March 2013 Revisit: UFO’s Regrow Teeth Using Facebook… Or Something

Three cool updates to close out March.  The first actually calls back to a February post, wherein WDTM? speculated that the stunning footage of the Russian Chelyabinsk meteor, shot from multiple sources, angles and locations, should make UFO enthusiasts queasy, as the modern ubiquity of worldwide camera technology has somehow not yet provided similar spectacular evidence of something they claim to be continually happening.  We found out in the February revisit, instead, that the Russian populace had gone gaga with woo-woo over the incident.  Oops.

Of course in science, one incident is not indicative of a trend, as shown in the newest issue of Intelligent Life magazine, from the publishers of The EconomistThe article, boasting the unfortunately confrontational title “Twilight of the Gullible,” highlights the morose musings from a November 2012 meeting of the British-based Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena (ASSAP), at which science writer Ian Ridpath explained that UFO sightings were indeed following a drastic downward trend, despite the fact that nearly everyone in the western world now carries a video camera in their pocket.  In fact, cases reported to the Association have dropped a staggering 96% since 1988.

UFOsWhere are the real versions of this photo?  Image from travelandleisure.com

When commenting to The Daily Telegraph prior to the conference, Sheffield Hallam University professor David Clarke echoed what we noted in the February revisit, that “[t]he reason why nothing is going on is because of the internet. If something happens now, the internet is there to help people get to the bottom of it and find an explanation.”  ASSAP’s chairman, Dave Wood, further explained that, “When you go to UFO conferences it is mainly people going over these old cases, rather than bringing new ones to the fore.”  Sound familiar, Bigfoot enthusiasts?  The same lack of progress that pegs a pseudoscience.

Coming back down to Earth, the future of human body part regeneration seemed comparably dreary, unless you count the flicker of hope provided by African spiny mice.  Well, the mice make nice again, this time with teeth!  In a March issue of the Journal of Dental Research, Paul Sharpe’s King’s College London team described their work in combining human gum cells with those from the molars of fetal mice to grow new teeth, roots and all.  Of course, the teeth are human/mouse hybrids and such procedures are far, far removed from clinical use, but hey!  It’s a start!

Finally, we tried to prove that Facebook is good for your brain, or at least that the WDTM? page is.  The research of Jeff Hancock and Catalina Toma, published in the March issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, seems to support that assertion.  The authors tested how experiment participants reacted to negative feedback and found that those who soon after checked their Facebook profiles became less defensive.  This is contrary, however, to other studies published about a year ago that argue reading other people’s positive status updates can make a person feel worse about themselves.

 WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

The truth may be out there, but UFO believers might not want to hear it.  You shouldn’t dump your dentures in the hopes of getting rodent replacements anytime soon.  And, as always, Facebook is a tool whose benefits and detriments will depend on how you interact with it.

April starts off with a look at just how the hell astrophysicists can figure out the age of the universe, to be followed later in the month with a discussion on whether cloning can bring long last animals back from extinction.  Join the conversation in the comments section or on Facebook!  I swear it’s okay!

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