Guys, watch your testicles when you use a laptop

Ok boys, you need to be very strong now before reading on: Using your favourite toy on your lap (I’m talking about your laptop – not what you’re thinking about…) can literally boil your testicles. A study recently published in the journal Fertility and Sterility shows, that using your laptop – as the name suggests – on your lap, the warmth of it can heat up the gonads producing the seminal filaments, also called “scrotal hyperthermia”.

someone is playing minesweeper

If you like playing MineSweeper in the tube, you might think about switching to a heat-neutral activity. © Anka Lindemann

Just 10 to 15 minutes can be enough to heat up your  sperm fabric so much, that it can have a negative effect on the quality of your little friends. Even when the researchers don’t say that you will definitely become infertile through this, you should be careful with using your laptop in this way and give your testicles enough time to cool down. Otherwise, unpleasant long-term effects can not be precluded.

If you can not avoid working with your notebook on our lap, you should at least sit down with your legs a little akimbo – this way, you can use your computer for about 20 minutes longer before your testicles begin to “boil”.

Somehow, reading an old-fashioned book  in the tube instead of playing MineSweeper seems to become more and more attractive…

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Don’t like what you see? Simply change it.

Is does not happen very often that I literally sit in front of the computer with my eyes wide open in amazement and feeling completly speechless by what I see – but it did happen last night when I found the link to that video.

Researches from the Technical University of Ilmenau (Germany) developed a new technique called diminished reality-system, with which you can remove any unpleasant things in your view – like that ugly polar in front of your door or the old stickers on your desk. The only thing you need is a computer with a webcam. Then simply circle the object you want to disappear, click – and it`s gone! And this happens all live – during the filming! (But you got to be beware of mirrors – did you spot the little mistake in the video above?)

The researchers believe, that thanks to the growing computing performance of smartphones, this application could in a few years even be available for our mobile phones. Although I can`t really imagine when I would use this application (removing all “ugly cars” from your view could end in a rather painfull experience of realising that they only disappear from your screen, not from the street you`re just walking on), the fact that it only takes one click to remove any thing from your view absolutely faszinates me. Just imagine sitting in a room full of – well, let`s say, not your favouritve persons – take a look on your tablet or smartphone and simply remove them from your screen. If someone now also invents a tool with which you can remove the sound, I`m perfectly happy.

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Lies, damned lies, and statistics?

Today was a wunderful day for all of us geeks: World Statistics Day! Hooray! Time for the boys to wear their “proud to be a geek” boxers and for the girls to rummage around for their “I love robots” handbag!

Well, I think not everyone is going to share my enthusiasm about statistics. In fact, statistics does not seem to be vey popular amongst most people. I don’t know if there is a similar thing in the UK, but in Germany there is a kind of “urban myth” which says that about two thirds of all statistics published in the media are fake. Which ironically must be the result of another statistic…

But there`s not just bad things about statistics and as I just said, this is just a myth (and I assume that it is a myth because I never found a relyable source for it – if you do find one, just let me know!). And although you might not have big trust in statsitics, let me convince you: Statistics are great!

First thing that I love about stats: They are completely based on logic. Not necessaraly on common sence, but if you dive deep into a statistics book you will find out that if you follow the rules of statistics, you can not go wrong. Ok, this does not mean that these rules are very easy to learn or sometimes even easy to understand. But if you dive deep into a statistics book and take a bit of time for reading it, you will find out that you may not unterstand why this formula looks how it looks like, but the principle that lies behind it. Which is based on – logic!

Another great thing about statistics is, they give you solutions to questions that you could elsewise only answer with very extensive and time-consuming methods. For example, if you want to know if women in the UK really watch more tv than men, you could of course go ahead and ask every singe person in the UK about their tv use habits. But that would probably take up ages. So the easier way to get the answer is to pick a representative sample of people, question them about who match they watch TV and than perform a statistical test (like the T-test) to test if there is a significant difference between these men and women. Now what`s significant? When a test is significant, it tells you that the difference between the two groups  also exists in your basic population, in this case everyone living in the UK. (Ok, to be correct, even a significant test might be wrong sometimes – this is called the probability of error. Every discipline has its own conventional probability of error – e.g. 5 per cent in social sciences. That is, if you perform the same test 100 times, five of your results will be wrong – that’s one of the reasons why studies should always be repeated to validate the results.)

A third reason to love statistics: If you know how to read them, you can not be fooled. If a press release tells you about “unambiguous” proofs of the effect of a new drug or “explicit” demonstration of a certain effect, a closer look at the original paper can tell you if this is true or if the press release overstates the findings.  So if someone says once again that statistics reported in the media are often wrong – it’s at least not due to you…

Can you now guess why I love statistics?

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It’s not money that matters

During the next two weeks, the eyes of all conservationsts lie on Nagoya, Japan: UN delegates from 190 countries will discuss the preservation of the world’s biodiversity at The Convention on Biological Diversity.

Many hopes and fears are linked to this conference: After the failure of the conference of Copenhagen last year, this is another chance to find agreements on how to prevent the earth from irrepealable damages caused by human beings.

To stress the importance of this conference, a team of UN-sponsored economists calculated, how much the loss of biodiversity and economic systems costs us every year: Two to five trillion Dollars.

Wait a minute – economists calculated this? Now, I will be honest with you, I have never been a genius when it came to economics, and if I would try to check this figure and calculate this by myself, the fact that I would possibly come to a different result would rather be a proof of my limited economical skills than a proof for them having made a mistake.

But this is not the point that I am up to. In an economist’s world, such a calculation may make sense and be a logical figure to deal with. But if we leave our desk and step into the real world – what does this figure tell us? And what should it tell us?

The danger I see in publishing such a number, is that the problem of destroying nature is reduced to an economic one, one that you could pay for. But when a species becomes extinct, no money in the world will make it live again. Never.

By saying that the loss of biodiversity and economic systems costs something, the first solution to this problem seems to be – money. Spend two to five trillion Dollars a year, and the world’s problems will magically disappear? Rather not.

And even if this huge amount of money would all be spend on initiatives and programmes to restore destroyed parts of our nature – e.g. planting trees, breeding endangerous species, cleaning the water of polluted lakes and rivers – this could not stop animals and plants dying out and crucial parts of nature being destroyed.

The loss of biodiversity is happening right now – in this moment, in this second. No one will ever know, how many species got extinct before we discovered them, and no one will ever be able to tell, what consequences the extinction of one certain species will bring with it. You can not calculate this as a risk which might be covered by insurance agencies.

So throwing numbers in a discussion like this doesn’t help you to understand the problem, instead it might lead to a dangerous belief that with enough money, all problems could be solved. Some people seem to disawove this until they have to realise you can buy a lot of things with money, but you can not eat it.

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Of mice and men: Obesity and light exposure

Thinking about losing weight? Well, if you had a look at the websites of the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail this week, you don’t need to go an a diet anymore, but simply to the light switch. “Want to lose weight? Turn off the lights” stated the Daily Telegraph, and the Daily Mail wrote in its health section “How switching off the lights could help you lose weight”.

But before you now head for your fuse box to set your whole family on a radical no-light-diet, let me just tell you: It’s not as simple as they promise.

Both articles refer to the study Light at night increases body mass by shifting the time of food intake” published in the academic journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America earlier this week. What the title doesn’t mention, is that the study was actually conducted with mice. Yes, mice. To be fair, both the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail mention this in their article – but not until the forth paragraph.

Now experiments with mice are quite common in medicine, and since mice and men are to a degree physiologically alike, effects that occur in mice might also occur in men. But does the fact, that mice which are exposed to light during the night gain weight mean, that human beings will lose weight when their nights are pitch-black?

Everyone who has ever been on a diet knows, that gaining a few more kilos is much easier than getting rid of tem. So the conclusion drawn by the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail is a bit overhasty until there is no evidence for this assumption.

Maybe they should had have a look at the website of The Economist, where the study of weight-gaining mice was also reported. In “The dark side of light” the subheading already tells the real story: That the study is not about men losing, but mice gaining weight.

Also in the article itself the author clearly states, that these findings might, but don’t necessary have to be transferable for men. Different to the articles mentioned above, The Economist does not arouse wrong beliefs, but simply sticks to the facts – as every journalist should do.

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