Friday, October 25, 2013

Your face may have been sculpted by junk DNA

Even the prettiest faces are built using junk. In mice, the shapes of the face and skull are finely tuned by junk DNA, so called because it was initially thought to lack function since it doesn't encode proteins. The same junk DNA sequences are found in humans, so they are probably also shaping our faces.
This finding could help us make sense of some congenital conditions, such as cleft palates, that can develop even when the genes that shape the face appear to be working normally

Slow metabolism 'obesity excuse' true

The mocked "obesity excuse" of being born with a slow metabolism is actually true for some people, say researchers.
A team at the University of Cambridge has found the first proof that mutated DNA does indeed slow metabolism.
The researchers say fewer than one in 100 people are affected and are often severely obese by early childhood.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Text Messages Are Saving Swedes From Cardiac Arrest

Sweden has found a faster way to treat people experiencing cardiac emergencies through a text message and a few thousand volunteers.
A program called SMSlivräddare —or SMSLifesaver — solicits people who have been trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). When a Stockholm resident dials 112 for emergency services, a text message is sent to all volunteers within 500 meters of the person in need. The volunteer then arrives at the location within the crucial first minutes to perform lifesaving CPR. 
The odds for surviving cardiac arrest drop 10% for every minute it takes first responders to arrive.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A New Map of How We Think: Top Brain/Bottom Brain

Forget dated ideas about the left and right hemispheres. New research provides a more nuanced view of the brain

Except that it isn't. The popular left/right story has no solid basis in science. The brain doesn't work one part at a time, but rather as a single interactive system, with all parts contributing in concert, as neuroscientists have long known. The left brain/right brain story may be the mother of all urban legends: It sounds good and seems to make sense—but just isn't true.
This research reveals that the top-brain system uses information about the surrounding environment (in combination with other sorts of information, such as emotional reactions and the need for food or drink) to figure out which goals to try to achieve. It actively formulates plans, generates expectations about what should happen when a plan is executed and then, as the plan is being carried out, compares what is happening with what was expected, adjusting the plan accordingly.
The bottom-brain system organizes signals from the senses, simultaneously comparing what is being perceived with all the information previously stored in memory. It then uses the results of such comparisons to classify and interpret the object or event, allowing us to confer meaning on the world.

The Real Dirt on Face Washing

With new facial cleansers promising mild formulas that won't dry out the skin, experts say don't overscrub, overcleanse

Washing your face seems pretty simple, yet dermatologists and beauty companies think there's room for improvement.
Easy does it is the message experts have for consumers, as a new generation of facial cleansers promises mild formulas that won't dry out the skin. New devices offer deep-clean claims but with a lighter touch. Some doctors even say that people with good skin should wash their face just once a day—at night.
It's a tough sell for consumers familiar with strong formulas that can make skin feel tight and squeaky clean. Many people take that feeling as a sign of effectiveness, when actually it is a signal of overdrying or damage.
Face washing at night is most important, dermatologists say. It removes dirt, grime and pollutants that have gathered on the skin during the day, as well as makeup. Some doctors say people without a serious skin-care issue, such as acne, can skip the soap and just rinse in the morning.
"Your skin has just slept on a pillow, it is clean, it doesn't necessarily need to be washed," said Gervaise Gerstner, a Manhattan dermatologist and consultant for L'Oréal Paris. Dry skin from overcleansing is a problem for people as they age, she says.
For men, the biggest face washing issue is which product they use—or lack thereof. About half of men wash their face solely with water, says Rob Candelino, vice president of marketing for skin care at Unilever, maker of a Dove Men+Care brand. Of men who do use a cleanser, many use a bar of regular body soap, shampoo or whatever else they can find in the shower. Making matters worse, men generally don't moisturize or wear sunscreen every day and so tend to be more susceptible to drying and sun damage, Mr. Candelino says. Alcohol-based products like after-shave can also cause irritation, he says.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

How the Precious Orchid Got So Cheap

Taiwan's Efficient Growers, Who Copied Tech Industry, Bemoan Days When a Flower Fetched $100,000

Same Gene Mutations Tied to 12 Cancers

Researchers estimate that essentially all cancers are fueled by between 200 and 400 mutations, many of which are in genes that regulate molecular pathways responsible for cell growth. The mutations can cause normal cellular process to go awry, causing cancer.
Dr. Ding said that with the new study, combined with plans by an international consortium to study even more cancers, "I'm confident we are getting close to a complete list of cancer genes."

Monday, October 14, 2013

Scott Adams' Secret of Success: Failure

If you're already as successful as you want to be, both personally and professionally, congratulations! Here's the not-so-good news: All you are likely to get from this article is a semientertaining tale about a guy who failed his way to success. But you might also notice some familiar patterns in my story that will give you confirmation (or confirmation bias) that your own success wasn't entirely luck.

If you're just starting your journey toward success—however you define it—or you're wondering what you've been doing wrong until now, you might find some novel ideas here. Maybe the combination of what you know plus what I think I know will be enough to keep you out of the wood chipper.

Is Music the Key to Success?

Multiple studies link music study to academic achievement. But what is it about serious music training that seems to correlate with outsize success in other fields?
The connection isn’t a coincidence. I know because I asked. I put the question to top-flight professionals in industries from tech to finance to media, all of whom had serious (if often little-known) past lives as musicians. Almost all made a connection between their music training and their professional achievements.

They are a mystery to researchers: people who are significantly overweight and yet show none of the usual metabolic red flags. Despite their obesity, they have normal cholesterol levels, healthy blood pressure levels and no apparent signs of impending diabetes.
Researchers call them the metabolically healthy obese, and by some estimates they represent as many as a third of all obese adults. Scientists have known very little about them, but new research may shed some light on the cause of their unusual metabolic profile.
A study in the journal Diabetologia has found that compared with their healthier counterparts, people who are obese but metabolically unhealthy have impaired mitochondria, the cellular powerhouses that harvest energy from food, as well as a reduced ability to generate new fat cells.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

How Intense Study May Harm Our Workouts

Tire your brain and your body may follow, a remarkable new study of mental fatigue finds. Strenuous mental exertion may lessen endurance and lead to shortened workouts, even if, in strict physiological terms, your body still has plenty of energy reserves.
In simpler terms, exercise simply feels harder when your brain is tired, so you quit earlier, although objectively, your muscles are still somewhat fresh.

A Tiny Pronoun Says a Lot About You

Surprising new research from the University of Texas suggests that people who often say "I" are less powerful and less sure of themselves than those who limit their use of the word. Frequent "I" users subconsciously believe they are subordinate to the person to whom they are talking.
"There is a misconception that people who are confident, have power, have high-status tend to use 'I' more than people who are low status," says Dr. Pennebaker, author of "The Secret Life of Pronouns." "That is completely wrong. The high-status person is looking out at the world and the low-status person is looking at himself."
The fifth study was the most unusual. Researchers looked at email communication that the U.S. government had collected (and translated) from the Iraqi military, made public for a period of time as the Iraqi Perspectives Project. They randomly selected 40 correspondences. In each case, the person with higher military rank used "I" less.
People curb their use of "I" subconsciously, Dr. Pennebaker says. "If I am the high-status person, I am thinking of what you need to do. If I am the low-status person, I am more humble and am thinking, 'I should be doing this.' "

Building a Better Trifocal Alternative

Optical Confusion: Progressive Lens Makers Try to Fine Tune Products

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Success In Life: How Do You Measure It?

Remember the Game of Life? It’s one of the most popular board games ever. You won if you ended the game with the most money.
Here’s the interesting thing you probably don’t know: The game wasn’t always about money.
The original version was about vice, virtue and happiness. But when it was re-released in 1960 it was about cash.
When Milton Bradley (the man) first created it, he saw the game as a tool to teach children about ethics.
From my interview with Michael Norton:
Some things are hard to measure. So, “Am I a better dad than I was last year?” Well, there’s no objective scale where I can look back and someone says, “Last year you were a 71 dad. This year, you’re a 74 dad. Or spouse or whatever it might be, it’s very, very hard to know.
The things that we can know are things we can count, and one thing that is really, really easy to count is money. So, if I want to know if I’m better off this year than last year, one of the first things I can do is say, “Do I have more money?” I think that alone makes it very, very motivating

Read more:

For Better Social Skills, Scientists Recommend a Little Chekhov

Say you are getting ready for a blind date or a job interview. What should you do? Besides shower and shave, of course, it turns out you should read — but not just anything. Something by Chekhov or Alice Munro will help you navigate new social territory better than a potboiler by Danielle Steel.
That is the conclusion of a studypublished Thursday in the journal Science. It found that after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence — skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone’s body language or gauge what they might be thinking.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Disruptions: Visually Impaired Turn to Smartphones to See Their World

Luis Perez loves taking photographs. He shoots mostly on an iPhone, snapping gorgeous pictures of sunsets, vintage cars, old buildings and cute puppies. But when he arrives at a photo shoot, people are often startled when he pulls out a long white cane.
In addition to being a professional photographer, Mr. Perez is almost blind.
“With the iPhone I am able to use the same technology as everyone else, and having a product that doesn’t have a stigma that other technologies do has been really important to me,” said Mr. Perez, who is also an advocate for blind people and speaks regularly at conferences about the benefits of technology for people who cannot see. “Now, even if you’re blind, you can still take a photo.”
Smartphones and tablets, with their flat glass touch screens and nary a texture anywhere, may not seem like the best technological innovation for people who cannot see. But advocates for the blind say the devices could be the biggest assistive aid to come along since Braille was invented in the 1820s.

Intensive-Care Units Pose Long-Term Brain Risk, Study Finds

Critically ill patients who survive a stay in an intensive-care unit, where they are often heavily sedated and ventilated, can find themselves mentally impaired long after release. A new study says the problem is far more common and lasting than previously believed.
Nearly 80% of patients with prolonged ICU stays showed cognitive problems a year or more later, and more than half exhibited effects similar to Alzheimer's disease and traumatic brain injury, according to a report Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The End of Poverty, Soon

oday, more and more people are dreaming of a world free of poverty.
In April, the Development Committee of the World Bank set the goal of ending extreme poverty by the year 2030. More recently, the United Nations General Assembly working group on global goals concluded that “eradicating poverty in a generation is an ambitious but feasible goal.” As one who wrote in 2005 that ours was the generation that could end extreme poverty, I am pleased to see this idea take hold at the highest levels.
Are these errant dreams as the world barrels toward more confusion, conflict and climate change, or is there something substantial in the recent wave of high-level interest in the idea? The evidence is on the side of the optimists. And the evidence also supports both those who favor more markets and those who favor more public-private strategies. It’s all a matter of context.
The global picture will surprise doomsayers. According to the World Bank’s scorecard, the proportion of households in developing countries below the extreme-poverty line (now measured as $1.25 per person per day at international prices) has declined sharply, from 52 percent in 1980, to 43 percent in 1990, 34 percent in 1999, and 21 percent in 2010. Even sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the most recalcitrant poverty, is finally experiencing a notable decline, from 58 percent in 1999 to 49 percent in 2010.
The gains are more marked in health. According to the latest Unicef study this month, the mortality rate of children under 5 in Africa declined from 177 deaths per 1,000 births in 1990, to 155 per 1,000 births in 2000, to 98 per 1,000 in 2012. This is still too high, but the rate of progress is rapid and accelerating.

Researchers Say Hormone Therapy Good for Short-Term Use

In their most detailed analysis yet, researchers from the embattled Women's Health Initiative reiterated their conclusion that hormone therapy is a reasonable option for short-term relief of menopausal symptoms for women in their 50s but shouldn't be used to prevent chronic disease.
The study, in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week, is the latest salvo in a long-running debate over hormone therapy in the U.S.
The new JAMA study provides the most detailed breakdown yet of how the risks and benefits vary by age and type of hormone therapy, based on 13 years of study and follow-up.
For example, the risk of invasive breast cancer was 24% higher among women taking estrogen plus progestin compared with placebo, but 21% lower among women taking estrogen alone, regardless of age.
Overall, the authors said the risks of combined therapy outweighed the benefits, noting that for every 10,000 women taking the drugs, there were six more coronary events, nine more strokes, nine more pulmonary emboli and nine more cases of breast cancer, but also six fewer cases of colorectal cancer, one fewer case of endometrial cancer, six fewer hip fractures and one fewer death.

Exercise as Good as Drugs at Preventing Repeat Heart Attack, Study Finds

Exercise is as effective as drugs at preventing diabetes and repeat heart attacks, and it is potentially better than medication for averting additional strokes, according to an analysis published Tuesday.
Though the benefits of exercise are well documented, there have been few trials that directly pit exercise against medication, a "blind spot" in research, according to Huseyin Naci, one of the study authors and a fellow in pharmaceutical-policy research at Harvard Medical School.
The relatively small number of exercise trials compared with drug trials is due to a combination of factors, including better funding from drug companies and the complexity of carrying out exercise studies, according to Dr. Mead.
Exercise has also been shown to be helpful in the short term in a number of other conditions, including depression, cognition, blood pressure and cancer treatment. Dr. Naci and his colleagues plan to study some of these other diseases in future work.
He cautioned that patients with existing health conditions should talk to their doctor before stopping medication or engaging in exercise programs.

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