Tag Archives | experiments

Fecal Transplants Let Packrats Eat Poison

Neotoma_cinerea_(bushy_tailed_woodrat)

Bushy tailed North American woodrat.

Eating shit could literally save your life!*

Via ScienceDaily:

Woodrats lost their ability to eat toxic creosote bushes after antibiotics killed their gut microbes. Woodrats that never ate the plants were able to do so after receiving fecal transplants with microbes from creosote-eaters, University of Utah biologists found.

The new study confirms what biologists long have suspected: bacteria in the gut — and not just liver enzymes — are “crucial in allowing herbivores to feed on toxic plants,” says biologist Kevin Kohl, a postdoctoral researcher and first author of the paper published online today in the journal Ecology Letters.

The study of woodrats, also known as packrats, raises two concerns, according to Kohl and the study’s senior author, Denise Dearing, a professor and chair of biology:

  1. Endangered species may lose diversity of their gut microbes when they are bred in captivity. When they are released to the wild, does that leave them unable to consume toxic plants that once were on their menu?
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Forget Privacy: By 2025 There Will Only Be The Watchers And The Watched

PIC: Fuma Ren (CC)

PIC: Fuma Ren (CC)

The good news: In the era of the Internet of Things your appliances may actually listen to you when you curse at them. The bad: So will an elite class of professional “watchers” intent on monitoring your every move and possibly subjecting you to experiments in data mining and surveillance.

A new report from the Pew Research Center Internet Project and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center looks further ahead to 2025, and asks how things will have moved on by then. Its conclusions–summarized below–are based on responses from 2,551 people, both Internet “experts” and members of the public.

1: THE INTERNET OF THINGS WILL BE FULL OF THINGS

By 2025, people will have sensors implanted in their bodies. Dams and bridges will send maintenance data to engineers. Paper towel dispensers will bleep attendants when they need refilling. Fridges will automatically buy milk when the carton runs empty.

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Study Shows Children Can Be Better Than Adults at Figuring Out New Gadgets

Yasmin Anwar at UC Berkeley:

Preschoolers can be smarter than college students at figuring out how unusual toys and gadgets work because they’re more flexible and less biased than adults in their ideas about cause and effect, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Edinburgh.

The findings suggest that technology and innovation can benefit from the exploratory learning and probabilistic reasoning skills that come naturally to young children, many of whom are learning to use smartphones even before they can tie their shoelaces. The findings also build upon the researchers’ efforts to use children’s cognitive smarts to teach machines to learn in more human ways.

“As far as we know, this is the first study examining whether children can learn abstract cause and effect relationships, and comparing them to adults,” said UC Berkeley developmental psychologist Alison Gopnik, senior author of the paper published online in the journal, Cognition.

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Study Suggests Marijuana Could Prevent The Spread Of HIV

HIV-budding-ColorShould weed be part of AIDS prevention? Daily marijuana use by the HIV-positive could block them from infecting others, the Daily Beast reports:

The study itself was fairly simple. For 17 months, Dr. Molina and her team at Louisiana State University administered a high concentration of THC to 4-to-6-year-old male rhesus monkeys who were RIV-positive (a virus in chimps similar to HIV), twice daily. An examination of the tissue in their intestines before and after the chronic THC exposure revealed dramatic decreases in immune tissue damage in the stomach and a significant increase in the numbers of normal cells.

During HIV infection, one of the earliest effects is that the virus spreads rapidly throughout the body and kills a significant part of cells in the gut and intestine. This activity damages the gut in a way that allows the HIV to leak through the cell wall of the intestines and into the bloodstream.

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An App To Make Your Smartphone Sense Collective Consciousness

collective consciousnessBased on the controversial idea that spikes in mass consciousness can influence seemingly chaotic phenomena, the Collective Consciousness app turns users' phones into random number generators and then pings you at times when spooky, anomalous patterns emerge in your area:
Collective Consciousness is a free mobile app. Data will be collected in formal investigations into "collective consciousness" effects. In the simplest sense, labs have produced good evidence that conscious intention or attention can influence probabilistic physical systems, such as random number generators (RNGs). The Global Consciousness Project [at Princeton University] has also shown that RNGs spread around the world produce statistical anomalies (unexplained coherence) when global events synchronize the attention and emotions of millions of people. Recent examples include the death of Nelson Mandela, and the attacks of 9/11.
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Walking Through A Doorway Makes You Forget

doorwayPassing across a real or virtual threshold erases some of your memories, Scientific American writes:

This “doorway effect” appears to be quite general. It doesn’t seem to matter, for instance, whether the virtual environments are displayed on a 66” flat screen or a 17” CRT. In one study, Radvansky and his colleagues at Notre Dame tested the doorway effect in real rooms in their lab. Sure enough, memory was worse after passing through a doorway than after walking the same distance within a single room.

The doorway effect suggests that there’s more to the remembering than just what you paid attention to, when it happened, and how hard you tried. Radvansky and colleagues propose that walking through a doorway is a good time to purge your “event models” because whatever happened in the old room is likely to become less relevant now that you have changed venues.

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Study Suggests Mediumship May Be A Distinct Mental State

seanceAttempting to contact the dead puts people into a unique mental state, the Daily Grail reports:

A new study co-authored by Dean Radin and Julie Beischel has found that electrocortical activity during mediumistic ‘communication’ is distinctly different than during other contemplative moments such as thinking about living or imaginary people.

The research was done to explore two questions: possible correlations between the accuracy of mediums’ statements and the electrical activity in their brain; and the differences in mediums’ brain activity when they intentionally evoked four different subjective states.

To do so, the researchers collected psychometric and brain electrophysiology data from “six individuals who had previously reported accurate information about deceased individuals under double-blind conditions” (ie. mediums).

The researchers conclude[d] that the differences in electrocortical activity “suggest that the impression of communicating with the deceased may be a distinct mental state distinct from ordinary thinking or imagination”.

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Study Suggests That Fast Food Logos Weaken Our Ability To Experience Simple Joys

mcdonaldsdisasterVia the Raw Story, a study suggests that corporate values have so reshaped our thinking and behavior that merely seeing a fast food symbol renders us less able to derive joy from nature scenes and music:

Focus on time efficiency could be making the small things in life harder to enjoy. The research, published online in Social Psychological and Personality Science, found people exposed to fast-food symbols were less likely to find pleasure in beautiful pictures and music. The research also found those living in neighborhoods with a higher concentration of fast-food restaurants were less likely to savor pleasurable experiences.

House and his colleagues decided to examine fast food — and McDonald’s in particular — because it “has arguably become the ultimate symbol of time efficiency.”

In their first analysis, which included 280 participants from the United States, the researchers found greater fast-food concentration in one’s neighborhood was associated with reduced savoring of emotional responses to enjoyable experiences.

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How To Read And Comprehend A Scientific Paper

scientific paperFind primary research literature baffling? Violent Metaphors has step-by-step instructions on how to cut through the jargon and interpret experimental scientific findings for yourself:

Before you begin reading, take note of the authors and their institutional affiliations. Some institutions (e.g. University of Texas) are well-respected; others (e.g. the “Discovery Institute”) are actually agenda-driven.

As you read, write down every single word that you don’t understand. You’re going to have to look them all up.

Begin by reading the introduction, not the abstract.

Identify the BIG QUESTION. Not “What is this paper about”, but “What problem is this entire field trying to solve?”

Identify the SPECIFIC QUESTION(S) What exactly are the authors trying to answer with their research? What are the authors going to do to answer the SPECIFIC QUESTION(S)?

Now read the methods section. Draw a diagram for each experiment, showing exactly what the authors did. Include as much detail as you need to fully understand the work.

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The Nazis’ Bizarre Plan To Breed Giant Angora Rabbits

angora rabbitsSecret Nazi pets, as revealed by the Daily Mail:

A bizarre Nazi plan to breed giant Angora rabbits in concentration camps to provide fur-lined clothing for Hitler’s armed forces has been unearthed in a German archive.

‘Operation Munchkin’, as it was known, was the brainchild of sinister S.S. chief Heinrich Himmler who was had a career as a trained chicken farmer before he became the architect of the Holocaust.

He ordered a breeding programme for the rabbits and specified that they were to be raised in luxury just yards away from the where crimes against humanity was taking place.

The plans were detailed the ‘Angora book’ which was discovered hidden at Himmler’s home on the fringes of the Tegernsee lake in Bavaria in 1945. A chart in his book counted 6,500 rabbits by the end of 1941 and 25,000 by 1943.

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