When Cancer Patients Ask About Weed, Many Doctors Say Go For It

npr.org – About half of oncologists recommend medical marijuana to patients, though most feel ignorant of its proper medical use.

Source: Ilana M. Braun, et al. Medical Oncologists’ Beliefs, Practices, and Knowledge Regarding Marijuana Used Therapeutically: A Nationally Representative Survey Study. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2018.

Study finds a conserved role for serotonin in regulating behavior in octopus, humans

eurekalert.org – The mood-altering drug MDMA -- which promotes positive, friendly social interactions in humans by inhibiting serotonin uptake in nerve cells -- has a similar behavioral effect in an octopus species, scientists reported today. This indicates that serotonin has been functioning as a regulator of social behavior for at least 500 million years, when the human and octopus lineages evolutionarily diverged.

Source: Eric Edsinger, Gül Dölen. A Conserved Role for Serotonergic Neurotransmission in Mediating Social Behavior in Octopus. Current Biology, 2018.

Say Hello to Dickinsonia, the Animal Kingdom's Newest (and Oldest) Member

sciam.com – Half-billion-year-old fossils reveal new details about one of the most mysterious chapters in Earth’s history

Source: Ilya Bobrovskiy, et al. Ancient steroids establish the Ediacaran fossil Dickinsonia as one of the earliest animals. Science, 2018.

DNA Test Helps Conservationists Track Down Ivory Smugglers

npr.org – The cartels that run the ivory trade try to cover their tracks — among other things, they smuggle tusks from the same elephant separately. But DNA testing can help find patterns.

Source: Samuel K. Wasser, et al. Combating transnational organized crime by linking multiple large ivory seizures to the same dealer. Science Advances, 2018.

Image of the Day: The Imitation Game

the-scientist.com – A bioinspired robot helps researchers study insect flight.

Source: Matěj Karásek, Florian T. Muijres, Christophe De Wagter, Bart D. W. Remes, Guido C. H. E. de Croon. A tailless aerial robotic flapper reveals that flies use torque coupling in rapid banked turns. Science, 2018.

Physicists train robotic gliders to soar like birds

sciencedaily.com – Scientists know that upward currents of warm air assist birds in flight. To understand how birds find and navigate these thermal plumes, researchers used reinforcement learning to train gliders to autonomously navigate atmospheric thermals. The research highlights the role of vertical wind accelerations and roll-wise torques as viable biological cues for soaring birds. The findings also provide a navigational strategy that directly applies to the development of UAVs.

Source: Gautam Reddy, Jerome Wong-Ng, Antonio Celani, Terrence J. Sejnowski, Massimo Vergassola. Glider soaring via reinforcement learning in the field. Nature, 2018.

Gene-Edited Skin Patch Prevents Cocaine Overdose in Mice

the-scientist.com – With a built-in supply of a powerful cocaine-chomping enzyme, the transplant might also curb addiction.

Source: Yuanyuan Li, et al. Genome-edited skin epidermal stem cells protect mice from cocaine-seeking behaviour and cocaine overdose. Nature Biomedical Engineering, 2018.

Versatile robotic skin gives stuffed horse, other inanimate objects some giddyup

digitaltrends.com – Researchers at Yale University have developed a new sensor-packed robot skin that can be wrapped around inanimate objects, such as toys, to transform them into functioning robots. Here's why that's so exciting -- and which robots the team has created with their new tech.

Source: Joran W. Booth, et al. OmniSkins: Robotic skins that turn inanimate objects into multifunctional robots. Science Robotics, 2018.

Daily low-dose aspirin is not a panacea for the elderly

sciencenews.org – Healthy elderly adults don’t benefit from a daily dose of aspirin, according to results from a large-scale clinical trial.

Source: John J. McNeil, et al. Effect of Aspirin on Cardiovascular Events and Bleeding in the Healthy Elderly. New England Journal of Medicine, 2018.