Friday, January 30, 2015

Abundant foraminifera in the Setiu estuary and lagoon, Malaysia

PLATE 1: Abundant foraminifera in the Setiu estuary and lagoon. Scale bars = 100 μm.

Agglutinated foraminifera:

1. Ammobaculites exiguus

2. Ammotium directum

3. Miliammina fusca

4. Paratrochammina stoeni

5. Trochammina amnicola

Calcareous foraminifera:

6. Ammonia aff. A. aoteana

7. Amphistegina lessonii

8. Reussella pulchra

9. Sagrinella lobata

10. Sagrina zanzabarica

Reproductive processes of planktic foraminifera Orbulina universa

skip to 2:30 for the best part :)

why i think "personal belief exemptions" for highly recommended to required vaccinations is ridiculous- vaccinate!

After a few cases here and there, measles is making a big push back into the national consciousness.

An outbreak linked to visitors to the Disneyland Resort Theme Parks in Orange County, Calif., has sickened 67 people in California and six other states according to the latest count from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So far this year there have been 84 measles cases in 14 states. That's already more cases than the U.S. typically sees in a year, the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters on a conference call Thursday. "This is a wake-up call to make sure measles doesn't get a foothold back in our country."

Measles is highly contagious. Ninety percent of people who aren't immune get sick after being around an infected person. Vaccination against the virus is highly effective. Schuchat said the current outbreak is happening because people haven't been vaccinated — not because the measles vaccine isn't working.

Widespread vaccination led to a decline in measles, and the disease was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. Vaccination has kept the illness at bay. But the disease remains common in many countries, and travelers bring cases back to the U.S. A big bump in 2014 was tied to Amish missionaries who traveled to the Philippines when a measles epidemic was underway.

Schuchat told reporters that measles outbreaks have been much harder to control in recent years.

Children are supposed to receive their first dose of measles vaccine at a year to 15 months of age, followed by a second dose between 4 and 6. But 1 in 12 kids isn't getting the first dose on time, Schuchat said.

The "overall picture has been getting better, not worse" for vaccination, Schuchat said. But pockets where many people haven't been vaccinated, such as the Amish communities in Ohio back in 2014, provide fertile ground for the measles virus.

One issue is schoolchildren whose parents seek nonmedical exemptions from vaccine requirements. The proportion of children receiving those exemptions varies widely — from 7 percent of kindergartners in Oregon to none in Mississippi and West Virginia where they aren't allowed.

Schuchat said medical exemptions are needed. Some children, such as Rhett Krawitt, a 6-year-old boy in California boy whose immune system was compromised by leukemia treatment, can't be vaccinated. But Rhett relies on what's called herd immunity to keep him safe. His father and mother have asked the school district to bar unvaccinated children, who could pass on diseases such as measles, from attending school.

Research published Monday in the journal Pediatrics finds that people who seek personal-belief exemptions for their children often live near one another. "We think it's the microcommunities that are the problem," CDC's Schuchat said of the way that measles has erupted recently. npr

a history of money and power at the vatican

For decades, the Catholic Church has been dogged by scandals involving money. Vatican City — a sovereign state — controls its own finances through the Vatican Bank. It developed as a cross between the Federal Reserve and an offshore bank. In a new history, God's Bankers, Gerald Posner explains that its roots go back to the mid-19th century.

"They had 15,000 square miles of what was central Italy with thousands of subjects," Posner tells NPR's Renee Montagne. "They levied taxes and paid for this lavish lifestyle — with 700 servants and a big and growing bureaucracy around them. Then, in 1870, Italy's nationalists have a revolution. They throw the Pope out, they get rid of the papal states. The Vatican goes from being an empire — an earthly empire — to a little postage-stamp size of property called Vatican City."

By World War II, the church had sizable investments and created the Vatican Bank in order to hide its financial dealings with the Nazis from the U.S. and the U.K.

"I was surprised the extent to which the Vatican was deeply embedded with German companies," Posner says. "They bundled together life insurance policies of Jewish refugees who had been sent to Auschwitz and other death camps. They escheated these policies early on — meaning they took the cash value of them."

Later, when the surviving children or grandchildren of the victims tried to collect on the insurance policies, they were refused.

"These insurance companies would refuse to pay out saying: 'Show us a death certificate,' which they knew was impossible," Posner explains. "They would keep the money."

In God's Bankers, Posner sheds light on what he calls "the blood money" that came into the church.

On the Vatican being "equal opportunity profiteers"

It wasn't as though they did business with the Germans because they wanted the Germans to win. They did business with everyone, because they called themselves neutral and decided that somebody would win at the end of the war — and they were going to keep their business connections open to everybody. Then, when they saw the war was going against the Germans, they started to hide the connections. And after the war they said, "We didn't do anything wrong."

On how the Church knew what the Nazis were doing but were "frozen by indecision and fear"

The bank officials and those who ran the bank knew very little because, in part, all they wanted to know was what was happening in terms of the war effort and what was happening in terms of business and profits.

But on the church end, there's no doubt that they had churches, local churches in all of the countries, that were the ground zeros for the killing zones. The local priests who were not in favor of the slaughter still reported back to their bishops what was happening on the ground. That came in daily reports, and they had unfortunately a very clear sense of what was happening early on.

They were just frozen by indecision and fear. They were afraid that if they spoke out, the Nazis might in fact move against Catholics in Germany and even move against the Pope and take him back to Germany as a prisoner. But that fear meant that they abdicated their moral position as the head of the world's largest religion, especially at a time that they continued to make money with the people committing the murder. npr

Thursday, January 29, 2015

6 reasons to sleep naked

Pack away the flannel pajamas: A handful of studies and surveys show sleeping naked could actually be good for you. Six reasons why you should consider it:
  1. You may like your partner more: A 2014 survey of Brits by Cotton USA (which promotes cotton products that likely include both pajamas and sheets) found that 57% of those who slept nude reported being happy in their relationship. That was 9 percentage points more than PJ wearers, followed by 43% of nightie wearers. Onesie wearers—they apparently exist—brought up the rear at 38%, per the Daily Mail.
  2. It could help prevent diabetes: It's a bit of a stretch, but here's the logic: Adults have small amounts of brown fat (aka "good fat") in their bodies, and a 2014 study looked at how bedroom temperature affected the fat.

    The four-month study was small: just five males who slept in rooms heated to 66-, 75-, or 81-degrees. After four weeks spent at the coldest temp, the men had almost twice as much brown fat, and their insulin sensitivity was better, which a researcher says could lower their diabetes risk.

    Four weeks at 81 degrees undid all the benefits. Though the New York Times points out the test subjects slept in hospital scrubs, going naked could help prevent overheating.
  3. It's better for your lady health:Cosmopolitan cites advice from Dr. Jennifer Landa, who points out that an overly warm environment could spur too much yeast or bacteria to grow in the vaginal area. By passing on PJs, you'll have a better chance of giving air access to the region, preventing infections.
  4. It's how our ancestors did it: If you're a Paleo-dieter who eats like a caveman, why not sleep like one, too? Neurologist Rachel Salas with the Johns Hopkins Center for Sleep in 2013 told the Wall Street Journal that "back in the cave days," people slept naked. It was, in part, a means of protection from predators, and that feeling of safety could be imparted by sleeping similarly in modern day.
  5. It could be better for the immune system:Mic reports that when skin-on-skin contact occurs, our adrenal glands get a message: lighten up on the production of the stress hormone cortisol. As one doctor explains, "Cortisol suppresses the immune response." Skin-to-skin contact also increases levels of oxytocin, which can have positive effects on blood pressure and healing, says Salas.
  6. Body temp affects sleep: A 2004 study found that for sleep to "initiate normally," core body temp matters. Per a researcher, "Studies of sleep onset insomniacs show that they consistently have a warmer core body temperature immediately before initiating sleep, when compared with normal healthy adults." msn

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Maher, University of Wisconsin, LOI procedure

First a review of the basic idea behind loss-on-ignition; Dean (1974) is a convenient reference. Most sediment is composed of a mixture of clastic silicates and oxides (sand, silt and clay), organic material, various carbonates (usually CaCO3), and water. If a sample of sediment is heated to around 100°C in an oven, the water will be driven off, and the difference between the raw sample's weight and its dry weight will be the amount of water that was in the sample. This can be expressed as the weight-percent solids in the raw sediment, or its complement, the percent of the raw sediment's weight that is water. This simple measurement can be useful in characterizing changes in lake sediment cores. The sediment's weight-percent solids tend to increase gradually with depth owing to compaction, but differences in inorganic and organic content will often modulate the trend. Although this should be considered loss-on-drying rather than LOI--because no ignition occurs--the weight of the dry sediment serves a useful base to which true ignition losses can be compared.

When the dry sediment is placed in a muffle furnace and heated to 550°C organic material is consumed; the amount is the difference in weight between the dry sediment and the 550°C ash. The organic matter can be multiplied by a constant to estimate the amount of organic carbon in the sample. (The constant generally lies between 0.4 and 0.6; for example the molecular weight of Cn/(CH20)n = 12/30 = 0.4. For a default value I use 0.58, the average of the range of the weight-fraction of carbon in dry peat and lignite [Waksman, 1936, p. 284, as cited in Erdtman, 1943, Table 2, p. 17].) When estimating organic matter it is important to restrict the temperature to 550°C; clay minerals can release water from their structure at higher temperatures.

Some workers return the ash to the furnace and heat it to about 1000°C in an effort to estimate the sample's carbonate content. The difference in weight between the 550°C ash and the 1000°C ash often is assumed to result from the loss of CO2 as carbonates break down. Loss-on-ignition cannot indicate which carbonate minerals are present; the different carbonate minerals give off carbon dioxide at slightly different temperatures--generally in the range from 700-850°C. Calcium carbonate is a common carbonate in lake sediments. The ratio of molecular weight between CaCO3 and CO2 = 100/44; an estimate of a sample's calcium carbonate content can be obtained by multiplying the ash's weight loss by 2.27 to convert CO2 loss to the original CaCO3. (N.B. Many common lake sediments may contain a significant clay fraction yet have a low carbonate content. Clays contain up to five percent lattice OH units that are liberated as water when the sample is heated from 550-1,000 C. Therefore, the 550-1000°C firing would contain a significant (3-4%) amount of lattice water loss in samples with high clay and low carbonate content. The "carbonate content" results must be interpreted with care.

string theory vs multiverse

Cosmology is the study of the universe as a whole: its structure, its origins and its fate. Fundamental physics is the study of reality's bedrock entities and their interactions. With these job descriptions it's no surprise that cosmology and fundamental physics share a lot of territory. You can't understand how the universe evolves after the Big Bang (a cosmology question) without understanding how matter, energy, space and time interact (a fundamental physics question). Recently, however, something remarkable has been happening in both these fields that's raising hackles with some scientists. As physicists George Ellis and Joseph Silk recently put it in Nature:
"This year, debates in physics circles took a worrying turn. Faced with difficulties in applying fundamental theories to the observed Universe, some researchers called for a change in how theoretical physics is done. They began to argue — explicitly — that if a theory is sufficiently elegant and explanatory, it need not be tested experimentally, breaking with centuries of philosophical tradition of defining scientific knowledge as empirical."
The root of the problem rests with two ideas/theories now central for some workers in cosmology (even if they remain problematic for physicists as a whole). The first is String Theory, which posits that the world is not made up of point particles but tiny vibrating strings. String Theory only works if the universe has many "extra" dimensions of space other than the three we experience. The second idea is the so-called Multiverse which, in its most popular form, claims more than one distinct universe emerged from the Big Bang. Instead, adherents claim, there may be an almost infinite (if not truly infinite) number of parallel "pocket universes," each with their own version of physics.
Both String Theory and the Multiverse are big, bold reformulations of what we mean when we say the words "physical reality." That is reason enough for them to be contentious topics in scientific circles. But in the pursuit of these ideas something else — something new — has emerged. Rather than focusing just on questions about the nature of the cosmos, the new developments raise critical questions about the basic rules of science when applied to something like the universe as a whole. npr


Some people argue that we will one day reach a point when our machines, which will have become smarter than us, will be able themselves to make machines that are smarter than them. Superintelligence — an intelligence far-outreaching what we are in a position even to imagine — will come on the scene. We will have attained what is known, in futurist circles, as the "singularity." The singularity is coming. So some people say.

There are singularity optimists and singularity pessimists. The optimists — I think we can rank Ray Kurzweil in this camp — envision a future in which real artificial intelligence helps rid the world of disease and extends our own lives beyond frail biological limitations.

It is the pessimists who are in the news lately. A group of leading thinkers and executives have recently signed a statement urging us to slow down and think through the safeguards necessary to protect us from a race of machines who will know more than us, think faster and farther and less fallibly than us, and who will no longer need us. Such artificial superiority will be able to control us the way we, as a species, have been able to dominate planet earth and her many species. npr

Holocaust Survivors Mark 70th Anniversary Of Auschwitz's Liberation

Holocaust survivors walk outside the gate of the of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, Poland, on Tuesday. Some 300 Holocaust survivors traveled to Auschwitz for the 70th anniversary of the death camp's liberation by the Soviet Red Army in 1945.

Holocaust survivors gathered along with several world leaders today to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation by the Soviet Red Army of the Auschwitz camp in Poland where more than 1 million people, mostly Jews, were killed.

A decade ago, about 1,500 Auschwitz survivors attended the commemoration. Today, the number was around 300.

Paula Lebovics of Encino, Calif., recalled how a Russian soldier who was among those who liberated the camp on Jan. 27, 1945, took her in his arms and rocked her tenderly with tears coming to his eyes. She was 11 at the time. Now 81, she told The Associated Press it was a shame Putin wasn't among those at the today's ceremony.

"He should be there," she said. "They were our liberators."

Another survivor, Eva Mozes Kor, told the AP said she will not miss Putin, "but I do believe that from a moral and historical perspective he should be here."

Besides the leaders of Germany and Austria, French President Francois Hollande was at today's ceremony in Auschwitz. Russia's delegation is being led by Sergei Ivanov, Putin's chief of staff; the U.S. delegation by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. npr

Monday, January 26, 2015

cell free fetal DNA testing

When Amy Seitz got pregnant with her second child last year, she knew that being 35 years old meant there was an increased chance of chromosomal disorders like Down syndrome. She wanted to be screened, and she knew just what kind of screening she wanted — a test that's so new, some women and doctors don't quite realize what they've signed up for.

This kind of test , called cell free fetal DNA testing, uses a simple blood sample from an expectant mother to analyze bits of fetal DNA that have leaked into her bloodstream. It's only been on the market since October of 2011 and is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration - the FDA does not regulate this type of genetic testing service. Several companies now offer the test, including Sequenom and Illumina. Insurance coverage varies and doctors often only offer this testing to women at higher risk because of things like advanced maternal age.

"I think that I initially heard about it through family and friends," says Seitz. "They had had the option of it given to them by their doctors."

To her, it sounded great. She didn't want an invasive procedure like amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS). Those are considered the gold standard for prenatal genetic testing, but doctors must put a needle into the womb to collect cells that contain fetal DNA, which means a small risk of miscarriage.

Studies have shown that the new fetal DNA tests do a better job, says Norton. They're less likely to flag a normal pregnancy as high risk.

"They're much more accurate than current screening tests, but they are not diagnostic tests in the sense that amniocentesis is," says Norton, "and so I think that has led to some confusion."

Even though the newer blood tests do look at fetal DNA, they can't give a definitive answer like an amniocentesis can because they're analyzing scraps of fetal DNA in the mother's blood that are all mixed up with her own DNA.

During amniocentesis, a needle is inserted through a woman's abdomen into the amniotic sac. A sample of fluid is extracted and screened for genetic disorders such as Down syndrome.

no small children

It's not unusual for kids to wear a T-shirt to school with their favorite band on it. But at Oakwood Elementary in North Hollywood, Calif., that T-shirt may also have a picture of their teacher - actually, three of their teachers.

The punk band No Small Children formed two years ago when Joanie Pimentel moved to California to play with two elementary teachers — her sister, Lisa Pimentel, and Lisa's coworker Nicola Berlinsky.

Protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Obama administration is proposing new protections for large portions of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The U.S. Department of Interior says it's the first time it's recommended additional protections and that their new recommendations have the potential to be one of the largest conservation measures "since Congress passed the visionary Wilderness Act over 50 years ago."

The Department is recommending that millions more acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, including the Coastal Plain, be declared "Wilderness." That would make the total area of the refuge declared Wilderness 12.28 million acres.

Wilderness is the highest level of protection available for public lands. It prohibits mining, drilling, roads, vehicles and permanent structures. The Department of Interior says less than 40 percent of the Refuge currently has Wilderness designation.

Interior plans to start managing the coastal plain area of the Refuge as Wilderness, but will need help from Congress to keep those new protections permanent. Only Congress has the power to make a Wilderness designation, and in a video released to YouTube Sunday, Obama challenged Congress' to act on the issue.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Senate Says Climate Change Real, But Not Really Our Fault

Breathtakingly broad as its jurisdiction may be, the U.S. Senate does not usually vote on the validity of scientific theories.

This week, it did. And science won. The Senate voted that climate change is real, and not a hoax. The vote was 98-1.

The vote was about an amendment to the bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline project. The near unanimity of the climate change judgment was notable, because so many senators have cast doubt on ideas of "global warming."

Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, a former mayor of Tulsa and longtime friend to the oil industry, even has a book out entitled The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future.

But, to the surprise of many, Inhofe actually voted for the "not a hoax" amendment offered by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island.

Of course, Inhofe could do that and then vote against another, later amendment attributing climate change to human activity. (Relax, Tulsa, Sen. Inhofe has not changed his stripes.)

"The hoax is that there are some people who are so arrogant [as] to think they are so powerful that they can change climate," Inhofe said in a speech on the Senate floor. "Man cannot change climate."

As it turned out, the only vote against the "real and not a hoax" language was cast by Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

how to determine what size backpack you need

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mind Your Moods, Cat Owners

Babies "social reference" by checking out their parents' facial expressions and voice tones when they encounter a new or strange object or event in their environment — then base their own reactions on mom's or dad's. They look to their parents as they wonder: Is it okay to stay calm, or is it time to worry?

Animal behavior research shows that dogs do this, too. It's not surprising, given how closely dogs are attuned to us — as they have been for many millennia. New research posted this month on the website of the journal Animal Cognition shows that cats may participate in social referencing also.

It's another blow for the stereotype of the aloof feline, the cat who lives among us with a whiff of disdain for his or her co-habitation with mere humans. Even one of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami, has just gone on record saying that cats are "egoistic" creatures.

It's a stereotype that I've challenged before — and this new study only goes to show that those of us who live with cats may be quite closely scrutinized for our responses and moods.

In the paper "Social referencing and cat-human communication," author Isabella Merola and colleagues report what happened when 24 cats and their owners participated in an experiment at the University of Milan in Italy designed to match tests done by other researchers on dogs. The stimulus deployed was an electric fan with plastic green ribbons attached, set up in a room with a screen at one end that hid a video camera; the screen also acted as a barrier for the cats (though they could see behind it) and marked the only way out of the room.

"The aim," the authors state, "was to evaluate whether cats use the emotional information provided by their owners about a novel/unfamiliar object to guide their own behavior towards it."

Once the cats were allowed to explore the room, cat owners were asked first to regard the fan with neutral affect, then either to respond positively or negatively to it. In either case, the owner alternated gaze between the fan and the cat. In the positive group, owners used happy expressions and voice tones, and approached the fan; in the negative group, the expressions and voice tone were fearful, and the owners moved away from the fan.

More than three-quarters of the cats, 79 percent, looked between the owner and the fan when the owner was in the neutral phase at the start of the experiment. This percentage closely matched the results for dogs in a similar set-up, and shows cats, too, rely on us for emotional cues when faced with unfamiliarity.

Cats in the "negative owner" group were significantly more likely to alternate their gaze between the screen and the fan than cats in the positive group. "The screen was the only possible way out," the authors write, "and thus looking at the screen and then at the fan potentially suggests the cats were worried about the fan and wanted to get away from it." In addition, cats in the negative-owner group began moving earlier than their counterparts in the positive group, "potentially showing that they started looking for an escape route sooner."

Police Fire Tear Gas On Kenyan Kids Protecting A Soccer Field

Hundreds of elementary schools were protesting the illegal seizure of their playground by a private developer in Nairobi, Kenya, when police fired tear gas into the crowd.

The incident sparked outrage across the city — and on social media, where Kenyans tweeted with the hashtag #OccupyPlayGround.

But the shocking images and videos of the ordeal provoked a surprisingly proactive response. In the end, these Kenyan kids did what ordinary Kenyans are rarely able to do: Defend disappearing public space.

The process is known as "land-grabbing." A fence suddenly appears overnight around a parcel of government property. Those who protest are warded off — sometimes violently — by police. In time, a new high-rise or hotel or parking lot appears, owned by a politically connected magnate.

But this time, the land in question was next to an elementary school, Langata Road Primary School. And the protesters were kids as young as 8, who used the land to play soccer.

When developers set up a fence separating the school from the playground over the winter break, several hundred kids showed up on Monday to protest. They ended up breaking down the new fence. In response, heavily armed police fired tear gas on the kids.

"The tear gas was so bad!" Kevin Sande, 10, said Tuesday.

The gas made their eyes red and caused them to cough, other kids said.

In full disclosure, I can't be sure that Sande and his classmates I interviewed at Langata Road Primary School were the ones that got tear-gassed. In the disturbing photos from that day, it's hard to make out the faces on the green uniforms engulfed in white smoke.

"I didn't understand whether we are in Kenya or the Gaza Strip," says Rahab Mwikali, an activist, who came to the school to express sympathy. "I thought what could this be?" npr

X-Rays Open Secrets Of Ancient Scrolls

Researchers in Europe have managed to read from an ancient scroll buried when Mt. Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. The feat is all the more remarkable because the scroll was never opened.

The Vesuvius eruption famously destroyed Pompeii. But it also devastated the nearby town of Herculaneum. A villa there contained a library stacked with papyrus scrolls, and the hot gas and ash preserved them.

Sort of.

"To be honest, being from Kentucky, they look like pieces of coal," says Brent Seales, a computer scientist at the University of Kentucky who has held some of the scrolls. "You look at the end and you can see the circular markings of how it's been rolled, but it looks more like the growth marks of a tree."

Researchers want to unroll these scrolls, but opening them is more like peeling the flaky skin of an onion.

"When you try to pull one layer off it just breaks away from the rest, and so you have ten million fragments after you've peeled it away in that manner," Seales says.

Roughly 1800 scrolls were unearthed back in the 1750s. Seales says only about 300 have survived efforts to read them.

And that's why this latest finding is such a breakthrough. The researchers used a particle accelerator in France to bombard a rolled-up scroll with x-rays. These x-rays were so sensitive, they detected changes in thickness where ink had been used to write letters. The team could make out the entire Greek alphabet inside the tightly wound scroll.

"Capturing those letters you know that's pretty amazing in itself," says Seales, who has worked with the team but was not directly involved in this latest effort. The work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

From just the letters, the researchers believe the scroll is in the handwriting of the philosopher Philodemus. He was of the school of Epicureanism, which stressed enjoyment of the pleasures of life, according to Seales. Several other scrolls in the collection have been identified as works by Philodemus over the years.

The researchers can't read whole words yet. And that's where Seale's computer-scientist chops will come in handy. He thinks he can make a program that can distinguish which letters belong to which layers, so the scrolls can finally be deciphered. npr

E-Cigarettes Can Churn Out High Levels Of Formaldehyde

Vapor produced by electronic cigarettes can contain a surprisingly high concentration of formaldehyde — a known carcinogen — researchers reported Wednesday.

The findings, described in a letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine, intensify concern about the safety of electronic cigarettes, which have become increasingly popular.

"I think this is just one more piece of evidence amid a number of pieces of evidence that e-cigarettes are not absolutely safe," says David Peyton, a chemistry professor at Portland State University who helped conduct the research.
Some public health experts think vaping could prevent some people from starting to smoke traditional tobacco cigarettes and help some longtime smokers kick the habit.

But many health experts are also worried that so little is known about e-cigarettes, they may pose unknown risks. So Peyton and his colleagues decided to take a closer look at what's in that vapor.

"We simulated vaping by drawing the vapor — the aerosol — into a syringe, sort of simulating the lungs," Peyton says. That enabled the researchers to conduct a detailed chemical analysis of the vapor. They found something unexpected when the devices were dialed up to their highest settings.

"To our surprise, we found masked formaldehyde in the liquid droplet particles in the aerosol," Peyton says.

He calls it "masked" formaldehyde because it's in a slightly different form than regular formaldehyde — a form that could increase the likelihood it would get deposited in the lung. And the researchers didn't just find a little of the toxicant.

"We found this form of formaldehyde at significantly higher concentrations than even regular cigarettes [contain] — between five[fold] and fifteenfold higher concentration of formaldehyde than in cigarettes," Peyton says.

And formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.

"Long-term exposure is recognized as contributing to lung cancer," says Peyton. "And so we would like to minimize contact (to the extent one can) especially to delicate tissues like the lungs."

Conley says the researchers found formaldehyde only when the e-cigarettes were cranked up to their highest voltage levels.

"If you hold the button on an e-cigarette for 100 seconds, you could potentially produce 100 times more formaldehyde than you would ever get from a cigarette," Conley says. "But no human vaper would ever vape at that condition, because within one second their lungs would be incredibly uncomfortable."

That's because the vapor would be so hot. Conley compares it to overcooking a steak.

"I can take a steak and I can cook it on the grill for the next 18 hours, and that steak will be absolutely chock-full of carcinogens," he says. "But the steak will also be charcoal, so no one will eat it."

Peyton acknowledges that he found no formaldehyde when the e-cigarettes were set at low levels. But he says he thinks plenty of people use the high settings.

"As I walk around town and look at people using these electronic cigarette devices it's not difficult to tell what sort of setting they're using," Peyton says. "You can see how much of the aerosol they're blowing out. It's not small amounts."

"It's pretty clear to me," he says, "that at least some of the users are using the high levels."

So Peyton hopes the government will tightly regulate the electronic devices. The Food and Drug Administration is in the process of deciding just how strict it should be. npr

Friday, January 16, 2015

It's Official: 2014 Was The Hottest Year On Record, NOAA Says

It's official: 2014 was the hottest year on record. npr

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Climatic Data Center crunched the numbers and came to this conclusion:

"The year 2014 was the warmest year across global land and ocean surfaces since records began in 1880. The annually-averaged temperature was 0.69°C (1.24°F) above the 20th century average of 13.9°C (57.0°F), easily breaking the previous records of 2005 and 2010 by 0.04°C (0.07°F). This also marks the 38th consecutive year (since 1977) that the yearly global temperature was above average. Including 2014, 9 of the 10 warmest years in the 135-year period of record have occurred in the 21st century. 1998 currently ranks as the fourth warmest year on record."
We've been expecting this news since December, but NOAA has now made it official.

Here's a good graphic that tells you how temperatures fared globally in relation to a 1981-2010 average:

Long-Lost European Spacecraft Spotted On Mars By NASA Probe

More than a decade after it went missing, British scientists say they have found a small spacecraft on the surface of Mars.

The Beagle 2 Mars lander was launched aboard the Mars Express in June of 2003. It was an ambitious project that was supposed to look for life on the Red Planet. On Dec. 19, 2003, it separated from the Express and was to enter Mars' atmosphere on Christmas Day.

That was the last British scientists heard from the spacecraft, and they always thought it had been lost on the way in, that it had likely crashed onto the surface.

Today, the U.K. Space Agency said images sent back by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter show that Beagle 2 landed safely but only partially deployed. npr

shaky knees music fest 2015

dear friends, lets go please. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Two endangered monkeys die at Louisiana zoo after being left out in cold

Two monkeys belonging to a species that is critically endangered died at a Louisiana zoo after they were left out overnight in the cold by a caretaker, officials said on Wednesday.

The cotton-top Tamarins, weighing less than a pound and distinguishable by their shock of white hair, were among three that were left out overnight last week in temperatures that dipped into the 30s Fahrenheit at the Alexandria Zoo in central Louisiana.

One of the monkeys survived, officials with the city of Alexandria, which owns the zoo, said.

"This is a tragedy," zoo director LeeAnn Whitt said in a statement.

The zoo keeper responsible for the monkeys has resigned after being placed on administrative leave, and an investigation into the incident is ongoing, said David Gill, the city's public works director.

"This appears to have happened as a result of human error and not a system problem," Gill said in a statement.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal-rights group, has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has regulatory authority over American zoos, to investigate the incident. msn

Gluten-Free Craze Is Boon And Bane For Those With Celiac Disease

Gluten is the dietary boogeyman du jour.

And for people with celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder, gluten — a protein found in wheat, rye and barley — really is the boogeyman, triggering painful gastrointestinal inflammation and other symptoms. For these people, the phenomenal popularity of gluten-free diets has been both a blessing and a curse.
But wider availability of gluten-free options has come at a price: Some people afflicted with celiac disease say their disorder isn't always taken seriously when they eat out.

"The biggest problem I experience is that restaurant servers don't understand the difference between being celiac and going gluten-free as a lifestyle choice," Deschamps says. "You can see the reaction where they think I'm just trying to lose weight or on a fad diet. I see eye-rolling."

Indeed, gluten-free has been one of the biggest diet trends of recent years. Although less than 1 percent of the population has celiac disease, a 2013 poll found that 30 percent of American adults say they are trying to avoid gluten. And it's not just the U.S.: Canadians and Europeans are increasingly going gluten-free, too.

There's a lot of confusion around gluten, even among people who eschew eating it, as late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel humorously demonstrated last year. The dramatic growth of the gluten-free movement has also spawned a vigorous backlash, with critics dismissing it as just the latest dietary fad.
"A lot of people who don't know much about [celiac disease] liken it to the Atkins diet," Lewis says. When she tells people that she avoids gluten for medical reasons, she says, "in many cases, I'm viewed as being difficult or seeking attention instead of just trying not to get sick."

Lewis says it has become worse in the past year. "Four out of five times, when I eat out, I find that my condition was not taken seriously. I can tell by the reaction from the server. They'll look at me like I'm crazy, and I know I'm going to get sick" because gluten will end up in the food, she says. For Lewis, getting sick involves gastrointestinal distress, followed by acne and negative mood changes lasting a week or more.

Deschamps, who also works as a restaurant server, experiences it from both sides: She sees customers order gluten-free meals washed down with a gluten-filled beer. On multiple occasions when dining out, she says, she has been emphatic to servers about her condition but was still served foods containing gluten. She has had major exposures resulting in "severe stomach pain, like a very sharp stabbing — sometimes to the point where I can't move for several hours."
Many people who avoid gluten have diagnosed themselves with nonceliac gluten sensitivity, a condition that describes less severe reactions to eating the protein. These folks say that eliminating gluten from their diet makes them feel better.

But, as The Salt has reported, gastroenterologists who are trying to untangle the issue are coming to believe that only a very small number of nonceliac people are genuinely experiencing gluten sensitivity.

As gastroenterologist Joseph Murray, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic who studies celiac disease, told The New Yorker, "Nobody in medicine, at least not in my field, thinks this adds up to anything like the number of people who say they feel better when they take gluten out of their diet."

Some researchers suspect that people who attribute their gastric distress to gluten intolerance are more likely to be reacting to a type of carbohydrate found in wheat and other foods called FODMAPs. npr

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Electronic nicotine delivery systems: emerging science foundation for policy

J E Henningfield, G S Zaatari

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted preliminary tests of several electronic nicotine delivery system (ENDS) models, documenting widely varying levels of nicotine, carcinogens and diethylene glycol, which it noted "is toxic to humans. The FDA concluded that "quality control processes used to manufacture these products are inconsistent or non-existent because of variability in contents and emissions.
An additional complication is that ENDS might produce substantially higher deliveries if they are "spiked with nicotine liquid" available for refilling their cartridges (eg, Totally Wicked ELiquid Smoke Juice). ENDS refill products raise many of the same safety and effectiveness issues as ENDS. A cursory review of such products on the Internet revealed a broad range of refill products, claims and even warnings, with some admitting carcinogens and the possibility of nicotine poisoning (some appear to contain sufficient nicotine to kill many persons even if simply spilled on the skin). It would seem that where the nicotine is intended for human consumption, it should be subject to the same regulations for safety and effectiveness as drugs including standards for child-resistant packaging and labelling to minimise risk of poisoning. read more

amphipod anatomy

Monday, January 5, 2015

how global climate change (specifically warming) affects storms

All weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be."[31] Although NOAA meteorologist Martin Hoerling attributes Sandy to "little more than the coincidental alignment of a tropical storm with an extratropical storm",[32] Trenberth does agree that the storm was caused by "natural variability" but adds that it was "enhanced by global warming".[33] One factor contributing to the storm's strength was abnormally warm sea surface temperatures offshore the East Coast of the United States—more than 3 °C (5 °F) above normal, to which global warming had contributed 0.6 °C (1 °F).[33] As the temperature of the atmosphere increases, the capacity to hold water increases, leading to stronger storms and higher rainfall amounts.[33]