Issue 26

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In this issue:


  • How scientists are venturing into the realm of the undead.

  • An unexpected relationship between wolves and voting.

  • Birth control for men (it's finally happening).

  • A new type of battery, some updates from space, and a sneezing sea animal.


Tough time for people whose biggest fear is zombies.

This month, we saw not one but two separate studies attempt to revive the dead (in slightly different ways).

You’ve got to be kidding me.

Okay maybe “revive” is a strong word, but scientists did manage to partially resuscitate certain organs in pigs that had been dead for over an hour. They did this by connecting the dead pigs to a system called OrganEx. This futuristic Star-Trek sounding device pumped a special cocktail of blood, anticoagulants, nerve blockers, and other drugs through the pigs’ bodies. The result? A restoration of function in certain organs, such as heart contraction and activity in the liver and kidneys.

What’s to stop someone from using this tech to just create straight up zombies?

It’s important to point out that even though some organs bounced back, the pigs were in no way conscious and certainly far from “alive”. Instead of raising an undead army of pigs, the researchers think OrganEx can be used to keep donated organs alive for longer to help people in need of transplants.

You mentioned there were two studies?!

Don’t worry — if the mention of zombie pigs wasn’t enough to get your attention, we’ve also got zombie spiders. It sounds scary, but this one is actually a lot tamer.

Oh thank god.

Spiders have a rather unique walking mechanism that works by using hydraulic pressure in their legs (similar to how construction excavators work) rather than muscles. In the study, the researchers showed that by inserting a syringe into a dead spider’s body, they could use air pressure to hijack the spider’s natural hydraulic system and control its legs. Think of it as a pressure controlled claw machine (like the one at the arcade), except the claw is a dead spider.

What's the point of this?

The researchers hope that these mini spider cranes can be deployed to collect tiny natural samples from difficult to reach places without actually disrupting the local habitat. Plus they’d probably make for pretty incredible halloween decorations. 🕷️

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The Leak: A pair of new studies focused on “reanimating” dead animals’ organs and limbs are raising questions about what it means for something to truly be dead. For now, such “necro-research” seems like it could be used for pretty great things (like helping folks waiting on organ transplants). Fingers crossed it stays that way — we would not survive a single week in an actual zombie apocalypse.


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Worried about the growing popularity of far-right politics?

You can blame it on the wolves 🐺. A study out of Germany shows that increases in wolf-attacks are responsible for far-right voting.

What??

Let us explain. It turns out that recent conservation efforts by Germany’s left-wing political party have led to an increase in wolf populations and hence more wolf attacks. Could it be that more wolf attacks breed resentment towards left-wing politicians, which then leads to people voting for right wingers instead? We know it sounds like a stretch, but that’s what the scientists in this study theorized.

The experiment: The researchers gathered voting and wolf-attack data from all over the country. They also analyzed campaign advertisements from far-right politicians to check for any mention of wolves (yes, we know how odd this sounds).

What did they find?

Incredibly, there was a very strong correlation between the number of wolf attacks in a state and people’s likelihood of voting for the far-right political party. What’s more, far-right politicians seemed to be aware of this in their ads, calling out the fact that environmental policies protecting wolves can lead to livestock loss amongst farmers.

I'm still skeptical…

We don’t blame you. This study is a classic example of how difficult it can be to infer causality from simple correlations. While the authors of the study focused specifically on wolves, a more nuanced conclusion is that unintended consequences of pro-environmental policies (like wolf attacks) can prompt a rightward shift in voting patterns. Sorry to throw cold water on the “wolves are secretly nazis” clickbait headlines.

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The Leak: A new study shows that wolf attacks are strongly correlated with far-right voting in Germany (but don’t be too mad at the wolves, they’re hardly to blame here)


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That pair of Crocs in your closet finally has some competition.

Right now, the only approved birth control medication (aka “the pill”) puts the burden on women, but a new birth control option for men might finally be around the corner.

About time.

The drug in question is a clear gel that the man rubs daily into the skin on each shoulder blade (kinda like a massage oil that prevents you from having babies). The gel is hormone-based, tackling two important goals — inhibiting sperm production and maintaining sexual drive.

How does it compare to the pill?

The clinical study for this drug just reached the one year milestone. So far, its efficacy appears better than the pill with very few side effects. Talk about a win-win!

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The Leak: Worried about pregnancy? A baby-blocking shoulder gel might soon be an option for men. While there are still several clinical trial phases to go, there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic that male birth control is headed our way in the future.


Ever wished your batteries were thin and foldable and slightly wet?

Good news — scientists have invented a disposable battery made of paper that is activated with just a few drops of water. The creators hope that one day these eco-friendly batteries can be used as an alternate power source to reduce electronic waste (and finally put that annoying Duracell bunny out of a job).


Remember the James Webb Telescope?

The pictures from this technological marvel have finally arrived. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.


Think your dad’s sneezes are loud?


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