A new way to lift fingerprints left behind by sweat-laden paws.
[Image Credit: Arielle Duhaime-Ross]
Despite what you may have seen on TV, it isn’t easy for forensic investigators to lift fingerprints from a crime scene. One of the major obstacles they continue to face is the varying chemical composition of human sweat, making it much harder to get consistent, high-contrast prints. But a team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have accomplished something that would even impress special agent Seeley Booth: they lifted high-quality fingerprints off soaking-wet paper.
German students create a filter that removes estrogens from the water supply
Current water filtration systems don’t filter all the estrogens from animal and human waste [Image credit: Arielle Duhaime-Ross]
In high school, I once had to sit through an entire class in which my well-intentioned teacher blamed the birth control pill for contaminating our water supplies and causing male fish to develop ovaries. Since then, I’ve heard, on numerous occasions, women talking about how they had weighed the environmental pros and cons of taking the Pill. Granted, I have my own misgivings about taking a pill full of hormones once a day, but environmental issues are not something I consider in my overall assessment of the Pill. Why? Because, as outlined by a 2011 editorial in Contraception Journal and a 2011 paper in Environmental Science and Technology, the Pill accounts for less than 1 percent of estrogens in water. So clearly, we have much bigger fish to fry when it comes to hormones in the water supply.
This is why I was pleasantly surprised to hear that a group of 15 students from Bielefeld University, Germany, have come up with a synthetic biofilter – a filter made of enzymes – that can filter estrogens in water. Their achievement earned them a spot in the “sweet sixteen” top performers at the international Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM), held annually at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
FDA issues public warnings against three weight loss products for an undisclosed banned chemical.
Ingredient lists don’t always tell the whole story [Image Credit: Arielle Duhaime-Ross]
I love reading ingredient lists. Words like “gluten,” “guar gum,” and “soy lecithin” are as familiar to me as “peanuts” are to a child with a severe nut allergy. When I’m on the fence about which brand of yogurt to buy, I often turn to the label to help me make my decision. I trust that companies are telling me what’s really in the products I buy. So when I hear that a company has been purposefully omitting ingredients from a product’s label, as the Food and Drug Administration recently revealed about three weight loss products, I begin to worry.
On Nov. 8th, 2012, the FDA issued three public warnings against the use of Beautiful Slim Body diet pills, Japan Hokkaido Slimming Weight Loss Pills, and Best Share Green Coffee: Brazilian Slimming Coffee because these products contain an oral anorexiant – yep, same word family as anorexia – called sibutramine. The FDA banned sibutramine in 2010, because results of clinical studies indicated that the drug increases your chance of experiencing a serious heart event, such as a heart attack or a stroke, by 16 percent. And that is only one of its side effects.
If you’re one of those drivers that swears by opening a window and listening to music in order to stay awake – think again.
When I started the Investigate everything blog posts, I wanted to highlight the valiant efforts of scientists who investigate the banalities of everyday Western life. So, in my first Investigate Everything post, I wrote about the dangers of walking while texting. And today, I am writing about another strange habit that the human species has managed to pick up: driver sleepiness countermeasures.
You know what I’m talking about. There you are, on the open road, minding your own business, when Morpheus, the God of sleep, starts to beckon. Refusing to heed his call, you Google the closest coffee shop or motel, only to realize that the next town is an hour away. So what do you do? You turn up the stereo, crack open a window, and hope your eyes won’t get too dry from trying not to blink.
*Vos paupières sont lourdes… loouuuuuurdes!*
Does this technique actually work? A team of Swedish and French scientists from Stockholm University and the University of Bordeaux looked into it, and found that, despite what you may believe, opening the driver’s window and playing music won’t help you stay awake at the wheel.
500 restauranteurs, including celebrity chefs, sign a petition denouncing seafood fraud
Last year, I wrote about a new technique that allows scientists to identify the types of fish contained in processed foods, like crab sticks – those neon orange chunks of “imitation crab meat” sushi chefs put in California rolls.
Despite what many of the seafood labels claimed, the researchers found that a typical crab stick contained between three and seven different species of fish.
This is a big problem, because some people are allergic to certain types of fish, and rely heavily on labeling to avoid their fishy foes. In addition, the undeclared fish species in processed foods sometimes turn out to be subject to strict fishing regulations, putting entire ecosystems at risk, and making fishing practices hard to track.
In light of these types of findings, consumers and restauranteurs alike have been demanding stricter regulations. Until now, they have had little success. But, a National Geographic blog post written by celebrity chef Barton Seaver, who was recently tricked into buying mislabeled crab meat, and a letter penned by California Senator Barbara Boxer, demanding action from the FDA, has re-energized ichthyophiles and environmentalists everywhere.
It has been some time since my last post, and it is high time I start blogging again. Granted, I moved to a different country, settled into a four-bedroom apartment in Harlem, and started grad school, but I’m pretty sure that after three weeks, that stops being an acceptable excuse.
As a science journalist, there are a few skills that I would like to develop, such as photography, video and audio recording skills. I would also love to learn how to build infographics.
Infographics are “a visual representation of information, data, or knowledge,” according to the oh-so-reliable source that is wikipedia. Personally, I think they are an incredibly useful, and eye-catching, tool for anyone who wants to represent complicated information in an accessible way.
The software of choice for building infographics is Abode Illustrator. Unfortunately, Illustrator isn’t the easiest software to master. So, this afternoon, I sat down for two hours and *loosely* followed this tutorial.
A fellow NYU science, health, and environmental reporting student suggested I post the fruits of my labour on my blog – so here it is for your viewing pleasure.
I can see how making infographics could become addictive. Any suggestions for my next one?
Scientists discover that heightened levels of communication between different parts of the brain increase your chances of developing chronic pain after an injury.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images - firstname.lastname@example.org
Whether you are a construction worker, a nurse, or an accountant, back pain is something to be feared. Nothing can ruin a day like the sting of a pinched nerve or a sore muscle along your spine. But what happens when a day of pain turns into weeks, or months? Why does some people’s pain persist while others with similar injuries heal?
A new study published in Nature Neuroscience has elucidated the differences between people who heal quickly after suffering a back injury, and those who do not. According to a team of Northwestern University researchers, the difference lies in the level of connectivity, that is the amount of communication that occurs, between the brain’s nucleus accumbens and the prefontal cortex.
This study not only marks an important step towards identifying patients who are more likely to develop chronic pain, but also lends support to the age-old saying that pain really is all in your head.
I’m sure that most of you have heard about CERN’s Higgs Boson discovery by now. Today‘s announcement was a historic moment for physicists and physics enthusiasts everywhere. As a result, anyone in the twittersphere/blogoshere/web with even the mildest interest in science seems to have caught Higgs-fever. The resulting web chatter is an interesting (AND RARE!) illustration of the clash between pop culture and physics.
In honour of this historic day in Science with a capital “S,” I thought I would share some of my top picks of Higgs-related images, articles, and videos that have been circulation around the interwebs today.
Dr. Alex Smith
Back in May of 2012, I interviewed Dr. Alex Smith, a molecular ecologist from the University of Guelph, about his work in the campus’ Dairy Bush. I used this interview to write an article for the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, which can be accessed by clicking here.
Interviewing Dr. Smith was a great experience for me. He is an incredibly charismatic and articulate man who was kind enough to let me ask him a slew of questions for two hours while he was setting up his equipment in the Dairy Bush.