Excerpt from huffingtonpost.comBy Melissa Dahl Late at night, when you've been trying and failing for hours to fall asleep, perhaps the thing to do is to try not trying. According to a 2003 study recently highlighted by University of Hertforts...
|MRSA attacks a human cell. The bacteria shown is the strain MRSA 252, a leading cause of hospital-associated infections. (Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH)|
Excerpt from washingtonpost.com
The superbug, which is resistant to conventional antibiotics because of their overuse, shrugs at even the deadliest weapons modern medicine offers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated MRSA contributed to the deaths of more than 5,000 people in the United States in 2013. It even attacked the NFL, and some say it could eventually kill more people than cancer. And presidential commissions have advised that technological progress is the only way to fight MRSA.
But researchers in the United Kingdom now report that the superbug proved vulnerable to an ancient remedy. The ingredients? Just a bit of garlic, some onion or leek, copper, wine and oxgall — a florid name for cow’s bile.
This medicine sounds yucky, but it’s definitely better than the bug it may be able to kill.
“We were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was,” Freya Harrison of the University of Nottingham, who worked on the research, told the BBC.
The oxgall remedy, billed as an eye salve, was found in a manuscript written in Old English from the 10th century called “Bald’s Leechbook” — a sort of pre-Magna Carta physician’s desk reference. Garlic and copper are commonly thought to have antibiotic or antimicrobial properties, but seeing such ingredients in a home remedy at Whole Foods is a far cry from researchers killing a superbug with it.
According to Christina Lee, an associate professor in Viking studies at Nottingham, the MRSA research was the product of conversations among academics of many stripes interested in infectious disease and how people fought it before antibiotics.
“We were talking about the specter of antibiotic resistance,” she told The Washington Post in a phone interview. The medical researchers involved in the discussions said to the medievalists: “In your period, you guys must have had something.”
Not every recipe in Bald’s Leechbook is a gem. Other advice, via a translation from the Eastern Algo-Saxonist: “Against a woman’s chatter; taste at night fasting a root of radish, that day the chatter cannot harm thee.” And: “In case a man be a lunatic; take skin of a mereswine or porpoise, work it into a whip, swinge the man therewith, soon he will be well. Amen.”
Though the Leechbook may include misses, it may help doctors find a solution to a problem that only seems to be getting worse.
If the oxgall remedy proves effective against MRSA outside of the lab — which researchers caution it may not — it would be a godsend. Case studies of MRSA’s impact from the CDC’s charmingly named Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report seem medieval.
“In July 1997, a 7-year-old black girl from urban Minnesota was admitted to a tertiary-care hospital with a temperature of 103 F.” Result: Death from pulmonary hemorrhage after five weeks of hospitalization.
“In January 1998, a 16-month-old American Indian girl from rural North Dakota was taken to a local hospital in shock and with a temperature of 105.2 F.” Result: After respiratory failure and cardiac arrest, death within two hours of hospital admission.
“In January 1999, a 13-year-old white girl from rural Minnesota was brought to a local hospital with fever, hemoptysis” — that’s coughing up blood — “and respiratory distress.” The result: Death from multiple organ failure after seven days in the hospital.
“We believe modern research into disease can benefit from past responses and knowledge, which is largely contained in non-scientific writings,” Lee told the Telegraph. “But the potential of these texts to contribute to addressing the challenges cannot be understood without the combined expertise of both the arts and science.”
Lee stressed that it was the combination of ingredients that proved effective against MRSA — which shows that people living in medieval times were not as barbaric as popularly thought. Even 1,000 years ago, when people got sick, other people tried to figure out how to help.
“We associate ‘medieval’ with dark, barbaric,” Lee said. “… It’s not. I’ve always believed in the pragmatic medieval ages.”
The research will be presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for General Microbiology in Birmingham. In an abstract for the conference, the team cautioned oxgall was no cure-all.
“Antibacterial activity of a substance in laboratory trials does not necessarily mean the historical remedy it was taken from actually worked in toto,” they wrote.
Lee said researchers hope to turn to other remedies in Bald’s Leechbook — including purported cures for headaches and ulcers — to see what other wisdom the ancients have to offer.
“At a time when you don’t have microscope, medicine would have included things we find rather odd,” she said. “In 200 years, people will judge us.”
Excerpt from huffingtonpost.comI am a huge science enthusiast and an unabashed science fiction fan. There are tons of really cool stories out there that fire the imagination and even inspire young people to go into science. (I know they did me.) ...
Excerpt from cbc.ca
Social media reports of a possible UFO sighting last night near Jackhead, Man., are not true, says the Canadian Forces, which attributed the bright light people saw to an airplane from a training exercise.
On Wednesday night (Feb 18th, 2015), several people said on Twitter and Facebook that they saw a bright light in the sky, fuelling speculation that it may have been an unidentified flying object.
The rumour became stronger when photos were posted of Canadian Forces vehicles in the area, with some people claiming the military was there to contain a UFO crash site.
But it was not a UFO at all, says Lt.-Col. Paul Davies, commanding officer 38 Territorial Battalion Group, which is involved in an Arctic Response Company Group training exercise on Lake Winnipeg this week.
Members of the Arctic Response Company Group drive across frozen Lake Winnipeg during Exercise Arctic Bison 2015. (MCpl Cameron Skrypnyk/DND)
"There's no aliens, just my friends in the air force who are out there helping us on this exercise," Davies told CBC News on Thursday.
"I have the commander of that air force contingent sitting right beside me and, you know, he assures us that that was not a UFO, but that was him."
About 150 military personnel are taking part in Exercise Arctic Bison 2015, which includes the 38 Canadian Brigade Group, the 2nd Battalion of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the 4th Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, and 440 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Davies said soldiers are training to deal with a plane crash and provide ground search and rescue support in the Arctic.
The bright light that people saw, he explained, came from an airplane that takes off very quickly.
"From a distance it may have looked like it was going straight up in the air, but it wasn't," he said. "It was just us out there playing our games."
The exercise wraps up on Sunday.
Excerpt from theguardian.com
Whether it was a Druid temple, an astronomical calendar or a centre for healing, the mystery of Stonehenge has long been a source of speculation and debate. Now a dramatic new theory suggests that the prehistoric monument was in fact “an ancient Mecca on stilts”.
The megaliths would not have been used for ceremonies at ground level, but would instead have supported a circular wooden platform on which ceremonies were performed to the rotating heavens, the theory suggests.
Julian Spalding, an art critic and former director of some of the UK’s leading museums, argues that the stones were foundations for a vast platform, long since lost – “a great altar” raised up high towards the heavens and able to support the weight of hundreds of worshippers.
“It’s a totally different theory which has never been put forward before,” Spalding told the Guardian. “All the interpretations to date could be mistaken. We’ve been looking at Stonehenge the wrong way: from the earth, which is very much a 20th-century viewpoint. We haven’t been thinking about what they were thinking about.”
Since Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote in the 12th century that Merlin had flown the stones from Ireland, theories on Stonehenge, from plausible to absurd, have abounded. In the last decade alone, the monument has been interpreted as “the prehistoric Lourdes” where people brought the sick to be healed by the power of the magic bluestones from Wales and as a haunted place of the dead contrasting with seasonal feasts for the living at nearby Durrington Walls.
The site pored over by archaeologists for centuries still produces surprises, including the outline of stones now missing, which appeared in the parched ground in last summer’s drought and showed that the monument was not left unfinished as some had believed, but was once a perfect circle.
Spalding, who is not an archaeologist, believes that other Stonehenge theorists have fallen into error by looking down instead of up. His evidence, he believes, lies in ancient civilisations worldwide. As far afield as China, Peru and Turkey, such sacred monuments were built high up, whether on manmade or natural sites, and in circular patterns possibly linked to celestial movements.
He said: “In early times, no spiritual ceremonies would have been performed on the ground. The Pharaoh of Egypt and the Emperor of China were always carried – as the Pope used to be. The feet of holy people were not allowed to touch the ground. We’ve been looking at Stonehenge from a modern, earth-bound perspective.”
“All the great raised altars of the past suggest that the people who built Stonehenge would never have performed celestial ceremonies on the lowly earth,” he went on. “That would have been unimaginably insulting to the immortal beings, for it would have brought them down from heaven to bite the dust and tread in the dung.”
Spalding’s theory has not met with universal approval. Prof Vincent Gaffney, principal investigator on the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project at Bradford University, said he held “a fair degree of scepticism” and Sir Barry Cunliffe, a prehistorian and emeritus professor of European archaeology at Oxford University, said: “He could be right, but I know of no evidence to support it”.
The archaeologist Aubrey Burl, an authority on prehistoric stone circles, said: “There could be something in it. There is a possibility, of course. Anything new and worthwhile about Stonehenge is well worth looking into, but with care and consideration.”
On Monday Spalding publishes his theories in a new book, titled Realisation: From Seeing to Understanding – The Origins of Art. It explores our ancestors’ understanding of the world, offering new explanations of iconic works of art and monuments.
Stonehenge, built between 3000 and 2000BC, is England’s most famous prehistoric monument, a UNESCO World Heritage site on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire that draws more than 1 million annual visitors. It began as a timber circle, later made permanent with massive blocks of stone, many somehow dragged from dolerite rock in the Welsh mountains. Spalding believes that ancient worshippers would have reached the giant altar by climbing curved wooden ramps or staircases.
|In this undated photo made available by Britain’s Channel 4 television of Oxford University genetics professor Bryan Sykes posing with a prepared DNA sample taken from hair from a Himalayan animal.|
Excerpt from theblaze.com
A new study that re-analyzed so-called “yeti” hair samples from previous research that had identified them as belonging to an “anomalous ursid” might have disappointing news for those who thought the findings last year meant a “bigfoot” of sorts was still out there. Yet, the author of the original findings stands by his claims.
Research published in the journal ZooKeys found that the hair samples said to be from Central Asia and the Himalayas belong to a known species in those regions.
“We have concluded that there is no reason to believe that the two samples came from anything other than brown bears,” the authors wrote in the study abstract.
These authors used mitochondrial 12S rRNA sequencing on the same samples that Oxford University’s Bryan Sykes and his fellow authors used in their study published last year. The issue Eliecer Guiterrez, a postdoctoral researcher at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, and his colleagues found with Sykes research was that his team used a fragment of DNA.
After scientists analyzed more than 30 hair samples reportedly left behind by Bigfoot and other related beasts like Yeti, they found all of them came from more mundane animals like bears, wolves, cows and raccoons. Two samples were said to have been from an “anomalous ursid,” but new analysis suggests that the samples were from brown bears. (AP/Channel 4)
“We made this discovery that basically that fragment of DNA is not informative to tell apart two species of bears: the brown bear and [modern-day Alaskan] polar bear,” Gutierrez told Live Science.
At the time of his 2014 study, Sykes et al. wrote “[...] it is important to bear in mind that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and this survey cannot refute the existence of anomalous primates, neither has it found any evidence in support. […] The techniques described here put an end to decades of ambiguity about species identification of anomalous primate samples and set a rigorous standard against which to judge any future claims.”
And Sykes still holds his ground, despite the more recent findings.
“What mattered most to us was that these two hairs were definitely not from unknown primates,” Sykes told Live Science in light of the recent research. “The explanation by Gutierrez and [Ronald] Pine might be right, or it might not be.”
To NBC News, Sykes said that Gutierrez’ findings are “entirely statistical.”
“The only way forward, as I have repeatedly said, is to find a living bear that matches the 12S RNA and study fresh material from it,” he continued. “Which involves getting off your butt, not an activity I usually associate with desk-bound molecular taxonomists.”
Daniel Loxton, an editor for Junior Skeptic, which is produced by the Skeptics Society, told Live Science that people will continue to believe in and seek out yetis, bigfoots and the like, because they are”fascinated by monsters, and they’re fascinated by mysteries in general.”
Blake Smith, in a blog post for the Skeptics Society laid out the whole saga involving Sykes research and the more recent analysis by Guiterrez. Smith ultimately concluded that he’s “still convinced that Yeti and Bigfoot are not to be found in the forests and mountains of the Earth, but in the minds of people.”
Excerpt from mashable.com Thanks to a rare, severe geomagnetic storm, the Northern Lights may be visible on Tuesday night in areas far to the south of its typical home in the Arctic. The northern tier of the U.S., from Washington State to Michiga...
Excerpt from space.com
The moon's past was livelier and more complex than scientists had thought, new results from China's first lunar rover suggest.
China's Yutu moon rover found evidence of at least nine distinct rock layers deep beneath its wheels, indicating that the area has been surprisingly geologically active over the past 3.3 billion years.
"Two things are most interesting," said Long Xiao, a researcher at the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan, who is the lead author of the study detailing the new findings. "One is [that] more volcanic events have been defined in the late volcanism history of the moon," Xiao told Space.com via email.
|China's Yutu rover traveled about 374 feet (114 meters) on the moon in a zigzag fashion after touching down in December 2013|
Yutu (whose name means "jade rabbit") is part of China's Chang'e 3 moon mission. Chang'e 3 delivered Yutu and a stationary lander to the lunar surface on Dec. 14, 2013 — the first soft touchdown on the moon since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 mission in 1976.
Yutu traveled 374 feet (114 meters) on the moon in a zigzag fashion before a glitch ended its travels in January 2014.
The rover was equipped with cameras and three main scientific instruments — the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR), the Visible Near-Infrared Spectrometer (VNIS) and the Active Particle-Induced X-ray Spectrometer (APXS). The new study, which was published online today (March 12) in the journal Science, reports results from the camera and the LPR, which can probe about 1,300 feet (400 m) beneath the moon's surface.
Those data paint a detailed portrait of the Chang'e 3 landing site, which sits just 165 feet (50 m) away from a 1,475-foot-wide (450 m) crater known as C1. C1 was gouged out by a cosmic impact that occurred sometime between 80 million and 27 million years ago, the study authors said.
Yutu studied the ground it rolled over, characterized the craters it cruised past and investigated an oddly coarse-textured rock dubbed Loong, which measures about 13 feet long by 5 feet high (4 by 1.5 m). Overall, the rover's observations suggest that the composition of its landing site is quite different from that of the places visited by NASA's Apollo missions and the Soviet Union's Luna program.
While Yutu isn't beaming home any new data these days, the scientific community can expect to hear about more discoveries from the mission shortly, Xiao said.
"Unfortunately, Yutu encountered mechanical problems and has ended its mission," he told Space.com. "No more data will come. However, our report only provides the scientific results based on imagery and radar data. More results from NIS and APXS for composition study will come out soon."
Excerpt from robertlanza.com
Many of us fear death. We believe in death because we have been told we will die. We associate ourselves with the body, and we know that bodies die. But a new scientific theory suggests that death is not the terminal event we think.
One well-known aspect of quantum physics is that certain observations cannot be predicted absolutely. Instead, there is a range of possible observations each with a different probability. One mainstream explanation, the “many-worlds” interpretation, states that each of these possible observations corresponds to a different universe (the ‘multiverse’). A new scientific theory – called biocentrism – refines these ideas. There are an infinite number of universes, and everything that could possibly happen occurs in some universe. Death does not exist in any real sense in these scenarios. All possible universes exist simultaneously, regardless of what happens in any of them. Although individual bodies are destined to self-destruct, the alive feeling – the ‘Who am I?’- is just a 20-watt fountain of energy operating in the brain. But this energy doesn’t go away at death. One of the surest axioms of science is that energy never dies; it can neither be created nor destroyed. But does this energy transcend from one world to the other?
Consider an experiment that was recently published in the journal Science showing that scientists could retroactively change something that had happened in the past. Particles had to decide how to behave when they hit a beam splitter. Later on, the experimenter could turn a second switch on or off. It turns out that what the observer decided at that point, determined what the particle did in the past. Regardless of the choice you, the observer, make, it is you who will experience the outcomes that will result. The linkages between these various histories and universes transcend our ordinary classical ideas of space and time. Think of the 20-watts of energy as simply holo-projecting either this or that result onto a screen. Whether you turn the second beam splitter on or off, it’s still the same battery or agent responsible for the projection.
According to Biocentrism, space and time are not the hard objects we think. Wave your hand through the air – if you take everything away, what’s left? Nothing. The same thing applies for time. You can’t see anything through the bone that surrounds your brain. Everything you see and experience right now is a whirl of information occurring in your mind. Space and time are simply the tools for putting everything together.
Death does not exist in a timeless, spaceless world. In the end, even Einstein admitted, “Now Besso” (an old friend) “has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us…know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Immortality doesn’t mean a perpetual existence in time without end, but rather resides outside of time altogether.
This was clear with the death of my sister Christine. After viewing her body at the hospital, I went out to speak with family members. Christine’s husband – Ed – started to sob uncontrollably. For a few moments I felt like I was transcending the provincialism of time. I thought about the 20-watts of energy, and about experiments that show a single particle can pass through two holes at the same time. I could not dismiss the conclusion: Christine was both alive and dead, outside of time.
Christine had had a hard life. She had finally found a man that she loved very much. My younger sister couldn’t make it to her wedding because she had a card game that had been scheduled for several weeks. My mother also couldn’t make the wedding due to an important engagement she had at the Elks Club. The wedding was one of the most important days in Christine’s life. Since no one else from our side of the family showed, Christine asked me to walk her down the aisle to give her away.
Soon after the wedding, Christine and Ed were driving to the dream house they had just bought when their car hit a patch of black ice. She was thrown from the car and landed in a banking of snow.
“Ed,” she said “I can’t feel my leg.”
She never knew that her liver had been ripped in half and blood was rushing into her peritoneum.
After the death of his son, Emerson wrote “Our life is not so much threatened as our perception. I grieve that grief can teach me nothing, nor carry me one step into real nature.”
Whether it’s flipping the switch for the Science experiment, or turning the driving wheel ever so slightly this way or that way on black-ice, it’s the 20-watts of energy that will experience the result. In some cases the car will swerve off the road, but in other cases the car will continue on its way to my sister’s dream house.
Christine had recently lost 100 pounds, and Ed had bought her a surprise pair of diamond earrings. It’s going to be hard to wait, but I know Christine is going to look fabulous in them the next time I see her.
Excerpt from huffingtonpost.comWhen the National Atomic Testing Museum of Las Vegas opened its "Area 51: Myth or Reality" exhibit two years ago, it became an instant hit. It wasn't just the only place that had a comprehensive knowledge of Area 51 -...
|The eight eagle talons from Krapina were arranged with an eagle phalanx that was also found at the site.|
Excerpt from nbcnews.com
Long before they shared the landscape with modern humans, Neanderthals in Europe developed a sharp sense of style, wearing eagle claws as jewelry, new evidence suggests.
Researchers identified eight talons from white-tailed eagles — including four that had distinct notches and cut marks — from a 130,000-year-old Neanderthal cave in Croatia. They suspect the claws were once strung together as part of a necklace or bracelet.
"It really is absolutely stunning," study author David Frayer, an anthropology professor at the University of Kansas, told LiveScience. "It fits in with this general picture that's emerging that Neanderthals were much more modern in their behavior."
The talons were first excavated more than 100 years ago at a famous sandstone rock-shelter site called Krapina in Croatia.
There, archaeologists found more than 900 Neanderthal bones dating back to a relatively warm, interglacial period about 120,000 to 130,000 years ago. They also found Mousterian stone tools (a telltale sign of Neanderthal occupation), a hearth, and the bones of rhinos and cave bears — but no signs of modern human occupation. Homo sapiens didn't spread into Europe until about 40,000 years ago.
There, archaeologists found more than 900 Neanderthal bones dating back to a relatively warm, interglacial period about 120,000 to 130,000 years ago. They also found Mousterian stone tools (a telltale sign of Neanderthal occupation), a hearth, and the bones of rhinos and cave bears — but no signs of modern human occupation. Homo sapiens didn't spread into Europe until about 40,000 years ago.
The eagle talons were all found in the same archaeological layer, Frayer said, and they had been studied a few times before. But no one noticed the cut marks until last year, when Davorka Radovcic, curator of the Croatian Natural History Museum, was reassessing some of the Krapina objects in the collection.
The researchers don't know exactly how the talons would have been assembled into jewelry. But Frayer said some facets on the claws look quite polished — perhaps made smooth from being wrapped in some kind of fiber, or from rubbing against the surface of the other talons. There were also nicks in three of the talons that wouldn't have been created during an eagle's life, Frayer said.
The findings were published March 11 in the journal PLOS ONE.
|Toni McCann & newborn Cillian|
Excerpt from yahoo.com
Like mother, like son. Toni McCann says her newborn, Cillian, already has her gift of gab and says “hello” — at just seven weeks old. The Belfast, Northern Ireland youth drama-school teacher, 36, caught one of his amazing utterances on video and posted it to YouTube, where the footage has gone viral, raking in more than 366,000 views since March 3.
“I am a huge talker,” McCann tells Yahoo Parenting. “Cillian had been trying to communicate for a while, but it really surprised me how clear his ‘Hello’ was. I’m glad I got it on video, as I’m sure no one would have believed me.”
The mother of four – including Sophia, 12; Ellie, 11; and Eva, 8 — with her husband Paul McCann recently told one of her daughter’s music teachers that the girls’ little brother had said “Hello.” But, the mom admits, “He just looked at me like I was nuts.”
Ditto regarding a few viewers of the clip. “Some people don’t believe it’s real, that it’s been edited, but on the whole most people love it,” McCann tells The Daily Mail. “That is really lovely for me as there is so much bad in the world it’s great that my wee son is spreading some joy.”
But the tot’s biggest fans are right at home. His sisters are so excited about the pseudo talking that they’ve been trying to get Cillian to keep practicing. “After he said hello to me, my youngest daughter tried and he said a much quicker ‘hawo,’” McCann tells Yahoo Parenting. “It was cute but not as clear as the first one.”
Photo by Yahoo
Still, the mom believes her boy’s greeting wasn’t just luck. “He was trying to speak for a while, but that day I knew he was trying to say something,” she tells the Mail. “I’d read that babies communicate from a young age and to give them space to answer when you talk to them.” McCann says she was mindful, then, of giving her son a moment, as opposed to how she’d communicated with her girls: “I think I probably just talked ‘at’ them and didn’t give them space to respond.”
Excerpt from cbsnews.comALT LAKE CITY -- Police responding to a report from a fisherman about an overturned car in an icy Utah river were stunned to discover an 18-month-old girl dangling in a car seat inside, unconscious but alive. The officers also ...
|Minnesota Twins (not the baseball team) James & James, whose similar stories defy chance and coincidence.|
Excerpt from people.com
May 7th, 1979
One of science's so far uncrackable mysteries is the comparative impact of heredity vs. environment. An obvious experimental method would be to raise identical twins separately, but that could hardly be done with humans. So for the last 10 years University of Minnesota psychologist Thomas Bouchard, 41, has been studying twins under less than ideal, lab-controlled conditions—until, eureka, he ran into the stuff of social scientists' dreams. Identical twin males, who had been separated by adoption at three weeks, suddenly rediscovered each other in Ohio at age 39.
Within two weeks after reading about them in the press, Dr. Bouchard had the twins in his Minneapolis lab for tests. At the outset of his investigation the psychologist said, "I think there are going to be all kinds of differences that will surprise even the twins." But what was immediately apparent were eerie similarities that left even Bouchard "flabbergasted."
Curiously, both had been christened James by their adoptive parents, the Jess Lewises of Lima and the Ernest Springers of Piqua, 40 miles away. As schoolboys, both enjoyed math and carpentry—but hated spelling. Both pursued similar adult occupations: Lewis is a security guard at a steel mill, and Springer was a deputy sheriff (though he is now a clerk for a power company). Both married women named Linda, only to divorce and remarry—each a woman named Betty. Both have sons: James Alan Lewis and James Allan Springer.
The two men shared one other fact in common. As Jim Springer put it, "I always felt an emptiness." Neither the Springers nor the Lewises ever met the 15-year-old (unwed) mother of their sons, and both couples were told that their adoptive child had a twin who died at birth. Then one day, when Jim Lewis was 16 months old, his mother visited the Miami County courthouse to settle the adoption paperwork, and an official remarked offhandedly, "They named the other little boy 'Jim' too."
For 37 years that hint tugged at Mrs. Lewis, who occasionally urged her son to find out if it was true. Finally, last Thanksgiving, he agreed to search—though he says he doesn't know why. Jim Lewis wrote the probate court, which had a record of the adoption, and contacted the Springer parents in Piqua. "I came home one day," Lewis recounts, "and had this message to call 'Jim Springer.' " When he phoned Springer, Lewis blurted out: "Are you my brother?" "Yup," Springer replied. Four days later, last Feb. 9, Lewis drove to meet his twin for an emotional reunion.
Dr. Bouchard offered expenses and a small honorarium to get them to Minneapolis for a week of extensive physical and psychological tests. He wanted to begin as soon as possible to preclude their reminiscing together too long and thus "contaminating" the evidence. Though not the first such separated twins—the records show 19 previous sets in the U.S. among some 75 worldwide—Lewis and Springer were believed to have been apart by far the longest.
The detailed results of Bouchard's textbook case will be revealed to the twins themselves, but to protect their privacy will be buried among other data in the professor's book on differential psychology now in progress. There has been one development that may leave the twins still puzzling over heredity and environment. On Feb. 28 Jim Lewis, having divorced his second wife, Betty, married a woman named Sandy Jacobs. Betty and Jim Springer were present, with Jim serving as his newfound brother's best man.
Excerpt from news.discovery.comDozens of candidate worlds reside within the "habitable zones" of their parent stars. THE GIST - NASA's Kepler telescope has found more than 1,200 extrasolar planet candidates. - Smaller worlds, like Earth,...
Kepler’s Exoplanets: A map of the locations of exoplanets, of various masses, in the Kepler field of view. 1,235 candidates are plotted (NASA/Wendy Stenzel)
Just in case you haven’t heard, our galaxy appears to be teeming with small worlds, many of which are Earth-sized candidate exoplanets and dozens appear to be orbiting their parent stars in their “habitable zones.”
Before Wednesday’s Kepler announcement, we knew of just over 500 exoplanets orbiting stars in the Milky Way. Now the space telescope has added another 1,235 candidates to the tally — what a difference 24 hours makes.
Although this is very exciting, the key thing to remember is that we are talking about exoplanet candidates, which means Kepler has detected 1,235 exoplanet signals, but more work needs to be done (i.e. more observing time) to refine their orbits, masses and, critically, to find out whether they actually exist.
Earth-Brand™ LifeBefore Kepler, plenty of Jupiter-sized worlds could be seen, but with its precision eye for spotting the tiniest of fluctuations of star brightness (as a small exoplanet passes between Kepler and the star), the space telescope has found that smaller exoplanets outnumber the larger gas giants.
Needless to say, all this talk of “Earth-sized” worlds (and the much-hyped “Earth-like” misnomer) has added fuel to the extraterrestrial life question: If there’s a preponderance of small exoplanets — some of which orbit within the “sweet-spot” of the habitable zones of their parent stars — could life as we know it (or Earth-Brand™ Life as I like to call it) also be thriving there?
Before I answer that question, let’s turn back the clock to Sept. 29, 2010, when, in the wake of the discovery of the exoplanet Gliese 581 g, Steven Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at University of California Santa Cruz, told Discovery News: “Personally, given the ubiquity and propensity of life to flourish wherever it can, I would say that the chances for life on [Gliese 581 g] are 100 percent. I have almost no doubt about it.”
Impossible? Or 100 Percent?As it turns out, Gliese 581 g may not actually exist — an excellent example of the progress of science scrutinizing a candidate exoplanet in complex data sets as my Discovery News colleague Nicole Gugliucci discusses in “Gliese 581g and the Nature of Science” — but why was Vogt so certain that there was life on Gliese 581 g? Was he “wrong” to air this opinion?
Going to the opposite end of the spectrum, Howard Smith, an astrophysicist at Harvard University, made the headlines earlier this year when he announced, rather pessimistically, that aliens will unlikely exist on the extrasolar planets we are currently detecting.
“We have found that most other planets and solar systems are wildly different from our own. They are very hostile to life as we know it,” Smith told the UK’s Telegraph.
Smith made comparisons between our own solar system with the interesting HD 10180 system, located 127 light-years away. HD 10180 was famous for a short time as being the biggest star system beyond our own, containing five exoplanets (it has since been trumped by Kepler-11, a star system containing six exoplanets as showcased in Wednesday’s Kepler announcement).
One of HD 10180′s worlds is thought to be around 1.4 Earth-masses, making it the smallest detected exoplanet before yesterday. Alas, as Smith notes, that is where the similarities end; the “Earth-sized” world orbiting HD 10180 is too close to its star, meaning it is a roasted exoplanet where any atmosphere is blasted into space by the star’s powerful radiation and stellar winds.
The Harvard scientist even dismissed the future Kepler announcement, pointing out that upcoming reports of habitable exoplanets would be few and far between. “Extrasolar systems are far more diverse than we expected, and that means very few are likely to support life,” he said.
Both Right and WrongSo what can we learn about the disparity between Vogt and Smith’s opinions about the potential for life on exoplanets, regardless of how “Earth-like” they may seem?
Critically, both points of view concern Earth-Brand™ Life (i.e. us and the life we know and understand). As we have no experience of any other kind of life (although the recent eruption of interest over arsenic-based life is hotly debated), it is only Earth-like life we can realistically discuss.
We could do a Stephen Hawking and say that all kinds of life is possible anywhere in the cosmos, but this is pure speculation. Science only has life on Earth to work with, so (practically speaking) it’s pointless to say a strange kind of alien lifeform could live on an exoplanet where the surface is molten rock and constantly bathed in extreme stellar radiation.
If we take Hawking’s word for it, Vogt was completely justified for being so certain about life existing on Gliese 581 g. What’s more, there’s no way we could prove he’s wrong!
But if you set the very tight limits on where we could find Earth-like life, we are suddenly left with very few exoplanet candidates that fit the bill. Also, just because an Earth-sized planet might be found in the habitable zone of its star, doesn’t mean it’s actually habitable. There are many more factors to consider. So, in this case, Smith’s pessimism is well placed.
Regardless, exoplanet science is in its infancy and the uncertainty with the “is there life?” question is a symptom of being on the “raggedy edge of science,” as Nicole would say. We simply do not know what it takes to make a world habitable for any kind of life (apart from Earth), but it is all too tempting to speculate as to whether a race of extraterrestrials, living on one of Kepler’s worlds, is pondering these same questions.
Excerpt from csmonitor.com
Thanks to a phenomenon known as gravitational lensing, the Hubble Space Telescope has captured four images of the same supernova explosion.
For the first time, a cosmic magnifying glass has allowed scientists to see the same star explosion four times, possibly offering a revealing glimpse into these explosive stellar deaths and the nature of the accelerating universe.
Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope have captured four images of a supernova explosion in deep space thanks to a galaxy located between Earth and the massive star explosion. You can see how Hubble saw the supernova in this NASA video. The galaxy cluster warped the fabric of space and time around it — like a bowling ball placed on a bed sheet — allowing scientists to see the supernova in four images.
"It was predicted 50 years ago that a supernova could be gravitationally lensed like this, but it's taken a long time for someone to find an example," lead study author Patrick Kelly, an astronomer at the University of California, Berkeley told Space.com. "It's fun to have been able to find the first one."
The supernova, which was discovered on Nov. 11, 2014, is located about 9.3 billion light-years away from Earth, near the edge of the observable universe. The researchers have named the distant supernova SN Refsdal in honor of the late Norwegian astrophysicist Sjur Refsdal, a pioneer of gravitational lensing studies. Due to gravitational lensing, "the supernova appears 20 times brighter than its normal brightness," study co-author Jens Hjorth, head of the Dark Cosmology Centre at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen, said in a statement.
The lensing galaxy, which is about 5 billion light-years from Earth, is part of a large cluster of galaxies known MACS J1149.6+2223. In 2009, astronomers discovered that this cluster was the source of the largest known image of a spiral galaxy ever seen through a gravitational lens.
The four images of the supernova each appeared separately over the course of a few weeks. This is because light can take various paths around and through a gravitational lens, arriving at Earth at different times.
Using gravity as a lens
Gravity is created when matter warps the fabric of reality. The greater the mass of an object, the more space-time curves around that object and the stronger its gravitational pull, the discovery enshrined in Einstein's theory of general relativity, which celebrates its centennial this year.
As a result, gravity can also bend light like a lens, meaning objects see n behind powerful gravitational fields, such as those of massive galaxies, are magnified. Gravitational lensing was first discovered in 1979, and today gravitational lenses can help astronomers see features otherwise too distant and faint to detect with even the largest telescopes.
"These gravitational lenses are like a natural magnifying glass. It's like having a much bigger telescope," Kelly said in a statement. "We can get magnifications of up to 100 times by looking through these galaxy clusters."
When light is far from a gravitationally lensing mass, or if the gravitationally lensing mass is not especially large, only "weak lensing" occurs, barely distorting the light. However, when the light comes from almost exactly behind the gravitationally lensing mass, "strong lensing" can happen.
When a strongly lensed object occupies a large patch of space — for instance, if it's a galaxy — it can get smeared into an "Einstein ring" surrounding a gravitationally lensing mass. However, strong lensing of small, pointlike items — for instance, super-bright objects known as quasars — often produces multiple images surrounding the gravitationally lensing mass, resulting in a so-called "Einstein cross."
The observations of SN Refsdal mark the first time astronomers on Earth have witnessed strong lensing of a supernova, with four images of an exploding star arrayed as an Einstein cross.
An expanding universe
These new findings could help scientists measure the accelerating rate at which the universe is expanding, researchers say.
A computer model of the lensing cluster suggests the scientists missed chances to see the lensed supernova 50 and 10 years ago. However, the model also suggests more images of the explosion will repeat again within the next 10 years.
The timing of when all these images of the supernova arrive depends on the gravitational pull of the matter generating the gravitational lens. So, by measuring those times, the researchers hope to map how visible normal matter and invisible dark matter is distributed in the lensing galaxy.
Dark matter is currently one of the greatest mysteries in science, a poorly understood substance thought to make up five-sixths of all matter in the universe. A better understanding of how dark matter is behaving in this gravitationally lensing cluster might help shed light on the material's nature, Kelly said.
Analyzing when the images arrive could also help scientists pinpoint the rate at which the universe is expanding. Although there are already several ways to measure the cosmic expansion rate, "there has been a lot of heated debate between different methods, so it'd be interesting to see how this new technique might affect the area," Kelly said. "It's always nice to have completely independent measurements of the same quantity."
The scientists detailed their findings in the March 6 issue of the journal Science.
|Archaeologists in Honduras have found dozens of artifacts at a site where they believe twin cities stood. Photograph: Dave Yoder/National Geographic|
Archaeological team say they have set foot in a place untouched by humans for at least 600 years in a site that may be the ‘lost city of the monkey god’
Archaeologists have discovered two lost cities in the deep jungle of Honduras, emerging from the forest with evidence of a pyramid, plazas and artifacts that include the effigy of a half-human, half-jaguar spirit.
The team of specialists in archaeology and other fields, escorted by three British bushwhacking guides and a detail of Honduran special forces, explored on foot a remote valley of La Mosquitia where an aerial survey had found signs of ruins in 2012.
Chris Fisher, the lead US archaeologist on the team, told the Guardian that the expedition – co-coordinated by the film-makers Bill Benenson and Steve Elkins, Honduras and National Geographic (which first reported the story on its site) – had by all appearances set foot in a place that had gone untouched by humans for at least 600 years.
“Even the animals acted as if they’ve never seen people,” Fisher said. “Spider monkeys are all over place, and they’d follow us around and throw food at us and hoot and holler and do their thing.”
“To be treated not as a predator but as another primate in their space was for me the most amazing thing about this whole trip,” he said.
Fisher and the team arrived by helicopter to “groundtruth” the data revealed by surveying technology called Lidar, which projects a grid of infrared beams powerful enough to break through the dense forest canopy.
That data showed a human-created landscape, Fisher said of sister cities not only with houses, plazas and structures, but also features “much like an English garden, with orchards and house gardens, fields of crops, and roads and paths.”
In the rainforest valley, they said they found stone structural foundations of two cities that mirrored people’s thinking of the Maya region, though these were not Mayan people. The area dates between 1000AD and 1400AD, and while very little is known without excavation of the site and surrounding region, Fisher said it was likely that European diseases had at least in part contributed to the culture’s disappearance.
The expedition also found and documented 52 artifacts that Virgilio Paredes, head of Honduras’s national anthropology and history institute, said indicated a civilisation distinct from the Mayans. Those artifacts included a bowl with an intricate carvings and semi-buried stone sculptures, including several that merged human and animal characteristics.
The cache of artifacts – “very beautiful, very fantastic,” in Fisher’s words – may have been a burial offering, he said, noting the effigies of spirit animals such as vultures and serpents.
Fisher said that while an archaeologist would likely not call these cities evidence of a lost civilisation, he would call it evidence of a culture or society. “Is it lost? Well, we don’t know anything about it,” he said.
The exploratory team did not have a permit to excavate and hopes to do so on a future expedition. “That’s the problem with archaeology is it takes a long time to get things done, another decade if we work intensively there, but then we’ll know a little more,” Fisher said.
“This wasn’t like some crazy colonial expedition of the last century,” he added.
Despite the abundance of monkeys, far too little is known of the site still to tie it to the “lost city of the monkey god” that one such expedition claimed to have discovered. In about 1940, the eccentric journalist Theodore Morde set off into the Honduran jungle in search of the legendary “white city” that Spanish conquistadors had heard tales of in the centuries before.
He broke out of the brush months later with hundreds of artifacts and extravagant stories of how ancient people worshipped their simian deity. According to Douglas Preston, the writer National Geographic sent along with its own expedition: “He refused to divulge the location out of fear, he said, that the site would be looted. He later committed suicide and his site – if it existed at all – was never identified.”
Fisher emphasised that archaeologists know extraordinarily little about the region’s ancient societies relative to the Maya civilisation, and that it would take more research and excavation. He said that although some academics might find it distasteful, expeditions financed through private means – in this case the film-makers Benenson and Elkins – would become increasingly commonplace as funding from universities and grants lessened.
Fisher also suggested that the Lidar infrared technology used to find the site would soon be as commonplace as radiocarbon dating: “People just have to get through this ‘gee-whiz’ phase and start thinking about what we can do with it.”
Paredes and Fisher also said that the pristine, densely-wooded site was dangerously close to land being deforested for beef farms that sell to fast-food chains. Global demand has driven Honduras’s beef industry, Fisher said, something that he found worrying.
“I keep thinking of those monkeys looking at me not having seen people before. To lose all this over a burger, it’s a really hard pill to swallow.”
Excerpt from independent.co.uk
By Jordan Gaines Lewis
In neuroscience, food is something we call a “natural reward.” In order for us to survive as a species, things like eating, having sex and nurturing others must be pleasurable to the brain so that these behaviours are reinforced and repeated.Evolution has resulted in the mesolimbic pathway, a brain system that deciphers these natural rewards for us. When we do something pleasurable, a bundle of neurons called the ventral tegmental area uses the neurotransmitter dopamine to signal to a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. The connection between the nucleus accumbens and our prefrontal cortex dictates our motor movement, such as deciding whether or not to taking another bite of that delicious chocolate cake. The prefrontal cortex also activates hormones that tell our body: “Hey, this cake is really good. And I’m going to remember that for the future.”
Not all foods are equally rewarding, of course. Most of us prefer sweets over sour and bitter foods because, evolutionarily, our mesolimbic pathway reinforces that sweet things provide a healthy source of carbohydrates for our bodies. When our ancestors went scavenging for berries, for example, sour meant “not yet ripe,” while bitter meant “alert – poison!”
Fruit is one thing, but modern diets have taken on a life of their own. A decade ago, it was estimated that the average American consumed 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, amounting to an extra 350 calories; it may well have risen since then. A few months ago, one expert suggested that the average Briton consumes 238 teaspoons of sugar each week.
Today, with convenience more important than ever in our food selections, it’s almost impossible to come across processed and prepared foods that don’t have added sugars for flavour, preservation, or both.
These added sugars are sneaky – and unbeknown to many of us, we’ve become hooked. In ways that drugs of abuse – such as nicotine, cocaine and heroin – hijack the brain’s reward pathway and make users dependent, increasing neuro-chemical and behavioural evidence suggests that sugar is addictive in the same way, too.
Sugar addiction is realAnyone who knows me also knows that I have a huge sweet tooth. I always have. My friend and fellow graduate student Andrew is equally afflicted, and living in Hershey, Pennsylvania – the “Chocolate Capital of the World” – doesn’t help either of us. But Andrew is braver than I am. Last year, he gave up sweets for Lent. “The first few days are a little rough,” Andrew told me. “It almost feels like you’re detoxing from drugs. I found myself eating a lot of carbs to compensate for the lack of sugar.”
There are four major components of addiction: bingeing, withdrawal, craving, and cross-sensitisation (the notion that one addictive substance predisposes someone to becoming addicted to another). All of these components have been observed in animal models of addiction – for sugar, as well as drugs of abuse.
A typical experiment goes like this: rats are deprived of food for 12 hours each day, then given 12 hours of access to a sugary solution and regular chow. After a month of following this daily pattern, rats display behaviours similar to those on drugs of abuse. They’ll binge on the sugar solution in a short period of time, much more than their regular food. They also show signs of anxiety and depression during the food deprivation period. Many sugar-treated rats who are later exposed to drugs, such as cocaine and opiates, demonstrate dependent behaviours towards the drugs compared to rats who did not consume sugar beforehand.
Like drugs, sugar spikes dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens. Over the long term, regular sugar consumption actually changes the gene expression and availability of dopamine receptors in both the midbrain and frontal cortex. Specifically, sugar increases the concentration of a type of excitatory receptor called D1, but decreases another receptor type called D2, which is inhibitory. Regular sugar consumption also inhibits the action of the dopamine transporter, a protein which pumps dopamine out of the synapse and back into the neuron after firing.
In short, this means that repeated access to sugar over time leads to prolonged dopamine signalling, greater excitation of the brain’s reward pathways and a need for even more sugar to activate all of the midbrain dopamine receptors like before. The brain becomes tolerant to sugar – and more is needed to attain the same “sugar high.”
Sugar withdrawal is also realAlthough these studies were conducted in rodents, it’s not far-fetched to say that the same primitive processes are occurring in the human brain, too. “The cravings never stopped, [but that was] probably psychological,” Andrew told me. “But it got easier after the first week or so.”
In a 2002 study by Carlo Colantuoni and colleagues of Princeton University, rats who had undergone a typical sugar dependence protocol then underwent “sugar withdrawal.” This was facilitated by either food deprivation or treatment with naloxone, a drug used for treating opiate addiction which binds to receptors in the brain’s reward system. Both withdrawal methods led to physical problems, including teeth chattering, paw tremors, and head shaking. Naloxone treatment also appeared to make the rats more anxious, as they spent less time on an elevated apparatus that lacked walls on either side.
Similar withdrawal experiments by others also report behaviour similar to depression in tasks such as the forced swim test. Rats in sugar withdrawal are more likely to show passive behaviours (like floating) than active behaviours (like trying to escape) when placed in water, suggesting feelings of helplessness.
A new study published by Victor Mangabeira and colleagues in this month’s Physiology & Behavior reports that sugar withdrawal is also linked to impulsive behaviour. Initially, rats were trained to receive water by pushing a lever. After training, the animals returned to their home cages and had access to a sugar solution and water, or just water alone. After 30 days, when rats were again given the opportunity to press a lever for water, those who had become dependent on sugar pressed the lever significantly more times than control animals, suggesting impulsive behaviour.
These are extreme experiments, of course. We humans aren’t depriving ourselves of food for 12 hours and then allowing ourselves to binge on soda and doughnuts at the end of the day. But these rodent studies certainly give us insight into the neuro-chemical underpinnings of sugar dependence, withdrawal, and behaviour.
Through decades of diet programmes and best-selling books, we’ve toyed with the notion of “sugar addiction” for a long time. There are accounts of those in “sugar withdrawal” describing food cravings, which can trigger relapse and impulsive eating. There are also countless articles and books about the boundless energy and new-found happiness in those who have sworn off sugar for good. But despite the ubiquity of sugar in our diets, the notion of sugar addiction is still a rather taboo topic.
Are you still motivated to give up sugar? You might wonder how long it will take until you’re free of cravings and side-effects, but there’s no answer – everyone is different and no human studies have been done on this. But after 40 days, it’s clear that Andrew had overcome the worst, likely even reversing some of his altered dopamine signalling. “I remember eating my first sweet and thinking it was too sweet,” he said. “I had to rebuild my tolerance.”
And as regulars of a local bakery in Hershey – I can assure you, readers, that he has done just that.
Jordan Gaines Lewis is a Neuroscience Doctoral Candidate at Penn State College of Medicine