Friday, 26 February 2016

Top articles of the month

This is the first in what I hope will be a regular round up of some of those articles I add to my "to-blog-about" list that never make it to realisation and a selection of articles that I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend everyone reads. I've added in a quick summary of the articles, as some are academic journal abstracts, but you should still follow the links and read the full thing, especially the first two!

What if? Can we use satellites to stop the orbit of Jupiter?

Again, the What If? series is one of my favourite and funniest things to read, especially as I am not a physicist (although I do think it's pretty awesome to learn about). This latest question is about how using Jupiter as an effective gravity sling-shot for satellites affects the orbit of Jupiter. Just read it, I loved it!

We have no idea why humans have chins...

Ed Yong is easily one of my favourite science journalists, and this article explains a lot about why I like him so much. Apparently, we are the only animals that have chins ie a bone jutting out from underneath the jaw, load of animals have lower jaws. We also have no idea why we have them, or what evolutionary purpose they may have served (if any). Some of the ideas about the origin of chins are a bit weird, and very entertaining!

No evidence for link between Microcephaly outbreak and pesticide in Brazil

Snopes does a great job of explaining what we know is true, what we know is false, and what still remains to be determined around the Zika virus. What is certain, there is no credible scientific evidence to link the cases of Microcephaly in Brazil with the use of the pesticide pyriproxyfen. 

Effects of playing Fifa 2015 on stress and cognition

It's always good to see an article about the effects of video games on the brain. This one studied the effects 32 20 year old healthy males playing Fifa in Iran, making a change from the usual shooter games in the US. They found that cortisol (a stress hormone) levels significantly reduced after playing the game and there was no mental fatigue from playing the game. The investigators also measured EEG but I won't go into that in detail as they are somewhat unclear on the outcomes.

You often hear about crowds bystanders failing to act when someone is in trouble, I'm sure we've all seen it first hand to varying degrees. This study shows that due to the effects of alcohol on social inhibition, people more quickly came to the aid of others after a few beers. In my opinion, this one looks like an excuse to head down to the bar for "research purposes". You'll also be pleased to hear that this study was conducted in Amsterdam, not jealous at all...

Pharma Company reports failure to reproduce academic studies

We've all seen hyped up articles in the news about how some 'breakthrough' could be in clinical trials 'within 5–10 years and then no-one ever hears about it again. When an academic pre-clinical (before testing in humans) study makes these kind of waves in the news, you can bet your house that at least on Pharma company will be trying to reproduce those findings to find the next wonder drug. Unfortunately, when they are unable to reproduce those findings it often goes unreported. Amgen have started to publish these results and hope that others will follow their lead. A failure to reproduce does not mean that the science is wrong, just that the techniques, conditions etc from the original studies need to further development in order to become robust enough to make a viable treatment for disease. 


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