Could two genetically modified mice come in handy on Valentine’s Day?

by ARKANSAS DIGITAL NEWS

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Time for love

Valentine’s Day celebrates coupling. Alan McWilliam tells Feedback about an offer he received, before the most recent Valentine’s Day, from a US-based biotechnology company. It couples charm with other qualities.

Alan says: “I received the marketing email below. I’ve never been offered a ‘complimentary breeding pair of genetically modified mice’ for Valentine’s Day before. What says romance more than gazing into your mouse’s eyes, over a Bunsen burner flame, before implanting a tumour and humanely euthanising it a few weeks later?”

This is the note:

“Dear Alan,

Love is in the air, and at [REDACTED], we’re sharing the love with a special Valentine’s Day promotion just for you!

Theme: Perfect Pairings in Research

Promotion: This Valentine’s Day, Receive a Complimentary Breeding Pair of Genetically Modified Mice with Our Gene Targeting Services.

Coupon Code: FREECOUPLE

This limited-time offer is designed to enhance your research and provide you with the perfect research companions.”

Whatever this offer may accomplish for romance or commerce, its most powerful use could be as a psychological test. How does a person respond, at first blush, to this opportunity?

Political restraint

A growing treasury of top-dog data almost begs UK psychology researchers to sift it for lessons about leadership. Feedback infers this from news accounts.

The BMJ (formerly formally called The British Medical Journal) makes medical note of news reports that prime minister Rishi Sunak “fasts for 36 hours at the beginning of every week”. Sunak’s past and present medical data might intrigue and inspire physicians, psychologists and nutrition researchers. Over time, does the body in evidence inflate or deflate? How much of that inflation or deflation can be attributed to the leader’s first-person management of food?

More complete data may already be available about the effects and effectiveness of self-imposed restraint (or at base, self-claimed restraint) by former prime minister David Cameron, who held office and his urine from 2010 to 2016.

New Scientist‘s report in 2015 about Cameron fluidics explained: “Before important speeches or negotiations, Cameron keeps his mind focused by refraining from micturating. The technique may be effective – but it also appears to help people to lie more convincingly.”

(In a happy twist of serendipity, the 2011 Ig Nobel medicine prize was awarded to researchers in the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and the US for testing the effectiveness of the delayed-urination technique. That award was made bare weeks before Cameron revealed his pee proclivity to the public.)

Additional varieties of data will be tappable by researchers, should it some day become apparent that other UK prime ministers also exercised restraint.

Down the tarantula hole

Juicy, surprising delights about living things sometimes lodge in the reference sections of scientific papers about long-extinct things.

Trilobite researchers still chatter about the study “Frontal auxiliary impressions in the Ordovician trilobite Dalmanitina Reed, 1905 from the Barrandian area, Czech Republic“, published a few years ago in the Bulletin of Geosciences.

But only the most diligent of them noticed – deep in the references section, at the end of the paper – something unexpected: mention of a paper called “Coupling between the heart and sucking stomach during ingestion in a tarantula” by Jason Dunlop, John Altringham and Peter Mill, published in 1992 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

And deep inside that heart/sucking-stomach paper lurks a different kind of surprise, a reminder that scientists need to proceed always with caution: “In the absence of detailed information about fluid flow in tarantulas, any model is speculative.”

Tender youth

Dave Kirby has noticed another cookbook that, like The Anarchist Cookbook, maybe needs to come with a warning (Feedback had suggested something along the lines of: “If you don’t cook your anarchist to the proper temperature, there may be problems”).

Dave says: “In addition to the books you mentioned, you could add The River Cottage Baby and Toddler Cookbook. A local restaurant has a bookshelf full of cookbooks and I spotted this one there months ago.

“I hesitated to look too closely into the small print on their menu.”

Depending on cats

Comforting news, maybe, for people who dread any temporary absence from their cats.

A study from California called “A comparison of people’s attachments to romantic partners and pet cats,” published in the journal Anthrozoös, reports that some people “did not necessarily need reassurance from their cat or feel distress when their cat was unavailable to them the way they might about a romantic partner”.

Marc Abrahams created the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony and co-founded the magazine Annals of Improbable Research. Earlier, he worked on unusual ways to use computers. His website is improbable.com.

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