Discovered: the Orion Nebula doesn't have that many stars; naked mole-rats are ugly because of evolution; recapping the Ig Nobel Prize ceremony; doctors wary of drug company findings.
Doctors distrust big pharma-backed research. Pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and GlaxoKlineSmith might be responsible for some of the largest breakthroughs in prescription drugs, but doctors aren't buying much of the research they fund. Researchs from Harvard Medical school asked physicians to rate the credibility of research abstracts, which varied only in who they were attributed to. Some were described as National Institutes of Health findings, others were listed as drug company experiments. They found that doctors were perceptive about the rigorousness of the abstracts, but were more likely to distrust reports from drug companies. The doctors said they were only half as willing to prescribe drugs promoted in big pharma studies as those mentioned in NIH reports. "Despite the occasional scientific and ethical lapses in trials funded by pharmaceutical companies, it is also true that the pharmaceutical industry has supported many major drug trials that have been of particular clinical importance," write the researchers in their paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine. "Excessive skepticism concerning trials supported by industry could hinder the appropriate translation of the results into practice." [Los Angeles Times]
Announcing the Ig Nobel winners. Harvard's annual Ig Nobel Prize ceremony honors the wacky side of scientific inquiry by awarded researchers who produce findings that "first make people laugh, and then make them think." This isn't about fake or fringe science, and many Ig Nobel participants have won real Nobels. But the awards go to bizarre experiments, such as the British researchers who won an Ig Nobel for their equation that predicts ponytail shape, called the Rapunzel Number. Other winners included the geniuses who discovered chimps can recognize each other from their backsides alone, and the physics behind coffee spills. The best part of the ceremony is how they play out over-long acceptance speakers. The Oscars opt for gentle orchestra music, but after 60 seconds the Ig Nobels have a little kid approach the podium and scream, "I'm bored!" [BBC]
Evolution has not been kind to the naked mole-rat. Naked mole-rats are like Keith Richards: they only look that way because they've been through a lot. University of Illinois at Chicago researchers have found that the critters evolved to survive highly acidic environments that would lay waste to us and other mammals. Carbon dioxide gets trapped in their underground African habitats, making their environment potentially toxic for animals that haven't evolved to withstand acidic air as they have. Researchers led by Thomas Park are studying how the naked mole-rat puts up with such conditions in order to discover better pain relief methods for other species. "Acidification is an unavoidable side-effect of injury," says Park. "Studying an animal that feels no pain from an acidified environment should lead to new ways of alleviating pain in humans." [EurekAlert]
The Orion Nebula has far fewer stars than previously thought. If you look closely enough at the constellation Orion, you'll notice that one of the stars in the sword dangling from his belt is fuzzier than the others. That's the Orion Nebula, thought to be home to thousands of birthing stars. Astronomers often train their telescopes at the nebula, 1 million years old and 1,350 light years from us, to study who nascent stars form. But now, scientists are revising the number of stars the nebula is thought to contain. At least 10 to 20 percent of them are older than 1 million years, making them more likely to be part of the Iota Orionis cluster. Researcher Joao Alves and colleagues write in an Astronomy & Astrophysics paper that other star-studiers will have to revise their findings about star formation, if they were based on these Orion Nebula imposters. [ScienceNow]