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UV Radiation Makes Mice (And Humans) Feel Good To The Point Of Addiction

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tanningA while back, GFR reported on a study that found the scent of males blocks pain. Namely, proximity to a male researcher, or even clothing worn by a man, heightened the stress level of the rodents, which caused them to produce more corticosterone, which dulls the pain response. Scientists now think that ultraviolet radiation causes a similar response in humans, producing endorphins that block pain and make people feel good. So it seems that our love for sunlight is about a lot more than getting a tan.

In a study published in Cell, researchers from Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital did UV radiation experiments on mice. They shaved a bunch of the rodents, and for six weeks let them soak in a moderate amount of UV rays (about 30 minutes a day), measuring their levels of beta-endorphins and their responses to pain. Their beta-endorphins were much higher than those of the mice that weren’t exposed, and they also had a higher resistance to pain. The team also let the mice choose whether to hang out in a brightly lit cage or a dark one. Since mice are nocturnal they generally chose the darkness, but the UV-exposed subjects were all for the light.

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Today In 1633 Galileo Was Deemed A Heretic

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galileo and jupiterCopernicus wasn’t the first person to theorize that the Earth revolved around the sun, but he was the first person to publish support for the theory that anyone paid attention to. In 1543, he published De revolutionibus orbium coelestium libri VI (“Six Books Concerning the Revolutions of the Heavenly Orbs”), which asserted the idea Philolaus and Hicetas, Greek philosophers stargazing in about 500 BC, first posited: that the Earth is round, and that it revolved around a “central fire” that holds the universe together. Even though the heliocentric model of the universe was first conceived long, long ago, it wasn’t until Galileo came along in the 1600s and proved it that people’s views began to shift. Of course, Galileo paid a price for his work: 381 years ago today, the Vatican declared him a heretic.

The heliocentric model had a few sticking points: that the earth wasn’t the center of the universe, of course, but also that the positions of the stars seemed never to change, regardless of Earth’s supposed orbit around the sun. It was in response to that second item that Claudius Ptolemy theorized that if Earth were fixed, and everything else revolved around it, then that would explain why the stars never moved. This made sense to folks, so the geocentric theory reigned for almost 1,500 years.

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3D-Printed Mini Livers And Bionic Pancreases

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bionic pancreasJust a few months ago GFR reported on advances in bioprinting or the 3D printing of tissues, bones, cells, and other body parts, and how scientists were on the verge of achieving the ultimate goal of creating viable organs. Scientists are now one step closer—they’re 3D-printing mini livers and creating bionic pancreases.

MIT’s Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia, director of the Laboratory for Multiscale Regenerative Technologies, has created tiny human livers. They contain approximately one million cells and resemble contact lenses in appearance. This isn’t the first time scientists have 3D-printed a human liver, but the MIT team has refined techniques for doing so. Bioprinting involves building an organ layer by layer, and instead of the literal, physical printing out of each layer, Bhatia’s team has been experimenting with building layers with light-sensitive materials. The specific technique depends on the organ, and the liver is a bit of an anomaly because of its ability to regenerate without a stem cell. This raises the question of whether livers could be prompted to generate, once a base is printed.

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Smell You Later! Scented Messaging Is Here

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paris hotspotJust when you thought people couldn’t possibly spend more time on their phones, a startup in Cambridge (of course) has come up with a way to add a little more dimension to messages by integrating them with scents.

Want friends to salivate over the garlic shrimp you’re about to devour, or your super-sized steaming mug of joe? A new iPhone app called oSnap allows users to attach scents to photos. oSnap is currently available for free download from the Apple App Store. The app allows people to take and make oNotes, which are photos, texts, and audio files that are tagged with scents and then shared. Much like tagging in Facebook, a user can click anywhere on the screen and add one of the various “confection” (butter, caramel, brown sugar, etc.) or “plantation” scents (balsamic, cocoa bean, yogurt). At the moment, it seems that people need a Facebook account to use the app, which already has people complaining, but that may change. The “aroma vocabularies” will increase, and developer Vapor Communications will continue expanding the available options.

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How To Make Drones Scarier: Give Them Pepper Spray

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skunkPublic embarrassment isn’t enough to dissuade me from telling the story of my only experience with pepper spray. I was an undergrad at the University of Michigan, and after hearing about a rise in sexual assaults on campus, my cousin Paul gave me some pepper spray. I figured I’d never use it, but it couldn’t hurt to have just in case. One day a few weeks later, I was on the phone with my boyfriend, and I came across the pepper spray in a drawer. I began fiddling with it — apparently our conversation was less than riveting — and then I gave it a test spray. Now, I did spray it away from me, but I also happened to spray it straight into the window fan, which blew it back into my face instantly. I’m sure my boyfriend was confused when I started yelling and crying. My face got all puffy, and nothing could mitigate the sting for about an hour. This is when I decided pepper spray was extremely effective, and that I should never touch it again. So it’s with no small amount of horror that I’m reporting on a new drone that can fire “bullets” of pepper spray.

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UK Bans Teaching Creationism As Science In Schools

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evolutionI had to read the headline twice, because at first I was afraid they had it backward: schools in the UK are now banned from teaching creationism as science. The fine print: this applies to existing and future “free” schools or academies, which means state-funded academies, which function much like charter schools do here, as well as state-funded free schools that operate independently and are often set up by non-profit organizations. That means private and parochial schools can keep teaching creationism, but everyone else is mandated to “provide a broad and balanced curriculum,” which “prevents the teaching of creationism as evidence based theory.”

Creationism isn’t science, but has been masquerading as such for a long, long time. Some of us who went to school in the U.S. might remember learning about the Scopes Monkey Trial, in which a teacher named John Scopes was found guilty and fined for teaching evolution in a Tennessee high school. The trial was a big deal for a few reasons, namely putting the modernist v. fundamentalist debate front and center, raising the question of whether evolution and religion could be compatible, and whether the Bible superseded all other knowledge. The case was also famous for pitting William Jennings Bryan against Clarence Darrow in the courtroom. Scopes was found guilty and had to pay a $100 fine, but he later won on a technical appeal. The law Scopes broke was called the Butler Law, the first anti-evolution education legislation, and the ACLU backed Scopes when he got busted for teaching from the textbook Civic Biology, which described evolution. You can learn all you need to know about the trial via Drunk History (below).