Archive for: January, 2012

Word of the Week: Briffit

Jan 15 2012 Published by under Word of the Week

I would like to start something new on the blog, the Word of the Week! Even though I try very hard to keep my blog posts readable for people without much science background, it's really hard to not use big words. Or acronyms. Or a bunch of other things. Usually I explain them or link to Wikipedia or something else with a credible definition, but I think I'd like to make my own. Some will be serious, and some will be silly, some will be sciencey and some will not, but they will all be there for you to see, and will also be useful for linking to when I want to mean what I MEAN, in the context that I mean it, as opposed to the context in which Wikipedia may mean it. This sounds kind of odd, but when you're talking about some of the words used in neuroscience ("reward", "reinforcement", "bias", "opiate"), you need to talk about the specific neuroscientific context, without any of the possible others.

And then of course, some words are just FUN.

So we begin with today's word, which is...Briffit.

A briffit is the cloud of dust which hangs in the air behind a swiftly departing object or person.

Eat my briffits. 🙂

2 responses so far

Friday Weird Science: Is that ostrich flirting with me?

Jan 13 2012 Published by under Friday Weird Science, Uncategorized

So I don't know about you, but I have the WORST time getting my ostriches to get it on. I tried romantic lighting, mood music, hot tubs. But it turns out I was after all the wrong things. It turns out that ostriches...want me for ME.

Bubier et al. "Courtship behaviour of ostriches ( Struthio camelus ) towards humans under farming conditions in Britain" British Poultry Science, 2010.

(Hey there, hot stuff. Source)

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9 responses so far

At SciAm today: should you paleolithic diet allow tuna?

Jan 11 2012 Published by under Evolution

Today I'm at SciAm. I am NOT in fact talking about Paleolithic diets. What I AM talking about is tuna. Fished by people 42,000 years ago! I'll go over the evidence and why it might be surprising (hint, no fish hooks). Go over and check it out!

3 responses so far

Papers, reading papers here!

Jan 10 2012 Published by under Academia

I've noticed something about young people in science (and maybe this translates well to older people in science, too).

We lie like rugs.

Not big things like your name, your birthdate, you scientific findings. No no. Little lies. Things like "yeah, I totally work at least 2 hours every night when I get home". Honey, I see you there on Twitter. You keep using the word "Work". I do not think it means what you think it means. I mean, I don't doubt that you SOMETIMES put in work in the evenings. Heck, maybe you do it a lot. But is it always two hours or more? I hear people say they put in four. And if you're here 8-6, and you've got young kids, AND you're telling me you work an extra four hours every night? I'll be honest I don't believe you. (I'm not saying it's BAD that you don't work an extra four hours. I personally think you shouldn't. I think you should go home, clear your mind, and spend time with your kids and your significant other. If you don't have kids or others I think you should spend time with your friends, family, or dog.) But from what many of my colleagues tell me, you'd think they all spend their full lives reading papers at the gym, while family dinners are reserved for grant writing. They write papers with one hand while teaching their kids elementary french with the other and using their recently surgically attached third arm to make nutritious meals. Sleep? Who needs it? If this is indeed what they are all doing every minute of their lives...I'm screwed for science. Screwed.

But I'm pretty sure they're lying.

I know why we tell each other these lies. We tell them to each other because we want to show how dedicated we are. We want to prove that we're "cut out" to be in science, etc, etc.

But the lies and why we tell them are not what I'm interested in today. What I'm interested in...are PAPERS.

How many papers do you read? From the piles on people's desks (still 'to read'? Or 'have read'?) you'd think we churned through 20 papers a day. And from what people SAY when asked, well you'd think that, too. "Oh yes, I read the entirety of Science every time it comes out. I know it's not relevant to my work in pharmacology, but astronomy can be so instructive, don't you know?" I have to say I never believe anyone who tells me this (and people HAVE ACTUALLY TOLD ME THIS). Never. I'll believe you skimmed all the TITLES of all the papers, sure. But do I really believe that you read both "Voyager Measurements of Hydrogen Lyman-α Diffuse Emission from the Milky Way" and "Graphitic Tribological Layers in Metal-on-Metal Hip Replacements" with the same rapt attention, when your field focuses only on "Mouse B-Type Lamins Are Required for Proper Organogenesis But Not by Embryonic Stem Cells"?!?! I'll be honest, I think you're lying.

So I want to know the truth. How many papers would you say you read, on average, per week? I know this can vary drastically, some weeks I know I'm at the bench the whole time, while others it's all reading and writing. But average it out. How many do you read? 5? 10? 50? More or less? Do you feel you read "enough"? Do you feel you read less or more than other people of your professional group?

Let's have a survey, shall we?

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

EDIT: Ok, define "reading". By "read" I mean, read abstract, look at all the figures, glance at discussion, and be able to discuss if necessary with more than a "Oh yes, so and so et all saw increases in the whatchamacallit in the blah de blah". Being able to discuss both merits and flaws.

31 responses so far

At Sci Am today: Deep Brain Stimulation for Depression!

Jan 09 2012 Published by under CNS Diseases and Disorders

Sci is at Sci Am Blogs today, talking about deep brain stimulation as a treatment for depression, where they stimulate, and whether it's a miracle cure, or just another method of treatment. Head over and check it out!

One response so far

Friday Weird Science: Can you shave off your smell for an attractive armpit?

Jan 06 2012 Published by under Friday Weird Science, Uncategorized

Apparently more men are shaving their armpits. Apparently this is a "thing". If it is a "thing", I really hope it wasn't brought into fashion by these guys:

(You SHOW those shaved pits there, honey)

Anyway, the question becomes...why shave your pits. It might interest you to know that humans have a relatively high amount of pit hair compared to other primates. We're mostly hairless, but we've got more hair there. Naturally, scientists start wondering why (you know you're a scientist when you look at that picture up there and think to yourself "hmmm...why does he shave his pits? What EFFECT does that have? I should test this..."). And scientists start thinking of smell.

Smell (in this case the scientists call it 'chemical ecology') has become a big thing recently in studies of humans. Do we smell only what we consciously smell? If not, what DO we smell? And WHY? Do we sense "phermones"? Studies of male sweat and women sniffing it and studies of female strippers in the luteal phase have abounded. And the current answer appears to be...we don't know. There are no yet identified chemicals that could count as phermones. Studies of women sniffing men's sweat have shown effects in what they prefer, but is that only a function of menstrual cycle, or is it a function of something they're smelling? Whatever it is, we don't know what we're smelling.

But we do know we have a lot of armpit hair. And one of the things hair does is trap odorants (doesn't your hair smell nice with all that new shampoo?). And if you've got hair in your pits...well you're going to trap odorants from your pits. And if you DON'T have hair in your pits...well what happens then!? Scientific minds want to know.

Not only that, they want to compare it to the smell of a beaver's butt.

Kohoutova et al. "Shaving of axillary hair has only a transient effect on perceived body odor pleasantness" Behavior, Ecology, and Sociobiology, 2011.

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9 responses so far

What's your Geek Quest?

Jan 05 2012 Published by under Synaptic Misfires

I know, it's already 2012 and the time for memes is past. But I've never been one for doing things in the normal course of things. 🙂

I saw this post over at Neurodojo, by the intelligent and handsome Dr. Zen. In it, Dr. Zen went during the recent SfN 2011 meeting to fulfill his lifelong Geek Quest: to see the original model of the Star Trek Enterprise (I've seen it myself. It's well worth it!). He videoblogged his efforts and I had to ask the Tweeps: WHAT is your GEEKQUEST?

View the story "What's Your #geekquest?" on Storify]

Others I saw (that didn't end up with the hashtag) included Blake Stacey wanting to write his own cartoon theme song (I want to help!) and things from great white shark riding to digging up your own fossil.

For me, it's simple. Sci would like to dig up her own trilobite. And then I would make it into a necklace. 🙂 It's small, I know, but I really want to do it. Other geekquests? Well, wouldn't we all like to publish in a REALLY badass journal. Other, non-science related geekquests of mine include hiking Hadrian's Wall, writing my own historical romance novel, and going to Dragon*Con!

And I want to know. What is/are your GeekQuests? Don't be shy! Do you want to meet Patrick Stewart? Your favorite author? Maybe sequence your own DNA? Now is the time to share! What's your GeekQuest?

6 responses so far

Sad lonely lady rats may really eat their feelings

Jan 04 2012 Published by under Behavioral Neuro

Today we have a study on sad lonely lady rats. And why? Because it's about time we paid attention to the ladies. The vast majority of studies on anything other than reproduction get done in males. Males are thought to be "easier" (you don't have to track the menstrual cycle), and besides, what we find in males should translate to females right? If it's not reproduction, it should be the same, right?

Very wrong. We are finding out more and more that studies in males do NOT translate to females, and that this can have some very drastic consequences for human health.

So let's talk about models of psychiatric disorders in rats. Girl rats. Because it's about time females got some studies of their own. And we're going to do it using lots of pictures. Because a picture is worth 1,000 words. And rats are awfully cute.

Jahng et al. "Hyperphagia and depression-like behavior by adolescence social isolation in female rats" international Journal of Developmental Neuroscience, 2011.

Continue Reading »

17 responses so far

Things you may have missed!

Jan 03 2012 Published by under Blog Carnivals

Happy New Year and welcome to another wild and weird year at Neurotic Physiology! I make no New Year's Resolutions (except those involving eating more bacon, but do I need to make a RESOLUTION for that per se?), but I did want to let you all know what you may have missed!

First and foremost, the amazing Bug Girl came on to my blog to guest post for Friday Weird Science! She took on a post about cockroach sex phermones and woodpeckers (yes, really), to help poor Sci, who's Katsaridaphobia is so bad she couldn't look at the press release.

And Sci herself took on one of the research studies highlighted in Senator Tom Coburn's "Wastebook", on cocaine and the sexual behavior of QUAIL. I think this study is important and useful, and I'll tell you why. And Bora did his own take on the study, talking about why quail in particular is a well used model.

And now it's back to your regular daily science diet! Happy New Year!

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At SciAm Today: walking and running and muscle efficiency

Jan 02 2012 Published by under Physiology/Pharmacology

Sci is at Sci Am Blogs today, talking about a new paper on locomotor efficiency. We're some pretty efficient walkers and runners at specific paces. But what does that mean for our individual muscles? Find out and check it out!

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