So the other day Sci is chatting with some friends, and mentions how INCREDIBLY AMUSED she always is by romance novels. This is for several reasons.
One (1): They have covers like this:
(Seriously, I crack up just looking at these. LOL!!! Ooooh. My new favorite. Look at that bulging codpiece. *snort* HAHAHAHAHAHA.)
Two (2): They are so predictable, particularly the period ones. Sci could write one RIGHT NOW:
"Cerise Everett Longwood, the lovely and rebellious daughter of the Count of (Something-or-Other-which-sounds-terribly-rich-and-important), has never lived life by the rules. Restricted by day by the iron bands of high society, by night she stretches her wings as (a thief/someone who avenges the helpless/an aspiring writer of romance novels/a journalist). But when a (terrible secret/horrible murder/something else mildly chilling) is discovered, she finds the only man who can help her is the man she hates most.
Viscount Feathersly von Rothampton ne Gornesssbaum (or something else complicated and equally offensive to language which is usually shortened to something more romantic that his friends call him, like "Heath"), is not a man to be challenged. Outwardly secure in his position and power, his years in (Her Majesty's service/the army/the navy/Secret Service/something else military and daring) have marked him in more ways than one.
When the delectable Cerise falls into his path, the Viscount's honor demands that he assist her, despite his rivalry and hatred for her brother. But great events are afoot , and Cerise is in no mere danger. And in the heat of the moment, passions arise..."
Coming soon to a bookstore near you!!! Unfortunately, "Scicurious" is a terrible romance pen-name...
But yes, they're all like that. She's lovely (she never ADMITS that she is, she always thinks she's TOTALLY ordinary, but she's of course long and lithe, or short and slim, or short and lushly curvaceous, etc). They never like each other at first. Then they kiss. Then they screw. Shenanigans ensue. It will always end with a marriage and the birth of at least one of their children into a happy, adorable, obscenely rich family.
And Three (3): Sci has always found that these romance novels have the most hilarious representations of female anatomy. The woman is always a virgin at the start (or had an extremely boring sex life before she became an untimely widow at the age of no more than 27), and yet never seems to have a problem with pain or orgasm during the first attempt at intercourse. And what always gets Sci, these women appear to have INSANELY sensitive breasts. Apparently, the guy touches them and the next line always reads something like "bolts of lightning shot through her thighs".
Seriously? I mean, seriously?! Is this normal?
Sci asked her friends. They all laughed, many of them uncomfortably (this happens a LOT when Sci is around...I wonder why...), and no one could give her a direct answer.
Sci turned to the internet.
And her trusty Pubmed gave her NOTHING!!!! NOTHING?!?! Has my Pubmed-fu failed me?! Is it really possible that no one has done a study on variations in nipple sensitivity in women as a variation of the menstrual cycle?! Is this like when I wanted to know about vaginal sensitivity? Why is no one STUDYING THIS?!
Anyway. Sci did turn up some interesting papers. And it turns out that, while apparently no one cares (and by 'no one', I mean no one with scientific funding, because everyone else in the world apparently cares a heck of a lot) how sensitive women's nipples are and whether they vary as a function of the menstrual cycle (and I'll bet you a PILE of money they do, in fact, let's bet some funding and do this study already), a study has been done on MEN. On men's nipples, and...everywhere else.
Let's get to it.
Schober et al. "Self-ratings of genital anatomy, sexual sensitivity and function in men using the 'Self-Assessment of Genital Anatomy and Sexual Function, Male' questionnaire" British Journal of Urology International, 2008.
There's some rather hilarious shaded in line drawings below the fold. You were warned.
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So Sci was scrounging around the internet for blog topics recently. Every time she does this, she is of course completely overwhelmed by the piles of cool and bloggable science out there (seriously, I've got like 20 topics for the next week, of course not all will make it). But she's also surprised to see some familiar faces. A lot of times it's a familiar face related to her field and the stuff she's been recently interested in (for example, Yavin Shaham just wrote an interesting editorial on binge eating and food addiction in Nature Neuroscience which Sci might have to blog), but everyone once in a while it's something like this:
OMG! Sci knows that guy!!
So of course Sci had to go and ask if I could blog it. And of course the gracious Zen said yes!
Puri and Faulkes. "Do Decapod Crustaceans Have Nociceptors for Extreme pH?" PLoS ONE, 2010.
And first of all, I would like to introduce you to today's three species:
Louisiana red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii)
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Sci would like to note that she is without internet for the next few days for various reasons. Thus, there is a repost. Play nice on the internet everyone, or I'll send the Evil Monkey after you. He bites. 🙂
Over my years as a grad student, I've been a guinea pig for more than a few research studies. Most of the people leading the studies are fellow grad students (I'm never involved with the work at all), and it's good to help them out. A lot of times the studies are kind of cool (like that one with caffeine and the brain). And Sci has a dream. One day, I really want to see a picture of MY BRAIN in an fMRI scan on the cover of Science. Ok, I won't be too picky. I'll take J. Neuroscience. Honestly, I'd probably take Brain Research. Seriously, that would make me so geekily proud. I would ask for a copy, and get it printed out big, and frame it on my wall. "THIS is your brain on SCIENCE!"
But I'll admit, I'd probably participate a lot less if I didn't get paid. I know, I know, I'm bad. I shouldn't sell myself to science for money. But we grad students are poor. My cat needs food, and I really prefer to feed my little carnivore food that doesn't contain corn as the first ingredient. I also like eating healthy food once in a while. So I volunteer. These are not clinical trials for drugs or anything. Instead, these are basic research studies where they need human volunteers to see how the brain and body works.
And then of course, there's the certain amount of machismo. And that's where the get to my current study, which my fellow grad student has graciously given me permission to blog. The pain study.
The pain study has been going on at my MRU for a while, and has...a certain reputation. Many of my fellow grad students are guinea pigs in the service of science, and we have fun telling our war stories. There's the friend of mine who ate a diet (don't worry, it was a full 2,000 calories, and adjusted so that she neither gained nor lost weight, and completely nutritious) composed of ONLY what the researchers gave her, and had to collect every bit of...anything that came out...for two months. There was the caffeine study where I drank 12 cups (cups as in the unit of measure, it was a whole pot) of coffee a day for three weeks, and then went through 48 hours of withdrawal (the original high levels of coffee drinking were self-imposed prior to the study, don't worry, and I've since cut back to one caffeinated drink per day, and only when I really need it). There's the study where they give you a cold, and you're not allowed to treat the symptoms at ALL.
But to all of these, the real veterans give you a raised eyebrow and say "yeah, but have you done the pain study?"
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...they wear big exoskeletons.
Today's Friday Weird Science comes to you courtesy of the talented, handsome, and soon to be no longer stranded in Australia (hopefully), Ed of Not Exactly Rocket Science. Because no one can tell you more about beetles and the size of their...mandibles...than Ed. 🙂
Yamane et al. "Dispersal and ejaculatory strategies associated with exaggeration of weapon in an armed beetle" Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 2009.
And here we have today's male of choice:
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We are now continuing on Sci's new found, somewhat relentless search into the relationship between eating disorders such as binge eating, bulimia, and anorexia, and reward systems that are usually associated with things like drug addiction.
And today I found a human study that looks a little...interesting. For a lot of reasons. Let's talk dopamine receptors, shall we?
Editor's Selection Icon
Frank et al. "Increased Dopamine D2/D3 Receptor Binding After Recovery from Anorexia Nervosa Measured by Positron Emission Tomography and [11C]Raclopride" Biological Psychiatry, 2005.
This one's going to require some background. Let's talk about dopamine and dopamine receptors.
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Sci got a great email in her little inbox the other day:
Most knowledgeable Dr. Scicurious (for which title much congratulations), this aspiring neuroscientist finds itself at a great turning point in its young life, and in need of guidance from its elders.
I am going to college in the fall to begin my training as a scientist; I am trying to decide whether to attend a large university or a small liberal arts college, and leaning slightly towards the SLAC. My career plans after that are the usual scientist stuff, get my PhD, try to get tenure at an MRU, you know the drill. I am aware that even a blogger as great as you probably cannot give me an easy answer as to which I should attend, but if your busy schedule permits it, I would love to hear your opinion on how the different atmosphere of a SLAC can shape an aspiring scientist.
Your adoring reader,
Isn't that awesome?! Appropriately servile, a good bit of flattery, excellent. 🙂 Sci is pleased. And she thought, might wanna blog it.
After all, Sci did her undergrad at an SLAC of some minor fame. So I can certainly offer some insights into what an SLAC did for me that a much larger school might not have. But this is only my opinion, and my experiences. Your mileage may vary. And Sci would love to hear from some people who went to larger universities (especially those which were med school affiliated) to hear their advice.
So here we go: so you're thinking you might want to go to an SLAC?
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Sometimes, Sci is simply inundated with weird science opportunities, and such a week is this one. There is SO MUCH WEIRD OUT THERE, you guys. This is great, as it keeps Friday Weird Science in business, but sometimes Sci has to file away so many for later that she loses track. Here's really hoping that she WON'T lose track, because she found some real beauties today. And this was one of the best one.
In response to a question from awesome reader and friend of the blog Pascale: Can I post on semen analysis and the importance of odor?
Oh yes, yes I can.
Chvapil, et al. "Studies on vaginal malodor: humans". Obstetrics and Gynecology, 1978.
Time for some historical, weird, and seminal (mwah ha ha ha) science!
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If you all have been around the blogs of late, there's been some interesting posts from DrugMonkey and DrPal or how narcotics abusers are perceived by doctors and why (comment threads are especially interesting). It's an interesting issue and one I think a lot of people should a lot at, because it says a lot about how our society in general perceives drug addiction and how it is to be dealt with. Sci has her own thoughts on the matter, but probably won't be able to blog on them for a while yet as other things intrude.
There's also a great post from DuWayne on problems with the system in handing psychiatric patients. Sci recommends.
But also, you may have noticed a post from Isis on some initiatives that the National Post-doc Association is taking to help increase the stipends for post-docs. Right now, post-docs (first year) get paid $37,480 under competitive govt. training grants and NRSAs. To Sci, who is coming up from the TRUE dregs, where she's been making peanuts, this seems like paradise (or at least a lot more than peanuts). And she's going to start making this new salary...quite soon. But it's still not a lot, especially if you're going to be living in New Super-expensive City.
This money doesn't include retirement (HAHAHAHA), neither does it include health insurance. And post-docs in general haven't had a raise since 2006. Not only that, this pay level only applies to those that are covered by government stipends, there are some post-docs that don't even get close to that much. And that's sad. It's sad for Sci, who will be comfortably housed in New City is something roughly the size of a shoebox, and it's even sadder for those trying to raise families, or those who are having to pay back grad school loans (many of us are paid for, but even so a lot of people raising families have to take out cost of living loans) or undergrad loans, or BOTH.
But the National Post-doc Association has a way that you can help! Check out their website, and write a letter saying that we need to make more than peanuts (maybe not anything crazy like cashews, but we could make almonds or something)! They aren't asking for much, just a 6% increase, but any increase is better than none, and might do things like help cover Sci's dental (OMG THAT WOULD BE SO AWESOME). So write a letter!
You all may remember that Sci's recent posts have focused on eating, overeating, and dopamine. Today, Sci continues this trend. Honestly, she couldn't stop thinking about it. How is overeating like addiction? How is it different? And so she began to look up a bunch of papers on binge eating and dopamine.
I was particularly interesting in the changes in food intake and reward associated responses in people with eating disorders like bulimia nervosa and anorexia nervosa. There are many hypotheses as to why these eating disorders exist, ranging from problems with society (which can certainly contribute to the incidence of the disorders), to hypotheses of obsessive control akin to the compulsions seen with OCD, to increased sensitivity to reward, to decreased sensitivity to reward.
This increased/decreased sensitivity to reward (some people have seen decreased sensitivity to reward in rats, along with increased self-administration of pleasurable things, but what this actually translates to in humans can be difficult to interpret) was particularly interesting, and so Sci was very glad when she came across this study.
Schienle et al. "Binge-Eating Disorder: Reward Sensitivity and Brain Activation to Images of Food ", Biological Psychiatry, 2008.
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First of all, thanks so much to everyone for all their congratulations!!! All the love from the blogosphere made Sci feel very loved indeed all day. Y'all are the best!! Special shout-out to Drugmonkey, who wrote the sweetest thing which made Sci blush very red. She hopes it's true.
And now: NEW BLOGS.
We have obtained the Thoughtful Animal, who will be doing some really cool Animal Cognition stuff. Sci is very pleased he decided to join Scienceblogs, his stuff is bound to be a really great addition!
And we have also obtained Alex Wild and Myrmecos (which always reminds Sci of Troy and Achilles and his Myrmidons), a very skilled photographer of all thing entomological (that's bugs). His photography is really fantastic, and he's going to bring some fantastic science! Who doesn't love BUGS?!
Make sure you check them both out!