WTF Fun Fact 13663 – Dog Longevity Drug

For dog lovers, the prospect of a dog longevity drug sounds fantastic. Who doesn’t want their furry friends to live longer, healthier lives?

Recent developments from a San Francisco-based biotech company, Loyal, bring this dream closer to reality. They’ve announced an anti-aging drug for dogs that has cleared its first hurdle for FDA approval. This marks a pivotal moment in veterinary medicine, as it’s the first time the FDA has shown openness to endorsing longevity drugs for pets.

Dog Longevity Drug Holds Promise of Longer Lives for Man’s Best Friend

Loyal’s groundbreaking drug, LOY-001, targets a growth and metabolism hormone called IGF-1. This hormone, linked with size, appears in higher levels in larger dogs and lower in smaller ones. Studies on other species suggest inhibiting IGF-1 can increase lifespans. LOY-001 is aimed at healthy dogs over seven years old and weighing more than 40 pounds. Administered every three to six months by a vet, it holds the potential to slow down the aging process in dogs.

Parallel to this, Loyal is developing LOY-003, a daily pill form of the treatment. CEO Celine Halioua emphasizes that they’re not creating immortal dogs. The goal is to slow their rate of aging, thus maintaining a healthier state for a longer period.

As promising as these developments are, they raise significant ethical questions, particularly concerning the quality of extended life for these animals. Veterinarian Kate Creevy, involved in a similar trial for an anti-aging drug called rapamycin, stresses the importance of ensuring that any extended lifespan is accompanied by good health and quality of life.

Moreover, the human manipulation of dogs through selective breeding, which may have contributed to accelerated aging in larger breeds, underlines the ethical complexities in altering canine aging processes.

Trials and the Future of Canine Health

Loyal plans to start a large clinical trial for LOY-001 with around 1,000 large and giant dogs by either 2024 or 2025. The ultimate aim is to have a market-ready product by 2026. This trial not only represents a major step in veterinary medicine but also opens doors to understanding aging in more complex organisms like humans.

The success of Loyal’s drug could potentially revolutionize how we approach canine health and aging. It offers a glimpse into a future where our canine companions can enjoy longer, healthier lives alongside us. However, it’s crucial to balance this scientific advancement with ethical considerations to ensure the well-being of these beloved animals.

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Source: “A New Drug That Could Extend Dogs’ Lives Inches Closer to Approval” — Smithsonian Magazine

WTF Fun Fact 13537 – Apologies in the Workplace

In a study by the University of Arizona, researchers revealed that non-stereotypical apologies in the workplace can enhance communication. This study challenges conventional norms, emphasizing the power of breaking gender stereotypes in apologies to repair trust and foster collaboration.

Gender Stereotypes and Apologies in the Workplace

Sarah Doyle led a research team to explore the nuances of effective apologies in professional settings. Their focus? The impact of gender stereotypes on the perception of apologies. Traditional masculine language, characterized by assertiveness and confidence, and feminine language, known for its warmth and nurturing qualities, were used as benchmarks. Surprisingly, the research found that apologies that deviate from these gender norms were perceived as more effective.

Celebrity Apologies on Social Media

The research commenced with an analysis of celebrity apologies on Twitter. This platform, a hub for public statements, provided a rich dataset of 87 apology tweets from various celebrities. The response to these tweets revealed a pattern. Female celebrities who used masculine language in their apologies received higher engagement and more positive reactions.

The study extended beyond the virtual world into more relatable workplace scenarios. Researchers created situations involving accountants and nurses making mistakes and issuing apologies. Participants in these studies consistently found counter-stereotypical apologies more effective.

For women, using a counter-stereotypical apology increased the perceived effectiveness by an average of 9.7%, and for men, by 8.2%.

The Impact of Counter-Stereotypical Apologies

This research underscores the importance of moving beyond stereotypical patterns in our apologies. By adopting language and approaches that defy gender norms, individuals can enhance the impact of their apologies, leading to better outcomes in conflict resolution and trust-building.

The findings from the University of Arizona research team suggest that the way we construct apologies is as important as the frequency with which we offer them. This shift in focus from quantity to quality in apologies could pave the way for more effective communication strategies in diverse settings.

The study’s results have significant implications for professional environments, where effective communication is crucial. By encouraging individuals to break free from stereotypical language patterns in apologies, organizations can foster a more inclusive and collaborative atmosphere.

Rethinking the Construction of Apologies in the Workplace

As we move forward, this research encourages a deeper consideration of how we construct our apologies. The study highlights the potential for nuanced, thoughtful apologies to make a substantial difference in interpersonal relationships and professional settings.

The University of Arizona’s study on apology psychology offers a fresh perspective on effective communication. By challenging gender stereotypes in the language of apologies, individuals can enhance trust and collaboration in the workplace. This research not only adds a new dimension to our understanding of apologies but also opens avenues for future exploration in communication dynamics.

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Source: “Apology psychology: Breaking gender stereotypes leads to more effective communication” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13636 – AI and Rogue Waves

For centuries, sailors have whispered tales of monstrous rogue waves capable of splitting ships and damaging oil rigs. These maritime myths turned real with the documented 26-meter-high rogue wave at Draupner oil platform in 1995.

Fast forward to 2023, and researchers at the University of Copenhagen and the University of Victoria have harnessed the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to predict these oceanic giants. They’ve developed a revolutionary formula using data from over a billion waves spanning 700 years, transforming maritime safety.

Decoding Rogue Waves: A Data-Driven Approach

The quest to understand rogue waves led researchers to explore vast ocean data. They focused on rogue waves, twice the size of surrounding waves, and even the extreme ones over 20 meters high. By analyzing data from buoys across the US and its territories, they amassed more than a billion wave records, equivalent to 700 years of ocean activity.

Using machine learning, the researchers crafted an algorithm to identify rogue wave causes. They discovered that rogue waves occur more frequently than imagined, with about one monster wave daily at random ocean locations. However, not all are the colossal 20-meter giants feared by mariners.

AI as a New-Age Oceanographer

The study stands out for its use of AI, particularly symbolic regression. Unlike traditional AI methods that offer single predictions, this approach yields an equation. It’s akin to Kepler deciphering planetary movements from Tycho Brahe’s astronomical data, but with AI analyzing waves.

The AI examined over a billion waves and formulated an equation, providing a “recipe” for rogue waves. This groundbreaking method offers a transparent algorithm, aligning with physics laws, and enhances human understanding beyond the typical AI black box.

Contrary to popular belief that rogue waves stem from energy-stealing wave combinations, this research points to “linear superposition” as the primary cause. Known since the 1700s, this phenomenon occurs when two wave systems intersect, amplifying each other momentarily.

The study’s data supports this long-standing theory, offering a new perspective on rogue wave formation.

Towards Safer Maritime Journeys

This AI-driven algorithm is a boon for the shipping industry, constantly navigating potential dangers at sea. With approximately 50,000 cargo ships sailing globally, this tool enables route planning that accounts for the risk of rogue waves. Shipping companies can now use the algorithm for risk assessment and choose safer routes accordingly.

The research, algorithm, and utilized weather and wave data are publicly accessible. This openness allows entities like weather services and public authorities to calculate rogue wave probabilities easily. The study’s transparency in intermediate calculations sets it apart from typical AI models, enhancing our understanding of these oceanic phenomena.

The University of Copenhagen’s groundbreaking research, blending AI with oceanography, marks a significant advancement in our understanding of rogue waves. By transforming a massive wave database into a clear, physics-aligned equation, this study not only demystifies a long-standing maritime mystery but also paves the way for safer sea travels. The algorithm’s potential to predict these maritime monsters will be a crucial tool for the global shipping industry, heralding a new era of informed and safer ocean navigation.

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Source: “AI finds formula on how to predict monster waves” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13611 – Turning Data Into Music

Scientists are turning data into music to see if it can help us understand large and intricate datasets in new and interesting ways.

Tampere University and Eastern Washington University’s groundbreaking “data-to-music” algorithm research transforms intricate digital data into captivating sounds. And the researchers have presented a novel and potentially revolutionary approach to data comprehension.

Sonic Data Interpretation

At TAUCHI (Tampere Unit for Computer-Human Interaction) in Finland and Eastern Washington University in the USA, a dynamic research group dedicated half a decade to exploring the merits of data conversion into musical sounds. Funded by Business Finland, their groundbreaking findings have been encapsulated in a recent research paper.

Jonathan Middleton, DMA, the main contributor to the study, serves as a professor of music theory and composition at Eastern Washington University. Simultaneously, he is recognized as a visiting researcher at Tampere University. Under his guidance, the research pivoted on enhancing user engagement with intricate data variables using “data-to-music” algorithms. To exemplify their approach, the team utilized data extracted from Finnish meteorological records.

Middleton emphasizes the transformative potential of their findings. “In today’s digital era, as data collection and deciphering become intertwined with our routine, introducing fresh avenues for data interpretation becomes crucial.” So, he champions the concept of a ‘fourth’ dimension in data interpretation, emphasizing the potential of musical characteristics.

Turning Data Into Music

Music is not just an art form; it captivates, entertains, and resonates with human emotions. It enhances the experience of films, video games, live performances, and more. Now, imagine the potential of harnessing music’s emotive power to make sense of complex data sets.

Picture a basic linear graph displaying heart rate data. Now, amplify that visualization with a three-dimensional representation enriched with numbers, hues, and patterns. But the true marvel unfolds when a fourth dimension is introduced, where one can audibly engage with this data. Middleton’s quest revolves around identifying which mode or dimension maximizes understanding and interpretation of the data.

For businesses and entities that anchor their strategies on data interpretation to tailor offerings, Middleton’s research presents profound implications. So he believes that their findings lay the groundwork for data analysts worldwide to tap into this fourth, audial dimension, enhancing understanding and decision-making.

A Symphony of Data Possibilities

As data continues to drive decision-making processes across industries, the quest for innovative interpretation techniques remains relentless. Tampere University and Eastern Washington University’s “data-to-music” research illuminates a path forward. With the potential to hear and emotionally connect with data, industries can achieve a deeper understanding, making data analysis not just a technical task but also an engaging sensory experience.

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Source: “Complex data becomes easier to interpret when transformed into music” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13610 – Creating Plant Biosensors

Scientists at the University of California – Riverside have engineered plant biosensors that change color in the presence of specific chemicals.

Someday, the greenery decorating our homes and gardens might soon be ornamental and an environmental watchdog. (Of course, plants are already good indicators of their surroundings since they tend to wilt or die when things get toxic.)

Innovative Plant Biosensors

It all started with a question: What if a simple house plant could alert you about contaminants in your water? Delving deep into this concept, the UC Riverside team made it a reality. In the presence of a banned, toxic pesticide known as azinphos-ethyl, the engineered plant astonishingly turns a shade of beet red. This development offers a visually compelling way to indicate the presence of harmful substances around us.

Ian Wheeldon, an associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering at UCR, emphasized the groundbreaking nature of this achievement. “In our approach, we ensured the plant’s natural metabolism remains unaffected,” he explained. “Unlike earlier attempts where the biosensor component would hinder the plant’s growth or water absorption during stress, our method doesn’t disrupt these essential processes.”

The team’s findings, elaborated in a paper published in Nature Chemical Biology, unveiled the secret behind this transformative process. At the heart of the operation lies a protein known as abscisic acid (ABA). Under stressful conditions like droughts, plants produce ABA, signaling them to conserve water and prevent wilting. The research team unlocked the potential of ABA receptors, training them to latch onto other chemicals besides ABA. When these receptors bind to specific contaminants, the plant undergoes a color change.

From Plant to Yeast: Expanding the Biosensor Spectrum

The UC Riverside team didn’t just stop at plants. They expanded their research horizon to include yeast, turning this organism into a chemical sensor. Remarkably, yeast exhibited the capability to respond to two distinct chemicals simultaneously, a feat yet to be achieved in plants.

Sean Cutler, UCR professor of plant cell biology, highlighted the team’s vision. “Imagine a plant that can detect up to 100 banned pesticides,” he said. “The potential applications, especially in environmental health and defense, are immense. However, there’s a long way to go before we can unlock such extensive sensing capabilities.”

The Path Forward for Plant Biosensors

While the initial results are promising, commercial growth of these engineered plants isn’t on the immediate horizon. Stringent regulatory approvals, which could span years, are a significant hurdle. Moreover, as a nascent technology, there are numerous challenges to overcome before it finds a place in real-world applications, like farming.

Yet, the future looks bright. “The potential extends beyond just pesticides,” Cutler added. “We aim to detect any environmental chemical, including common drugs that sometimes seep into our water supplies. The technology to sense these contaminants is now within reach.”

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WTF Fun Fact 13597 – Unique Perception of Soccer Goalkeepers

In the dynamic world of soccer, goalkeepers have always been seen as outliers. While they defend their posts, these players face the arduous task of making quick decisions under pressure, often with fragmented information. New research sheds light on the exceptional way goalkeepers perceive their surroundings, revealing significant differences in their multisensory processing capabilities.

Enhanced Multi-Sensory Processing of Soccer Goalkeepers

Michael Quinn from Dublin City University, himself a former professional goalkeeper, embarked on this study to validate a longstanding soccer belief. He, alongside his team, found that, unlike other players, goalkeepers have an intrinsic knack for making swift decisions. This is the case even when faced with limited sensory data. It’s not just a feeling within the soccer community; now, there’s scientific evidence supporting the notion that goalkeepers genuinely “see” the world differently.

In an innovative approach, Quinn and his team examined temporal binding windows among professional goalkeepers, outfield soccer players, and those who don’t play soccer. This window represents the time frame within which individuals combine sensory data from various sources.

A Deep Dive into the Goalkeeper’s Brain

The study had participants discern visual and auditory stimuli that appeared in different sequences and intervals. Interestingly, goalkeepers exhibited a more refined ability to discern these multisensory cues, indicating their superior estimation of timing. This precision stands in stark contrast to outfield players and non-players.

Furthermore, goalkeepers demonstrated less interplay between visual and auditory cues. This suggests they tend to separate sensory information rather than blending them. This unique ability stems from their need to process various cues simultaneously. The trajectory of a ball, combined with the sound it makes when kicked, are essential inputs for a goalkeeper’s split-second decision-making.

Origins and Future Explorations into the Perceptions of Soccer Goalkeepers

While the current findings illuminate the distinct perceptual world of soccer goalkeepers, the cause of these differences remains a mystery. Does intense, specialized training from an early age shape their multisensory processing? Or are inherent abilities leading young players to gravitate toward the goalkeeper position?

David McGovern, the study’s lead investigator, expressed curiosity about other specialized soccer positions. Could strikers or center-backs also exhibit unique perceptual tendencies? The team at Dublin City University aims to unravel these questions in subsequent studies. They will explore the development and influences on a goalkeeper’s extraordinary sensory processing capabilities.

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WTF Fun Fact 13594 – Benefits of the Snooze Button

There are more benefits of the snooze button than just getting an extra few minutes of sleep.

For many, the snooze button been branded as the ultimate “sleep disruptor.” But new findings from Stockholm University’s Department of Psychology may be about to turn this common belief on its head.

Snoozing: A Maligned Habit?

It’s a widely held belief that tapping that tempting snooze button might be doing us more harm than good. Critics claim it disrupts our sleep patterns, making us groggier and less alert when we eventually rise. But, is there any scientific basis to this belief?

The recent study led by Tina Sundelin of Stockholm University is turning this narrative around. Contrary to popular belief, hitting the snooze button might actually support the waking process for those who regularly find solace in those few extra minutes.

A Deep Dive into the Benefits of the Snooze Button

This comprehensive research involved two phases. The initial study surveyed 1,732 individuals on their morning habits. Findings highlighted that a significant number, especially among young adults and night owls, lean heavily on the snooze function. Their main reason? Feeling overwhelmingly fatigued when the first alarm rings.

The second phase delved deeper. Thirty-one habitual snoozers spent two nights in a sleep lab. On one morning, they had the luxury to snooze for an additional 30 minutes, while the other morning demanded an immediate wake-up call. Results revealed that most participants actually enjoyed more than 20 minutes of additional sleep during the snooze time. This had little impact on the overall quality or duration of their night’s rest.

What Does the Snooze Button Really Do?

Here’s the kicker: not only did the snooze function not disrupt the participants’ sleep, it also ensured no one was jolted awake from deep slumber. Moreover, those who indulged in that extra rest displayed slightly sharper cognitive abilities upon waking. Factors such as mood, overall sleepiness, or cortisol levels in the saliva remained unaffected.

Sundelin points out, “Our findings reveal that a half-hour snooze does not negatively impact night sleep or induce sleep inertia, which is that groggy feeling post-wakeup. In some instances, the results were even favorable. For example, we noticed a reduced chance of participants waking from deep sleep stages.”

While these findings might be a relief for serial snoozers, Sundelin adds a word of caution: “The study primarily focused on individuals who habitually hit the snooze button and can effortlessly drift back to sleep post-alarm. Snoozing might not be a one-size-fits-all solution.”

For those who relish those additional moments of rest in the morning, this research brings good news. Snoozing, at least for regular snoozers, doesn’t seem to steal away the quality of our sleep. On the contrary, it may subtly boost our cognitive processes during the waking stage.

So, the next time your alarm sounds and you’re contemplating another round with the snooze button, remember: You might not be losing out at all by grabbing those few extra minutes of shut-eye.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “You don’t lose if you snooze” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 13143 – Grass Screams When Cut

You’ll never cut your grass again without thinking of this weird fact – grass cries for help when it’s mowed. No, you can’t hear it, but scientists have discovered grass screams when cut.

How does grass scream when cut?

We’re only just beginning to understand how plants communicate with one another and the rest of the world around them (including insects).

Dr. Michael Kolomiets, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist, published an article in 2014 in The Plant Journal noting that the aroma of cut grass is the plant’s way of both signaling distress and attracting beneficial insects that will help it heal.

According to ScienceDaily (cited below): “When there is need for protection, the plant signals the environment via the emission of volatile organic compounds, which are recognized as a feeding queue for parasitic wasps to come to the plant that is being eaten and lay eggs in the pest insect,” Kolomiets said.

Plant communication

Grass produces a “defensive” protein when damaged. Of course, that doesn’t stop the lawnmower or insects from destroying the blades. But it appears to produce a compound that repels insects that are feeding on the damaged grass.

This compound, or one related to it, also appears to attract organisms like parasitic wasps that feed on insects like caterpillars that are destroying the grass.

Or to put it in science-speak:

“We have proven that when you delete these volatiles, parasitic wasps are no longer attracted to that plant,even when an insect chews on the leaf. So this volatile is required to attract parasitoids. We have provided genetic evidence that green leafy volatiles have this dual function — in the plant they activate production of insecticidal compounds, but also they have indirect defense capability because they send an SOS-type signal that results in attraction of parasitic wasps.”

So, maybe it’s not so much that grass screams when cut so much as it cries for help. Either way, freshly cut grass emits a compound that repels damaging insects and attracts insects with a protective function.

It’s just one of the many ways that plants are far more complex than we had ever previously imagined.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Mown grass smell sends SOS for help in resisting insect attacks” — ScienceDaily

WTF Fun Fact 12974 – The Sex Lives of Constipated Scorpions

The Ig Nobel Prizes have been awarded to 10 unusual (or unusually unuseful) scientific research projects each year since 1991. While it’s all in good fun, we couldn’t help but do a double-take this year at one of the winners – a team that published a study on the sex lives of constipated scorpions.

Constipated scorpions have it rough

Solimary García-Hernández and Glauco Machado of the University of São Paulo in Brazil won the 2022 Ig Nobel in biology for trying to discern whether being constipated affects a scorpion’s sex life. (To be fair, we can’t help but think being constipated is kind of a bummer for any creature.)

According to an Associated Press story on the prizes, “Scorpions can detach a body part to escape a predator — a process called autotomy. But when they lose their tails, they also lose the last portion of the digestive tract, which leads to constipation — and, eventually, death, they wrote in the journal Integrated Zoology.”

“The long-term decrease in the locomotor performance of autotomized males may impair mate searching,” they wrote.

Ok, maybe constipated humans don’t have it so bad after all.

Why even study this?

So, this particular study came about in an interesting way. The paper’s lead author Solimary García-Hernández had long been studying the scorpion species Ananteris balzani.

This species has an interesting characteristic – they shed their tails to help them escape a predator.

According to Smithsonian Magazine (cited below): “It was a big surprise in 2015 when she, while working as part of a larger research team, found that Ananteris scorpions are capable of shedding their tails. “Autotomy”—the process of dropping a body part to escape a predator—was until then known to have evolved in only a handful of animal lineages like starfish, spiders and certain lizards.”

Ok, so we totally understand wanting to look more closely into that interesting fact, especially since it turns out that when lizards shed their tails, it can impact their ability to walk but doesn’t kill them. However, scorpions are different.

When Ananteris scorpions shed their tails, their digestive tract backs up with feces, and they get swollen and die within around 8 months.

That’s weird since animals don’t typically adapt in a way that’s fatal to them unless it somehow helps their species. In this case, the extra months likely give them more time to reproduce. And that’s where studying their sex lives comes in.

The sex lives of constipated scorpions

García-Hernández decided to monitor the post-tail life of these scorpions to see how tail loss impacted their ability to reproduce.

“The team then set up a series of matings between stump-tailed and intact scorpions. García-Hernández predicted that autotomized male scorpions would be less successful at mating than their fully endowed counterparts, since the tail plays an important role in their complicated mating ritual.”

Male scorpions use their tails both to show off to mates and during intercourse, so not having a tail should make mating difficult. However, it turns out they just used their stump and were just fine.

It was a different story for females, however.

According to Smithsonian, “when the team explored the reproductive costs paid by stump-tailed females, the story was different. They found that tailless females, while able to mate successfully, went on to have 20 percent fewer offspring than intact females.

The reason for this difference? The five-month scorpion pregnancy provides a lot of time for females to get more and more constipated, says García-Hernández. She hypothesizes that the buildup of feces caused by the loss of the anus is either toxic to the embryos or that the feces simply crowds out the developing scorplings. This latter hypothesis is supported by the fact that a severely constipated scorpion can weigh 30 percent more than it did before it lost its tail. By comparison, that’s equivalent to a 150 pound person gaining 45 pounds of poop weight.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “For Constipated Scorpions, Females Suffer Reproductively. Males, Not So Much.” — Smithsonian Magazine