Mentos, the fizz maker

I am soooo going to show this trick to my kids.

Candy + pop + science = perfect combination. Even better than sparking wintergreen lifesavers. (And this one doesn’t involve blowing up stuff that could actually, y’know, really harm you).

And finally, since I’ve not participated in poetry pimpin’ at Scienceblogs yet, I offer an ode to Mentos on this, the closing day of National Poetry Month:

A Mentos Poem
by Rachel from Michigan

What can I say about Mentos,
They make my life complete.
They taste nothing like pimentos,
And is why I will eat…….them.

(More about the experiment on Steve Spangler Science).

Saturday roundup

More topics I’d have covered this week, given endless time and energy:

An update on the Chikungunya outbreak I discussed here (and see this comment on the outbreak from a medical entomologist in the region dealing with it first-hand).

Orac on viruses as cancer treatment, inspired by a recent episode of House (more episode reviews by Scott at Polite Dissent can be found here).

An update on mumps activity from the Iowa Department of Health. I haven’t written about this in a few days because there’s not much more to tell. Cases are still increasing, and they’re recommended that students between 18 and 22 get booster shots (especially those who’ve only had one shot). Preliminary data suggests that the vaccine efficacy has been around 80% for one shot, and 90% for those who’ve gotten 2 shots. Of course, there are still those who doubt efficacy, and even people who cheer the spread of the virus. It should be noted, though, that there have been at least 3 cases of encephalitis during this outbreak (out of the 681 cases with completed follow-up reports), so despite the pooh-poohing of the anti-vaccine brigade, mumps can indeed be serious. Orchitis–swelling of the testicles–was present in 6% of cases as well. Obviously I can’t relate, but that doesn’t exactly sound like fun, either.

In other Iowa news, poor Herky the Hawkeye gets dissed as a “not hot” mascot, but Brutus the Buckeye gets a pass? Something just ain’t right…

In other infectious disease news, Revere on the potential of masks to help during an influenza epidemic.

Forbes magazine gives you 5 reasons to skip college. What I want to know is, where are all those people who had $160,000 up front to invest as an 18 year old?

Now that they can put George Clooney and Angelina Jolie’s faces next to the suffering, the media is again picking up the Darfur story.

The number of people fleeing their homes to escape fighting between rebels, the army and government-backed militias had risen by 200,000 to more than 2 million in the past three months, he said.

This page lists several places where you can donate. If you’re in the DC area, you can also head to the rally taking place tomorrow (April 30th).

Mike and Orac take on a young earth creationist/medical student in this post at Respectful Insolence and these posts over at the lair of the Mad Biologist. (Note: the latter is on the relationship between Shigella and E. coli, so it should be of double interest to readers here).

Finally, frogs are still dying from a killer fungus–and it’s become worrisome enough that researchers are putting together a froggy “Noah’s ark” to save as many species as possible.

Bookend: The real hot 100

Okay, one more post and I swear I’ll stop talking about sex/sexiness for awhile. A reader sent me a link to this page: the real hot 100.

We’re tired of the media telling young women how to be “hot”! Maxim Magazine’s annual “Hot 100” list exemplifies how young women are viewed in popular culture. The women featured in this leading men’s magazine are chosen solely for their appearance.

The REAL hot 100 shows that young women are “hot” for reasons beyond their ability to look cute in a magazine.

REALLY hot women are smart. REALLY hot women work for change. REALLY hot women aren’t afraid to speak their minds. And while some REALLY hot women might look awesome in a bikini, they know that’s not all they have to offer.

The REAL hot 100 is a list featuring young women from around the country who are breaking barriers, fighting stereotypes, and making a difference in their communities or the nation.

This project will not only combat the popular notion that all young women have to offer is their ability to appeal to men, but it will also highlight the important — but often overlooked — work young women are doing.

And while it’s fun to have smart role models who also happen to be good looking (such as the scientists profiled here), ’tis true that beauty fades. Meanwhile, intelligence remains “hot.”

Sexy science (or, not)

After hitting on the topic of sexy scientists earlier in the week, this one is kind of the flip side. I probably don’t need to tell this audience that a lot of biology ain’t exactly glamorous. Sure, there are biologists out there who never have to get their hands dirty, but many of us routinely grow up liters of stinky bacteria, or execute mice or other animals (my own gradute work, for example, involved lots of “spleen homogenization”), or monitor roadkill. Another common project is investigating feces, which can tell us all kinds of wonderous things. So, earlier this week that’s what I spent most of the day doing, with the help of a MPH student in our program who also happens to be a large animal veterinarian:

I dealt more with the little ones; he and the farm owner swabbed the older cows. My lab is now very, very stinky. The best part? I had to run to the store after I picked up the kids later that afternoon (and before taking a shower). My daughter told one of the employees there: “my mom smells like a cow.” Ah, the joys of parenthood…

Nanotechnology primer

Nanotechnology. What does it mean to you? How does it affect health? Does the phrase only conjure up images of Crichton-esque nanobots with a sinister motive?

Nanotechnology is a field defined solely by its size. By definition, it involves the manufacture and manipulation of materials at the atomic or molecular level–materials which are typically less than 100 nanometers in diameter. (For comparison, a human hair is roughly 50,000 nm thick, and a piece of paper 100,000 nm thick).

This technology has potential applications in a host of fields. For example, it’s been used as a windshield defogger. They can be used for stain repellents, and even as artificial bone. Really, the sky’s the limit right now as far as applications go, but you can find those in current use via this catalog of products.
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Emerging Disease and Zoonoses #13–new swine influenza virus detected

Novel Swine Influenza Virus Subtype H3N1, United States

In several of my influenza posts, I’ve discussed ways that the viruses can evolve. These are termed “antigenic drift,” where the virus accumulates small mutations in the RNA genome; and antigenic shift, where large sections of the genome are swapped, generally in their entirety. While it was long thought that the latter was the most likely type of mutation to cause a pandemic, we now know that even the right kind of antigenic drift may be enough to allow a novel influenza virus to enter the human population, which seems to have happened in 1918 (and is, of course, the current concern regarding H5N1). A new paper in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, however, highlights the need for broader influenza surveillance and pandemic response plans (such as those here) by showing how a novel influenza virus can appear right under our noses.
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