Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Fluff: Lazy Latkes

A latke cooking. You know you want it. Image from Wikimedia

Over the week of Thanksgiving I doubled down on my blogging and brought you a new turkey day tip, trick, or recipe each day. For Christmas next week I am going to do the opposite. I'll be taking the week off. Or maybe I won't. I'll be spending most of the week with my in-laws, so I make no promises regarding new blog posts or a lack thereof.

As for today, did you know that this week is Hanukkah? It started on sundown on the 16th this year, so right now (Friday afternoon) it's day 3 of 8. A version of today's latke recipe is part of every Jewish families' recipe box; it is as much a part of Hanukkah as pumpkin pie is a part of Thanksgiving. But really, latkes should be a part of every families' recipe box. They are delicious! Maybe a little fussy, but no worse than french toast or pancakes. A lazy weekend morning kind of breakfast, especially now that it's cold out.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The BMJ: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study

An early Christmas gift. Image by Me (CC BY-NC-ND)

Every December The British Medical Journal releases its holiday edition where fluffy light-hearted research that scientists do just for fun or personal curiosity gets to see the light of day. Today's article was something of a surprise gift from the Red Man himself to my blog. I must have been a good blogger this year!

The goal of this research was to identify where distortions, exaggerations, and changes to research conclusions as presented in media come from: research --> press release or press release --> news story? For example how did research showing that when a female Telostylinus angusticllis fly mates with two males, most of her offspring will inherit genes from the second male, but may inherit adult body size from the first male (suggesting some non-genetic mechanism of inheritance: possibly hormones in the semen) turn into this news story? Which heavily implies that your baby--your human baby--might look like the guy you lost your virginity to instead of your husband/baby-daddy. It's only several paragraphs down that they admit this research was done on flies and might does not have anything to do with humans. Jezebel has a nice not-too-technical explanation of the research if you're interested. But again, why does this happen? And whose fault is it? This is what researchers wanted to know.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Cookie Madness 2014

About 2/3 of the way through Cookie Madness 2014
Yes, that's 20 dozen cookies on my Mom's kitchen table.

I spent the whole weekend and the first half of today up to my elbows in Christmas craziness. Including spending an hour in line and $130 at the UPS store. So, I'm not in the mood to do any science today. Which is a shame because I had a great article from the British Medical Journal all picked out. I'll save it for Wednesday.

Instead, what I'm going to do today is share some information from the front lines of bulk cookie baking. On Friday I told you a little bit about the history and science of chocolate chip cookie recipes and suggested that they make a great inexpensive Christmas gift. Today I want to share a little bit more information, this time more practice than theory. And brag about my 36 dozen cookies.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Fluff: History and Chemistry of Chocolate Chip Cookies

Not the most practical packaging for gifting. Image from EasyBaked

Christmas will be here soon, and that means parties to attend and gifts to give to family that you don't know (or like) as well as you should. I submit to you that a tin of chocolate chip cookies is the answer for both of these problems. They are delicious, they won't end up in the back of a closet, a large quantity can be made for very little money, and they really aren't that difficult.

Having decided that cookies are the answer to your Christmas gift stress, you now have to decide which cookie recipe you want to follow. If you google "chocolate chip cookie recipe" you will get more than 6 million results. How are you to choose?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fox: Nearly Half of Americans Think Flu Shot Can Make You Sick

Colorized transmission electron micrograph of
Avian influenza A H5N1 viruses (seen in gold)
Image from Cynthia Goldsmith at the CDC

Is it just me or does there need to be a "[sic]" in the title of today's post? I'm pretty sure it should read "...Think the Flu Shot..." but either way, today's article comes from Fox News. It shares the findings of a study published earlier this week in the journal Vaccine about how sharing information with patients affects their willingness to get their annual flu shot.

According to Fox, researchers found that 40% of adult Americans believe that the flu vaccine can give you the flu, and that explaining to patients that this is a myth is not as effective as researchers expected it to be. The researchers polled 1,000 people about their perception of the dangers of flu shots, then they gave some people information about flu shots, some information about the flu, or no new information (control). In addition to the finding regarding belief that the flu shot could give you the flu, they found that the participants who had initially believed the flu shot to be the most dangerous were actually more convinced of their position after reading the information about the flu shot's safety. The flu kills many people every year, and the annual vaccine is the best protection we've been able to develop. So then the question is, what should a health care professional say to some one who is worried about the safety of the flu shot?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Science World Report: New, Promising Compound Eliminates Malaria Parasites in Only Two Days

Malaria parasites infecting a red blood cell. Image from CDC.

Today's article comes from Science World Report; it's about the findings of a research paper just published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences regarding a potential new drug for the treatment of malaria. They found that treating the malaria parasites with a compound named (+)-SJ733 caused the parasites to be unable to hide from the infected host's immune system. This resulted in rapid recovery from infection.

According to the news article, the new potential drug allows the immune system to clear 80% of the parasites from the body in 24 hours, and all of them by 48 hours from the beginning of treatment. Given these promising results researchers are working to begin safety trials in humans and are hoping that within the next few years this drug will prove safe, effective, and relatively inexpensive. If so this will be a big advance for the treatment of malaria, which is currently problematic due to the high rate of dangerous side-effects and the evolution of drug resistant strains of malaria.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Fluff: Winter is coming, let's talk about spring!

If your holidays look anything like mine, this weekend is your only break between the Thanksgiving travel and the Christmas prep. So, what should we do with this one late autumn weekend before the holiday madness really gets going? Let's think about spring. Specifically planting flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips!

For most gardeners living in zones 6 and 7 (those would be the northern half of the Southerners), the time to plant spring bulbs is Thanksgiving, so we're a little late, but there's still time. For gardeners living in zones 8 and 9, you have until Christmas. If you live right on the 7/8 line, like me, this weekend will be perfect! But what to choose? And why now?