Archive for the ‘science’ tag
The best part of leftovers is filling up your plate again…
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(click here to continue reading Online Store – Frozen Mice, Rats, Rabbits, Guinea Pigs – About Us.)
Jeff is a Jew
Vanity Fair and a well written essay:
The author reflects on her lifelong role—above and below the Mason-Dixon Line—of being the only Jew in the room, and how an unexpected declaration by her daughter helped her reconstitute her identity. BY AMY FINE COLLINS
(click here to continue reading Jewish Like Me | Vanity Fair.)
I especially liked this paragraph, and plan to use it in the future1 :
My habitual muteness in these situations—a reflex of politeness, a journalist’s instinct to listen with a neutral ear, a female tendency to grant the other person the benefit of the doubt—doesn’t make me proud. At these moments—whether I’m “passing,” a fly on the wall, intentionally being provoked, or simply confronted with perplexing ignorance—I wish I had at my disposal the stun-gun comeback, the withering rejoinder that would silence the speaker, neutralize his words, force him to swallow even a micro-pellet of the poison that he is spewing my way.
If only I had this arrow in my quiver (and the balls to fire it) for my college friend’s D.A.R. mom and Fred Flintstone dad: When Clare Booth Luce, perhaps apocryphally, told a Jewish friend, “I’m so sick and tired of hearing about the Holocaust. Why can’t you people just get over it?” the Jewish lady replied, “I’m so sick and tired of hearing about the Crucifixion. Why can’t you people just get over it?”
I never use a hair dryer, mostly because I hate how loud they are…
“There has been zero innovation in this market for over 60 years,” said Mr. Dyson, 68, a billionaire who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2006.
“Millions of people use contraptions daily that are hideously inefficient, waste their time and are causing them long-term damage,” he said. “We realized that we could — and should — sort this situation out.”
He triumphantly held up what appeared to be a sleek black and pink plastic doughnut on a stick. “Four years, 100 odd patents and 600 prototypes later, I think we might have found the answer.”
Known as the Dyson Supersonic and unveiled in Tokyo on Wednesday, the device is his response to a question many never thought to ask: Is it possible to make a better hair dryer?
This may not seem like a big deal. A few burned scalps and frizz issues aside, people have been doing just fine with the standard hair dryer for decades. But, as Dai Fujiwara, a Japanese fashion designer who collaborated with Mr. Dyson on an Issey Miyake runway presentation, wrote in an email, “Because everyday life is too common, people rarely realize there is a problem.”
(click here to continue reading Dyson Wants to Create a Hair Dryer Revolution – The New York Times.)
Microbiome study is going to advance by leaps and bounds in the upcoming years. Here’s one tale from the front lines…
Human feces floated in saline solution in a mortar, on a marbled countertop, in a dimly lit kitchen in Burlingame, California. A bottle of ethyl alcohol, an electronic scale, test tubes, and a stack of well-worn pots and pans lay nearby. The stove light illuminated the area as Josiah Zayner crushed the shit with a pestle, creating a brownish-yellow sludge. “I think I can feel something hard in there,” he said, laughing. It was probably vegetables — “the body doesn’t break them down all the way.”
This heralded the beginning of Zayner’s bacterial makeover. He was clad in a Wu-Tang Clan T-shirt, jeans, and white socks and sandals. At his feet, James Baxter, Zayner’s one-eyed orange cat, rubbed its flank against its owner’s legs. The kitchen smelled like an outhouse in a busy campground.
Over the course of the next four days, Zayner would attempt to eradicate the trillions of microbes that lived on and inside his body — organisms that helped him digest food, produce vitamins and enzymes, and protected his body from other, more dangerous bacteria. Ruthlessly and methodically, he would try to render himself into a biological blank slate. Then, he would inoculate himself with a friend’s microbes — a procedure he refers to as a “microbiome transplant.” Zayner imagines the collection of organisms that live on him — his microbiome — as a suit. As such, it can be worn, mended, and replaced. The suit he was living with, he said, was faulty, leaving him with severe gastrointestinal pain. A new suit could solve all that. “You kind of are who you are, to a certain extent,” he said. “But with your bacteria, you can change that.”
A full bacterial overhaul like this had never been documented before — in fact, it may have been the first time it had ever been attempted. There was no evidence to suggest it would work, though there was a real risk it could make Zayner life-threateningly sick. That didn’t bother him.
(click here to continue reading A Bitter Pill | The Verge.)
Sadly, I couldn’t get this to work:
If you need reading glasses—and if you’re over about 40, you probably do—then the next couple of paragraphs will change your life. You’re about to find out how to read small type, in a pinch, without your glasses.
Maybe you’ve lost or broken your reading glasses. Or maybe you don’t feel like going upstairs to get them. Or maybe you’re naked in the shower, frantically trying read the bottles to see which one is shampoo.
Here’s the trick: Curl up your index finger, making a tiny hole. Hold it up to your dominant eye and peek through it.
Incredibly, you’ll discover that the small type you couldn’t read a moment ago is suddenly crystal clear! You can read the date on a penny, or the serial number on a product, or the instructions on a medicine bottle. It doesn’t matter if you’re nearsighted or farsighted.
(click here to continue reading Life Hack: Instant Reading Glasses – David Pogue.)
Ted Cruz was almost nobody’s favorite:
[Ted Cruz] spoke out of both sides of his scowl, itching to be the voice of the common man but equally eager to demonstrate what a highfalutin, Harvard-trained intellect he possessed. He wed a populist message to a plummy vocabulary. And while the line separating smart and smart aleck isn’t all that thin or blurry, he never could stay on the winning side of it.
He wore cowboy boots, but his favorites are made of ostrich.
Two peacocks in a pod, he and Trump, and what ghastly plumage they showed on Tuesday.
Trump somehow saw fit to bring up a National Enquirer story linking Cruz’s father to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Cruz exploded, branding Trump a “pathological liar” and “serial philanderer.” He also brought up an interview from many years ago in which Trump told Howard Stern that his effort to steer clear of sexually transmitted diseases was his “personal Vietnam.”
Where was this rant six months ago, when the Republican field was crowded and Cruz played footsie with Trump? Back then he was wagering that Trump would fade, and he wanted to be in a friendly position to inherit the billionaire’s supporters.
But by Tuesday, Trump was the main obstacle between Cruz and the Republican presidential nomination, and Cruz has just one true compass: his own advancement.
(click here to continue reading Ted Cruz’s Bitter End – The New York Times.)
How mentally ill do you have to be to want to poison strangers via fresh produce? Damn…
A man accused of sprinkling mouse poison and hand cleaner on produce at several self-service food bars in Michigan grocery stores over the last two weeks has been arrested, the F.B.I. and local police said on Tuesday.
Images taken from surveillance video at a supermarket and published online by the F.B.I. showed the man carrying a red basket in a grocery store, walking past a display of avocados and down aisles.
The man was identified by members of the public and arrested by the agency and the Ann Arbor police, but his name had not been released as of early Wednesday.
The authorities said the man was suspected of contaminating food in several Ann Arbor grocery stores, including a Whole Foods Market, a Meijer and a Plum Market, over the last two weeks
(click here to continue reading Man Is Accused of Putting Poison on Food at Michigan Stores – The New York Times.)
I will probably purchase this app late one night, I already own Animoog, and it is fun to play with:
Moog Music has been known for producing some of the most popular synthesizers since the 70s— we reviewed a couple of the newer models in our Logic Pros series and noted that iPad/Mac synths still can’t quite capture the experience of even a $1,000 Moog. But today Moog is releasing its own iPad and iPhone version of its popular $10,000 Model 15, aiming to offer a similar experience in a $30 mobile app.
Moog’s own techs helped program the app at the Moog Factory in Asheville, NC, according to the company, with the app both resembling the look and sound of the original 1970’s Model 15 hardware:
Each facet of the Moog Model 15 modular synthesizer has been meticulously recreated in this application to ensure the power and transcendent sound quality of each module remains intact. The character, harmonic complexity and mystique of the Moog Model 15s modules, from the legendary Moog 921–series oscillators and 904A Low Pass Filter, to the coveted 907 Fixed Filter Bank have been painstakingly preserved.
That means you’ll find both monophonic and 4-voice polyphonic modes with four controllers, and you can also pull up an on-screen keyboard in the traditional Moog style and layout, as well as a “1150 ribbon controller, 8-step sequencing arpeggiator and the award-winning Animoog keyboard with 22 built-in scales and polyphonic modulation capabilities.” Animoog is the company’s other very popular iOS app that it designed specifically for iPad and touchscreens.
(click here to continue reading Moog brings its $10,000 Model 15 synth to iPad and iPhone w/ new $30 app | 9to5Mac.)Footnotes:
- despite being only 1% Jewish, per DNA testing – I actually didn’t think I had any Jewish ancestors beyond Adam and Eve [↩]
Since I’m descended from the Murphy clan, who habitually drink coffee by the gallon daily for the last 70 years, I’ve always been a coffee enthusiast.
When the nation’s top nutrition panel released its latest dietary recommendations on Thursday, the group did something it had never done before: weigh in on whether people should be drinking coffee. What it had to say is pretty surprising.
Not only can people stop worrying about whether drinking coffee is bad for them, according to the panel, they might even want to consider drinking a bit more.
The panel cited minimal health risks associated with drinking between three and five cups per day. It also said that consuming as many as five cups of coffee each day (400 mg) is tied to several health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
“We saw that coffee has a lot of health benefits,” said Miriam Nelson, a professor at Tufts University and one of the committee’s members. “Specifically when you’re drinking more than a couple cups per day.”
That’s great news if you’re already drinking between three and five cups each day, which Nelson and the rest of the panel consider a “moderate” level of consumption.
(click here to continue reading It’s official: Americans should drink more coffee – The Washington Post.)
Well, I should be safe. Every morning, as part of my current coffee ritual, I pour about 1250 ml of water from my 5-stage Reverse Osmosis filter into a pot, boil it. Meanwhile, I grind fresh coffee beans in a burr grinder, and place them in a paper filter, held in place with a ceramic cone. The cone is placed above a coffee thermos, and then I pour the hot water slowly over the grounds. My carafe only holds 1000 ml, so when it is about half full, I pour out the days first cup, then continue pouring the hot water over the coffee grounds.
1250 ml is roughly 5 8 oz cups1 – that is perfect for me. Later in the day, if I need more, I’ll either make a single cup, or an espresso, or some days switch to black or green tea.
For several years, I had switched to a French press, but got tired of the film and sediment, so started making pour-over coffee again.Footnotes:
- 42.268 oz [↩]
Yummy, arsenic and lead! Gotta love our toxic society.
Analysis of commercially available rice imported into the US has revealed it contains levels of lead far higher than regulations suggest are safe.
Some samples exceeded the “provisional total tolerable intake” (PTTI) set by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by a factor of 120.
The report at the American Chemical Society Meeting adds to the already well-known issue of arsenic in rice.
The FDA told the BBC it would review the research (eventually).
Dr Tsanangurayi Tongesayi of Monmouth University in New Jersey, US, and his team have tested a number of imported brands of rice bought from local shops.
The US imports about 7% of its rice, and the team sampled packaged rice from Bhutan, Italy, China, Taiwan, India, Israel, the Czech Republic and Thailand – which accounts for 65% of US imports.
The team measured the lead levels in each country-category and calculated the lead intake on the basis of daily consumption. The results will be published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health (Part B).
“When we compared them, we realised that the daily exposure levels are much higher than those PTTIs,” said Dr Tongesayi.
“According to the FDA, they have to be more than 10 times the PTTI levels (to cause a health concern), and our values were two to 12 times higher than those 10 times,” he told BBC News.
“If you look through the scientific literature, especially on India and China, they irrigate their crops with raw sewage effluent and untreated industrial effluent,” he explained.
(click here to continue reading BBC News – US rice imports ‘contain harmful levels of lead’.)
So, when the FDA gets around to testing this, and confirming it, will the news make US headlines? Will the Agribusinesses that control our food supplies allow the FDA to do anything about it? Or will it fade into the background like the news that there is large amounts of arsenic in rice, and perchlorate in our lettuce, and yadda yadda. The Rapture is coming, yo.1
Two people died in China of the so-called bird flu, now that is a sensationalistic headline the US media can promote. Toxic food? Not so much.Footnotes:
- Not it isn’t, I’m being sarcastic! [↩]
Unsurprisingly, Rick Santorum’s understanding of science is just as piss-poor as his understanding about living in the 21st century, C.E.
There were lots of things to poke fun at in Rick Santorum’s anti-porn pledge, but the element perhaps most deserving of mockery has been widely ignored: his claim that “a wealth of research is now available demonstrating that pornography causes profound brain changes in both children and adults, resulting in widespread negative consequences.”
You want to know what’s profound? How scientifically inaccurate that statement is.
Pornography surely changes the brain in some ways — but so does everything. “Watching the NCAA playoffs is going to change your brain, eating chocolate — any time you have any kind of experience, it’s going to change your brain,” says Rory C. Reid, a research psychologist at the Neuropsychiatric Institute at UCLA. “The real question is, ‘Are those changes substantial enough that there’s going to be some observable effect?’”
As to Santorum’s claim that such damning research exists, Reid says: “Well, if there is, I’d sure like to see it!” He continues, “There’s not a single study to my knowledge that has even demonstrated half of that [claim].” Allow me to put into perspective Reid’s expertise: He not only specializes in neuropsychology but he’s also one of the world’s top experts on hypersexual behavior. If any such evidence existed, let alone “a wealth of research,” he would have seen it.
Still, he humored me by logging onto PubMed, a database maintained by the National Institutes of Health, and doing a search for any studies involving neuroimaging and pornography. Plenty of related research showed up, but none reliably demonstrate “profound” brain changes. The problem with much of the research in this arena is that it’s limited to (in nerd-speak) cross-sectional and quantitative data — it doesn’t establish a cause and effect.
In order to reliably demonstrate such a brain-damaging impact, researchers would have to engage in the sort of study that no review board would approve — especially when it comes to the impact on children. “You would have to get a group of children that had never looked at porn and then divide them into two groups,” Reid explains. They would all undergo brain scans and then half would have to be repetitively exposed to pornography before another round of brain scans. In addition to then showing “that there had been changes in the brain that would be detrimental, you’d also have to correlate that with behavioral outcomes,” he says. (That’s not even mentioning the issue of how to define pornographic material. As David Ley, a psychologist and author of “The Myth of Sex Addiction,” says, “The Supreme Court couldn’t answer that, but Santorum can?”)
(click here to continue reading Santorum’s bad porn science – Salon.com.)
Q. Family Radio evangelist Harold Camping believes that he has calculated the exact date of the rapture: May 21, 2011. While many are laughing at the suggestion, Camping’s followers are taking him seriously, bringing his message of impending doom to billboards and public spaces around the country. What does your tradition teach about the end of the world? How does end time theology impact real world behavior?
A. Why is a serious newspaper like the Washington Post giving space to a raving loon? I suppose the answer must be that, unlike the average loon, this one has managed to raise enough money to launch a radio station and pay for billboards. I don’t know where he gets the money, but it would be no surprise to discover that it is contributed by gullible followers – gullible enough, we may guess, to go along with him when he will inevitably explain, on May 22nd, that there must have been some error in the calculation, the rapture is postponed to . . . and please send more money to pay for updated billboards. So, the question becomes, why are there so many well-heeled, gullible idiots out there? Why is it that an idea can be as nuts as you like and still con enough backers to finance its advertising to acquire yet more backers . . . until eventually a national newspaper notices and makes it into a silly season filler?
I won’t waste any more time on that, but I do want to mention a less trivial point arising from the question posed by the Washington Post: ‘What does your tradition teach about the end of the world?’ It’s that word ‘tradition’ that should raise our critical hackles. It refers to a collection of beliefs handed down through generations – as opposed to beliefs founded on evidence. Evidence-free beliefs are, by definition, groundless. What my ‘tradition’ (or your ‘tradition’ or the Dalai Lama’s ‘tradition’ or Osama bin Laden’s ‘tradition’ or the bad-trip ‘tradition’ of whoever wrote Revelation) says about anything in the real world (including its end) is no more likely to be true than any urban legend, idle rumor, superstition, or science fiction novel. Yet, the moment you slap the word ‘tradition’ onto a made-up story you confer on it a spurious dignity, which we are solemnly asked to ‘respect’.
Science is not a tradition, it is the organized use of evidence from the real world to make inferences about the real world – meaning the real universe, which is, in Carl Sagan’s words, all that is, or ever was, or ever will be. Science knows approximately how, and when, our Earth will end. In about five billion years the sun will run out of hydrogen, which will upset its self-regulating equilibrium; in its death-throes it will swell, and this planet will vaporise. Before that, we can expect, at unpredictable intervals measured in tens of millions of years, bombardment by dangerously large meteors or comets. Any one of these impacts could be catastrophic enough to destroy all life, as the one that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago nearly did. In the nearer future, it is pretty likely that human life will become extinct – the fate of almost all species that have ever lived.
(click here to continue reading Science explains the end of the world – On Faith – The Washington Post.)
Fascinating. Though I’m surprised the Texas Government has not banned this sort of science since it contradicts their beliefs about a 6,000 year old earth as described in their Holy Bible. If this new discovery ever makes it to a Texas schoolbook, there will have to be a sticker claiming the carbon dating1 is just a theory, one among many, with a Jesus-Fish superimposed over the arrow heads.
For many years, scientists have thought that the first Americans came here from Asia 13,000 years ago, during the last ice age, probably by way of the Bering Strait. They were known as the Clovis people, after the town in New Mexico where their finely wrought spear points were first discovered in 1929.
But in more recent years, archaeologists have found more and more traces of even earlier people with a less refined technology inhabiting North America and spreading as far south as Chile.
And now clinching evidence in the mystery of the early peopling of America — Clovis or pre-Clovis? — for nearly all scientists appears to have turned up at a creek valley in the hill country of what is today Central Texas, 40 miles northwest of Austin.
The new findings establish that the last major human migration, into the Americas, began earlier than once thought. And the discovery could change thinking about how people got here (by coastal migrations along shores and in boats) and how they adapted to the new environment in part by making improvements in toolmaking that led eventually to the technology associated with the Clovis culture.
The Texas archaeologists said the new dig site has produced the largest number of artifacts dating to the pre-Clovis period. The dates for the sediments bearing the stone tools were determined to range from 13,200 to 15,500 years ago.
Given the lack of sufficient organic material buried around the tools, the radiocarbon dating method was useless. Instead, earth scientists at the University of Illinois, Chicago, used a newer technique known as optically stimulated luminescence. This measures light energy trapped in minerals to reveal how long ago the soil was last exposed to sunlight.
(click here to continue reading Clovis People Weren’t First in Americas, Texas Arrowheads Suggest – NYTimes.com.)
- actually optically stimulated luminescence [↩]
Looking back at my DNA data from the National Geographic Genographic Study, there was a third-party organization called FamilyTree DNA that looked at my recent ancestry. This was the free report result
12 MARKER Y-DNA MATCHES
|Country||Your Matches||Comment||Match Total||Country Total||Percentage|
|One Step Mutations|
|Country||Your Matches||Comment||Match Total||Country Total||Percentage|
Obviously, I’m a mongrel, with Scottish, Irish and England being the top three in my chart.
Welcome to the RECENT ANCESTRAL ORIGINS (RAO) database. This section displays the countries of origin reported by the people whom you match or nearly match from both our research and customer databases. Your list of matches represents the range of places in which relatives of your ancestors lived. Exact matches show people who are the closest to you genetically. Some matches, especially the more distant mismatches, are related to you before the time of surnames.
The chart displays:
- Each country from which you have matches
- The number of people you match for each country and comment combination
- Any additional information your matches provided about their origins
- The total number of people you match from that country
- The total number of people who have reported this as their country of origin
- The percent of the people we have tested from this country who match you.
Water flowing from the North Atlantic into the Arctic Ocean is warmer today than at any time in the past 2,000 years, a new study shows.
Nicolas van Nieuwenhove, IFM-Geomar, Kiel A research vessel moving through the Fram Strait northeast of Svalbard. The waters of the Fram Strait, which runs between Greenland and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, have warmed by roughly 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit over the past 100 years, the study’s authors said. The water temperatures are about 2.5 degrees higher than during the Medieval Warm Period, a period of elevated warmth between A.D. 900 and 1300.
The findings are another indication that recent global warming is atypical in the context of historical climate fluctuations, said Thomas Marchitto, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a co-author of the study.
“It doesn’t necessarily prove that the change that we see is man-made, but it does strongly point toward this being an unusual event,” Dr. Marchitto said. “On a scale of 2,000 years, it stands out dramatically as something that does not look natural.”
The scientists used cores of ocean sediment containing fossils of microscopic shelled organisms called foraminifera to reconstruct past water temperatures in the strait. They found that the abundance of a species of warmer-water foraminifera rose sharply in the past 100 years, becoming dominant over a cold-water variety for the first time in 2,000 years.
The scientists also tested the shells for levels of magnesium, which rise in tandem with water temperature.
“Both of those approaches gave us the same answers,” Dr. Marchitto said.
(click to continue reading Arctic Waters Warmer Than in 2,000 Years – NYTimes.com.)
Everyone needs a bit of extra B12, especially in the winter…
Tired? Depressed? Forgetting things? Who isn’t these days?
Those are also symptoms of a deficiency of B12, a key nutrient needed to make red blood cells and DNA and keep the nervous system working right.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is officially considered rare, affecting about 1 in 1,000 Americans, according to a 2005 study. But the incidence rises with age, to about 15% of elderly people. The rate is also much higher among people who don’t eat meat or dairy products, people with absorption problems, people taking acid-blocking medications and those with Type 2 diabetes who take the drug Metformin.
…Other conditions can also interfere with B12 absorption, including celiac disease and Crohn’s disease. “I thought I was going to die in my sleep because I had so little energy,” says Ellen Icochea, a senior executive at the Federal Bureau of Investigation who had a very low B12 level along with several major medical problems. Weekly B12 injections made a dramatic difference. “It was like, ‘Wow, here’s energy!’ ” she says.
“B12 deficiency is much more common than the textbooks and journal articles say it is,” says Alan Pocinki, an internist in Washington D.C., who routinely tests his patients who fall into those categories. He also notes that since the Metformin connection was discovered only recently, some physicians aren’t aware of it. “They assume that if patients complain of numbness and tingling in the feet, it’s a diabetes issue and not a B12 issue.”
Other symptoms of low B12 include anemia, depression, dementia, confusion, loss of appetite and balance problems. Long-term deficiency can bring severe anemia, nerve damage and neurological changes that may be irreversible.
Sometimes the symptoms are subtle. Internist Linda Assatourians, one of Dr. Pocinki’s partners, says that a surprising number of her young female patients also have low levels of B12. Typically they are healthy and active, but they don’t eat much meat and they have minor mood, memory or balance problems. “When I supplement their B12, they feel better,” Dr. Assatourians says. “It’s not a controlled study, but I see a lot of them.”
(click to continue reading Tired And Confused? Vitamin B12 May Be Low – WSJ.com.)
I have a bottle of Solaray B-Complex sublinguals on my desk right now, actually.
Sure, and don’t forget that psilocybin gave us language.
Traditionally, when scientists spared a thought for our hunting and gathering forebears, they focused on the hunters and the meat they brought in. But it may be that it was our ancestors’ less glamorous ability to gather, eat and digest roots, bulbs and tubers — the wild versions of what became carrots, onions and potatoes — that increased the size of our brains and made the hunt and the territorial expansion that came with it possible.
In a paper published in September in Nature Genetics, George Perry, a graduate student at Arizona State University, Nathaniel Dominy, an anthropology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and their colleagues demonstrate something significant: unlike our fellow primates, modern humans have many copies of a gene that makes a protein in our saliva that is crucial for breaking down starch into glucose. Our brains run on glucose. DNA and saliva samples taken from populations all over the world — from locals in Arizona and Japan to the Hadza, hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, and the Yakut, Siberian animal herders and fishermen — showed that if you have more copies of the gene amylase 1, you have more of the protein. Groups like the Japanese, who eat diets high in starches, have on average a higher number of copies of the gene. “In human evolution, starch may have played a particularly important role,” Perry says. After all, if you possessed the ability to efficiently convert starch into the glucose that fuels your brain, “you’d have a big advantage nutritionally,” Dominy says.
[From Starch Made Us Human]
Gee, really? What took the British Medical Journal and Lancet so long to discredit, Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive developmental disorder in children? As punishment, Andrew Wakefield should contact each and every parent who didn’t give their kid a needed vaccine, and apologize.
An influential but now-discredited study that provoked fears around the world that childhood vaccinations caused autism was based largely on falsified data, according to an article and editorial published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal.
The article, by journalist Brian Deer, found that important details of the cases of each of 12 children reported in the original study either misrepresented or altered the actual experiences of the children, the journal said. “In no single case could the medical records be fully reconciled with the descriptions, diagnoses, or histories published in the journal,” the editorial said. It called the study “an elaborate fraud.”
The original article, by British doctor Andrew Wakefield and other researchers, was published in the highly regarded journal The Lancet in 1998. The study concluded that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine—a mainstay of public health disease prevention efforts around the world—was linked to autism and gastrointestinal disorders.
The findings provoked a still-raging debate over vaccine safety and they prompted thousands of parents to forgo shots for their children. Measles outbreaks were subsequently reported in several Western countries. Several epidemiological studies conducted since the Wakefield paper by public health authorities haven’t found any link between the vaccines and autism.
The Lancet withdrew the article in January of last year after concluding that “several elements” of the paper were incorrect. But the journal didn’t describe any of the discrepancies as fraud. A British regulator stripped Dr. Wakefield of his medical license last May, citing “serious professional misconduct” in the way he handled the research.
(click to continue reading Medical Journal Says Autism Study a ‘Fraud’ – WSJ.com.)
And the British Medical Journal article, begins:
In the first part of a special BMJ series, Brian Deer exposes the bogus data behind claims that launched a worldwide scare over the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, and reveals how the appearance of a link with autism was manufactured at a London medical school
When I broke the news to the father of child 11, at first he did not believe me. “Wakefield told us my son was the 13th child they saw,” he said, gazing for the first time at the now infamous research paper which linked a purported new syndrome with the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine.1 “There’s only 12 in this.”
That paper was published in the Lancet on 28 February 1998. It was retracted on 2 February 2010.2 Authored by Andrew Wakefield, John Walker-Smith, and 11 others from the Royal Free medical school, London, it reported on 12 developmentally challenged children,3 and triggered a decade long public health scare.
“Onset of behavioural symptoms was associated by the parents with measles, mumps, and rubella vaccination in eight of the 12 children,” began the paper’s “findings.” Adopting these claims as fact,4 its “results” section added: “In these eight children the average interval from exposure to first behavioural symptoms was 6.3 days (range 1-14).”
(click to continue reading How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed — Deer 342 — bmj.com.)
Jonathan M. Rothberg fancies himself the Steve Jobs of biotechnology. While much less known than the Apple leader, Dr. Rothberg is also a wealthy entrepreneur with a reputation as a visionary, a masterful promoter and a demanding boss.
But what Dr. Rothberg really means is that he wants to do for DNA sequencing what Mr. Jobs did for computing — spread it to the masses.
Dr. Rothberg is the founder of Ion Torrent, which last month began selling a sequencer it calls the Personal Genome Machine. While most sequencers cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and are at least the size of small refrigerators, this machine sells for just under $50,000 and is the size of a largish desktop printer.
While not intended for the general public, the machine could expand the use of DNA sequencing from specialized centers to smaller university and industrial labs, and into hospitals and doctors’ offices, helping make DNA sequencing a standard part of medical practice.
(click to continue reading Rothberg Seeks to Make DNA Sequencing Common – NYTimes.com.)
EIN GEDI, Israel — Five miles out, nearly to the center of the Dead Sea, an international team of scientists has been drilling beneath the seabed to extract a record of climate change and earthquake history stretching back half a million years.
The New York Times Ein Gedi lies about five miles from the drilling platform The preliminary evidence and clues found halfway through the 40-day project are more than the team could have hoped for. The scientists did not expect to pull up a wood fragment that was roughly 400,000 years old. Nor did they expect to come across a layer of gravel from a mere 50,000 to 100,000 years ago. That finding would seem to indicate that what is now the middle of the Dead Sea — which is really a big salt lake — was once a shore, and that the water level had managed to recover naturally.
(click to continue reading Beneath Dead Sea, Scientists Seek Natural History – NYTimes.com.)
- I am being sarcastic, if you don’t know. The earth is much, much older than 6,000 years old, only the anti-science Christian fundamentalists think otherwise [↩]
Sounds good to me, fill me up another cup, will ya?
Coffee provides more than just a morning jolt; that steaming cup of java is also the number one source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Scranton (Pa.). Their study was described today at the 230th national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world’s largest scientific society.
“Americans get more of their antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source. Nothing else comes close,” says study leader Joe Vinson, Ph.D., a chemistry professor at the university. Although fruits and vegetables are generally promoted as good sources of antioxidants, the new finding is surprising because it represents the first time that coffee has been shown to be the primary source from which most Americans get their antioxidants, Vinson says.
Besides keeping you alert and awake, coffee has been linked to an increasing number of potential health benefits, including protection against liver and colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease, according to some recently published studies. But there’s also a downside: Java can make you jittery and cause stomach pains, while some studies have tied it to elevated blood pressure and heart rates. More research is needed, particularly human studies, to firmly establish its health benefits, Vinson says.
(click to continue reading Coffee is number one source of antioxidants.)
I’ve long been fascinated by the colorful life and career of Tycho Brahe, ever since first encountering his story in a couple of astronomy classes I took at UT, back when I was foolish enough to be a physics major. Whenever I’ve told others about Tycho Brahe’s metal nose, and that he1 died due to drinking heavily at a banquet, without taking time out to relieve his bladder, much wonderment ensued.
When Danish and Czech scientists exhumed the remains of the astronomer Tycho Brahe in Prague this month, they dug up much more than some bones and hairs. They found something that has eluded astronomers for thousands of years: a story with major box-office potential.
It’s “Amadeus” meets “Da Vinci Code” meets “Hamlet,” featuring a deadly struggle for the secret of the universe between Tycho, the swashbuckling Danish nobleman with a gold-and-silver prosthetic nose, and the not-yet-famous Johannes Kepler, his frail, jealous German assistant. The story also includes an international hit man, hired after a Danish prince becomes king and suspects Brahe of sleeping with his mother (and maybe being his father!).
For comic relief, there’s a beer-drinking pet elk wandering around Tycho’s castle, as well as a jester named Jepp, a dwarf who sits under Tycho’s table and is believed to be clairvoyant.
Naturally, the scientists analyzing Brahe’s remains are steering clear of all this gossip, including the claim that Brahe had an affair with the Danish queen that helped inspire “Hamlet.” The archaeologist leading the team cautions that even if they confirm suspicions that Brahe was poisoned by mercury, that wouldn’t necessarily prove he was murdered, much less identify the killer.
(click to continue reading Is Tycho Ready for His Close-Up? – NYTimes.com.)
So, who is working on a film treatment for Tycho Brahe’s Biopic? I’d volunteer, but I have a couple of dozen already started. Why don’t you do it?
John Tierney has a few thoughts on the matter:
The movie would open, of course, with the duel in 1566 that cost the 20-year-old Tycho a good chunk of his nose (a sword fight possibly precipitated by an argument over mathematics, or maybe a mistaken astrological prediction by Tycho). Before long Tycho has a metal nose as well as an island with a castle and an observatory, financed by the king of Denmark and equipped with the most precise instruments yet built for tracking the planets and stars.
Tycho wins renown by identifying new stars, including a supernova, but after his royal patron dies, Tycho finds himself out of favor with the son and successor, Christian IV. Tycho goes to Prague and a new patron, Rudolf II, the Holy Roman Emperor. As he prepares to publish his decades of celestial observations, Tycho hopes to prove that all the planets except Earth revolve around the Sun, which in turn revolves around the Earth.
Tycho suddenly contracted a bladder or kidney ailment after attending a banquet in Prague, and died eleven days later, on 24 October 1601. According to Kepler’s first hand account, Tycho had refused to leave the banquet to relieve himself because it would have been a breach of etiquette. After he had returned home he was no longer able to urinate, except, eventually, in very small quantities and with excruciating pain. The night before he died he suffered from a delirium during which he was frequently heard to exclaim that he hoped he would not seem to have lived in vain. Before dying, he urged Kepler to finish the Rudolphine Tables and expressed the hope that he would do so by adopting Tycho’s own planetary system, rather than Copernicus’s. A contemporary physician attributed his death to a kidney stone, but no kidney stones were found during an autopsy performed after his body was exhumed in 1901, and the modern medical assessment is that it is more likely to have resulted from uremia.
Recent investigations have suggested that Tycho did not die from urinary problems but instead from mercury poisoning—extremely toxic levels of it have been found in hairs from his moustache. The results were, however, not conclusive. Prague City Hall approved a request by Danish scientists to exhume the remains in February 2010, and a team of Czech and Danish scientists from Aarhus University arrived in November 2010, to take bone, hair and clothing samples for analysis.
(click to continue reading Tycho Brahe – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)
Cecil Adams adds:
It happened in 1566 while the 20-year-old Tycho was studying at the University of Rostock in Germany. Attending a dance at a professor’s house, he got into a quarrel with one Manderup Parsbjerg, like himself a member of the Danish gentry. Over a woman? Nah—tradition has it that the two were fighting over some fine point of mathematics. (My guess: Fermat’s Next-to-Last Theorem, which posits that 2 + 2 = 5 for very large values of 2.) Friends separated them, but they got into it again at a Christmas party a couple weeks later and decided to take it outside in the form of a duel. Unfortunately for Tycho the duel was conducted in pitch darkness with swords. Parsbjerg, a little quicker off the dime, succeeded in slicing off the bridge (apparently) of Tycho’s nose.
Reconstructive surgery then being in a primitive state, Tycho concealed the damage as best he could with an artificial bridge made of precious metals. He carried some nose goop with him always, either to polish the nose or to glue it more firmly in place. But no hooks or string, and probably no whistling either.
(click to continue reading The Straight Dope: Did astronomer Tycho Brahe really have a silver nose?.)Footnotes:
- allegedly – apparently, the newer suggestion is that he was poisoned by a rival [↩]