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August 17, 2009

Wheat geats worse as carbon dioxide levels increase

Wheat gets worse as CO2 rises - environment - 17 August 2009 - New Scientist
You may have thought that the silver lining of rising carbon dioxide levels would be a boost in crop yields. But evidence is mounting that we may trade quantity for quality. The discovery that staple crops like wheat have less protein when grown in high concentrations of CO2 has already caused concern, but the bad news doesn't stop there. Ramping up CO2 also changes the balance of amino acids and several trace elements, says Petra Høgy from the University of Hohenheim in Germany. . . . They found several changes in the wheat grains, including an 8 per cent drop in iron and a 14 per cent increase in lead.

August 16, 2009

What's really in your shampoo? (you don't want to know what's in your shampoo)

What's really in your shampoo | Salon
Consumers value shininess in nearly everything, including hair. For hair to shine, the cuticles of the hair must lie flat. Imagine a strand of hair as a stack of flimsy paper cups. When all the lips of the cup, called imbrications, lie flat, hair shines. Dull hair has the cups' lips sticking up. To get imbrications to lie flat, hair needs to be exposed to mildly acidic substances, so substances like citric acid are added to make the imbrications lie down and give hair that shiny look and to let yourself glow. Consumers believe that thick is better. Which may explain why George Bush was a two-termer. Shampooers trust the velvet heft of the shampoo in the palms of their hands. So five of the 20 ingredients on the list are there because they help thicken the soap. Thickness also guarantees that people use more shampoo than necessary. There's salt, glycol distearate, cetyl alcohol, ammonium xylene sulfonate and others: body on tap. And where would we be without suds? Cleaning agents do tend to foam a little when they're used, but the bubbles don't affect the cleansing much. However, the extra lather helps convince the shampooer that the soap is working. Lathering agents are added to boost the suds, chemicals like cocamide MEA. This little devil, besides being toxic in a few ways, also helps the lather to stay once it's been raised, a sudsy Viagra, with the help of known associates like the plastic PEG-7M. Great lather for great-looking hair.

August 14, 2009

Need for less sleep genetically determined?

Gene Mutation Tied to Needing Less Sleep - NYTimes.com
Researchers have found a genetic mutation in two people who need far less sleep than average, a discovery that might open the door to understanding human sleep patterns and lead to treatments for insomnia and other sleep disorders. The finding, published in the Friday issue of the journal Science, marks the first time scientists have identified a genetic mutation that relates to sleep duration in any animal or human. Although the mutation has been identified in only two people, the power of the research stems from the fact that the shortened sleep effect was replicated in mouse and fruit-fly studies. As a result, the research now gives scientists a clearer sense of where to look for genetic traits linked to sleep patterns.
Plus, MC Frontalot's musings on staying up too late:

August 13, 2009

Lucky Sleep Mutants Need Fewer Zzzzzs

Lucky Sleep Mutants Need Fewer Zzzzzs | Wired Science | Wired.com
No one knows why some lucky folks thrive on five or six hours of sleep per night, while the rest of us suffer if we don’t get eight hours of shut-eye. But now scientists have discovered a genetic mutation that could be responsible for the eternal perkiness of short-sleepers. Combing through a database of sleep-study volunteers, the researchers found two people who needed far less sleep than average. Both had abnormal copies of a gene called DEC2, which is known to affect circadian rhythms and oxygen regulation in mammals. When the scientists bred mice to have the same mutation, the mice slept less and were more active than their regular rodent peers. So far, the researchers don’t know why swapping a single base pair in the DEC2 gene makes mammals need less sleep. But unlike most people who skimp on sleep for long periods of time, subjects with the mutation don’t experience the negative health effects of sleep deprivation, such as mood or metabolic changes.

August 12, 2009

Photo Gallery: Robots!

More Robots - The Big Picture - Boston.com

Scientists discover rat-eating plant in the Philippines

Giant Rat-Eating Plant Discovered in the Philippines : TreeHugger
Researchers are justifiably excited about their find. They say, according to the BBC, that "The plant is among the largest of all carnivorous plant species and produces spectacular traps as large as other species which catch not only insects, but also rodents as large as rats," says McPherson. And since the plant grows in such a remote location--in highlands next to inaccessible to humans--researchers hope the plant will be able to continue to thrive unhampered by poachers. Oh yeah, and one more thing. The giant rat-eating plant has been named after David Attenborough. Not sure what the researchers are implying by the tribute, but the plant will be called Nepenthes attenboroughii, in honor of the famous naturalist and broadcaster.