Archives for the month of: July, 2012

In a set of articles in the British Medical Journal, researchers debunked a number of claims for sports products. The color of urine—something athletes are told to keep an eye on—depends on many factors, not just hydration. Drinking before you feel thirsty may worsen performance. Energy drinks with caffeine and other compounds have no benefit above and beyond the boost from caffeine. And carbohydrate and protein combinations post-workout don’t improve performance and recovery.

Olympic Games 27 July – 12 August

Yes. And no. Sorry, not really a fact, is it? Zola Budd ran barefoot in the Olympics in 1984, a race that was controversial for other reasons. Research in Journal of Strength And Conditioning suggests that barefoot running is neither good nor bad, but that both barefoot and shod running need proper training and conditioning.

Olympic Games 27 July – 12 August

Many animals can match and beat humans in track and field events. For example, the 5 cm hat thrower fungus can throw a spore capsule 2 m away.

Olympic Games 27 July – 12 August

Scientists working with Team GB are using genetic tests to try to work out why some athletes are prone to injury such as tendon injuries and stress fractures. Researchers at University College London may have found a gene linked with injury.

Olympic Games 27 July – 12 August

As always, Olympics opening ceremonies include fireworks and today’s was no exception. Fireworks use a lot of science – for example, particle sizes control the rate of burn, different colours are created by using different metals, and the sounds and shapes depend on how the chemicals are packed.

Olympic Games 27 July – 12 August

I know it’s a bit late, but 22 July (22/7) was Pi Approximation Day.

Piece of pieThe fraction 22/7 is an approximation of pi, the mathematical constant that describes the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. Pi has an infinite number of non-repeating digits after the decimal point – see this site for the first million digits (or not…) Pi Day is 14 March (3.14), of course!

Today is likely to be flying ant day in the UK. The common black ant mates on the wing, and to increase the chance of finding a mate, males and new queens all hatch within a day or two of each other. After mating, the males die and the females create new colonies. It’s a feast for the birds, as well as a dramatic bit of science.

Society of Biology Flying Ant Survey

Source: Society of Biology

The Society of Biology is carrying out a survey – report time, date, location and weather conditions on the website to help the society learn more about the biology of ants.

Second Sight Medical Products has developed a medical device, Argus II retinal prosthesis system, that gives blind people a form of sight.

Argus II retinal prosthesis system

Source: Second Sight

The device includes a miniature camera that fits into the patient’s glasses, which converts video images into a series of small electrical pulses. The impulses are transmitted wirelessly to electrodes implanted on the surface of the retina. These stimulate the remaining cells in the retina to create patterns of light in the brain, and the brain learns to interpret these patterns.

Argus II retinal prosthesis system

Source: Second Sight

This has been developed for patients who have lost their sight through retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited eye disease that damages the retina at the back of the eye.

Researchers in the US have created an artificial jellyfish from silicon and living cardiac muscle cells, and it can swim freely. The rat heart muscle tissue is stimulated electrically and this ‘beats’ to create the jellyfish’s propulsive force. This is called ‘Medusoid’ and could be a step towards synthetic life.
Medusoid an artificial jellyfish

Credit: Harvard University and Caltech

For more, read the paper in .

Children brought up with animals, and youngest children in families, are often the least likely to get asthma,  and this may be down to the microbiome (all the bacteria) in the home’s house dust. Mice fed house dust from homes with dogs were more likely to be immune to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) than mice fed with dust from non-dog homes. RSV is a common childhood infection, and children exposed to it are more likely to get asthma.The microbes in their gut were also different.

The hygiene hypothesis suggests that we get more allergies now because our immune systems don’t have enough to do. Hookworms might be able to cure allergies – but a dog is much more fun to take for a walk!

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