Tuesday, May 31, 2011

For Those With Diabetes, Older Drugs Are Often Best

I like the fact that the article notes that the cheapest way to fight diabetes is with lifestyle changes.

WHEN it comes to prescription drugs, newer is not necessarily better. And that’s especially true when treating diabetes.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Tinted lenses clear migraine pain

By normalizing activity in the brain’s visual cortex, precision-tinted lenses are able to ease the often debilitating pain experienced by migraine sufferers.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Study Questions Treatment Used in Heart Disease

WASHINGTON — Lowering bad cholesterol levels reduces heart attack risks, and researchers have long hoped that raising good cholesterol would help, too. Surprising results from a large government study announced on Thursday suggest that this hope may be misplaced.

The results are part of a string of studies that suggest that what doctors thought they knew about cholesterol may be wrong. Studies that track patients over time have for decades shown that patients with higher levels of high-density lipoproteins (H.D.L., or good cholesterol) tend to live longer and have fewer heart problems than those with lower levels of this cholesterol.
Not surprisingly, doctors thought that if they could raise H.D.L. levels, their patients would benefit. So far, that assumption is not panning out. Nobody knows why.


Raiding a Brothel in India

Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times continues to keep us aware of the profound tragedies affecting much of the world--this is an incredibly poignant and sad example..
India probably has more modern slaves than any country in the world. It has millions of women and girls in its brothels, often held captive for their first few years until they grow resigned to their fate. China surely has more prostitutes, but they are typically working voluntarily. India’s brothels are also unusually violent, with ferocious beatings common and pimps sometimes even killing girls who are uncooperative.
Unicef has estimated that worldwide 1.8 million children enter the sex trade each year. Too many are in the United States, which should prosecute pimps much more aggressively, but the worst abuses take place in countries like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Cambodia.
So I set off with the I.J.M. investigator (who wants to remain anonymous for his own safety) into the alleys of the Sonagachi red-light district one evening, slipped into the brothel, and climbed to the third floor. And there were Chutki and three other girls in a room, a pimp hovering over them. Perceiving us as potential customers, he offered them to us.
We demurred but said we’d be back...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Commodity Prices and Paradigm Shifts

But there is a paradigm shift underway, maybe even the mother of all paradigm shifts, and it is coming from a direction where Grantham and other bears are not looking.
The real paradigm shift, or more like a paradigm drift, because it is slowly enveloping us, is that we are moving toward preferences and lifestyle where we will simply consume less. A lot less. Like improvements in efficiency, changes in tastes and preferences are nothing new, but this time is different.

The real paradigm shift, or more like a paradigm drift, because it is slowly enveloping us, is that we are moving toward preferences and lifestyle where we will simply consume less. A lot less. Like improvements in efficiency, changes in tastes and preferences are nothing new, but this time is different.
I have already discussed this in previous posts on life in the experience machine and the world of smaller scale. In The Accidental Egalitarian I make the point that with the increased focus on technology – where we spend more and more of our time on our cell phone, doing emails, watching DVDs and surfing the web – there is less of a difference between how the super rich and the reasonably well off spend their time hour by hour during their typical days. The point of that post is that in practical terms the income gap is not as large as it might seem; that several orders of magnitude differences in income don’t make all that much difference in what these people do with their time. The point here is a corollary: those activities do not require much in the way of material consumption, and therefore not much in terms of commodities.
People who are staring at a tsunami of demand for commodities from the developing world and predicting a doomsday of $400 oil and $4000 gold are missing the longer-term retreating tide of demand as citizens of the developed world actually demand decreasing amounts of energy, large goods, and heavy infrastructure. We won't be packing up and moving to Mars, as the science fiction solutions to resource depletion propose. We will pack up and move into the virtual world.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

25 More Tech Tips and Tricks

The Body Weight-Muscle Mismatch

How muscles recognize changes in body weight — and why sometimes they don’t — are questions that are likely to have relevance for people, and not just lab rats. Studies have found that “individuals who are extremely overweight often complain that moving is difficult,” said James H. Marden, a professor of biology at Penn State and co-author of the rat study. It’s possible that their muscular strength is not keeping pace with their growing body size.
But why there should be such a mismatch between body weight and muscle strength is unknown.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Invisibility Cloak: Scientists Achieve Optical Invisibility in Visible Light Range of Spectrum

ScienceDaily (May 18, 2011) — "Seeing something invisible with your own eyes is an exciting experience," say Joachim Fischer and Tolga Ergin. For about one year, both physicists and members of the team of Professor Martin Wegener at KIT's Center for Functional Nanostructures (CFN) have worked on refining the structure of the Karlsruhe invisibility cloak to such an extent that it is also effective in the visible spectral range.

In invisibility cloaks, light waves are guided by the material such that they leave the invisibility cloak again as if they had never been in contact with the object to be disguised. Consequently, the object is invisible to the observer. The exotic optical properties of the camouflaging material are calculated using complex mathematical tools.

An Electrical Jolt for Paralysis Research

In a potential breakthrough for the treatment of spinal-cord injuries, a man paralyzed below the chest has regained some ability to move and stand through the use of electrical stimulation coupled with intense physical rehabilitation—a combination previously shown to work only in animals.

"I didn't move a toe for four years," said Mr. Summers. "I stood up on the third day they turned the stimulator on," he said. "There are not enough words to describe how I felt."
Under stimulation, Mr. Summers is also able to voluntarily move his hips, ankles and toes. And he has gotten back some bladder and sexual function.

"This probably changes the field fairly dramatically," said Ronald Reeves, vice chairman of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who wasn't involved in the research. "It's the first time that there's compelling scientific evidence that you can, with the electrostimulation of the spinal cord, create a favorable motor response."
As in most spine injuries, Mr. Summers' spinal cord wasn't totally severed, though the damage was severe enough to prevent the brain from signaling the spinal cord to initiate movement.

"This probably changes the field fairly dramatically," said Ronald Reeves, vice chairman of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who wasn't involved in the research. "It's the first time that there's compelling scientific evidence that you can, with the electrostimulation of the spinal cord, create a favorable motor response."

Hospitals Misleading Patients About Benefits of Robotic Surgery, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (May 19, 2011) — An estimated four in 10 hospital websites in the United States publicize the use of robotic surgery, with the lion's share touting its clinical superiority despite a lack of scientific evidence that robotic surgery is any better than conventional operations, a new Johns Hopkins study finds.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

One Runner’s Suffering Is Another’s Inspiration

Do we run because we like the pain?

The problem, it seems, is that we have only one word, “pain,” for something that should have many descriptors, as in the old legend that Eskimos have many words for snow.
Markus Amann, a muscle researcher at the University of Utah and the Salt Lake City Veterans Affairs Medical Center, says that what actually stops or slows most people during exercise is fatigue, not pain. It is regulated by a group of nerve fibers, the so-called ergoreceptors, that respond to a combination of metabolites released by muscles during exercise — calcium ions, lactate, hydrogen ions. In response, the brain “decides” to slow down, Dr. Amann explained.

Ins and Outs of Using Gadgetry

Fats in milk may not harm heart

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Does Late-Night Eating Cause Weight Gain?


With World Support, an Ambitious Plan Would Vaccinate 90 Percent of Infants

Haiti, which did a poor job of vaccinating its children even before the 2010 earthquake, has come up with a plan to immunize 90 percent of its newborns by 2015, the Pan American Health Organization announced last week.

The country now needs over $100 million to carry it out.

The Value of Comparison

The recently released CATT trial showed that Lucentis and  Avastin were essentially equivalent in treating wet ARMD. The fact of the matter is that retina specialists using avastin have saved Medicare and insurance companies millions upon millions of dollars. In response, ironically, Medicare decreased the already minimal reimbursement for the injection component of administering the medication by doctors. One could have further argued that Medicare should indeed have put into place an incentive program to reward physicians  that saved Medicare so much money by using avastin!!

Before you take a drug or undergo a medical procedure, wouldn’t you want to be sure it is the most effective and, if possible, the least costly available?
That is the idea behind so-called comparative effective research that is part of the health care reform law. Unfortunately, in the effort to win Republican support (support that never materialized), the bill’s sponsors agreed to bar Medicare from using comparative studies to determine which treatments to pay for. Critics charged it would mean more bureaucratic interference and a step toward socialized medicine.
The shortsightedness of that thinking was made clear last month when results were released of a government-sponsored study comparing two drug treatments for macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in older Americans.
Both drugs are made by Genentech. Even so, there is a vast difference in their cost and, until now, uncertainty about their relative effectiveness.
Clinical trials sponsored by Genentech showed that Lucentis is highly effective in preserving and improving vision. The cost per monthly dose, however, was set by the company at $2,000. Enterprising eye doctors quickly realized they could get similar results by using Avastin in small doses. Avastin can cost thousands of dollars a month for the quantities used to treat cancer, but the doses suitable for injection into the eye cost about $50 a month.

An Eye for an Eye: Iran's Blinding Justice System

Iran's judiciary has postponed the blinding of a man as punishment for throwing acid in the face of a young woman in 2004, after she rejected his offer of marriage. The delay came in the face of mounting outcry from both inside Iran and the West over the sentence, which is permissible under qesas, a principle of Islamic law allowing victims analogous retribution for violent crimes.
Bahrami, who was scheduled to administer the blinding drops to an anesthetized Movahedi herself, learned of the delay outside the Judiciary Hospital in Tehran. Human-rights groups and Western governments pleaded with Iranian authorities last week to call off the punishment 

96 Minutes Without a Heartbeat

New Strategies to Revive Victims of Cardiac Arrest; Improving Odds of Survival Without Brain Damage

A little-known device is shaking conventional wisdom for reviving people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest: People may be able to go much longer without a pulse than the 20 minutes previously believed.
The capnograph, which measures carbon dioxide being expelled from the mouth of the patient, can tell rescuers when further efforts at cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, are futile or whether they should be continued. It is the latest effort that cardiology experts and emergency teams are devising that aim to improve a patient's odds.

When Mama Ain’t Happy

About half of children with depressed mothers develop depression themselves, three times the typical risk, the column reports.  Children of depressed mothers are also more likely to be anxious, irritable and disruptive than other kids. They’re also more apt to have trouble in school and turn to substance abuse later in life. Many perpetuate the cycle with their own kids.
But successfully treating a mother for depression can provide long-lasting benefits for her children’s mental health, new research shows.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

400,000 women raped in 1 year

STONY BROOK U. (US) — In the Democratic Republic of Congo, more than 400,000 women ages 15 to 49 were raped in a 12-month period. That is 1,152 every day, 48 every hour, and four every five minutes

Thursday, May 12, 2011

AIDS Study Marks Prevention Breakthrough

Antiretroviral Drugs Are Shown to Make Patients Far Less Infectious

Treating AIDS patients with antiretroviral drugs makes them strikingly less infectious, researchers said Thursday, in a landmark finding that is likely to reinvigorate efforts to slow the pandemic.
The results were so overwhelming that an independent panel monitoring the research recommended the results be released four years before the large, multi-country study had been scheduled to end.
"This new finding convincingly demonstrates that treating the infected individual—and doing so sooner rather than later—can have a major impact on reducing HIV transmission," said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which provided most of the funding for the study.

Tiny Fractal-Shaped Eye Implants Could Mimic Neurons, Allowing Blind Patients to See

Retinal implants can let blind people see, but to be truly effective, they should be adapted to the human eye’s unique structure, according to one researcher. Tiny clusters of material that self-assemble into fractals could help with this, strengthening the connections between an implant and a patient’s healthy neurons.
Some vision disorders, like macular degeneration, damage the eyes’ rods and cones but leave the neurons intact. Implants work by communicating with those neurons, sending visual information to the brain to be processed. But camera chips and eyes do not work the same way, and there are insufficient connections between the neurons and the implanted photodiode light receptors.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Doing More Than Praying for Rain

In the United States, insurance against extreme weather is seen as so important that Washington subsidizes it highly and requires it for farmers who want other government benefits.  If American farmers need weather insurance, African peasant farmers need it even more.  But the vast majority of African peasant farmers have no opportunity to insure their crops.

Virtually all small farmers in Africa depend on rain for irrigation.  Most have no safety net —  a farmer planting an acre of corn twice a year can find her family nearly destitute if the crop fails because of drought early in the planting season, or too much rain later on.   She will have invested everything she has in seeds and fertilizer.  There will be nothing left for the next planting season.
Farming an acre of grain with nothing more than a strong back and a hoe has always been precarious, but now more so than ever, because of climate change.  A report from the International Food Policy Research Institute estimates that grain crop yields in Africa will shrink substantially by 2050, there will be 10 million more malnourished children than there are today and Africans on average will be eating 21 percent fewer calories than they do today.  Small farmers around the world need many different things to help them survive climate change:  seeds resistant to extreme weather and pests, cheap irrigation systems, and better agricultural infrastructure, such as more feeder roads.  But one thing that can help small farmers now is insurance.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Just How Dangerous Is Sitting All Day?

Brightly Colored Bird Feathers Inspire New Kind of Laser

A new kind of laser captures light just like some colorful bird feathers. The device mimics the nanoscale structure of colorful feathers to make high-intensity laser light with almost any color.
Certain brightly colored birds, like kingfishers or parrots, have feathers embedded with a not-quite-random arrangement of air pockets. Wavelengths of light that are related to the distance between the air pockets get scattered and built up more than others, giving the feathers their characteristic colors.
“After we learned this, we said, ‘Oh, that’s a smart idea!’” Cao said. “Can we use this to improve our lasers? Maybe we can use short-range order to enhance light confinement and make lasing more efficient.”

The SEAL Sensibility

From a member of the elite force, an inside look at the brutal training and secret work of the commandos who got Osama bin Laden.


Some men who seemed impossibly weak at the beginning of SEAL training—men who puked on runs and had trouble with pull-ups—made it. Some men who were skinny and short and whose teeth chattered just looking at the ocean also made it. Some men who were visibly afraid, sometimes to the point of shaking, made it too.
Almost all the men who survived possessed one common quality. Even in great pain, faced with the test of their lives, they had the ability to step outside of their own pain, put aside their own fear and ask: How can I help the guy next to me? They had more than the "fist" of courage and physical strength. They also had a heart large enough to think about others, to dedicate themselves to a higher purpose.
Seals during training exercises
SEALs are capable of great violence, but that's not what makes them truly special. Given two weeks of training and a bunch of rifles, any reasonably fit group of 16 athletes (the size of a SEAL platoon) can be trained to do harm. What distinguishes SEALs is that they can be thoughtful, disciplined and proportional in the use of force.


Friday, May 06, 2011

A Veteran of SEAL Team Six Describes His Training

This is an incredible account of Seal training.

I even have more respect for my Navy Seal friends than I did before.. 



The navy SEALs Team Six is so elite and secretive that its very existence has never been acknowledged by the military—even after its members led the successful assault on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. In this exclusive book excerpt, former Team Six member Howard E. Wasdin describes his progress through SEAL training and its notorious Hell Week, an unthinkably brutal training gauntlet designed to separate the born warriors from the merely mortal.


Bug alchemy: Gold and silver beetles shine with structural color

All that glitters is not gold. That metallic glint might be sunlight bouncing off a beetle's shell. The Chrysina aurigans [left] and Chrysina limbata [right] specimens shown here bear such an uncanny resemblance to polished nuggets of gold and silver it may be hard to believe that their exoskeletons are made of the same stuff—chitin—that covers drab cockroaches and crayfish.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

How the Illusion of Being Observed Can Make You a Better Person

Even a poster with eyes on it changes how people behave.

Musicians' Brains Highly Developed

ScienceDaily (May 5, 2011) — New research shows that musicians' brains are highly developed in a way that makes the musicians alert, interested in learning, disposed to see the whole picture, calm, and playful. The same traits have previously been found among world-class athletes, top-level managers, and individuals who practice transcendental meditation.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Patterns: An Omega-3 Fatty Acid Shows a Risky Side

Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory effects that may help protect against heart disease, studies have shown. But men with high blood levels of the omega-3 fat docosahexaenoic acid, or D.H.A., were at significantly greater risk for aggressive prostate cancer, a large study has found.
Another surprising finding was that men with the highest blood levels of trans fatty acids, which are harmful to the heart, had half the risk of aggressive prostate cancer compared with those who had the lowest levels

Camera Whimsy on iPhones

To save you the four years (and thousands of dollars) it would take you to try out all 6,500 apps, here’s a handy cheat sheet. These are the coolest, best and most useful photo apps for the iPhone, as recommended by my colleagues, my photographer friends and my Twitter followers. These apps are, to use the technical term, wicked cool.

16 Tips to Take Your iPhone to the Next Level

Beyond the realm of those basic iPhone controls is an advanced level of shortcuts and tweaks, some of which even hard-core users may not know exist.
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