Beer's Missing Link; Tea Party Psychology

And: treadmill-running shrimp revisited

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Today in research: a missing link in lager beer, ecstasy as a cancer-killer, the invention of cooking, Tea Party psychology, and revisiting treadmill running shrimp

  • After decades, researchers identify the missing link--in beer. You have to admire the persistence of evolutionary geneticist Chris Todd Hittinger, who spent five years wandering around the globe looking for the ingredient that makes German lager beer "crisp-tasting." He found it, a form of yeast, in Patagonia recently. Humorously, the Los Angeles Times feature recounting this quest reads like Hittinger was searching for the fountain of youth: "We knew it had to be out there somewhere," he says in triumph. [The Los Angeles Times]
  • Tea Partiers may not be pleased about this. A sociology professor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill led research surveying 4,500 registered voters in North Carolina and Tennessee in order to define the belief set of those who are sympathetic to the Tea Party. The study found that Tea Partiers value deference to authority, fear change, harbor negative values toward immigrants, and have a very strong libertarian streak. TPM's Josh Marshall quipped earlier today: "I coulda told you that." [Associated Press]
  • Take a guess how long humans have been cooking. If you spit-balled about 1.9 million years, your guess would be right in line with what Harvard researchers just concluded. That long-ago date has something to do with why humans evolved to have smaller teeth: "As early humans learned how to cook, they no longer needed large back teeth to chew tough food, or had to spend hours chewing to gain enough calories," The Guardian described. [The Guardian]
  • The other things about Ecstasy. Previously the drug MDMA had been suggested for those suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder. New research now finds that a modified version of the drug "could kill some types of blood cancer cells," reports Healthland, which also cautions: "the problem with using a drug like MDMA to fight cancer is that the dose would have to be so large, it would kill the patient." Which is why a University of Birmingham researcher is developing an experimental drug with a lower dosage. [Time Healthland]
  • Shrimp running on a treadmill, revisited. Sometimes, researchers get singled out for how they choose to spend their time and funding. And Biologist Lou Burnett and crew may be an infamous example, as NPR recounts: they were testing how shrimp react to water quality and made a video showing one running on a treadmill. The study was flagged by Sen. Tom Coburn, who said that the project was an example of government waste. In a new article, NPR spoke with Burnett, who defended the study and was "irritated" by the waste implication: "The senator's report was misleading, says Burnett, 'and it suggests that much money was spent on seeing how long a shrimp can run on a treadmill, which was totally out of context.'" The offending video is below. Unfortunately the internet had its fun and we found a version with the Benny Hill theme song attached. [NPR]
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