Friday Factoids: Mouse Erections, How Remembering Makes Us Forget and More

australianchristians.com.au
I read 'em so you don't gotta.  And you should be glad.  Reading about mice with erections that may last up to six or more hours (do they know to call the doctor?) is dismaying.  Bewildering.  Funny as hell. 
 
So you're on your own from here out:
 
Mice with Erections Have Less Diabetic Nerve Damage
New animal studies find that Viagra (sildenafil), a drug commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction, may be effective in relieving painful and potentially life-threatening nerve damage in men with long-term diabetes. The drug was given to male mice in the test.  Is it actually less pain in the feet?  Or are they just less aware of it?  Inquiring minds want to know.  Report from the Henry Ford Health System

Remembering Makes You More Forgetful
A new study has shown how intentional recall is beyond a simple reawakening of a memory; and actually leads us to forget other competing experiences that interfere with retrieval. Quite simply, the very act of remembering may be one of the major reasons why we forget.  I remember when I didn't forget everything, which turns out to be the cause.  Report from the University of Birmingham

Thinking of drinking and driving? What if your car won't let you?
Well, according to this research, death rates from accidents would drop 85% over the fifteen years it would take to implement a national "smart car" program. 

If every new car made in the United States had a built-in blood alcohol level tester that prevented impaired drivers from driving the vehicle, how many lives could be saved, injuries prevented, and injury-related dollars left unspent?

Researchers at the University of Michigan Injury Center and the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute studied the impact of installing these alcohol ignition interlock devices in all newly purchased vehicles over a 15-year period.  They concluded that the country could avoid 85 percent of crash deaths attributable to alcohol-involved motor vehicle crashes during the 15-year implementation period. That would mean preventing more than 59,000 deaths, the team reports in a paper published online in the American Journal of Public Health.

Another 1.25 million non-fatal injuries would also be prevented, they calculate, as the nation would see a reduction of 84-89 percent.  And when it comes to dollars, all these lives saved and injuries prevented would save U.S. society $343 billion over 15 years. In fact, the cost of installing the devices would be recouped after just three years.

So that's good.

'Distracted driving' at an all-time high
The advent of cell phones, text messaging and heavy urban traffic has taken the issue of 'distracted driving' to a historic level, a new report says, although it also identifies some training approaches that may be of value in educating young drivers about these special risks.

Young, inexperienced drivers have always gotten into more automobile accidents, but if you add in a lot of distractions, it's a recipe for disaster -- and a new Pacific Northwest research program is learning more about these risks while identifying approaches that may help reduce them.

Distractions have been an issue since the age of the Model T, whether a driver was eating a sandwich or talking to a passenger. But the advent of cell phones, text messaging and heavy urban traffic has taken those distractions to a historic level, say researchers, who emphasize that there appears to be value in educating young drivers about these special risks.

A new study of 3,000 teenage drivers in Alaska, Washington, Idaho and Oregon has found that interactive presentations administered to young drivers in a classroom or auditorium -- more than passive listening -- can have some ability to raise their awareness of this problem. Experts conclude that more work of this type should be pursued nationally.

"Based on recent studies, anything that takes your attention away, any glance away from the road for two seconds or longer can increase the risk of an accident from four to 24 times," said David Hurwitz, an assistant professor of transportation engineering in the College of Engineering at Oregon State University, corresponding author of the study published in the Journal of Transportation Safety and Security.

And that's bad.  More than makes up for the fewer drunks on the road.

Scientists fly kites on Earth to study Mars
This headline really grabs. 

Kudos to whoever wrote it.  It gives the image that cutbacks in the NASA budget force researchers to improvise.  All I can say is that it must take a really long string to fly a kite to Mars from Earth.

Actually, flying a kite is an "unconventional" research method allow planetary scientists to develop digital terrain models -- think Google Earth on steroids -- of geologic features on Earth, revealing that some of the things we see on Mars and other planets may not be what they seem.

Here's how it works: Scientists of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory fly kites equipped with off-the-shelf instruments such as a camera, a GPS, and orientation sensors above lava flows blanketing the Hawaiian landscape.

The team then employs parallel computing and software algorithms to assemble tens of thousands of images into extremely detailed and accurate 3D digital terrain models.  These models  help interpret images of the surface of Mars taken from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been examining Mars since 2006.

"The idea is to understand places we can't go by analyzing places we can go," said Christopher Hamilton, the principal investigator of the research team.

"We can use geologically young and vegetation-free surface features here on Earth -- such as Hawaiian lava flows -- as terrestrial analogs that can provide us with insights into processes that shape other planets," he added.

When the researchers compared to images of the Martian surface taken by HiRISE, striking similarities appear.

"We think this is how the big lava flows formed on Mars, which strongly suggests they may not be what they seem," Hamilton said. For example, many features that have been interpreted as channels carved by running water in the red planet's past are more likely to be the result of volcanic process.  Story materials provided by University of Arizona, written by Daniel Stolte.

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