Walking, Fast or Slow, Living Longer or Die Sooner -
Something for the grandparents out there to ponder as they stroll:
Senior citizens who are the fastest walkers live longer than those with the slowest gaits, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh.
The researchers say crunched numbers from nine studies involving nearly 35,000 people following the lives of slow and fast walkers who were 75 years old.
Only 19 percent of the slowest men and 35 percent of the slowest women lived another 10 years. However, 87 and 91 percent, respectively, of the fastest walkers were still going.
Does it make sense? It sounds more like a correlation, not causation. The cause is more basic. Healthy people are more energetic; thus, they walk faster and live longer.
One in Thirteen of Humans Have Floppy Feet -
People vary even with their feet:
A team studied the feet of 398 visitors to the Boston Museum of Science.
Jeremy DeSilva from Boston University and a colleague asked the museum visitors to walk barefoot and observed how they walked by using a mechanised carpet that was able to analyse several components of the foot.
Most of us have very rigid feet, helpful for stability, with stiff ligaments holding the bones in the foot together.
When [about one in thirteen people] lift their heels off the ground, however, they have a floppy foot with nothing holding their bones together.
This is known as a midtarsal break and is similar to what the Boston team identified in some of their participants.
This makes the middle part of the foot bend more easily as the subject pushes off to propel themselves on to their next step.
In addition, Dr DeSilva found that people with a flexible fold in their feet also roll to the inside of their foot as they walk.
The bone structure of a two-million-year old fossil human relative, Australopithecus sediba, suggests it also had this mobility.
“We are using variation in humans today as a model for understanding what this human creature two million years ago was doing,” added Prof De Silva.
Tracy Kivell, a palaeoanthropologist from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, said: “The research has implications for how we interpret the fossil record and the evolution of these features.
“It’s good to understand the normal variation among humans before we go figure out what it means in the fossil record,” Dr Kivell told BBC News.
The sample size seems small, under 400. Is that enough to generalize to 7 billion people living today?
Italian Pizzas Mostly Baked by Egyptians -
Ah, the mindset of socialism has consequences for the stomach:
“We are good at it because we are prepared to work hard. Italians, in contrast, want a nice comfortable office job where they can work six hours a day, five days a week, in air-conditioning. They’re not prepared to work 10, 12 hours a day.” Alessandro Rossi, who runs another pizzeria in Rome, is also surprised that Italians refuse to take up an occupation that is part of their cultural DNA, especially as unemployment among young people has reached 35 per cent.
“The Italian mindset is that being a pizza-maker is humiliating, it is a manual labour job,” he said. “Young Italians want to own 40,000 euro cars and wear nice clothes but they are not prepared to work for it. So the gap is being filled by the Egyptians, the Filipinos and the Arabs.”
How fitting that the solution to the problem is entrepreneuralism!
Brain fMRI Scans Can Determine People-Type Being Thought -
The experiment shows that thinking has a physical basis.
[Cornell University cognitive neuroscientist Nathan Spreng and his colleagues] first gave 19 volunteers descriptions of four imaginary people they were told were real. Each of these characters had different personalities. Half the personalities were agreeable, described as liking to cooperate with others; the other half were less agreeable, depicted as cold and aloof or having similar traits. In addition, half these characters were described as outgoing and sociable extroverts, while the others were less so, depicted as sometimes shy and inhibited. The scientists matched the genders of these characters to each volunteer and gave them popular names like Mike, Chris, Dave or Nick, or Ashley, Sarah, Nicole or Jenny.
The researchers then scanned volunteers’ brains using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow. During the scans, the investigators asked participants to predict how each of the four fictitious people might behave in a variety of scenarios — for instance, if they were at a bar and someone else spilled a drink, or if they saw a homeless veteran asking for change.
The scientists discovered that each of the four personalities were linked to unique patterns of brain activity in a part of the organ known as the medial prefrontal cortex. In other words, researchers could tell whom their volunteers were thinking about.
“This is the first study to show that we can decode what people are imagining,” Spreng says.
The medial prefrontal cortex helps people deduce traits about others. These findings suggest this region is also where personality models are encoded, assembled and updated, helping people understand and predict the likely behavior of others and prepare for the future.
This is not entirely surprising.
Rejuvenating Old Brains -
I look forward to the day the brain can be coaxed to heal from damages.
It’s no secret that juvenile brains are more malleable and able to learn new things faster than adult ones – just ask any adult who has tried to learn a new language. That malleability also enables younger brains to recover more quickly from trauma. Researchers at Yale University have now found a way to effectively turn back the clock and make an old brain young again.
As we enter adulthood, our brains become more stable and rigid when compared to that of an adolescent. This is partially due to the triggering of a single gene that slows the rapid change in synaptic connections between neurons, thereby suppressing the high levels of plasticity of an adolescent brain. By monitoring the synapses of living mice for a period of months, the Yale researchers were able to identify the Nogo Receptor 1 gene as the key genetic switch responsible for brain maturation.
This is what good science should be about.
Cloning Exact Copies Can Work Forever -
Earlier cloning techniques produced clones only for a few generations. Abnormalities eventually showed up. But now the techniques have been perfected, at least for cloning mice:
Japanese scientists have produced 26 generations of clones from a single mouse, the lead researcher said Friday, possibly paving the way for the mass replication of valuable livestock.
The team have so far produced 598 mice that are genetic copies of one original creature in an experiment that has so far been going for seven years, said Teruhiko Wakayama of the Riken Center for Developmental Biology.
Reliable methods for cloning over an extended number of generations could be a boon to farmers who have, for example, a cow that produces a lot of milk, or an animal that is expected to produce particularly high-quality meat.
Natural breeding does not guarantee that an animal’s offspring will have the same qualities, but a clone is an exact copy.
“Our results show that repeated iterative recloning is possible,” he said.
“I want to say we should be able to continue this forever. We will continue our study until we see the end of it,” he said.
The study was published in the US-based journal Cell Stem Cell.
Founding Fathers' Deliberations of the Constitution
The Importance of Sleep in Genetic Expression -
Okay, the science is in. I need to sleep at least seven hours a day in order to maintain physical health via genetic expression.
Getting fewer than six hours’ sleep per night deactivates genes which play a key role in the body’s constant process of self-repair and replenishment, according to a new study.
Our bodies depend on genes to produce a constant supply of proteins which are used to replace or repair damaged tissue, but after a week of sleep deprivation some of these stopped working.
The findings suggest that chronic lack of sleep could prevent the body from fully replenishing itself and raise the risk of a host of diseases, researchers said.
Scientists from Surrey University divided 26 volunteers into two groups, one of which slept for less than six hours per night for an entire week, and one which slept for ten hours per night.
At the end of the week each group was kept awake for 40 hours and donated blood samples, which were studied to examine the effects of their sleep regimes.
The week of sleep deprivation was found to have altered the function of 711 genes, including some involved in metabolism, inflammation, immunity and stress.
Inadequate sleep also interfered with genes which are designed to become more or less active at certain points in the day, by throwing off the body’s 24-hour internal clock.
Although a week’s normal sleep was enough to restore the affected genes to their normal pattern, researchers said that prolonged periods of sleeplessness could lead to serious health problems including obesity and heart disease.
Studies have also shown a lack of sleep can lead to cognitive impairment, for example limiting our ability to drive a car safely.
Prof Colin Smith, one of the authors of the new paper, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, said: “This is only a week of sleep restriction and it is only five and a half or six hours a night. Many people have that amount of sleep for weeks, months and maybe even years so we have no idea how much worse it might be.
“If these processes continue to be disrupted, you could see how you are going to get impairment of organs, tissues, heart disease, obesity, diabetes. If you are not able to replenish cells and tissues that are damaged then you are going to suffer permanent ill health.”
Do it for the sake of genetic health.
Whether You Can Be Too Beautiful -
This article suggests so, but I don’t think so. All the reported pluses are great; and the reported minues are actually not that bad.
… to a degree, life is easier for people whose bodies are classically beautiful. Attractive men earn 9 percent more than their unattractive peers . We assess the personality traits of beautiful people more accurately—suggesting that we pay more attention to them . Attractive women are disproportionately likely to be described as having certain desirable personality traits, such as extroversion and conscientiousness . Beautiful people have better sex. Women are more likely to have an orgasm during sex with a man who has a more symmetrical face and body, regardless of romantic attachment or the man’s level of sexual experience . Attractiveness also seems to go hand in hand with popularity—at least among guppies. In a bid to deflect unwanted male attention at times of low fertility, female guppies prefer to surround themselves with more-attractive females .
… life for the beautiful is not as perfect as it seems. In one study of job applicants, beautiful women who included a photo with their résumé were 41 percent less likely to land an interview than “plain” women who did the same . When accused of homicide, beautiful women are more likely to be presumed guilty . And attractive people are also more likely to be associated with a number of negative traits, such as conformity and self-promotion .
Here, a toast, to beauty!
Golden Rice, Finally, to Be Grown in the World -
Finally, after a 12-year delay caused by opponents of genetically modified foods, so-called “golden rice” with vitamin A will be grown in the Philippines. Over those 12 years, about 8 million children worldwide died from vitamin A deficiency.
And the article is written by Bjørn Lomborg.
Implanting a Sixth Sense to the Brain -
The test shows that adding new cognitive detectors is feasible.
In the first study, rats wore an infrared detector on their head which was connected to electrodes in the part of their brain which governs touch.
When one of three ultraviolet light sources in their cage was switched on, the rats initially began rubbing their whiskers, indicating that they felt as if they were touching the invisible light.
After a month of training, they learned to link the new sensation with the light sources and were able to find which one was switched on with 100 per cent accuracy. A monkey has since been taught to perform the same task.
The study demonstrates that a part of the brain which is designed to process one sense can interpret other types of sensory information, researchers said.
I can imagine an all-purpose interface implanted in one’s brain from which different detectors can be attached, thus allowing one to detect infrared light or to detect ultraviolet light or whatever.
Assessing the "State of the Union" -
This is from Rush Limbaugh:
According to Gallup, the American public disapproves of every Obama policy except for his handling of defense. But the New York Times has this story that’s just the exact opposite. Polls show dissatisfaction with country’s direction but support for Obama’s agenda. Two separate things. The Frank Luntz focus group was pretty much the same thing. They pretty much disagreed with what they heard last night in policy, but they liked the speech and they like what Obama said.
Obama’s working on it, and that’s good. We’ve got a health care problem and Obama’s working on it. We’ve got a unemployment problem. Obama’s working on it. He’s got a program for it. But the thing that you gotta take away, the thing that you must understand about last night that defines everything: There is massive dissatisfaction with the country’s direction. The vast majority of the American people do not like the direction in which the country is going, while at the same time there is overwhelming support for Barack Obama’s agenda.
Which means that, to the vast majority of American voters, there is no relationship whatsoever between Obama’s agenda and the direction of the country.
… the New York Times story today finally opens my eyes to what we’re dealing with, at least for me. And as I say, you may have understood this long ago. “Polls Show Dissatisfaction With Country’s Direction, but Support for Obama’s Agenda.”
… No matter what is said, no matter what evidence happens, no matter what’s reported, it will not be possible to connect Obama to the negativity that’s happening in the country today because he’s campaigning against it himself. That’s the reason for the perpetual, never-ending campaign. It is why, in eight years, he will never allow himself for even one day to be seen as actually governing or presiding over any of this.
He’s always going to be running against the very things he’s doing.
What a mess!
Mysterious Ribbon Around Our Solar System Explained -
A mysterious phenomenon was discovered at the outer most border of our solar system when a special instrument was launched which could observe this region for the first time. This border is defined as the heliopause, where material streaming out from the sun interacts with the galactic material - the whole bubble around the sun is the heliosphere and shields the solar system against galactic radiation, but is also molded by it, similar to the Earth’s magnetosphere. It was invisible until recently, since it emits no light, but neutral atoms are actually bouncing back to the core of our system after particle collisions within the boundary region. Those particles can now be observed by instruments on NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX). Since the bounced back atoms act as identifier for the boundary from which they came, IBEX can map that boundary in a way never before done. In 2009, IBEX saw “something in that map that no one could explain: a vast ribbon dancing across this boundary that produced many more energetic neutral atoms than the surrounding areas.”
“Think of the ribbon as a harbor and the solar wind particles it contains as boats,” says Nathan Schwadron, the first author on the paper and scientist at The University of New Hampshire, Durham. “The boats can be trapped in the harbor if the ocean waves outside it are powerful enough. This is the nature of the new ribbon model. The ribbon is a region where particles, originally from the solar wind, become trapped or retained due to intense waves and vibrations in the magnetic field.”
While the theory looks good so far, it is still work in progress, and more modelling and testing will be done to see if there are errors, and accordingly, adjustments to be added. The IBEX instrument will continue to be useful in this process, since ongoing observations can be compared with the dynamic changes in the strength of the solar wind, which needs to fit the current model and predictions. The results are relevant to understand better how our heliosphere interacts with the rest of the universe. “The ribbon can be used to tell us how we’re moving through the magnetic fields of the interstellar medium and how those magnetic fields then influence our space environment,” Schwadron says.
Yeah, for scientific discoveries!
Mini Drones -
It is a remote-controlled toy helicopter, 10 cm, 16 g, equipped with a video camera and can send back live data to its handler.
Civilized Light Is Esteemed to Be Pollution -
Wow, the French government makes a judgment call: The light of industrial civilization is considered pollution. This is environmentalism gone haywired.
Under the new law, which comes into effect on 1 July, lights in shop window displays will be turned off at 1am. Interior lights in offices and other non-residential buildings will have to be switched off an hour after the last employee leaves. …
The French ecology minister, Delphine Batho, said she hoped the law would change attitudes in France and help the country become a pioneer in reducing light pollution.
France as a country is heading toward oblivion.