Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
This is a great example of the nocebo effect, which is the evil cousin of the placebo effect. As we all know, a placebo effect is when you experience a presumed benefit from an inert material simply because you don't know it is inert, but instead think it to be an active compound... the old "sugar pill" in the drug trial. But what happens if you believe the sugar pill is actually something that is bad for you? As it turns out, things that have no effect could harm you if you believe they are harmful, or things that are only a little harmful could be made worse by your perception, as is the case here. So don't stress about the stress... you're only going to make it worse.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
Monday, December 16, 2013
Saturday, December 14, 2013
Friday, December 13, 2013
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Apparently NIH is now asking grant applicants to include a segment about the impact their proposed project will have. The problems with this are myriad. First, this means that for this section of the grant the most points will be awarded to... the best bull-shitter. That's right: "your project will lead to a cure for cancer while also preventing Alzheimer's AND save the polar bears?!? Well here you go! Are you sure we can't give you more money?" Please! Like anyone could have predicted that studying fluorescent and luminescent proteins in jellyfish and fireflies would have led to pretty much ALL the major medical breakthroughs and drug discoveries of the last few decades. I'm pretty sure their discoverers weren't thinking about it at the time. They were probably just thinking " hey, that animal glows in the dark! That's pretty cool! How does that work?" Bam! Nobel prizes and major biomedical breakthroughs all around! Congrats everybody. But don't take my overly sarcastic word for it. Check out this editorial in the latest issue of science for a much more eloquent breakdown of this unfortunate trend in science policy:
Saturday, May 25, 2013
"Barking up the wrong tree" has a fun list of a bunch of cliches and sayings with links to research on whether or not they could be true, so click here if you want to know whether or not nice guys finish last, if you can tell a lot about a man from his handshake, and if blondes have more fun.
Over at EurekAlert is a blurb about a Banaca-like oral spray that could help cut down on your susceptibility to airborne flu virus... the secret ingredient (cetylpyridinium chloride) is also a main ingredient in some non-burning mouthwashes, so using the right mouthwash frequently might also help to cut down on your flu susceptibility (though that has yet to be tested).
Apparently the guys over at Freakonomics are also fans of the band Bullets for My Valentine becaue they posted this podcast about guns in America just this past Valentine's Day. Despite the interesting timing of the piece, no word yet as to whether Cupid has traded in his bow and arrow for a Mac-10.
And over at The Scientist is a story about how the males of a certain species of sea slug can actually detach their penises after mating (likely to prevent other potential suitors from getting in there and competing with their sperm), and then amazingly they can grow a new penis the next day. I believe some of the credit for the discovery should go to early 90's rockers King Missile who first postulated the possibility of such a phenomenon in their song "Detachable Penis"
Sunday, March 24, 2013
"Another important caveat is that it’s a typical psychology study, using a small pool of undergraduates at the University of California Santa Barbara, so they’re actually tapping into very narrow cultural norms. A group of students who were familiar with the Tuskegee syphilis study, to name just one exception, might respond to priming with science words very differently, while people from a less science-dependent culture might find the exercise meaningless."
He goes on to conclude that the important thing is that if some thing becomes widely accepted in a culture as being related to positive moral action, then just reflecting on that thing (be it religion, or science, or Bill or Melinda Gates) will make us more likely to adhere to the moral norms associated with it.