Maddie Bender

Maddie Bender

Why the Gonzo ‘Rome Isn’t Real’ Conspiracy Keeps Going Viral

Photo Illustration by Luis G. Rendon/The Daily Beast/GettyWhen Alex Fitzpatrick decided to pursue a career in archaeology, her friends from school asked her, not entirely jokingly, “Oh, like the Ancient Aliens people?” referring to the popular A&E Networks show based on the pseudoscientific premise that extraterrestrials visited Earth thousands of years ago.“No, I’m going to be a real archaeologist,” she recalled responding. Now a researcher and science communicator with a doctorate in archaeology, Fitzpatrick told The Daily Beast that her field has long attracted intrigue from fringe thinkers.“Historically, archaeology has been weaponized for loads of different things, whether it’s eugenics, race science, or nationalistic propaganda, so archaeology is very ripe for this kind of conspiracy thinking,” she said.Read more at The Daily Beast.

This Wearable Patch Could Help Us Eradicate Skin Cancer

Yuri Arcurs via GettyIt’s not always easy to prevent sunburn—an entire skincare industry still hasn’t figured out a foolproof solution outside never leaving your home or permanently looking like a lifeguard. But Chinese researchers have just designed a new wearable device that can absorb the sun’s rays and tell you if you’re at risk for a sunburn, offering an a surprisingly efficient way of protecting people from the sun’s rays and mitigating the chances of worse problems like skin cancer from arising over time.The device, outlined in a new study published on Tuesday in the journal Matter, uses a neural network to identify the weather and send real-time data to your phone about how much ultraviolet radiation it’s receiving.By definition, ultraviolet (or UV) radiation isn’t visible—cloudy days offer some reduction in UV exposure, as does one’s distance from the equator, but it’s difficult to know for certain the strength of UV rays on a given day. UV radiation, the authors wrote in the study, is a “double-edge sword to human beings,” because it stimulates the necessary production of vitamin D but leads to sunburn, wrinkles, and skin cancer in excess.Read more at The Daily Beast.

Why Dogs Once Trained to Sniff Out COVID and Weed Are Now Out of Work

GettyFor several days in October 2021, employees at the monthly dog toy subscription service provider BARK had to get past three bouncers to enter their offices. But Noel, Buddy, and Solo had little in common with the rest of New York’s typical nightclub bouncers; rather, the three were beagles trained to sniff out active COVID-19 infections in people returning to the office.The pups sniffed each employee who walked through the door and were trained to sit if they detected an infection. Any employee who “tested” positive would be asked to leave the office, confirm the sniff test with a PCR or rapid antigen test, and then isolate if the actual medical test came back positive as well.“We wanted to invite our colleagues to come back in a setting where they could be the most comfortable, and the COVID-sniffing dogs were the perfect partners to make that happen,” Dana Rosenkranz, BARK’s senior manager of real estate and workplace, told The Daily Beast in an email. “Our employees found this extra precaution comforting.”Read more at The Daily Beast.

A Mind-Controlling Parasite Is Making Yellowstone Wolves Foolhardy

Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / Getty When a common parasite infects wolves, it changes their behavior and turns them into risk-taking animals that could help them become leaders of their pack—or get them killed. A new study published Thursday in the journal Communications Biology found that a wolf infected by Toxoplasma gondii, a single-celled parasite that invades warm-blooded animals, was over 46 times more likely to take over its pack’s leadership than an uninfected wolf, thanks to the parasite’s ability to induce more risk-taking behavior.“We focus so much on vertebrate dynamics—wolves and elk, and how they affect each other—and for a long time, it seems like we have generally ignored the fact that parasites might play a role in those relationships,” Connor Meyer, an ecology researcher at the University of Montana and the lead author of the new study, told The Daily Beast. “With something like Toxo, it seems like we should be giving parasites a little more credit.”Host behavior modification—the buttoned-up, scientific way of saying “mind control”—is a common yet devious tactic that infectious diseases have evolved over time. Just look at “zombie ants,” which either describes ants infected with a fungus that takes over their brains; or a parasitic worm that causes ants to walk up blades of grass and lock their jaws, increasing the chance that a cow consumes them. Elsewhere in nature, parasitic worms can also zombify snails and cause their eye stalks to take on the appearance of maggots, which predacious birds find appealing.Read more at The Daily Beast.

How the Rise of Farming Rotted Ancient Humans’ Teeth

Andrea QuagliarielloDental plaque, what is it good for? Beside harboring millions of bacteria and contributing to tooth decay, the sticky saliva and food mixture can act as a porthole allowing biologists to peer into the distant past—at least for a team of Italian researchers interested in seeing how ancient plaque shifted after the agricultural revolution. According to their findings, farming changed much more about human physiology than just diet.DNA and RNA, the genetic material that makes up all living organisms, degrades over time. Researchers in fields like paleogenomics (one of whom won the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine) seek to recover and decode the fragmentary remains of this ancient genetic material—including the microscopic bacteria that makes up a part of the human microbiome. Typically, researchers reconstruct the ancient microbiome by using coprolites (calcified poop) or dental calculus (calcified plaque).Read more at The Daily Beast.

Why Your Next Workout Might Just Be in the Metaverse

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/GettyI’ve seen the future of fitness, and it’s moon-walking.Well, more of a light jog to be precise. On a brisk Tuesday afternoon in November, I watched as Sid Raman, the founder of gym startup Roam149, jogged where no man has jogged before—the craggy lunar surface. A treadmill under his sneakers seesawed up and down to match the rugged incline of the terrain, which was displayed on a large TV screen in front of him.Raman employed hand motions not unlike bike signals to speed up and slow down the treadmill—similar arm movements shifted his perspective on-screen, letting him explore the moon virtually while running in place. Angled just right, you could see the arc of a massive blue orb—the Earth—glowing in the distance.Read more at The Daily Beast.

Watch a Person Move a Wheelchair With Just Their Brain

carloscastilla via GettyNo one, not even José del R. Millán, was expecting Subject 1 to have a breakthrough when he did. The 26-year-old, who has tetraplegia with no mobility below the neck, had to be hospitalized part-way through Millán’s study for an unrelated complication, and he had gone through more than 20 training sessions to operate a brain-controlled wheelchair without much to show for it.Yet, he surprised everyone including Millán when something clicked into place and he was able to control the wheelchair during his last training sessions. He even navigated it through a cluttered room in a German clinic with near-perfect accuracy.“We would have never been able to predict the breakthrough for Subject 1,” Millán, a computer engineering and neurology researcher at The University of Texas at Austin, told The Daily Beast. “Everybody was super excited when we observed that kind of performance.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast here

Your Breath Could Tell Doctors How Close You Are to Dying

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / GettyWhether it’s minty fresh or foul as hell, your breath is distinctively yours—composed of a batch of chemical compounds that can’t be emulated by another’s body. But scientists are only just starting to wrap their heads around the small features that make one breath different from another. That work has culminated now into a new study that shows how your exhalations during respiratory distress can help doctors discover the cause—and save your life by treating it quickly.In the new study, published on Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, a team of U.K. researchers took breath samples from 277 participants, including patients admitted to the hospital for acute breathlessness as well as healthy volunteers. They analyzed hundreds of airborne metabolites known as volatile organic compounds, produced by the body’s cells during metabolism, for clues about the patients’ underlying conditions. The team hoped to learn whether certain diseases like asthma, heart failure, or pneumonia were linked to higher or lower concentrations of certain compounds.Studying exhaled metabolites isn’t a new concept. Other groups have studied these compounds’ ability to diagnose acute respiratory distress syndrome—a life-threatening lung injury that presents as shortness of breath—and even chart one’s recovery from a stroke. Due to rapid advances in sampling and data processing, scientists see great promise for diagnostics based on the metabolome, which is a person’s complete collection of small molecules.Read more at The Daily Beast.

Stoned Cows Fed With Hemp Are Making THC-Laced Milk

Photo Illustration by Kelly Caminero / The Daily Beast / GettyAmid moral panic over the legalization of weed, we might be missing a much greater danger posed by the cannabis plant: stoned cows. According to new research from research institutes in Germany, feeding dairy cows hemp may cause changes in the animals’ behavior and unintentionally produce cannabinoid-infused milk.The study, which was published on Monday in the journal Nature Food, adds data to a growing chorus of voices calling for the brakes to be applied to the hemp feedstock industry. The authors of this study advocate for more research in order to show that hemp is truly as innocuous as it seems.Hemp, it should be noted, is legal to produce and process. In the U.S., the 2018 Farm Bill legalized growing industrial hemp to turn into cloth, CBD, seed, and grain for human or animal consumption. When processors extract CBD oil from hemp, large amounts of plant material are left behind, prompting growers to consider using it as a cheap animal feed option.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast here

War—What Is It Good For? Definitely Not the Climate.

Photo Illustration by Thomas Levinson/The Daily Beast/GettyThis year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference has been roundly criticized for its host, sponsors, and even its plumbing—and rightly so. But if there’s one thing COP27 has adequately highlighted, it’s the solid-as-concrete link between war and climate change.The climate-conflict connection has been discussed mainly through the prism of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its ensuing fallout. On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed world leaders remotely and stressed that “there can be no effective climate policy” without world peace.“Who will care, for example, about the amount of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere if part of Europe or the Middle East and possibly northern Africa, God forbid, are covered by a radiation cloud after an accident in Zaporizhzhya?” he said, referring to the massive nuclear power plant that has come under fire during the war.Read more at The Daily Beast.
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