Friday, November 30, 2007

Bioclocks Work By Controlling Chromosome Coiling

ScienceDaily (Nov. 23, 2007) — There is a new twist on the question of how biological clocks work.

In recent years, scientists have discovered that biological clocks help organize a dizzying array of biochemical processes in the body. Despite a number of hypotheses, exactly how the microscopic pacemakers in every cell in the body exert such a widespread influence has remained a mystery.

Now, a new study provides direct evidence that biological clocks can influence the activity of a large number of different genes in an ingenious fashion, simply by causing chromosomes to coil more tightly during the day and to relax at night.

"The idea that the whole genome is oscillating is really cool," enthuses Vanderbilt Professor of Biological Sciences Carl Johnson, who headed the research that was published online Nov. 13 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Research Links Diet to Cognitive Decline and Dementia

Toronto, Ontario – November 06, 2007 – Research has shown convincing evidence that dietary patterns practiced during adulthood are important contributors to age-related cognitive decline and dementia risk. An article published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences highlights information on the benefits of diets high in fruit, vegetables, cereals and fish and low in saturated fats in reducing dementia risk.

Adults with diabetes are especially sensitive to the foods they eat with respect to cognitive function. Specifically, an adult with diabetes will experience a decline in memory function after a meal, especially if simple carbohydrate foods are consumed. While the precise physiological mechanisms underlying these dietary influences are not completely understood, the modulation of brain insulin levels likely contributes.

This deficit can be prevented through healthful food choices at meals. The findings suggest that weight maintenance reduces the risk of developing obesity-associated disorders, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and is an important component of preserving cognitive health.

The work shows another benefit of maintaining healthful eating practices with aging – the same ones proposed by most diabetes and heart & stroke foundations. “This type of information should be able to empower the individual, knowing that he/she can be actively engaged in activities and lifestyles that should support cognitive health with aging,” says Carol Greenwood, author of the study.

curvy reigns!

New research finds an apparent, direct correlation between women's body fat and intelligence.

As CBS News correspondent Susan McGinnis reported on The Early Show Tuesday, the study shows women with fuller, "hourglass" figures seem to be smarter, and give birth to brighter children.

The research, published this week in the journal "Evolution and Human Behavior," indicates hips don't lie. In effect, says the study of some 16,000 women, the smaller your waist and bigger your hips, the smarter you are.

And, McGinnis points out, there's a formula: Divide waist circumference by hip circumference. The lower the result, the better.
The researchers say it has to do with omega-3 fatty acids, which gather around fuller hips and thighs, and are important for the growth of the brain during pregnancy. The curvier the hips, the higher the level of omega-3s.

It may also explain other studies that show men prefer women with a low waist-to-hip ratio.

Not only that but, according to the research, women with smaller waists and larger hips live longer!

Monday, November 26, 2007

violent video games are exemplary aggression teachers

AMES, Iowa -- Like other fathers and sons, Douglas Gentile and his father have spent many hours arguing about video games. What makes them different is that Douglas, an Iowa State University assistant professor of psychology, is one of the country's top researchers on the effects of media on children. His father, J. Ronald Gentile, is a leading researcher on effective teaching and a distinguished teaching professor emeritus of educational psychology at the University of Buffalo, State University of New York.

Through their discussions, they realized that video games use the same techniques that really great teachers use.

The Gentiles decided to test that hypothesis. Through a study of nearly 2,500 youths, they found that video games are indeed effective teaching tools. Students who played multiple violent video games actually learned through those games to produce greater hostile actions and aggressive behaviors over a span of six months.


TORONTO, ON. – New research shows that how people view their abilities in the workplace impacts how they respond to success. Dr. Jason Plaks, a social psychologist at the University of Toronto and Kristin Stecher, a research scientist at the University of Washington, found that those who thought of their capabilities as fixed were more likely to become anxious and disoriented when faced with dramatic success, causing their subsequent performance to plummet, compared to those who thought of their abilities as changeable.

“People are driven to feel that they can predict and control their outcomes. So when their performance turns out to violate their predictions, this can be unnerving – even if the outcome is, objectively speaking, good news,” says Plaks. He points out that the notion that people often sacrifice their success in the name of greater certainty has some intuitive appeal but it has never been put to a rigorous test.

In one representative study, Plaks and Stecher used a questionnaire to classify participants into those who endorsed a fixed view of intelligence and those who endorsed a malleable view. Then participants took three versions of what was purported to be an intelligence test. After the first test, all participants were given a lesson on how to improve their score. After the second test, participants were randomly assigned to be told that their performance had improved, stayed constant, or declined. Among those who believed they had improved, those with the fixed view became more anxious and performed worse on the third test than those with the malleable view. However, among participants who believed that their performance had failed to improve, it was the malleable view participants who grew anxious and underperformed compared to their fixed view counterparts.

Since various studies have shown that people can improve their capabilities, including on IQ tests, I would have expected that, if taught valid ways of improving, most would improve. So I would think that people with a realistic view of themselves would be best off.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Memory Can Be Manipulated By Photos

ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2007) — The camera may not lie, but doctored photos do according to new research into digitally altered photos and how they influence our memories and attitudes toward public events.

When presented with digitally altered images depicting the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest in Beijing and a 2003 anti-war protest in Rome, participants in a new study by American and Italian researchers recalled the events as being bigger and more violent than they really were, suggesting that viewing doctored photographs might affect people’s

Internet photo hoaxes are well known, but reputable media outlets such as the LA Times and USA Today recently published digitally altered photos, and subsequently issued retractions and apologies. When media use digitally doctored photographs, they may ultimately change the way we recall history, Loftus said.

“It shows the power of anyone to tamper with people’s recollection, and it gives the media another reason to regulate such doctoring, besides ethical reasons,” Loftus said.

It would be interesting to see if the difference in brain activity found when people "remember" false memories, as compared with real memories, apply here.

Even Very Low Levels Of Lead Cause Brain Damage In Children

ScienceDaily (Nov. 21, 2007) — Even very small amounts of lead in children's blood -- amounts well below the current federal standard -- are associated with reduced IQ scores, finds a new, six-year Cornell study.

The study examined the effect of lead exposure on cognitive function in children whose blood-lead levels (BLLs) were below the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) standard of 10 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dl) -- about 100 parts per billion. The researchers compared children whose BLLs were between 0 and 5 mcg/dl with children in the 5-10 mcg/dl range.

"Even after taking into consideration family and environmental factors known to affect a child's cognitive performance, blood lead played a significant role in predicting nonverbal IQ scores," said Richard Canfield, a senior researcher in Cornell's Division of Nutritional Sciences and senior author of the study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

"We found that the average IQ scores of children with BLLs of only 5 to 10 mcg/dl were about 5 points lower than the IQ scores of children with BLLs less than 5 mcg/dl. This indicates an adverse effect on children who have a BLL substantially below the CDC standard, suggesting the need for more stringent regulations," he said.

In the United States over the last several months, nearly 50 specific products, including millions of toys for young children, have been recalled due to excessive lead in the paint, plastics and metal. "Our findings emphasize the very real dangers associated with low-level exposures, to which lead in toys can contribute," Canfield said.
"Children living in poverty disproportionately suffer from elevated BLLs," said statistician and co-author Charles Henderson, a Cornell senior researcher in human development. He also noted that "even a small decline in an IQ score is likely to be reflected in aptitude test scores such as the SAT."

Monday, November 19, 2007


By Ken Foskett, Margaret Newkirk, Stacy Shelton
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 11/18/07

As the historic drought worsens and the tri-state water battle escalates, Georgia policymakers are all but ignoring the region's biggest water guzzler.

Electric utilities are the single largest users of the region's freshwater. A family of four can use three times more water to power their home than they use to drink, bathe and water their lawn.

In Georgia, electric utilities use 68 percent of all surface water, the single largest user in the state, according to 2000 data from the U.S. Geological Survey, the latest year available.

If everybody turned off their computers and cubicle lights when they go home at night, that alone would save a lot.

Out of uniform and on the street

updated 8:37 p.m. ET, Wed., Nov. 7, 2007
WASHINGTON - Veterans make up one in four homeless people in the United States, though they are only 11 percent of the general adult population, according to a report to be released Thursday.

And homelessness is not just a problem among middle-age and elderly veterans. Younger veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan are trickling into shelters and soup kitchens seeking services, treatment or help with finding a job.
One vet's story
After being discharged from the military, Jason Kelley, 23, of Tomahawk, Wis., who served in Iraq with the Wisconsin National Guard, took a bus to Los Angeles looking for better job prospects and a new life.

Kelley said he couldn’t find a job because he didn’t have an apartment, and he couldn’t get an apartment because he didn’t have a job. He stayed in a $300-a-week motel until his money ran out, then moved into a shelter run by the group U.S. VETS in Inglewood, Calif. He’s since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.

“The only training I have is infantry training, and there’s not really a need for that in the civilian world,” Kelley said in a phone interview. He has enrolled in college and hopes to move out of the shelter soon.

We should treat these people better.

Friday, November 16, 2007

In Children And Adolescents, Low Self-esteem Increases Materialism

ScienceDaily (Nov. 16, 2007) — One of the first studies to focus on materialism among children and its development reveals a strong connection between an increase in materialism during adolescence and a decline in self-esteem.

Indeed, Lan Nguyen Chaplin (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) and Deborah Roedder John (University of Minnesota) show that the relationship appears to more than just a correlation, but a causal relationship -- low self esteem causes increased materialism and raising self esteem decreases materialism.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What makes a hero

Yesterday was Veteran's Day.
My grandfather fought in WWI, got gassed, and was given 6 months to live. He died in 1970 at age 70.
My father fought in WWII. My mother was in the WACS in WWII.

updated 2:54 p.m. ET, Mon., Nov. 12, 2007
“We often think of the gung-ho, John Wayne ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’ kind of hero driven to combat,” said researcher Brian Wansink of Cornell University. “But there’s a whole lot of these heroes that are much more along the lines of that Captain Miller character Tom Hanks played in ‘Saving Private Ryan’ — the reluctant high school English teacher.”

Unsurprisingly, veterans who had been awarded medals tended to rate themselves higher for qualities like leadership, adventurousness and adaptability. Results became more intriguing when researchers divided medal earners into two groups: those who enlisted (“eager heroes”) and those who were drafted (“reluctant heroes”). The reluctant heroes scored higher than any other group in selflessness and working well with others.

The study suggests that quiet heroes rely on a deep sense of duty and esprit de corps as opposed to derring-do. That sentiment was echoed by several of the medal-earning veterans interviewed separately for this story.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Weight vs. death

Study examines association between weight amount and cause of death
The association between weight and causes of death can vary considerably, with obesity associated with a significantly increased mortality from cardiovascular disease (CVD), underweight associated with increased mortality from primarily non-cancer, non-CVD causes, and overweight associated with increased mortality from diabetes and kidney disease combined, but with reduced mortality from other non-cancer non-CVD causes of death, according to a study in the November 7 issue of JAMA.
“Some evidence suggests that modestly higher weights may improve survival in a number of circumstances, which may partly explain our findings regarding overweight. Overweight is not strongly associated with increased cancer or CVD risk, but may be associated with improved survival during recovery from adverse conditions, such as infections or medical procedures, and with improved prognosis for some diseases. Such findings may be due to greater nutritional reserves or higher lean body mass associated with overweight,” the authors write.

Extra weight may very well be helpful in some diseases for the stated reasons. But another aspect which has been commented on in previous similar studies, is that an undiagnosed disease, such as cancer, may cause weight loss. So we cannot tell from the statistics how much, if any, protection there may be from extra weight. I guess researchers don't have time to read the results of other studies.

which is higher?
Dolphins save surfer from becoming shark’s bait

By Mike Celizic contributor
updated 9:57 a.m. ET, Thurs., Nov. 8, 2007
Surfer Todd Endris needed a miracle. The shark — a monster great white that came out of nowhere — had hit him three times, peeling the skin off his back and mauling his right leg to the bone.

That’s when a pod of bottlenose dolphins intervened, forming a protective ring around Endris, allowing him to get to shore, where quick first aid provided by a friend saved his life.

“Truly a miracle,” Endris told TODAY’s Natalie Morales on Thursday.
No one knows why dolphins protect humans, but stories of the marine mammals rescuing humans go back to ancient Greece, according to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.

A year ago in New Zealand, the group reports, four lifeguards were saved from sharks in the same way Endris was — by dolphins forming a protective ring.

It is hilarious when people claim we're so superior to other animals.

The reference to a "miracle" is interesting. If taken literally, would that mean that dolphins are actually angels?

Governor of parched Georgia to pray for rain

11:44 p.m. ET, Wed., Nov. 7, 2007
ATLANTA - What to do when the rain won’t come? If you’re Georgia Gov. Sonny
Perdue, you pray.

The governor will host a prayer service next week to ask for relief from the drought gripping the Southeast.

“The only solution is rain, and the only place we get that is from a higher power,” Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said on Wednesday.
Perdue has several times mentioned the need for prayer — along with water conservation — as the state’s drought crisis has worsened. Over the summer, he participated in day of prayer for agriculture at a gathering of the Georgia Farm Bureau in Macon, Ga.

Since it has been known for years that we needed to prepare for drought, and Perdue has been governor for almost 5 years, he should have had time to do something besides pray.

Shrinking ice means Greenland is rising fast

18:06 02 November 2007 news service

Greenland appears to be floating upwards – its landmass is rising up to 4 centimetres each year, scientists reveal.

And the large country's new-found buoyancy is a symptom of Greenland's shrinking ice cap, they add.

Since the melting ice is causing the oceans to rise, it will be interesting to see the overall effect on Greenland.

If Greenland is rising, I wonder if that will mean a larger area, with higher global sea levels?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Infections, Bacteria 'Critical For Healthy Life

ScienceDaily (Nov. 7, 2007) — Mothers around the world are armed with anti-bacterial gels, sprays and baby blankets, diligently protecting their children from nasty forms of bacteria. But recent research shows that society's anti-bacterial and anti-infection crusade makes children and adults more likely to develop asthma and allergies - and perhaps even mental illnesses.

Dr. Gerald Callahan, who studies bacteria and infectious diseases at Colorado State University, argues that all living things on earth must have infections to thrive, and society's challenge is to sort the good infections from the bad infections. People's love affair with anti-bacterial products is changing - and not necessarily for the better - how immune systems, gastrointestinal systems and even nervous systems develop and function.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

difference between Iraq and Iran

Recently I heard Alan Jackson's beautiful song "Where were you when the world stopped turning (on that September day)?" Last weekend, it went thru my mind several times. Of course the line "I watch CNN, but I don't know if I can tell you the difference 'tween Iraq and Iran" brought to mind the obvious punny definitions. Then I got a brainstorm (maybe I had a transient stroke?).

Iran is what I did when someone threw Iraq at me.
- Patricia shannon

how many souls? - update

BANGALORE, India - Doctors began operating Tuesday on a 2-year-old girl born with four arms and four legs in an extensive surgery that they hope will leave the girl with a normal body, a hospital official said.

The girl named Lakshmi is joined to a “parasitic twin” that stopped developing in the mother’s womb. The surviving fetus absorbed the limbs, kidneys and other body parts of the undeveloped fetus.

If the soul comes into being at the moment of conception, where is the soul of the absorbed twin? Would Christian fundamentalists regard this operation as abortion? If not, why not?

BANGALORE, India, Nov. 13, 2007
(CBS/AP) Nearly a week after surgeons removed the extra limbs from an Indian girl born with four arms and four legs, the bright-eyed 2-year-old made her first public appearance Tuesday after leaving the hospital's intensive care unit.

Swathed in blankets and lying on her father's lap, the girl, named Lakshmi, appeared before reporters without the extra limbs which had led some people in her rural village to revere her as an incarnation of the four-armed goddess she was named after.

Looking healthy and alert, Lakshmi had both of her legs in casts while her arms were free. After sitting for photographs, her parents quickly ushered her off the stage without speaking to reporters.

Lakshmi's doctors were encouraged by her progress and said she was responding well enough to treatment to leave the hospital's intensive care unit.

Everything seems to be working right -- cardiac, the nervous system, respiratory system, and her G.I. system, reports Dave Price of CBS' The Early Show.

"She is coping very well and she is stable," said chief surgeon Dr. Sharan Patil. "Lakshmi is safe at the moment."

Lakshmi had a 25 percent chance of not even surviving the surgery, reports Price.

Friday, November 02, 2007

The economic power -- and pitfalls -- of positive thinking

Public release date: 29-Oct-2007
Contact: Laura Brinn
Duke University

DURHAM, N.C. – People who are optimistic are more likely than others to display prudent financial behaviors, according to new research from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

But too much optimism can be a problem: people who are extremely optimistic tend to have short planning horizons and act in ways that are generally not considered wise.

Optimism indeed relates to a large number of behaviors, they found. In small doses optimism can lead to wise decision making, but extreme optimists “display financial habits and behavior that are generally not considered prudent,” the authors wrote.

Puri and Robinson find that optimists:

Work longer hours;
Invest in individual stocks;
Save more money;
Are more likely to pay their credit card balances on time;
Believe their income will grow over the next five years;
Plan to retire later (or not at all);
Are more likely to remarry (if divorced).

In comparison, extreme optimists:

Work significantly fewer hours;
Hold a higher proportion of individual stocks in their portfolios, and are more likely to be day traders;
Save less money;
Are less likely to pay off their credit card balances on a regular basis;
Are more likely to smoke.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Lead poisons kids at lower levels than standard

Children with blood lead levels lower than the U.S. standard may still suffer lower IQs or other problems, a government advisory panel said Thursday as it urged doctors to be more alert to signs of lead poisoning.