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Jerry Blumengarten @cybraryman1 2h
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Her parents were running out of hope. Their teenage daughter, Mary, had been diagnosed with a severe case of obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), as well as ADHD. They had dragged her to clinics...
The provocative idea — that psychiatric woes can be solved by targeting the digestive system — is increasingly reinforced by cutting-edge science. For decades, researchers have known of the connection between the brain and the gut. Anxiety often causes nausea and diarrhea, and depression can change appetite. The connection may have been established, but scientists thought communication was one way: it traveled from the brain to the gut, and not the other way around.
But now, a new understanding of the trillions of microbes living in our guts reveals that this communication process is more like a multi-lane superhighway than a one-way street. By showing that changing bacteria in the gut can change behavior, this new research might one day transform the way we understand — and treat — a variety of mental health disorders.
Five years ago, Vietnamese-Australian inventor and Emotiv CEO Tan Le released the Emotiv EPOC neuroheadset, what was billed as the world’s first commercial brain-computer interface. The product, which still sells for $300, proved to be a hit, making it clear that the public craved this new kind of wearable technology.
Now, Le and Emotiv are back with an entirely revamped headset that features a full redesign and update of the original EPOC. The Emotiv Insight, they promise, not only bridges the electro-communicational gap between one’s brain and computer, but also allows users to track their brain activity in real-time and even monitor their mental health. The team has set up a Kickstarter campaign ahead of the project’s 2014 release, and the response couldn’t have been more viral. With two weeks left in its Kickstarter run, nearly 3,300 backers have pledged over $1 million in support.
The enthusiastic reaction is only surprising if you don’t already know what the Emotiv headsets can do. The new model is a multi-channel device that gives the wearer Jedi-like mind powers, and who doesn’t want to be a Jedi? As Le points out in the Kickstarter video, users can wield the Emotive Insight for very creative ends that to the outside observer might seem like magic.
But how does it work? The Insight sports a new five-channel sensor setup--a significant improvement over the EPOC--that picks up electroencephalography (EEG) data. The headset’s individual sensors target key junctions of the cerebral cortex and translates the EEG they detect into meaningful ways, which the project text explains can be used to “optimize” a user’s cognitive performance. By understanding and breaking down brain activity in this manner, the Insight can also generate brainwaves that power the product's multiple applications.
Just a handful of these are illustrated in the Kickstarter video: A child outfitted with the new headset is seen conjuring up a three-dimensional design for a toy on the computer screen before him, hands free. Another volunteer holds a modified electric helicopter--synced to the headset--in the palm in his hand and watches with amazement as it rises into the air, spurred only by his mental command. In yet another test case, a handicapped man creates the soundtrack that scores the video just using the power of his thought.
Still, these choice examples aside, the exact applications of the system are vague. That’s intentional because, as Le explains, the Insight is a platform that allows you, the user, to develop newer and unexpected uses for the technology. The Emotiv team plans to offer up API and SDK for developers wanting to play around with the technology; doing so, Le says, will “make it possible for anyone to take this innovation and create new applications with the technology.”
At a million times smaller than a T-Rex, the tiny Brazilian pygmy gecko could easily drown in the smallest of puddles… if its skin wasn’t water repellent, that is. Incredibly it doesn’t even break the surface and can comfortably walk long stretches over water without sinking through its surface.
Roger Hanlon was following this octopus underwater and couldn't believe his eyes.
The ghost octopus can match the color and texture of its surroundings in fractions of a second by changing the size and shape of dynamic spots of pigments on their skin called chromatophores.
Chromatophores allow an octopus to blend in with all manner of underwater backdrops.
Some combination of these expandable chromatophores and reflectors underneath them allows an octopus to blend in with vegetation, rocks, or smooth surfaces almost imperceptibly. Hanlon has been studying these animals for years, and is still in awe of their camouflaging stunts. “The amazing thing is that these animals are color blind yet they are capable of creating color-match patterns,” Hanlon told Science Friday, “But we don’t know how.”
So, when science can’t tell us how something works, all we can do is be amazed. Watch the video again and revel in how awesome this tricky octopus is. It won’t get any more obvious, we promise.
New study find that 86 percent of holy water contains fecal matter. Despite its purported cleansing properties, holy water could actually be more harmful than healing, according to a new Austrian study on "holy" springs.
Researchers at the Institute of Hygiene and Applied Immunology at the Medical University of Vienna tested water from 21 springs in Austria and 18 fonts in Vienna and found samples contained up to 62 million bacteria per milliliter of water, none of it safe to drink.
Tests indicated 86 percent of the holy water, commonly used in baptism ceremonies and to wet congregants' lips, was infected with common bacteria found in fecal matter such as E. coli, enterococci and Campylobacter, which can lead to diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever.
Nitrates, commonly found in fertilizer from farms, were also identified in the water. If ingested, water containing nitrates over the maximum contaminant level could cause serious illness, especially in infants younger than 6 months, which could lead to death if untreated, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"We need to warn people against drinking from these sources," said Dr Alexander Kirschner, study researcher and microbiologist at the Medical University of Vienna.
The study, published in the Journal of Water and Health, also found that all church and hospital chapel fonts contained bacteria -- the busier the church, the higher the bacterial count.
"This may represent a problem that has hitherto been underestimated, especially in hospitals, since there a lot of people with weakened immune systems there," Kirschner said.
There have been advances made for the more hygienic use of holy water, including the invention of a holy water dispenser a few years ago by an Italian priest, while studies have also indicated that adding salt (at recommended levels of 20 percent) can help disinfect the water.
But Kirschner cautions that salt is not a reliable way to prevent infection and instead recommends priests regularly change the holy water in churches and erect signs to inform congregants about the dangers as well as of the history of the holy springs.
Multi-part lens expands and contracts to change focus. A lens invented at The Ohio State University combines the focusing ability of a human eye with the wide-angle view of an insect eye to capture images with depth.
The results could be smartphones that rival the photo quality of digital cameras, and surgical imaging that enables doctors to see inside the human body like never before.
Engineers described the patent-pending lens in the Technical Digest of the 25th IEEE International Conference on Micro Electro Mechanical Systems.
"Our eye can change focus. An insect eye is made of many small optical components that can't change focus but give a wide view. We can combine the two," explained Yi Zhao, associate professor of biomedical engineering and ophthalmology at Ohio State. "What we get is a wide-angle lens with depth of field."
That is to say, the lens shows a wide view, but still offers a sense of human-like depth perception: as close objects come into focus, far away objects look blurry.
Zhao's prototype lens is made of a flexible transparent polymer filled with a gelatinous fluid similar to fluid inside the human eye. It's actually a composite of several separate dome-shaped fluid pockets, with small domes sitting atop one larger dome. Each dome is adjustable, so that as fluid is pumped into and out of the lens, different parts of it expand and contract to change the overall shape-and thus, the direction and focus-of the lens.
This shape-changing strategy is somewhat similar to the way muscles in the human eye change the shape of the lens tissue in order to focus. It differs dramatically from the way typical cameras and microscopes focus, which involves moving separate glass lenses back and forth along the line of sight.
The shape-changing lens could potentially offer the same focusing capability as multiple moving lenses in a single stationary lens, which would make for smaller and lighter cameras and microscopes.
In particular, Zhao is interested in using the lens in confocal microscopes, which use a system of moving glass lenses and a laser to scan three-dimensional images of tiny objects.
"We believe that it is possible to make a confocal microscope with no moving parts," he said.
The U.S. banned the use of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) back in 1972 after studies linked it to the thinning of eggs in bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other species. The pesticide has also been linked to other health hazards in wildlife and humans. But even though it is no longer employed in this country, DDT persists for a long time in the environment, and its effects are still being felt today.
The Ventana Wildlife Society (VWS), which manages the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) reintroduction program in the coastal Big Sur region, first began to suspect in 2006 that DDT was affecting the big birds. Two captive-born condors successfully nested in the wild then for the first time in that region. The birds mated and laid eggs, but they soon cracked and the nest failed. An examination revealed that the shells were so thin that they didn’t even resemble normal condor eggs.
Since that time many more eggs have been laid in the region but 12 out of 16 condor nest sites failed between 2007 and 2009. Fragments of shells—all visibly thin—were recovered from those sites. Meanwhile, the condors released 650 kilometers farther south have enjoyed a 70 to 80 percent hatching success rate.
Now, research pending publication in the journal The Condor reveals that the egg fragments recovered in the Big Sur region were 34 percent thinner than eggs laid at the same time in the southern reintroduction zone. Many of the latter shells lacked a normal external crystalline layer. The researchers link the thinness and malformations to DDT and the compound DDE (dichloro diphenyldichloroethylene), which is formed when the pesticide breaks down.
How did the condors end up with DDT and DDE in their systems? The birds in Big Sur have been observed dining on the carcasses of sea lions, sea otters and other marine mammals, animals the inland southern population lacks the opportunity to eat. Previous research into California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) from 1994 to 2006 found high levels of DDT and related compounds in their blubber, especially in the males. The marine mammals live near the 54-hectare Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund site, an underwater region contaminated by an estimated 1,540 metric tons of DDT discharged by the Montrose Chemical Corp. DDT manufacturing plant between the 1950s and 1970s. Earlier this year new tests estimated that the DDT at the site had somehow shrunk to just 12.7 metric tons; it is not yet known what happened to all of those missing chemicals.
Keshia Thomas is a wonderful person.Rossalyn Warren
Here's a throwback to the mid-'90s with a story of a woman named Keshia Thomas.
Keshia was attending a protest against the KKK, which was holding a rally in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1996. At the protest, someone announced over the megaphone that there was "a Klansman in the crowd."
In the crowd stood a middle-aged white man who was wearing a t-shirt depicting the Confederate flag and an SS tattoo. The crowd began to kick and beat him with placards. Yet Keshia bravely stood forward, shielded the man from the crowd, and protected him from the attacks.
The police confirmed later that while the man was not a Klan member, he was indeed there for the rally.
Keshia commented afterward that while the man was "wrong for the views he sanctioned," the protesters were also in the wrong "in their violence against him."
Keshia showed a selfless act of courage and kindness that few people demonstrate because she "knew what it was like to be hurt ...
. The many times that that happened, I wish someone would have stood up for me."
And yet the reality is that black people in America are still not treated with the same level of kindness that Keshia demonstrated.
A girl can be shot dead at the door of someone they're asking for help from, young men can be shot by the police while innocent of any crime, and an 8-year-old girl can be killed during a nighttime raid.
Keshia demonstrates the selflessness that so many people should aspire to have.
The scene shown was captured most famously by an iconic black-and-white photo by Mark Brunner. However, the actual photograph above is a color photo of that iconic moment, taken by Stephanie Grace Lim, who kindly gave me permission to use it.
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Le 20 septembre 1928, première sortie pour "Mickey Mouse"
Le célèbre personnage de dessin animé créé par Walt Disney fait sa toute première apparition dans un court dessin animé, "Plane Crazy". Mais il est encore à l'état d'ébauche et ne s'appelle pas "Mickey" mais "Mortimer". La petite souris prendra son nom définitif dans le premier dessin animé sonore de Walt Disney "Steamboat Willie".
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Scientists have taken a major step towards treatment for heart attack, by instructing the injured heart in mice to heal by expressing a factor that triggers cardiovascular regeneration driven by native heart stem cells. The study, performed in mice, shows that only a single administration of a short pulse of expression of VEGF-A is required, if it can be delivered to the exact region where the heart progenitors reside.
"This is the beginning of using the heart as a factory to produce growth factors for specific families of cardiovascular stem cells, and suggests that it may be possible to generate new heart parts without delivering any new cells to the heart itself ," says Kenneth Chien, a Professor at the medical university Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and Harvard University, USA, who led the research team behind the new findings.
The study is based upon another recent discovery in the Chien lab, which was published in Cell Research. This study shows that VEGF-A, a known growth factor for vascular endothelial cells in the adult heart, can also serve as a switch that converts heart stem cells away from becoming cardiac muscle and towards the formation of the coronary vessels in the fetal heart. To coax the heart to make the VEGF-A, the investigators in the Nature Biotechnology study used new technology where synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA) that encodes VEGF-A is injected into the muscle cell. Then, heart muscle produces a short pulse of VEGF-A. The mRNA is synthetically modified so that it escapes the normal defense system of the body that is known to reject and degrade the non-modified mRNA as a viral invader.
The study, performed in mice, shows that only a single administration of a short pulse of expression of VEGF-A is required, if it can be delivered to the exact region where the heart progenitors reside. The therapeutic effect is long term, as shown by markedly improved survival following myocardial infarction with a single administration of the synthetic mRNA when given within 48 hours after the heart attack. The long-term effect appears to be based on changing the fate of the native heart stem cells from contributing to cardiac fibrotic scar tissue and towards cardiovascular tissue.
"This moves us very close to clinical studies to regenerate cardiovascular tissue with a single chemical agent without the need for injecting any additional cells into the heart." says Professor Chien.
The artifacts studied may belong to Homo erectus and suggest the now-extinct human species migrated to China 700,000 years earlier than thought. Such hominid migrations to East Asia may have been due to cooling and aridity in Africa and Eurasia.
The human lineage evolved in Africa, with now-extinct species of humans dispersing away from their origin continent more than a million years before modern humans did. Scientists would like tolearn more about when and where humans went to better understand what drove human evolution.
Researchers investigated the Nihewan Basin, which lies in a mountainous region about 90 miles (150 kilometers) west of Beijing. It holds more than 60 sites from the Stone Age, with thousands of stone tools found there since 1972 — relatively simple types, such as stone flakes altogether known as the Oldowan. Researchers suspect these artifacts belonged to Homo erectus, "thought to be ancestral to Homo sapiens," Hong Ao, a paleomagnetist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Xi'an, told LiveScience.
The exact age of these sites was long uncertain. To find out, Ao and his colleagues analyzed the earth above, below and in which stone tools at the Shangshazui site in the Nihewan Basin were found. The tools in question were stone blades potentially used for cutting or scraping.
The scientists analyzed the way in which the samples of earth were magnetized — since the Earth's magnetic field has regularly flippednumerous times over millions of years, looking at the manner in which the magnetic fields of minerals are oriented can shed light on how old they are. The researchers discovered this site in northern China might be about 1.6 million to 1.7 million years old, making it 600,000 or 700,000 years older than previously thought.
Horse, elephant and other fossils suggest the area back when the stone tools were made was mainly grassland interspersed with patches of woodland. A lake between the mountains there was probably a major attraction for hominid explorers, providing water and a range of other food sources, while the mountains could have represented an important material source for making stone tools. The researchers suggest hominid migrations to East Asia during the early Stone Age were a consequence of increasing cooling and aridity in Africa and Eurasia.
Given that slightly older artifacts and bones belonging to Homo erectuswere previously discovered in southern China more than 1,500 miles (2,500 km) away, these new findings suggest early and now-extinct human species may potentially have occupied a huge territory in China.
"Homo erectus occupied a vast area in China by 1.7 million to 1.6 million years ago," Ao said.
Male orangutans plan their travel route up to one day in advance and communicate it to other members of their species. In order to attract females and repel male rivals, they call in the direction in which they are going to travel.
In order to attract females and repel male rivals, they call in the direction in which they are going to travel. Anthropologists at the University of Zurich have found that not only captive, but also wild-living orangutans make use of their planning ability.
For a long time it was thought that only humans had the ability to anticipate future actions, whereas animals are caught in the here and now. But in recent years, clever experiments with great apes in zoos have shown that they do remember past events and can plan for their future needs. Anthropologists at the University of Zurich have now investigated whether wild apes also have this skill, following them for several years through the dense tropical swamplands of Sumatra.
Orangutans generally journey through the forest alone, but they also maintain social relationships. Adult males sometimes emit loud 'long calls' to attract females and repel rivals. Their cheek pads act as a funnel for amplifying the sound in the same way as a megaphone. Females that only hear a faint call come closer in order not to lose contact. Non-dominant males on the other hand hurry in the opposite direction if they hear the call coming loud and clear in their direction.
"To optimize the effect of these calls, it thus would make sense for the male to call in the direction of his future whereabouts, if he already knew about them," explains Carel van Schaik. "We then actually observed that the males traveled for several hours in approximately the same direction as they had called."
In extreme cases, long calls made around nesting time in the evening predicted the travel direction better than random until the evening of the next day.Carel van Schaik and his team conclude that orangutans plan their route up to a day ahead. In addition, the males often announced changes in travel direction with a new, better-fitting long call. The researchers also found that in the morning, the other orangutans reacted correctly to the long call of the previous evening, even if no new long call was emitted.
"Our study makes it clear that wild orangutans do not simply live in the here and now, but can imagine a future and even announce their plans. In this sense, then, they have become a bit more like us," concludes Carel van Schaik.
Smaller animals tend to perceive time in slow-motion, helping them to escape from larger predators, a study finds. This means that they can observe movement on a finer timescale than bigger creatures, allowing them to escape from lager predators.
Insects and small birds, for example, can see more information in one second than a larger animal such as an elephant. In humans, too, there is variation among individuals. Athletes, for example, can often process visual information more quickly. An experienced goalkeeper would therefore be quicker than others in observing where a ball comes from. The speed at which humans absorb visual information is also age-related. Younger people can react more quickly than older people, and this ability falls off further with increasing age.
From a human perspective, our ability to process visual information limits our ability to drive cars or fly planes any faster than we currently do in Formula 1, where these guys are pushing the limits of what is humanly possible. To go any quicker would require either computer assistance, or enhancement of our visual system, either through drugs or ultimately implants.
Some deep-sea isopods (a type of marine woodlouse) have the slowest recorded reaction of all, and can only see a light turning off and on four times per second "before they get confused and see it as being constantly on.
Having eyes that send updates to the brain at much higher frequencies than our eyes do is of no value if the brain cannot process that information equally quickly. Hence, this work highlights the impressive capabilities of even the smallest animal brains. Flies might not be deep thinkers but they can make good decisions very quickly.
Researchers have discovered that trees can switch on their ability to fix Nitrogen from the atmosphere with a little help from the Rhizobium bacteria. This finding has a huge implication on the ongoing projects of reforestation on denuded lands.
A study was carried out on a square mile area of the Panama Canal watershed where the forest was recovering after clearing activities. Different land use options were studied and the carbon storage, runoff and biodiversity were carefully monitored. A comparison was made between mature tropical forests, native trees in forest restoration plots and abandoned pastureland.
Jefferson Hall, one of the researchers, said, “This is the first solid case showing how nitrogen fixation by tropical trees directly affects the rate of carbon recovery after agricultural fields are abandoned. Trees turn nitrogen fixation on and off according to the need for nitrogen in the system.”
It was observed that trees which were able to fix the atmospheric nitrogen were also able to add carbon nine times quicker than ordinary trees. In fact Nitrogen fixing trees were able to add 50,000 kilograms of carbon per hectare during the first 12 years of growth.
Tropical forests act as carbon sinks drawing away carbon from the air. As the scourge of the Global warming increases it is important that freed land which has been denuded by industrial or agricultural use be quickly repaired and reforested. Nitrogen fixing trees will help to quicken the pace of reforestation.
Paleontologists have figured out what ancient dino feathers and fuzz looked like, including color.
Instead of digging through rocks and rubble to find fossils, a group of Canadian paleontologists decided to dig through museums’ amber collections instead. Their unique approach paid off when they discovered feathers and never-before-seen structures, which they think are something called dinofuzz.
The researchers combed through thousands of minuscule amber nuggets from nearly 80 million years ago. Among them they found 11 M&M-sized globules with traces of ancient feathers and fuzz. A number resembled modern feathers—some fit for flying and others designed to dive. And unlike fossils, the amber preserved colors too: white, gray, red and brown.
But a few hollow hair-like structures stumped researchers. The unidentifiable filaments weren’t plant fibers, fungus or fur, so the researchers surmise that they are protofeathers (thought to be the evolutionary precursors to feathers). The collection is among the first to reveal all major evolutionary stages of feather development in non-avian dinosaurs and birds.
The unusual find suggests a wide array of plumed creatures populated the time period—sporting everything from seemingly modern feathers to their filament-like forebears—and that even by this early date, feathers had become specialized, for example, for diving underwater.
Behavioral changes persist after Toxoplasma infection is cleared. A parasite that infects up to one-third of people around the world may have the ability to permanently alter a specific brain function in mice.
Toxoplasma gondii is known to remove rodents’ innate fear of cats. The new research shows that even months after infection, when parasites are no longer detectable, the effect remains. This raises the possibility that the microbe causes a permanent structural change in the brain. The microbe is a single-celled pathogen that infects most types of mammal and bird, causing a disease called toxoplasmosis. But its effects on rodents are unique; most flee cat odor, but infected ones are mildly attracted to it.
This is thought to be an evolutionary adaptation to help the parasite complete its life cycle: Toxoplasma can sexually reproduce only in the cat gut, and for it to get there, the pathogen's rodent host must be eaten.
In humans, studies have linked Toxoplasma infection with behavioral changes and schizophrenia. One work found an increased risk of traffic accidents in people infected with the parasite; another found changes in responses to cat odor. People with schizophrenia are more likely than the general population to have been infected with Toxoplasma, and medications used to treat schizophrenia may work in part by inhibiting the pathogen's replication.
Schizophrenia is thought to involve excess activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. This has bolstered one possible explanation for Toxoplasma’s behavioral effect: the parasite establishes persistent infections by means of microscopic cysts that grow slowly in brain cells. It can increase those cells’ production of dopamine, which could significantly alter their function. Most other suggested mechanisms also rely on the presence of cysts.
Research on Toxoplasma has mainly used the North American Type II strain. Wendy Ingram, a molecular cell biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and her colleagues investigated the effects of two other major strains, Type I and Type III, on mouse behavior. They found that within three weeks of infection with either strain, mice lost all fear of cat odor — showing that the behavioral shift is a general trait of Toxoplasma.
More surprising was the situation four months after infection. The Type I pathogen that the researchers used had been genetically modified to provoke an effective immune response, allowing the mice to overcome the infection. After four months, it was undetectable in the mouse brain, indicating that no more than 200 parasite cells remained. “We actually expected that Type I wouldn’t be able to form cysts, and therefore wouldn’t be able to cause the behavioral change,” explains Ingram.
But that was not the case: the mice remained as unperturbed by cat odour as they had been at three weeks. “Long after we lose the ability to see it in the brain, we still see its behavioral effect,” says geneticist Michael Eisen, also at Berkeley.
This suggests that the behavioral change could be due to a specific, hard-wired alteration in brain structure, which is generated before cysts form and cannot be reversed. The finding casts doubt on theories that cysts or dopamine cause the behavioral changes of Toxoplasma infections.