The Mary Sue


National Institute of Health Tells Labs to Stop Ignoring Females in Lab Experiments

What would Mrs. Frisby have to say about this?

Science arguably has a problem with gender equality in humans, but it definitely has one in rodents. For decades, researchers have used male mice and rats in laboratory tests instead of females because of concerns their hormones and reproductive cycles would skew results. Well, the National Institutes of Health says knock it off, jerks.

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Not a Basketball Fan? (Neither Are We) Check Out This Bracket that Puts School Head-to-Head Based on the Scientific Research They’re Doing

You can even win American Express gift cards for picking correctly.

It's March, and for a lot of people that means college basketball in the form of a big NCAA tournament. For even more people, it means a lot of other things being arranged into brackets to try to jump in on the "March Madness" madness. This might be our favorite version of that so far. It has school compete based on the scientific research they do.

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Oxford University Press Will Provide Free Access To Online Content During Government Shutdown

What would we ever do without those punk-ass book jockeys?

One of the biggest problems of the government shutdown -- you know, in addition to millions not getting benefits on time and child cancer patients being refused treatment -- is that academics aren't able to access the information found in federally funded D.C. libraries. You know who's got a solution for that? Oxford University Press, that's who.

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Cells Trapped in Nanoscale Pyramids for Study in 3D

Researchers looking for new insights on how cells interact in three dimensions have a new tool for their studies -- nanoscale pyramid structures with open sides. These new structures allow researchers to capture individual cells for study, while still exploring how those cells interact with their surroundings and with other cells.

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For Some Consumers, Research Makes Products Less Appealing

Would you say you're an impulse-buyer? Or do you tend to compare prices and research everything you buy? While it technically doesn't matter how you decide what you want purchase on a day-to-day basis, it may have a profound effect on what you buy, in addition to how you buy it.  A new study from the Journal of Consumer Research suggests that some people start liking stuff less as soon as they start learning about it, regardless of whether or not they like what they hear.

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Coffee May Make Sight Worse, Says Study Proving Nothing Will Make Us Stop Drinking Coffee

A recent study in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science found that heavy coffee consumption could be responsible for worsening eyesight among coffee drinkers, causing glaucoma in later years. It's a good study, too, with a nice big sample size and analysis done over a long span of time. Here's the only thing: I just don't care. It's not that I choose to believe the study is incorrect or anything. We all get to ignore a certain number of things in life for our own mental well-being, and I'm cashing in my card here. I will hear no ill spoken of my beverage of choice.

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2012 Ig Nobel Prizes Announced, Celebrate Year’s Goofiest Achievements In Science

Yesterday marked the ceremony awarding the 22nd batch of Ig Nobel Prizes for the goofiest, strangest, and altogether most fun inventions, studies and pieces of scientific research of the last year. The awards were presented at Harvard University by the magazine Annals of Improbable Research to 10 researchers whose work ranged from developing the SpeechJammer, a device that disrupts a person's speech patterns by playing their own voice back to them on a slight delay, to research into why coffee spills when you're walking with it. Keep reading for video of the entire awards ceremony.

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Researchers Track Cancerous Tumors Back to Stem Cells

Our understanding of cancer and tumors has grown tremendously over the years. Ways to help prevent, diagnose, and treat a variety of cancers have cropped up over time, but we still haven't been able to eliminate it at the source. That may very well change as we continue to investigate a recent series of experiments. A group of researchers have tracked cancerous growth in mice back to a specific subset of cells for skin cancer, brain cancer, and stomach cancer.

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Researchers Create Glowing Dog That Can Be Turned On and Off

Researchers at Seoul National University have announced the creation of a genetically modified, glow-in-the-dark dog. The female beagle, named Tegon, glows fluorescent under ultraviolet light. But, perhaps surprisingly, glow-in-the-dark animals aren't all that new since we've seen glowing pigs and fish before. What is particularly interesting about Tegon is that the glowing ability is capable of being turned on and off. When ingested by the dog with food, the drug doxycycline can activate or deactivate the ability to glow. Led by Lee Byeong-chun, the researchers used the same somatic cell nuclear transfer technique to make Tegon glow that was used in 2005 to make the world's first cloned dog, Snuppy.

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Study: Interrupted Sleep Harms Memory Development

New research from a group at Stanford University has found that broken or interrupted sleep has a negative effect on the ability to build memories in mice. The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that disrupting the sleep of mice made it harder for them to recognize and identify objects that should have been familiar to them. To study the mice, the researchers interrupted their sleep but made sure that the amount of time sleeping was no shorter than normal. Using optogenetics, a technique where certain cells are genetically engineered to be controlled by light, the researchers targeted cells in the brain. The cells on which the researchers focused plays a critical role in switching the brain between the sleep and awake states. Light pulses were sent into the brains of the mice while they slept, to disrupt their sleep but not change their total sleep time or the quality or intensity of their sleep. The researchers then tested the mice memory by putting them in front of two objects, one new and one familiar. Mice whose sleep had been disrupted did not recognize either object, while mice who had slept undisturbed focused all their attention on the new object.

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Forget Arsenic Life, Now We Have Chlorine Life

Last year, NASA scientists caused a whole lot of hullabaloo over the arsenic life study. Many people interpreted NASA's first teasing press releases about the study to mean that they had discovered alien life. Far from it, NASA researchers published a study claiming to have found bacteria that could use arsenic to build their DNA. This would make the bacteria unlike any other known form of life on Earth. While alien hunters were obviously disappointed, many in the science community were also left up in arms over the study. There was a subsequent media firestorm and backlash as scientists pushed back at the study for problems with the quality of the research. But just because arsenic life turned out to be hugely controversial, doesn't mean that other good research isn't being done in biochemistry. In fact, new research (that so far seems much less controversial) suggests that there is a form of E.coli that incorporates chlorine into its DNA.

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Mind Control Hat Uses Light to Guide Mouse Behavior

Researchers at MIT have developed a hat that can control the minds of mice by using wireless optogenetics. The hat is really two circuit boards and an antenna that is wired directly to the mouse's brain to control the animal's behavior with flashes of light. Optogenetics is an emerging scientific field where light is used to control the behavior of cells and even entire animals.

Optogenetics works by loading cells (typically, neurons) with a protein that is light sensitive. This protein acts as a gatekeeper of the cell. When the protein is exposed to the light, it opens up and allows ions to enter the neuron, causing it to fire. By introducing the protein to exact sports, scientists can turn on certain parts of the brain or even individual neurons. Having control of the brain, and particular neurons gives researchers the ability to guide behavior.

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Study: The Secret To Youth, In Yeast At Least

The cells in the body can only divide so many times before they die. It is this cellular lifespan that makes us grow older (whether we like it or not). But reproductive cells, the cells that go into making new lives, have an unlimited lifespan. Researchers have searched for decades to discover what it is about these cells that keeps them young while other cells age. Now, researchers from MIT have discovered a gene in yeast that controls the aging process. While the research has a long way to go before any comparisons can be drawn to the way human cells age, it does shed light on aging at a cellular level as a whole. Published in the journal Science, a team of biologists have identified the gene NDT80 in yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), which controls the aging process. By activating the gene in old yeast cells the researchers were able to double the typical lifespan of the cell (which is normally around 30 cell divisions).

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Study: Only Scientists Listen To Scientists

In a revelation that should come as no surprise to scientists, a new study has shown that scientists are typically the only people who listen to what other scientists have to say. The study, led by Ohio State University researchers Julie Suleski and Motomu Ibaraki, suggests that if scientists really want the public to pay attention to what they do, a new communication mechanism is sorely needed.

The mainstay of scientific communication is the journal publication process. Journals are like the magazines of the academic world, they are a place for scientists to share their work once it has been reviewed and accepted by their peers. However, who are they really sharing their work with? Hint: it isn't the public.

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Study: Neural Prosthesis Restores Long-Term Memory

By embedding electrical probes in the brains of rats, researchers have demonstrated for the first time that memory can be turned on and off by manipulating the signals sent between distinct regions of the hippocampus. Researchers successfully built a neural prosthesis that was capable of turning long-term memory formation on and off. Previous research has shown the the hippocampus plays a role in converting short-term memories to long-term memories. Researchers from the University of Southern California and Wake Forest University used embedded electrical probes to record the activity of the rat's brain as the two major internal divisions of the hippocampus (sub regions CA3 and CA1) interacted while the rat was learning. These divisions interact to form long-term memories. The rats participated in experiments to teach them which of two levers to press to receive a reward. The researchers drugged the rats to block the normal interactions between CA3 and CA1.

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New Research Could Finally Make Smell-o-Vision a Reality

Now that the whole 3D craze seems to be ending, a new gimmick must arrive to take its place. Enter the University of California at San Diego team with their new research that could one day add scents to your media experience. Here's how it works, according to the UCSD article:
[The] team of graduate students used an X-Y matrix system in order to minimize the amount of circuitry that would be required to produce a compact device that could generate any odor at any time. The scent comes from an aqueous solution such as ammonia, which forms an odorous gas when heated through a thin metal wire by an electrical current. [...] using the X-Y system, 200 controllers (100 on the X-axis multiplied by 100 on the Y- axis) would selectively activate each of the 10,000 odors.
In short, we're talking about Smell-o-Vision.

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Spammer’s Delight: Researchers Defeat Audio CAPTCHAs

When logging into a website or establishing a new account, many users are prompted to decipher a visually distorted string of letters and numbers to keep spammers from gaining access. This list of characters is a CAPTCHA, a puzzle that is glaringly easy for most humans but that stops computers from automatically deciphering the text. CAPTCHAs also come in audio form for the visually impaired, but these audio puzzles are an easy target for would-be spammers. An audio CAPTCHA is a list of letters or numbers read along with additional audio distortion. The user has to list the characters correctly to gain access like with a regular visual CAPTCHA. A team of researchers from Stanford University, led by Elie Bursztein, has developed an algorithm that can automatically defeat audio CAPTCHAs. The ability to automatically solve CAPTCHA puzzles would allow spammers to create new accounts and thus even more spam.

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Antihydrogen Held for 10,000x Longer Than Before

Scientists at the Swiss CERN labs have announced that they have made great strides in antimatter reasearch: Keeping the stuff around long enough to study it. Working with the Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus (ALPHA), the team was able to create and store antihydrogen atoms for about 15 minutes, 10,000 times longer than ever before. Antimatter, which is the volatile Nintendo-esque twin to normal matter, is notoriously hard to store. It reacts violently when coming into contact with normal matter, and can easily escape if they are too energetic after being created or are struck by stray particles. This has kept scientists from answering fundamental questions about antimatter, such as whether it is an exact mirror of normal matter. Last year, the team demonstrated their ability to hold a gaseous cloud of antihydrogen in a magnetic trap for 170 milliseconds. Antihydrogen is particularly difficult to trap magnetically, as it has a neutral charge. This time around they shattered that figure with some new techniques, one of which involved greatly cooling the antiprotons which generate the antimatter, keeping their energy low and safe within the trap. This test was primarily to demonstrate the storage capabilities developed by the team, but could be a major boon to other antimatter researchers. After all, it's hard to study something that exists for so short a time. (via New Scientist, image via Wikipedia)

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Cellphone Brain Study Yields Results No One Understands

Another day, another researcher trying to determine whether your cellphone is slowly killing you. This time it's the National Institute of Health's neuroscientist Dr. Nora Volkow who tracked glucose consumption in the brain during prolonged periods of cellphone use. Volkow points out that her approach attempted to be more comprehensive than previous cellphone studies by using a larger test group, 47 people, and longer rates  of cellphone exposure. In her study, Volkow introduced radioactively marked glucose into the test subjects, and then observed how that glucose was used in the brain via PET scan. Her report indicates that the brain did indeed absorb more glucose on the side of the head where the phone was active, a 7% increase in one area. Now, before you encase your phone in lead, or reject society and flee to the woods, let's let another neuroscientist give us some perspective.

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More Friends on Facebook? More Likely to Graduate

Back when I joined Facebook, eleventy billion years ago, you couldn't sign up for it unless you had a .edu email address. The service was only for college students (and adventurous professors). As it turns out, the service may have extensive utility for college students, outside of finding someone's cell number or dorm room. Oh, and all that social stuff. Students who are more present on Facebook may be more likely to graduate.

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