Fantastically Nerdy Science Humor Magazine Goes Digital

‘After 21 years, the Annals of Improbable Research — that bastion of uber-nerdy science humor — is switching from a dead tree format to an all-digital PDF format. And it’s holding a special subscription sale to celebrate. From now until October 31, you can get a yearly subscription (six issues) for just $15/year, instead of the usual $25/year….’

Source: Gizmodo

These Are the First Baby Giant Squid Ever Discovered

‘Giant squid are among the most mysterious creatures on the planet; the camera-shy behemoths lurk in murky ocean basins across the world. We’ve only seen adult giant squid a handful of times, and now, you’re looking at the first ever wee baby ones.

The three specimens of Architeuthis dux shown here measure only 5.5 to 13 inches (14 to 33 cm) across, each weighing less than a pound. According to Motherboard, they were caught by fisherman off the coast of Japan in 2013…’

Source: Gizmodo

We’ve Been Slandering Naked Mole-Rats All This Time

‘Today marks a moral victory for the flesh-twinkies of the animal world. Naked mole-rats have been slandered for years as inbred monsters, but at last research shows that that’s not always true. #notallmoleratsNaked mole-rats have long been celebrated for their clear superiority to other rodents. They live three decades longer than their peers, seem to be cancer free for their entire lives, and have a complex “eusocial” society in which multiple generations live together sharing the work it takes to keep the colony running. Really, they’re an example of what we can all achieve if we are willing to give up beauty, clothes, sugar, body hair, and the prospect of ever seeing the sun again. Oh, and also if we give up having sex with people outside our family.

Yep, mole-rat societies were found to be inbred. Eusocial societies, in mammals, seem to require a certain amount of close family bonding. Scientists puzzled about the significance of the degree of inbreeding, especially because naked mole-rats are one of the few matriarchies outside of the insect kingdom. Was there a connection?

It now appears that there is not, for the simple reason that naked mole-rats aren’t actually inbred. The original genetic studies on mole-rats involved samples taken solely from an area south of the Athi river in Kenya. There was no reason at the time to suspect that these populations were in any way anomalous, but a recent study that took a look at the genetics of mole-rat populations north of the river turned up totally different results. The south river rats are inbred because they stem from a small initial founding population. Mole-rats north of the river are no more inbred than any other group of mammals.

This means that we’ve taken an animal that already has a face like a mutilated toe and somehow found a way to slander it…’

Source: Gizmodo

Alzheimer’s disease tied to brain’s navigation network

‘The way you navigate a virtual maze may predict your chances of getting Alzheimer’s. That’s the conclusion of a new study, which finds that people at risk for Alzheimer’s have lower activity in a newly-discovered network of navigational brain cells known as “grid cells.” The finding could lead to new ways to diagnose this debilitating disorder. The discovery of the grid cell network won the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology last year.

The neurons that make up the “grid” are arranged in a triangular lattice in the entorhinal cortex—a region of the brain used in memory and navigation. The “grid” activates in different patterns based on how individuals move, keeping track of our location in the coordinate plane. Researchers think the cells help create mental maps and allow us to navigate through space even in the absence of visual cues.

“If you close your eyes and walk ten feet forward and turn right and walk three feet forward, the grid cells are believed to [track your position],” says neuroscientist Joshua Jacobs at Columbia University. Intriguingly, people withthe so-called e4 variant of a gene known as APOE—the largest genetic risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s later in life—are at a higher risk for developing abnormalities in their entorhinal cortex. Because the grid cells are found in the same region, scientists wondered if the reason Alzheimer’s patients are more likely to get lost and have difficulty navigating could be explained by damage to the network…’

Source: 3quarksdaily

Antioxidants help tumors to spread

‘The largely unregulated supplement industry sells a variety of weird and sometimes dangerous stuff that it wink-nudge promises will cure what ails you, but even the most accurately labeled, evidence-based supplements can make sick people much, much sicker.

People who eat diets rich in antioxidants — plants, mostly — are at a lower risk of many illnesses, including cancer. There’s good evidence to support the idea that the anti-oxidants in their diet are protecting them from cancer by attacking mutation-causing free radicals.

But when those anti-oxidants are extracted and turned into supplements, they have a very different effect from the foods in which they’re found. In a new study published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers from the Karolinska Institute report on a study that found antioxidants were responsible for speeding up the growth of melanomas; last year they reported a similar finding for antioxidants and lung cancer.

The Karolinska Institute’s Martin Bergö, a molecular biologist, hypothesizes that antioxidants are protecting cancer cells from free radicals. Cancer cells are particularly vulnerable to “oxidative stress” — the damage from free radicals, and this retards the spread of cancer, unless, that is, you’re megadosing on anti-oxidants…’

Source: Boing Boing