science in the news

Happy New Year to y'all

ere's two science stories that are on the headlines this past week. First is a somewhat salacious story, more due to the picture than the content...

British academics to tackle fashion's bottom line

Fri Dec 30, 1:53 PM ET

It is one of the most fundamental -- and, for men, potentially hazardous -- questions of modern life, for which academics now hope to provide the definitive answer: "Does my bum look big in this?"

The School of Textiles and Design at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh have begun what is believed to be the world's first-ever study on how women's clothing affects the bottom.

Models with variously sized posteriors will wear different types of clothing as part of the research, which will examine how designs, colours, patterns and fabric types affect perception.

Others will be asked to assess how big or small each model's backside appears to look in the outfits.

"This study will provide for the first time detailed and usable information that would enable designers to make the clothes that help women make the most of their natural assets," said Dr Lisa Macintyre, who is leading the study.

"There's much discussion in the media of clothing styles that flatter the body and it's generally accepted that enhancing body perception can improve confidence and self-esteem.

"But the factors behind this have never been fully investigated in a proper scientific manner.

"Designers and consumers don't currently have access to established information that could enable them to make or choose garments that enhance body size and shape."

Four models had been chosen to provide a representative sample of female backsides, Macintyre said: the "standard", the full "pre-Raphaelite" type, the smaller backside of a slim model and a curvier behind, like the famed example of actress and singer Jennifer Lopez.

Now that we've finished with the Bootie News here's something about biotechnology...

This story discusses the ups and downs of how biotechnology has done in the area of food production. As many people know, in Europe there's a lot of political and popular protest against the use of genetically engineered food. Here in the US that unrest isn't as strong or as organized but it's definitely present. Since I work in science research, it's no surprise that I don't find anything wrong with using genetically modified seeds for crops.

Biotech crops mark first decade with wins, losses

When Monsanto Co. introduced the world to genetically modified crops a decade ago, the biotech advancement was heralded as the dawn of a new era that could reduce world hunger, help the environment and bolster struggling farmers.

Now, biotech beans, cotton, corn and canola are profit-drivers at Monsanto and are lifting the fortunes of rival companies like Swiss-based Syngenta and Dow AgroSciences LLC, a unit of Dow Chemical Co.. The gains are largely due to broad U.S. acceptance of crops that have been genetically altered to withstand weedkillers and insects, and backers say, generate higher yields.

But as the industry celebrates its 10th anniversary, the early promises of biotech crops remain largely unrealized, and many countries have banned the technology amid concerns about potential danger for human health and the environment.

The article goes on to list the difficulties in product placement in a number of markets, particularly China and Europe. In fact there's little good news for supporters of this type of food in the article though it does mention in one place:

Still, acreage planted with biotech crops around the world is increasing and this year topped more than 1 billion acres sown to soybeans, corn, cotton, canola and other crops. In the United States, 52 percent of all corn, 79 percent of upland cotton and 87 percent of soybeans planted in 2004-05 were biotech varieties.

How do you reconcile an article mainly listing how poorly agricultural biotech has done with numbers like those?

Well, it's mainly because a lot of the biotech produced plants and seeds are now mainstream and no longer controversial. So the press you read, including this article, focuses on the poorly recieved products and ignores just how much market penetration has actually occured. In fact, much of what we eat has originated from lab modified agricultural seeds and plants.

This really shouldn't bother anyone since all our food has been genetically modified for centuries. After all, animal husbandry is simply an inefficient way of modifying the genetics of a critter. When you breed chickens to have more meat by crossing your best chickens with one another you're modifying them genetically. It's just done across a number of generations haphazardly. Just a thought....


Isheeta said…
LOL, nicepic! your website usually has a lot of informative topics... but this one... lol.. icing on the cake! happy new year!
Very interesting study about the butts! I'm surprised it has taken this long for a scientific study of the matter.
Michelle said…
Hmmm, call me a skeptic, give me organic any 3 headed fish for me!
Juggling Mother said…
I've tried explaining to numerous people that crops (and animals) have been genetically modified for generations.

It doesn't go down well here in the UK:-)

Consider the carrot: It should be purple (or maybe white). It was deliberately modified to be orange in the 16th century by patriotic dutchmen.


And yeast has been so modified over the centuries that apparently it is completely unrecognisable as the same organism used a few thousend years ago!

I'm all in favour of GM foods, and I know full well that the majority of the stuff I buy in the supermarkets must be GM. When I was young, barely an apple could be bought that didn't have some kind of parasite inside (the half-worm was a common sight). Nowadays, that never happens. And all apples are the same size, colour & remain fresh for at least twice as long as they used to. But tell people thats because of genetic modification & they start jumping around screaming that we're all going to grow scales or something!

I worry about the education levels of people sometimes.
poopie said… why don't we just breed all women to have butts like JLo's? Just a thought. Happy 2006 David.
Teresa said…
I'm not sure that I'd call this "science". I can't get past the idea that some researcher kept getting distracted by women's butts and said, "I could sit and look at butts all day!" and made it happen. LOL.

I suppose it could provide some useful information to some women, but I don't think that most women fall into the ideals of the perfect example of butt types and even if they did, not all want to show it to an admirable advantage. There's the subjective factor that can't be ignored in this case that screws up the supposedly scientific endeavor.

Genetically engineered food doesn't bother me, but I think that there should be an effort to alter foods to reduce physical distress from them. You'd think that along with producing larger crops of foods that there could be some way to reduce the allergic properties of some foods. Just a thought.

Also, I have noticed that while some foods are larger, prettier and more shelf-stable than they once were, taste sometimes is lost along the way. As I sat down to my traditional New Year's pork and sauerkraut, it struck me that pork is a lot drier than it used to be when I was a kid. Leaner, bigger bigs have produced a gorgeous pork roast... but it's not as tasty or pallitable as days gone by.
Beth said…
Haha! I love the pic - it's an attention grabber.

Hope you are having a Happy New Year.

BTW - can you help a minute? Does my bum look big to you from there?
kenju said…
I do hope the government isn't funding the booty study!

Happy New Year, Utenzi!
Carol said…
Interesting research. I had heard about the "does this make me look fat" research. I'll look forward to their findings.
Prego said…
Biologically engineered food will not likely end world hunger. As altruistic as the endeavor might seem at the onset, eventually, politics, prejudices, red tape and run of the mill hatred will perpetuate famine and suffering. On the other-hand, there'll be a lot more large asses to scrutinize here in America.

Here via Michele today, Ute.
Lora said…
Makes me think of "Oryx and Crake" by Margret Atwood with Chickens "improved" to have multiple breasts and no legs or wings.

On that thought, Happy New Year!
scrappintwinmom said…
Hi! Here via Michele. That booty study makes me think that some folks have a LOT of free time! Happy New Year!
Chrixean said…
hi utenzi! just stopping by to greet you a happy new year! I'm curious to know what exactly the pre-Raphaelite backside type looks like... could you post a pic, perhaps? heehee.
I always love visiting you. We just never know what there will be a picture of here!
utenzi said…
Lisa M, I love to visit you also though it's been a few days since my last visit. For some reason your blog loads badly on my computers. I don't know why.

Chrixean, my girlfriend has a Raphaelite backside. I'm not sure what the pre-version would be like. If I ever start that half-naked Thursday meme I might post a pic of my backside. I assure you it'd not be a treat!

Trantortwinmom, I must have plenty of time because I'm more than willing to look at plenty of backsides like that picture I have on the post.

Lora, that's just nasty! Too many boobies can spoil the chicken!

Prego, no doubt true. Are you into politics, by any chance?
Lish said…
I'd rather see pics of booty than spiders.

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