Archive for 'Research News'

Reindeer nasal glow: update

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Many years, around Christmas, bright new explanations appear as to why reindeer noses might glow.”Glow” is a word from the song “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” but the general discussion centers on the possible redness—be it glowing or be it subdued, be it observed or be it imagined—of a reindeer’s nose.

A new article in the Dutch biology research journal Deinsea furthers the quest. It takes flight from a study published in 2012 in the same journal. (We discussed that 2012 thesis here, under the headline “Physiology: Why Rudolph’s Nose is Red.”)

The new study is: “Rudolph the red nosed reindeer had a very bioluminescent nose. A reply to van der Hoven et al. 2012,” Neil Crooks, Claire E. Marriott, Hannah R. Clifforth, Zain A. Ahmed, Arnold Xhikola, Samuel G. Penny, and Angelo P. Pernetta, Deinsea, 17, 2017, pp. 39-42. The authors, at the University of Brighton, UK, explain:

Research published in Deinsea by van der Hoven et al. (2012) identifies the cause of Rudolph’s infamous red nose to be the consequence of hyperemia of the nasal mucosa induced by the exertion of pulling a heavy load. Van der Hoven et al. (2012) claim that the excessive stresses endured whilst flying with Santa Claus and the sleigh in tow resulted in cerebral and bodily hyperthermia, overworking the nasal cooling system, causing the nose to glow. Whilst we recognise van der Hoven et al.’s (2012) central tenet of highly vascularized nasal mucosa in reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) helping regulate nasal heat exchange, we concluded that this is unlikely to be the causal factor of Rudolph’s particularly iridescent appendage for multiple reasons, detailed below.”

Here is a photoshopped image of a reindeer nose that is on display in the natural history museum in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. (The museum publishes the research journal Deinsea). Below the photo is a video of a person performing the song “Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer.”

BONUS: Alternative Rudolph’s-red-nose theories appear, like the reindeer of childrens’ desire, whenever humanity needs or wants them. One alternative involves flies that get up a reindeer’s nose. The history of that idea is explored in an article in Wired magazine: “Reindeer Bot Flies Are Not Particularly Festive.”

 

 

Drug-Associated Spontaneous Orgasm (DASO): Problem, or Opportunity?

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Pharmaceutical companies might experience spontaneous fiscal arousal upon reading a new medical study about drugs that may cause spontaneous orgasms. The study is:

Drug-Associated Spontaneous Orgasm: A Case Report and Systematic Review of Literature,” Wei-Hsi Chen, Yuan-Hsiang Chu, and Kuo-Yen Chen, Clinical Neuropharmacology, epub 2017. The authors, at Shu-Te University and Chang Gung University, Taiwan, explain:

We report a male patient of repetitive spontaneous orgasm under trazodone treatment and systematically review the literature on drug-associated spontaneous orgasm (DASO)…. A total of 25 patients (18 women and 7 men), including our reported case, experienced 27 DASO events…. A reduction of dose or discontinuation of the offending drug usually abolished DASO….

Sex and age seem to have no influence on occurrence of DASO events….

Index drugs induced SPONO [spontaneous orgasm] but did not change the quality of the classical orgasm….

There is an equal likelihood that SPONO will occur within 7 days or between 8 days and 1 month after drug use regardless of drug type. An immediate reaction following drug administration is rare.

Smart investors can be on the listen for mention of the suddenly-chic phrases “DASO” and “SPONO”, at cocktail parties where pharma executives roam.

Marc Gozlan wrote an appreciation of this new research, in the Réalités Biomédicales blog in Le Monde: “Ces médicaments qui déclenchent des orgasmes spontanés.”

Sound Pressures Generated by Exploding Eggs

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

The claims made in lawsuits – and the need to verify or disprove them – sometimes spark interesting research. The Acoustical Society of America’s Fall 2017 meeting included a report titled, “Sound pressures generated by exploding eggs”.

photo by D. Kessler

  Some eggs and some safety gear
  (photo by D. Kessler)

Investigators Anthony Nash and Lauren von Blohn began this research thanks to a lawsuit: A restaurant had hard-boiled an egg and then re-heated it in a microwave before serving it. When the customer bit into the egg, it exploded with enough force and heat to cause burns and, importantly for this research, possible hearing loss.

The court could not find data on whether an exploding egg might cause hearing loss, so it contacted acoustical consulting firm, Charles M. Salter Associates, where Nash and von Blohn began their research:

“An acoustical investigation was conducted using nearly 100 eggs that were re-heated under controlled conditions in a calibrated microwave oven. About a third of the re-heated, boiled eggs exploded outside the oven. For those eggs that did explode, their peak sound pressure levels ranged from 86 up to 133 decibels at a distance of 300 millimeters. The paper will describe the test protocols and discuss the results.”

Decibel Chart courtesy of dangerousdecibels.org

dB chart from dangerousdecibels.org (does not mention eggs)

Most claims of hearing damage come from noise experienced over a sustained period of time – longer than the milliseconds of an egg explosion – but in this case, the offending egg was considerably closer than 300 millimeters away when it exploded. Nash and von Blohn began a second round of research to study the possible effects of an “in-mouth explosion”.

The lawsuit was settled out of court, but the research it sparked remains for any future court cases.

(Thanks to D. Grodzins for bringing this article to our attention.)

HEARING BONUS: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have articles on the sonic dangers of Vuvuzelas and also of being a NASCAR driver or pit crew member. The CDC has declared October to be National Protect Your Hearing Month.

EGG BONUS: Cooked egg-white is white because the heat has changed how its proteins are folded. The 2015 Ig Nobel Prize for Chemistry was awarded for inventing a chemical recipe to partially un-boil an egg.

COURTROOM BONUS: Another example of a lawsuit whose premise required original research received the 2009 Ig Nobel Prize for investigating whether it is better to be smashed over the head with a full bottle of beer or with an empty bottle.

A demonstration of the phenomenon

Data Communications via Wet String, or via Hungry Snail

Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

A wet string works, for sending information from one computer to another, says a new experiment. This adds to the list of low-tech ways to move data, the most lively method involving a hungry snail.

The string experiment is reported on the RevK’s Rants web site, with the headline “It’s official, ADSL works over wet string“:


Broadband services are a wonderful innovation of our time, using multiple frequency bands (hence the name) to carry signals over wires (usually copper, sometimes aluminium). One of the key aspects of the technology is its ability to adapt to the length and characteristics of the line on which it is deployed.

We have seen faults on broadband circuits that manifest as the system adapting to much lower speeds, this is a key factor as a service can work, but unusually slowly, over very bad lines.

It has always been said that ADSL will work over a bit of wet string. Well one of our techies (www.aa.net.uk) took it upon himself to try it today at the office, and well done. He got some proper string, and made it wet….

The snail breakthrough was reported here, in the Annals of Improbable Research, in 2005 (volume 11, no. 4), with the headline “Sluggish Data Transport Is Faster Than ADSL“:

We describe an experiment in which a Giant African Snail, acting as a data transfer agent, exceeded all known “last mile” communications technologies in terms of bit-per-second performance, adding to the many paradoxes of broadband communications.1 We discuss the unique motivational and guidance systems necessary to facilitate snail-based data transport, and observe with satisfaction that in a society that worships the fittest, fastest, and furtherest, the meek and the slow can….

(Thanks to Dominic Dunlop for bringing the wet string experiment to our attention.)

“Egg unboiling machine enables graphene battery development”

Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

Egg unboiling machine enables graphene battery development,” is the headline in Mining Weekly. The article itself says:

The Australian researchers who successfully unboiled an egg are turning their attention to capturing the energy of graphene oxide to make a more efficient alternative to lithium-ion batteries.

The Flinders University team in South Australia has partnered with Swinburne University of Technology in Victoria, ASX-listed First Graphene and manufacturer Kremford….

In 2015, Flinders University scientists were awarded an Ig Nobel Award for creating the Vortex Fluidic Device (VFD) and using it to unboil an egg. The device has also been used to accurately slice carbon nanotubes to an average length of 170 nanometres using only water, a solvent and a laser. It has also been used to process graphene to a high quality for commercial use.

The basic egg-unboiling technology is being used for many, seemingly unrelated things. Among those is the quick inexpensive production of drugs that were otherwise slow and expensive to produce.

Graphene is much in the news thanks to Andre Geim, who shared a Nobel Prize in 2010 for being the first to obtain and experiment with usable amounts of graphene, and who a decade earlier, in 2000, shared an Ig Nobel Prize for using magnets to levitate a frog.