Tuesday, August 24, 2010

KSU does NOT have a gambling problem.

I repeat, KSU does NOT have a gambling problem. I cannot stress that enough. They're just really interested in sports odds.

In a study reminiscent of something from Guys and Dolls or any story that involves hustlers hanging around racetracks with "can't fail" systems, a Kansas State University professor says that there's a way to predict the outcome of some college football games. And it's not the heat, it's the humidity. Well, the contrast between humid and arid regions.

Apparently, this economics professor found that teams from humid regions end up getting their butts handed to them when they play in arid regions. Bookmakers take note. After all, the study was about ways to make the market for sports betting "more efficient," so I'm glad that someone gets to benefit from this state-funded research work, even if it's not starving orphans, cancer victims, or war amputees.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

"All Hands on Deck!"

"Screw that, I'm getting mine!"

At least, that's how the exchange goes in "disturbed ecosystems," according to Georgia Tech Researchers. They were looking into whether organisms all try to work together when their ecosystems are under assault, or if it's dog-eat-dog business as usual. It's probably an area of study that's going to be of relevance for quite a while (I'm looking at YOU, gulf coast!).

It was panic in the petri dish as biologists exposed microbes to acoustic disturbances. They looked at how many were killed off when they were in disturbed environments, how many were killed off when they were competing with other organisms for the same resources, and how many were killed off when competing for resources after their environment was disturbed. Rather than both populations of competing organisms declining equally in the third scenario, one group would wipe the floor with the other.

To rephrase that, creatures that are neck and neck in an environment where they have to fight each other to survive no longer remain neck and neck when their environment gets unusually dangerous. That's when the men are separated from the boys, and one group curb stomps their opponents while they're most vulnerable. This is bad news for species diversity, especially when you consider all the ecosystems that we're disturbing...

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

And this, boys and girls...

Is why we don't get attached to any one particular ideal, mindset, organization, or whatever. I mean, when it gets right down to it, is there anything out there actually worth dying over? Okay, fine, possibly the allies in WWII ending the holocaust, but examples are few and far between.

The University of Texas at Austin has been looking into extremism, and what people are willing to die for. They describe people willing to die for other members of their group as "fused," which is an interesting way of looking at it. Personally, I think it's commendable to be willing to sacrifice yourself to save others regardless of who they are, but this study focused on what people would do for members of their "group" versus people outside of it.

The bottom line? Spainards want Americans dead. That's only a slight exaggeration, but the gist of it is that Spanish college students (who were studied for the project) were more willing to die for people inside of Europe than they were for people outside of it (specifically, America). There were also some interesting follow-up questions about who would be willing to die so that terrorists would get killed that raise some interesting ethical questions and insights into the nature of extremism.

Hopefully, I'll never be in a situation where I face a choice like that in real life.

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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Beating a Dead Horse: Binge Drinking and Crippled Teens

I'm sure you remember my coverage of Loyola University's last study on binge drinking and long-term health effects. Guess what? They've built on that, and it turns out that binge drinking is (still) bad for you in the long term.

The latest news from Loyola University is that binge drinking messes with your genes. I'm not really clear how this is different from their last study, though. Maybe it's more specific? This time, they've managed to shoehorn teen binge drinking in there, possibly to garner more media attention.

It looks like the 2008 study proved that binge drinking makes for brittle bones. This new study proves that binge drinking messes up your genes. So their hypothesis from the original study, that binge drinking might be messing with your genes, appears to have been proven.

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The header image is adapted from a photo taken by Bill McChesney and used under a creative commons license.
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