Scitech Briefs

Grapefruit juice can interfere with drugs

Grapefruit juice, once just a tangier alternative to orange juice, has dubious properties. While testing the effects of alcohol on blood pressure drugs, researchers were amazed to find that drugs administered along with grapefruit juice increased drug potency to dangerous levels. Grapefruit juice interferes with a family of enzymes that processes drugs and toxins to make them less potent. Further testing found that similarly acidic fruits, like limes and oranges, also block those enzymes.

Source: The New York Times

Tiny helicopter uses new method to fly

A Norwegian engineer has created a tiny helicopter that utilizes a novel method of keeping itself aloft. The 3.3-gram Picoflyer has two stacked rotors encompassed by rings. The rotors counter-rotate to offset the opposing spin forces from the engine and fuselage. The rings keep both rotors in the same plane, creating a passive-stability system to maintain the balance of the Picoflyer should it tip. Military possibilities for the Picoflyer as a reconnaissance device are under consideration, but toy companies are already adapting the radio-controlled chopper for entertainment purposes.

Source: Popular Science

Super Bowl ads fare badly in brain scans

Brain scans performed on Super Bowl viewers were able to identify which areas of the brain become active during commercial-watching. The orbito-frontal cortex and ventral striatum are areas that marketing teams aim for, because they are the centers of the brain associated with perceived rewards and feelings of liking and wanting something. Researchers found the “I’m going to Disney World” commercial to be most effective. Interestingly, many commercials backfired, stimulating activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain associated with fear and anxiety.

Source: Discover Magazine

A new hope for snore sufferers

People who snore may have new hope for more restful nights thanks to research at the University of Southern California. Snoring is caused by involuntary vibrations of the uvula, the hanging tissue in the back of the throat, and the soft palate. A tiny electrical stimulator, the size of a grain of rice, inserted into certain muscles, can signal muscles to tense, opening blockages and stopping vibrations. Versions of the stimulator are already being used to treat incontinence, arthritis, and paralysis.

Source: Financial Times

The ‘shifty’ liar is no longer an accurate

A study recently published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior showed that liars, contrary to popular belief, twitch and fidget less than people who are not lying. The gestures we associate with lying, such as touching the nose or playing with hair, are self-adapting gestures, meant to provide comfort when we are upset. However, liars are acutely aware of their bodies and will refrain from making gestures that give them away. In fact, liars are more likely to make grand, affirming gestures to support what they are saying.

Source: BBC News