How Common is Your Password?

After the security breach in Yahoo e-mails last week, a lot of people start panicking about their passwords and data. As a Yahoo user and non-IT scientist, I started wondering how do passwords work? What does encrypted mean? And how does hacking work anyways?

Well as usual, the answers came from DNews, they published a video yesterday, where they answered those questions and more.

And also, for a good laugh, check this other video, it’s a TED talk where James Veitch from Mashable responded to a spam email and shared his funny experience.

Enjoy those videos while I’m off to change all my passwords … Cheers!




Antibiotic Resistance Re-challenged !

We are living in the era of antibiotics resistance… and even the thought of it should scare you and make you think, what alternative do we, as a species have?! Are we loosing the war against those microorganisms?!

Well those questions were partially answered, two decades ago… yep you read right.

The Soviets started working, before the fall of their power, on the concept of selective Bacteriophage treatment of bacterial infection. Bacteriophages are viruses that only kill bacteria; so imagine your doctor prescribing you a virus for the treatment of pneumonia!

Unfortunately the Soviets did not do their studies with respect to our modern evidence base concept, but those files are being revisited and some studies will start soon.

DNews details the idea in this awesome video… Cheers to such genius ideas!


Smelling Sunscreen and Tasting Sea Food

Smelling is a marvellous faculty; you’d never know the layers of complexity it adds to your life until you have that stupid cold. This post aims at exploring other areas of smelling your nose hasn’t been in yet!

How does it work?

Can we smell other things?

There’s also a report that witnesses can identify criminals by their body odor. It might be through its ability to trigger memories.

Lastly, if you’re feeling venturous enough, check out the goofy guys at Good Mythical Morning trying to fool their senses by smelling and eating weird combinations *hint in the title of the post*



Connecting Us Faster than Internet Ever Could

As eloquently as he put it, the last footage with blood donors lining up is worth commending. It’s officially World Blood Donor Day, whose slogan this year is “Blood Connects Us All”.

As we mentioned before, the FDA had partially lifted gay men blood donation ban. The catch is that they would have to be abstinent for at least a year. An article on Wired appeared recently, claiming that individual risk assessment should be a safe enough option. It bases itself on the Italian model, analysing data from 2001, when they shifted from a complete ban to a more selective one, showing to significant increase in risk.

Around the world, people are pouring their souls into linking donors to recipient, as best shown by this motorcycle blood delivery effort.

In a different approach, blood not only links us because of our mutual need but also for not symbolising weakness. Both women and men should feel concerned…watch the clip below, and Happy Blood Donor day everyone.

[Signature drink by E.]

Pancreatic Cancer: Some Good (pre-clinical) News

Pancreatic cancer is one of the most aggressive cancers that can hit the body; it’s aggressive enough that studies are even difficult to conduct, which makes new treatment discoveries a very hard task.


Consequently campaigns are being made to increase awareness of the disease, its symptoms and maybe push scientists to work more to find new treatments. Some of the campaigns were even so provocative to the extend of being controversial. One of the latter campaigns is the Pancreatic Cancer Action ad back in 2014, where Pancreatic cancer patient wished they had breast or testicular cancer:

Via DailyMail

(Click on the captioned link for the full video of the campaign)

October 2015 was a good day for pancreatic cancer, where a drug Iriotecan (already in the market) was successfully inserted in a Liposome, which can decrease the side effects and increase the efficacy of the medications (news via FDA). But frankly no major change in the treatment was due just yet.

BUT the good news is that someone is now thinking outside the box! Laura Indolfi a biomedical engineer and her team came up with a new drug delivery system. It basically looks like a patch and it’s now being tested in pre-clinical studies. It can deliver medication directly into the tumour while bypassing all the other organs even the blood, and it is inserted with minimal invasiveness and applied directly on the tumour. The latter, will drastically decrease the side effects, toxicities and definitely will increases the efficacy of the drug.

In her TED Talk (shared below) Indolfi explains why it’s hard to treat pancreatic cancer and how her invention can bypass all those difficulties.

Cheers to such inventions! Cheers to such innovators!

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Time for a Smoke Break

It’s officially World No Tobacco day. Apparently the new trend is moving away from disgusting pictures into plain packaging to decrease the attractiveness of the product.


Image via WHO

In recent news, cigarettes will cost $40 a pack in Australia by 2020 and CDC declared that smoking rates have gone down in 2015. Here’s a fun selection on smoking trends:


Scientist of the WORLD

You don’t need a degree to be a scientist, at least not a citizen scientist.

For science enthusiasts around the world, here’s the fascinating world of how powerful you can be:

As SciStarter puts it:

citizen scientist is an individual who voluntarily contributes his or her time, effort, and resources toward scientific research in collaboration with professional scientists or alone. These individuals don’t necessarily have a formal science background.

According to a collection by scientific american, you can volunteer your time/energy to all sorts of projects, from logging your sightings of amphibians to evaluating air pollution for cyclists in urban areas.

Here are some projects people have contributed to:

We hope this inspires you. Let us know if you’ve been part of any projects in the comments!


Liquid Ping Pong vs Menstruation

We’ve all seen videos of mostly Asian competitors whiz through a match of ping pong. What about one with liquids?

While liquid ping pong in space is cool, other forms of liquid might not be as desirable. Washing hair in space, especially for women, is extremely challenging.

These might seem like clever ways to solve the unwanted liquid issue on board, but other sources of liquid don’t look as easy to control: Cue the menstruation blood nightmare.

Although menstruation is a normal bodily process periodically experienced by almost all women in the world, not many are familiar with the process. We previously explained how it ties into the bigger circle of life, especially with all the tools designed around contraception. The problem faced by astronauts is the management of periods over long periods of time, an issue that was only recently brought up because of the expected long-duration trips to Mars.

The news last week was buzzing about one of the first scientifically backed recommendations for menstruating astronauts. Medically induced amenorrhea, or stoppage of menstrual bleeding, has been traditionally achieved by manipulating the hormones in the body. As with the case with military service personnel, women astronauts have expressed a desire to maintain this process. However, instead of having to comply with a daily regimen of pills, producing waste and extra cargo, Intra-Uterine Devices are suggested. A sub-type of those are hormonal implants which would be placed into the vagina, releasing enough chemicals to block bleeding.


With 50% of the 2013 NASA recruits being female, menstruation has joined the big table conversation.

Back here on earth, menstruation has also joined the economic conversation. Here are some highlights from this NYTimes article:

  • American women spent $3 billion on sanitary protection in 2014, up 2 percent from 2013, according to the market research company Euromonitor International

  • Menstrual products are expensive, and it’s absolutely debilitating if you don’t have access to them

  • Eight states and the District of Columbia have moved to eliminate sales tax on pads and tampons, and bills have recently passed in the New York and Mississippi State Senates

I’m sure you’ve heard the conversation stirring online. It reached NASA and legislation, are you still held back by it?

[Signature drink by E.]

Science Doesn’t Lie, But Scientists…

How did we define the “normal” values of blood cholesterol, glucose, pressure, and body temperature…? The answer is statistics. By collecting data from populations, we started seeing where the majority of people stand, in order to define the “normal” values.statistics.jpgThe latter is a straightforward application of statistics, but when we started comparing groups to each others (i.e. testing a new drug in diseased v.s healthy populations) things started to get complicated. We needed a way to make sure that the data we collected is not due to chance or any other artefact.
3ngU8.pngConsequently, rules for randomization, data collection, bias …etc were established, and references such as p-values, confidence intervals and others became very crucial in deciding if the hypothesis we are testing is true or not (i.e. the drug is effective or not).correlation.png

The most famous of the above values in the medical field is the p-value. It tells us if we can accept or throw away the “Null Hypothesis”; which is the hypothesis that there is no difference between the tested groups.

P values evaluate how well the sample data support the devil’s advocate argument that the null hypothesis is true. It measures how compatible your data are with the null hypothesis. How likely is the effect observed in your sample data if the null hypothesis is true? […]

  • High p values: your data are likely with a true null.
  • Low p values: your data are unlikely with a true null.

From MiniTab

On the other hand, looking only on the p-value will definitely lead to a misinterpretation of the statistical data, and here’s where a scientist can mislead their readers.

Science doesn’t lie but scientists well… that’s a different story!
By Lissette Padilla from DNews.

Last-line-of-defense-statistics.gifLet’s take this statement:
Drug X lowers blood glucose level, and this result came from a study  with a p-value of 0.01 (which is less than 0.05, hence statistically significant).
As a first impression, I can say wow!! that drug is actually a miracle… but this is not enough! In reality if we had such an effective drug we could have cured diabetes once-and-for-all. But again, Looking ONLY on the p-value is NEVER enough in any case… and here’s why;

According to MiniTab three things a p-value can NOT prove:

  1. It tells us that we have a difference between the groups that are being tested, but it can not reflect the magnitude of difference.
    In our case, we won’t know if drug X will lower blood glucose by 2 or by 100 units just by knowing the p-value.
  2. It tells us we can refute the null hypothesis but in reality this isn’t enough to prove that our alternative hypothesis is true. In simpler terms, you only need one example to prove that a hypothesis is wrong, but alternatively one example is not enough to prove that a hypothesis is true.
    Back to our case, we are sure that there is a difference between the tested groups, but we can not prove that the latter is due to drug X just by looking at the p-value.
  3. Finally, remember that the p-value doesn’t tell us anything about what we are observing… it only tells us the odds of observing it.
    So by only knowing the p-value is statistically significant doesn’t prove that taking drug X  will definitely regulated your blood sugar.

What we just discussed can cause a misdirection of a whole field of studies… we will be elaborating more in a future post about Evidence Base Medicine and its impact on the medical advancement.

And finally, here is how DNews compiled all these ideas and refreshed our memories about the p-Value in one of their fun and informative videos:

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What Does Contraception Have to Do with Frogs?

You will never be too old for this one:

Here’s how the circle of life is linking our birth control pills to frogs disappearing.

First, what is menstruation and when are women at the risk of being pregnant:

Once you see that the balance of hormones is crucial to a regular cycle, you will appreciate how scientists messed it up to prevent birth (after so many weird ways of trying):

When it comes to hormonal treatment, several of them end up in our wastewater, whether it’s because of pooping them out or improper disposal:

Despite sewage treatment, many active compounds reach bodies of water, where plants and other animals live. One of the most vulnerable creatures are amphibians; being in the water much of their time increases their exposure.


Many studies were performed to asses the effect of that influx. Mammalian hormones are able to affect amphibians and even cause them to ovulate. Effect were also seen on male specimens with common conclusions like shifts in sex ratios and feminization always brought up. These changes have been associated with urban ponds, rich in estrogenic compounds, commonly found in female contraceptive pills. and the most recent one:

Unnoticed sex reversal in amphibians due to artificial estrogen from pills Via ScienceDaily

The group from IGB and the University of Wroclaw tested the influence of EE2. They first genetically determined the sex of each specimen from 3 different species, then tested different concentration. Phenotypic changes at the level of the gonads describes a sensitivity from 15 to 100 percent. The group warns that such drastic developments may lead to the extinction of the population altogether.

This is by no means a post to discourage you from continuing with your contraceptive plan, but to get you and others to keep in mind of the impact we leave behind, and how we can make it better.

[Signature drink by E.]