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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

SPUTNIK I

Sputnik I is afraid of heights
by @sciencemug
 [The picture of the Sputnik I satellite is adapted from a Public Domain image by @sciencemug (source: Wikimedia Commons)] 

On this day in 1957 (the Cold War is on) the Soviet Union launches in orbit the first artificial satellite [slightly smaller than a football (58cm in diameter) and slighlty heavier than a washing machine (86.3kg)] the Sputnik I, which is the first human thing to reach the space.
This freaks the USA out, and the space race begins (plus the what-will-become-the-Internet's creation gets a big push).

Friday, September 30, 2016

FAREWELL ROSETTA

Today's a sad day: Rosetta mission is over.
Here its very last pic.
Thanks and be well, dear Rosetta, science at its best.
SM & the gang
(Bernard is even weeping)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

HAPPY BIRTHDAY FARADAY!

Happy birthday Faraday! (by @sciencemug)
Happy birthday Faraday! (by @sciencemug)
[Faraday's picture is adapted from a Public Domain image by @sciencemug (source: Wikimedia Commons)]

Happy b-day to the son of a blacksmith, the bookbinder, the professor assistant, the scientist who starts working on chemistry but is hooked by electricity since ever, the elected member of the Royal Society, the math illiterate (sic!), the discoverer of the first dynamo (you know, that thingy that turns mechanical energy into electrical energy), the receiver of an honorary degree from the University of Oxford, the recovered sufferer of a mental breakdown, the discoverer of diamagnetism, the life-long giver of Christmas lectures to children, the man:
Micheal "Nothing is too wonderful to be true" Faraday!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

OF OCEAN, PLASTIC & BUGS: AN INTERVIEW

 OF OCEAN, PLASTIC & BUGS: AN INTERVIEW
 (in Eng?ish)

It’s a Wednesday, a big one, like a XXXL size one or so, but not a fatty Jabba the Hutt-big one, with all those soggy minutes and hours overflowing from its borders toward a much fitter Thursday [not Tuesday of course, since time, especially the soggy one, can’t overflow into the past, you know, otherwise the arrow of Miss Entropy (a dominatrix/nutritionist with a passion for basic physics, sloths, tattooed double chins and, of course, archery) gets all grumpy (Miss Entropy, not the arrow, which never gets grumpy because it’s very much into meditation, masters the art of self-control, aaand has a strong relationship with Mr. Valium) and you don’t want to mess with Miss Entropy and her arrow, especially when she’s all grumpy -well, maybe you can handle that if you’re a cat used to weird boxes full of guns (or of cyanide tablets and baskets of acids, or of hatching alien eggs, or of four very robust dudes who bet who would have eaten more lentils at lunch and the “it’s digestion time baby!” is going to begin…-]. No, put it simply, it’s a The Rock-big, a Ivan Drago-big, a Thor-big, a Steve Buscemi under steroids-big (… Ok, maybe not this unsettling) Wednesday.
And PiPs is floating like a feather of light on a blue sea. Under a blue sky. With its legs astride of a blue, slender, beautiful board (ok, not the same of the following pic, but, you know, whatever...).
Waiting for The wave.

 
PiPs surfing by @sciencemug

[The pictures of the ocean (a) the surfboard (b) and of the plastic material (c) are adapted from Public Domain images by @sciencemug (source: Wikimedia Commons)]

But not far from PiPs there’s a wild bunch of blue (and of other colors too) pieces of plastic trash that, on the cry of “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!” (oddly enough, plastic rubbish near the shores collectively refer to themselves as “Baby” - nobody really knows why- while the plastic mush in deep water goes by the name of “Vida”) is ready to steal the perfect coming wave from PiPs, while, on the beach, some rubber masks, a couple of parachutes, a tanned heap of creased bucks and a pair of limping mustaches just passing by, seem to enjoy the show.
PiPs knows it’ll be a rough ride, above all ‘cause the plastic stuff can count on a legion of bacteria living on them, and those tiny little bugs can surely surf (and also make a really funny impression of Steve Buscemi under steroids, but that’s another story...)
So PiPs is all tense, focused and already starting to row with its skinny arms to jump on the back of that wave when a woman bravely approaching the surly school of plastic+bugs distracts it and make it lose the moment… (*)


PiPs by @sciencemug
Pips by SM
PiPs- Hey Miss, watch out, they’re nasty stuff! Who’re you anyway, and what are you doing here?






Assistant Professor Ana Maria Barral
Ass. Prof. AMB
Ana Maria Barral- I am Ana Maria Barral, Assistant professor at National University in the balmy region of Southern California and I study the microbes that live on ocean plastic and, along with other life forms that live on it, make the so-called plastisphere. What I do here is hanging squares of different types of plastic that floats in the ocean. I am curious to know what kind of microbes attach to them when they are freshly out floating in the beach. We know quite a bit what kind of microbes live on them once they have disintegrated into tiny particles and are out in the ocean gyre. But we know little if the plastic floating close to the coast can carry any risks.

PiPs by @sciencemugP- Cool, so you study the (coastal) plastiphere [which, by the way, I first thought to be the commercial name –the common one being “the in-real-need-of-a-hell-of-a-ton-of-wide-spectrum-antibiotics-before-they-eventually-stop-working round thingy”- of a super fancy biotech XXI century version of the old disco ball, with, instead of all those banal little mirrors so âgé, a whole load of multi-bioluminescent bugs flashing in sync with the music (hey, I should patent it, maybe I’ll get rich by that and finally realize my dream to retire in a very exclusive url of the dominion “.whateverudreamcomestrueinheredudeevenifuarebutareallystupidpostwithoveractivearmpits”…)].
 

The plastiphere according to PiPs (by @sciencemug)
The plastiphere according to PiPs (by @sciencemug)

 [The picture of the disco ball is a Public Domain image adapted by @sciencemug (source: Wikimedia Commons)]

Anyway, Prof. Barral, why do you study precisely bacteria and their near shore floating plastic shacks? I mean, why don’t you study, I dunno, how come there’re sea stars but not sea black-holes; or why betters don’t ever wager on seahorses; or who, among bacteria, mosquitoes, cockroaches, rats and drivers who don’t use blinkers, is gonna inherit the world when you humans are gone; or whether, given all the plastic floating on the seas of the world, all the people undergoing plastic surgery risk, afterwards, to go to bed and then to suddenly awaken in the middle of the You-Name-It Ocean with only a pair of leaking water wings around their arms and with a splintered mirror floating aside them on which it is written, with some cheap lipstick, “welcome home”?
And, above all, professor, how come you ended up studying precisely bacteria and their near shore floating plastic shacks? Did you lose/win a bet (on a rigged seahorse race, maybe?)


Assistant Professor Ana Maria BarralAMB- I came from the school that bacteria were bad and caused diseases, so when the whole idea of microbes living in us and on us, and being so important to shape our health came out I was amazed. A great book that just came out on this is Ed Yong’s “I contain multitudes“, I really recommend it. So I am curious about microbes in general and how they impact our lives. On the other hand I love the ocean, I live close to the ocean and I feel very strongly about plstic pollution. So when this project was presented to me I jumped on the opportunity.
As for the how

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

SO LONG, PHILAE!

Goodbye Philae! by PiPs, Bernards & by @sciencemug
Goodbye Philae! by PiPs, Bernards & by @sciencemug

Today's the day when, to save its power [(which is lower and lower given it's generated by solar pannels and the Sun is 520 million km (and going) away now)], European Space Agency (ESA) spacecraft Rosetta (the piece of human immagination, technology, intelligence, hard work and ambition which for ten years (2004-2014) chased, and finally, on 6 August 2014, reached Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko) is switching off the tool used to communicate with its lander Philae, which is on the comet and silent since last summer (9 July 2015).

Goodbye, lander-pal Philae, enjoy your slumber and your view.
And thanks for all the fish... No, sorry... For all the amazing science and your epic landing!

The sciencemug gang.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

BACTERIA vs HUMAN CELLS: 1 to 1 (FINAL) PT3/3

(PART2)
  
Don't lose the brand-new
"Oddities & Bloopers: The Researcher's Fun Corner"
at the end of the post!

Ooooh, welcome back for the third -and, I do promise, last- time in this topic, dear English thinking-reading visitor. I’m @sciencemug, the blog/twitter-account/podcast (on occasion)/e-shop that tells you science stories, competes in the “2016 Combing-Stylist For Bald People Contest (2016C-SFBPC)” (with serious possibilities to get to the semifinals against a url of Tuvalu specialized in doing the perm to invisible wigs for particularly unsettling ceramic dolls) and that does all of it in Eng?ish, a language that is to real English what Brexit and this are to good ideas.
 

In this post, dear visitor, it is going to end the story about three scientists (Mr. Sender, Dr. Fuchs, Prof. Milo, aka the SFMs) who debunk the myth that, in the human body, bacteria outnumber human cells by 10:1.

The SFMs (by @sciencemug)
The SFMs (by @sciencemug)

The SFMs first find out the actual number of bugs living in/on the body of a refernce human being (an healthy, adult, 1.70m high, 70kg heavy, 20-30 years old male aka Mr. Ref): 3.9x1014.
The science trio, then, calculates the number of human cells that make Mr. Ref’s body:
3x1014.
The researchers, like this, can show that the real bacteria/human cells ratio is 1:1 [so that every time one of you, dear human beings, go number two, well, human cells win the ratio-competition (since every “number two initiative” means loosing 1/3 of the members of the bacteria gang)].
 

Sooo to finish the story of the SFMs, dear visitor -and for this blog to go back and train for the 2016C-SFBPC which first prize is a tour of all the forty nine major sites of the dominion “.havingaballohyeahbigtime”- only the two questions you, smart-ass visitor, probably asked yourself, your “monster from the ID” of reference and, implicitly, me, must be answered:
1)Ok, the ratio is 1:1 in […] Mr. Ref, but what about the non-Mr. Refs all around the world, like […] women, overweight people, babies?
2)WHY?! Why [the SFMs] invest so much time in understanding what’s the actual bacteria:human-cells ratio in the human body […] ?


Weell, dear visitor, here come the answers.
 

Answer one. As you, by now, know, the bacteria vs human cell ratio basically depends on: colon volume (CV) & bugs density in the colon (BD) for the bugs side; number of Red Blood Cells-Erythrocytes (i.e. the hematocrit; He) & blood volume (BV) for the human cells side.
Ok? Ok!
 

by @sciencemug
by @sciencemug

So, let’s start with women.
A “standard” 1,63m tall [according to the 2002 Publication by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP2)(1)] mirror of Venus [aka Lady Ref] has a CV of  about 430ml, that is similar to the about 410ml CV of the standard 1.70m Mr. Ref.
As for the BD, well visitor, science literature doesn’t report, so far, any gender-specific differences about this parameter.
Let’s go to the He and BV now. Lady Ref has a He 10% and a BV 20-30% lower than those of Mr. Ref.
So, putting together these values, the SFMs “expect the bacteria to human cell ratio to increase by about a third in women”(P).
 

Big guys, here we come.
In obese peoplethe [CV] increases with weight and plateaus at about 600 ml, i.e. about 50% higher than that of the standard man value(P), and the BD is similar to that of Mr. Ref.
As for the human cells count, well, obesity implicates an increase of adipose tissue, and this grows in two ways: the adipocytes stretch and get very big (hypertrophy), they grow in number (hyperplasia) (2). So, as for the hypertrophy, well dear visitor, you see for yourself that the cell count doesn’t change with this. As for the hyperplasia, there the fat cells number goes actually up. However, the SFMs have shown that adipocytes in Mr. Ref are a negligible 0.2% of the total human cells, so even if their number rises a bit that doesn’t impact on the final cell count in a sensible way.
Moreover

Saturday, June 25, 2016

BACTERIA vs HUMAN CELLS: 1 to 1 (FINAL) PT2/3

PART 1 is HERE

by @sciencemug

Oooh, welcome back my dearest English speaking-thinking-reading visitor, welcome to the second part of the postHow to use the hologram of a white rhino called <<Slim Tim>> to cook spaghetti, wash your conscience and put up a bolero dance act in the middle of the dining room of the President of the Guatemalan branch of  <<The Authority For The Perfect Fonduta>> while he/she’s having a private conversation with his/her lawyer about the lawsuit filed for misleading advertising against the city of Cheeseville (43°28′08″N 88°04′50″W”)"… Ooops, nope, sorry, eheh, just confused the posts, this one‘s still under scrutiny of the “Commission of Weary Neurons and Short Sleeve Shirts with Ties” to get the “go” for publication.

Ok, then, let’s start again.

Oooooh, welcome back etc. to the second part of the post which tells the story of a student, a doctor and a professor (Mr. Sender,  Dr. Fuchs & Prof. Milo aka the SFMs) who don’t enter a bar but instead show how the commonly accepted notion that, in the ecosystem the human body is, bacteria outnumber human cells by 10 to 1 (in an adult, healthy, 20-30 years old, 1.70m tall, 70kg* heavy reference man (1) here friendly called Mr. Ref) is not true.

The SFMs first collect evidence –as the Part1 of this post reports- that the number of bugs in&on human bodies is not, as estimated till now, in the order of 1014, but rather of a factor of 10 smaller. It is, indeed, 3.9x1013.

The three happy researchers then proceed to update the second number that is used for the 10 to 1 ratio (the first one being that of the bacteria): the number of the actual human cells in the human body.

And what follows is the tale of how they do that.

Reference  man aka Mr. Ref (by @sciencemug)
Reference  man aka Mr. Ref (by @sciencemug)

The SFMs once again start checking the scientific literature. They find that, in papers from 1985 to 2013, the amount of the human cells is reported as ranging between 1012 and 1014.

Our curious scientists, in their study, mention only three different kind of approaches followed in the years by their colleagues to calculate how many little bricks make the human building.

The first approach switches from the fit 70kg Mr. Ref to a bigger 100kg man, and then divides the mass of this hulk by the 10-12 - 10-11kg mass (“assuming cell volumes of 1,000-10,000 µm3, respectively” Sender et al, 2016; (P)) of what is considered to be the “representative” (P) mammalian cell. This method clearly doesn’t consider that human body’s mass is also made by extracellular stuff, besides the cells themselves. Anyway it is a clear and rather concise way to get to a final result: human cells are between 1013 and 1014.

The second approach is based on DNA. It starts valuating the number of cells in a mouse. No, its name is not Mickey. No, it does not show its compulsive germ phobia by always wearing a pair of white gloves. And no, its best friend is not a talking biped dog with wide spaced beaver front teeth which for some inexplicable reason has evolved while the other dog of the situation just barks, wags its tail, walks on all fours and probably farts regardless of anything and anybody. The mouse here is a 25gr thing, with 20mg of DNA in it (the Mickey guy instead has tons of DNA, but that’s Disney Narrative Appeal, not DeoxyriboNucleic Acid). This total gloveless mouse body amount of DNA is divided by that of a single diploid gloveless mouse cell (namely 6x10-12g) to get a total of about 3x109 cells forming the above mentioned gloveless mouse body.

This second method, then, makes a proportion between a Mr. Ref’s mass and the tiny mouse mass, and, like that, calculates that the 3x109 cells of the gloveless mouse correspond to about 1013 cells in a human body.

by @sciencemug
by @sciencemug

  [The mouse (PC) and mouse (animal) images are Public Domain pics adapted by @sciencemug (source: Wikimedia Commons)]


The third approach to calculate the totality of human cells in a human being that the SFMs mention is the one used by Bianconi et al in 2013 [(2); oh, visitor, try to remember this name ‘cause I’ll mention it again and again in this post since the SFMs often use the Bianconis’ research as a reference source of data to compare their own data to. Ok, let’s help you out on this: let’s make that every time I’ll recall the Bianconis’ study I also contextually write the symbol “§”, that is not logically linked in whatsoever way to the issue, but it’s strange and complicated and unique and mysterious, so it should stick to your mind. So “§” - besides possibly being one of the five symbols (the other four are up to you to be found) that switch on, via hypnotic suggestion, some dormant cell of spies from Planet X that has the order to cut every single bottle of whisky on Earth with 9.576ml of juice of squeezed algae of the Sargasso Sea so to slightly alter and worst the whisky taste, depress the by this confused and disconcerted whisky purists, weaken their will, and start from them to create a fifth column which will help to eventually fulfill Planet X prime directive: to globally destabilize human civilization by stealing every single stamp on Earth which portray the Elvis (the first Planet X undercover agent ever who’s now collecting funds to sustain his 2018 “Khan of Planet X” campaign) - will be there to remind you of the Bianconis’ paper].

The Bianconi’s § lab bunch doesn’t focus on the elusive “average” human cell, but instead estimate the “number of cells in the body by type or organ system [and] the cell count [is] obtained by either a literature reference or by a calculation based on direct count in histological cross sections”(P_Rx). Aaand, like that, dear human visitor, these patient science people check all yours 56 cells types and get to

Friday, June 10, 2016

BACTERIA vs HUMAN CELLS: 1 to 1 (FINAL) PT1/3

bacteria vs humans (by @sciencemug)
by @sciencemug
The ratio between bacteria and human cells in the human body is 1 to 1 and not, as commonly thought till now, 10 to 1.
The updated estimate has been provided by three scientists from Israeli and Canadian universities in a study published on the science journal Cell.
(A pre-print version of the paper is avaiable also on bioRxiv, a free online archive for unpublished research papers in the field of life sciences).


PART 1/3

Ooooh, hallo dear English speaking-reading-hearing visitor, welcome back to me, @sciencemug, the blog/podcast/twitter account which tells science stories, masters the ancient art of napping en plein air, breeds race sloths (for adrenaline addicted betters who like to stretch as much as possible the adrenaline-producing suspense of the races) aaand which sometimes (but not this time) talks to you thanks to the voice that is kidnapped, via a voodoo-wireless trick, from a veeery very very dumb dude.
Aaand which does all of this in Eng?ish, a language that is to proper English what a sneeze is to an authentic expression of free will and a student loan is to a cascade of donuts+pizza which plunges into a pool full of prosecco, gold and diamonds (and beautiful shoes if you’re a lady) and that is surrounded by sexy half naked women/men holding signs that say: “all of this is for you [YOUR NAME], for free. Come and get it!


Today I’m gonna tell you the story of the death of a semi-scientific almost urban legend about numbers, bacteria and human cells!


RIP 10-1  (by @sciencemug)
by @sciencemug

Soo, the story goes like this: a biology student, Ron Sender, a medical doctor, Shai Fuchs and a biology professor, Ron Milo (aka the SFMs) join their efforts to debunk the myth that, in the human body, bacteria outnumber human cells by 10 to 1.
Well, in the human body… Let’s say in the human body of an healthy adult male between 20-30 years of age, weighing 70 kg (oooooh for your brain’s sake, get over all this “I don’t know the Metric System-SI gnè gnè gnè”… Look, it’s more rational, efficient and simple than yours, besides being used worldwide. Stop whining and learn it!) and 170 cm in height that scientists use as the reference human being (aka Mr. Ref) since 1975 [when The International Commission on Radiological  Protection (alias ICRP) publishes the 480 pages long “Report of the Task Group on Reference Man, ICRP Publication 23” which addresses the need to define a reference individual for the studies regarding humans and the risks and consequences of radiations exposition (1)].
 

Ok, let’s say that it’s true that a looot of bacteria (belonging to more than “10,000 microbial species (2))” -at least in the healthy Western population- live in and on you, and that they “inhabit just about every part of the human body (2)” (skin, up the nose, mouth, guts and so on). But the news is that the number of these microorganisms, the SFMs say, is smaller than thought.
 

First of all the science trio gets to the roots of the 10:1 myth, digging deep into the science literature and finding out that all the recent papers that report the 10 to 1 ratio refer to just one study published in 1977 by Savage (aaand good luck if you want to read it for free… By the way, in case you find it, please send me a copy of it).
Now, this study, the SFMs say, is a solid piece of science work, but, althoughreferenced over 1000 times in the literature often in the context of the estimate for the vast overabundance of bacteria over human cells” (Sanders et al, 2016; (P)) its 10 to 1 estimate is just a rough calculation. Above all, Sender and lab coat pals precise, it isn’t meant at all to becomethe cornerstone of an entire field(P), being this one the human microbiome field, namely the research area which sees human beings as ecosystems formed by human cells and a plethora of other life forms, mostly bacteria (i.e. the microbiota).
Moreover, our three science myth-busters add, ironically the very same 1977 Savage study refers to another paper by Luckey dated 1972 (again, good luck if you wanna read it) for the total amount of bacteria harbored by humans (FIG1).
 
The chain of citations (adaptation of a figure of Sander et al, 2016 paper by @sciencemug)
 FIG 1

This 1972 Luckey’s paper says that you human beings live with 1014 bacteria, assuming that your alimentary tract have a capacity of about 1liter (and thus of roughly 1kilogram) and that it contain 1011 bugs per gram (gram: see above, you “gné gné gné”) (FIG2).
 

by @sciencemug
by @sciencemug
[Hamlet's image is a Public Domain pic adapted by @sciencemug (source: Wikimedia Commons)]

FIG2

Soooo, dear listener, being you the smart ecosystem you are, I guess you’re probably wondering why the ‘70s science guys and all the science community after ‘em focus only on the bacterial population of the alimentary tract to determine how many microbes inhabit your whole body, right? I mean, I can feel you thinking “hey, wait a min dude – sorry, pal, but technically I’m not a dude (and also non technically, I’ve to say)…- I’m much more than my mouth stomach and bowels, c’mon, I’ve a couple of lungs (just to mention something) eyes, a lot of skin, those funny thingies I can’t figure out why be there, yeah, those… I mean, really, I’ve got a lot of stuff of me other than mouth stomach and bowels!”.
Aaand yeah, you’re right dear visitor, you’re the proud owner of lungs, eyes, skin and the non-bowel rest, but, science at hand, the ‘70s lab guys were right to focus on the alimentary tract to quantify the microbiota members of the human body, and even our science myth-busters SFMs back ‘em up on this. Well, more or less.
Actually our science trio specifies that, of the whole human alimentary tract, the relevant part is only

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

.... .- .--. .--. -.-- / -... .. .-. - .... -.. .- -.-- / -- .-. / -- --- .-. ... .!

Happy b-day Mr. Morse_by @sciencemug

[- .... . / .--. .. -.-. - ..- .-. . / --- ..-. / -- --- .-. ... . / .. ... / .- / .--. ..- -... .-.. .. -.-. / -.. --- -- .- .. -. .. -- .- --. . .- -.. .- .--. - . -.. / -... -.-- .--.-. ... -.-. .. . -. -.-. . -- ..- --. -.--.-... --- ..- .-. -.-. .---... .-- .. -.- .. -- . -.. .. .- / -.-. --- -- -- --- -. ...-.--.-]


*
Since this is a dumb blog which has no brain at all, well, eeeh, the meaning of this sentence has been totally forgotten [the first one's something really obvious (and it's also the title of the post)]. Anyway, no big deal, * was probably only some lame attempt of wit, or something simply banal and stupid, or both (yeah, most probably both). So, in the end, nothing to much care about.
Cheers!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

19 APRIL 1971: MEET SALYUT-1, THE FIRST SPACE STATION!

Salyut-1 by @sciencemug
Salyut-1 (by @sciencemug)

[The pictures of the Salyut-1 (a) and of the Earth (b) are adapted from Public Domain images by @sciencemug (source: Wikimedia Commons)]

This day (14 April) of 1971, the former Soviet Union (aka USSR aka CCCP) shoots into the sky a 20meter long, 4meter wide metal beast of more than 18 tons: the Salyut-1.
That’s the veeery first space station ever.
The Salyut-1 has three pressurized compartments for the crew. One of these chambers, the 7th of June, connects with the Soyuz 11 space ship which brings in the humans (aaand the space party begins).
The Homo sapiens exemplars keep spinning around in the sky for 22 days doing some science (ok, may be not a crazy space party after all...)
Then the crew goes back to the docked Soyuz 11, and gets back on Earth (suffering anyway of probably some kind of space hangover).
As for our dear space station, well, after 175 days in orbit (11th of October) it is made to plummet into the Pacific Ocean.
Farewell, Salyut-1, the veeery first space station ever.

(Hi Berny!)

Sunday, February 14, 2016

VALENTINE'S DAY & THE BIRTH TIMING

Oooh hallo dear English hearing visitor, welcome back to me, @sciencemug, the blog/twitter account/podcast which speaks to you in Eng?ish a language that is to real English what the new Twitter timeline is to something someone really wants. Aaand that does it using the voice of a dumb human controlled via a wireless-voodoo trick. Aaaand that tells you mesmerizing science stories while, at the same time, is writing a manual about how to survive in case a pandemic of the “camomile virus* ravage the world letting all the infected in a deep state of calm and serenity so that you suddenly find yourself in the dire situation of not having anymore anyone to fight with about how overrated and useless “Gravity” is aaaand also about your weird theory according to which “gluten free pasta” means that gluten -after corrupting pasta guards with an autographed picture of the juicy "Miss Tomato 2015" and some basil’s leaves- well, it, the gluten, manages to break free from the pasta prison and now lives, disguised as a protein bar for crossfit maniacs, in a minimarket in South Carolina.


 Podcast on iTunes
Podcast on Podcast Machine 

Weeeel this time, dear listener, you’ll hear a 2011 story appeared on the journal Social Science & Medicine. The story's about how on Valentine’s Day [the phoniest, most artificial and trivial of all the fake festivities of the world (and that’s why the dumb human created a collection of products right for the occasion)] there’s a sensible increase of child births.

by sNg & @sciencemug

The story goes like that. Professor Becca R. Levy, Pil H. Chung and Martin D. Slade are scientist of the School of Public Health of Yale, and they think “cultural representations, in the form of salient holidays” (Levy et al, 2011 (P)) can influence birth timing. They in fact predict that, on Valentine’s Day, spontaneous, cesarean, and induced births would peak because this day is associated with positive feelings and events like “love, flowers(P) and the rest of the cheesy stuff (and even if the researchers don’t mention it, well, chocolate too must be one huge deal in all this births story).
 

On the contrary, then, the Becca’s science-gang foresees a decrease in spontaneous and non spontaneous births on Halloween, ‘cause of the negative associations linked to this festivity (like witches, skeletons, death, ghosts, bad movies, not so bad movies, candy induced gain of weight, candy induced dentist bills and so on and on).
 

So the Becca’s trio digs into a specific dataset. This dataset is stuffed with all the birth-certificate informations of the United States in the week before and after Valentine’s Day and Halloween in the decade between 1996 and 2006 (as Becca&co explain in the paper, they stop in 2006 ‘cause “2006 [is] the most recent data year available from the National Center for Health Statistics at the time of [their] study in 2010(P)
And we’re talking of big numbers here as you can imagine dear listener: almost 1 million and 7 hundred thousands births during the Valentine’s Day window, and over 1 million and 8 hundred thousands births during the Halloween’s one.
 

Soo, what  do the scientists find?
The answer after the break. 
 


It’s Valentine’s Day and you are lonely and desperate for a date? Try “Chocotenin” the innovative product which formula is a mix of the most refined cacao seeds from Ivory Coast and the secretions of the back of the most toxic frogs of Mexico.

Chocotenin (by sciencemug)
by sciencemug
 
You’ll share the wellness that only munching chocolate can give you with what only bufotenin can offer, that is a wide range of vivid hallucinations among which, statistic says, you should also find a romantic one.
“Chocotenin”, and your Valentine’s Day will reach a whole new level of sadness!
(“Chocotenin” is also available in the form of candy bars for Halloween, eggs for Easter and whatever you want for whatever occasion/day you need it). 


So what do professor Becca’s and her science associates find out after checking the dataset of births in the US in correspondence of the two weeks centered on Valentine’s Day and Halloween from 1996 to 2006?
 

Weell, dear listener, the researchers find out that they are right, namely that on V-day, as respect to the week before and the one after it, births go up overall by 5%. More precisely the increase is of the 3.6% for spontaneous births, 12.1% for cesarean, and 3.4% for induced births.
 

As foreseen, besides, on Halloween the trend is