New & Notable: 12/31 - 1/05

/ by Edit Staff /

Mice get breasts, an ancient echidna gets named, and one lucky dolphin says something that resembles "I do."

Researchers have used stem cells to grow replacement breasts on mice. Image is not of an actual research subject.

Teddy Bearer of Bad News
He looks cute and cuddly, but that plush toy crushed to your child’s breast might be destroying him. The stuffing inside Teddy is almost identical to materials that are used to absorb volatile chemicals in scientific laboratories—so, effectively, Teddy is a magnet for toxins. Researchers at Chatham College in Pittsburgh tested 11 plush toys and found high concentrations of the poisonous insecticide DDT, as well as PBDEs, chemicals linked to learning impairments in rodents exposed during brain development. And while recycling is usually the way to go, one toy labeled as made from recycled materials had PBDE levels about 20,000 times those of the other toys. The researchers have not yet tested best-selling toys like Li’l Miss Asbestos and Edible Lead-y Bull for toxins.
(source: Science News)

The Most Deliciously-Named Species Ever
An ancient echidna (or spiny anteater) has been given the species designation Kryoryctes cadburyi as a result of a lost bet. Yes, thats “cadburyi,” as in Cadbury chocolate. Paleontologist Tom Rich led an archaeological dig at Australia’s Dinosaur Cove from 1984 to 1994, where he expected to find, predictably, dinosaur bones. When a student asked what she would get if she found a mammal bone, Rich, confident they would find none, promised a cubic meter (about a ton) of chocolate to anyone who dug up a mammal specimen.

As fate would have it, a bone from an early echidna turned up, but Rich had no idea who found the bone. He did, however, know that he was on the hook for $10,000 of chocolate. Luckily, he tapped a connection at the Cadbury factory in Melbourne, and his team was invited to a showing of a cubic-meter slab of cocoa butter (normal chocolate doesn’t hold together at that volume) and then invited to dig in to Cadbury chocolate bars.

Then, as a trade for services rendered, the ancient echidna was named in honor of the company whose factory made Rich’s debt disappear.
(source: National Geographic)

Stop Global Warming: Eat Less Meat
Drive that Bugatti Veyron straight to your local vegan eatery. A University of Chicago study recently calculated that a person can better reduce emission of greenhouse gases by going vegan than by switching to a hybrid. A typical meat-and-potatoes (hold the potatoes) American causes the emission of 1.5 more tons of CO2 each year than a typical vegan. By contrast, a standard gas-guzzling car emits just over one more ton each year than a hybrid Toyota Prius. (source: the Guardian)

European soccer is more exciting than any American sport, say the freedom-hating anti-patriots at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The researchers assumed that what makes a sport exciting is a favored team losing to an underdog. They found that English Premier League soccer has a higher rate of upsets than any of the major American leagues in football, baseball, hockey or basketball. Of the American sports, the researchers found baseball to be the most exciting and football to be the most predictable. The scientists note that frequent upsets mean evenly matched teams and therefore more competitive leagues. When the best teams increase their strength at the expense of weaker teams, upsets are less likely to occur. Nobody loves a dynasty…except Yankee fans.
(source: Nature)

Wanting Mammaries
Just when we thought Hwang Woo-Sukked the life out of stem cell research, researchers flashed their breasts. Yeah, you read that correctly: Scientists have successfully used stem cells to grow replacement breasts on mice. Two different teams showed that a single stem cell, injected into mammary fat pad, can grow into a breast in five weeks—the normal breast-growth time in a mouse. According to researchers, the technology may, someday, be useful for women who’ve had mastectomies, allowing them to regrow their own fully-functional breasts (they noted that the mice’s breasts were able to produce milk). The scientists did not discuss potential cosmetic applications of the research, but most of Los Angeles probably will.
(source: the Guardian)


Your Cheating Heart: New research shows that a woman may be genetically inclined to cheat while she’s ovulating, but only if her usual mate isn’t as sexy as other men. While women are at peak fertility, they are most attracted to men other than their primary partner and more likely to fantasize about these other men. The exception, said one scientist, is women whose parters are extremely sexually attractive. The researchers surely had an extremely scientific measure of which men qualified as extremely attractive.
(source: ABC News)

Don’t Bring It On: Researchers have found that cheerleading is a significant source of injury to teenage girls. Between 1990 and 2002, an estimated 209,000 children were treated in US hospital emergency rooms for cheerleading-related injuries. The number of injuries increased by 110% over the 13 years; the researchers attribute the increase to the emergence of gymnastic cheerleading over more traditional styles.
(source: Columbus Children’s Hospital)

Optimal Prime: The 9.1 million-digit prime number discovered in mid-December has been confirmed as a true Mersenne prime. This special class of prime numbers consists of those of the form 2x-1, where x is another prime number. The find falls just short of the 10 million digits needed to claim the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search’s $100,000 prize.
(source: the Guardian)

Wailing Whale from…Wales?: Whales sound different depending on where they’re from, new research shows. Some species sing in a variety dialects depending on their location, using different combinations of pulses, tones and pitches. The researchers don’t know whether the different styles of communication stem from genetic variation or other factors.
(source: LiveScience)

Testing Testes At Home: British scientists have developed the world’s first over-the-counter fertility test for men. In under an hour, you too can find out whether your sperm have what it takes to fertilize an egg, all from the comfort of your home. The device puts sperm through the grueling test of penetrating a cervix-like barrier and then counts how many made it past the obstacle.
(source: BBC News)

Woman Weds Dolphin: Sharon Tendler, a 41-year-old British woman, has gotten hitched…to a dolphin. No, she’s not just going on an underwater adventure tour: Ms. Tendler has not-even-close-to-legally wed her beloved, a 35-year-old bottlenosed dolphin named Cindy, in the southern Israeli port of Eilat.

“It’s not a perverted thing. I do love this dolphin. He’s the love of my life,” Tendler told the press.

That’s up for debate, my dear.
(source: the Melbourne Age)

Originally published January 9, 2006

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