Monday, April 30, 2012

Some science items via ScienceDaily's (free) newsletter:
Scientists at Duke University Medical Center have shown the ability to turn scar tissue that forms after a heart attack into heart muscle cells using a new process that eliminates the need for stem cell transplant.
The study . . . used molecules called microRNAs to trigger the cardiac tissue conversion in a lab dish and, for the first time, in a living mouse, demonstrating the potential of a simpler process for tissue regeneration.
If additional studies confirm the approach in human cells, it could lead to a new way for treating many of the 23 million people worldwide who suffer heart failure, which is often caused by scar tissue that develops after a heart attack. The approach could also have benefit beyond heart disease.
"This is a significant finding with many therapeutic implications," said Victor J. Dzau, MD, a senior author on the study who is James B. Duke professor of medicine and chancellor of health affairs at Duke University. "If you can do this in the heart, you can do it in the brain, the kidneys, and other tissues. This is a whole new way of regenerating tissue."

‘Self-healing’ concrete is being developed by researchers at Northumbria University which could see cracks in concrete buildings become a thing of the past. . . .
“This project is hugely exciting. The potential is there to have a building that can look after itself.”

Long portrayed as stagnant in economic terms, the income growth of the U.S. middle class may be much greater than suggested by economists like Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez. . . .
Median income of the U.S. middle class rose by as much as 37 percent from 1979-2007[,] says Richard Burkhauser. . . . In contrast, when Piketty and Saez-style estimates were used, median income increased by only 3.2 percent over the same period.
. . . Burkhauser's team . . . was able to show how much the income picture changes when taxes are subtracted from market income and government transfers such as welfare assistance, unemployment insurance and Social Security benefits are added. The team also adjusted for household size and the value of health insurance -- factors Burkhauser says more accurately reflect financial resources available to middle class individuals.
Says Burkhauser: "When we broaden our measure to include government taxes and transfers and look at households adjusted for size, the gains of middle class Americans are ten times larger. The gains are even more when we include the value of in-kind income such as the value of employer and government provided health insurance."

The herpes zoster vaccine, also known as the shingles vaccine, is generally safe and well tolerated according to a Vaccine Safety Datalink study of 193,083 adults. . . .
More than 1 million people develop shingles every year in the United States. Shingles is a painful contagious rash caused by the dormant chickenpox virus which can reactivate and replicate, damaging the nerve system. The elderly are especially vulnerable because immunity against the virus that causes shingles declines with age.

Scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have identified a new way to deliver long-lasting pain relief through an ancient medical practice. . . .
Several years ago, Zylka and members of his lab documented how injecting PAP into the spine eased chronic pain for up to three days in rodents. The only problem was PAP's delivery. . . .
"We knew that PAP . . . lasts for days following spinal injection, so we wondered what would happen if we injected PAP into an acupuncture point?" Zylka said. "Can we mimic the pain relief that occurs with acupuncture, but have it last longer?"
To find out, Zylka and his lab injected PAP into the popliteal fossa, the soft tissue area behind the knee. This also happens to be the location of the Weizhong acupuncture point. Remarkably, they saw that pain relief lasted 100 times longer than a traditional acupuncture treatment. What's more, by avoiding the spine the researchers could increase the dose of PAP. A single injection was also effective at reducing symptoms associated with inflammatory pain and neuropathic pain.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

You can’t have geniuses and saints without having people far outside the norm, and I don’t see how you can have such things on only one side of the norm. There is bound to be a certain symmetry.
Isaac Asimov, Foundation and Earth

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Glenn Reynolds points to an article about the desire many women feel "to be controlled or dominated in the romantic sphere." The author, Katie Roiphe, writes that such fantasies "seem to be saying something about modern women that nearly everyone wishes wasn’t said." If it's true, though . . .

W. Somerset Maugham, who based his fiction closely on his own experiences, has a Tahitian woman say this in The Moon and Sixpence (1919; p. 269 here):
My first husband, Captain Johnson, used to thrash me regularly. He was a man. He was handsome, six foot three, and when he was drunk there was no holding him. I would be black and blue all over for days at a time. Oh, I cried when he died. I thought I should never get over it. But it wasn't till I married George Rainey that I knew what I'd lost. You can never tell what a man is like till you live with him. I've never been so deceived in a man as I was in George Rainey. He was a fine, upstanding fellow too. He was nearly as tall as Captain Johnson, and he looked strong enough. But it was all on the surface. He never drank. He never raised his hand to me. He might have been a missionary. I made love with the officers of every ship that touched the island, and George Rainey never saw anything. At last I was disgusted with him, and I got a divorce. What was the good of a husband like that? It's a terrible thing the way some men treat women.
That passage startled me when I first read it, but I believed it, and I'm unsurprised that the longing persists.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Some science items via ScienceDaily's (free) newsletter:
A new study using satellite mapping technology reveals there are twice as many emperor penguins in Antarctica [as] previously thought. . . . [T]his iconic bird . . . breeds in remote areas that are very difficult to study because they often are inaccessible with temperatures as low as -58 degrees Fahrenheit.

When Dr. Irene Gatti de Leon slipped on the ice and bumped her head, she wasn't too concerned. But two months later, she began to experience weakness in her right leg and right arm while she and her husband were visiting their daughter in suburban Chicago.

So she made an urgent appointment with Loyola University Medical Center neurologist Dr. José Biller, a fellow native of Uruguay whom she has known for years.

Biller ordered an immediate MRI scan, which showed a large subdural hematoma -- a mass of blood on the surface of the brain. With the hematoma compressing the brain, de Leon was in imminent danger of suffering permanent paralysis or cognitive deficits, similar to disabilities caused by strokes.

Biller referred de Leon to Loyola neurosurgeon Dr. Douglas Anderson, who stayed late to perform emergency surgery. Anderson drilled two holes in her skull and drained the hematoma, which was about 2 inches long and 1½ inches thick. De Leon has made a full recovery. . . .

De Leon's case "is an excellent illustration of why patients should not ignore neurological symptoms," Biller said.

Abandoned army bunkers along the Jordan River have become a habitat for 12 indigenous bat species, three of which are already designated as endangered and two that are on the critical list.

. . . [R]esearchers are now working to make the bunkers a more hospitable place for the bats by "roughing up" the steel and concrete walls -- suspending mesh sheets and wooden pallets and spraying insulating foam and stuck stones to surfaces to provide a better grip.

[Headline: Caterpillars More Likely to Vomit Alone]

A type of caterpillar which defends itself by regurgitating on its predators is less likely to do so when in groups than when alone. . . .

Such reluctance is sufficient to cancel out the benefits of being in a group.

Strong scientific evidence exists that eating blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and other berry fruits has beneficial effects on the brain and may help prevent age-related memory loss and other changes, scientists report.

Stimulating the brain with a weak electrical current is a safe and effective treatment for depression and could have other surprise benefits for the body and mind, a major Australian study of transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) has found. . . .

A non-invasive form of brain stimulation, tDCS passes a weak depolarising electrical current into the front of the brain through electrodes on the scalp. Patients remain awake and alert during the procedure. . . .

The study also turned up additional unexpected physical and mental benefits, including improved attention and information processing.

"One participant with a long-standing reading problem said his reading had improved after the trial and others commented that they were able to think more clearly.

"Another participant with chronic neck pain reported that the pain had disappeared during the trial. We think that is because tDCS actually changes the brain's perception of pain. We believe these cognitive benefits are another positive aspect of the treatment worthy of investigation," Professor Loo said.

Those suffering from nagging tinnitus can benefit from internet-based therapy just as much as patients who take part in group therapy sessions. These are the findings of a German-Swedish study in which patients with moderate to severe tinnitus tried out various forms of therapy over a ten-week period. The outcome of both the internet-based therapy and group therapy sessions was significantly better than that of a control group that only participated in an online discussion forum. . . .

The results for subjects in the cognitive behavioral therapy group were also very good, with distress levels being reduced from 44 to 29 points. In contrast, there was hardly any change in this respect in the control group subjects participating in the online discussion forum. Their average distress level was 40 points at the beginning of the study and remained at 37 points thereafter.

Men like to know when their wife or girlfriend is happy while women really want the man in their life to know when they are upset, according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association. . . .

"It could be that for women, seeing that their male partner is upset reflects some degree of the man's investment and emotional engagement in the relationship, even during difficult times. . . ,” said the study's lead author. . . .

Relationship satisfaction was directly related to men's ability to read their female partner's positive emotions correctly. However, contrary to the researchers' expectations, women who correctly understood that their partners were upset during the videotaped incident were much more likely to be satisfied with their relationship than if they correctly understood that their partner was happy. Also, when men understood that their female partner was angry or upset, the women reported being happier, though the men were not.
Kevin D. Williamson:
It may be that the administration really believes its risible rhetoric about the so-called green-energy economy that’s always right around the corner (waiting for a federal handout). But a policy cannot be judged by the intentions of the men behind it; it must be judged by its actual results, which in this case means subsidizing dirty Chinese coal at the expense of the U.S. economy.
Another marvelous government official.
Nina Shea and Andrew C. McCarthy on our kowtowing to Mideast Muslims.
A nice brief tribute from one economist, Don Boudreaux, to another:
Ronald Coase published his first seminal article (“The Nature of the Firm”) in 1937 (the year before my mother was born). Yesterday, in the Wall Street Journal, Coase published this new essay (co-authored with Ning Wang); it’s on recent Chinese history and on China’s likely future economic prospects. As is true of every word that I’ve read by the 101 year old Coase – and I’ve read, probably, about 75 percent of his published works – this essay is wise and clear.
Seventy-five years of high-level productivity; amazing and enviable.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Some recent items via ScienceDaily's (free) newsletter:
Growing older and being overweight are not necessarily associated with a decrease in mental well-being, according to a cross-cultural study looking at quality of life and health status in the US and the UK. . . .

The researchers found that people reported better mental quality of life as they age, despite a decrease in physical quality of life.


A new study in
Science suggests that thrill-seeking is not limited to humans and other vertebrates. Some honey bees, too, are more likely than others to seek adventure. The brains of these novelty-seeking bees exhibit distinct patterns of gene activity in molecular pathways known to be associated with thrill-seeking in humans. . . .

The findings offer a new window on the inner life of the honey bee hive, which once was viewed as a highly regimented colony of seemingly interchangeable workers taking on a few specific roles (nurse or forager, for example) to serve their queen. Now it appears that individual honey bees actually differ in their desire or willingness to perform particular tasks.


Printing three-dimensional objects with incredibly fine details is now possible. . . . With this technology, tiny structures on a nanometer scale can be fabricated. Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna) have now made a major breakthrough in speeding up this printing technique. . . . This opens up completely new areas of application, such as in medicine.


After being deprived of sex, male fruit flies, known as
Drosophila melanogaster, may turn to alcohol to fulfill a physiological demand for a reward. . . . [U]nderstanding why rejected male flies find solace in ethanol could help treat human addictions. . . .

In the study, male fruit flies that had mated repeatedly for several days showed no preference for alcohol-spiked food. On the other hand, spurned males and those denied access to females strongly preferred food mixed with 15 percent alcohol.


In tests on drug-resistant cancer cells, . . . researchers found that delivering chemotherapy drugs with nanobubbles was up to 30 times more deadly to cancer cells than traditional drug treatment and required less than one-tenth the clinical dose.


New scientific research raises the possibility that advanced versions of
T. rex and other dinosaurs -- monstrous creatures with the intelligence and cunning of humans -- may be the life forms that evolved on other planets in the universe. . . .

". . . Such life forms could well be advanced versions of dinosaurs, if mammals did not have the good fortune to have the dinosaurs wiped out by an asteroidal collision, as on Earth. We would be better off not meeting them."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

This is just a bad idea.

It needs to stop.

(Via Huffington Post and Drudge.)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Video interview of Mark Steyn. Very smart, very funny.