Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

8 Things to Tell Your Doctor

Friday, April 8th, 2016

Patient with her Physician.

LifeScript — Ellen Wlody reports: We talked to top experts and here are the 8 things you must confess at your next visit…

1. You’re taking vitamins, herbs or supplements.

You pop a daily multivitamin, an herbal supplement for sleep and a powder to improve memory. They’re harmless, right? Not always.

2. You noticed blood in your stool.

Most of us steer clear of potty talk – even with our doctors. Patients of Internist, Dr. Clancy, however, are asked at each visit whether they’ve seen blood in their stool. The response, she says, is often the same: “Why would I look?”  … Dr. Clancy’s answer: “It could save your life.”

3. You think you’re depressed.

So you’ve been feeling a little down; it’ll pass, you think. Besides, why bother your doctor with it? … Emotions can affect your physical health. Depressed people often feel fatigued, lose their appetite or have stomachaches. In fact, if your doctor doesn’t know you’re depressed, you may have to undergo unnecessary tests or medications.

4. You’re worried about something you read on the Web.

You’re not the first (or last) to turn to Dr. Google. So your doc won’t be offended or surprised when you admit this. In fact, most doctors say they like well-informed patients.

5. Your diet and exercise routine are lacking.

That morning doughnut-and-coffee ritual? Those couch potato nights? ‘Fess up! People often lie or omit information because they don’t realize how harmful those habits really are, Dr. Clancy says. “That’s why we recommend that overweight people keep a food diary, so they can get a more realistic picture of what they eat in a day,” she says. Even if weight isn’t an issue, talk to your doctor about your diet. You may not need a major meal overhaul – just a little tweaking.

6. You quit your meds.

One of Dr. Goldberg’s patients stopped taking her cholesterol medication. The reason: A friend on the same drug developed muscle aches. But the patient didn’t tell Dr. Goldberg. So when tests showed higher cholesterol levels, she called to increase her dosage.

7. You’ve lost interest in sex.

“People are pretty open about their physical complaints, but they’re not so open about sexual issues,” says Judie Brock, certified nurse-midwife at Cooley Dickinson Center for Midwifery Care, in Northampton, Mass. But women need to talk about emotional and sexual health with their doctor, because it can be a symptom of a physical problem. Loss of desire can signal health issues, such as chronic stress, anxiety, depression or even anorexia.

8. You had surgery or sickness a long time ago.

Especially when seeing a doctor for the first time, the details of your medical history matter – and that includes the tonsillectomy you had at age 4.Your physician needs background information to diagnose and prescribe the best treatment for you.

There’s an advantage to being well prepared: You’ll get better treatment. In addition, jot down notes about current symptoms. If you’re having headaches, for example, how often do they occur and at what time of day? How painful are they? What type of pain do they cause – sharp or dull throbbing? “If you walk in with a record – even just some notes – and can say, ‘I’ve given this some thought,’ you’ll be taken a lot more seriously by the doctor,” Dr. Clancy says. (04/08/2016)


Synergic Disarmament: Wisdom, we shouldn’t have!

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

Timothy Wilken

Future Positive — Timothy Wilken, MD writing in 2002: Interestingly, the recent advent of the Washington D.C. area sniper has brought renewed interest in the subject of weapons and their role in our present society.  …

Think of the power of the tools we humans use everyday—a Boeing 747 airplane, our automobiles, computers, cell phones, televisions, household appliances, the tools in our garages and at our places of work. The knowing in these tools multiply our human power by orders of magnitude. They allow us to do what was considered impossible just a few years ago. It is the power of the knowing embedded in these tools that give them their power. You don’t have to be wise to use a tool full of wisdom. You don’t even have to be knowledgeable to use such a tool. McDonald’s fast food restaurants, use picture icons of the food and drinks on the buttons of the check out computers, so that the illiterate and innumerate humans working there can operate the computers without reading, adding or subtracting. The computer even tells the operator the correct amount of change to return to the customer.

However, there is risk in using tools you don’t understand. Remember, “a little knowing is a dangerous thing.” Today, we commonly put enormously powerful tools into the hands of those who do not understand them. This means the risk of using these tools in an unsafe manner is high. And since weapons are specifically designed to hurt or kill, they are among the most dangerous tools available in today’s society.

And yet they are easily available to anyone who desires them. They can be purchased legally by any adult who passes a background check for criminal record. If you are not a convicted felon, you can legally purchase all the weapons and ammunition you desire. You are not legally required to be literate, numerate, or have any knowledge of science or physics. No knowledge of weapons or the consequence of their use or misuse is required before becoming armed. As to felons, minors, or non-citizens—anyone wishing to avoid the background check of legal purchase, they can be purchased illegally in any town in America. (02/04/2016) 


Winning Hyperloop design revealed by MIT engineers

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

MIT Hyperloop Pod

BBC Technology — Designs for passenger pods that could travel through airless tubes have been revealed by a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Hyperloop is a conceptual transport system in which passenger pods could be fired through vacuum tubes at more than 600mph (1,000km/h). The MIT team came first in a SpaceX competition to design pods that could be tested in a prototype tube. The team will now have the opportunity to build and test its design in the US.

Describing his team’s winning design, chief engineer Chris Merian said: “Our pod focuses on levitating as well as moving at really high speeds. Those are the two things that we see as crucial to this being a true Hyperloop pod,” he added.

To help reassure potentially nervous riders, the MIT designers have included fail-safe brakes, which would stop the pod if the computer systems failed. However the design currently does not have space for cargo or passengers. More than 115 teams entered the design competition, with the MIT engineers scooping the Best Overall Design prize. Twenty-two teams will go on to test their pod designs on the SpaceX test track. (02/03/2016)


Microcephaly: ‘It’s not the end of the world’

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016

Laney (age 13)

BBC Medical Science — Microcephaly has come to prominence since the news reports of the Zika virus being linked to birth defects. The condition causes the head to be small in size and the brain to under-develop. But it is not known why babies are born with microcephaly. Gabrielle Frohock from Austin, Texas, US is a mum of three daughters – her last born – nicknamed Laney – has microcephaly. This is her story.


“After she was born doctors saw her head was too small. They did a cat scan the same day and diagnosed her with microcephaly. Part of the corpus callosum, or the nerve fibres, didn’t form at the back of the head that connects the two hemispheres of the brain. Doctors didn’t expect her to survive beyond a few months old. I had never heard of the condition before, and it was complete and utter devastation when we got the news. We also found out later she has a chromosome disorder that may be a cause of the microcephaly. I was determined I would love her and hold her – I did not put her down for six months, as I didn’t know how long she would survive. …

“When you have a child you love it unconditionally – when you have a special child, for me it’s a love without expectation. If she never says she loves me or never talks, it doesn’t matter. She’s a gift to me. It’s been heartbreaking but I never knew that kind of love existed. It only takes little things to make her happy. She can crawl now – and she can push a button on her favourite toy. We celebrate her birthday like you can’t imagine every year! She has brought so much joy in our lives. She is so wonderful, sweet and loving.” (02/03/2016)


2015 was Hottest Year on Record

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016


Bloomberg Business — To say that 2015 was hot is an understatement. The average recorded temperature across the surface of the planet was so far above normal that it set a record for setting records.

The year was more than a quarter of a degree Fahrenheit warmer than the last global heat record—set all the way back in 2014—according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration figures released on Wednesday. A quarter of a degree may not sound like much, but on a planetary scale it’s a huge leap. Most previous records were measured by hundredths of a degree.

A powerful El Niño is largely responsible for the year’s extremes, but make no mistake: This is what global warming looks like. Temperatures are rising 10 times faster than during the bounce back from the last ice age. Fifteen of the hottest 16 years on record have come in the 21st century. …

The heat during 2015 was relentless. Monthly records were broken for every month except January (second hottest) and April (third hottest), according to data from NOAA. The year ended with an exclamation point in December, recording the most extreme departure for any month on record.

Results from the world’s top monitoring agencies vary slightly, but NASA, NOAA, the Japan Meteorological Agency, and the U.K.’s Met Office all agree: 2015 was unprecedented. The heat was experienced differently around the world, but most regions were unusually warm to downright scorching for much of the year. (01/20/2016)


What Does a Grateful Brain Look Like?

Saturday, January 2nd, 2016


The Daily Good — Adam Hoffman writes: Evidence is mounting that a team at the University of Southern California has shed light on the neural nuts and bolts of gratitude in a new study, offering insights into the complexity of this social emotion and how it relates to other cognitive processes.

“There seems to be a thread that runs through subtle acts of gratitude, such as holding a door for someone, all the way up to the big powerful stuff like when someone gives you a kidney,” says Glenn Fox, a postdoctoral researcher at USC and lead author of the study. “I designed this experiment to see what aspects of brain function are common to both these small feelings of appreciation and large feelings of gratitude.”

In their experiment—which was partially funded by a grant from the Greater Good Science Center’s Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude project—Fox and his team planned to scan participants’ brains while they were feeling grateful to see where gratitude showed up.

But first, they had to induce gratitude. At USC’s Shoah Foundation, which houses the world’s largest collection of Holocaust testimonies, they poured over hundreds of hours of footage to identify compelling stories of survivors receiving aid from others.

“Many of the survivors talked about receiving life-saving help from other people—from being hidden by strangers during the middle of the Nazi manhunt to being given a new pair of shoes during a wintertime march,” says Fox. “And they also talked about less significant gifts, such as bread or a bed at night.”

These stories were turned into 48 brief vignettes, which the 23 experiment participants read while lying in a brain scanner. For example, one said, “A woman at the immigration agency stamps your passport so you can flee to England.” For each one, participants were asked to immerse themselves in the context of the Holocaust, imagine how they would feel if they were in the same situation, and then rate how grateful they felt—all while the fMRI machine recorded their brain activity.

The researchers found that grateful brains showed enhanced activity in two primary regions: the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) and the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). These areas have been previously associated with emotional processing, interpersonal bonding and rewarding social interactions, moral judgment, and the ability to understand the mental states of others. (01/02/2016)


Eight Steps Towards Forgiveness

Saturday, December 26th, 2015


The Daily Good — Robert Enright writes: When another person hurts us, it can upend our lives.

Sometimes the hurt is very deep, such as when a spouse or a parent betrays our trust, or when we are victims of crime, or when we’ve been harshly bullied. Anyone who has suffered a grievous hurt knows that when our inner world is badly disrupted, it’s difficult to concentrate on anything other than our turmoil or pain. When we hold on to hurt, we are emotionally and cognitively hobbled, and our relationships suffer.

Forgiveness is strong medicine for this. When life hits us hard, there is nothing as effective as forgiveness for healing deep wounds. I would not have spent the last 30 years of my life studying forgiveness if I were not convinced of this.

Many people have misconceptions about what forgiveness really means—and they may eschew it. Others may want to forgive, but wonder whether or not they truly can. Forgiveness does not necessarily come easily; but it is possible for many of us to achieve, if we have the right tools and are willing to put in the effort.

Below is an outline of the basic steps involved in following a path of forgiveness, adapted from my new book, 8 Keys to Forgiveness. As you read through these steps, think about how you might adapt them to your own life. (12/26/2015)


Synergic Containment: Protecting Humanity

Friday, December 18th, 2015

Timothy Wilken, MD

Future PositiveTimothy Wilken, MD writes: This is not a criticism of the federal officers who were involved in the adversary containment at the Branch Davidian Church. Clearly the members of that church were heavily armed and dangerous. But as a thought experiment, how would synergic containment work differently than adversary containment? …

Those within the compound would then be ordered to put down their weapons and move out to the perimeter to voluntarily enter into protective custody. Those being contained would have a short time to voluntarily surrender. If there was no response, or a hostile response, the Synergic Containment Force would begin Containment Isolation of  the compound. Once Containment Isolation is implemented, nothing goes in. Access to electricity, television, telephone, water, food and all outside supplies are a privilege to members of community in good standing. That privilege is suspended.

Nothing goes in. Every thing would stop! Then the Containment Force would sit back and wait for them to come out. Any unarmed member of the church could leave anytime by simply presenting to the rescue corridor for safe escort to the perimeter where they could voluntarily enter protective custody. Once out, no one goes back in unless and until Synergic Containment is lifted. The compound would not be stormed or attacked in anyway. No barrage of noise, loud music, or teargas. They would be left to themselves without phones, television, newspapers, mail, electricity, water, etc.etc..

They are not being punished. The benefits of community are being suspended until they cease all adversity. I expect that most of the members would have come out and surrendered. Perhaps not all. Once each day, the containment force would explicitly communicate with the contained adversaries, reminding them that safety, food, water, shelter and medical care wait for them at the perimeter. It would be made clear that to exit the containment zone, they need only put down their weapons and present to the rescue corridor, or perimeter. Any individual–adult or child–that did so would be given protection, water, food, medical care and shelter. (12/18/2015)


November 2015: Earth’s Warmest November

Friday, December 18th, 2015

Source: NOAA

WeatherUnderground — Dr. Jeff Masters writes: November 2015 was Earth’s warmest November on record by a huge margin, according to data released by NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) on Thursday.

November 2015 also had the second largest positive departure of temperature from average of any month among all 1631 months in the historical record that began in January 1880; only last month (October 2015) was more extreme. …

NASA also rated November 2015 as the warmest November in the historical record. November 2015’s warmth makes the year-to-date period (January – November) the warmest such period on record, according to both NOAA and NASA.

November 2015 was the seventh consecutive month a monthly high temperature record has been set in NOAA’s database, and the ninth month of the eleven months so far in 2015.

The potent El Niño event in the Eastern Pacific that crossed the threshold into the “strong” category in early July continued to intensify into mid-November, and is now slowly waning. Strong El Niño events release a large amount of heat to the atmosphere, typically boosting global temperatures by at least 0.1°C.

This extra bump in temperature, when combined with the long-term warming of the planet due to human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide, makes it virtually certain that 2015 will be Earth’s second consecutive warmest year on record. The lingering warmth from El Niño is likely to make 2016 a good bet to exceed even 2015’s warmth. (12/18/2015)


Understanding Climate Change

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015


BBC Science — The average temperature of the Earth’s surface has increased by about 0.85°C (1.4F) in the last 100 years. Thirteen of the 14 warmest years were recorded in the 21st Century, with 2015 on course to set another record.

Scientists believe that gases released from industry and agriculture (known as emissions) are adding to the natural greenhouse effect, the way the Earth’s atmosphere traps some of the energy from the Sun.

Human activities such as burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas are increasing the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas responsible for global warming. Carbon-absorbing forests are also being cut down.

The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is now higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years and reached a record high in May this year.

Higher temperatures, extreme weather events and higher sea levels are all linked to a warming climate and could have a drastic effect on the world’s regions.

Since 1900, sea levels have risen by on average about 19cm globally. The rate of sea-level rise has accelerated in recent decades, placing a number of islands and low-lying countries at risk.

The retreat of polar ice sheets is an important contributor to this rise.

Arctic sea ice is also shrinking because of higher temperatures, though it makes little contribution to raised sea levels.

An area of sea ice roughly 10 times the size of the UK has been lost when the current day is compared with average levels from the early 1980s. (12/09/2015)