Thursday, February 3, 2011

Airport Security Using Drug Detection Mice

Jack Dikian
February 2011

Genetically-selected, specially-trained rodents can apparently detect drugs and explosives. Israeli scientists have created a device similar to a body scanner that uses mice to detect drugs or explosives.

It reminds me of the Hanna-Barbera production Flintstones where many of the stone-age devices contained small animals that performed various purpose. A prehistoric Mesozoic (bird) for example would use its peck to draw an image of the object the “camera” is aimed at.

In a similar way, mice in concealed cartridges within the scanner is said to be more efficient in the detection of drugs and explosives than that of x-ray machines or specially trained dogs.

When the mice sense traces of drugs they run to a side chamber where they trigger an alarm. BioExplorers systems are based on combining the hyper-sensitive olfactory capability of rodents with the care-free reliability of a hi-tech machine system, according to the company. According to BioExplorers it takes about ten days to teach the mice to sniff out their first banned substance, but they learn subsequent smells more quickly.

Dating Unattractive Blokes

Jack Dikian
February 2011

WOMEN who date unattractive blokes risk higher stress levels, lower fertility rates and are more likely to have an affair, according to research.

Researchers Dr Simon Griffiths and Dr Sarah Pryke from Macquarie University reported (1) that female Gouldian finches forced to pair up with poor quality partners delayed their breeding and were four times more stressed than their happier nest mates.

The interesting link is that gouldian finches have close parallels to humans, not only being socially monogamous but also producing the same stress hormones. The study claims to be the first to measure how satisfied, or unsatisfied, females are with their partners in a monogamous species.

The researchers explain that in our society there's been an assumption that you'll end up with the partner that's perfect for you. But that isn’t always the case. Birds, like humans, must make the best of the choice available to them.

The research question; wether forced choice affects the breeding success and stress levels of females. According to the study, females with good partners started laying eggs straight away, while those with bad partners waited up to a month. Also, they observed (by blood analysis) females with the wrong male were stressed within just 12 hours of him being introduced into the cage.

1. Proceedings of the Royal Society B