VIEW HEADLINES ONLY

Comparing Preferences for Pain or Gain

A group of researchers published in the Journal of Political Economy introduced the idea economic loss and gain incentives are innate, not learned.  To demonstrate this concept, the researchers presented capuchin monkeys two opportunities leading to two different outcomes for the monkey: pain or gain.  The capuchin monkeys had a tendency to choose the opportunity […]

Can We Not Perform Similar Functions?

Researchers from King’s College London claim their data evidences the “Human [thyroid] gland probably evolved from gills.”1  According to speculation, gills were internalized as the thyroid gland when marine life evolved into land animals.  The possibility for this comes from the similar functions of gills and of the gland: both act as calcium level controls.  […]

No Pain, No Gain Explained: Lactic Acid Supercharges Your Engines

The old paradigm: lactic acid buildup during exercise is like poison to your muscles, producing stiffness and agony.  The new paradigm: lactic acid is your friend, a fuel additive that helps keep your mitochondrial motors in top-notch condition.  Read all about it in a press release from UC Berkeley. What are you waiting for?  It’s […]

Misfolded Proteins Cause Cascade of Harmful Effects

Understanding how proteins fold is at the leading edge of scientific research.  Proteins begin as linear chains of amino acids (polypeptides), but end as complex shapes with loops, sheets, bumps, ridges and grooves that are essential to their functions.  If you imagine a string of beads, some with electrical charges, magnets, oil droplets or other […]

In Praise of Fat

Well, great balls of fat.  Cells have spherical globs of lipid (fat) molecules that never had gotten much attention nor respect.  They have been called lipid droplets, oil bodies, fat globules and other names suggesting they were just the beer bellies of the cell.  Not any more.  Scientists have been taking a closer look at […]

Why You Have Snail Shells in Your Ears

The inner ear has a part, the cochlea, that resembles a snail shell.  Why is that?  First, let’s talk about iPods and stereos.  In recent years, manufacturers have hyped “mega-bass” and other buzzwords that boast about how their devices beef up the bass frequency for that sound that rocks.  Scientists have wondered if the cochlea […]

Of Talking Trees and Plant Perfumes

It’s not just Middle Earth where the trees talk.  The forests of Regular Earth have a language, too: a chemical language called the “invisible bouquet” by Pamela J. Hines, introducing a special series of articles on plant communication in Science.1  Of the thousands of different metabolites that plants can produce, many form a cloud around […]

Space Travel Too Hazardous for Humans

Astronomy magazine’s March 2006 issue contains a couple of sobering articles for those who like to dream of humans mastering the universe.  Asking “Will moon dust stop NASA?”, Trudy E. Bell described the dangers of space dust: “it sticks to spacesuits, wreaks havoc on equipment, and may be physically harmful,” she wrote, citing the experiences […]

Where Did Humans Learn Geometry?

In Plato’s dialogue Meno, Socrates illustrated his view that certain foundations of knowledge are innate rather than learned.1  He took an untutored slave boy and, with a series of sketches in the sand, got the boy to deduce the Pythagorean Theorem by his own reasoning (see Encarta).     In a modern version, Harvard scientists […]

Why Your Brain Has Gray Matter, and Why You Should Use It

Vertebrate brains have an outer layer of “gray matter” over the inner “white matter.”  Why is this?  “By borrowing mathematical tools from theoretical physics,” a press release from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory announced, two researchers found out. Based on no fewer than 62 mathematical equations and expressions, the theory provides a possible explanation for the […]

These Feet Were Made for Walking (and Running)

We usually walk or run.  When walking, we roll from heel to arch to toe and rock our arms back and forth.  When running, we bounce up and down slightly while pumping our arms.  Did you know that many other gaits are possible?  Why do we use only two?  A team of specialists in bio-robotics […]

Health Depends on Robust Cell Machinery

When we think of health, we typically visualize the big things: firm muscles, energy, lack of a protruding stomach and the like.  Cell biology, though, is showing us how our health depends on the proper functioning of countless myriads of molecular machines.  Here are some recent samples from the science journals: Heroic Underdogs in the […]

Abortion Pill Can Kill

An ugly secret has come out of the abortion drug mifepristone known as RU486.  It can kill normal, healthy women, and its approval by the FDA involved procedural violations that overlooked known safety concerns at the time.  Source: Annals of Pharmacotherapy news release (see also EurekAlert).  The research paper by Margaret M. Gary, MD and […]

Health from Unlikely Sources: Poison and Scum

“Everything in moderation,” health professionals remind us during the holidays.  Some things, however, none of us would have wanted at all – till scientists found there was treasure in them.     Botulinum toxin (botox), for instance, is one of the deadliest of biological poisons, but by now everyone knows it is being put to […]

Stem Cell Achievement a Possible Fraud

South Korean stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang has reason for stress and fatigue, as news reports show him escorted by bodyguards on the way to the office.  His landmark paper in Science1 last July that announced the creation of stem cells matching the donor’s DNA (05/23/2005) has been called into question on two fronts.  […]
All Posts by Date