Showing posts tagged science





Can you control your metabolism with your mind?

Turns out … yes.

Watch the science desk’s new video: a super fun collaboration between Alix Spiegel and Bianca Giaever.

Food as placebo! Does labeling something “low fat” or “healthy” trick our brains in the wrong direction? Feed your mind with this great vid from NPR Science.

Previously: Learn more about the weirdness of placebos, from medicine color to pill size, with this video.

The fact that this works for one feeding with a single milkshake means nothing.  It’s basically a trick to fool your body into feeling fuller, temporarily, but it says nothing about how your body treats hunger over the long term.

See, there are three kinds of hunger.

There’s mechanical hunger, which is your stomach being empty and growling.  It says “PUT FOOD IN YOUR STOMACH.”

There’s mouth hunger or aesthetic hunger, which is your need to eat food that satisfies you psychologically.  Comfort food, the native foods of your culture, foods whose tastes and textures satisfy you innately.  It says “PUT YUMMY THINGS IN YOUR MOUTH!”

And there’s chemical hunger.  Chemical hunger is craving … something.  That feeling you get when you don’t eat enough fruit for a while, and suddenly you crave citrus.  The feeling you get when you are bleeding from your vagina for the tenth day in a row, and would literally murder old ladies for a steak and/or a bucket of bone marrow.  The feeling you get when, for no reason you can name, you crave something like almonds or anchovies or really dark chocolate.  At its most immediate, it’s the low-blood-sugar shakes and dizziness.  At its most insidious, it’s the thing that leads you to eat and eat until you are satisfied.  It says “MEET YOUR NUTRITIONAL REQUIREMENTS BECAUSE YOUR CELLS ARE STARVING, YOU NUMBSKULL.”

Reduced ghrelin may not have much effect on mouth hunger, and it absolutely isn’t going to affect chemical hunger.  It will affect mechanical hunger, but only for a short time.

As someone who, out of a hateful illness, starved herself for years like nobody else could do it right, I probably know more about actual hunger than most people ever, ever will.  I can tell you all kinds of things about it.  Things you probably don’t want to know, honestly.

I can tell you right now that I tried all the tricks.

I tried using smaller plates.

I tried drinking loads of water before each meal.

I tried chewing slowly.  (SOOOO SLOWLY.)

I tried filling up on really bulky, low-calorie foods.

I tried really small, frequent meals.

I mean, if there was a trick, I tried it.  If I’d known about this, I’d have tried this too.

And none of the tricks worked.  I was still hungry pretty much every few hours, and the less I ate, the less time it took for me to get hungry.  Eventually, I was hungry all the time.  Like, I was so hungry I stopped being able to feel mechanical hunger. 

No, stop, think about it.  My body had become so used to my stomach being empty that it stopped sending me those signals completely.  And yet … I was hungry.  All the time.  Even when I satisfied my mouth hunger, I was hungry.  I needed to eat.  I can’t even describe what that felt like, except to say that it was overpowering.

When I finally started recovering, I ate whatever I wanted.  And for two years, two years, all I wanted to eat was salt, fat, sugar.  For several months, I still never felt hungry, but I couldn’t stop eating. I would eat until I felt physically sick, and I still WANTED to eat more.  Because I had been starving myself, and that is what starving yourself does.

Because my body knew, it knew, that 700 calories a day was not 2,000 calories a day.  It knew it was starving.  It thought it was dying.

You cannot fool that.  You cannot permanently change your body’s metabolism with tricks.  Just because it works once doesn’t mean it will work the nine hundredth time you try it.

So, unless it can trick your body into literally thinking that 100 calories is 300 calories forever and ever, your weight loss tricks are not going to work forever, you will rebound, you will gain back the weight you lose.

Research like this is useful, because knowing how the human body and mind interact is useful.

Research like this in the hands of people who aren’t qualified to draw conclusions from it is not useful.  This will no doubt somehow enter the vocabulary of weight-loss “tricks” intended to help desperate and misguided people fool themselves into thinking they are smarter than the literal cells in their body, when they are not.  And that is a sad thing.

So for the people saying “If you think of your kale/wheatgrass/quinoa/goat placenta smoothie as really indulgent, you won’t feel hungry afterward!”, you’re wrong.  Do it often enough, and you’ll feel hungry constantly.

There’s not a shortcut. I don’t recommend weight-loss dieting to anyone, but if you’re going to pursue it — again, just don’t do this if you still believe all the crap about being thin being a somehow magical state that will insulate you from all kinds of physical and psychological and social ills — you should know that you are working against literally every cell of your body.  There’s not a work-around for that.  It is a bone-scraping, desperate hunger you will feel every minute of every day, worse and worse the longer you go.

Clever “tricks” like this are sops thrown to you to say “Look, look, it’s easy, look how easy it is!  Look how stupid the human body is!  Look how much more powerful your brain is!  You can totally fool yourself out of being a meat-popsicle that craves fat and starch and salt if you just work at being satisfied with less.”


All they do is make it easier to start, and easier to keep limping along pretending nothing is wrong, when you can feel with every fiber of your being that there is.

Whenever new “science” shows something that implies, from research based on a single event, one single meal or item of food, that there is a faster way to lose weight, or an easier way to not feel hungry, give it the stinkiest of all stink-eyes.  Because one meal?  One meal more or less is not hunger.  Not really.  The measure of hunger is what happens once you have depleted your body’s reserves enough for it to start eating itself away … and then you keep going.  And going.  And going.  What you feel then is hunger.

You know what else probably kills your appetite?  Videos of surgery.  Nobody’s suggesting that we take up watching those before our meals so we don’t feel like eating as much.  And if we did?  We’d get used to it pretty fast, as the large number of surgeons nurses and veterinarians and techs who can still eat will attest.

They get over it because our bodies need food.  We need to eat, both physically and psychologically, to be healthy.  And that is stronger than pretty much any other urge we have except maybe thirst — I don’t know, I never tried to dehydrate myself to death.  Hunger takes longer to kill you.  (And yeah, you feel every minute of it.)  It is stronger than the urge to lick Ben Barnes.  Stronger than the urge to pet kittens.  I could stop thinking about those things for hours at a time.  I never forgot that I was hungry.

Also, as one final note, there’s a huge error in this research.  Food is not neutral, okay?  We have such a guilt complex around food these days that if I give a random person a 600-calorie treat, it’s 99% certain that they will feel some guilt.  And they will feel less guilt over a 100-calorie treat.  And guilt?  A surprisingly good motivator for feeling sated sooner.  Which is why the diet industry is so huge on guilt and shame.  So unless you could find someone who had literally no associations with food/calories/guilt — and these days, even finding tiny children who do not have that is going to be a job of work — your study might be measuring something other than what you think it is.

(And guilt doesn’t work long-term, either.  I was still hungry enough after four years of 700 calories a day to eat a whole goddamn box of Pop-Tarts.  I felt pretty fucking guilty after the first one.  I still ate them all, and every piece of fruit in the house.)

(Also, anyone who expects you to endure that sort of hunger just to access a higher tier of respect in the pecking order is a fucking douchebag and you can safely disregard anything they say as toxic bullshit.)

Ugh.  Rant over.  I’m going to go eat something bad for me, because I fucking can.  The best way not to feel hungry — eat when you want to eat.

this is probably the most well-spoken and intelligent thing I’ve read today, and if you scroll past it well you’re missing out

(Reblogged from phallusifer9)


this would be a more valid criticism of social psychology had the experiment not been replicated repeatedly under a variety of different conditions in a variety of different cultures, with men and women

and people who really don’t think that groups of people given arbitrary power over other people do not become brutal and abusive do not remember very much of their schooling

(you have heard of the zimbardo experiment because there was a great deal of publicity attached to it: “not reported in the news” is not the same thing as “never happened”)

(Source: ohmyfreud)

(Reblogged from saxifraga-x-urbium)







Here’s further proof that science and scientists are awesome:

A 7-year-old girl named Sophie wrote a lovely letter to the scientists at CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, politely asking if they could work on creating a dragon for her. She even included a drawing to help them out. (click here to read Sophie’s entire letter)

The scientists at CSIRO wrote back to Sophie:

We’ve been doing science since 1926 and we’re quite proud of what we have achieved. We’ve put polymer banknotes in your wallet, insect repellent on your limbs and Wi-Fi in your devices. But we’ve missed something. There are no dragons.

Over the past 87 odd years we have not been able to create a dragon or dragon eggs. We have sighted an eastern bearded dragon at one of our telescopes, observed dragonflies and even measured body temperatures of the mallee dragon. But our work has never ventured into dragons of the mythical, fire breathing variety. And for this Australia, we are sorry.

(click here to read the agency’s complete response)

But then something truly awesome happened. The scientists had a bit of a think, as scientists are wont to do, and decided to rapidly accelerate their Dragon R&D Program. That’s right, they made a dragon for Sophie - Toothless, a 3D printed titanium dragon, blue, female, species: Seadragonus giganticus maximus.

“Being that electron beams were used to 3D print her, we are certainly glad she didn’t come out breathing them … instead of fire,” said Chad Henry, our Additive Manufacturing Operations Manager. “Titanium is super strong and lightweight, so Toothless will be a very capable flyer.”

Toothless is currently en route from Lab 22 in Melbourne to Sophie’s home in Brisbane.

Now Sophie wants to work at CSIRO when she grows up.

Click here to watch a video of the creation of Sophie’s dragon.

[via Geeks are Sexy and Neatorama]

Have you hugged a scientist today?

I hope that one day someone will address a letter to me as “Hello, Lovely Scientist.”  I also hope that one day I can inspire little girls to be empowered and get interested in science.  

Hooray for science.

'Too any sufficiently curious child / person, Science IS Magic.'

And to think Tony Abbott (current Australian Prime Minister) is vastly defunding the CSIRO.

He thinks science is hocus pocus.

(Reblogged from maggiemunkee)


Bobak Ferdowsi - aka Mohawk Guy - NASA engineer and flight director for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity mission, encourages engineering students and aspiring engineers to STAY WITH IT and not quit when things get tough!

We are experiencing a shortage of engineers in the US, and we need you! You can do it!

(Reblogged from fuckyeahbobakferdowsi)




i get mras and mrsa confused

one’s a virulent plague upon the vulnerable members of society which is hard to treat and even harder to eradicate

the other one’s methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus




wait…why are we shouting?

(Source: gayghosts)

(Reblogged from hunky-bat)
(Reblogged from saxifraga-x-urbium)









my 12 yo homeschooled daughter did this. She is a budding artist and is ADHD and has Aspergers.

She loves science and has loved watching the NASA exploration of Mars.

Drawing and art is her passion, and how she wants to make a living when she grows up.

She calls it “Lonely Curiosity”

It is her artist interpretation of how the Sun is going to block Mars and Earth for the month of April, and how NASA won’t be able to communicate with the Curiosity Rover for the whole month.

Please, if you like this… reblog it, and let’s see if we can get NASA to take notice, and maybe also get it on the radar of tumblr.

Signal boost. 

As per request.

This is lovely.


I couldn’t love this more.

I shared this with my friend who works  at NASA Ames Research! Erin works on meteorological payload projects for Mars landers. No guarantee this lovely art will get much beyond her, but we can honestly say that it made it to a engineer who works for NASA!

Summersumz for the win tonight!

(Source: thebearsdarlingwife)

(Reblogged from craftdiscoveries)
(Reblogged from saxifraga-x-urbium)





More about the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field.

sometimes i think about how mind-bogglingly huge the universe is and-


Hubble LITERALLY saw the aftermath of the big bang right there.  LITERALLY.  Like, that galaxy that shouldn’t exist thanks to modern physics and its laws?  It did exist, trillions of years ago.  It probably doesn’t exist anymore.  HUBBLE IS A TIME MACHINE.  It can see into the past and tell us what has come before.


I think about the scope of the universe and how light and distance affect time and it gets so overwhelming I cry. Part of it is because it makes me feel like my life is so small and that earth is this lonely little planet full of people who are (on the whole) desperate to know more about the whys and hows of things.

I get ridiculously sad when I think about how the mars rover is going to stay there and never come back to earth (tears already) and that it could very well develop ai on its own and feel so abandoned.

Part of it is because it makes me realize that my life on earth is important and precious and that I need to make the best of what I have.

And i’m dead sober. If I think about these things when i’m high I just sob and choke out unintelligible sounds.

I have no words to express the magnificence of this.

(Reblogged from maggiemunkee)


Minimal Posters - Six Women Who Changed Science. And The Word.

(Reblogged from maggiemunkee)
(Reblogged from mariah-in-the-sky-with-diamonds)



Sharks get a bad rap for being dangerous predators that are constantly devouring humans, but there is a whole world of things out there that will kill before a shark does. Here are just a few of those things.

You’re three times more likely to be killed by fatness then lightning…

Look I’m going to shout here, so be prepared: OBESITY HAS NEVER KILLED ANYONE BECAUSE IT’S NOT A DISEASE. 

*ahem* I get a bit tetchy about this, because facts,   You may now go about your normal business.

(Source: everlarkdandelions)

(Reblogged from traits-of-a-mad-man)


Minimal Posters - Five Of India’s Greatest Contributions To Science

(c) 0011101000110011

Happy Independence Day India!

(Source: hydrogeneportfolio)

(Reblogged from saxifraga-x-urbium)










FDA approves pill to prevent HIV infections

The drug, Truvada, is the first medication intended to prevent HIV infections in people having sex with infected individuals.



What good news for the world.

Remember when this made the news weeks ago and US news outlets didn’t find it worth reporting?


This should have like, 1,000% more notes.

This is amazing.

Are you telling me that those Ryan Gosling cupcakes have 45,000 notes and this post hasn’t even reached 5,000?


And it was on this day that this appeared on my dash, and I said “Damn, finally some good news!” and reblogged the hell out of it. 

(Reblogged from petitcake)