April 6, 2015

Smart liquid wound dressing could trigger rapid healing

Filed under: Health,Science by Branko Collin @ 10:19 pm

gel-henningklevjerA two million euro grant could see professor Alan Rowan of Radboud University turn so-called super gel into a band-aid on steroids (figuratively, of course).

The Nijmegen-based professor of molecular chemistry accidentally discovered super gel in 2013 when his team put a jar of polymers in the fridge. Instead of gelling, the polymers dissolved completely into water, but when the researchers took the jar out of the fridge, the solution turned into a gel again.

According to Kennislink the super gel “acts the same as the extracellular matrix (ECM) in the human body. This matrix is a network of molecules connecting the cells, providing fibres with both support and elasticity. The most important constituents of ECM are the natural polymers collagen and fibrin.”

Companies from all over the world sent professor Rowan their ideas of what the new gel could be used for, from letting sports bras firm up when the wearer gets warmer to slowly releasing pesticides after they have been sprayed on plants. “Companies want a finished raw material, but we did not know anything about the gel. We needed to know whether we can guarantee the quality, whether the polymer is poisonous, how long it lasts and if the human body can digest it.”

The two million euro grant was one of five grants awarded by the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development (ZonMw) on 5 February.

(Photo by Wikipedia user Henningklevjer, some rights reserved; link: Radboud University)

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November 13, 2013

Interpol to use Dutch software for identifying DNA

Filed under: Science by Orangemaster @ 7:07 pm

Earlier this month, Interpol announced its plan to start using a computer program called Bonaparte that is able to identify people from their relatives’ DNA. Bonaparte is based on research done by Radboud University Nijmegen and the Dutch Foundation for Neural Networks at the university.

The Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) has already used Bonaparte successfully on many occasions including in 2012 to find out who had murdered a young Dutch woman, Marianne Vaatstra, in 1999. There are event plans to use Bonaparte to help identify unnamed victims of the 1953 North Sea flood that devastated the southwest of the Netherlands.

As for the name, Napoleon Bonaparte was said to have given people surnames, and so Bonaparte the program does just that for nameless victims.

(Link: phys.org, Photo of DNA by DNA Art Online, some rights reserved)

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October 28, 2013

Runner’s chip took away the need to cheat

Filed under: Sports by Branko Collin @ 3:31 pm

On Sunday 17 November the 30th edition of the Seven Hills Run in Nijmegen will be held.

About 20 years ago I was a volunteer for the event and I had to guard one of the four starting cages, which taught me a thing or two about human nature.

The Seven Hills Run was and is an immensely popular race along 15 kilometres of undulating roads in and near Nijmegen. Both the global running elite and recreational runners take part. To ensure that the latter would not rob the former of fast finishes—the outdoor world records for 15 kilometre runs have been set at the Seven Hills course for both men and women—the runners were divided into four cages before the start, with the fastest group in the first and the slowest in the last.

At the start of the race, the cages would be opened back and front. The inevitable result was that the slower runners would not pass the starting line until minutes after the start, so that their official time would be composed of their running time and then some. My job at cage three was to make sure that only the people with the right starting number were allowed in and to redirect the others to their cage.

I received threats of violence that day and at one point a runner was so livid that he blocked the entrance to the cage and refused to go away. Thirty runners (my personal count) were sure that the faster cage was their rightful place. I got to redirect exactly one runner to a faster cage—I assumed that she was genuinely mistaken.

Around that time a company was founded by several students of the local university that produced an RFID transponder, the ChampionChip, that would make skewed race times a thing of the past. A computer would register the runners both when they passed the starting line and when they passed the finish line, and immediately spit out the right times. During the 25th anniversary of the race, the organisers even used the ChampionChip transponder (now owned by MYLAPS from Haarlem) to honour the 250,000th runner right after her finish.

I imagine that getting one’s exact time took some of the edge off the aggression and the need to cheat of some runners.

(Photo by Peter van der Sluijs, some rights reserved)

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February 23, 2013

Dutch with an accent just as easy to understand

Filed under: Science by Branko Collin @ 3:13 pm

People who speak Dutch with a foreign accent are just as easy to understand as native speakers. Listeners may need a while to adapt to the accent, anywhere from a few sentences to a few minutes.

Yesterday Marijt Witteman received her PhD for researching how fast listeners adapt to foreign accents. One perhaps surprising finding was that native speakers who were used to the accent, for instance, Dutch people living near the German border listening to Dutch spoken by Germans, understood words pronounced by language learners just as fast as they understood words pronounced by native speakers.

Even listeners who were not regularly exposed to the foreign accent only needed a few minutes of ‘priming’ to get up to speed. Witteman used reaction time tests in which subjects first heard a word, then saw the word written out on a screen, after which the subjects had to state if a word existed or not. Previous experiments had shown that people respond faster if they hear the word before they see it on the screen. The response times for words pronounced with an accent were just as fast as for words pronounced without an accent.

Witteman’s results could be useful in designing language courses. Course materials could be less about perfecting pronunciation and more about understanding a language. My personal take-away lesson is that Hollanders can stop pretending they don’t understand what the rest of the Dutch are saying. The game is up!

(Photo by Leo Viëtor, some rights reserved)

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January 17, 2013

Cry babies produce different poo than other babies

Filed under: Health by Orangemaster @ 5:00 am

Boffins from Wageningen University, together with more boffins from the Radboud University Nijmegen have recently published a study showing that cry babies produce different feces than other babies. One to two-week-old cry babies apparently have twice as many proteobacteria in their poo and much less of other types of bacteria as compared to other babies, although the study does not say why. It also says that by giving cry babies probiotics, which are found in baby food, these babies will cry much less.

(Link: opmerkelijk.nieuws.nl, Photo of Crying baby by Chalky Lives, some rights reserved)

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September 22, 2011

Nijmegen University censors own press about meat-eater-gate

Filed under: Animals,Science by Branko Collin @ 8:37 am

The effects of the vegetarian pseudo-scientific smear campaign against meat eaters keep spreading like an oil spill. Professor Roos Vonk (pronounced Rose Vonk) from the Radboud University in Nijmegen seemed to be little more than a victim of her Tilburg colleague Diederik Stapel at first, but when it turned out that she herself is a vegetarian (most of the time) people started wondering if perhaps her own research was skewed by her preferences.

Vonk denied this, although later she bravely admitted that it was justified for people to harbour suspicions. Vonk’s alma mater’s academic integrity committee has since started looking into her possible involvement.

And now the university is making itself look bad by censoring its own internal weekly magazine, the ‘competing’ student-run magazine ANS reports. The weekly, called Vox, was not allowed to publish a column that mused about how the academic community could learn from the mistakes that were made. Spokes person Willem Hooglugt told ANP last Tuesday that “we maintain radio silence, both internally and externally. This is a conscious choice. When we allow dissent [sorry, my bad—ed.] discussion, objectivity could suffer, and we wish to avoid that.”

This excuse would not emanate the stench of a blatant cover up if Vox did not proudly proclaim on its website’s front page that it is independent, and that its independence is anchored by both an editorial charter and an editorial council (see illustration). Needs more cowbell, that page.

Disclaimer: I myself studied at Radboud University back when it was still the Roman-Catholic University of Nijmegen, and wrote for ANS. The university often came across as deeply conservative, parochial, and surprisingly distasteful of students. (Example of the latter: the dining hall was regularly checked for people that should not be there, i.e. people who were neither student nor university employee. Somehow the security personnel only checked people that looked like students, even though the place was rife with families with children, pensioners and truckers.)

(Screenshot: Vox)

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April 10, 2010

Parkinson’s sufferer can ride bike, not walk

Filed under: Bicycles,Health by Branko Collin @ 10:06 am

A man with Parkinson’s Diseased treated in the Nijmegen academic hospital recently demonstrated that he can ride a bicycle, but not walk.

Dr. Bastiaan Bloem of Radboud University told the New York Times:

He said, ‘Just yesterday I rode my bicycle for 10 kilometers’ — six miles. He said he rides his bicycle for miles and miles every day.

I said, ‘This cannot be. This man has end-stage Parkinson’s disease. He is unable to walk.’

We helped him mount the bike, gave him a little push, and he was gone.

The 58-year-old man can only take a few steps before he falls to the ground, his hands shaking uncontrollably all the while. Dr. Bloem hypothesizes that bicycling may use a different part of the brain than walking. Another explanation could be that the pedals provide a pacing cue to the patients’ nervous system.

The Times’ article provides a video that shows the patient trying to walk, and that also shows him bicycling effortlessly.

The New England Journal of Medicine added this ‘helpful’ note:

(Editor’s note: In Video 2, the patient is not wearing a safety helmet because in the Netherlands, unlike the United States, wearing a safety helmet is neither required by law nor customary.)

Is anybody besides me reminded of this story?

(Photo by Flickr user heliosphan, some rights reserved)


May 31, 2009

Men become stupid when talking to pretty women

Filed under: General,Science by Orangemaster @ 1:07 pm

After having recently realised the superpowers of the shimmery, shiny, hot gold bikini top on stage and men’s collective drooling response to it (shutting up in mid-sentence, staring, being turned on and slightly ashamed about it around women), this one is for all of you.

The Radboud University of Nijmegen in the Netherlands confirms what I saw recently in a room full of mostly heretosexual men: pretty women stop men in their tracks.

The study found that after speaking to a female, men become markedly less competent at tasks like maths or word games. And if that woman is someone the man finds attractive, they become even worse. Single or not (as if that would make a difference!), when speaking to women, men’s ability to carry out a task drops. But during the study, when they spoke to other men, their abilities remained unchanged. Women’s performance stayed the same throughout.

I bet you gay men also follow this pattern. Someone tell me, I want to know. And if I extrapolate, I suppose gay women totally keep their cool. I want to know, too!

And then, this song is just great, as is Hugh Laurie. Here we go with a golden oldie, The Sophisticated Song.

“…when you ask me what’s on my mind,
all I can think to answer is ‘fluh-uh’ ”

(Link: thelondonpaper.com)

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