Interesting Articles: December 3rd-25th 2006

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology:
* Leggy lizards adapt fast (Science News). Experimental evolutionary biology. How cool is that? If you can't read the article above, read the abstract of the source article, Rapid temporal reversal in predator-driven natural selection (Science).
* Brave Old World: The debate over rewilding North America with ancient animals (Science News). Reports on a lively debate about reintroducing animals to North America that have been extinct on the continent for thousands of years. Although it's not available online, many references are, including two interesting pieces from Nature. If you want a copy of the Science News article, just ask.

* Revving up recall while fast asleep (Science News). It sounds like a bad late night infomercial, but scientists demonstrated applying a minor electrical current at a particular point while someone is sleeping can help improve word recall. The abstract of the source article, Boosting slow oscillations during sleep potentiates memory (Nature), is available online. I wouldn't have believed it had it not been published by such an august journal.

Food and Health:
* L'Chaim: Wine compound lengthens mouse lives (Science News). Resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, can counter in mice many of the negative health consequences that come as a result of obesity. But before you go out and drink lots of wine, realize the amount of resveratrol used in the study amounts to the equivalent of 300 glasses a day.
* A Toast to Healthy Hearts: Wine compounds benefit blood vessels (Science News). Scientists identified a heart helping chemical in red wine, traced which wines/production methods/wine growing regions tend to have more of this chemical, and successfully correlated the lifespans of red wine drinkers to the quantity of the chemical as it appears in the local wines. Good science and detective work. The abstract from the source article, Red wine procyanidins and vascular health (Nature), is available online.
* Curry may counter cognitive decline (Science News). A correlation study showed that elderly people who eat curry regularly tend to score better on measures of cognitive function, after taking into account other factors (e.g., health, socioeconomic class). The abstract of the source article, Curry consumption and cognitive function in the elderly (American Journal of Epidemiology), is online.

* Low body heat lengthens mouse lives (Science News). Interesting effect. They're not quite sure why. Because mice on low-calorie diets have lower body temperatures, some researchers think lower body temperatures may be a variable mediating between calorie restriction and increased lifespan. The abstract of the source article, Transgenic mice with a reduced core body temperature have an increased life span (Science), is available online.
* Ticking toward Trouble: Long-term rise in heart rate portends death (Science News). I simply like studies that show one can get significant results from analysis of minor changes in ordinary, easily collected data. The press release from American Heart Association provides the details.

* Crusty Old Computer: New imaging techniques reveal construction of ancient marvel (Science News). Sounds like a Game clue.

Radio Reporter Plug: Nina Totenberg

I recently heard the radio segment "Hear Ye, Hear Ye" (WNYC's On The Media via NPR) about reporting on the Supreme Court, the release of recordings of oral arguments, and the possible entry of cameras into the courtroom.

As part of the segment, they interviewed Nina Totenberg, my favorite reporter on legal issues, and it occurred to me that I never plugged her on this blog.

Nina Totenberg is NPR's Legal Affairs correspondent. Her reporting is great, bringing life to any legal issue however obscure or arcane. I especially enjoy her dramatic reenactments of oral arguments. They portray each justice's humor and wit, putting an individual and human face on persons whose personality and personal lives are rarely in the public eye.

Nina Totenberg's contribution to the radio segment above starts around minute 5:45. The whole piece, however, is only ten minutes long and worthwhile.

Personally, I keep NPR's Legal Affairs bookmarked, though I find myself more often using my direct bookmark to recordings of stories reported by Nina Totenberg.

Interesting Articles: November 14th-December 2nd 2006

* Mystery of the Missing Heat: Upper ocean has cooled slightly in recent years, despite warming climate (Science News). "Between 2003 and 2005, the top layers of the world's oceans cooled slightly, but scientists aren't sure where the heat went." It's legitimate articles like this that cause some people to doubt global warming. The abstract of the source article, Recent cooling of the upper ocean (Geophysical Research Letters), is available but doesn't really say much. If you want me to e-mail you a copy of the Science News article -it's interesting-, just ask.

* Things We Know We Know (WNYC's On The Media via NPR). I'm not posting this discussion of Rumsfeld's press briefings for political reasons; rather, I'm posting it because it's one of the most detailed overview of and commentary on someone's speaking habits I've seen. I'd love to see more of these for other public speakers. Also, the link to the Slate piece on the poetry of Rumsfeld is worth following.
* Consequences of erudite vernacular utilized irrespective of necessity: problems with using long words needlessly (Applied Cognitive Psychology). An Ig Noble award winner. Reports on a number of experiments/studies that demonstrate use of unnecessarily complex vocabulary ends up sounding bad and reflecting poorly on the writer. Sadly, the full text of the article isn't accessible online without a subscription. If you have a copy of it, please send it to me.

* Blink-free photos, guaranteed (Velocity). An Ig Noble award winner. A physicist models blinking and estimates the probability of taking blink-free pictures. The last paragraph of main article body has a handy rule of thumb.

* Death rates for poor higher in rich neighborhoods (Stanford Report). What an interesting result. One possible message: live within your means.
* Gene pool: new therapy improves memory, learning in stressed rats (Stanford Report). What can I say? Ever since I took Sapolsky's class, I've thought he was awesome. And this is neat research.
* Trimming Down Cancer: Fat could hinder body's fight against disease (Science News). Reports on a study that appears to demonstrate that fat cells themselves contribute to cancer -- this effect isn't simply a consequence of unhealthy eating or a lack of exercise. More details are available in the source article's dense abstract: Stimulatory effect of voluntary exercise or fat removal (partial lipectomy) on apoptosis in the skin of UVB light-irradiated mice (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).
* New Advice: Don't Sit Up Straight (LiveScience via Yahoo News). It's always good to investigate common "wisdom."

Reasons to Wash Your Hands:
* Hotel-room surfaces can harbor viruses (Science News). I'm not even going to cite the source article Science News used to write its piece because, frankly, I really don't like how the study was designed. I simply want to point out the conclusion, as represented by the above title.
* Many infections tied to medical settings (Science News). Again, the title says it all. This might also be a reason to be treated/examined somewhere besides a traditional hospital, if possible. The abstarct of the source article, Epidemiology of community and healthcare associated musculoskeletal infections (MSI) in hospitalized patients (Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy), is available.