Archive for the ‘Science news’ Category

Glycoscience in the Royal Society of London

May 18, 2018

… and, oh yes, women.

In the Stanford Report (the daily faculty-staff news release) yesterday, a bulletin (by Kate Lewis) from the School of Humanities and Sciences, “Carolyn Bertozzi elected to Royal Society: Carolyn Bertozzi, the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, has been elected as one of this year’s ten new Foreign Members to the Royal Society for her pioneering work in the field of bioorthogonal chemistry”:

(Photo: Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service)

Bertozzi’s current research focus is in the field of glycoscience, the study of sugars on cell surfaces. As a self-described “glycoscience-lifer,” Bertozzi said she hopes that the “integration of all my contributions somehow elevates the visibility of the glycoscience field, which can have real benefits to human health,” including understanding the role sugars play in the development of cancer and inflammation.


The news for penises: thinner, stronger, and more pleasurable

December 10, 2015

No, not the penis, the condom for the penis. News from the Brisbane (AU) Times, in yesterday’s story “‘Like you’re touching someone covered in a lubricant’: next generation condoms”, about hydrogel condoms,  by Bridie Smith:


Animal -zilla

November 5, 2013

A story that combines libfixes, extraordinary animals, and science reporting. From Stan Carey yesterday, a pointer to this BBC News science story, ” ‘Platypus-zilla’ fossil unearthed in Australia” by Rebecca Morelle:

Part of a giant platypus fossil has been unearthed in Queensland, Australia. Scientists have dubbed the beast “platypus-zilla” and believe it would have measured more than 1m long (3ft).

Writing in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the researchers say the creature lived between five and 15 million years ago.

… Today, all that survives of this platypus is a single fossilised tooth, which was unearthed in the Riversleigh fossil beds in northwest Queensland.

Based on its size, the researchers have estimated that the new species (Obdurodon tharalkooschild) would have been at least twice as large as today’s platypus.

Bumps on its teeth and other fossil finds nearby suggest that the creature feasted on crustaceans, turtles, frogs and fish.


David Hubel

September 26, 2013

Yesterday in the NYT, “David Hubel, Nobel-Winning Scientist, Dies at 87” by Denise Gellene:

Dr. David Hubel, who was half of an enduring scientific team that won a Nobel Prize for explaining how the brain assembles information from the eye’s retina to produce detailed visual images of the world, died on Sunday in Lincoln, Mass.

… Dr. Hubel (pronounced HUGH-bull) and his collaborator, Dr. Torsten Wiesel, shared the 1981 Nobel in Physiology or Medicine with Roger Sperry for discovering ways that the brain processes information. Dr. Hubel and Dr. Wiesel concentrated on visual perception, initially experimenting on cats; Dr. Sperry described the functions of the brain’s left and right hemispheres.


Questionnaires again

May 1, 2013

Back a while, I tried to make sense of the last sex survey by Details magazine; a lot depended on how the questions were worded and how the respondents understood those questions. Now another case, this time from a much more carefully conducted study: George Vaillant’s Grant Study of Harvard graduates, as reported in the May 2013 Atlantic. The relevant section of Scott Stossel’s piece:

Aging liberals have more sex. Political ideology had no bearing on life satisfaction—but the most-conservative men ceased sexual relations at an average age of 68, while the most-liberal men had active sex lives into their 80s. “I have consulted urologists about this,” Vaillant writes. “They have no idea why it might be so.”

Now “having sexual relations” and “having an active sex life” are not necessarily the same thing; “sexual relations” implies another person, though there’s still possible unclarity about what counts as having sexual relations with someone, while “an active sex life” can be solitary. So a lot will depend on how Vaillant worded his questions.

Before I continue, this warning:

[TMI Warning: The following posting contains information, opinion, or reflection that some readers might find uncomfortably or unwelcomely personal, private, or intimate in topic or content: too much information, as the saying goes. As a general observation, I’m willing to go almost anywhere in my postings, including some places that some readers don’t want to go.]


Glass eels

April 2, 2013

In the NYT Sunday Review of 3/31/13, a piece by Akiko Busch (author of The Incidental Steward: Reflections on Citizen Science) on “Why I Count Glass Eels”, about

half-hour increments spent on spring afternoons at the Fall Kill, a tributary of the Hudson River. In addition to pondering the notions of changeability and continuity that watching a stream flow into a river tend to prompt, I was also counting and weighing glass eels, tiny transparent fish only two or three inches long that enter the tributaries of the river each spring.

Which is to say, I was practicing something called citizen science, loosely defined as scientific research in which amateurs help experts gather data.

Here’s a single glass eel:

To come: some more about citizen science, then a bit about the compound glass eel, a fair amount on eels, and eventually eels as food, especially in unagi sushi.


Earworm therapy

April 2, 2013

From the Telegraph on 3/24/13, a story by science correspondent Richard Gray headed:

Get that tune out of your head – scientists find how to get rid of earworms

Scientists claim to have found a way to help anyone plagued by earworms – those annoying tunes that lodge themselves inside our heads and repeat on an endless loop.


Straight vs. gay orgasms

March 26, 2013

(More sex.)

One last bit from the Details (April 2013) sex survey: “Orgasms by the Numbers — Straight vs. Gay”. Here the issues are how the respondents understood the questions and how to interpret the major straight vs. gay difference in the answers.


The masochism spectrum

March 26, 2013

The current Details magazine (April 2013) has a section on “The Body: The DETAILS Sex Report”, giving some results from the magazine’s 2013 sex survey. Things like men’s preferred (non-vaginal) targets for ejaculation (mouth 65%, chest 63%, butt 51%, back 42%, face 39% — obviously multiple responses were welcome). The survey is a mess: readers chose to provide responses, so the nature of the sample is totally unknown and likely to be skewed in complex ways; the magazine doesn’t provide basic statistics — even how many readers responded to a particular question, not to mention means and variances  — at least anywhere I could find (even on And some of the material is just fabricated.

Like the piece on p. 98 about the pleasure-pain spectrum, ranking masochistic practices.


Science Talent Search

March 13, 2013

In yesterday’s NYT Science News, a nice story (“A Laboratory Grows Young Scientists” by Ethan Hauser) about the Intel Science Talent Search, the winners of which were announced last night.