A hangover cure that actually works, plus other tales

13th Apr 2013 | 13:00

A hangover cure that actually works, plus other tales

Looks tasty, but shame it's not a sausage sandwich

Welcome to another exciting Week in Science. The last seven days have been filled with wonder yet again, including the ability to think yourself warm, the emergence of a new supermaterial and incredible genetics work that could reveal the next blockbuster heart drug.

If that wasn't enough, one legendary hangover cure actually work. Perfect for a tomorrow morning pick-me-up.

'Old sober' actually worksas advertised -- Lots of the so-called hangover 'cures' are utter rubbish, but there's a legendary cure from New Orleans, via Korea, that apparently actually works. New data, recently presented at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, shows that the constituents of old sober, also known as yaka mein, genuinely speed recovery from a hangover. The combination of sodium and potassium salts in the broth, as well as proteins and cysteine from eggs and meat, help replace those lost through excessive urination, while enhancing the removal of acetyldehyde - one of the key causes of a hangover. So next time you're feeling a tad rough the morning after, try a little yaka mein to get you through. [Eurekalert]

It's not the cholesterol that's killing you in red meat -- Bad news for red meat lovers (isn't it always?). Researchers have identified a link between carnitine, a chemical found in abundance in red meat, and an increased risk of heart disease. It's not the carnitine itself that's the problem; bacteria in our guts convert it into Trimethylamine N-oxide (TMAO), which is known to promote atherosclerosis, or the furring and thickening of the arteries. That's bad news for your heart and cardiac system, and means you should probably think about cutting down on your red meat intake. However, now that we've identified the bacteria that produce TMAO, there's a possibility we could develop drugs against them. Kill them off and we can eat all the red meat we like. [Nature Medicine]


Think yourself warm -- Ever been a bit cold and just wished you could turn up your internal thermostat? According to a new study of Tibetan nuns, that's actually possible. Through two techniques, a breathing practice called 'vase breath' which causes heat production, and the internal visualisation of flames near the spine, the Tibetans were actually able to increase their body temperatures up to around 38 degrees Celsius. It was also found that Westerners practicing the same techniques could increase their temperatures too, although by not nearly as much. Researchers think that the practice might hold beneficial effects, not only for keeping warm, but for boosting the immune system too. [PLoS One]

Move over graphene, there's a new supermaterial in town -- Graphene's been held as the wonder material to take us to new technological levels. But it's no longer the newest supermaterial on the block. Meet nanocellulose -- it's simply the cellulose you might call fibre in your diet, but like the basic carbon structure of graphene, when shrunken down to the nano scale and structured in a specific way, it takes on a whole different set of incredible properties. Produced by algae, eating carbon dioxide while they're at it, and made into long polymer chains, it is one of the strongest materials known to man, can conduct electricity, and is super light. From ultra-strong body armour, to new bendable displays, flexible batteries, and even a new fuel, the possibilities are endless. [Eureka Alert]

One woman's rare genetic mutation inspires the next blockbuster heart drugs -- Since the sequencing of the human genome, biologists the world over have been scouring our genetic code for drug targets. Now a woman with a very rare genetic mutation might hold the key to controlling cholesterol levels and preventing heart disease. Her mutations take out a gene called PCSK9, which was thought to be crucial in controlling LDL cholesterol.

However, if PCSK9 is inhibited it dramatically reduces LDL levels in the blood. Clinical trials for several PCSK9-targeted drugs have shown great promise, which means the next evolution of heart drug could be soon be upon us. This marks one of the best examples of how genetics and study of the genome, combined with medical and patient analysis, collectively known as translational medicine, can do wonders for medical science. [Nature]


Science proves penis size does matter -- When it comes to attractive traits in men, height, shoulder-width, and muscular appearance are always rated highly. In fact, height is the most studied of all the traits, but penis size seems to be on a level with your skyward approach in the battle for attractiveness. A recent study showed that a large penis on a computer generated model outweighed almost all other factors in attractiveness to women, equalling height. It's thought that it's an evolutionary throwback to times when humans didn't wear cloths and penis size could correlate to the virility and age of mates. Whether that makes you feel better or not, we're not sure. [PNAS]

Watch out, dark lightning is real -- A lightning researcher claims to have discovered dark lightning -- invisible bursts of radiation that compete with traditional electrical discharges from clouds as a way to vent built-up electrical energy. Unlike white lightning, though, dark lightning won't immediately hurt you, but could deliver a lifetime's safe dose of ionising radiation in one burst. Ionising radiation is the type that causes the most damage to your tissue; however, dark lightning is supposedly only created in one in every 1,000 ordinary lightning strikes, which makes the risks of exposure low, even if the only way to tell if you've been hit is with a radiation detector. [Washington Post]


Energy storage goes back to the future with the flywheel -- The flywheel is probably one of the oldest energy storage and delivery systems ever invented, but it's being given a modern twist for storing large amounts of energy, cheaply and efficiently. A new design, one where the flywheel is mounted inside an asymmetric gimbal, minimises the problematic wobble and resonance that makes flywheels demand require engineering and expensive materials. The Very Large Kinetic Energy Storage System (Velkess) hits about 80 per cent efficiency, which is very good as large energy-storage solutions go, and is currently on Kickstarter seeking funding for prototyping. Weighing about 340kg, standing only to the size of a household fridge, and being cheap to produce -- Velkess could be the revolution that helps renewable energy sources like photovoltaic cells see widespread use, both within the public sector and at national power grid levels. [Scientific American]

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