October 22, 2014
Our Cyborg Future
1. Implantable smartphones
2. Healing chips
3. Cyber pills that talk to your doctor
4. Implantable birth control - The Gates Foundation is supporting an MIT project to create an implantable female compu-contraceptive controlled by an external remote control. The tiny chip generates small amounts of contraceptive hormone from within the woman's body for up to 16 years.
5. Smart tattoos
6. Brain-computer interface
7. Meltable bio-batteries
8. Smart dust -arrays of full computers with antennas, each much smaller than a grain of sand, that can organize themselves inside the body into as-needed networks to power a whole range of complex internal processes.
9. The verified self - could be used to ID every single human being,
In the London Telegraph, Arthur House explores The Real Cyborgs The pioneers of our “post-human” future are implanting technology in to their bodies and brains. Should we stop them or join them?
1. Brain implants augment memory and provide access to the internet
2. Wearable exoskeleton boosts strength and endurance
3. Internet-connected spinal implant stimulates genitals for long-distance sex
4. Interchangeble limbs match capabilities to tasks
5. Access-control chips replace keys and passwords
When he lost his right eye in a shotgun accident in 2005, the Canadian filmmaker Rob Spence replaced it with a wireless video camera that transmits what he’s seeing in real time to his computer.
The US military is pouring millions of dollars into projects such as Ekso Bionics’ Human Universal Load Carrier (HULC), an ‘Iron Man’-style wearable exoskeleton that gives soldiers superhuman strength. Its Defense Advanced Research Projects Association (Darpa) is also working on thought-controlled killer robots, “thought helmets” to enable telepathic communication and brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) to give soldiers extra senses, such as night vision and the ability to “see” magnetic fields caused by landmines.
Every technological advance brings mixed blessings.
October 16, 2014
Health Roundup: Poop pills, cancer blood test, fruit juice, 5 a day, broccoli, ibuprofen
Fecal transplants made easier with A Promising Pill, Not So Hard to Swallow developed at MGH. Already called the 'poop pill'.
Their study was small and preliminary, but results were striking: 19 of 20 patients with C. difficile infections were cured of diarrhea and related symptoms. Most saw improvements after one two-day round of pills, the rest after two or three rounds, said Dr. Ilan Youngster, the lead investigator….
The patients, 11 to 89 years old, had each experienced at least two episodes of C. difficile that antibiotics had failed to control. After one round of dosing (two days, 15 capsules per day), diarrhea cleared up in 14 patients. Five others, sicker than the rest beforehand, responded after a second two-day dosing about a week later.
The Miroculus technology is based on microRNA, a class of small molecules that can act as a type of biological warning sign, appearing and disappearing based on what is happening in our bodies at that moment. As a result, they’ve become effective indicators of diseases—including cancer—ever since they were first discovered in 1993. They can reveal not just whether a person may have cancer, but what specific type of cancer that person might have.
A daily glass of fruit juice leads to people having significantly higher central blood pressure - which can increase the risk of problems such as a heart attack or angina as Australian scientists have discovered….
Study author, Dr Matthew Pase said their findings were important because 'there is a common perception that fruit juice is healthy. Although juices may have essential vitamins, they commonly contain high amounts of sugar with negligible fibre. …..An 8 oz glass of fruit juice contains 7 tsp of sugar. The WHO recommends people have no more that 6 tsp a day.
On the other hand, eating five servings of fruit and vegetables will not only enhance your mental well-being, it will enhance your creative brain power. Fruit, the thinking man's food.
The chemical - suforaphane- that gives broccoli its distinctive bitter taste made teenagers and young men with autism calmer and more sociable, a study found.
‘Remarkable’ improvements were seen in as little as four weeks and by the end of the study, some of those given a capsule a day felt able to look the researchers in the eye and shake their hand. The finding suggests it may be possible to create a pill that gets to the root of autism for the first time.
Existing drugs simply control symptoms such as aggression, hyperactivity or sleep problems, but do not address the underlying cause of the condition. Researcher Dr Paul Talalay, a professor of pharmacology in the US who has spent the last 25 years researching nature’s medicine cabinet, said: ‘It was a small study but the effects were very, very large.
We believe that this may be preliminary evidence for the first treatment for autism that improves symptoms by apparently correcting some underlying cellular mechanisms.’British experts described the research as ‘intriguing’ but said it is simply too early to say if broccoli is beneficial in autism.
The research, from the respected MassGen Hospital for Children and Johns Hopkins University, both in Boston, comes amid concern about rising rates of autism.
Research has already established that the inevitable inflammation that comes with aging is linked to such conditions as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Researchers found lungs become more inflammatory with age and that Ibuprofen can lower that inflammation.Old mice on ibuprofen were able to fight the disease like young mice
October 15, 2014
The Unpreparedness of the CDC and NIH and Ebola Czar
Where is WHO Africa? Where is the African Union?" said Ekambaram who worked in Sierra Leone from August to September. "We've all heard their promises in the media but have seen very little on the ground."
Ebola cases could hit 10,000 a week by December, WHO states, fatality rate now estimated at 70 per cent
Ebola Preparation ‘Will bankrupt my hospital!’ Director Reacts to CDC Prep Call
“Treating one Ebola patient requires, full time, 20 medical staff. Mostly ICU (intensive care unit) people. So that would wipe out an ICU in an average-sized hospital….doctors and nurses are not ready for the challenge of using this personal protective equipment even if you see them with the helmet, the respirator, the full suits, as the CDC said on the call today, even all that equipment is not enough to guarantee the safety of health care workers because it is so perilous to put it on and particularly to remove it once it’s become contaminated.”
Embattled Centers for Disease Control (CDC) director, Dr. Tom Frieden, laid out a new game plan to counter further contamination of health care workers dealing with Ebola patients – including sending rapid response teams to any hospital where a new case is confirmed. >
the federal government not ten years ago created and funded a brand new office in the Health and Human Services Department specifically to coordinate preparation for and response to public health threats like Ebola. The woman who heads that office, and reports directly to the HHS secretary, has been mysteriously invisible from the public handling of this threat. And she’s still on the job even though three years ago she was embroiled in a huge scandal of funneling a major stream of funding to a company with ties to a Democratic donor—and away from a company that was developing a treatment now being used on Ebola patients.
In Wired, What Would Keep Ebola from Spreading in the US? Investing in Simple Research Years Ago Instead.The CDC's emergency preparedness budget has fallen by half since 2006 from $1091 million in 2007 to $585 million in 2013. None of the money spent for pandemic preparedness involved investing in health systems at the front line of epidemics: hospitals.
Dr Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health decried the budget 'cuts' over the past 10 years ' which he said prevented the development of an Ebola vaccine. But that's not true.
According to data compiled by the Cato Institute from the non-partisan Office of Management and Budget, the NIH’s inflation-adjusted outlays skyrocketed between 1996 and 2005, more than doubling from $14.8 to $32.4 billion while the CDC's budget " catapulting from $3.1 billion in 1996 to $5.8 billion in 2003. From there the budget kept rising, soaring to $7.5 billion in 2010 before gently declining to $6.8 billion in 2014."
So what did they spend all this money on?
Well, first a fancy new headquarters and fitness center for their employees at a cost of $110 million, including $10 million for new furniture (about $12,000 per employee).
• $517.3 million on "community transformation" -better sidewalks, more bike lanes and farmers' markets.
* $1.7 million on a Hollywood liaison to make sure medical portrayals in TV shows were accurate
• $386,000 to study the appropriate length of massage sessions for rabbits,
• $2.4 million for a new origami condom design whose inventor is now being investigated for fraud
• $592,000 to determine that chimpanzees with the best poop-flinging skills are also the best communicators, and another $117,000 to learn that most chimps are right-handed
• $257,000 went to create a companion website for first lady Michelle Obama's White House garden
• $939,000 to find out that male fruit flies prefer to romance younger females because the girl-flies' hormone levels drop over time.
• Part of a $666,000 NIH grant supported a University of Buffalo researcher who determined that watching sitcom reruns like 'Seinfeld' or re-watching old movies helps older people feel re-connected with pseudo-friends from their past.
• $181,000 went to University of Kentucky researchers who studied how cocaine use 'enhanced' the sex drive of the Japanese quail
• $548,000 to a University of Missouri team to find out if 30-something partiers feel immature after they binge drink while people in their mid-20s don't.
• $832,000 went to learn if it was possible to get uncircumcised South African tribesmen into the habit of washing their genitals after having sex.
• $1.1 million funded research into how athletes perceive their in-game surroundings,
• $484,000 for a study to determine if hypnosis can reduce hot flashes in postmenopausal women
• a $702,558 grant for the study of the impact of televisions and gas generators on villages in Vietnam.
• $55,382 to study hookah smoking in Jordan.
• $509,840 to pay for a study that will send text messages in “gay lingo” to meth-heads.
• NIH has spent about $3 million to date to study why lesbians are fatter than straight women or gay men
* $385,005 to survey what bus riders thought of HIV videos
Apparently, there is a $12.5 billion slush fund created by the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that is used to fight the privatization of liquor stores. Surely, that could be used to better effect.
WHO director Margaret Chan said yesterday that the current ebola epidemic is “the most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times.”….But if Chan actually considers “modern times” to include the WWI era, and is ignorant of the scope and course of the great flu pandemic towards the end of that war, it would be exceptionally troubling, since she is speaking in her role as director of one of the most influential worldwide institutions tasked with dealing with epidemics.
Dr. Alfred Crosby, author, America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The epidemic killed, at a very, very conservative estimate, 550,000 Americans in 10 months, that’s more Americans than died in combat in all the wars of this century, and the epidemic killed at least 30 million in the world and infected the majority of the human species.
Controversial new research suggests that contrary to the history books, the "Black Death" that devastated medieval Europe was not the bubonic plague, but rather an Ebola-like virus.
History books have long taught the Black Death, which wiped out a quarter of Europe's population in the Middle Ages, was caused by bubonic plague, spread by infected fleas that lived on black rats. But new research in England suggests the killer was actually an Ebola-like virus transmitted directly from person to person.
October 11, 2014
Once a corn field is planted and herbicide applied, many farmers don’t return to a given field until harvest time. The biotechnological and labor-saving innovations that have reduced costs for corn farmers mean that literally no one walks into the average corn field during the growing season. Which presents a major opportunity for marijuana growers.
Piggybacking on the incredible technological investments required to create so much corn, marijuana growers reap orders of magnitude more revenue per acre. This fact is not lost on individual farmers, but is virtually undetectable in national conversations about the profits and pitfalls of industrial corn agriculture.
"I love John the Baptist’s definition of the word politics – “poly means many, tics are bloodsucking parasites.” from Tim Walker's 5 star review of The Man Jesus by Simon Callow now on the London stage. "Funny, knowing and profoundly sad".
Michael J Totten on The Walking Dead in an Age of Anxiety
The Walking Dead is a morality tale that disdains easy answers. How does a civilized person behave in a world where civilization has collapsed? Decency is still possible, the show instructs us, but ruthlessness is needed as well. “It’s ugly,” Carol says when explaining this to a child, “and it’s scary and it does change you, but that’s how we get to be here.”
The fascination with the zombie apocalypse, I believe, is a cultural reflection of the new age of anxiety that opened on 9/11, with its fear of social collapse. As Penn State professor Peter Dendle puts it, the zombie is a “barometer of social anxiety”—and we’re plenty anxious.
A zombie invasion is simply a metaphor for any situation in which the government cannot protect its citizens.”
The Gaelic Stars of YouTube Irish-language covers of popular English songs. All by students of Coláiste Lurgan, an Irish-Gaelic-immersion summer school, with a musical, energetic, social approach to learning Irish, an endangered language, but now a mandatory part of a school's curriculum.
What a beautiful language Irish is. Here Stiofán Ó Fearail sings "Wake Me Up"
Have you ever seen students so engaged or having so much fun learning language?
Google Chairman, Eric Schmidt, "We're Going to End Up Breaking the Internet" unless governments reform their surveillance practices.
October 10, 2014
"Good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created"
From Notable and Quotable and philosopher Roger Scruton’s new book “How to Be a Conservative”:
Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created. This is especially true of the good things that come to us as collective assets: peace, freedom, law, civility, public spirit, the security of property and family life, in all of which we depend on the cooperation of others while having no means singlehandedly to obtain it. In respect of such things, the work of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating; the work of creation is slow, laborious and dull. That is one of the lessons of the twentieth century. It is also one reason why conservatives suffer such a disadvantage when it comes to public opinion. Their position is true but boring, that of their opponents exciting but false.
October 9, 2014
No more boys and girls
A Nebraska school district has instructed its teachers to stop referring to students by “gendered expressions” such as “boys and girls,” and use “gender inclusive” ones such as “purple penguins” instead….
Despite controversy, Lincoln Superintendent Steve Joel has declared that he is “happy” and “pleased” with the training documents.
What idiocy. I completely understand why homeschooling is booming.
Despising Christianity and the Fruits of Faith
Damon Linker asks Why do so many liberals despise Christianity?
Item 1: In a widely discussed essay in Slate, author Brian Palmer writes about the prevalence of missionary doctors and nurses in Africa and their crucial role in treating those suffering from Ebola. Palmer tries to be fair-minded, but he nonetheless expresses "ambivalence," "suspicion," and "visceral discomfort" about the fact that these men and women are motivated to make "long-term commitments to address the health problems of poor Africans," to "risk their lives," and to accept poor compensation (and sometimes none at all) because of their Christian faith.
The question is why he considers this a problem…..
The real reason is that he doesn't believe that missionaries are capable "of separating their religious work from their medical work," even when they vow not to proselytize their patients. And that, in his view, is unacceptable — apparently because he's an atheist and religion creeps him out. As he puts it, rather wanly, "It's great that these people are doing God's work, but do they have to talk about Him so much?…..
Item 2: Gordon College, a small Christian school north of Boston, is facing the possibility of having its accreditation revoked by the higher education commission of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, …revoking a school's accreditation is a big deal — and can even be a death sentence…..
In accordance with traditional Christian teaching, Gordon College bans all sexual relationships outside of marriage, gay or straight, and it goes out of its way to say that its structures against homosexual acts apply only to behavior and not to same-sex desires or orientation. The accreditation board is not so much objecting to the college's treatment of gays as it is rejecting the legitimacy of its devoutly Christian sexual beliefs.
The problem is not just the cavalier dismissal of people's long-established beliefs and the ways of life and traditions based on them. The problem is also the dogmatic denial of the beauty and wisdom contained within those beliefs, ways of life, and traditions. (You know, the kind of thing that leads a doctor to risk his life and forego a comfortable stateside livelihood in favor of treating deadly illness in dangerous, impoverished African cities and villages, all out of a love for Jesus Christ.)
Contemporary liberals increasingly think and talk like a class of self-satisfied commissars enforcing a comprehensive, uniformly secular vision of the human good. The idea that someone, somewhere might devote her life to an alternative vision of the good — one that clashes in some respects with liberalism's moral creed — is increasingly intolerable.
That is a betrayal of what's best in the liberal tradition.
Brian Palmer should lister to Matthew Parris who, after 45 years, returned to Malawi where he spent his childhood. As an atheist, I truly believe Africa needs God
Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply
distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.
Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.
Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.
Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.
And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.
And it wouldn't hurt Brian Palmer to learn more about Human Nature and the Fruits of Faith, a WSJ article in which oseph Epstein in reviewed what he called a Masterpiece, Varieties of Religious Experience by William James, written more than a hundred years ago in 1902.
James never discusses religious institutions or theology, concentrating instead on "the effect of religion on the individual, of its stirrings in the human heart."
James remarks that "it makes a tremendous emotional and practical difference to one whether one accept the universe in the drab discolored way of stoic resignation, or with the passionate happiness of Christian saints."
The "faith-state," in which the mind is prepared for acceptance of God and the results of conversion are, "A paradise of inner tranquility seems to be faith's usual result." He likens the harmony achieved by those who arrive at religious faith to the harmony artists strive for in their art.
Health Roundup: Breakthroughs in Type 1 diabetes, arthritis, brain scans for early warning of Alzheimer's and peanuts
A cure for diabetes could be imminent after scientists discovered how to make huge quantities of insulin-producing cells, in a breakthrough hailed as significant as antibiotics. Harvard University has, for the first time, managed to manufacture the millions of beta cells required for transplantation.
It could mean the end of daily insulin injections for the 400,000 people in Britain living with Type 1 diabetes.
And it marks the culmination of 23-years of research for Harvard professor Doug Melton who has been trying to find a cure for the disease since his son Sam was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes as a baby.
They have developed a pioneering simple new technique to generate cells which can go on to re-grow damaged cartilage and even bone. The process offers major hope for people suffering in daily pain from the degenerative joint condition. It paves the way for a quick treatment - possible as a single injection of the stem cells - directly into the effected joint to end the agony.
Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Centre in the US, have used a combination of small molecules to generate mouse cells that can form bone and cartilage. They say the new method could allow them to re-grow broken bones and mend cartilage damage to back discs and joints. …. It would revolutionize treatment for the condition because it would not have the side effects of many of the current drug-based treatments for the condition.
The research team, led by Dr Naoki Nakayama, created special stem cells known as pluripotent stem cells from mouse embryos. This type of stem cell has the ability to become any cell type in the body. The team then used small molecules to persuade them to turn into cells that can form cartilage, called chondrocytes.
A five-minute brain scan could give healthy people early warning of dementia, scientists believe. They found that by measuring blood flow in the brain, it is possible to distinguish healthy people whose memory will decline from those who stay mentally sharp.In other words, tell-tale signs are present in the brain long before the memory fades.
Those given warning of the disease could take preventative measures such as changing their diet and taking more exercise.
Quicker detection would allow earlier treatment and, with the help of new drugs, some who test positive might never develop the disease.
A small study of 10 patients found nine showed improvements in their memories within three to six months of treatment.
The findings, from the University of California, Los Angeles, are the first to suggest that memory loss in patients can be reversed.
Six patients taking part had stopped working, or been struggling with their jobs at the time they joined the study. All have since been able to return to their jobs or continue working, with improved performance.
The patients all suffered memory loss associated with Alzheimer's disease. One, who had been diagnosed with late stage Alzheimer's did not improve. The treatment involved a complex, 36-point therapeutic programme, combining comprehensive diet changes, brain stimulation, exercise, sleep optimisation, specific drugs and vitamins, and other steps affecting brain chemistry.
Dr Bredesen said the findings are 'very encouraging', but added the results are anecdotal, and a more extensive, controlled clinical trial is needed. No single drug has been found to stop or even slow the progression of Alzheimer's, and drugs have only had modest effects of symptoms.
A University of Florida scientist has used pulses of UV light to remove 80 per cent of allergens from peanuts. Dr Yang says it could one day be used to remove 99 per cent of allergens. In the research he used concentrated bursts of light to modify the peanut allergenic proteins. By doing this human antibodies can't recognize them as allergens. And the method does not ruin the flavor or texture of the peanuts
Sallie Powell was so bloated she looked nine months pregnant and the excruciating pains in her joints and overwhelming tiredness had forced her to give up work as a wedding photographer. Despite seeing several doctors - and even undergoing major surgery - her crippling symptoms continued.
In desperation, she turned to the internet - and just moments later found the answer that would change her life. The search results indicated she was suffering from a condition called hyperparathyroidism. Here, tiny parathyroid glands in the neck which control calcium levels malfunction, causing an excess of calcium in the blood. This, in turn, was causing her symptoms such as memory loss, depression, extreme tiredness and bloating.
Shocked, Ms Powell printed off her findings and took them to her GP - only to be proved right…..Ms Powell was told she would require surgery to remove the affected parathyroid gland…..'I went into surgery feeling 95, but after the operation I woke up feeling 35.