Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cat Ladies, Your Misunderstood Appendix, and "Lap Dance Science"

We were going to throw this in with our weekend roundup, but we got to reading the "Year in Ideas" issue of The New York Times Magazine and by the time we got to the letter C in its alphabetized list of 2007's head-turning ideas, we realized it needed its own post. Dear readers, for the most part, we can't write about these kinds of things in IN VIVO. This is, in a nutshell, why we started blogging.

We confess to always enjoying this issue of the NYTM, though it would be interesting to go back to 2001, when they started doing this, to see how many of these ideas have panned out through the years.

Among the medical science related items (and up front, let us stress "related"), scientists writing in The Journal of Theoretical Biology have essentially rehabilitated the image of the good-for-nothing appendix. (Of course there's no ethical way to prove their theory that the appendix essentially repopulates the gut with beneficial bacteria following some sort of insult, but what the hell, why not. The appendix has been the afterthought of the GI tract for too long, we say.)

Researchers at UCLA are doing some rehabilitation of their own, and actually using an automated telephone system to help detect early signs of Alzheimer's. The Times notes that "the quiz also picks up behavioral warning signs including apathy, irritability and depression," though frankly we reckon if you don't exhibit those symptoms when you're using an automated telephone system, there's something amiss.

Moving on, here are a few other things we've learnt this afternoon:

Apparently roughly one-in-five Americans are infected with a parasite "that may migrate into their brains and alter their behavior in a way that — among other things — may leave them more likely to be eaten by cats." (Check out four of your friends, if they haven't smeared themselves with Tender Vittles, it's you.)

Want to know if your neighbors are on crack? Try a little Community Urinalysis.

It appears that ovulating strippers make more money than their colleagues.

Adding images of brainscans to even specious psychological claims makes the reports more believable to the layperson.

Finally: someone, please, convince us that writing about the biotech and pharmaceutical industries takes a lot of physical energy.

What's your favorite new idea of 2007? Do share, in the comments.

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