12 April, 2012 – This Week in Science

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Fit Frogs, A Gene For Niceness, The Neurotic IQ, Animal Sex, Patented Plants, Tracking Toxo, Social Immunity, And Much More…

Disclaimer, Disclaimer, Disclaimer!!!
From the unknown precursor of the big bang to the eventual demise of the universe
From the first moments of evolution to the latest version of the smart phone.
From dust into stars to super nova radiation
From that babies first breath to your last dying day…
…when you’re on earth you’re on earth all the way.
And while you’re here, why not stop a moment to appreciate the finer things that life has to offer.
Savor a fine wine, the subtle scent of dew, the view of nature un-interrupted, or the touch and feel of a lovers hand set to the sound of rushing water…
And once your basic senses have been thoroughly indulged in endorphin hijacking activities, lets move on to something really interesting…
the world beyond your senses…
the world as it can only be conceived by the sentient intellect
the world of truth
the world of mind
the world… of science
And while the alluring endorphin siren songs of earthly delight can only be ignored for so long, let us take this next hour to focus on what else the universe can have in store for us on…
This Week in Science…
Coming up next.

Fit Frogs
More physically fit frogs can change their DNA faster than less active amphibians. Free radicals created from activity could contribute to DNA alterations over time. Scientists measured oxygen intake in frogs when encouraged to exercise, and then sequenced frog “family trees.” The faster-changing genomes correlated consistently with the more energetic individuals. Is DNA like a muscle that needs exercise?

Why am I so nice, you ask?
Why, it’s in my genes! University of Buffalo and UC Irvine have found genes responsible for “niceness.” If a person was fearful or distrustful of the world around us, subjects with this receptor gene would still exhibit generous behavior to their fellow man. Without the gene, they would be much less likely to help others in need. Those that had an optimistic view of the world were unaffected by the gene, indicating perhaps that if you believe the world is a kind place, most of the time you will be kind back.

Tracking Toxo
A new blood test has been developed that can distinguish specific strains of Toxoplasma gondii from one-another. This means that pregnant woman can screen for this parasite and even treat the infection in infants. This is great news, because this infection can cause both physical and mental defects in children that are unfortunately often permanent.

It’s steamy in the corner this week…
Newts have sexy kidneys! Male red-spotted newts sport thick, oozing kidneys during mating season, and the lady newts love it. The reason is still unclear, but it would appear that the liquid coming out of the kidneys mixes with the liquid of the spermatophore and gives the swimmers a leg-up.

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Does worrying make you smarter?
In general, higher IQ’s were associated with lower degrees of worry, but generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), or extreme worry, was associated with higher IQ. So, a little worry hurts your intelligence, but high anxiety makes you smarter… Wait, I’m worried I don’t worry enough… Or too much… Oh no… Am I getting dumber?… Or smarter?…

“Don’t take away my seeds, Monsanto, I swear I’ll be good!”
Is planting something you bought at a market illegal? Appeals courts say yes, if the seed is genetically modified and patented. Is it right to keep people from planting seeds, especially when the “patented” variety make up over 90% of the local population?

A time machine, you say?
Astronomers are just about finished building “Mosfire” (Multi-Object Spectrometer for Infra-Red Exploration). This instrument can see some of the most distant, faintest galaxies, as they were first formed, up to 10 billion years ago. You may not be able to go back in time and meet Einstein, but seeing galaxies in their infancy that may have already ceased to be is a close second.

Magneto-battery!
Soon, we may be powering all of our electronic devices cordlessly, without a battery that runs out, using a magnetic rotary field. The really exciting news, though, is that this technology will be extremely useful in the application of medicinal electronic aids, such as pacemakers. The question is, will people want a conceivably harmless magnetic field pulsing through their bodies?

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I'm the host of this little science show.