Tag Archives: Valentine’s Day

Your microbiota will be having non-stop sex this Valentine’s Day

Even if you’re alone this Valentine’s Day, there’s no need to worry: some parts of your body will be getting plenty of action. In fact, your body will host a veritable carnival of the sensual in your tummy, as your microbiota will engage in an orgy of sex and swinger’s parties — where they’ll be swapping genes instead of keys.

A medical illustration of drug-resistant, Neisseria gonorrhoeae bacteria. Original image sourced from US Government department: Public Health Image Library, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Image in the public domain.

The salacious gene

Imagine you have a severe disease with a very unusual cure: you can treat by making love with someone who then passes on the necessary genes to cure your ailment. It is, as they say, sexual healing. Using sex to protect or heal themselves is precisely what bacteria can do, and it’s a crucial defense mechanism.

In the past, the research community thought bacterial sex (or conjugation, as scientists call it) was a terrible threat for humans, as this ancient process can spread DNA capable of conveying antibiotic resistance to their neighbors. Antibiotic resistance is one of the most pressing health challenges the world is facing, being projected to cause 10 million deaths a year by 2050.

But there’s more to this bacterial sex than meets the eye. Recently, scientists from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of California Riverside witnessed gut microbes sharing the ability to acquire a life-saving nutrient with one another through bacterial sex. UCR microbiologist and study lead Patrick Degnan says:

“We’re excited about this study because it shows that this process isn’t only for antibiotic resistance. The horizontal gene exchange among microbes is likely used for anything that increases their ability to survive, including sharing vitamin B12.”

For well over 200-years, researchers have known that bacteria reproduce using fission, where one cell halves to produce two genetically identical daughter cells. However, in 1946, Joshua Lederberg and Edward Tatum discovered bacteria could exchange genes through conjugation, an entirely separate act from reproduction.

Conjugation occurs when a donor and a recipient bacteria sidle up to each other, upon which the donor creates a tube, called a pilus that attaches to the recipient and pulls the two cells together. A small parcel of DNA is then passed from the donor to the recipient, providing new genetic information through horizontal transfer.

Ironically, it wasn’t until Lederberg met and fell in love with his wife, Esther Lederberg, that they made progress regarding bacterial sex.

Widely acknowledged as a pioneer of bacterial genetics, Esther still struggled for recognition despite identifying the horizontal transfer of antibiotic resistance and viruses, which kill bacteria known as bacteriophages. She discovered these phages after noticing small objects nibbling at the edges of her bacterial colonies. Going downstream to find out how they got there, she found these viral interlopers hiding dormant amongst bacterial chromosomes after being transferred by microbes during sex.

Later work found that environmental stresses such as illness activated these viruses to replicate within their hosts and kill them. Still, scientists assumed that bacterial sex was purely a defense mechanism.

Esther Ledeberg in her Stanford lab. Image credits: Esther Lederberg.

Promiscuity means longevity

The newly-published study builds on Esther’s work. The study authors felt this bacterial process extended beyond antibiotic resistance. So they started by investigating how vitamin B12 was getting into gut microbial cells, where the cells had previously been unable to extract this vitamin from their environment — which was puzzling as, without vitamin B12, most types of living cells cannot function. Therefore, many questions remained about how these organisms survived without the machinery to extract this resource from the intestine.

The new study in Cell Reports uses the Bacteroidetes species, which comprise up to 80% of the human microbiome in the intestines, where they break down complex carbohydrates for energy.

“The big, long molecules from sweet potatoes, beans, whole grains, and vegetables would pass through our bodies entirely without these bacteria. They break those down so we can get energy from them,” the team explained.

This bacteria was placed in lab dishes mixing those that could extract B12 from the stomach with some that couldn’t. The team then watched in awe while the bacteria formed their sex pilus to transfer genes enabling the extraction of B12. After the experiment, researchers examined the total genetic material of the recipient microbe and found it had incorporated an extra band of DNA from the donor.

Among living mice, something similar happens. When the group-administered two different subgroups of Bacteroidetes to a mouse – one that possessed the genes for transferring B12 and another that didn’t — they found the genes had ‘jumped’ to the receiving donee after five to nine days.

“In a given organism, we can see bands of DNA that are like fingerprints. The recipients of the B12 transporters had an extra band showing the new DNA they got from a donor,” Degnan said.

Remarkably, the team also noted that different species of phages were also transferred during conjugation, exhibiting bacterial subgroup specificity in some cases. These viruses also showed the capacity to alter the genomic sequence of its bacterial host, with the power to promote or demote the life of its microbic vessel when activated.

Sexual activity in our intestines keeps us healthy

Interestingly, the authors note they could not observe conjugation in all subgroups of the Bacteroidetes species, suggesting this could be due to growth factors in the intestine or a possible subgroup barrier within this large species group slowing the process down.

Despite this, Degnan states, “We’re excited about this study because it shows that this process isn’t only for antibiotic resistance.” And that “The horizontal gene exchange among microbes is likely used for anything that increases their ability to survive, including sharing [genes for the transport of] vitamin B12.”

Meaning that bacterial sex doesn’t just occur when microbes are under attack; it happens all the time. And it’s probably part of what keeps the microbiome and, by extension, ourselves fit and healthy.

Going to bed with your lover’s shirt might help you sleep better

If for whatever reason your significant other is away for Valentine’s Day, you might at least dust off one of their old shirts and tuck yourself in with it — it might help you sleep better, according to a new study by psychologists at the University of British Columbia.

Credit: Pixabay.

The researchers analyzed sleep data from 155 participants who were offered two identical-looking t-shirts to use as pillowcases. One had been previously worn by their long-term romantic partner and carried their scent. The other had either been previously worn by a stranger or was entirely clean of any foreign scent.

The participants’ partners who had to wear the T-shirt for 24 hours were asked to refrain from using any products that might alter their natural odor, such as deodorant or cologne, as well as engaging in exercise, eating certain foods that may affect body odor, or smoking. The shirts were then frozen after they were handed over to the researchers in order to preserve their scent.

When the participants were given the two shirts to place over their pillows, they weren’t told which one carried their partner’s scent.

For two consecutive nights, the participants had to sleep with each T-shirt over their pillow. Then, in the morning, they had to complete a survey that measured how well-rested they felt.

The researchers also employed an objective measure of sleep quality by strapping an actigraphy sleep watch to the participants’ wrist, which measures their movements through the night.

Finally, at the end of the study, the participants had to guess whether any of the two shirts they slept on belonged to their partner.

Remarkably, even though their partner wasn’t physically present, the participants reported sleeping better when they thought they were exposed to their partner’s scent overnight.

“Our findings provide new evidence that merely sleeping with a partner’s scent improves sleep efficiency. Our participants had an average sleep efficiency improvement of more than two percent,” said Marlise Hofer, the study’s lead author and a graduate student in the University of British Columbia’s department of psychology. “We saw an effect similar in size to what has been reported from taking oral melatonin supplements – often used as a sleep aid.”

Regardless of whether or not the participants self-reported better sleep, data from the sleep watches showed that participants actually improved their sleep quality when they were exposed to their partner’s scent.

“One of the most surprising findings is how a romantic partner’s scent can improve sleep quality even outside of our conscious awareness,” said Frances Chen, the study’s senior author and associate professor in the UBC department of psychology. “The sleep watch data showed that participants experienced less tossing and turning when exposed to their partners’ scent, even if they weren’t aware of whose scent they were smelling.”

The authors say that the findings can be explained by the fact that the physical presence of a romantic partner is known to be associated with feelings of safety, calm, and relaxation. As a proxy, a partner’s scent can transfer some of these psychological benefits even when they’re not physically present.

In the future, the researchers would like to perform a similar study, this time investigating whether the scent of parents can improve an infant’s sleep. But, for now, a simple takeaway is that bringing a partner’s scarf or shirt along when traveling may have measurable effects on our sleep.

The findings were reported in the journal Psychological Science.

Wearing ‘beer goggles’ makes you more inclined to notice unattractive faces (and give them a chance)

Credit: Pixabay.

“Beer goggles” refers to the notion that we perceive friends and strangers as more attractive than we normally would after a drink (or two). This isn’t just some urban myth — there’s quite a body of evidence supporting this anecdote. Now, a new study lends more support to the “beer goggles” effect after research found that people who were intoxicated were equally distracted by both attractive and unattractive faces.

You can’t ignore the beer goggles

While there are quite a few studies that have investigated the “beer goggles” effect, many were performed in the lab. In contrast, researchers at Edge Hill University in England carried out their investigation in bars and pubs on the university’s Ormskirk campus.

More than 120 participants — some sober, others intoxicated — were asked to indicate on a computer whether the letter “T” was shown displayed correctly or inverted, while they had to ignore the series of faces that were flashed on the screen at the same time.

The sober students were distracted more by attractive faces. However, those who had a few drinks diverted their attention equally between attractive and unattractive faces.

“Previous research into the beer goggles phenomena yielded inconsistent findings and has been largely limited to asking people directly about how attractive they find others,” said Dr. Rebecca Monk, the lead author of the study. “By using an indirect measure of attention, our research was able to overcome some of these limitations.

“We know that attractive faces can pull attention away from the task at hand, but our research suggests that alcohol has the capacity to lessen this effect; to level the playing field.”

Professor Derek Heim, co-author of the new study published in Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, continued by remarking that the study participants “were only mildly intoxicated, suggesting that it doesn’t take much alcohol at all for people to ‘put on their beer goggles’.”

The ‘beer goggles’ effect is supported by a number of other studies carried out in the past decade. Perhaps the most famous study on the subject was published in 2003 by a team of British researchers in the journal Addiction. The study participants, about 80 heterosexual college students, simply had to rate the attractiveness of pictures of men and women while they had drinks in a bar or restaurant. Both the men and women who had consumed alcohol were more generous with their ratings.

A 2012 study found that the beer goggles effect is amplified when smoking while a 2013 study performed by French researchers found that the more alcohol a person consumed, the more attractive they found themselves. In other words, beauty is in the eye of the beer holder. What’s more, a 2008 study by a research team at Penn State found that the beer goggles effect isn’t restricted to humans. Apparently, male fruit flies that had been exposed to alcohol were less choosy when it came to finding a mate.

Alcohol and romance seem to go well together like a hand in a glove. This may have something to do with how alcohol lowers social inhibitions, enabling people to feel more confident and “make a move”. As to why alcohol might make us feel attracted to people we’d normally find unattractive while sober, one study found that alcohol may make us less able to recognize asymmetrical shapes.

Bearing all of this in mind, perhaps it’s worth trying staying sober for Valentine’s Day to see if your affection for your love interest is truly genuine.

Valentine’s Day Special: The Broken Heart Syndrome

Via Pixabay/dimitriwittmann

I guess every one of us has an idea of what a broken heart feels like. The loneliness, the confusion, the anger and despair, and the chronic feeling of emptiness, are all states our society is already used to. Maybe the fast-paced rhythm of our lives, our focus on careers, jobs and financial independence has diminished our love interests. Or, maybe we have just become more superficial due to fast hook-ups on the internet. Maybe we forgot how to love, or maybe we are just not willing to risk our emotional wellbeing by allowing someone to become part of our lives.

Maybe our standards are too high, maybe we expect too much of someone and give almost nothing in return, or maybe we feel entitled to live a fairytale love story and end up not making any effort to really get to know and fully accept another human being at our side.

Or, maybe we are afraid of being abandoned or rejected by someone we have feelings for — all of us being caught up in this neverending, absurd, non-realistic partner chasing.

But when we do break down our ice-cold walls, when we accept another fellow human to enter our hearts, when we easily sacrifice our needs for someone else’s, we learn to love. And there is nothing more beautiful and fulfilling than love.

But there is an unforeseen disadvantage to it, and that is called the broken heart syndrome.

First described in Japan in the ’90s, this curious condition is not yet fully understood. What scientists know is that it’s triggered by powerful emotional and physical stressors and it affects the heart muscle, which loses the ability to contract normally.

The disease is known by many names: stress cardiomyopathy, Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (from the Japanese word takotsubo –“octopus trap,” because the left ventricle takes on a shape resembling a fishing pot), or apical ballooning syndrome. 

Even though it was first described in men in Japan, the condition affects almost exclusively women (90%) past the age of 60. Menopause is thought to be a serious risk, estrogen levels dropping significantly during this period. Research shows that up to 5% of women evaluated for heart attacks actually have this disorder. Studies carried out on rats whose ovaries had been removed, showed that the ones given estrogen while under stress had less left-ventricle dysfunction and higher levels of some heart protective-substances.

Doctors think that high levels of stress hormones (for example, adrenaline) affect the heart, triggering alterations in heart muscle cells or coronary blood vessels (or both) that prevent the left ventricle from contracting effectively. The symptoms perfectly mimic a heart attack.

Luckily, most cases have a full recovery but there are some fatal ones.

Its love-linked reputation is also real. The death of a loved one, love quarrels, domestic violence, divorces, even break-ups, have been reported as emotional stressors. Other stressful events, as anxiety, public speaking, financial loss, illnesses or accidents, severe pain or even surprise birthday parties have been identified as triggers.

I don’t know if we’ll all be so lucky as to find our one true love, or if this concept really exists, but I think broken heart syndrome can also be a metaphor for the fragility of the human soul.

Tentacle necklace.

8 Biology-inspired Gift Ideas for your Valentine!

What’s love if not biology in action? This Valentine’s, say “you flood my brain with feel-good chemicals” to that one special other with these biology-themed gifts.

Cards, cards, cards!

All’s fair in love and war — especially the downright adorable, handmade cards from Tiny Bee Cards. Profess your love with the significant otter, let your S.O. know you’ll brave the rough seas of life together with this purposeful porpoise, or let your passionate side shine through with one very cuddly cuttlefish. Those are my favorite three, but their store is definitely worth investigating if you’re a fan of romance and puns — or if you’re looking to impress a foodie!

CuteCards.

Buy on Amazon

Dopamine and Oxytocin necklaces

Reinforce your loved one’s affections with a dopamine-shaped pendant, or tighten the bond even more with an extra shot of oxytocin (also handily forged into a necklace). It’s all hormones, people!

Oxytocin.

Buy on Amazon

Serotonin.

Buy on Amazon

Give ’em an STD they’ll love!

Just hear me out: PlushieSTD. Bouquet. All wrapped up in a cute, delightful bunch.

Done. You’ve just mastered Valentine’s.

STD bouquet.

Buy on Amazon

If you like the idea but you’re not sold on a plushie virus bouquet, they have a lot of other options.

Or at least some (rare, endangered) flowers

If romance rather than humor makes your better half melt, a more traditional bouquet might be in order. Cut flowers wilt and wither, however, and is that really the message you want to convey to your Valentine? Exactly.

So play the long game and show him or her that you two will only grow stronger with time, provided you stay hydrated — just like this Jade Vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys), a beautiful turquoise bonsai plant from the jungles of the Philippines, that you two will nurture together.

This isn’t any old flower — it’s a highly endangered, at risk plant. With its native jungles being cut down alarmingly fast, the love between you two could be what saves the species from complete extinction. It doesn’t really get more romantic than that. You get 10 seeds.
Jade Vine.

Buy on Amazon.

Organic chemistry scarf

Look closely enough and biology becomes chemistry. If your Valentine is hard at work studying in the field, this organic chemistry scarf will definitely let them show off their passion while staying comfy, warm, and stylish.

Biochem scarf.

Buy on Amazon.

Tardigrades for him and her

Also known as water bears, tardigrades are ridiculously resilient — just like the two of you.

Tardigrade tshirt.

Buy on Amazon.

Seriously, these micro-animals have been found everywhere: from mountaintops to the deep sea; from mud volcanoes in tropical rain forests to the Antarctic, surviving in extreme temperatures, extreme pressures (both high and low), air deprivation, radiation, dehydration, and starvation. Now, you can wear them on your shirt, or even better — on your feet.

Tardigrade slippers.

Buy on Amazon

Unleash the love-ken!

Stick to your partner’s heart and never let go with one of these cup-covered tentacles! The Kraken-themed ring or necklace will make sure your loved one never goes away from your tentacles, I mean arms.Tentacle necklace.

Buy on Amazon

Tentacle ring.

 Buy on Amazon.

A hearty Valentine

We’re all used to the round, two-lobed heart as a symbol of love. Everybody will be generously slathering it in chats, messages, and cards for their Valentines when the special day comes. Let me ask you this, however: will any of those hearts have aortas popping out?

No! But yours will. Because you will show your love the right way, with this more anatomically-correct plush from I Heart Guts. If your significant other is into *ahem* correct biology, they will definitely appreciate it!

I heart guts.

 Buy on Amazon

 


Disclaimer: Purchasing these products may earn ZME Science a commission. This helps support our team at no additional cost to you. We will never advertise products if we don’t think they’re good. If something is here, it’s because we like it — period.

Check out more ZME Deals. 

12 Perfect Gifts for Engineers on Valentine’s Day

If your significant other is an engineer, these Valentine gifts won’t fail to impress. Here are some gifts that will keep the wheels of love turning, at least until next year.

I love you Morse code bracelet

 Buy on Amazon

Nothing says I love you more than dot dot dot dash dot dot…

Love is about sharing a life together, and never letting go of each other when things become difficult. However, sometimes just saying I love you loses the intensity it’s supposed to convey, which is why this one-of-a-kind accessory is as special as your love is. Although you may have chosen to express your affection in a vintage communication medium, Morse Code will never go out of style.

A 3D Printer… for pancakes!

Buy on Amazon

Let’s face it, most engineers don’t exactly treat their bodies as a temple. But how about you try something different for this year’s Valentine morning. Instead of cooking pancakes, here’s a cool idea: you print them!

Amazing 21st-century engineering? Check. Delicious, fluffy pancakes? Check.

An adorable pocket mirror that looks like a MacBook Air

Buy on Amazon

Engineers sure love their MacBooks, but let’s be serious: no one wants to break the bank on a Valentine present. Here’s the next best thing: this cute mirror shaped like a MacBook will surely crack a smile or two.

A levitating flower pot

levitating bonsaiBuy on Amazon

This is what happens when home decor meets science. Magnets keep a pot suspended mid-air producing a cool SciFi effect bound to impress friends and family, as well as that special someone. If your Valentine is into cool science tricks, but also likes flowers, look no further than this awesome gift.

A DIY useless box

Buy on Amazon

This is the perfect gift for your favorite engineer in the world. Put your loved one’s craftsmanship to the test with this DIY kit which is as fun as it is useless. It requires a soldering iron, solder, and a tiny Phillips screwdriver.

Funny coffee mug for your Engeneer

 Buy on Amazon

You’ll both have a good laugh with this one. If your loved one isn’t the best at spelling but still knows his or her engineering, this lovely gift will surely be appreciated.

Cool Einstein physics formula shower curtain

Buy on Amazon

An inspiring gift for those relaxing moments in the shower. It’s sure to be appreciated by your brainy Valentine.

Circuit board scarf

Buy on Amazon

For those special moments when your girlfriend needs to match her outfit with something super nerdy. How fashionable!

Mechanical 3D puzzle safe

Buy on Amazon

This kit is a self-propelled, mechanical wooden model which will entertain for hours and hours. You build your own safe featuring a real working combination lock, perfect for storing some of your most precious small items. It’s a great gift for the mechanical engineer close to your heart.

Tesla coil lighter

tesla-coil-lighter

 Buy on Amazon

This is by far the coolest way to ignite …anything! What’s more, this is a marvelous work of engineering. It’s rechargeable, flameless, and windproof.

A rocket launch set

rocket launch set

Buy on Amazon

You know our catchphrase here at ZME Science — “not exactly rocket science.” Well, neither is this rocket assembly kit. It’s still a heck load of fun and even practical for those passionate about rocketry, and is capable of soaring up to 1,150 ft. (350 m).

DIY motorized, remote control machines

remote machine

Buy on Amazon

This amazing kit allows you to assemble up to 10 models, although you can actually use many more configurations. It comes with a six-button infrared remote control, three motors that can be combined to assemble complex machinery or vehicles, and numerous springs, cogs, etc.

The engineer’s field bag

engineer bag

Buy on Amazon

Whether in the office or in the field, every engineer needs a trusty bag to carry notebooks, pens, chargers, tools, samples, and so on. Made from heavyweight cotton canvas, this quality and fashionable build is a great way to show that you care.

Aviator safety glasses for the fashionable engineer

safety glasses

Buy on Amazon

Why wear dull, boring safety glasses to work when you can be sexy? Sporting these glasses will definitely turn some heads in the lab.

An Engineer’s Valentine

I thought it’d be cool if I ended this post with an awesome poem written by Matthew Dalton. I’ll just leave it here for you.

***

I was alone and all was dark
Beneath me and above
My life was full of volts and amps
But not the spark of love

But now that you are here with me
My heart is overjoyed
You’ve turned the square of my heart
Into a sinusoid

You load things from my memory
Onto my system bus
My life was once assembly code
It’s now like C++

I love the way you solder things
My circuits you can fix
The voltage ‘cross your diode is
much more than just point six

With your op-amps and resistors
You have built my integrator
I cannot survive without you
You’re my function generator

You’ve changed my world, increased my gain
And made my math discreet
So now I’ll end my poem here
Control, Alt, and Delete

***

Disclaimer: Purchasing these products may earn ZME Science a commission. This helps support our team at no additional cost to you. We will never advertise products if we don’t think they’re good. If something is here, it’s because we like it — period.

Check out more ZME Deals. 

[no_toc]

15 Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas for Doctors and Medical staff

If your Valentine is a doctor or training to be one, but you still have no idea what to get him/her, here are a few suggestions:

1. Medical design pens and post-its

 Buy on Amazon

Buy on Amazon

Buy on Amazon

In a hospital or clinic’s turmoil, pens are lost every day. Nurses and doctors fight over the remaining ones all the time. Make sure your loved one has a particular writing tool, that stands out and impresses everyone from the practice. It might not seem like a big or important gift, but rest assured: they will be forever thankful.

2. Funny Mug for Vets 

Buy on Amazon

Let’s not forget that veterinarians are doctors as well. Or should I say ‘dogtors’? This mug surely makes me giggle every time I see it.

3. Anatomy coaster set

Buy on Amazon

Medical employees tend to be clean freaks, let’s be honest. Make sure this year that you will score some points by showing that you care about the furniture by buying a set of coasters.

4. Brain hat

Buy on Amazon

This brainy knitted hat is the most awesome way your SO will be warm and comfortable. Let’s not mention it’s funny as hell.

5. Unisex Galaxy Print Glow in the Dark V-Neck Scrub 

Buy on Amazon

Make your loved one feel the universe is there for them. Reach for the stars even in gloomy days with an awesome scrub that glows in the dark.

6. Prescription wine glasses

Buy on Amazon

We all need from time to time to relax. Even doctors.

7. Silver Lifeline Pulse EKG Heartbeat Charm Necklace

 Buy on Amazon

Women like jewelry but they love jewelry with a message. Saving lives is her purpose. She will adore this gift, as it will make her feel you truly get her.

8. Doctor Wine Holder 

Buy on Amazon

Doctor figurines that are there for you and hold the booze, too. What can be more romantic than spending Valentine’s day with your loved one and this little guy?

9. Sterling Silver Medical Caduceus Cufflinks 

Buy on Amazon

For special occasions, but not only. Your man will feel distinguished wearing these silver cufflinks that symbolize medicine. It’s a reminder of hard work and dedication, and they will wear them proudly.

10. The New Yorker Book of Doctor Cartoons

Buy on Amazon

Humorous doctor cartoons that will make anyone crack-up. Laughter is the best medicine, right?

11. Synapse Receptor Watercolor Print 

Buy on Amazon

Great for a neurologist’s office, or even for the living room. Nothing says ‘I love you’ more than knowing your significant other’s true passion.

12. Silver Lifelike Anatomical Heart Locket

 

Buy on Amazon

Cardiologists have the biggest hearts. This necklace is unique and will offer you a place in her heart forever.

13. Red anatomical heart pin

Buy on Amazon

Just imagine how cool this pin would look on a white doctor’s coat.

14. Radiology bone socks

Buy on Amazon

Radiologists are old fashioned, they prefer black and white movies and photos. Why not buy them a pair of bony black and white socks?

15. Heartbeat hoodie

 

Buy on Amazon

Show your lover your heart is theirs and you don’t mind it. These cool hoodies are unisex and come in different colours such as black, white, grey, maroon and red.

Disclaimer: Purchasing these products may earn ZME Science a commission. This helps support our team at no additional cost to you. We will never advertise products if we don’t think they’re good. If something is here, it’s because we like it — period.

Check out more ZME Deals. 

[no_toc]

How Wise is Dating a Gamer?

They are a growing breed, and they seem to be getting hotter (at least when they apply themselves and manage to take a shower) in a way that Seth Rogen or Jason Segel can be hot. They take the form of a middle management executive or a graduate student who is adorable and funny; a strategic thinker with excellent hand-eye coordination. Yes, I am talking about the new league of gamers – connoisseurs of mysterious quests, modern warfare against terror, and unabashed murder in virtual platforms.

Despite portrayals on TV and film that typecast gamers as unaffected zombie-types whose passions are reserved for upgrading weapons, unlocking achievements, and gaining experience points, in real life they can be sweet and caring partners – the kind that surprises you with lunch picnics at the park and sticks love notes on your car windshield. Realistically speaking, though, this lot can get pretty absorbed in their hobby, so much so that they can be disconnected from the real world to the chagrin of a broken-hearted significant other.

In an effort to give these guys a fair break, here is an unscientific guide for assessing how wise dating a gamer is:

1.       Give gaming time, take ‘Me’ time (+4)

Sometimes, having that extra hour to scour the racks a second time is all it takes to find that perfect dress for the winter wedding you have to attend. That extra hour is what you will have if you let your beau enjoy an afternoon with ‘The Cave’ (development: Double Fine Productions; digital distribution: Sega), a platform adventure game that explores a magical cave where three characters are chosen to solve a series of puzzles, often requiring their use in tandem.

2.       Gaming as new bonding activity (+10)

Finding your inner gamer can be an exciting time for you and gamer partner, since a shared interest in video games means that you can hang out more without one of you constantly checking the clock and praying that it’s time to do something else. Furthermore, your effort to take interest will definitely score high in the ‘being an open-minded and accepting partner’ scale. Try learning a complicated game like ‘Devil May Cry 5’ (development: Ninja Theory; distribution: Capcom), a beat-em-up game about Dante, a young man with supernatural powers being chased by demons. Apply yourself, try your hardest to kill a demon or two, and watch him swoon.

3.       Ignores you while playing (-50)

You’re on your way home from an afternoon at the mall when you remembered that the frozen chicken must be thawed in time for dinner prep. After several calls to the boyfriend – whom you left at home to his new video game – have gone straight to voicemail also offered by RingCentral, you are fuming. The second you get home, he excitedly shows you his level at ‘Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch’, an anime-style role-playing game reminiscent of a Studio Ghibli movie (which is a collaboration between the famous animated film house and game developer Level 5). Of course you don’t care because all you care about is that the chicken is hard as rock.

We all need our little diversions in life, something to take our minds off things that trouble us and give us some time to focus on the good things and the reasons why we’re soldiering on in the first place. We can all understand this need. However, the line gets drawn right before this little diversion becomes the center of one’s world, with everything else falling at a distant second place. I am quite sure there can be a sweet, caring person inside that gamer, but I will refuse to be a part of a relationship where I’m a runner up to a gaming console.

4 Awesome Gifts for Your Geeky Valentine

Congratulations! Now that you’ve found the Han Solo to your Leia (or the Uhura to your Spock), it’s time to say goodbye to Singles Awareness Day and hello to Valentine’s Day, the most romantic holiday of the year. And because geeks do it better, there are certain things that are expected of you even if it’s just participating in what some would call a mere Hallmark holiday. So what do you give that special geek in your life? Do you settle for flowers, chocolates or a cheesy card that says ‘XOXO?’ Before you try that tired old tack, check out these five romantically geeky gift ideas first.

#1 Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Said to be the best e-reader on the market today, the Kindle Paperwhite comes with a front-lit screen that makes reading a more pleasurable experience. The increased contrast is said to “come much closer to the ideal of blank ink on white paper,” which we think would make any hardcore real book advocate reconsider. And unlike other tablets, the Paperwhite has a flat matte screen so your sweetie wouldn’t be distracted by the reflection of his/her lovely visage while reading his/her favorite e-book. It’s also lightweight, with a long battery life and is reasonably-priced at $119.

#2 Pen Sized Scanner

You may have heard of the pen being mightier than the sword, which we don’t actually subscribe to since we own a pretty badass Master Replicas Yoda Force FX Lightsaber. But we’re willing to admit that there are cases where, indeed, the pen could be as amazing as any toy sword. Enter Hammacher Schlemmer’s Pen Sized Scanner that can record voice memos and take pictures. Boasting 1GB of storage, this nifty gadget has a five-megapixel image sensor combined with an autofocus lens, which your beloved can use to take photos of anything from receipts to letters and highly classified documents. It also has an integrated microphone so your adorkable sweetheart can record wonderfully awkward love notes and more in WAV format.

#3 i’m Watch

Why give your dearest a Rolex when you can give him or her a smartwatch with 4GB of built-in storage? Sure, it’s not the sexiest watch you can give a special someone; it’s a bit bulky, and some may even find it uncomfortable to wear. But it’s the perfect companion to your honey’s iPhone or Android phone— aside from being a functional time-telling device, of course. With its touchscreen interface, users can easily answer calls, receive text messages, emails, and other notifications. It can also perform as a speakerphone, run its own apps, and even access social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. It’s a bit pricy though, and it can set you back $1049 if you get the Titanium version. You can, however, get the most basic i’m Watch at $349. It’s still pricy and we wish that it comes preloaded with a RingCentral call forwarding app; but given its other capabilities, we are willing to bet that your darling will love it.

#4 Classic Nintendo USB Controller

Simon Pegg once said that being a geek is “basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult.” And if there’s ever an authority on geekiness, we would trust the guy who co-wrote Shaun of the Dead and played Montgomery “Scotty” Scott in STXI. Now, speaking of emoting on a somewhat childish level, we are quite sure that a Classic Nintendo USB Controller is one of the best ways for your baby to relive some of the classic games of our childhood such as Super Mario Bros., Double Dragon, and Punch Out.  Not only does it work for both PC and Mac, it also features convenient plug-n-play USB connectivity, and is powered by generous gobs of nostalgia.

Valentine’s Day Present: Name A Bronx Zoo Madagascar Cockroach After Your Loved One!

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
That cockroach is named
After you…

Valentine’s Day is just a few days away, and as such every couple, and of course speculative business, is trying to come up with something special for this year to impress his loved one. A box of candy and a teddy beer? Too corny. Stay up all night and watch Lord of the Rings? Please… Name a star after her? A tad melodramatic I believe. Wait, I know, how ‘about naming a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach after your love one?

And would you know it, you’re in the nick of time, since The Bronx Zoo is holding a fund raiser in which you can send your darling (or maybe ex-girlfriend) a colorful e-card letting her know that you’ve named one of 60,000 Giant Hissing Cockroaches living in her honor. Not only will she be thrilled that find out she’s been associated with one of nature’s most resistant fiends to calamities, but also know that it’s all been for a good cause too, since all proceedings go to Wildlife Conservation Society. The e-card costs 10$ and you can order it online from the zoo’s website. Heck, it beats being in Fred Durst’s shoes.

“They’re extraordinary, which means if you’re cool about bugs, they’re really cool,’ says Steve Fairchild, a spokesman for the Wildlife Conservation Society. “We’ve got about 50 or 60 thousand in a hollowed out tree.”

Madagascar hissing cockroaches are the world’s largest roach species reaching nearly four-inches long. The hissing noise they make is a natural defense mechanism.

“Nothing says forever like a cockroach,” said Jim Breheny, Senior Vice President for Living Institutions and Director of the Bronx Zoo. “They are resourceful, resilient, and have been around for hundreds of millions of years.