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French Scientists Are Paying Men $17,000 to Lie in Bed for Two Months

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French researchers are seeking young, healthy men willing to embrace their inner sloth for science. As The Guardian reports, scientists from the Institute for Space Medicine and Physiology (Medes) need male volunteers to spend two months in bed so they can study the effects of microgravity—the state of virtual weightlessness—on the human body. Subjects will be paid around $17,000.

According to experiment coordinator Arnaud Beck, the goal is to reproduce the weightlessness experienced by astronauts at the International Space Station. Prolonged weightlessness can affect the cardiovascular system, and can also cause vertigo and low blood pressure, in addition to bone density loss, muscle atrophy, and other side effects. These effects can differ depending on whether an astronaut is male or female, as NASA has found. Still, this study includes only men.

Arnaud and his colleagues want to study the harmful physical effects of prolonged weightlessness, and find ways to prevent them. The end goal is “to enhance astronauts’ performance and to ready them for their return to Earth,” according to a press release issued by the Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES), the French space agency.

During the experiment's first 15 days, scientists will run tests on the subjects. After that, the bed-ridden men will spend 60 days on their backs, their upper bodies positioned in a slight downward incline. As the CNES explains, this position simulates the effects of weightlessness, as it shifts blood towards the upper body, “causing the same changes in blood volume, cardiac performance and vascular resistance as in space.”

In addition, half of the volunteers will take antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food supplements, and the other half will serve as a control group. Subjects will be monitored, so researchers can see how the drug cocktail affects their bodies as the physical side effects of weightlessness kick in.

Subjects can’t get up to eat, bathe, or even go to the bathroom, as they’re required to keep at least one shoulder touching the bed or its frame at all times. (In short, participants should be prepared—and willing—to use a bedpan for two months.) During the experiment's final 15 days, subjects will spend time recovering from their “weightless” two months, and the scientists will conduct additional tests to see how the experience—and the supplements—affected them.

The upcoming bed-rest study is technically part of a two-part experiment, launched by the Institute for Space Medicine and Physiology last winter. One group of volunteers stayed in bed from January 2017 until April 2017, and the incoming group will remain prostrate from September to November.

Want to get paid to spend two months in bed? Volunteers must be non-smoking males, between the ages of 20 and 45, who are healthy and in good physical shape. The application is available online.

[h/t The Guardian]

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Not Sure About Your Tap Water? Here's How to Test for Contaminants
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In the wake of Flint, Michigan's water crisis, you may have begun to wonder: Is my tap water safe? How would I know? To put your mind at ease—or just to satisfy your scientific curiosity—you can find out exactly what's in your municipal water pretty easily, as Popular Science reports. Depending on where you live, it might even be free.

A new water quality test called Tap Score, launched on Kickstarter in June 2017, helps you test for the most common household water contaminants for $120 per kit. You just need to take a few samples, mail them to the lab, and you'll get the results back in 10 days, telling you about lead levels, copper and cadmium content, arsenic, and other common hazardous materials that can make their way into water via pipes or wells. If you're mostly worried about lead, you can get a $40 test that only tells you about the lead and copper content of your water.

In New York State, a free lead-testing program will send you a test kit on request that allows you to send off samples of your water to a state-certified lab for processing, no purchase required. A few weeks later, you'll get a letter with the results, telling you what kind of lead levels were found in your water. This option is great if you live in New York, but if your state doesn't offer free testing (or only offers it to specific locations, like schools), there are other budget-friendly ways to test, too.

While mailing samples of your water off to a certified lab is the most accurate way to test your water, you can do it entirely at home with inexpensive strip tests that will only set you back $10 to $15. These tests aren't as sensitive as lab versions, and they don't test for as many contaminants, but they can tell you roughly whether you should be concerned about high levels of toxic metals like lead. The strip tests will only give you positive or negative readings, though, whereas the EPA and other official agencies test for the concentration of contaminants (the parts-per-billion) to determine the safety of a water source. If you're truly concerned with what's in your water, you should probably stick to sending your samples off to a professional, since you'll get a more detailed report of the results from a lab than from a colored strip.

In the future, there will likely be an even quicker way to test for lead and other metals—one that hooks up to your smartphone. Gitanjali Rao, an 11-year-old from Colorado, won the 2017 Young Scientist Challenge by inventing Tethys, a faster lead-testing device than what's currently on the market. With Tethys, instead of waiting for a lab, you can get results instantly. It's not commercially available yet, though, so for now, we'll have to stick with mail-away options.

[h/t Popular Science]

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Bill Gates is Spending $100 Million to Find a Cure for Alzheimer's
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Not everyone who's blessed with a long life will remember it. Individuals who live into their mid-80s have a nearly 50 percent chance of developing Alzheimer's, and scientists still haven't discovered any groundbreaking treatments for the neurodegenerative disease [PDF]. To pave the way for a cure, Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has announced that he's donating $100 million to dementia research, according to Newsweek.

On his blog, Gates explained that Alzheimer's disease places a financial burden on both families and healthcare systems alike. "This is something that governments all over the world need to be thinking about," he wrote, "including in low- and middle-income countries where life expectancies are catching up to the global average and the number of people with dementia is on the rise."

Gates's interest in Alzheimer's is both pragmatic and personal. "This is something I know a lot about, because men in my family have suffered from Alzheimer’s," he said. "I know how awful it is to watch people you love struggle as the disease robs them of their mental capacity, and there is nothing you can do about it. It feels a lot like you're experiencing a gradual death of the person that you knew."

Experts still haven't figured out quite what causes Alzheimer's, how it progresses, and why certain people are more prone to it than others. Gates believes that important breakthroughs will occur if scientists can understand the condition's etiology (or cause), create better drugs, develop techniques for early detection and diagnosis, and make it easier for patients to enroll in clinical trials, he said.

Gates plans to donate $50 million to the Dementia Discovery Fund, a venture capital fund that supports Alzheimer's research and treatment developments. The rest will go to research startups, Reuters reports.

[h/t Newsweek]

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