The BP oil spill’s over right? Nothing more to see here… That certainly seems to be the mainstream narrative regarding one of the US’ largest environmental disasters (even as new reports of large oil slicks reappear). But while the well is capped, the Gulf of Mexico region will be feeling the effects of this disaster for years… and scientists and engineers will be studying the spill to see what went wrong.
For environmentalists, scientists, and even celebrities, the Amazon rainforest has served as a vivid symbol of ecological and social degradation created by rapid global development. Artists Lucy and Jorge Orta traveled Peru in 2009 to see this environment for themselves in 2009, as well as to assist scientists in data collection. Their experience with the region’s biodiversity inspired them (of course); the Natural History Museum in London commissioned them to work with this inspiration, and is now has the resulting work on display.
The 20th First Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony, which honors achievements that “first make people laugh, and then make them think,” was held Harvard University last Thursday. On hand to help honor the 2010 prize laureates was Dr. Elana Bodnar, last year’s winner of the Ig Nobel Public Health Prize for her Emergency Bra, a…
So I thought this is kind of crazy: this science writer submerges his hand into liquid nitrogen, which is something like -320 degree Fahrenheit. His hand emerges unharmed thanks to the Leidenfrost effect, which he explains here: I hadn’t realized that my hand was quite so deep into the liquid. Amazingly, I barely felt the…
Add this article to the “nerdy but cool” category: Two unexplored shafts originally discovered in the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza in 1872 will finally be accessed thanks to a small camera-equipped robot. Dubbed “The Djedi Project,” a robotics team at Leeds University is designing a “Tomb-bot” to drill through two limestone doors in…
Article: Ancient dildo dug up
We’ve come a long way, baby. Check out this penis-shaped….shall we call it a “tool”? It was just unearthed in Sweden during an archeological excavation by the country’s National Heritage Board. Carved out of antler bone and probably dating back to sometime between 4000 to 6000 B.C., the dildo-like object measures 4-inches long without much, um, girth (which makes sense since people were a lot smaller back then). The scientists aren’t saying definitively what it was used for, but we know what you’re thinking: it was probably a tool for chipping flint, or better yet, a back massager to relieve stress.
It’s not exactly breaking news that people lie like rugs in their online dating profiles. “Recent” photos are a couple years (at least) out of date; the weight someone lists is kind of like that pair of jeans they keep around, hoping they’ll fit again; and the height listed would probably be accurate if the person was standing on a box, like Tom Cruise in his wedding photos.
Recent studies show that the personality trait of perfectionism is linked to poor physical health and an increased risk of death — in particular when it’s what psychologists call “socially prescribed perfectionism,” i.e. where you feel like other people expect you to be perfect (as opposed to “self-oriented perfectionism,” when you impose the high standards on yourself — apparently not quite such a health risk). Then again, is it possible to completely separate what you think others expect of you and what you expect of yourself? Where does one end and the other begin?
Article: Dubious sex studies of the week
Okay, we know we’ve been guilty in the past of drumming up sex research into juicy, slightly misleading headlines. But we’re trying to be better people, we promise! (In our defense, who can possibly resist reporting on a study claiming that wearing socks leads to better sex?) In the meantime, here are some recent “scientific” headlines that gave us pause…
The headline: “Women Freeze Eggs to Wait for ‘Mr Right.’” The reality: This story is based on a study of fifteen women. Can you even call that a “study”? Sounds more like a girls’ night out gossip session to us.
The headline: “Shopping Is Bad for Men’s Fertility.” The reality: Trace amounts of BPA have been found in cash register receipts — and BPA is known to suppress male hormones in the body. Okay, yes, BPA is bad. But it’s bad for all of us — men, women, and especially children and babies. But “Licking Cash Register Receipts Bad for Babies” isn’t nearly as catching.
According to a new report in the journal Reproductive BioMedicine (what, you’re not a subscriber?), IVF conception could become routine for thirty-somethings within a decade. Buh-bye, baby-making sex, hello doctor! The report claims that IVF technology is advancing so quickly that soon it will be possible to produce embryos with almost a 100% success rate — and even horny 16-year-olds who are being stupid about birth control don’t have that kind of outcome. “Natural human reproduction is at best a fairly inefficient process,” says John Yovich, a co-author of the report. “Within the next five to ten years, couples approaching forty will access the IVF industry first when they want to have a baby.”
Article: Neill Blomkamp's TED talk
Neill Blomkamp, director of DISTRICT 9, gave an interesting talk at TED where he articulately provides a lucid overview on the possibility of extraterrestrial life that had my inner geek utterly swooning. Sparked by an interviewer’s question about whether he believed the aliens in his film accurately represented what he believed aliens looked like, he responded absolutely not. He explains that the film was an allegory for identity and racism, and not about science fiction. However, he is fascinated by the search for extraterrestrials and the science behind it. His talk reminds me of my own late night peregrinations on Wikipedia where one page can lead me down the geek rabbit hole, such as the rare earth hypothesis versus the principle of mediocrity theory, Type 1 and Type 2 civilizations (Earthlings are a type 0), Dyson spheres, the technological singularity, and why we haven’t seen evidence of other civilizations. Watch the talk and prepare for your mind to be blown.
Since the 19th century, scientists have been proving that marriage is good for your health. But as recent research has shown, it’s not as simple as tying the knot to ward off the Grim Reaper. It turns out that “it is the relationship, not the institution, that is key,” as marriage historian Stephanie Coontz tells the New York Times. Good marriages are good for your health; bad marriages, not so much. And even within happy, loving marriages, the way that you handle conflict can impact your health. In other words, you may be head over heels in love, but if you fight dirty, then you’re a cigarette habit to your partner’s heart. (Literally: One recent study showed that a stressful marriage can be as bad for the heart as a regular smoking habit.) Some other interesting tidbits from the NYT magazine article that nicely summarized the recent research in this field:
“Despite years of research suggesting that single people have poorer health than those who marry, a major study released last year concluded that single people who have never married have better health than those who married and then divorced.”
“Married people are less likely to get pneumonia, have surgery, develop cancer or have heart attacks. A group of Swedish researchers has found that being married or cohabiting at midlife is associated with a lower risk for dementia. A study of two dozen causes of death in the Netherlands found that in virtually every category, ranging from violent deaths like homicide and car accidents to certain forms of cancer, the unmarried were at far higher risk than the married.”
“The results [of a recent test] showed that the women in unhappy relationships and the women who remained emotionally hung up on their ex-husbands had decidedly weaker immune responses than the women who were in happier relationships (or were happily out of them).”
Article: Men are from Mars, blah, blah, blah…
Oh, isn’t it fun to talk about how men are from Mars and women are from Venus? It’s like we’re practically two different species! And once almighty “Science” comes down from on high and explains these differences as natural, well then you better suit up because the inter-galactic, inter-species war of the sexes is going to be fought for a loooong time. And so it is with neuropsychiatrist Louann Brizendine’s new book “The Male Brian: A Breakthrough Understanding of How Men and Boys Think,” her follow-up to her 2006 “The Female Brain.” It’s already on it’s way to best seller status (it’s number #150 on Amazon) — for this is the stuff talk shows are made of! Why, men are practically born to cheat!
photo by liz_noise
If you believe the screaming headlines this week, it turns out that after all these years — drumroll please — the G-spot does not exist! That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, the hunt is off! According to the U.K. Daily Telegraph, “Researchers at King’s College London claim there is no evidence for the existence of the G-spot – supposedly a cluster of internal nerve endings – beyond a woman’s imagination.” In other words, please put down your G-spotters and go home.
Except. Except. Except. Where to start?
Orgasm diagram by Daquella Manera
We’ll be the first to admit that “science” is a generous word to use when it comes to some of the sex research out there — and that if a sex study sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t kernels of truth to be found in even the flimsiest of surveys. So here are our top 10 new year’s resolutions inspired by the year in sex research.
Do more housework — both of you.
Do your homework and buy decent condoms.
Take up yoga.
Invest in a better mattress.
Article: The Known Universe
Watch this spectacular journey through the known universe created by the American Museum of Natural History with the Rubin Museum of Art, where this is being shown as part of an exhibit running through May 2010. Using data maintained by research astrophysicists, this mesmerizing video starting and expanding from the Himalayas, takes the viewer on…
Article: World's smallest snowman
This adorable snowman is only a wee 10 µm across or for comparison only 1/5th the width of a human hair and was created by brainiacs at National Physical Laboratory. For more background information watch this behind-the-scenes YouTube video that explains that “a nanomanipulation system was used to assemble the parts ‘by hand’ and platinum…
Photos via BeautifulAgony.com
When we first saw the headlines this past week about a woman who has 300 orgasms a day finally meeting the man of her dreams — i.e. a man who could keep up with her libido — we assumed the story would be about Marrena Lindberg, whom we interviewed last year for our U.K. TV show. Lindberg is the author of The Orgasmic Diet: A Revolutionary Plan to Lift Your Libido and Bring You to Orgasm and has persistent sexual arousal syndrome (PSAS), which means that she has hundreds of orgasms a day. Mind you, these aren’t dramatic, Meg Ryan-style orgasms — she demonstrated one for us during the interview (using a photo of Stephen Colbert as her “inspiration,” we shit you not) and after it was over, we had to ask, “Did it happen?” And yes, we were just as awkward as you might expect. Exactly where is the polite place to look when one’s interview subject is in the midst of an orgasm?
Article: How Consumer Reports tests condoms
Consumer Reports recently tested a whopping 15,000 condoms (bought by one dude!) representing 20 models. Alas, there was no actual-use testing done in the lab on the slab, just the boring scientific stuff: packaging examination, stretching, measuring, filling them with liquid to check for leaks, and inflating them with air to the size of 5-gallon…
Article: Happy birthday, Carl Sagan!
YouTube user “MelodySheep” gained attention recently for their brilliant auto-tune remixing entitled “A Glorious Dawn” of pioneering astronomer Carl Sagan lecturing, with an appearance by Stephen Hawking, on the magnificance of the universe in a manner that is both soothing and educational. There’s a new remix “We Are All Connected” that features yet more auto-tuned…
National Geographic released an amazing gigantic online infographic depicting our humankind’s exploration of space over the past 50 years. The geekier corners of the Internet, including this one (being a geek is a badge of honor, friends! Or at least that’s what I told myself while growing up) went predictably agog over this. There have…
Article: Mechanical tumor
Looking like something out a bio-mechanical experiment run amok, interactive media artist Mio I-zawa’s lifelike “mechanical tumor” is one of the more grotesque things I’ve seen. The pulsating tumor, “equipped with a series of motors and pneumatic actuators” responds accordingly to the stress experienced by the computer to which it is connected. View the must-watch…
Article: They Might Be Giants teach science
Science class is in session with Grammy award winning band They Might Be Giants as they teach the periodic table elements in this animated music video for “Meet the Elements” which debuted on Boing Boing. This song is from their new album Here Comes Science, which is aimed at entertaining and educating (or “edumataining”) children…
Article: Body Worlds is going XXX
When last we mentioned Body Worlds, the international exhibition of skinless cadavers with their muscles, nerves, and tendons intact displayed in various theatrical poses, people were in a huff over one pair of corpses caught in flagrante delicto (specifically, in the Reverse Cowgirl position). Well, we’re assuming since there’s no such thing as bad publicity,…
Article: MRI sex
Improbable Research is an organization which collects (and sometimes conducts) improbable research (i.e. “research that makes people laugh and then think”), publishes a magazine called the Annals of Improbable Research, and administers the Ig Nobel Prizes. These mock Nobels are held once a year in a fun, goofy ceremony to honor the most unusual recent…