31 maio 2015



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Supernova 1994D and the Unexpected Universe

Long ago, far away, a star exploded. Supernova 1994D, visible as the bright spot on the lower left, occurred in the outskirts of disk galaxy NGC 4526. Supernova 1994D was not of interest for how different it was, but rather for how similar it was to other supernovae. In fact, the light emitted during the weeks after its explosion caused it to be given the familiar designation of a Type Ia supernova. If all Type 1a supernovae have the same intrinsic brightness, then the dimmer a supernova appears, the farther away it must be. By calibrating a precise brightness-distance relation, astronomers are able to estimate not only the expansion rate of the universe (parameterized by the Hubble Constant), but also the geometry of the universe we live in (parameterized by Omega and Lambda). The large number and great distances to supernovae measured over the past few years, when combined with other observations, are interpreted as indicating that we live in a previously unexpected universe.

from NASA http://ift.tt/1FLWxty
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Word of the Day: quiddle

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dawn over over the great lakes, photographed by goes-15, may...

dawn over over the great lakes, photographed by goes-15, may 2015.

looking over the midwest, across the great lakes, and into eastern canada. in the top image, you can see morning sunlight glancing off lakes in quebec.

both gifs show 10 images, one taken at the same time each day, 22nd-31st may. top: 1000 utc (5am central daylight time). bottom: 1100 utc (6am cdt).

image credit: noaa/nasa. animation: ageofdestruction.

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This filmmaker argues, in short, that in 1969 NASA had the...

This filmmaker argues, in short, that in 1969 NASA had the technology to land on the moon but not to fake the moon landing

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Hallucinations And Delusions Are Surprisingly Common Ever heard...

Hallucinations And Delusions Are Surprisingly Common

Ever heard a voice inside your head or saw something that wasn’t there? You’re not alone — and it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with you. A study of more than 30,000 people from 18 countries found that about one in 20 of us have experienced a psychotic episode at least once.

The long-term study challenges the assumption that only people with psychosis experience hallucinations and delusions, though the causes and implications of these episodes remain largely unknown. The study was led by Professor John McGrath, a psychologist from Australia’s Queensland Brain Institute. The results of his team’s work can now be found at JAMA Psychiatry.

“When I trained in psychiatry we were told that if you heard voices, you may have had schizophrenia and that the two were very tightly linked,” McGrath told ABC Science. “But it turns out that when you interview people in the community and ask them if they’ve ever heard voices, they’ll say ‘yes, I have had that experience before’. That’s a really important clue as to which part of the brain may be going wrong — that the circuits in the brain that underline language, hearing and speaking are tending to misfire.”

A psychotic episode (PE) is when an individual experiences a temporary break from reality. It typically involves seeing, hearing, and believing things that aren’t real. The National Alliance on Mental Illness offers some examples of hallucinations and delusions:

  • Voices telling you to commit acts of violence or self-harm.
  • Feeling like something is crawling under your skin.
  • Seeing someone take the shape of something [they are] not, such as a demon.
  • Believing external forces are controlling your thoughts, feelings and behavior.
  • Believing that trivial remarks, events or objects have personal meaning or significance.
  • Thinking you have special powers, are on a special mission or even that you are God.

It’s important to note that psychosis is not an illness unto itself, but a symptom; a PE can be the result of a mental or physical illness, substance use, trauma, extreme stress, or other factors.

After surveying 31,261 “mostly high-functioning” people, i.e. a random sampling of individuals from 18 different countries, the researchers found that the lifetime prevalence of ever having a PE is 5.8%, so they’re typically rare. Of those who experience a PE, about one-third (32.2%) only experience them once over the course of their life. About another third (31.8%) reported experiencing between two to five episodes during their life. The researchers also found that hallucinations are much more common than delusions (5.2% vs. 1.3% respectively).

The researchers conclude by saying:

The epidemiologic features of PEs are more nuanced than previously thought. Research is needed that focuses on similarities and differences in the predictors of the onset, course, and consequences of distinct PEs.

Indeed, this research should motivate psychologists to acquire a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms involved. Moreover, it should influence them to change the way they view psychosis and how they make their clinical diagnoses.

As McGrath told ABC Science: “We need to equip the community to understand that it’s OK to talk about your depression, you should seek help if you hear voices, or you should seek help if you’re suicidal because these are things that we can help you with. I think as a community we need to be more aware of that — these are everyday things that are happening to everyday people.”


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May 31st 1962: Eichmann hangedOn this day in 1962, the fugitive...

Adolf Eichmann (1906 - 1962)

Eichmann's false Red Cross identity records he used to enter Argentina as 'Ricardo Klement' in 1950

May 31st 1962: Eichmann hanged

On this day in 1962, the fugitive Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann was executed in Israel. During the Nazi rule of Germany, Eichmann was one of Chancellor Adolf Hitler’s top men in the paramilitary organisation the SS, charged with overseeing the deportation of Jews to extermination camps. For this role, and his prominent participation in the 1942 Wannsee Conference that planned the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’, he is considered one of the chief architects of the Holocaust. After the fall of the Third Reich with Germany’s defeat in the Second World War and Adolf Hitler’s suicide in 1945, top Nazi officials faced charges of war crimes. Many were captured, and either committed suicide rather than face trial (like SS leader Heinrich Himmler), were executed after the Nuremberg Trials (like Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop), or were sent to prison (like Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess). Eichmann, however, fled first to Austria and then to Argentina in 1950, where he lived until he was captured by Israeli intelligence services. Eichmann was subsequently put on trial in Jerusalem for war crimes, found guilty, and was executed by hanging in 1962.

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For anybody who likes a bit of word play!

For anybody who likes a bit of word play!

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bbcnewsus: For years Russia has remained remarkably silent on...


For years Russia has remained remarkably silent on the challenge it faces from HIV and Aids. Now that silence has been broken by an epidemiologist who has been working in the field for more than two decades - and he calls the situation “a national catastrophe”.

Vadim Pokrovsky, the softly spoken head of the Federal Aids Centre in Moscow, has watched as the figures have climbed remorselessly upwards.

There are about one million people living with HIV today in Russia and year on year the rate of infection is rising, unlike sub-Saharan Africa where the rate of increase is slowing. This is according to Russia’s official figures, which almost everyone agrees are a substantial underestimate of the true position.

Fighting HIV where no-one admits its a problem

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The dark side of the 'love hormone'; research points to striking similarities with the effects of alcohol

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Every significant government appointee in the Chinese...

Every significant government appointee in the Chinese bureaucracy, for almost one thousand years, would start out their assignment with a packet that included a map of their jurisdiction. This map, one of many gazetters, included census data, trade and tax data, and local social behavior. An army of cartographers were employed to constantly update the gazettes. Not only did the gazetteers provide the government with reliable information on a sprawling empire; they also stirred local pride by highlighting each prefecture’s social and cultural achievements. This particular one is of Ning-hai County, circa 1200s

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blondebombshellescort: yearofwomen: MAY 21 - NICOLE TICEAAt...




At just fifteen years old, Vancouver high school student Nicole Ticea developed an early-stage HIV test that’s as easy to use as an over-the-counter pregnancy test. Unlike current rapid response tests which rely on testing antibodies, Ticea utilized a technique known as isothermic nucleic acid amplification, making it possible to detect the virus as early as one week after infection. The disposable device does not rely on electricity, provides results in under one hour and should cost less than $5.00 to produce.

“Nicole’s work really made me realize what a big difference a fast easy-to-administer test for early stage HIV infection could make in prolonging, if not saving, thousands of lives in developing countries,” said Gursev Anmole, the graduate student mentor who assisted Nicole on her research at Simon Fraser University.

Ticea was recently awarded the 2015 Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award for her groundbreaking work. After starting her own company, she received a $100,000 grant to continue developing this technology in the hopes of bringing it to low-income communities in need.

This is amazing!

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CLICK HERE —> http://bit.ly/10PsychMemes to see more brilliant psych memes!

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30 maio 2015




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Messier Craters in Stereo

Many bright nebulae and star clusters in planet Earth's sky are associated with the name of astronomer Charles Messier, from his famous 18th century catalog. His name is also given to these two large and remarkable craters on the Moon. Standouts in the dark, smooth lunar Sea of Fertility or Mare Fecunditatis, Messier (left) and Messier A have dimensions of 15 by 8 and 16 by 11 kilometers respectively. Their elongated shapes are explained by an extremely shallow-angle trajectory followed by the impactor, moving left to right, that gouged out the craters. The shallow impact also resulted in two bright rays of material extending along the surface to the right, beyond the picture. Intended to be viewed with red/blue glasses (red for the left eye), this striking stereo picture of the crater pair was recently created from high resolution scans of two images (AS11-42-6304, AS11-42-6305) taken during the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

from NASA http://ift.tt/1QgEZs3
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What is the original monkey who “sees no evil, hears no evil, and speaks no evil”?Answer

What is the original monkey who “sees no evil, hears no evil, and speaks no evil”?


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the sun, photographed by sdo, 15th april 2015.24 frames,...

the sun, photographed by sdo, 15th april 2015.

24 frames, photographed over 6 hours. top: as photographed. bottom: aligned to the sun.

i don’t know if this sort of pointing is done intentionally (to image the wider corona, perhaps) or if it’s just the result of leaving the camera operating while the spacecraft performs some other function.

image credit: nasa/sdo, aia/eve/hmi. animation: ageofdestruction.

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eyesonoakland: Here’s a sampling of insights we heard from...


Here’s a sampling of insights we heard from residents last night during our outing at the Oakland Museum. Thanks to all who stopped by!

Learn more about our participatory Eyes on Oakland exhibit with the Mobile Arts Platform and the Oakland Museum of California here.
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We’re not sure exactly where she was born, or when she was...

We’re not sure exactly where she was born, or when she was born, but we know that Mary Harris was from somewhere in Cork County, Ireland, and immigrated to North America with her family as a child to escape the Irish famine. In her early twenties, she moved to Chicago, where she worked as a dressmaker, and then to Memphis, Tennessee, where she met and married George Jones, a skilled iron molder and staunch unionist. The couple had four children.  Then tragedy struck: a yellow fever epidemic in 1867 took the lives of Mary’s husband and all four children. Mary Harris Jones returned to Chicago where she continued to sew, becoming a dressmaker for the wealthy. “I would look out of the plate glass windows and see the poor, shivering wretches, jobless and hungry, walking alongside the frozen lake front,” she said. “The tropical contrast of their condition with that of the tropical comfort of the people for whom I sewed was painful to me. My employers seemed neither to notice nor to care.” Then came the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Mary once again lost everything.

After the fire, Mary began to travel across the country. The nation was undergoing dramatic change, and industrialization was changing the nature of work. She worked with the Knights of Labor, often giving speeches to inspire the workers during strikes. She organized assistance for workers’ strikes, and prepared for workers’ marches. In June 1897, after Mary addressed the railway union convention, she began to be referred to as “Mother” by the men of the union. The name stuck. That summer, when the 9,000-member Mine Workers called a nationwide strike of bituminous (soft coal) miners and tens of thousands of miners laid down their tools, Mary arrived in Pittsburgh to assist them. She became “Mother Jones” to millions of working men and women across the country for her efforts on behalf of the miners. Mother Jones was so effective the union would send her into mines, to help miners to join unions. In addition to miners, Mother Jones also was very concerned about child workers. To attract attention to the cause of abolishing child labor, in 1903, she led a children’s march of 100 children from the textile mills of Philadelphia to New York City “to show the New York millionaires our grievances.” She led the children all the way to President Theodore Roosevelt’s Long Island home.

A political progressive, she was a founder of the Social Democratic Party in 1898. Mother Jones also helped establish the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905. For all of her social reform and labor activities, she was considered by the authorities to be one of the most dangerous women in America. In 1912, Mother Jones was even charged with a capital offense by a military tribunal in West Virginia and held under house arrest for weeks until popular outrage and national attention forced the governor to release her. In her eighties, Mother Jones settled down near Washington, D.C., in 1921 but continued to travel across the country. She died, possibly aged 100, in 1930.  Her final request was to be buried in the Miners Cemetery in Mt. Olive, Illinois, where you can visit her grave today.

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Why Girls Are Starting Puberty EarlyFor the past two decades...

Why Girls Are Starting Puberty Early

For the past two decades scientists have been trying to unravel a mystery in young girls. Breast development, typical of 11-year-olds a generation ago, is now occurring in more seven-year-olds and, rarely, even in three-year-olds. That precocious development, scientists fear, may increase their risk for cancer or other illnesses later in life. Time has not resolved the puzzle. Nor is there any indication that this trend is slowing. More and more families are finding themselves in the strange position of juggling stuffed animals and puberty talks with their first and second graders.

Obesity appears to be the major factor sending girls into these unchartered waters. The rate of obesity has more than doubled in children over the past 30 years. And whereas only 7 percent of children aged six to 11 were obese in 1980, nearly 18 percent were obese in 2012. The latest studies, however, suggest that weight gain does not explain everything. Family stress and chemical exposures in the environment may also play a role, but the data do not yet paint a very clear picture of their contribution. As for boys, the data are murkier, but one 2012 study did suggest that they, too, may be starting puberty earlier than before—perhaps by as much as six months to two years.

Clinicians say that slightly early development of breasts is likely not physically harmful and so does not require medical or pharmaceutical therapy for most girls. (Among the few exceptions are pituitary disorders.) The psychological effects, though, are another matter that warrants more attention from schools and parents; early puberty seems to augment the risk of depression and to promote substance abuse and early initiation of sexual intercourse.

Obesity’s role
Precocious development was first thrust into the spotlight in 1997, when a landmark U.S. study declared that at least 5 percent of white and 15 percent of black girls had started to develop breasts by age seven—much earlier than expected. “That finding evoked a lot of passion,” says Paul B. Kaplowitz, a pediatric endocrinologist at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C. Moreover, the 1997 work found that the trend toward early development was not happening only in outliers. Puberty was happening earlier in most girls and again differed by race: instead of age 11, the typical age of breast development by the early 1990s was 8.87 years in African-Americans and 9.96 in white girls, researchers found. Other studies soon reached similar conclusions in Europe as well as the U.S. According to the most recent U.S. data (from 2013), 23 percent of black girls, 15 percent of Hispanic girls and 10 percent of white girls have started to develop breasts by the age of seven. Those findings suggest the proportion of girls with significantly earlier breast development may still be ticking upward.

From a biological point of view, whether puberty begins early or late, it still starts in the brain. Something cues the brain to produce a substance called gonadotropin-releasing hormone, or GnRH. This process activates the pituitary gland, which then signals the ovaries to produce estrogen, which in turn stimulates the breasts to grow and puberty to begin. (Pubic hair forms as the result of a different biological process.) Menstruation usually begins a few years later. Focusing too much on the latter meant researchers tended to overlook the breast trend.

The ovaries are not the only place in the body where estrogen is produced, however. Fat cells manufacture the hormone as well. Thus, with obesity levels on the rise around the world, it is not surprising that earlier puberty would result. Although girls’ breasts are developing earlier than before, the age at which they start to menstruate—and at which ovaries start pumping out large amounts of estrogen on a regular basis—has advanced by about only three months compared with decades past. As a result, puberty not only begins earlier but lasts longer than before.

The most obvious physical consequence of early puberty is a prolonged exposure to estrogen. Although excessive amounts of the hormone appear to increase the risk of developing breast cancer, no data so far indicate that starting one’s period a few months earlier than the previous norm exposes a girl to enough extra estrogen to cause a health problem. The potential effect probably is minimal, researchers say—particularly when weighed against myriad other factors—such as genetics, alcohol consumption and exercise—that also affect cancer risk. The much smaller exposure to estrogen that occurs in conjunction with early breast development has not yet been definitively studied.

Against that backdrop, many experts now believe parents should focus on the psychosocial consequences of early puberty rather than the potential physical risks. Frank M. Biro of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center has spent his career studying puberty. He is also the father of three children. In his estimation, one of the biggest issues with early puberty is social well-being. “We interact with girls as they appear,” Biro says. “People relate to an early-maturing girl as if she is older than she is, but there is really no correlation between age of onset of puberty and one’s social or emotional maturation.” The result can be incredibly confusing for girls—who may face sexual innuendo or teasing long before they (or their parents) are ready for it.

Beyond obesity
Although researchers agree that obesity plays the central role in the earlier development of puberty, there is evidence implicating other factors as well. Lise Aksglaede and her colleagues at Rigshospitalet in Copenhagen followed more than 2,000 girls and discovered that although heavier individuals were indeed entering puberty earlier, a similar—if slightly less pronounced—trend also existed among normal-weight girls. In a 2009 study published in Pediatrics, they concluded that the increases in body mass index (a standard measure of weight in relation to height) between 1991 and 2006 were simply not large enough to account for girls’ breast development dropping by a year during that period. “In my view, this is the best study that suggests it may not all be body fat and that there’s something else here,” Kaplowitz says.

What might that something else include? Researchers have long suspected that exposure to certain compounds known as endocrine disruptors might have a part in triggering early puberty. These substances, among them pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls and bisphenol A, mimic the effects of estrogen in the body—and so could potentially stimulate early breast growth. Discerning how much of an influence exposure to these chemicals might play is complicated, however, by the obesity epidemic. Because the body often stores chemicals in fat cells, an overweight girl is more likely to be exposed to more chemicals—making it difficult to apportion blame between endocrine disruptors and weight gain. Other investigators have implicated intense stresses in childhood, such as sometimes occurs with the absence of the biological father in the home or if a child is sensitive to conflict around her, as possible causes of earlier puberty—although the biological mechanism of action is not known. What is evident is that there is a symphony of moving parts to make puberty happen instead of a solo actor.

What to do?
Girls are not hapless creatures, of course, buffeted by the winds of change without any control over their actions. Regular physical activity may prove beneficial to help counteract at least some of the trend toward early puberty by improving mood and combating weight gain. Helping daughters to maintain a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables may also offer some protection, psychologist Julianna Deardorff and pediatric endocrinologist Louise Greenspan write in their new book, The New Puberty: How to Navigate Early Development in Today’s Girls.

One thing mothers can do to try to avoid the problem in the first place is to breast-feed their children. Children who are breast-fed appear to be less likely to enter puberty early, although the reasons are still unclear. A 2015 study that tracked some 1,200 girls and their mothers’ breast-feeding habits found that breast-feeding—and longer duration of breast-feeding—correlated with later onset of breast development in daughters in some populations. Parents and communities can also help protect girls from the painful psychological effects of early development. One way, Deardorff says, is preparing girls for puberty by talking about developmental changes in a positive, nonstigmatizing way. Living in a homogeneous neighborhood may also be helpful: early-maturing fifth graders of Mexican descent showed fewer symptoms of depression by seventh grade when they lived in Hispanic neighborhoods compared with similar girls living in more diverse neighborhoods, according to another study. It is unclear, however, why homogeneity may have helped.

Regardless of where girls live, they could well benefit from a change in school curriculums. Schools typically do not offer sexual education classes covering body maturation until fifth grade, when most children are around age 10 or 11. Puberty education should start earlier, Deardorff and Greenspan believe, with age-appropriate materials beginning in the first semester of fourth grade to more closely conform with present reality.

Identifying the triggers that push individual girls into early puberty remains a challenge that leaves parents short of a simple action plan. As Marcia E. Herman-Giddens, lead author of the watershed 1997 early puberty paper, says, “People always want to know the reason, but I don’t think people will ever be able to sort out the reason or the fix. It’s a lot of things interacting together, and they have different effects on different individuals.”

It remains to be seen if the early puberty trends will continue. “You would think at some point you would hit a biologic minimum, but I don’t know when that is or when it would be,” Biro says. Will every girl start maturing earlier? If obesity trends reverse course, will puberty begin later? As researchers look for answers, it is clear that parents and doctors alike need to be aware of the changes happening right now.


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How Technology Affects Our Sleep Throughout your life, you’ve...

How Technology Affects Our Sleep

Throughout your life, you’ve probably been told how important sleep is for your body. However, did you know using technology could be negatively affecting your sleep patterns? According to The National Sleep Foundation, 95 percent of people surveyed admitted to using electronic devices prior to sleeping. Researchers have found using these devices so close to bedtime can lead to sleep disturbances, low energy and drowsy driving. Check out this infographic for more details on how technology affects your sleep – and what to avoid doing to get the best sleep possible for your body.


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Updated Science: The New Zodiac

The New Zodiac

FYI, the croissant is still a croissant, but it has a lighter glaze.

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Intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants, known as Long-Acting...

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants, known as Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (LARC), are the most effective types of birth control for teens. LARC is safe to use, does not require taking a pill each day or doing something each time before having sex, and can prevent pregnancy for 3 to 10 years, depending on the method. Less than 1% of LARC users would become pregnant during the first year of use.

(From CDC)

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About your post on the 2008 election, the last time this happened was in 1952, not 1928. Adlai Stevenson was the Governor of Illinois, and Dwight Eisenhower was drafted to run for President and had no prior electoral experience.

Completely missed this one! Thanks!

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PSYCHOLOGY ROCKS! http://ift.tt/1d5B7NQ



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May 30th 1431: Joan of Arc burned at the stakeOn this day in...

Joan of Arc (1412-1431)

Joan of Arc burning at the stake

Memorial near spot of her death in Rouen

May 30th 1431: Joan of Arc burned at the stake

On this day in 1431, in Rouen, France the 19-year-old Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. The peasant girl, who claimed that God had chosen her and gave her divine guidance, led France’s army to several victories during the Hundred Years’ War. This long-running war aimed to liberate France from English control and establish the French crown prince Charles of Valois as King, making Joan of Arc a national heroine in France. She famously defied many of the gender norms of her day, refusing to marry, and dressing as a man in order to cross enemy territory to reach Charles’s palace. Joan had no military experience, but successfully led French forces to victory in several battles, including in the city of Orléans However, Joan of Arc was captured by the English and put on trial for witchcraft and heresy, of which she was convicted. As was customary at the time, she was burned at the stake for her crimes. She was posthumously declared innocent and made a Catholic saint; this day is often celebrated to commemorate the remarkable story of Joan of Arc.

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A cradleboard, by the Kootenai (Kutenai), who live in what we...

A cradleboard, by the Kootenai (Kutenai), who live in what we today call Idaho. Besides pretty, it is quite intricate with wood, cotton, glass and metal beads, shells, animal teeth, and twine all carved, sewn, and fringed together to make the elaborate patterns we see.  (Circa 1880)

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gov-info: CDC Gov Doc/Data: New Chronic Disease Indicators...


CDC Gov Doc/Data: New Chronic Disease Indicators Website

Chronic diseases represent seven of the top 10 deaths in the United States. The Chronic Disease Indicators (CDI) website is the only integrated source for comprehensive access to a wide range of key indicators for the surveillance of chronic diseases, conditions, and risk factors.

The redesigned and more user-friendly website also provides an online tool for users to compare data on the prevalence of chronic diseases in 40 large metropolitan areas, as well as at state and national levels.

What are Chronic Disease Indicators?

Established in 1999 these indicators provide access to relevant, up-to-date, and uniformly defined chronic disease surveillance data at the state and country level. There are currently 18 topic groups which comprise 124 indicators. These 18 categories represent a wide spectrum of conditions and risk factors as well as social context:

  • Alcohol
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Diabetes
  • Disability
  • Immunization
  • Mental health
  • Nutrition, physical activity, and weight status
  • Older adults
  • Oral health
  • Overarching conditions
  • Reproductive health
  • School health
  • Tobacco

Chronic Disease Indicators is a joint project by the CDC and partner organizations– the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists.

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May 29th 1953: Hillary and Norgay reach Everest summitOn this...

Norgay on Everest's summit

Hillary & Norgay near summit - May 28th

Hillary (left) and Norgay (right)

May 29th 1953: Hillary and Norgay reach Everest summit

On this day in 1953, Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay become the first people to reach the summit of the world’s highest mountain: Mount Everest. Many previous attempts to scale the peak had failed, but New Zealander Hillary and Nepalese Norgay reached the top (29,028 feet) at 11.30am local time on May 29th 1953. Norgay later revealed that Hillary had been the first to step onto the summit. The pair spent only 15 minutes taking pictures at the summit before they began their descent. Norgay left chocolates in the snow as an offering and Hillary left a cross that he had been given by John Hunt (leader of the expedition). News of their success reached London on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation on June 2nd, and upon arrival in Kathmandu Hillary and Hunt discovered they had been knighted.

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29 maio 2015


REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY http://ift.tt/1cp0CsW

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via @notiun

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Saturn at Opposition

Telescopic observers on Earth have been treated to spectacular views of Saturn lately as the ringed planet reached its 2015 opposition on May 23 at 0200 UT. Of course opposition means opposite the Sun in Earth's sky. So near opposition Saturn is up all night, at its closest and brightest for the year. These sharp images taken within hours of the Sun-Earth-Saturn alignment also show the strong brightening of Saturn's rings known as the opposition surge or the Seeliger Effect. Directly illuminated, the ring's icy particles cast no shadows and strongly backscatter sunlight toward planet Earth, creating the dramatic surge in brightness. Saturn currently stands in the sky not far from bright Antares, alpha star of the constellation Scorpius.

from NASA http://ift.tt/1SFDkQR
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Banning legal highs: the biggest obstacle is the human...

Banning legal highs: the biggest obstacle is the human brain

New government plans to crack down on and ban “legal highs” have a lot of people confused and worried. For a start, the government is essentially planning to make legal highs illegal, and thus creating a logical paradox. Anything covered by the new laws would become illegal, so would not a “legal” high, so wouldn’t be covered by the laws after all, so would be legal. So they would be covered the laws, but then become illegal…

Ironically, this sort of thinking will probably only make sense when you’re stoned out of your mind.

Thankfully (for a given value of “thankful”) the proposed legislation is a bit more detailed than this, in that it promises to ban trade in any substances for human consumption that is capable of producing a psychoactive effect. It has also been made clear that things such as coffee, food, alcohol etc. wouldn’t be included. Similar policies in Ireland and Poland also clarify that the psychoactive effect has to be “significant”, to prevent more common “everyday” substances being affected.

While more detailed, there are still several issues with this approach. Firstly, “psychoactive” basically means any substance that affects brain function and can alter perception, consciousness, mood, things like that. Anything that affects the mind, to be succinct. Trouble is, this isn’t exactly a hard thing to do. The human brain is so active and flexible that practically anything can “alter brain function”. Reading a particularly provocative or illuminating newspaper article can be said to alter your mood and/or perception. Propaganda is based on processes like this.

We could be generous and say the law applies specifically to consumable substances which alter brain function “artificially” (another tricky term when you consider the workings of the brain). This is still problematic, because if you’re not specifying the specific substance (as the proposed law doesn’t) then countless things can have a “psychoactive” effect like this. Some well prepared food can do it, which that scene in Ratatouille demonstrates nicely.

The issue of “significant” psychoactive effects is another problem. How do you measure whether something is significant? What’s the cut-off point between significant and non-significant in a scenario like this? We’re talking legal ramifications here, where the distinction could mean the difference between breaking the law and not, so this should really be specified. How to do that though is a big problem, because response to psychoactive substances can vary massively between individuals.

Most people will have seen examples of this; there’s always someone you know with an incredible tolerance for alcohol, who can drink constantly and heavily throughout the night, but the only consequences they demonstrate are a slight reddening of the face and more regular toilet visits. In contrast, there are those people who struggle to walk or put sentences together if they’re so much as in the room when someone opens a bottle of wine. And this is just alcohol, an incredibly-common substance. How much harder is it going to be to work out how much is “too much” when we’re dealing with an essentially new compound?

Alcohol consumption can be analysed directly by breathalysers, but how do you measure the psychoactive effects of a novel substance? The mind is incredibly difficult to measure, so much so that some sciences have to ignore it altogether to get anything done. So how is law enforcement meant to manage it? It’s difficult to imagine a policemen pulling someone over and saying “Sir, please step out of the vehicle and think into this tube”, or “It appears your mental state is significantly different to the norm, you’ll have to come with us”.

But these things would have to happen if we were to get a logical, consistent and effective system for controlling legal highs. But then, logic and effectiveness have never really been a big part of drug enforcement policy, and with crackdowns already happening it seems this will remain the case for some time.

Obviously there are health concerns to consider, and in fairness most legal highs that have been targeted thus far seem designed to mimic the effects of known illegal narcotics, but the advances in science and the complexity of the brain will only serve to make this area incredibly problematic as we go on.

One easy solution does present itself: ban dopamine! Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, so is a chemical substance like most drugs, and it certainly has a psychoactive effect in that it enables the sensations of pleasure and reward in the brain, which are behind most drug sensations and addictions. Banning dopamine would be a sure-fire way of stopping legal highs, effectively rendering them all pointless. Granted, dopamine has many other crucial functions, but sacrifices have to be made in the war against drugs.

However, other neurotransmitters and hormones like oxytocin and serotonin can also chemically induce pleasure, and there is mounting evidence that others are involved in drug effects too. Using the same “everything is banned unless we say otherwise” approach of the new regulations on legal highs, it would be best to ban all neurotransmitters just in case they’re used to induce psychoactive effects. And they would be, because that’s technically what they’re for. So we’d end up with a population unable to use their brains.

Seems like an ideal arrangement for the government, if we’re honest.


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Finding “lost” memories Using optogenetics to reactivate...

Finding “lost” memories

Using optogenetics to reactivate memories that could not otherwise be retrieved.

Memories that have been “lost” as a result of amnesia can be recalled by activating brain cells with light.

In a paper published today in the journal Science, researchers at MIT reveal that they were able to reactivate memories that could not otherwise be retrieved, using a technology known as optogenetics.

The finding answers a fiercely debated question in neuroscience as to the nature of amnesia, according to Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor in MIT’s Department of Biology and director of the RIKEN-MIT Center at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, who directed the research by lead authors Tomas Ryan, Dheeraj Roy, and Michelle Pignatelli.

Neuroscience researchers have for many years debated whether retrograde amnesia — which follows traumatic injury, stress, or diseases such as Alzheimer’s — is caused by damage to specific brain cells, meaning a memory cannot be stored, or if access to that memory is somehow blocked, preventing its recall.

“The majority of researchers have favored the storage theory, but we have shown in this paper that this majority theory is probably wrong,” Tonegawa says. “Amnesia is a problem of retrieval impairment.”

Memory researchers have previously speculated that somewhere in the brain network is a population of neurons that are activated during the process of acquiring a memory, causing enduring physical or chemical changes.

If these groups of neurons are subsequently reactivated by a trigger such as a particular sight or smell, for example, the entire memory is recalled. These neurons are known as “memory engram cells.”

Shedding light

In 2012 Tonegawa’s group used optogenetics — in which proteins are added to neurons to allow them to be activated with light — to demonstrate for the first time that such a population of neurons does indeed exist in an area of the brain called the hippocampus.

However, until now no one has been able to show that these groups of neurons do undergo enduring chemical changes, in a process known as memory consolidation. One such change, known as “long-term potentiation” (LTP), involves the strengthening of synapses, the structures that allow groups of neurons to send signals to each other, as a result of learning and experience.

To find out if these chemical changes do indeed take place, the researchers first identified a group of engram cells in the hippocampus that, when activated using optogenetic tools, were able to express a memory.

When they then recorded the activity of this particular group of cells, they found that the synapses connecting them had been strengthened. “We were able to demonstrate for the first time that these specific cells — a small group of cells in the hippocampus — had undergone this augmentation of synaptic strength,” Tonegawa says.

The researchers then attempted to discover what happens to memories without this consolidation process. By administering a compound called anisomycin, which blocks protein synthesis within neurons, immediately after mice had formed a new memory, the researchers were able to prevent the synapses from strengthening.

When they returned one day later and attempted to reactivate the memory using an emotional trigger, they could find no trace of it. “So even though the engram cells are there, without protein synthesis those cell synapses are not strengthened, and the memory is lost,” Tonegawa says.

But startlingly, when the researchers then reactivated the protein synthesis-blocked engram cells using optogenetic tools, they found that the mice exhibited all the signs of recalling the memory in full.

“If you test memory recall with natural recall triggers in an anisomycin-treated animal, it will be amnesiac, you cannot induce memory recall,” Tonegawa says. “But if you go directly to the putative engram-bearing cells and activate them with light, you can restore the memory, despite the fact that there has been no LTP.”

“Groundbreaking paper”

Further studies carried out by Tonegawa’s group demonstrated that memories are stored not in synapses strengthened by protein synthesis in individual engram cells, but in a circuit, or “pathway” of multiple groups of engram cells and the connections between them.

“We are proposing a new concept, in which there is an engram cell ensemble pathway, or circuit, for each memory,” he says. “This circuit encompasses multiple brain areas and the engram cell ensembles in these areas are connected specifically for a particular memory.”

The research dissociates the mechanisms used in memory storage from those of memory retrieval, according to Ryan. “The strengthening of engram synapses is crucial for the brain’s ability to access or retrieve those specific memories, while the connectivity pathways between engram cells allows the encoding and storage of the memory information itself,” he says.

Changes in synaptic strength and in spine properties have long been associated with learning and memory, according to Alcino Silva, director of the Integrative Center for Learning and Memory at the University of California at Los Angeles. “This groundbreaking paper suggests that these changes may not be as critical for memory as once thought, since under certain conditions, it seems to be possible to disrupt these changes and still preserve memory,” he says. “Instead, it appears that these changes may be needed for memory retrieval, a mysterious process that has so far evaded neuroscientists.”

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fuckyeahfluiddynamics: Like humans, plants can spread pathogens...


Like humans, plants can spread pathogens to one another. Although scientists had observed correlations between rainfall and the spread of diseases among plants, this study is one of the first to look at the fluid dynamics of leaf and rainfall interaction. When a raindrop hits a leaf, it doesn’t simply splash as it would against an immobile surface. The impact of the drop deforms the leaf, and the plant’s rebound significantly affects the trajectory and size of the resulting droplets. Depending on factors like the leaf’s stiffness, a large drop, carrying many pathogens, may rebound and splatter onto a neighboring leaf. Other leaves tend to catapult out many smaller droplets, which may fly farther afield but carry fewer pathogens. For more, check out the press release or the original research paper. (Video credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology; research credit: Bourouiba Research Group)

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sun & moon, photographed by sdo, 30th january 2014.an...

sun & moon, photographed by sdo, 30th january 2014.

an eclipse of the sun by the moon visible only from sdo, created by the alignment of their orbits. and, for good measure, a solar flare (left).

this sequence of 28 frames (photographed over 7 hours) combines images of two wavelengths, for reasons that i no longer clearly recall. this idiosyncratic postprocessing has, however, revealed some interesting textures of the image sensor.

image credit: nasa/sdo, aia/eve/hmi. animation: ageofdestruction.

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neuromorphogenesis: Dream On: Why Sleep is So Important  This...


Dream On: Why Sleep is So Important 

This infographic showcases some studies on just how dangerous—and costly—sacrificing sleep can be, and it concludes with some facts on how you can try and improve your sleep quality if it’s something you struggle with. 


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