Strange Brew

Strange Brew

Feb 11 2007 | comment(s)

In side-by-side taste tests, pub-goers agree: “MIT Brew” tastes better than Budweiser — as long as tasters don’t learn beforehand that the secret ingredient is balsamic vinegar.

It sounds more like a fraternity prank than a psychology experiment, but the beer-guzzling participants in a recent study were doing their part for psychology. In this case, helping researchers determine just what it is about consumers’ knowledge of food products that af-fects their taste judgments.


Does Knowledge Of Food Products Affect Taste Judgment?

Fermions tend to avoid each other and cannot "travel" in close proximity. Demonstrated by a team at the Institut d'optique (CNRS/Université Paris 11, Orsay-Palaiseau), this result is described in detail in the January 25, 2007 issue of Nature. It marks a major advance in our understanding of phenomena at a quantum scale.

For many years, the theory of quantum mechanics stipulated that certain particles, the fermions(1), were incapable of "travelling" in close proximity.

The February issue of Current Directions in Psychological Science points to several studies that indicate facial composite systems produce a poor likeness of the intended face. In one particular study, only 2.8 percent of participants correctly named a well-known celebrity that had been created by other participants using the face-composite software.

Dynamic face recognition may be one of the last frontiers for quantifying why some of our simplest brain functions have difficulty being matched by computers.

As a kid, when computers were more basic, it was easy to see the differences between my brain and the power of a computer. When I played baseball I knew the instant the ball was hit whether I had to run back or forward.

 In The Sunday Times Nigel Calder writes:
When politicians and journalists declare that the science of global warming is settled, they show a regrettable ignorance about how science works. We were treated to another dose of it recently when the experts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued the Summary for Policymakers that puts the political spin on an unfinished scientific dossier on climate change due for publication in a few months’ time. They declared that most of the rise in temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to man-made greenhouse gases.

This is the last day of the Week of Science, a challenge on justscience.net to write at least one scientific, referenced article per day. Generally, it was a good idea, but the categories became unreadable and uncontrolled after the first days. And it’s going to be held only one time a year.

Thank you, Razib at Gene Expression for working so hard on the idea! Here are my articles made for the Week of Science (7 articles for 7 days):

Aggressive research currently underway brings hope of dramatic advances in breast cancer management, according to a new review. Published in the March 15, 2007 issue of CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, the review reveals that new approaches in breast cancer imaging, investigations into the timing of chemotherapy, and research on breast cancer vaccines may lead to exciting new nonsurgical tools for the physician treating breast cancer patients. These new tools may significantly alter current screening and treatment paradigms used by surgical oncologists, as well improving the care of patients.

Our understanding of breast cancer has changed since Dr. William Halsted started performing radical mastectomies in the 1880s.

Mice engineered to have cleft palates can be rescued in utero by injecting the mothers with a small molecule to correct the defect, say scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. In addition to shedding light on the biology of cleft palate, the research raises hopes that it may one day be possible to prevent many types of human birth defects by using a similar vaccination-type technique in pregnant women likely to have affected fetuses.

"This is a really important baby step that opens the door to the development of fetal therapies," said pediatric craniofacial surgeon Michael Longaker, MD.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health and other institutions have found a second genetic defect that accounts for previously unexplained forms of osteogenesis imperfecta (OI), a disorder that weakens bones, sometimes results in frequent fractures and is sometimes fatal.

The affected gene contains the information for a protein designated P3H1 (prolyl 3-hydroxylase 1), also known as leprecan. P3H1 is part of a complex of proteins that is crucial for refining collagen to its final form. Collagen is an important building block for bone.

Americans are bombarded with antismoking messages, yet at least 65 million of us continue to light up. Genetic factors play an important role in this continuing addiction to cigarettes, suggest scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

In two studies in the January 2007 issue of Human Molecular Genetics, the scientists show that certain genetic variations can influence smoking behaviors and contribute to a person's risk for nicotine dependence.

The smoking-related genes identified normally facilitate communication between nerve cells in the brain. One gene in particular, the alpha-5 nicotinic cholinergic receptor (CHRNA5) gene, was a very strong indicator of risk for nicotine dependence.

Newborns with respiratory distress should be evaluated for primary ciliary dyskinesia, a rare genetic disease that has features similar to cystic fibrosis, says Thomas Ferkol, M.D., from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He reports finding that about 80 percent of patients with primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD) have a history of newborn respiratory distress.

"The diagnosis of PCD requires a high index of suspicion, but PCD must be considered in any term newborn who develops respiratory distress or persistent hypoxemia (low oxygen in the blood), especially those who have reversed internal organs or an affected sibling," says Ferkol, director of the Division of Pediatric Allergy and Pulmonary Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine and St.