“The Pill” for Men
For many women, it’s a familiar cycle: hit puberty, become sexually active, obtain birth control pills. The onus of birth control has historically tended to fall upon the woman, simply because we have such a wide array of contraceptives from which to choose. From “the pill,” to IUDs, to annual shots, it often falls on the woman to control most of the safe sex process. It’s typically easier, more effective and, well, sometimes you just don’t have a condom on hand.
This may not be the case for very long. Men may soon be getting their very own birth control pill designed specifically to reduce sperm production. Research conducted by Michelle Welch at the Centre of Reproductive Biology at the Queen’s Medical Research Institute in Edinburgh, UK, has discovered how androgenic hormones work to control sperm production and male fertility.
By removing a gene from a section of the testes, the Welch’s team was able to find how and where androgenic hormones work to control sperm production. Researchers compared two groups of mice – one group with the gene, one group without. The group that did not possess the gene had a significantly lowered sperm count, which resulted in complete infertility.
Although this seems to be a promising course toward providing men with more birth control options, it also raises several concerns. Hormone therapy is a controversial issue, as it can often have severe side effects. For instance, taking birth control and nevertheless conceiving a baby can increase the chances that the child will have severe birth defects.
It’s unknown what kind of side effects a male hormone pill could have. Researchers also believe that “the pill” for men could be used to, alternatively, increase sperm count. This could offer an entirely different option for those couples struggling in their efforts to conceive a child.
Source: Science Daily
Contact Lenses of the Future
Soon, it may not be a stretch to look at a Starbucks and see the prices of every size of a double Frappuccino before you even walk into the door. Prototype contact lenses have been developed that can be used as biosensors that display information about one’s body or as a heads-up display (HUD). The creator, Babak Parviz from the University of Washington, Seattle, also believes that they can be embedded with an antenna to pick up radio waves. The contact lenses have embedded electronic circuits, which will eventually be able to show various kinds of information, such as words, charts, and photographs. All of this information will be displayed as images in front of the eye, essentially revealed on top of all the other visual information you’re receiving from the world.
Rabbits, ever willing to help us humans out in our forward trek towards becoming half-robot, have been used to test the prototype lenses. The lenses were placed in their eyes for up to twenty minutes, and no adverse effects were documented. There are no details on whether human trials were next, but I can’t imagine a tiny lens filled with circuits and pulsing electronics would be all too comfortable. I mean, what if they malfunction, and you get a shock to the eyeball?
“Conventional contact lenses are polymers formed in specific shapes to correct faulty vision,” states Dr. Parvis. “To turn such a lens into a functional system, we integrate control circuits, communication circuits, and miniature antennas into the lens using custom-built optoelectronic components. Those components will eventually include hundreds of LEDs, which will form images in front of the eye, such as words, chart, and photographs. Much of the hardware is semitransparent so that wearers can navigate their surroundings without crashing into them or becoming disoriented.”
I assume they will be customizable, such as the display on an iPhone. After all, you don’t need to know the weather if you’re already outside. This sort of thing opens up all kinds of possibilities: instant Facebook status updates, the possibility of augmented reality games using your surroundings, information about businesses, restaurants, and people, in real time as you pass them by on the street. How would you customize your contact lenses’ LED?
Vodka Pills Make You a Smarter Drunk
You know what the biggest pain in the butt about getting drunk is? You have to drink. And, for the most part, you have to drink a significant amount to whichever level of black-out, puke in shoes drunk you want to achieve. That requires work: progressive stops at the bar for a refill, mixing the drink that you want, holding a drink in your hand without spilling it as your words become slurred. It’s just a plain pain in the ass. Well, not anymore.
Evgeny Moskalev, a professor at Russia’s Saint Petersburg Technological University, has created the world’s first vodka pill. His technique turns any alcohol into a powder, which can then be inserted into capsules – whiskey, vodka, wine, beer. Very soon these could all be available in pill form.
The Russian professor claims that “Vodka in form of a pill would come handy at parties when “consumers” would be able to calculate the exact required dosage.” Yes. I’m pretty sure the only required dosage people will be calculating is as close to dancing on table drunk just shy of passing out in their own puke.
Moskalev does have a point, though. Despite all of the health classes in which teachers tried to pound into our brains exactly how much alcohol a Long Island Ice Tea has, most of us remain oblivious to the exact amount of alcohol we are consuming. This means that you will stop when you’re feeling buzzed, but often the rest of the alcohol is still being processed and you’ll end up much drunker than you had intended.
Perhaps the pills will come with a handy chart, similar to those “pain charts” they have in doctor’s offices, where you can rate how much pain you’re in based on a number and the kind of face that’s shown. The faces can range from a half-smile to someone wearing a lampshade as a fancy hat. Depending on which face you want to be making by the end of the night, that’s how many pills the chart would recommend. Take six, and call me in the morning.
Black Holes Create Galaxies?
Black holes are massive objects in space that consume everything around them, including light. Their existence has often been a question of which came first: them or the galaxies surrounding them? A new study, however, is claiming that black holes actually aid in creating the galaxies surrounding them. According to David Elbax, lead author of the study, “Our study suggests that supermassive black holes can trigger the formation of stars, thus ‘building’ their own host galaxies. This link could also explain why galaxies hosting larger black holes have more stars.”
To prove this, researchers took a look at a nearby quasar, which doesn’t have a host galaxy attached to it yet. They believed that the host galaxy was just hidden by large amounts of dust, so they decided to look at it through a Very Large Telescope (seriously, that’s its name).
“Observing through the [VLT] would allow us to trace dust that might hide the host galaxy,” says Knud Jahnke, a researcher at the Max-Planck Institute of Astronomy in Germany, “However, we did not find any. Instead we discovered that an apparently unrelated galaxy in the quasar’s immediate neighborhood is producing stars at a frantic rate.”
So, there are no stars near the black hole, but the galaxy near it is producing new stars like rabbits. It is forming stars at the rate of 350 suns per year, a rate which is 100 times larger than typical galaxies in the universe. Essentially, the quasar is exuding bursts of highly energetic particles towards the developing system, which induces the formation of new stars. It’s like a galactic digestive system: Matter goes in, matter comes out. The quasar is moving towards the developing galaxy, and will eventually reside within it.
Is it just me, or is anyone else thinking of this as a romantic comedy of epic proportions? Hugh Grant’s black hole creates soulmate (portrayed by Kate Hudson); soulmate remains distant and aloof while being pursued; black hole and galaxy finally reconcile and unite to be as one, with comic relief provided by Rupert Everett. And then the black hole eats its soulmate. Hmm..maybe more of a dramedy.
Lauren Admire would put Farmville in her contact’s HUD.