Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Many Voices Of Lauryn Hill

This is great. An interview about and with one of the most soulful rapper/R & B artists of our time, Lauryn Hill.
It doesn't take much for a group of 30-somethings to get nostalgic about Hill. Put her solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, on at a bar, and it takes the crowd right back to college days or high-school summers. I met Daryl Lutz while he was hanging out with a group of friends on the deck of Marvin's Bar in downtown Washington, D.C.
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill came out in 1998. It was like LeBron James' rookie year in the NBA. You knew he had the potential to be great after seeing him in high school — and then, right out of the gate, he's one of the best ball players in the league.
Jayson Jackson, part of Hill's management team, described the recording process this way: "The record was already inside her. She would go into the studio, and it would just pour out of her."
This closes the interview. I thank her. She says, "You're welcome," and my editor and I leave the car. We sit on the stairs for a few minutes to catch our breath. We spent all weekend chasing Lauryn Hill, hoping to have this conversation about her voice. I compared it to a video game with infinite levels you didn't even know existed, like when you beat a level and you think you won, but then you go through a door and there's a whole other world you have to conquer. Getting to Lauryn Hill was like that. 
Sara Sarasohn, my editor, compared the chase to the Israelites rising up and following the cloud over the Tent of Meeting. In the Torah, when the Israelites are wandering in the desert, there was a cloud over the Tent of Meeting, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. Moses would go to the Tent of Meeting to communicate with God. At night, the cloud looked like fire. When the cloud lifted and moved, the Israelites would see it and know that it was time for them to move as well in their journey through the desert. It was like the presence of Hill was this cloud that we could see in the distance, and we were trying to follow it, and finally, we got to the Tent of Meeting.
Sitting on the stairs together, Sara and I couldn't help but cry, just a little. We talked to Lauryn Hill. And she's doing fine.

Monday, June 28, 2010

suzanne sundfor...haunting

Cat Gets Intraosseous Transcutaneous Prosthetic Limbs

A Jersey cat, who had his back paws sliced off in an accident with a combine harvester, has received a pair of innovative prosthetic legs. Noel Fitzpatrick, a veterinary surgeon from Surrey, used a technique called intraosseous transcutaneous amputation prostheses (Itaps) to get the cat back on his feet. These prostheses grow through the skin in a way similar to the way deer antler bone does. This in contrast to the way most prosthetic limbs are attached by a "stump socket", which often causes problems through rubbing and pressure sores. The new technology is currently being tested for application in humans. A documentary about the procedure called "The Bionic Vet" will be aired on BBC 1 this Wednesday.

Shifty Science: Programmable Matter Takes Shape with Self-Folding Origami Sheets

A prototype sheet that folds itself into two different shapes may lead to objects that can assume any number of forms on command.

The system, described in a paper published online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, consists of a thin sheet of resin–fiberglass composite, just a few centimeters across, segmented into 32 triangular panels separated by flexible silicone joints. Some of the joints have heat-sensitive actuators that bend 180 degrees when warmed by an electric current, folding the sheet over at that joint. Depending on the program used, the sheet will conduct a series of folds to yield the boat or airplane shape in about 15 seconds. The folding-sheet approach is an extension of the field of computational origami, the mathematical study of how flat objects can be folded into complex, three-dimensional structures.

Robotic Lifeguard Uses Sonar to Sense Swimmers in Distress

EMILY, which stands somewhat awkwardly for EMergency Integrated Lifesaving lanYard, is a new robotic lifeguard that could help save lives at our nation's beaches. It's a four-foot-long motorized buoy in appearance, but there's a lot more under the hood.

Building a Substitute Pancreas for Diabetics

A startup hopes implanted insulin-producing cells will free diabetics from insulin injections.

Three studies on Diabetes to be presented at the annual Endocrine Society meeting

Vitamin D deficiency is highly prevalent in patients with Type 2 diabetes and may be associated with poor blood sugar control, according to a new study.

Fructose, the sugar widely used as high-fructose corn syrup in soft drinks and processed foods, often gets some of the blame for the widespread rise in obesity. Now a laboratory study has found that when fructose is present as children's fat cells mature, it makes more of these cells mature into fat cells in belly fat and less able to respond to insulin in both belly fat and fat located below the skin.

A diet rich in natural antioxidants improves insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant obese adults and enhances the effect of the insulin-sensitizing drug metformin, a preliminary study from Italy finds.

via esciencse news

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sense of Touch Shapes Snap Judgment

Sitting in a hard chair can literally turn someone into a hardass. Holding a heavy clipboard leads to weighty decisions. Rubbing rough surfaces makes us prickly. So found researchers studying the interaction between physical touch and social cognition.

The experiments included would-be car buyers who, when seated in a cushy chair, were less likely to drive a stiff bargain. The findings don’t just suggest tricks for salesman, but may illuminate how our brains develop.

Other research shows that the brain doesn’t always have different structures for different functions, but often uses the same systems in a variety of ways. And given the importance of touch, it’s easy for developing brains to use tactile associations — heaviness requires effort, roughness leads to friction, hard objects are inflexible — in understanding social situations.

“Those connections that people have, between physical experience and mental understanding, don’t ever disappear,” said Ackerman.

Read More http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/06/touching-cognition/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wiredscience+%28Blog+-+Wired+Science%29#ixzz0rxMKhXka

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cell Transplants for Macular Degeneration

Interesting that the neural stem cells create a new layer in between the photoreceptor cell layer and RPE cell layer, as described in this article. I am sure that this was unanticipated. Fascinating that some how positive visual results are obtained. 
A second company mentioned later in the article has apparently patented the process of developing human stem cells into RPE cells, the latter of which is the cell type of concern in a number of retinal diseases. 

A stem-cell startup aims to test neural stem cells for treating two leading causes of blindness.


The implanted cells don't actually develop into new photoreceptors; in fact, they appear to maintain their undifferentiated state. So it's not clear how they protect against blindness. "The neuroprotective effect in the rats is interesting, but the mechanism is still pretty obscure," says Thomas Reh, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington, in Seattle, who was not involved in the study.
Raymond Lund, a scientist at the Casey Eye Institute at Oregon Health Sciences University who collaborated on the study, says the cells "seem to somehow bypass the defect without actually correcting it." This may be because the cells make growth factors known to keep damaged cells alive, says Lund, who has also tested the cells in a different animal model of blindness. Another hypothesis is that the cells help clear cellular debris that builds up in the retinas of these rats and harms the photoreceptors

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Colbert: Rand Paul Inspired Me To Exercise My Right To Call Myself An Ophthalmologist

This is a hilarious skit in which Stephen  Colbert takes on Rand Paul here and self-certifies as an ophthalmologist
I love his improvised glaucoma test :) and his ocular motility exam.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
USA Board of Ophthalmological Freedom
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorFox News

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Africa and the Surgical Imbalance

The surgical imbalance that Kushner talks about may make it onto the G20 agenda and is the focus of a recent paper co-authored by Surgeons OverSeas, of which he is a co-founder, and the World Health Organization.
In it, researchers examined 132 health-care facilities in eight developing countries only to find that many of the operating room elements vital to safe surgery sometimes couldn't be found.
Four essential items — oxygen, water, electricity and an anesthesia machine — were "always available" in only 21, 50, 36 and 32 per cent of the facilities, respectively.
Indeed, in some places, some or all of these items were "never available," the study reported.

Believing is Seeing

Langer et al. do experiments showing that vision can be improved by manipulating our mind-set:

via SimoleonSense

Learn how to do a colonoscopy and have fun at the same time

As Techcrunch states: “[Gyromaniac] is both disgusting and awesome.”

via imedicalapps

Father's Day and Mortality

Two articles from the New York Times really resonated for me last week, in light of the fact that my Dad suffered a stroke (thankfully a minor one) last week.
The first article deals with end of life issues in our current healthcare milieu: What Broke My Father's Heart
and the other is from Nicholas Kristof,--My Father's Gift to Me--whose father recently died.
He describes the toughness of the immigrant mentality, which resonated for me, as my father also suffered a number of trials, including losing his father at a young age, and a number of difficulties in  coming out of a small Indian village without electicity or plumbing to America, and eventually getting a prestigious job at the National Institutes of Health.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

When Food and Pills Clash

I appreciate articles like this from the mainstream media, which often tend to oversimplify instead of pointing out complexity in healthcare (as well as many other subjects).  To be fair, it is difficult to express complexity given limitations of space, number of words etc..In any case, this article getis it right.

Fresh Concerns on How Diet and Medicines Interact, From Pepper to Pomegranate..
Grapefruit is one of the most extensively studied foods for its impact on medication. Compounds in the fruit can increase the potency of statins and other medications to potentially dangerous levels by inhibiting cytochrome P450, a family of enzymes that break down the drug. Research indicates that drinking just one eight-ounce cup of grapefruit juice a day increases the strength of the drug.

Recently, animal and laboratory studies have suggested that other fruits, including pomegranates, oranges (especially those from Seville), cranberries, grapes and black mulberries, could have a similar, although less robust, effect on statins in the body. Pomegranates and cranberries are frequently touted as healthy foods because of their high quantities of antioxidants, which supposedly remove free radicals from the body and slow the onset of disease and aging.

In the lab, some scientists' work raises similar concern about olive oil and some statins. The oil, a principal part of the Mediterranean diet and believed to lower the risk of heart disease, also appears to contain compounds that inhibit the drug's breakdown, according to researchers in Spain. The effects of olive oil likely aren't as strong as that of grapefruit, but more studies are needed to figure out what quantities might actually impact humans, say experts.

Bill Gates and Warren Buffet Aim for $600 Billion Pledge for Charity

In the world's biggest demonstration of philanthropy, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are asking the world's billionaires to contribute at least 50 percent of their weath to charity: a total of $600 billion.

Retina Implant AG Presents New Insights into Artificial Vision for the Blind at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology Annual Meeting

REUTLINGEN, Germany--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Retina Implant, AG, a leading developer of subretinal implants for the visually impaired, today announced the presentation of findings from their first clinical trial in which blind patients were able to view and , which is the case for other implants in which a camera is mounted to the patient’s head. The presentation delivered by lead author, Professor Eberhart Zrenner, M.D., director and chairman of the Institute for Ophthalmic Research at the Center for Ophthalmology of the University of Tuebingen, Germany, is one of twelve Retina Implant-related presentations being presented at the 2010 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) annual meeting convening May 2-6 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Future of Our Illusions

Sometimes, the reason you don't discuss the gorilla in the room is that you never notice it's there. That, literally, is what cognitive neuroscientists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons discovered at Harvard a decade ago, using an ingeniously simple approach.
First, they created a short film of students passing a basketball to one another. The clip was largely unremarkable except for the fact that, about halfway though, an actor in a gorilla suit sauntered through the group of basketball-tossers, pounded his chest and then continued walking. Total screen time: nine seconds.
The mini-movie was then shown to experiment-subjects, who were told to keep track of the total number of passes that they observed during the minute-long film. Distracted by their task, about half the viewers reported never seeing the gorilla. They were shocked to learn of its existence.
In "The Invisible Gorilla," Messrs. Chabris and Simons argue that the illusion of attention (as they categorize the gorilla demonstration) is but one of many"everyday illusions" that obscure our perceptions and cause us to place.

Impaired insulin signaling links food to mood

VANDERBILT (US)—Defects in insulin action—which occur in diabetes and obesity—could directly contribute to psychiatric disorders like schizophrenia.

Scientists have found a molecular link between impaired insulin signaling in the brain and schizophrenia-like behaviors in mice.

Florence Nightingale, A Nurse Who Cared

Florence Nightingale spent most of her life trying to boost hospital care.
In the process, she created the modern profession of nursing.
She did it despite spending so many years as an invalid.
"The scope of that work, relentlessly pursued, with manifold projects always being tackled simultaneously, is one of the most remarkable aspects ... of Florence Nightingale's life, made all the more extraordinary by the fact that such a workload would have defeated most able-bodied individuals, let alone ... someone suffering from a chronic and debilitating illness," Mark Bostridge wrote in the most recent biography, "Florence Nightingale."
At 16, Nightingale felt inspired to devote her life to helping humanity.
"God called me in the morning and asked me would I do good for him

You Know You're a Doctor When...

Medical (Ophthalmology) humor from Dr. Wes here...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Brazil Prepares for Match With North Korea

JOHANNESBURG — Soccer in Brazil resembles figure skating in that artistry is no less important than performance. 
In Brazil, the public frets that the national team’s once dazzling samba style has assumed a more martial beat. Dunga has been widely criticized for relying more on the imposing, muscular defense of a player like Lúcio, galloping counterattacks by right back Maicon, and the set-piece artistry of Dani Alves than the beautiful game of the days of Pelé.
Brazil, along with Spain, is favored to win the tournament. But many Brazilians lament that victory would be achieved with insufficient elegance and flamboyance. Socrates, a star on the country’s 1982 World Cup team, recently said that Dunga’s style was "an affront to our culture."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Michael Shermer: The pattern behind self-deception

Interesting talk with a somewhat disturbing ending..

Safety of Sunscreens

Here is a nice review of  everything you need to know about sunscreen from the Suture for a Living blog.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Want To Get Faster, Smarter? Sleep 10 Hours

As someone who used to limit myself to 3 hours of sleep/night and who now gets  7 hours a night , I can personally attest to numerous benefits of more zzzz's.

World Cup Calendar

Nice way to keep track of the game schedule via a sundial image here.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Michelangelo's secret message in the Sistine Chapel: A juxtaposition of God and the human brain

At the age of 17 he began dissecting corpses from the church graveyard. Between the years 1508 and 1512 he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Michelangelo Buonarroti—known by his first name the world over as the singular artistic genius, sculptor and architect—was also an anatomist, a secret he concealed by destroying almost all of his anatomical sketches and notes. Now, 500 years after he drew them, his hidden anatomical illustrations have been found—painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, cleverly concealed from the eyes of Pope Julius II and countless religious worshipers, historians, and art lovers for centuries—inside the body of God.

Regaining the Rainbow: A Gene Therapy Approach to Color Blindness

Interesting article here from Scientific American on genetically engineering a cure for color blindness and the interplay between retinal photoreceptors and brain plasticity(affects 8% of men and less than 1% of woman as it as an X linked trait).
Color Correction
Unlike humans, most mammals possess just two kinds of retinal cones. Thus, mice, cats and dogs see the world much the way a red-green color-blind person does, making them ideal experimental subjects. A few years ago scientists at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine inserted the gene for the human L-type photopigment into mice. After several generations of breeding, the mice responded to the extra hue information. They had changed from dichromats to trichromats—a remarkable feat of bioengineering. The experiment also showed that mouse brains are flexible enough to receive and make use of the additional wavelength information.
An even more ambitious experiment, extending over a decade, came recently to fruition.

Why Patients Aren’t Getting the Shingles Vaccine

I have long wondered what are the obstacles to shingles vaccinations in adults, having seen the potentially devastating effects in a number of patients. This article addresses this issues....


Although only one dose is required, the vaccination costs $160 to $195 per dose, 10 times more than other commonly prescribed adult vaccines; and insurance carriers vary in the amount they will cover. Thus, while the overwhelming majority of doctors in the study did not hesitate to strongly recommend immunizations against influenza and pneumonia, they could not do the same with the shingles vaccine.
“It’s just a shot, not a pap smear or a colonoscopy,” said Dr. Laura P. Hurley, lead author and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado in Denver. “But the fact is that it is an expensive burden for all patients, even those with private insurance and Medicare because it is not always fully reimbursed.”

New surgical route to brain: The eyes have it

Surgeons can now safely and effectively operate inside the human brain through a small incision in the natural creases of an eyelid.

Friday, June 11, 2010

How many megapixels are your eyes?

“The eye is not a single frame snapshot camera. It is more like a video stream. The eye moves rapidly in small angular amounts and continually updates the image in one’s brain to “paint” the detail. [There is also the issue of saccades and what happens during those] We also have two eyes, and our brains combine the signals to increase the resolution further. We also typically move our eyes around the scene to gather more information. Because of these factors, the eye plus brain assembles a higher resolution image than possible with the number of photoreceptors in the retina.”
The following calculation shows the equivalent megapixel number of the human eye viewing a scene.

Jazz Vocalist Cassandra Wilson

Cassandra Wilson--a beautiful person and an incredible jazz vocalist loves some of my favorite French wines--shouldn't be surprised I suppose!
Mississippi-born singer stocks her recording sessions with quality wine.
Grammy award-winning jazz vocalist Cassandra Wilson is the smoky-voiced songwriter known for indelible opuses such as "Blue Light Til Dawn," "Traveling Miles," "New Moon Daughter" and "Loverly." Wilson, 54, is also a passionate wine lover who stocks her recording sessions with her favorite bottles to the point that the studio time almost becomes, in her words, "a food-and-wine tasting." The Mississippi native spoke with Wine Spectator about what wines she likes to have on tour, the role wine has played in her music, and her desire to develop her own wine label.
Wine Spectator: What types of wine do you like?
Cassandra Wilson: I love French white wines. When I’m shopping, I may get something from the Loire Valley—Sancerre and Vouvray, for example. Or I may get a Viognier. I like Château de Puligny-Montrachet Clos du Château. But I also like Robert Mondavi Coastal Private Selection Chardonnay.

Gulf Oil Spill Pictures: Birds, Fish, Crabs Coated

Shouldering the weight of heavy oil spewed from the Gulf of Mexico's Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a brown pelican struggles in sludgy surf on East Grand Terre Island, Louisiana, Friday.
Nearly 800 dead birds, sea turtles, dolphins, and other animals have been found in the Gulf and on its shores, according to federal authorities cited by the Associated Press.
But the real story may be the rate at which animals are being affected by oil, which appears to have accelerated drastically in recent days.

The Goldilocks Principle of Obesity

Both low dopamine and high dopamine states associated with overeating.
Uveal Blues
How pleasurable and desirable does this image of chocolate cake appear to you? 

Research has shown that the more tempting this cake looks to you, the greater the chances you’ll take a bite of real cake, followed by another bite, and another. Before you know it, you may eventually find yourself like 34% of U.S. adults -- obese. But what if I told you that viewing this picture as not rewarding enough might also lead you down the path too obesity? Interesting article discusses latest research in this regard here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Creative Logos

Click here for some creative, amazing logos such as the one below...

Milk from grass-fed cows may be better

If milk does the heart good, it might do even more if it comes from dairy cows grazed on grass instead of on feedlots, according to a US study.
Earlier studies have shown that cows on a diet of fresh grass produce milk with five times as much of an unsaturated fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than cows fed processed grains.
Studies in animals have suggested that CLAs can protect the heart, and help in weight loss.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

iPhone 4's 'Retina Display' claims exaggerated...

But what a great name!

Display expert Raymond Soneira has a bone to pick with Steve Jobs. You know that little comparison Steve made between the human retina and the resolution of his "Retina Display" featured on the upcoming iPhone 4? It's wrong, he says.

Clotted capillaries spit to survive

I wonder if a similar process might be at work in the pathogenesis of age related macular degeneration..
NORTHWESTERN (US)—Capillaries have a unique method of expelling debris, such as blood clots, cholesterol or calcium plaque, that blocks the flow of essential nutrients to brain cells.
They spit out the blockage by growing a membrane that envelopes the obstruction and then shoves it out of the blood vessel.
“The slowdown may be a factor in age-related cognitive decline and may also explain why elderly patients who get strokes do not recover as well as younger patients,” explains Jaime Grutzendler, assistant professor of neurology and of physiology atNorthwestern University. “Their recovery is much slower.”

Make Your Own 3D Glasses in 10 Seconds

Create 3-D Glasses at Home!

The basic 3D glasses are available for around 99¢ on eBay but if you want them right now, you can build your own using a spare CD jewel case and some permanent marker pens.

Findings May Alter Care for Early Breast Cancer

CHICAGO — For many women with early-stage breast cancer, treatment may become considerably less arduous, researchers say.
A new study found that certain women getting a lumpectomy may not need an operation to remove underarm lymph nodes, a procedure that can leave them with painfully swollen arms. Compared with not removing the nodes, the surgery did not prolong survival or prevent recurrence of the cancer.
And a second study found that a single dose of radiation, delivered directly to the site of the tumor right after a woman has a lumpectomy, was as effective as the six or so weeks of daily radiation treatments that most women now endure.

The Vanishing Oath

Ribates has a quick review of what seems to be an interesting documentary on physician burnout in the U.S., entitled "The Vanishing Oath," here.
Dr. Wes has a review here.

My take on this? Many physicians in the U.S. are discontent and disillusioned--not necessarily because of disease complexity--but because of the issues of liability, paperwork, and dealing with insurance companies and the games they play.
 In the Third World, disease complexity is much higher, potential outcomes of greater significance to the individual, e.g. many patients may only have a chance of vision with one eye and their livelihoods and even survival may depend on a successful medical/surgical outcome, and payment is often in the form of gratitude (which can be tremendously uplifting).
It continues to be very refreshing even now for me to continue doing international trips with organizations such as Orbis.

Doctors and Hospitals Say Goals on Computerized Records Are Unrealistic

I love technology as much as anyone I know, however this article points out the flaws with the current guidelines for electronic health records (EHR). It also does not point out the very important point that when legislation was written for EHR, it was written such that the software companies have no liability for the glitches in their product. Instead this issue gets added as yet another layer of liability to physicians and hospitals.

WASHINGTON — In February 2009, as part of legislation to revive the economy, Congress provided tens of billions of dollars to help doctors and hospitals buy equipment to computerize patients’ medical records.
But the eligibility criteria proposed by the Obama administration are so strict and so ambitious that hardly any doctors or hospitals can meet them, not even the most technologically advanced providers likeKaiser Permanente and Intermountain Healthcare.
Doctors and hospital executives, who have expressed their frustration in meetings with White House and Medicare officials, said the issue offered a cautionary tale of what could happen when good intentions meet the reality of America’s fragmented health care system.
In meetings at the White House, doctors and hospital executives have conveyed the same message: the president’s all-or-nothing approach could discourage efforts to adopt electronic health records because some of the proposed standards are impossibly high and the risk of failure is great. They pleaded with the administration to take a more gradual approach and reward incremental progress.

The Devil's Disease: Dengue Fever

A fascinating summary of the machinations of the Dengue Virus and the difficulties in creating a vaccine for this disease, which is a leading cause of hospitalization in eight tropical Asian countries and which has also been seen recently in the U.S. --from the Johns Hopkins School  of Public Health.

Spiking fever, searing muscle and joint pain, blood seeping through the skin, shock and possibly death—the severest form of dengue fever can inflict unspeakable misery. Once rare, dengue fever now threatens more than 2.5 billion people. What will it take to stop an old disease spreading with a new vengeance?

Some 2,000 years ago in the Nile region of Egypt, a deadly pathogen confined within a specific species of mosquito found a way to thrive in a new host: human beings. Curiously, a legend among peoples in those ancient times bears striking parallels. In it, Allah punishes a sinful leader called Nimrod by inserting a mosquito into his brain. Driven mad by the insect’s buzzing, Nimrod begs a servant to crack open his skull, allowing the mosquito to fly free.

Ka-dinga pepo, marked by its bright red rash, first appeared in isolated epidemics in tropical and subtropical regions. But as the centuries passed, the mosquito that transmitted the virus stowed away with slave traders and rum-runners, slowly taking hold in new surroundings across the world. By the 17th century, it reached the docks of Boston and Philadelphia.

Everywhere, it infected humans—most frequently children—with spiked fevers, terrible pain in joints, muscles, bones and behind the eyes. It could even cause blood to ooze through the pores. It acquired a variety of graphic names, the best known of them attributed to Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Rush treated an outbreak in 1780 Philadelphia and, observing the misery afflicting its victims, called it “Break Bone Fever.” In Swahili, however, it was still known as ka-dinga pepo, a disease of the devil. It was but a short linguistic jump for it to become known worldwide as dengue fever.

Whatever its origins, scientists, medical professionals and disease control experts are concerned now with the most recent history of dengue (pronounced DEN-ghee). Before 1950, a typical world map depicting affected regions contained few flecks of color. A dab in Africa, a small glob in Southeast Asia, a sliver of color in South America. Today, it’s as if a can of paint spilled across the bottom half of the map.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Gates Foundation Signals New Focus on Maternal, Child Health

WASHINGTON -- The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said it will spend $1.5 billion over the next five years on maternal and child health, family planning and nutrition in developing countries, a pledge that signals a new focus for the foundation known for concentrating on vaccines and AIDS.
Melinda Gates said the foundation was taking the lead to jumpstart a global effort. She urged world leaders in the developing and industrialized world to also do their part to prevent mothers and babies from dying. "It is going to take government effort and investment," she said at a women's health conference where she made the announcement.

Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price

Personally, I find  a fresh cup of cappucino topped off with a web related"dopamine squirt" a great way to start the day...
SAN FRANCISCO — When one of the most important e-mail messages of his life landed in his in-box a few years ago, Kord Campbell overlooked it.
Not just for a day or two, but 12 days. He finally saw it while sifting through old messages: a big company wanted to buy his Internet start-up.

“I stood up from my desk and said, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,’ ” Mr. Campbell said. “It’s kind of hard to miss an e-mail like that, but I did.”
The message had slipped by him amid an electronic flood: two computer screens alive with e-mail, instant messages, online chats, a Web browser and the computer code he was writing. (View an interactive panorama of Mr. Campbell's workstation.)
While he managed to salvage the $1.3 million deal after apologizing to his suitor, Mr. Campbell continues to struggle with the effects of the deluge of data. Even after he unplugs, he craves the stimulation he gets from his electronic gadgets. He forgets things like dinner plans, and he has trouble focusing on his family.
His wife, Brenda, complains, “It seems like he can no longer be fully in the moment.”
This is your brain on computers.

Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.
These play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.

Blood pressure monitor for the visually impaired

This blood pressure monitor helps the blind and visually impaired to make health checks independently. The monitor has an integrated measurement system that measures accurately the blood pressure and after this, different bumps raise on the surface. The bumps are triggered by a microcomputer. Braille is thus displayed

Meditation 101: Remain calm, see clearly

UC DAVIS (US)—Visual perception and sustained attention can be improved through intensive mental training and meditation, new research shows.

The visual attention experiments were based on tests traditionally used to assess vigilance in radar operators and other professions requiring long durations of uninterrupted attention: participants had to watch lines appearing on a screen and click a mouse when they saw lines that were shorter than others.
By midway through the retreat, meditators had become better at making fine visual distinctions. They were able to identify a smaller difference between “long” and “short” lines, and were better able to sustain attention during the half-hour test. Those findings are consistent with Buddhist claims that meditation cultivates “attentional vividness.”
People who continued practicing meditation after the retreat still showed improvements in perception when they were retested about five months later.

Dermatology could serve as model for e-visits

Ophthalmology also lends itself well to telemedicine...

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Spooky Eyes: Using Human Volunteers to Witness Quantum Entanglement

It sure seems like it would be neat to be able to visualize quantam entanglement as discussed in this article from Scientific American.

Quantum physicists have a novel plan for an experiment that uses the human eye to detect "spooky action at a distance"

The mysterious phenomenon known as quantum entanglement—where objects seemingly communicate at speeds faster than light to instantaneously influence one another, regardless of their distance apart—was famously dismissed by Einstein as "spooky action at a distance." New experiments could soon answer skeptics by enabling people to see entangled pulses of light with the naked eye.
Photons make up light—and the fact that scientists regularly entangle these tiny packets of energy raised the possibility that humans might actually be able to observe this effect. Now experiments to shoot entangled photons at the human eye are under development, and should take place later this year. "It's fascinating that entanglement is something we could see with the naked eye—it brings us closer to this strange quantum phenomenon," notes researcher Nicolas Gisin, a quantum physicist at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.

Combined speech synthesis and Digital Camera Low Vision Device

A smart fellow from Sweden designed this in only two months!
It can translate text to speech as well as act as a magnifyer!
via  Tuvie

Einstein's Brain Unlocks Some Mysteries Of The Mind

In the 55 years since Albert Einstein's death, many scientists have tried to figure out what made him so smart.
In The Name Of Science
How that happened is a bizarre story that involves a dead genius, a stolen brain, a rogue scientist and a crazy idea that turned out not to be so crazy.

Does the Internet Make You Smarter?

This is a great article comparing the explosion in information via the internet to previous publishing revolutions by Clay Shirkey in the WSJ.

We are living through a similar explosion of publishing capability today, where digital media link over a billion people into the same network. This linking together in turn lets us tap our cognitive surplus, the trillion hours a year of free time the educated population of the planet has to spend doing things they care about. In the 20th century, the bulk of that time was spent watching television, but our cognitive surplus is so enormous that diverting even a tiny fraction of time from consumption to participation can create enormous positive effects.
The past was not as golden, nor is the present as tawdry, as the pessimists suggest, but the only thing really worth arguing about is the future. It is our misfortune, as a historical generation, to live through the largest expansion in expressive capability in human history, a misfortune because abundance breaks more things than scarcity. We are now witnessing the rapid stress of older institutions accompanied by the slow and fitful development of cultural alternatives. Just as required education was a response to print, using the Internet well will require new cultural institutions as well, not just new technologies.

Three Easy Upgrades for Late Adopters

Nice summary from the NY Times of relatively easy ways to share digital media...

Friday, June 04, 2010

The Oil Spills We Don't Hear About

The disastrous BP oil spill is now believed to be the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

'The Shallows': This Is Your Brain Online

Try reading a book while doing a crossword puzzle, and that, says author Nicholas Carr, is what you're doing every time you use the Internet.
Carr is the author of the Atlantic article Is Google Making Us Stupid? which he has expanded into a book, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains.

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