Category: News Posts

Alternative Medicine For Cancer More Than Doubles Death Risk

Crystal healing stones are evidently a less effective way of beating a tumor.

Going the route of alternative medicine to treat a form of curable cancer instead of undergoing conventional treatment more than doubles a person’s risk of dying, according to a new study from Yale University researchers.

One in three Americans has engaged in some kind of alt-therapy with varying results, but when it comes to cancer, the data suggests that herbs and crystals will not save a life.

We now have evidence to suggest that using alternative medicine in place of proven cancer therapies results in worse survival,” lead researcher Skyler Johnson told the Yale News.

The researchers looked at 10 years’ worth of records from the National Cancer Database and found that 281 patients within that time who had early-stage breast, lung, prostate or colorectal cancer who decided to take an alternative approach to their treatment.

Those patients were then compared to 560 others with the same diagnoses who chose more scientific approaches like chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.

Patients who chose alternative medicine approaches that include things like “herbs, botanicals, homeopathy, special diets or energy crystals — which are basically just stones that people believe to have healing powers,” Dr. Johnson said.

To account for disparities that people face in the medical world the researchers placed biases in favor of the alternative medicine group — they were all younger, more affluent and were otherwise healthy.

These patients should be doing better than the standard therapy group, but they’re not,” researcher James Yu told MedPage Today.

That’s a scary thing to me. These are young patients who could potentially be cured, and they’re being sold snake oil by unscrupulous alternative medicine practitioners.

With this data and the urging of oncologists and all of their cancer expertise, the researchers are hopeful that doctors can educate their patients and communicate to them all of the drastic risks of alternative medical approaches.

Because of patient autonomy, they can do whatever they want,” Yu said. “We’re always advising them (but) we can’t make them do anything.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

NASA Space-Tests A Supercomputer To Send To Mars

Last Monday, a supercomputer blasts off to the International Space Station on a year-long mission to test its metals and see how it survives the rigors of space.

Ever kill a laptop by spilling a little water on it? How about a blast of cosmic radiation?

That’s just one of the hazards facing computers for scientific research that will one day travel to Mars, tens of millions of miles away from any spare parts.

To gauge the wear and tear of spaceflight, NASA will launch on August 14 a supercomputer made by Hewlett Packard Enterprise on a yearlong mission aboard the International Space Station.

Unlike the other computers on the ISS, this one is not “hardened” with shielding and other provisions to survive heat, radiation, and other stresses. It was pulled right off the assembly line for HPE’s Apollo 4000-series enterprise servers.

Hardening is a must for computers, controlling mission-critical aspects such as navigation and communication, but the process limits the capabilities of computers used for research projects.

The traditional hardening takes time and money and ends up with out-of-date capabilities delivered late to the mission,” says Mark Fernandez, who manages the software portion of the tests for Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

HPE and NASA want to see if a state-of-the-art, unprotected computer can survive space travel, using software to compensate for any damage.

Modern computers have software to correct errors, such as data not written correctly to memory. HPE and NASA will test whether these programs can root out and compensate for malfunctions resulting from damage in space.

So we monitor all of the environmental aspects of the server—its power, its temperature, its memory errors, its logging errors, etc.,” says Fernandez,

And when it looks like I’m having some issues, I can take corrective action with certain parameters, the most common of which would be, let’s slow the machine down and see if it can self-heal.

I ask Fernandez if he expects any in-flight damage to a computer to be temporary, like wiping out some data, or permanent, like wiping out the drive that stores data.

That’s a very good question,” he says. “And the most honest answer I can give you is, I don’t know.”

NASA and HPE want to see if a computer can survive even some permanent damage. It might run a bit slower if a processing core or some memory cells have been fried, but it could still be much more powerful and versatile than outdated hardware that went through the long hardening process.

So we are taking the risk that the harsh environment of space will completely destroy our experiment,” says Fernandez. “That’s the point We would like to see if we can protect this unmodified-at-all hardware and software.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Last Chance To Submit A Message For NASA To Beam 13 Billion Miles Into Space

NASA has been asking for suggestions from the public to beam up to the most distant man-made object in the universe, with Tuesday marking the final day for people to send in their requests.

The U.S. space agency has been collecting submissions via Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms for a 60 character message to send to the unmanned Voyager 1 space craft.

NASA, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Voyager team will whittle down the suggestions and the public will vote for a winner to send toward the probe on September 5.

It’s all in celebration of the craft’s 40th year in space.

Public polls in the age of the internet have prompted some bizarre results, with a vote last year choosing the name Boaty McBoatface for the U.K.’s new polar research ship, although organizers decided not to take up the popular choice.

Some of the suggestions submitted via the hashtag #MessageToVoyager have struck a similar tone.

One early recommendation for NASA to beam up in to space indefinitely from Buran called for the space agency to go with, “Messagey McMessageface” while Mr. Cazacu suggested “To Infinity… And Beyond!

Voyager 1 is currently almost 13 billion miles away from Earth and has become the first spacecraft to enter interstellar space.

NASA scientists define this as the place where the sun’s constant flow of material and magnetic field stop affecting its surroundings.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

5 Cool Things DNA Testing Can Do

Genes are the foundation of our physiology. They contain the code that determines what we look like and how our bodies function.

Biologist James Watson and physicist Francis Crick realized our DNA molecules form a three-dimensional double helix in 1953. But DNA research dates back to the late 1860s, according to Nature Education.

Friedrich Miescher was the first to identify “nucleic acid” in our white blood cells; his 1869 finding was later named deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA.

Others later defined the components that make up DNA molecules, identified RNA (ribonucleic acid, the other type of nucleic acid found in all cells along with DNA) and determined that although DNA differs in each species, it always maintains certain properties.

Those findings led to Watson and Crick’s conclusion, which paved the way for decades of DNA discoveries.

Today we use DNA tests to tell us about all kinds of things. Here are five cool things DNA testing can do:

Map your family tree

A DNA test could give you thousands of new relatives (although if they’re anything like ours, we’re not sure why you’d want them).

There are websites that offers to compare your DNA to those they already have on record in hopes of connecting you to unknown branches of your family tree.They can also tell you your genetic ethnicity.

Solve ancient mysteries

No one knew where Richard III, one of the most famous kings of England, was buried until his remains were discovered in a parking lot in Leicester.

The remains showed evidence of battle wounds and scoliosis, but scientists weren’t sure the skeleton was Richard III’s until DNA extracted from the bones was matched to Michael Ibsen, a direct descendant of the king’s sister.

It wasn’t the first time ancient remains had been identified using DNA. If it’s stored in a cold, dry, dark place, DNA can last for thousands of years.

In 2009, a DNA analysis of some bone fragments showed two of Czar Nicholas II’s children were killed along with the rest of the family during the Russian Revolution, despite speculation they could have escaped.

Scientists have even extracted DNA from Neanderthals, who went extinct about 30,000 years ago, in hopes of gaining insight into the evolution of humans.

Distinguish your mutt

“Where does Buddy get his curly tail from? Why does he love digging holes in the backyard? Could I be doing more to make him happier and healthier? Your dog may not be able to tell you the answers — but his DNA can,” claims one dog DNA site.

You’ll probably never figure out why Buddy loves to eat your favorite Italian pumps but you can figure out where he comes from. The website will test your mutt’s DNA against that of more than 190 breeds to determine his genetic background.

“But why?” cat lovers may be asking. “When you understand your dog’s natural tendencies, you can tailor a training, exercise and nutrition program to his needs,” the site explains.

Predict the future

Using blood from the mother and saliva from the father, scientists can now determine whether a fetus has any chromosomal abnormalities that could cause a genetic disorder.

For example, DNA testing can reveal if an unborn baby will have trisomy 21, or Down syndrome.

Researchers are beginning to expand the field of prenatal genetic testing even further, using it to identify potential developmental delays and intellectual disabilities such as autism.

Genetic testing can also reveal risk factors you may have inherited from your parents, such as a high risk for breast or colon cancer.

While this genetic risk factor does not guarantee you will get the disease, it does increase your chances; knowing about the risk may help you take preventive steps.

Help you lose weight

A growing body of research suggests that our ability to lose weight — or gain 10 pounds by simply looking at a piece of chocolate — is shaped in large part by our genes.

Scientists have identified several gene variants that may predispose us, and our children, to obesity. Rodent studies have also shown that up to 80% of body fat is regulated by our genes, according to TIME.

That said, we wouldn’t search for a customized DNA Diet just yet. While there is a genetic component to obesity, our understanding of it is limited, says CNN diet and fitness expert Dr. Melina Jampolis.

Researchers are still trying to figure out how genetics, nutrition and exercise are related so we can help people lose weight and keep it off.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Where in the world can you still catch the plague?

The Plague may have not ravaged Britain for hundreds of years, but you can still catch the deadly disease in places across the globe.

Nine countries reported a total of 626 cases of the plague last year, including 127 deaths, according from figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO).The most endemic country was Madagascar with 482 cases of the infection and 112 deaths, followed by the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Squirrels and prairie dogs were blamed for the deadly outbreak.Other countries who reported cases in 2014 were Peru, China, Bolivia, Uganda, Tanzania and Russia.Breakouts of the plague have occurred in Africa, Asia and South America, but since the 1990s the disease has been largely confined to Africa.

People infected with the plague usually develop “flu-like” symptoms after an incubation period of three to seven days.

The disease comes in three forms depending on the route of infection – bubonic, septicaemia and pneumonic.

Pneumonic plague is the most deadly, with bacteria infecting the lungs and causing pneumonia.

The Black Death was one of the most devastating pandemics in human history, resulting in an estimated 75 to 200million deaths across Europe between 1346–53.Its victims were covered in huge weeping boils, swollen lymph glands, gangrene and rotting limbs and eventually succumbed to a slow an painful death.

The Great Plague of London between 1665 and 1666 was the last major endemic of the bubonic plague in England, which killed about 100,000 people – almost a quarter of London’s population.

The disease, which had continued to struck every 30 years or so, was finally defeated after the Great Fire of London.

The plague is caused by a bacteria called Yersinia Pestis, a zoonotic bacteria usually found in small animals and their fleas.

Almost all the cases recorded in the last 20 years have occurred among people living in small towns and villages or agricultural areas.

While it is widely agreed that the deadly disease is carried by rats and fleas, sensational claims the plague was triggered by an asteroid impact recently debunked the theory.

Experts even warned another collision could happen “at any moment”, sparking a mass outbreak of the disease capable of wiping out entire populations.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Vendors May Be Selling ‘Fake’ Solar Eclipse Glasses. Here’s How To Make Sure Yours Are Real

If you’re going to watch a solar eclipse, you need to wear special glasses.

There’s not anything different about the sun or its radiation during the eclipse — it’s just that our moms were right when they told us not to stare at the sun because it will hurt your eyes.

If you’re one of the millions of people who will be staring at the sky Aug. 21, you gotta get those shades. They filter out nearly all of the incoming light so you can actually see the moon covering up the sun without damaging your eyes.

Earlier this week, the American Astronomical Society said it revised some of its eyewear advice “in response to alarming reports of potentially unsafe eclipse viewers flooding the market.”

The main issue here is the certification. Since you’re going to be using them to stare at the sun, they need to filter out more light than the standard sunglasses pinned to your visor.

The lenses should block out the majority of light to keep your eyes from being damaged. The certification process allows a manufacturer to include a special label, the ISO stamp, so you — the buyer — know it’s actually going to protect your eyes.

Three weeks away from the greatest solar eclipse of most of our lifetimes in the United States, you don’t have to look far online to find hundreds of glasses manufacturers. In one of my recent searches, Amazon listed seven pages of results.

All of the products describe themselves as having met the standard, but it would be difficult for the average buyer to ascertain whether the glasses have actually been approved.

Given the massive influx of vendors and manufacturers, “it is no longer sufficient to look for the logo of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO),” the American Astronomical Society wrote.

There appear to be a number of issues — hundreds of online manufacturers, rapidly increasing sales and giant piles of certification paperwork — all of which add up to chaos in the eclipse-glasses marketplace.

One manufacturer told Quartz that its sales are increasing at a rate of 400 to 500 percent as the eclipse approaches. Given that kind of market, it’s not surprising that some companies may decide to skip the certification hoops before taking their product to storefronts.

But “uncertified” doesn’t necessarily mean “unsafe.” It just means they haven’t been officially tested by a certification organization.

In fact, Quartz reports that in cases where the IP number is being used without certification, the glasses themselves are not harmful.

Given all this — and in an effort to reduce your level of anxiety and prevent thousands of perfectly fine eclipse glasses from winding up in the landfill — there is a simple way to test whether your solar eclipse glasses are safe.

You shouldn’t be able to see anything through a safe solar filter except the Sun itself or something comparably bright, such as the Sun reflected in a mirror, a sunglint off shiny metal, the hot filament of an unfrosted incandescent light bulb, a bright halogen light bulb, a bright-white LED flashlight , or an arc-welder’s torch,” the AAS wrote in its press release.

All such sources should appear quite dim through a solar viewer.

If you can see anything else through the film, toss the glasses and find a pair that works.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Chill Therapy Is Endorsed for Some Heart Attacks

Hoping to save thousands of heart-attack victims a year, the American Heart Association has endorsed the cooling of comatose patients whose hearts have been restarted so that they can be brought back to life slowly, suffering less brain damage.

Studies in Europe and Australia have shown that comatose patients whose bodies were cooled to 89.6 to 93.2 degrees Fahrenheit and maintained at that temperature for up to 24 hours suffered significantly fewer deaths and less brain damage than patients who were quickly resuscitated, the association said.

Some major teaching hospitals already put comatose cardiac arrest victims on ice, but many smaller ones do not. The association now recommends that all hospitals use the procedure, a spokeswoman, Julie Del Barto, said.

The guideline was based on the findings of an international expert panel, the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation.

About 680 Americans a day who have heart attacks go into sudden cardiac arrest, in which the heart stops beating and begins to fibrillate — quivering, in a common description, ”like a bag of worms.”

Unless its rhythm is rapidly restored by a defibrillator, the patient’s oxygen-starved brain will begin to die, the fate suffered by about 95 percent of those who suffer total cardiac arrest outside hospitals.

A major public health campaign is under way to save some of those lives by mounting portable defibrillators in airliners, office buildings and other public places.

After a few minutes without circulation, victims slip into comas. Then, even if the heart is restarted, they usually die anyway, or live with severe brain damage.

Doctors believe much of the damage to resuscitated patients is done when oxygenated blood rushes back into the brain, prompting inflammation.

An explosion of free radicals from the wastes built up during oxygen deprivation kills many cells. Cold slows that process. Inflammation is also part of the immune response, and a higher rate of infections is a troublesome side effect.

Many questions remain, including how to chill patients very rapidly but safely, whether to start in the ambulance and how long patients should stay in the hibernationlike state of ”therapeutic hypothermia.

Cooling must be done carefully, said Mary Fran Hazinski, a resuscitation instructor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and may, for example, include injecting muscle relaxants to prevent shivering.

Shivering, a natural reaction to cold, ”is the body trying to increase oxygen consumption, which contradicts what you’re trying to do,” Ms. Hazinski noted.

New cooling techniques now in experimental stages include cooling helmets; injecting cold saline solution into patients’ veins; threading loops of tubing carrying supercold liquids down arteries; pouring ice slurry into stomachs; or even pumping oxygen-carrying perfluorocarbon slurry into the lungs.

In 2000, a small Danish study that cooled stroke victims for six hours with a stream of cold air found that only half as many of the cooled patients died as the uncooled ones.

It took the association’s expert panel years to come to a firm conclusion because it is difficult to run clinical studies of cardiac arrest victims.

More than 90 percent of candidates were dropped from the two studies analyzed, which followed patients in nine hospitals in Europe and four in Melbourne, Australia.

Hypothermia is not used on alert patients because they are not showing brain damage. Doctors often do not try to restart the hearts of people who have clearly been brain-dead for so long that they will be left in a vegetative state.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

Goldfish Make Alcohol In Their Cells To Survive Months Without Oxygen In Icy Waters

Goldfish can survive for months at a time in oxygen-free water. They convert lactic acid into ethanol which keeps them alive under frozen lakes.

A little bit of alcohol probably means they lose their inhibitions too. Goldfish and carp produce at least 50 mg per millilitre in their blood.

This puts them above the legal drink drive limit in most countries“, lead researcher Michael Berenbrink said.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

This Battery Is Powered By Your Own Spit

Researchers have created a battery that is activated by your spit, which could lead to cleaner sources of energy in the future.

Carried out by Binghamton University in New York, the study was published in the journal Advanced Materials Technologies.

The paper-based battery is powered by bacteria, using microbial fuels cells combined with freeze-dried exoelectrogenic cells. These are microorganisms that transfer electrons outside their cells.

Within minutes of adding power, these cells generated power. With a power density of a few microwatts per centimeter square, 16 of the microbial fuel cells connected together powered a light-emitting diode (LED) for 20 minutes.

The batteries could be shaped in different ways, including folded like sheets or shaped like a ninja star. Aside from spit, they were also able to generate power with a drop of dirty water.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Scientists Discovered That Taste Comes From The Brain, Not The Tongue

Researchers in the US have turned taste on and off in mice simply by activating and silencing certain brain cells.

This demonstrates for the first time that taste is hardwired in the brain, and not dictated by our tastebuds, flipping our previous understanding of how taste works on its head.

It was previously thought that the taste receptors on our tongue perceived the five basic tastes – sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami – and then passed these messages onto our brain, where it registered what we’d just tasted.

But the new study shows that although our tongues do detect the presence of certain chemicals, it’s our brains that perceive flavour.

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Pass it on: Popular Science