Common gene variant influences food choices … for better or worse

Scientists have recently discovered that for girls who are carriers of a particular gene variant (DRD4 VNTR with 7 repeats), the crucial element that influences a child’s fat intake is not the gene variant itself. Instead, it is the interplay between the gene and girls’ early socioeconomic environment that may determine whether they have increased fat intake or healthier than average eating compared to their peers from the same class background. —> Read More

Cockroaches Are Even Faster, Tougher And Ickier Than We Thought

Some of the cockroach’s most disgusting properties are now being used for good.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, have harnessed the survival skills of the icky pests into a robot prototype that could be used to find victims in an earthquake or other disaster. The cockroach bot was described in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.

But the living cockroaches who invade our kitchens are still gross. In a new video (above), the researchers put roaches to the test and discovered that they can withstand almost 900 pounds of pressure — no wonder the little $$@@!! won’t die when we step on them.

They can squeeze through one-tenth-of-an-inch crevices and skitter away at high speed, even when they’re flattened in half.

At least all that indestructibility is pushing search-and-rescue technology forward.

Kaushik Jayaram, lead author of the paper who conducted the research while earning his PhD at UC Berkeley, designed a palm-sized robot that is capable of collapsing like a real roach. Named CRAM, or Compressible Robot With Articulated Mechanisms, it can be equipped with a camera and a plastic shield to mimic the roach’s hard-but-flexible exoskeleton.

As CBS noted, CRAM looks more like an armadillo, but its properties are roach-like and may someday save lives.

In the event of an earthquake, first responders need to know if an area of rubble is stable and safe, but the challenge is, most robots can’t get into rubble,” Robert Full, a professor of integrative biology at UC Berkeley and —> Read More

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