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Alcohol substitute that avoids drunkenness and hangovers in development - Telegraph

The Imperial College of London is developing a synthetic alcohol chemically related to Valium that acts like alcohol on the nervous system but can be counteracted in minutes after ingesting a counter-agent in pill form.
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Coffee, Tea Might Stave Off Diabetes - US News and World Report

A recent Australian study noted that increased consumption of coffee and tea, with or without caffeine, correlated with a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Earlier studies had linked coffee consumption to decreased risk of prostate cancer, liver disease, stroke, Alzheimer's, and Parkinson's disease. Unlike previous studies, however, this one discovered that the health benefits of coffee and tea include decaffeinated versions.
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Amino Acid Recipe Could Be Right For Long Life - Science News

A new study into the effects of calorie restriction on the lifespan of fruit flies hints that the key may be the properly balancing nutritional requirements. Lo-cal diets have been shown to reduce fertility because the body response to a shortage of food by directing energy away from reproduction. The study found that increasing the consumption of methionine restored reproductive function. Other scientists are quick to counter that, while interesting, it is not clear how much of this can be carried over into mammalian models, and that maintaining such an amino acid balance may be effectively impossible in mammals.
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Chernobyl fallout could drive evolution of 'space plants' - environment - 15 May 2009 - New Scientist

A study of radiation-resistant plants living in the Chernobyl fallout zone could lead to crops engineered to be radiation resistant so that they could be grown in space or on other planets.
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Buy Expensive Sports Drinks? Just Eat Some Cereal Instead

A recent study by the University of Texas found that whole grain cereal and non-fat milk were just as effective for post-sport recovery (as well as being much cheaper) as sports drinks. The study of 12 cyclists found that glycogen repletion was just as good after consuming cereal as it was after consumer sports drinks.
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Care for a Silkworm With Your Tang? -- Choi 2009 (113): 2 -- ScienceNOW

Several weeks ago, Science magazine reported that silkworms (shown here) are being recommended as the astronaut food of the future. The pupae are mostly protein, they breed quickly and generate little waste, and contain much more essential amino acids than pork, milk or eggs. Even the silk that they produce can be made edible through a chemical process to provide additional nutrients. The scientists estimate that each astronaut would need to consume up to 170 silkworm pupae per day to meet their minimum protein intake requirements.

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Improbable research: Beware the perils of poppy seed bagels | Education | The Guardian

More foods that can throw off a drug test. In 1997 a patient tested positive for morphine, despite claims that they don't use morphine. After some queries, they discovered that the patient ate a lot of poppy seed bagels. The patient was asked to abstain from eating anything containing poppy seeds for a period two weeks. They then provided a urine sample, ate half a poppy-seed bagel under supervision, then provided a second urine sample. The second sample came up positive, as did tests at 24 and 48 hours.

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Protecting beer from bacteria

Canadians love their beer, so it's no surprise that one has devoted her graduate work to saving more of it from the ravages of bacterial spoilage. Monique Haakensen of the University of Saskatchewan has developed three new methods for detecting the bacteria that causes beer to spoil, saving beer companies the requirement of holding batches for several months to see if they go bad. Her techniques lets them detect the bacteria within a few days, allowing them to ship product to market sooner.

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Miracle fruit to sweeten a sour ending to 2008

I had never heard of Miracle fruit before. Apparently, the fruit is able to trick the taste buds into responding to sour tastes by signaling that they are sweet. A grower in Florida is attempting to create a market for the fruit and sells both fresh and dried versions of the fruit online.
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Moderate drinking can reduce risks of Alzheimer's dementia and cognitive decline

A review of post-1990 studies linking alcohol consumption to Alzheimers seems to show, more than half of the studies, that moderate alcohol consumption is linked to a reduced risk of dementia. Moderate consumption is defined as 1 drink or less per day for women and 1-2 drinks or less per day in men. On a related note, an Oxford study linked consumption of flavonoids found in wine, chocolate and tea with enhanced cognitive performance. Also, moderate consumption of wine is linked with elevated levels of omega3 fatty acids in the blood. It appears that moderate consumption of alcohol, preferably wine, if done responsibly, may have some health benefits.
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A recent study showed that boys, but not girls, diagnosed with ADHD had smaller (by volume) and differently shaped basal ganglia than those not similarly diagnosed. They hope that these results will eventually lead to better diagnosis and treatment methods.

Moving from the brains of the young to the brains of the elderly, a recent study compared "super aged", people who display sharp mental faculties into their 80s and beyond, and "regular" elderly. They discovered that the super-aged had fewer fibrous tangles caused by tau proteins but roughly the same number of plaques. Previous research had linked increased tangles and plaques with the onset of Alzheimers.

Somali pirates have attacked and seized a Saudi-owned supertanker, the largest ship ever taken by pirates, and are now escorting it to a Somali port.

USA Today posted an article about students at Rice University who are using genetically engineered yeast to create beer containing Resveratrol, a compound found in red wine that is associated with a reduction in risk of cancer and heart disease, at least in mice. So far they haven't managed to produce anything drinkable, which puts them on par with many US and Canadian commercial brewers. Meanwhile, in Canada a researcher at the NRC has discovered that beer already contains a cancer-fighting compound called xanthohumol, albeit at barely useful levels. They hope to use the research to selectively breed for hop varieties high in the compound.

Chinese researchers have developed a flexible paper-thin speaker, opening the door to speakers that can be applied to clothing or walls.

A Scottish first has developed a grenade that, instead of exploding, gives soldiers a 360-degree view of a room. The grenade contains a wireless camera and is launched into a room using a standard grenade-launcher.

Slashdot has a review of Orson Scott Card's recently-published sequel to Ender's Game, entitled "Ender in Exile.

Finally, India has succeeded in planting a flag on the moon. (Edit: thanks to [livejournal.com profile] wetdryvac for catching the embarassing wording error.)

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It's been a long time since I posted one of these, so here are a few from the world of science.

Fruits and Veggies reduce likelihood of contracting the flu - specifically, those containing quercetin, a chemical relative of resveratrol, found in red onions, grapes and red wine, brocolli, tea, and blueberries. The first study involved inoculating mice with the flu virus and determined that mice given quercetin were less likely to contract flu. A second study was conducted with humans, but stressful exercise was substitute for the flu virus inoculation because a previous mouse study linked increase susceptibility to the flu with stressful exercise. Bottom line: eat your fruits and veggies.

High protein breakfast better for dieters - In particular, high-quality protein early in the day results in a more sustained feeling of fullness, reducing the dieter's likelihood of snacking. In the study eggs and lean Canadian bacon were used as the protein source in the mornings, although the linked article suggests yoghurt, and low-fat cheese and other low-fat dairy products, can be used as well for variety.

Gender differences in antidepressants - A recent study found that women were 33% more likely to get relief from depression after using Celexa than men. The national study discovered that the gender bias persisted even after accounting many possible complicating factors, but have no explanation for the results. Future research may focus on hormonal differences that may account for some of the gender effect.

Steve MacLean to head Canadian Space Agency - The former astronaut has been selected to direct Canada's space program.

Google turns 10 - on September 4th, Google celebrated it's 10th year in existence.

Focused ultrasound simulates virtual barriers - A team of Japanese researchers have developed a system that uses focused ultrasound to give users the impression of the an arbitrarily-shaped surface. The system may be useful for applications ranging from 3D modeling to gaming.

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Life less likely on Mars - according to recent chemical testing of the Martian soil by Phoenix. The latest test indicated the presence of percholate, an oxidant used in rocket fuel, that would be toxic to earth-like life forms. Two previous tests did not indicate the presence of percholate so NASA is trying to make sure that the chemical wasn't carried to Mars from Earth.

World's first double-arm transplant - A German farmer was the recipient of two new arms, having lost his in an accident 6 years ago. The operation, conducted in late July, went textbook-perfect.

Eggs better for weight loss than bagels - As a person who starts the day with a flax bagel, I found this interesting. A recent study showed that eating two eggs for breakfast helped patients lose 65% more weight than when they ate a bagel for breakfast, and they were left with more energy, felt more satisfied, and ate less at lunch. Surprisingly, cholesterol and triglyceride levels remained the same with both diets.

Prototype artificial eye created - US researchers used stretchable optoelectronic circuits to create a curved photodetector array shaped much like the retina. They combined this with an artificial lens to create a working camera that looks like a transparent version of the human eye.

Take my house, please - An Ottawa woman is giving away her 1,200 square-foot house to anyone willing to pay the $50,000 it would cost to move it so that she can build a new home on her property. Think of it as the ultimate in recycling.

Room-temperature electrolysis - An MIT chemist has developed a new type of electrode that makes it possible to split water into hydrogen and oxygen using relatively little electricity compare to contemporary methods. The indium-tin-oxide electrodes are coated with cobalt and phosphate, resulting in the same amount of oxygen being produced using 1 Volt as previously required 1.6 Volts.
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How do you want your eggs? Scrambled? Sunny-side up? Gun-shaped?
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The people at Evil Mad Scientists Laboratories have posted instructions on how to make edible googly eyes. Essentially, take a gelatin capsule, cut the end off, and place a dark candy in the capsule, then stick to a milk-chocolate Whopper(tm) after it has been cut in half. Visit the link to get the details, including how to make your own Spaghetti Monster.

Found on MAKE Magazine.
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A company in Tokyo has discovered a new way to add value to fruits and vegetables by first freeze-drying them, then rehydrating them with fortified water or other substances. For example, they replaced the water in a freeze-dried strawberry with white chocolate. On a healthier (and less decadent) note, they plan to rehydrate foods with water containing additional vitamins and/or minerals.
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Turbo toaster, for when waiting more than 30 seconds for a slice of toast is simply unacceptable. Twin jet engines blast heated air at your poor, helpless slices of bread.
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A new study has shown that it is becoming more expensive to eat healthy. Over a two-year period, the price of healthy food increased by more than 20% while the price of high-calorie food increased only 5%, no more than would be expected from the rate of inflation. Healthy foods were defined as those high in nutrients and low in calories, such as fish, vegetables, and whole grains. They determined that, for many low-income and even middle-income people, healthy eating is not an option they can afford, and the problem is expected to get worse in the coming years.

January 2010

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