Archive for 'News about research'

Pithy thesis summaries, by truthful thesis authors

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Laugh, if you will, at these pithy summaries, in plain language, of academic theses. Who wrote the summaries? The people who wrote the theses — each summarizing their own work. It’s all on the web site

(Thanks to Ivan Oransky for bringing this to our attention.)


Marijuana improves night vision of tadpoles, study suggests

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Marijuana improves night vision of tadpoles, suggests a newly published study: “Endocannabinoid signaling enhances visual responses through modulation of intracellular chloride levels in retinal ganglion cells,” Loïs S Miraucourt, Jennifer Tsui, Delphine Gobert, Jean-François Desjardins, Anne Schohl, Mari Sild, Perry Spratt, Annie Castonguay, Yves De Koninck, Nicholas Marsh-Armstrong, Paul W Wiseman, and Edward S Ruthazer, eLife, 2016;5:e15932.

The authors, at McGill University, Canada; University of La Verne, United States; University of California, San Francisco, United States; Université Laval, Canada; Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, United States; Kennedy Krieger Institute, United States, report:


“Type 1 cannabinoid receptors (CB1Rs) are widely expressed in the vertebrate retina, but the role of endocannabinoids in vision is not fully understood. Here, we identified a novel mechanism underlying a CB1R-mediated increase in retinal ganglion cell (RGC) intrinsic excitability acting through AMPK-dependent inhibition of NKCC1 activity. Clomeleon imaging and patch clamp recordings revealed that inhibition of NKCC1 downstream of CB1R activation reduces intracellular Cl− levels in RGCs, hyperpolarizing the resting membrane potential. We confirmed that such hyperpolarization enhances RGC action potential firing in response to subsequent depolarization, consistent with the increased intrinsic excitability of RGCs observed with CB1R activation. Using a dot avoidance assay in freely swimming Xenopus tadpoles, we demonstrate that CB1R activation markedly improves visual contrast sensitivity under low-light conditions.”

Charlie Fidelman provides further details, in the Montreal Gazette, under the headline “Pot improves night vision — in tadpoles, study finds“.

(Thanks to Christie Rowe for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS (Distantly related): The 2000 Ig Nobel Prize for biology was awarded to Richard Wassersug of Dalhousie University (now at U British Columbia) for his first-hand report, “On the Comparative Palatability of Some Dry-Season Tadpoles from Costa Rica.” [Published in The American Midland Naturalist, vol. 86, no. 1, July 1971, pp. 101-9.]


Smelly people in the office [podcast #78]

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

Smelly people in the smelly workplace — that’s the dilemma and joy of this week’s Improbable Research podcast.

SUBSCRIBE on, iTunes, or Spotify to get a new episode every week, free.

This week, Marc Abrahams  — with dramatic readings by FYFD fluid dynamicist Nicole Sharp — tells about:riach


The mysterious John Schedler or the shadowy Bruce Petschek perhaps did the sound engineering this week.

The Improbable Research podcast is all about research that makes people LAUGH, then THINK — real research, about anything and everything, from everywhere —research that may be good or bad, important or trivial, valuable or worthless. CBS distributes it, on the CBS web site, and on iTunes and Spotify).

Six familiar (to many people) paradoxes

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

Six paradoxes, each presented in one minute, animated by philosophers and their friends at The Open University:

(Thanks to investigator Vern Illy for bringing this to our attention.)

Tallying Satan: The Count Reaches 134 (or 129.2)

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

Can one ever count on Satan and be sure that the count is accurate? A new tally has just been announced. Details are in this study:

s200_tom.farrarDiabolical Data: A Critical Inventory of New Testament Satanology,” Thomas J. Farrar [pictured here] and Guy J. Williams, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, vol. 39, no. 1, September 2016, pp. 40-71.  The authors, based at Cape Peninsula University of Technology, South Africa, King’s Evangelical Divinity School, UK, and Wellington College, UK, explain:

“This study counts references to Satan in the NT, by any designation. First, all candidate texts are surveyed. These include occurrences of the words σατανᾶς and διάβολος (with and without the article) and 30 other terms which potentially refer to Satan, descriptively or allegorically. Having laid ground rules for counting potential references in close proximity, candidate texts in which the referent is uncertain are analysed exegetically to decide whether they do refer to Satan. These include texts in which σατανᾶς or διάβολος occurs without the article and texts in which neither σατανᾶς nor διάβολος occurs. Through exegesis, a final count of 137 references to Satan in the NT is obtained. An alternative, probability-weighted approach estimates the number at 129.2. In either case, the total is strikingly greater than a simple summation of instances of σατανᾶς and διάβολος.”

(Thanks to Dan Vergano for bringing this to our attention.)