Discovered: "smart bomb" mouthwash, a possible acne medication side effect, a better word for "cancer," why we evolved to get braces, and hoping for a better coffee mug.

  • One small step on the road to a perfect coffee cup. In today's practical research, Scientific American takes a look at the experiment of a UCSB fluid dynamicist looking to answer one timeless query: why does "coffee sometimes spill and sometimes not?" The answer, though given with technical jargon, appears to boil down to some reasons why you thought coffee spills: you walked too fast, you got greedy and filled the cup to the brim, you made too quick of a movement and it splashed on your work shirt. But the experiment also teased out a proposal for the future of the mug: "a flexible container to act as a sloshing absorber” or a "series of rings arranged up and down the inner wall of a container might also impede the liquid oscillations." Starbucks, listening? [Scientific American]
  • Since there are lots of cancer types, shouldn't there more ways to describe it?  Yes, says a New York Times health essay: "one thing is growing increasingly clear to many researchers: The word 'cancer' is out of date, and all too often it can be unnecessarily frightening." This works for both reassuring patients and helping diagnosis something more specific in serious cases, as the paper notes, just hearing the word may overwhelm the conversation between doctors and patients. The Times writes: "It is like saying a person has 'mental illness' when he or she might have schizophrenia or mild depression or an eating disorder." [The New York Times]
  • Even experimental mouthwash is battlefield-ready these days. "Smartbomb" mouthwash: instead of numbly wiping out every single bit of bacteria in your mouth like all those other brands, this experimental prototype supposedly hones in on the bad stuff like a laser-guided precision  missile or something. Thats what UCLA researchers are touting in a study that was funded in part by toothpaste purveyors Colgate-Palmolive (which may explain the catchy, grocery store aisle-ready  "smartbomb" nickname?). The results are apparently promising: in a small case study of 12 patients "after only one rinse, the mouthwash completely eliminated the S. mutans bacteria - the main cause of tooth decay," CBS News reported. In any case, in the candy vs. dental hygiene Cold War a "smarter" mouthwash may be needed--sour candy's tooth enamel decaying potency looks pretty strong. [CBS News, UCLA School of Dentistry]
  • Hunter gatherers had strong, jutting jaws--unlike most of us. The clichéd image of ancient hunter-gatherers with sharper features appears to be confirmed by a new study by an anthropologist at the University of Kent that also teased out an important reason why that matters for contemporary people: our evolution to softer foods overcrowded our mouths with teeth, reported ScienceNOW. So, the theory goes, this may have something to do with why so many of us had braces: "the transition to farming ... altered the shape of the human jaw, making it shorter and less robust. And this shortening of the jaw, she suggests, led to greater crowding of the teeth and the orthodontist bills that plague many modern families." [ScienceNOW via Wired]
  • Tenuous link: acne medication and sore throats.  Not that it should (or would) stop teenagers from using oral antibiotics for acne, but a new study reported by Reuters finds that "long-term use of antibiotics might change the balance of bacteria in the throat" and that teenagers who take this type of medication may be more prone to sore throats. The researchers cited by the news outlet took pains to explain that they couldn't say for sure whether it was the acne medication that caused the sore throat, and one even said of the link: "It's not a warning sign of anything evil going on, that's for certain." But still, if the tenuous is real is just another trade-off to consider when weighing long-term medication. [Reuters]