Stories tagged k

Apr
09
2013

Are we too sexy for research?: A controversy over government funding of research about duck genitalia has people asking bigger questions about public funding for scientific purposes.
Are we too sexy for research?: A controversy over government funding of research about duck genitalia has people asking bigger questions about public funding for scientific purposes.Courtesy Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez
They're the favorite punching bags and punchlines for politicians and late night comics: those seemingly odd science research projects. Right now there's a turmoil over a National Science Foundation grant of some $385,000 to study the genitalia of ducks.

The Washington Post today digs deeper into these kinds of projects. Are they frivolous? Do they lead to deeper scientific findings? If the government doesn't provide the funding, would anybody else? Does the government have a obligation to help provide opportunities for such research to happen? Who and how do we decide if a study is worth funding for the greater good of society? They're all interesting questions.

One of the problems of the past, the article notes, is that scientists typically have kept quiet and take their lumps from the critics while their research goes on. The thinking is that the critics don't want to understand science, so why even engage them in an argument. And unknown benefits can emerge from such projects. A researcher looking into why bluebirds are blue is now on the cusp of developing a new way to make paint.

It's a great topic for debate. Read the article and share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.

Nov
26
2012

Smoking messes up your brain's cognitive skills: Sure it's funny now, but see if you can remember to laugh about it in your 50s, pal.
Smoking messes up your brain's cognitive skills: Sure it's funny now, but see if you can remember to laugh about it in your 50s, pal.Courtesy jaduarte
I don’t know why this should surprise anyone, but a study coming from King’s College in London suggests that smoking not only adversely affects your physical health but also damages your mental health, reducing your brain’s capacity to learn, reason, and remember.

The study was published in the journal Age and Aging and involved lifestyle data gathered from 8,800 people over 50 years of age. The study was looking for links between the likelihood of stroke or heart attack, and the condition of the brain. Four years after the initial data was collected, participants were examined again, and given brain tests, such as naming as many animals as they could in a minute’s time, or learning new words. The same tests were administered again eight years later.

Not only did participants with high-risk physical conditions such as obesity or high blood pressure fair poorly in the cognitive tests, but those who smoked had a “consistent association” with lower scores as well.

"We have identified a number of risk factors which could be associated with accelerated cognitive decline, all of which, could be modifiable," said Dr. Alex Dregan, one of the researchers involved. "We need to make people aware of the need to do some lifestyle changes because of the risk of cognitive decline."

LINKS
BBC story
Heavy smoking and dementia