Archive for June, 2010

5 Cups of Coffee a Day Fight Alzheimer’s Disease

29 Jun

The Good News: Scientists have discovered that coffee can help protect the brain against Alzheimer’s disease.

Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center researcher (and coffee lover) Gary Arendash and colleagues discovered that 500 mg of caffeine can ward off Alzheimer’s:

They’ve found that adding caffeinated water to rodents’ diet results in big improvements. The mice perform better on short-term memory and thinking tests. But only if they get enough caffeine.

"The human equivalent of two to three cups of coffee does not have benefits in our Alzheimer’s mice," says Arendash.

Arendash’s team also documented that these super-caffeinated mice end up with about a 50-percent reduction in abnormal amyloid proteins, which are thought to play an important role in the development of Alzheimer’s.

The typical American drinks about a cup and a half of coffee a day. "So you can see that many of us are below that threshold level that we believe confers protective benefits," says Arendash.

Allison Aubrey of NPR explains: Link

The Bad News: You may have to wear this T-shirt below.

I’m Not Tense – I’m Terribly, Terribly Alert – $9.95


‘World’s First’ 3TB Desktop Drive Offers USB 3.0, FireWire

29 Jun

Seagate’s new FreeAgent GoFlex external hard drive is notable for two things other than the excessive use of CamelCase in its name. The first is that it will hold up to 3TB of data, with Seagate claiming a World’s First for this feat of packing bits into an external drive.

The second is that, while the disk comes ready to hook up via USB 2.0, it can easily be changed to fit a combined FireWire 800/USB 2.0 connector ($50) or a USB 3.0 ($40) connector. For those still lacking the faster bus on their machines (that is to say, almost all of us) there is an $80 kit which includes the USB 3.0 connector, a PCI-X card and a cable. These connectors just swap in for the one already fitted.

Better, the price is actually rather reasonable. $250 will buy you the 3TB drive, which compares pretty well to the basic $130 1TB model. Available now, for all of you who like to keep their eggs in one giant basket.

FreeAgent GoFlex Desk External Drive [Seagate]


Life is unfair!

28 Jun

Original title and link for this post: Life is unfair!



28 Jun
A 19 page strip about homeopathy. My follow up story-strip to the one I did on the MMR vaccine scare, and another chapter of my ongoing book about science. This is, in effect, the beta version of the strip. There will, I'm sure, be mistakes dotted throughout that I haven't spotted. So do feel free to point out any errors. The references will be in the next entry.

homeopathy 1

homeopathy 2

homeopathy 3

homeopathy 4

homeopathy 5

homeopathy 6

homeopathy 7

homeopath 8

homeopathy 9

homeopathy 10

homeopathy 11

homeopathy 12

homeopathy 13

homeopathy 14

homeopath 15

homeopath 16

homeopathy 17

homeopathy 18

homeopathy 19

Panera Planning To Add More Pay-What-You-Want Restaurants

27 Jun

A month ago, Panera Bread Co. opened its first non-profit, pay-what-you-can-afford eatery, called the Saint Louis Bread Company Cares Café, in Clayton, MO. And the restaurant chain's chairman is so happy with the results, the company plans to launch two more in the coming months.

"I guess I would say it's performing better than we even might have hoped in our cynical moments, and it's living up to our best sense of humanity," Panera chairman Ron Shaich said of the experiment.

The restaurant's cashiers tell customers the suggested price of their orders and then the customers decide how much to pay. According to Shaich, between 60-70% pay the menu price. Around 15% dig into their pockets to pay a little more, while the other 15% or so pay less or even walk out paying nothing.

The restaurant, which features the same menu as Panera but is technically run by a non-profit organization called Panera Cares, took in $100,000 in revenue its first month. Panera supports the non-profit but is not on the hook financially if the pay-what-you-want restaurants fail.

Shaich didn't say where the non-profit's new locations would be. But a rep for Panera said they are looking for areas that will continue to attract an upscale diner, but is accessible to lower-income communities.

How Much Would You Pay At Panera If You Could Pay What You Want?survey software

Panera Co. to open more pay-what-you-wish eateries [AP]


Pile Isle Bamboo Bench by Elena Goray

25 Jun

Dutch designer Elena Goray, in cooperation with CONBAM, a bamboo distributor in Germany, has created the Pile Isle bamboo bench.

A bundle of brown bamboo poles is strapped together in smart and simple way. Just 4 belts of stainless steel are keeping the shape – no screw and no glue is necessary.




Aatrial House / KWK PROMES | Arch Daily

24 Jun



Write-only articles

23 Jun

I saw this on Twitter yesterday:

About 200,000 academic journals are published in English. The average number of readers per article is 5.

I don’t know where those numbers came from, but five readers per article sounds about right.

When I was a grad student, I felt like a fraud for writing papers that I wouldn’t want to read. Only later did I realize this is the norm.You’re forced to publish frequently. You can’t wait until you think you have something worthwhile to say.

If the average academic article has five readers, most would have fewer. Since some articles have hundreds of readers, there would have to be even more with practically no readers to balance out the average.

Readership may follow something like a power law distribution. It could be that the vast majority of articles have one or two readers even though some papers have thousands of readers.

Related posts:

Wendell Berry on publish-or-perish
Nearly everyone is above average
Networks and power laws


‘Lucy’s Grandfather’ Fossil Makes Humanity’s Ancestor Seem More Like Us

22 Jun

A 3.6 million-year-old fossil from one of humanity’s earliest ancestors is more human-like than expected — and much taller.

The discovery makes Lucy, the best-known fossil of all, appear to be exceptionally short by comparison. Lucy and the new skeleton are both Australopithecus afarensis, the first fully bipedal primate and a direct ancestor of humanity. Unlike Lucy and every other A. afarensis fossil, the new skeleton has complete forelimb and hindlimb bones, allowing researchers to estimate its size more accurately.

The new A. afarensis specimen stood between 5 and 5 1/2 feet tall, towering over Lucy’s 3-foot height. Other fossil fragments suggested that Lucy was an unreliable measuring stick for A. afarensis, but the new fossil is the most conclusive evidence yet. Dubbed “Kadanuumuu,” or Big Man, it is described June 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Big Man’s limbs also appear well-suited for running, in contrast to the shortened gait implied by Lucy’s skeleton. The proportions compare to those found two million years later in Homo erectus, and would not be out of place in a modern human, said study co-author Owen Lovejoy, a Kent State University paleoanthropologist.

“The difference between Australopithecus and humans is much less than everyone expected,” said Lovejoy. “Upright walking and running were pretty advanced at 3.6 million years ago, and they didn’t change much over the next two million years. Most of the changes in that period of time took place elsewhere.”

Lovejoy was also part of the team that discovered Ardipithecus ramidus, a 4.4 million-year-old possible human ancestor that was officially described last October. Ardipithecus was far less chimp-like than expected.

That raises the possibility that it’s the other Great Apes, rather than humans, whose bodies have evolved the most over the last few million years.

Big Man, with a rib cage shaped more like our own than that of a chimpanzee or gorilla, reinforces that notion.

“Chimps and gorillas are again the unusual form. Hominids and ourselves bear many primitive traits that haven’t been specialized like they have in gorillas,” said Lovejoy.

“The classic cartoon of the ape turning into the human doesn’t work at all.”

Image: Yohannes Haile-Selassie/PNAS.

See Also:

Citation: “An early Australopithecus afarensis postcranium from Woranso-Mille, Ethiopia.” By
Yohannes Haile-Selassie, Bruce M. Latimer, Mulugeta Alene, Alan L. Deino, Luis Gibert, Stephanie M. Melillo, Beverly Z. Saylor, Gary R. Scott, C. Owen Lovejoy.

Brandon Keim’s Twitter stream and reportorial outtakes; Wired Science on Twitter. Brandon is currently working on a book about ecological tipping points.


He’s back: 60-foot Gundam is (almost) ready again

22 Jun

We spent quite a few posts on the uber-cool, gigantic Gundam statue that was erected in Tokyo Bay last year. The 60-foot robot statue was deconstructed in September, with Bandai quickly announcing plans to re-erect the big guy in Shizuoka soon. And now he’s almost ready.

Shizuoka is too far away from me to go and have a look at the big guy myself (it’s (125 miles west of Tokyo – where I live), but there are enough geeks living there, too. And thanks to two of them, we can show you the first photos of Gundam getting constructed.

As you can see (and as we reported earlier), Gundam already holds his “beam saber” in his right hand. According to Bandai, the weapon will start glowing when it gets dark.

If you have the chance to go to Shizuoka: Gundam will be on display from July 24, 2010 till January 10, 2011, right on East Shizuoka Square.

Via Buloblog [JP] and Troian [JP]