Coffee – My Miracle Drug

Last weekend was the first of many long weekends for me, and I’m fairly confident I consumed more coffee than anything else for the past few days.  In an attempt to justify my caffeine addiction, I came across The Atlantic’s summary of a recent coffee-related study at Harvard.  The article clearly explains what the study is, and multiple potential flaws – definitely a wonderful example of effective science communication.

Better late than never!

Sorry – completely forgot to post yesterday, though I’m kind of glad I did.  If I’d written something yesterday, it would have been quick, and probably sciencey.

But today, after multiple exams, I’m done thinking about nitty-gritty science.  I’d much rather recommend an excellent read in the New York Times.  (Access can be tricky since there’s a monthly cap on article views, but you should be able to access it through Google if nothing else works.)  It’s about scientists in government, and while it’s certainly not a new topic, it is increasingly pertinent given the competitive decline of the United States, particularly in STEM fields. It explores the historical perception of scientists as elitist and out of touch, and compares the role of scientists in the US to other governments.  It suggests a variety of reasons for the scarcity of scientists in US politics, one of my favorites being that the rational scientific solutions to problems frequently upset religious and cultural beliefs.  While this is certainly believable (conflict surrounding DADT, decriminalization of various substances, and abortion come to mind), the extent of the opposition never fails to amaze me.

-S

Unpacking the Trip: Surprising Discoveries About Psychoactive Drugs and You

A new study came out in December about the effects of psychoactive drugs on the brain.  Typically, we refer to magic mushrooms, LSD, and other hallucinogens as mind-expanding drugs.  Users claim to have surreal experiences of exploration and self-discovery, beyond how they usually feel.  However, when regular users were given a small dose of a psychoactive substance, Psilocybin, and brain activity was measured with a functional MRI, users brains were found to have less activity while tripping than when injected with a placebo.  Interesting stuff.

trippy image

Previous studies have indicated that other psychoactive drugs, specifically LSD, can create lasting personality changes in users after just one use.  Some individuals in the study noticed a permanent increase in “openness” after their experience.  LSD has previously been studied in controversial experiments for therapeutic uses.

Biovisions

S here –

Today, I thought I’d share something a little lighter than a normal article.  I’ve been following Harvard BioVisions for years, and their animations never fail to amaze.

My favorite video is “The Inner Life of the Cell,” which shows a variety of cell processes set to dramatic music.  I first saw the video in high school biology.  I watch it regularly, and each time I see it, I understand the animation on a deeper level.  The video is also available in a longer version with voice-over commentary.

Research @ MSU : Evolution

S here –

This is the first in a new series of posts featuring research happening right here at Michigan State!

In the Microbiology department, Dr. Lenski’s lab is particularly notable. The lab studies experimental evolution, both with actual and digital organisms, but is best known for their long-term E. coli evolution experiment.  The experiment was started in 1988, and as of this post, has reached almost 55,000 generations!  The lab regularly analyzes the population and has watched as the population gains new traits and loses others.

Check out the the Lenski Lab webpage where you can see the current population number and read all about their research!

The Business of Science: Patents and Public Health

Hi everyone!  I’m S, and I’m a studying biochemistry, which may explain the slight bias in my topic choices.  I’ve also had a love affair with public policy for the past several years, and enjoy discussing how science and policy intersect.  I regularly find myself pondering the disconnect between scientific research (i.e. drug discovery) and policy implementation (i.e. public health).  For my first post, I’ve adapted an editorial (which later turned into a research project, two presentations, etc.) about barriers posed by patents in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

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Welcome to Snack on Science!

Hi everyone!

This site has been active for about a month now, and we’ve finally started adding content!  The group met today and decided to publish a new post every day, Monday through Thursday, plus special content on the weekend.  Look for posts covering the newest discoveries and oldest questions in a variety of scientific fields.