3.713  

  • May 9, 2013
  • 12:15 PM

Gut Bugs against Diabetes

by Pieter Carriere in United Academics

A new discovery regarding the relationship between gut bugs and disease... Read more »

Markle JG, Frank DN, Mortin-Toth S, Robertson CE, Feazel LM, Rolle-Kampczyk U, von Bergen M, McCoy KD, Macpherson AJ, & Danska JS. (2013) Sex differences in the gut microbiome drive hormone-dependent regulation of autoimmunity. Science (New York, N.Y.), 339(6123), 1084-8. PMID: 23328391  

Flak, M., Neves, J., & Blumberg, R. (2013) Welcome to the Microgenderome. Science, 339(6123), 1044-1045. DOI: 10.1126/science.1236226  

Turnbaugh, P., Ley, R., Mahowald, M., Magrini, V., Mardis, E., & Gordon, J. (2006) An obesity-associated gut microbiome with increased capacity for energy harvest. Nature, 444(7122), 1027-131. DOI: 10.1038/nature05414  

  • May 8, 2013
  • 09:42 AM

Can Probability Explain Gravity?

by Simone Munao in United Academics

According to Dutch theoretical physicist Erik Verlinde, there is a new theory for gravity: Entropic gravity is a hypothesis in modern physics that describes gravity as an entropic force.... Read more »

  • May 6, 2013
  • 05:01 AM

Is it impossible to drown yourself?

by Anouk Vleugels in United Academics

Kind of a morbid question, but apparently one that is on many people’s minds. Suicide by drowning is definitely not impossible, although it is not the easiest method. Due to the body’s natural tendency to come up for air, drowning attempts are most likely to succeed in deep waters.... Read more »

Byard, R., Houldsworth, G., James, R., & Gilbert, J. (2001) Characteristic Features of Suicidal Drownings. The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 22(2), 134-138. DOI: 10.1097/00000433-200106000-00005  

  • May 3, 2013
  • 05:23 AM

New Insight into Meat vs Fish Debate

by Mark Fonseca Rendeiro in United Academics

The benefits of taking fish oil and the harm caused by eating red meat, these two nutritional nuggets of wisdom have been passed around so much over the past few decades, we rarely stop to ask if they really do what people claim they do.

This month, two new papers on the subject of fish and meat have come forward from the University of Western Australia. The first examines the real impact of taking fish oil supplements on the diets of obese people.... Read more »

  • May 2, 2013
  • 03:29 PM

Gender, language and economic power: another spurious correlation

by Sean Roberts in A Replicated Typo 2.0

A recent paper finds a correlation between speaking a language with grammatical gender distinctions and the economic empowerment of women. Is this another case of a spurious correlation caused by historical accident?... Read more »

Victor Gay, Estefania Santacreu-Vasut and Amir Shoham. (2013) The Grammatical Origins of Gender Roles. Berkeley Economic History Laboratory (BEHL) Working Papers. info:/

  • April 30, 2013
  • 09:30 AM

Are Vocal Homophobes Really Just Homosexuals in the Closet?

by Ryo in Skeptikai

Homophobic protestors of gay rights assert things like "homosexuality will lead to the breakdown of civilization," and other such notions. But research is finding that some of these avid protestors are homosexuals themselves. Why is that?

Recent research looks at how cultural influences regarding homosexuality affect the psychology of homosexuals who are "in the closet." A new study is contrasted with information on pornography consumption, showing widespread hypocrisy throughout the world.... Read more »

  • April 29, 2013
  • 09:08 AM

Twitter Maps the Mood of the UK

by Kate Blanchfield in United Academics

Researchers have mapped the moods of Twitter users from the UK and found that they follow a daily pattern of anger, fear, joy and sadness.

The research paper, posted online last week, was based on approximately 120 million tweets collected during the summer and winter of 2011.

The researchers counted the number of times a tweet expressed anger, fear, joy or sadness and normalised this by the total number of tweets in that hour. This corrected for the inevitably higher use of Twitter during certain times of the day. They then assigned a mood score to the tweets using a standard database of emotionally-charged words.

The research shows a clear morning peak for all four moods—anger, fear, joy and sadness—but the afternoon patterns differ, giving a glimpse into the shift of moods during the day.... Read more »

Vasileios Lampos, Thomas Lansdall-Welfare, Ricardo Araya, & Nello Cristianini. (2013) Analysing Mood Patterns in the United Kingdom through Twitter Content. Social and Information Networks. arXiv: 1304.5507v1

  • April 29, 2013
  • 03:35 AM

Do Women Really Want Nice Guys?

by Annemarie van Oosten in United Academics

It’s a familiar story: women who say they are looking to date a kind, sensitive and emotionally expressive guy often end up dating a macho man or a jerk. This leaves many ‘nice guys’ feeling they always finish last. For many decades, researchers have tried to get a grip on this so called ‘nice guy paradox’.... Read more »

Urbaniak, G.C., . (2003) Physical Attractiveness and the “Nice Guy Paradox”: Do Nice Guys Really Finish Last? . Sex Roles, 413-426. info:/

  • April 29, 2013
  • 03:29 AM

Hybrid Chimps in European Zoos

by Gunnar de Winter in United Academics

Our close evolutionary cousin, the common chimpanzee, comes in four subspecies, each one named after its location along an East-West band in Africa. Yet, there are chimps outside of Africa as well. Many European zoos possess a group of chimpanzees, which often plays a part in conservation plans. After all, the populations of our primate brothers are in steep decline. Habitat destruction, bushmeat hunting, pet trade and disease all take their to... Read more »

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