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March 29, 2011

Science: Cavities and Gum Disease are contagious

Can Cavities Be Contagious? - NYTimes.com
Everyone knows you can catch a cold or the flu. But can you catch a cavity? Researchers have found that not only is it possible, but it occurs all the time. While candy and sugar get all the blame, cavities are caused primarily by bacteria that cling to teeth and feast on particles of food from your last meal. One of the byproducts they create is acid, which destroys teeth. Just as a cold virus can be passed from one person to the next, so can these cavity-causing bacteria. One of the most common is Streptococcus mutans. Infants and children are particularly vulnerable to it, and studies have shown that most pick it up from their caregivers — for example, when a mother tastes a child’s food to make sure it’s not too hot, said Dr. Margaret Mitchell, a cosmetic dentist in Chicago. A number of studies have also shown that transmission can occur between couples, too. Dr. Mitchell has seen it in her own practice. “In one instance, a patient in her 40s who had never had a cavity suddenly developed two cavities and was starting to get some gum disease,” she said. She learned the woman had started dating a man who hadn’t been to a dentist in 18 years and had gum disease.

March 17, 2011

Pepsi to make all bottles from plants

The Escapist : News : Pepsi Will Soon Make All Bottles from Plants
Not to get all green on you, but the human race consumes a lot of soda. The resultant waste from millions of plastic bottles fills up landfills and is generally a self-defeating practice that furthers our dependence on fossil fuels because most plastic is petroleum-based. Food manufacturers have experimented with different ways to reduce waste or devise a commercially viable way to create plastic from plants instead of oil, but research has stymied at only using about 30 percent bio-plastic. Pepsi announced that it has finally "cracked the code" and will begin using bottles derived from 100 percent excess plant material - switch grass, pine bark, corn husks, orange peels, oat hulls, and potato scraps. The plan is to produce a few hundred thousand bottles as a test run this year before going full plant-plastic with over a billion bottles sold each year. Rocco Papalia, an advanced researcher from Pepsi who spent years on the project, said that the bottles made from plants are just like ones you'd find in stores now. "It's a beautiful thing to behold. It's indistinguishable," he said.

March 16, 2011

Holy Crapping Crap: "Japan Has Shifted 13 Feet!"

Science: Forever offering humanity new, distressing little factoids. Japanese earthquake:...

March 09, 2011

It's difficult to take a census of Northern California's Great White Sharks

Counting great white sharks — not exactly your traditional census - San Jose Mercury News
More than 200 great white sharks cruise our coast, with empty stomachs and curious minds. While that's likely more than enough for the average swimmer, the scientists who conducted this landmark "shark census" say the number is startlingly low -- but is a vital statistic that sets the stage for future research and conservation. "It's the first time we've been able to census this predator," said Stanford University marine sciences professor Barbara Block, who contributed to the UC Davis-led study, which was published Tuesday in the journal Biology Letters. "It is relatively small and means that we can begin careful monitoring of the population." Compared with the polite door-knocking done by traditional census-takers, counting sharks proved to be a much bigger challenge. Sharks aren't known for their high SAT scores. And they are formidable, torpedo-shaped creatures, averaging 14 feet in length, swimming up to 15 miles per hour and weighing as much as a Honda Civic. Since they couldn't answer questions, they had to be tricked into having their pictures taken -- a lot. Furthermore, the count was conducted on small boats, loaded with expensive equipment, which rocked and rolled on sections of open seas large enough to qualify as congressional voting districts.