Newsy - Sci/Health The Latest Videos From <![CDATA['Holy Grail' Of Weight Loss? New Find Could Be It]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 09:00:00 -0500
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Most people desire to have a little body fat as possible, but researchers have found there may be one type of fat you want a little more of. 

In what could be a major breakthrough for future obesity treatments, scientists in the United Kingdom have used an MRI scan to pinpoint brown fat in a living adult for the very first time. (Via CBS)

What's brown fat? One of the study's authors tells Fox News:

“What most of us imagine is ‘fat’ is actually white fat, which stores [excess] energy and increases in size, [leading to] obesity. But there is another type of fat: brown fat ... it does is the complete opposite. Instead of storing energy, it actually burns off energy, and in that process, it releases heat.”

If you look at this image, which shows the upper chest of a person as if viewed from the feet, you'll see that the green areas represent places of potential brown fat. Previously, it had only been found in the shoulders of newborns. (Via The Huffington Post)

The finding is significant for the development of future weight loss methods. 

This is because it's currently believed a sugar cube size of brown fat, if activated properly, could burn about six to nine pounds of white fat in a year. You know, the bad stuff you spend hours in the gym trying to work off.  (Via ABC

Scientists say the key will be figuring out maximize these stores of fat. Not all brown fat is distributed equally, though. Estimates say some people may have a good amount, but others may not have any at all. 

The New York Times explains leaner people likely have more, while obese people have less. Younger people also have more than older people, and women have more than men. 

There are currently no existing weight loss therapies focusing on brown fat. 

<![CDATA[First Ever 'Female Penis' Discovered In Animal Kingdom]]> Fri, 18 Apr 2014 08:46:00 -0500
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Turns out when it comes to sex for one recently-identified community of insects, the females wear the pants ... and the penises. Yeah, we said it — don't be bashful.

In the vast cave network of Brazil, researchers discovered a new genus of insects, including four new species, that have reverse sex organs. (Via YouTube / Greg Gay)

BBC explains the Neotrogla female has an elaborate, penis-like organ they use to insert into the males' vagina-like opening. 

So if these female insects have something like a penis and males have something like a vagina, why wouldn't their genders be switched? 

It turns out, gender is defined by the size and type of sex cells, or gametes, each contributes to reproduction. Males give smaller ones and females give larger ones — the eggs. (Via YouTube / Nucleus Medical Media)

The Verge explains that, for these buggers, the female mounts the male and uses her penis-like structure, called a gynosome, to gather sperm and nutrients for her eggs.

The gynosomes are about one-seventh the length of the female's body. LiveScience did some ... interesting math and reported this would be the equivalent of a 5-foot 9-inch man having a 9.8-inch penis, which is, of course, almost double the average size. 

So, this is the only known case of such extreme gender reversal in the Animal Kingdom — but, wait. It gets weirder. 

National Geographic reports the female is able to grow spiky spines along her gynosome to bind herself to the male. In fact, pairs stuck together so closely that researchers accidently tore one male apart when they tried to separate the mates. 

And what's more: the female can latch onto the male for up to 70 hours. That's some extreme love making. (Via Slate)

The study was published in Current Biology and outlines the role evolution played in the insects' sex lives.

Food is scarce in the caves where these bugs live, so sperm offers nutrients for the competitive female and her eggs, reports Discover Magazine.

Researchers are planning to use genomic data from the bugs to try to determine when the female penis evolved in these bugs.

<![CDATA[Earth's Near-Twin Found Orbiting Red Dwarf]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 20:14:00 -0500
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We've been hearing a lot about Earth-like planets out there in our galaxy, but a new planet announced Thursday might be the earthiest one yet.

Data from NASA's Kepler telescope uncovered this planet, dubbed Kepler-186f, located about 500 lightyears from Earth. It's similar to Earth in two important ways: its size and its chance of having liquid water.

If you keep up on exoplanet stories, they might all start to blur together after a while, so here's a quick primer on why this is a big find.

Over the past few decades, around 1800 planets outside our solar system have been discovered, but it wasn't until 2010 when the first rocky planet was found in its star's "Goldilocks zone," that is, the area where it's not too hot or too cold for liquid water. (Via European Southern Observatory, NASA)

Then, in 2011, the first Earth-sized planets were found, but those weren't in the Goldilocks zone. (Via NASA)

Those are two of the things astronomers are looking for in an Earth-twin: size and distance from the star. There are a few other criteria before a planet could be called a perfect match, though, like orbiting a similar star and having a similar atmosphere. (Via NASA)

Kepler-186f doesn't check all those boxes. It orbits a completely different kind of star than ours, for one thing. But it gets both the size and distance part right, so it's at least an Earth-cousin.

So the big question is: could life as we know it live there? The answer is nobody knows yet. Slate's Phil Plait explains why.

"The next things we’d need to know about it are the mass, what its atmosphere is like, and the surface temperature. The gravity of the planet depends on its mass, and in many ways the atmosphere depends on the gravity. Unfortunately, we don’t know either."

A new generation of telescopes could help clear all this up when they come online in the coming decade. But a recurring message from scientists is that Kepler-186f shows it's just a matter of time before a true Earth twin is found.

A NASA astronomer involved with the study tells Science, "Our galaxy is probably littered with cousins of Kepler-186f." Pretty good odds.

<![CDATA[Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 19:38:00 -0500
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A recent breakthrough in human stem cell research could lead to the treatment of countless diseases, invaluable scientific research and yes, human cloning.

According to the report in the journal Cell Stem Cell, scientists have synthesized embryonic stem cells from adult human cells, creating two different lines of stem cells from the skin cells of two men, one 35-years-old and the other 75.

Using the ‘nuclear transfer’ method, scientists injected genetic information into DNA-stripped egg cells, allowing the cells to reprogram themselves with the new DNA and start dividing. Of 77 cell samples from four donors, only two fully developed into cloned stem cells.

The five percent success rate isn't surprising ​as research leader Dr. Robert Lanza says in the report, "reprogramming is more difficult for adult cells than for fetal [and] infant cells, presumably at least in part because their epigenetic landscape from the pluripotent state," meaning the cell has matured past the point of change.


The researchers reportedly tweaked a method made famous by the cloning of the sheep Dolly in 1996 and improved by scientists at Oregon Health & Science University just last year.

The ‘nuclear transfer’ method is the third discovered way to harvest stem cells. In the past, scientists have extracted cells from leftover in vitro fertilization embryos, a controversial practice, while a Japanese researcher discovered a way to create the cells by mixing just four genes together in a 2006 experiment. (Via Nobel Foundation)

Lanza’a research could provide treatment and even cures for many serious diseases like diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and even leukemia. And according to NPR, the researcher wants to create a virtual library of cells using carefully selected DNA donors.

The implications of a real and viable approach could be startling as scientists have been wrestling with stem cell’s ethical questions since the cloning of Dolly.

Shoukhrat Mitalopov, an official at Oregon Health & Science University, thinks the cells are necessary to study, telling Time, “they have become kind of like cursed cells. But we clearly need to understand more about them.”

And some are even calling to outlaw human cloning – before it’s even theoretically possible. As Marcy Darnovsky with the Center of Genetics and Society tells The Oregonian, "If we're going to be having cloned embryos in laboratories around the country, we really need to get our act together and have a law that prohibits human reproductive cloning."

But how close are we to a world of doubles and evil clones? According to Paul Knoepfler at the University of California Davis, not very. "I don't think that's coming anytime soon, but certainly this kind of technology could be abused by some kind of rogue scientist."

The advancement in stem cell research could have unforeseen effects but we wouldn’t worry about running into your clone anytime soon.

<![CDATA[Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique']]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 18:34:00 -0500
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​For years we’ve asked the question, “Are you more right-brained or left-brained?”  Turns out we’re neither -- new research shows we should be looking at the size of our neural matter instead.


That’s according to research published in NeuroImage. Scientists studied the brain scans of artists and found an increase in brain neural matter -- specifically in fine motor and visual imagery areas, accounted for their creativity. And of course, two areas are not on the same side of the brain.

​Lead author Rebecca Chamberlain told BBC News, "The people who are better at drawing really seem to have more developed structures in regions of the brain that control for fine motor performance and what we call procedural memory."

The study can’t confirm or deny this extra matter is an innate gift, but it does suggest the artist’s environment or upbringing plays a part in developing these creative spaces.


However for those of us who pencil pushers instead of painters, the study also provide evidence that all brains are “incredibly flexible” when trained.  Meaning you might have extra matter in places where you do the most thinking.

The small study surveyed 21 art students and compared them to 23 non-artists, taking brain scans as they rested and while they were asked to draw, according to Design & Trend.  The art student has significant amounts of extra matter aiding their visual skills, while the non-artists only had “hints”.

So far it’s a good start ,but next, the researchers hope to strengthen their findings with a larger sample size and study how maturing teens develop extra matter.

<![CDATA[Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?]]> Thu, 17 Apr 2014 13:11:00 -0500
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It might be common for those in their golden years to develop some kind of apathetic feelings, but a new study suggests those feelings could be a sign of a shrinking brain.

According to the study published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, researchers in the Netherlands looked at the brains of more than 4,300 seniors. Those with at least two symptoms of apathy — such as a lack of interest or enthusiasm — had significantly less brain volume than those with fewer symptoms.

The researchers measured two parts of the brain — gray matter where memories are stored and white matter, which controls the brain's communication system. They found the brains of apathetic individuals actually contain less grey and white matter.

According to HealthDay, the researchers noted the apathetic individuals had decreased brain volume even without any signs of depression, which has been linked to brain shrinkage in the past.

Currently, tests for depression don't recognize signs of apathy. But the researchers say the findings suggest apathy alone could indicate brain disease and the medical community should develop ways to screen for it when screening for depression.

But the researchers don't exactly have a reason explaining the link between apathy and a smaller brain. It's unclear whether apathy causes brain shrinkage or if brain shrinkage causes apathy.

A medical professional not associated with the study tells USA Today, "It could be that in some people, [apathy] signals a pending developing generative disease or cognitive impairment or even early signs of depression."

But according to Medical News Today, one of the study's authors says: "Apathy symptoms are common in older people without dementia. And the fact that participants in our study had apathy without depression should turn our attention to how apathy alone could indicate brain disease."

It should be noted, the seniors were not formally diagnosed with apathy, and the study does not determine whether apathy is an early sign of other conditions such as Alzheimer's disease.

<![CDATA[Thousands Of Vials Of SARS Virus Go Missing]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 18:22:00 -0500
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More than 2,000 vials containing samples of the SARS virus have gone missing from a French laboratory. 

According to Euronews, the Pasteur Institute in Paris noticed 29 boxes containing 2,349 samples of the virus were missing during an inventory check.

The institute's president says "human error" was the most likely explanation, though made sure to add the missing samples pose no risk to the public.

France 24 reports the samples, which were collected from people infected with the virus in 2003, are only fragments and all tested negative. Plus, the refrigerator holding the samples malfunctioned in 2012 and defrosting, which would have killed off any viruses.

And if that's not enough to convince you it's not a problem, according to The Telegraph: "Anyone leaving the laboratory has to pass through a disinfection zone, which would have killed off any virus."

So everything is like almost definitely, totally, completely fine. But still, not the best news.

The president of the institute told French newspaper Le Figaro"Losing the samples is an unacceptable mistake ... It is the first time that the institute has lost samples in this manner and it is entirely inadmissible."

SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, first appeared in China in 2002. It killed 775 people and infected 8,000 more, but there have been no known transmissions since 2004. (Via ABC)

<![CDATA[Formerly Conjoined Twins Released From Dallas Hospital]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 13:11:00 -0500
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A set of conjoined twins separated at a Dallas hospital last summer are taking a big step towards heading home.

"This is video here of the formerly conjoined twins Emmett and Owen. They were born last July and separated in Dallas in August. Since then, they have lived in the neonatal intensive care unit." (Via KXAS)

But officials at Medical City Children's Hospital say, now that the Ezell twins are stronger, they're ready to move from the hospital to a rehab center later this week. (Via KDFW)

The twins' mother Jenni told KXAS, "I am so excited. I am shaking I am so excited. We have been waiting months for this and it's finally here."

The now nine-month-old boys have come a long way to get to this point.

According to NBC, Emmett and Owen Ezell were born connected from the chest to the bellybutton — they even shared a liver and intestines and had a small area on their lower stomach that wasn't covered by skin or muscles.

The twins' parents were told there was little hope that the boys would survive. But during a challenging nine-hour surgery, doctors were able to safely separate them. 

"God causes things to happen, and in looking at their care, and everything that's gone on. It's just a real privilege to be a part of that." (Via WFAA)

ABC reports, while the boys are in the rehab facility, the Ezell family will learn how to manage the twins' feeding tubes and breathing tubes until they can eat and breathe on their own.

And after that? The Ezells hope they can bring their "little miracles" home to join their other two sons soon.

<![CDATA[Couples Who Sleep Less Than An Inch Apart Might Be Happiest]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 12:49:00 -0500
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A new study from researchers by researchers in Britain claims you can tell how happy a couple is by how closely they sleep. 

So who are the happiest couples of all? Well, according to the results the ones who sleep less than an inch apart are the most content — so basically touching each other. 

It also found 

The results were discovered through a survey of 1,000 people. 

The Telegraph talked to the studies lead author who said, The key issue is if you have a couple who used to sleep close together but are now drifting further apart in bed, then that could symptomatic of them growing apart when they are awake.”

Yeah, well not everyone is buying the results — including couples that have been married for years. 

<![CDATA[Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?]]> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 08:52:00 -0500
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Everything in moderation? How about not at all.

A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. (Via YouTube / RuffHouse Studios)

According to the press release, researchers studied the nucleus accumbens and amygdala of 40 students — 20 who casually smoked marijuana and 20 who did not smoke it at all. Casual smokers were those users who smoked marijuana at least once a week but were not chemically dependent on the drug. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Life Science Databases, Geoff B Hall)

These regions of the brain are related to motivation and addiction. Changes in them can greatly affect behavior. So what did they find?

"Both these regions in recreational pot users were abnormally altered for at least two of these structural measures. The degree of those alterations was directly related to how much marijuana the subjects used." (Via ScienceNewsline)

Yes, you heard that right. The more marijuana the user reported smoking, the more their brain structure was altered. (Via Flickr / Jonathan Piccolo)

One of the greatest changes: The nucleus accumbens was "abnormally large" in those who smoked. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Geoff B Hall)

Researchers say this is a problem because the brain structures studied determine how you perceive pleasure and experience emotion.

A writer for Medical News Today says this study is so important because it has been unclear up to this point how casual marijuana use affects the human brain.

Not to mention the fact that "marijuana is the most commonly used illegal drug in the US, with nearly 19 million people having used it recently." (Via Flickr / Smokers High Life)

The biggest takeaway? The co-senior author of the study notes some wrongly assume moderation insulates them from consequences.

"People think a little recreational use shouldn't cause a problem, if someone is doing OK with work or school. Our data directly says this is not the case." The study will be published in the Journal of Neuroscience. (Via  ScienceNewsline)

<![CDATA[New Baby Moon 'Peggy' Spotted In Saturn's Rings]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 20:45:00 -0500
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Seems like we're always hearing about Saturn's moons: their weird features, unexplained mysteries and, of course, their possibility of hosting life.

Now, we could have a new chunk of Saturn rock to speculate about. Scientists think they may have just witnessed a tiny moon being born in the planet's rings.

They noticed a bump toward the outer edge of the rings in a photo snapped by the Cassini probe last year. The working theory is that the bump is a dust cloud clumping around a half-mile wide baby moon. (Via NASA)

The study's lead author said: "We hadn't seen anything like this before ... We may be looking at the act of birth, where this object is just leaving the rings and heading off to be a moon in its own right." (Via Queen Mary University of London)

The new moon joins at least 60 brothers and sisters orbiting Saturn, all with unique characteristics. Not much is known about the new moon, but it does have a unique nickname: Peggy.

If confirmed, Peggy could help scientists understand how Saturn's moons form, which in turn could help them understand how the planets formed back at the dawn of the solar system. It's thought the two processes are similar. (Via European Space Agency)

But here comes the splash of cold water on the story: Slate's astronomer Phil Plait points out later pictures of that area of the ring show the tiny moon may have crumbled apart already. And at any rate, Saturn's rings are pretty much done making moons at this point. There's just not enough material left.

Another possibility is that the baby moon just drifted out of the Cassini probe's field of vision. We won't know for sure until the probe gets a closer look in 2016.

<![CDATA[Cognitive Function: Is It All Downhill From Age 24?]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 16:58:00 -0500
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To most, the term "over the hill" means a person is at least past the age of 50. But a group of researchers out of Canada say it might actually start at age 24. Before you freak out, though, let's take a look at the study. 

Researchers from Simon Fraser University studied a group of people between the ages 16-44 and found that cognitive motor performance begins deteriorating around age 24. (Via YouTube / Jordan Couch)

To determine this, they compared the people's performance against one another when playing the real-time strategy video game "StarCraft II."

​In a press release, a university rep says collecting the data this way was invaluable because "performance records, which can be readily replayed, constitute big data. ... They present 870 hours worth of real-time cognitive moves performed at varied skill levels."

According to The Washington Post, players who were 24 years old were the youngest ones showing slower cognitive function. 

But "over the hill" might be a bit drastic. When we say slower, we mean like milliseconds. The Vancouver Sun says the difference in the response time between a 24-year-old and that of a 39-year-old was 150 milliseconds, or .15 seconds.

Don't write the older players off just yet. The Huffington Post reports the lead doctoral student, Joe Thompson, said, "Older players, though slower, seem to compensate by employing simpler strategies and using the game's interface more efficiently than younger players, enabling them to retain their skill, despite cognitive motor-speed loss."

Thompson says the study, which was published in PLOS One, proves that although people slow down with age, they make up for it by learning to adapt quickly to the constantly changing world around them. For example, in the video game, the older players used cheats and shortcuts to stay ahead. 

See, there is a silver lining. 

<![CDATA[Spacecrafts Could Use Urine As Fuel Source]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 16:03:00 -0500
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Getting water and fuel to space crafts in orbit can get pretty expensive, but a new process could scale that down. Simply by recycling urine​.

Yes, urine. The idea of drinking water that was once pee sounds pretty gross, but the science behind it could provide a more affordable way to not only hydrate astronauts but also fuel spaceships. (Via CBS)

As a writer for Science puts it: "In Space, Pee is for Power." Astronauts aboard the International Space Station already recycle wastewater to recover about 75 percent of water through distillation, but the process removes the nitrogen-rich compound urea.

Now, scientists from the University of Puerto Rico say — through a rather complicated process involving osmosis and a bioreactor, that compound can be transformed into ammonia that fills a fuel cell and emits power. (Via ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering)

The team says current tests have only generated a small amount of power, but they hope to increase that amount in subsequent tests. Still, others are skeptical.

A NASA wastewater systems engineer tells Science, "This sounds like a clever process, but I'm skeptical about whether it will work at a larger scale or in the uncontrolled environment of space."

If successful, the development could support long-term missions in space, especially to areas outside Earth's orbit such as Mars where it's more difficult to deliver supplies.

So in space, urine is more useful than we might find it on Earth. Surely more useful than option number 2?

"Mars astronauts are going to protect themselves from deadly cosmic radiation by covering their spaceship with their own poop." ​(Via Discovery)

Oh ... Well, considering all the fine research astronauts perform in space programs around the world, I guess we have to give them credit for being — resourceful.

<![CDATA[How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 13:07:00 -0500
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British scientists have gained new insight into Type 2 diabetes by traveling to an unusual location — atop Mount Everest.

According to a study published Monday in the journal PLOS One, researchers found long-term exposure to hypoxia — or low oxygen levels in the body — is linked to increased indicators of insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes.

Insulin resistance occurs when cells in the body don't respond to the hormone responsible for regulating sugar levels. This could lead to too much sugar in the blood, which could lead to Type 2 diabetes. (Via Medicom Health Interactive)

The data for the study was collected as part of a trek led by researchers, doctors and nurses who wanted to study how decreased oxygen levels affect bodily functions at extreme altitudes. (Via The Guardian)

The team chose to go to Mount Everest because the high-altitude conditions simulated the critical conditions of ill patients who often suffer from hypoxia at normal altitudes. (Via National Geographic)

The researchers say hypoxia is a common problem affecting patients in intensive care units in the United Kingdom and this research could help improve survival rates.

According HealthDay, such levels of hypoxia observed in healthy people atop the mountain are normally seen in obese people at sea level. But the researchers say it's often impossible to study those patients because they are so ill.

A doctor involved with the study told Science Daily the research "demonstrates the value of using healthy volunteers in studies carried out at high altitude to patients at sea level. [It] is a fantastic way to test hypotheses that would otherwise be very difficult to explore."

According to Medical News Today, the researchers believe the results of the study could lead to the development of treatments for reducing the progression of diabetes indicators and possibly prevent the disease altogether.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 25 million Americans have diabetes, and about 90 percent of them have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

<![CDATA[Google Patents Contact Lens Cameras; Internet Is Wary]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 09:40:00 -0500
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A newly published patent shows off just one more incredibly innovative idea from the engineers at Google. And once again, while some consider a new Google idea the wave of the future, a lot of others think it's creepy as hell.

ANCHOR: "Google may be getting into the contacts business. They just patented a contact lens that will have a built-in camera."

CO-ANCHOR: "It is really neat stuff, and if it helps blind people see? All for it." (Via WBNS)

ANCHOR: "The contacts would be controlled by blinking patterns."

CO-ANCHOR: "If you're at the gym cleaning up after working out and somebody has a camera in their contacts? I mean, come on!" (Via WXYZ)

​​Patent Bolt first reported Google's idea Sunday, reporting the patent application was filed in the fourth quarter of 2012 with the U.S. Patent Office publishing it earlier this month.

In the patent, Google describes how the lenses could help blind people by analyzing and alerting them to hazards like a busy intersection. Facial recognition technology could also deliver an advantage to the blind.

Of course, Patent Bolt also points out, "Think of it being used by law enforcement in checking out a suspect that they're questioning in a vehicle or on the street. The facial recognition system could quickly take a photo of the suspect and run it through a special database matching it to outstanding warrants or other red flags."

Other media outlets compared the contacts idea to a shrunken version of Google Glass, the wearable tech which also happened to go on sale Tuesday.

The Huffington Post wrote the lenses almost make Glass look "quaint" while Ubergizmo wrote about this being the next possible version of Glass.

"Now that would be a really scary thought, since it would mean someone could be recording what is going on without you knowing any better."

The patent doesn't indicate when any possible product could go to market, and this certainly seems like a pie-in-the-sky idea for well down the road. It isn't Google's first foray into contacts, though.

The company announced in January it was working on contacts to help people with diabetes. (Via Google Blog)

BRIAN OTIS, GOOGLE X ENGINEER: "This prototype looks and feels like a regular soft contact lens, but inside of it, we have a tiny chip and a miniaturized glucose sensor that allows us to continually monitor to your glucose levels." (Via The Telegraph)

I swear we've seen this before somewhere, though.

ANNOUNCER: "All with the new eyePhone."

PHILIP FRY: "Why is it called an eyePhone?"

TECH: "I'll explain after I install it."

PHILIP FRY: "Neat!" (Via 20th Century Fox / 'Futurama')

So as so many media outlets reporting Google's patent signed off in their articles, here's the obligatory line about how this is a product worth looking into or how we at Newsy plan to keep our eye on this one. I apologize.

<![CDATA[App Fights Jet Lag With The Power Of Math]]> Sun, 13 Apr 2014 21:52:00 -0500
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If you're a globe-trotting frequent flier, you know how painfully irritating jet lag can be — losing sleep, headaches, fatigue, and other general awfulness. Fortunately, there's now a more efficient way to fight jet lag — math.

Researchers at the University of Michigan have just released Entrain, a free iPhone app which is designed to beat jet lag by keeping track of how much your body takes in during different times of the day. (Via YouTube / Olivia Walch)

The app is based on research published this week in PLOS, which focuses on the daily cycle of light exposure our body expects to get, and details mathematical formulas for tweaking that light exposure.

App designer Olivia Walch told the Los Angeles Times, the result should be a quicker rehabilitation from the effects of jet lag. "These are the fastest schedules that have ever been proposed. ... Our schedule takes what could be 12 days of adjusting down to four."

Of course, Entrain's mathematical models are still theoretical at this point. Entrain's developers are asking users to submit feedback on how well the schedules work for them, so they can adjust the app. (Via University of Michigan)

But one sleep researcher at Harvard Medical School is optimistic about the app's effects. She told NPR the formulas behind Entrain are backed up by years of research.

"You need to do experiments to make sure whether it works, because humans don't always respond the way mathematical models expect them to. ... But he has based his model on decades of thorough experiment, and a model that has been tested very thoroughly."

Entrain is currently only available for iOS, but the developers say an Android version is in the works. And if you're smartphone-averse, all of the tables used in the app can be found in the team's published research at PLOS.

<![CDATA['Blood Moon' Attracts Stargazers, Conspiracy Theories]]> Sun, 13 Apr 2014 12:20:00 -0500
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Stargazers and fans of eerie, prophetic-like omens will be in for a treat early Tuesday morning when a total lunar eclipse will occur, turning the full moon red.

Also called "blood moons", total lunar eclipses happen about twice a year when the moon passes directly behind the Earth into its shadow, or umbra. (Via NASA)

But what's up with the creepy red glow that gives the lunar event its nickname? 

Well, the red color is actually not unlike a sunset, but from the moon's perspective. NASA describes it as "seeing every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all of them, all at once." And that red glow from behind the Earth gets projected onto the moon. (Via Business Insider)

This total lunar eclipse will be the first in a series of four appearing every six months, a phenomenon called a "tetrad" – something not particularly rare for this century according to NASA eclipse expert Fred Espenak. (Via CNN)

While a total lunar eclipse is a interesting sight for stargazing hobbyists, for others the oncoming blood moon and tetrad brings something else – tidings of doom. 

CTV News writes that "Conspiracy websites draw parallels between lunar eclipses and historical events, like the fall of Constantinople and the founding of the State of Israel," and that the last blood moon occurred when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004.

​But perhaps the biggest proponent for any conspiracy concerning the upcoming blood moons is Pastor John Hagee, who released a book titled Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change in 2013. (Via The Christian Broadcasting Network)

With all four blood moons being viewable from the U.S., New York Daily News notes Hagee claims that "the four blood moons that will soon appear in the skies over the America are evidence of a future 'world-shaking event'"

In an interview with Fox News, Hagee emphasized the significance that each blood moon will occur during a Jewish holiday as well. 

"To have a blood moon, and then for those blood moons to be on this exact date, is something that just is beyond coincidental." 

As noted by Think Progress, Hagee has caused some controversy before when in 2008 he suggested a connection between God's wrath towards a gay pride rally planned for New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina.

The next three blood moons will be viewable this year on Oct. 8 followed by April 4 and Sept. 28 next year.

<![CDATA[UN Panel: Time Is Running Out To Stop Climate Change]]> Sun, 13 Apr 2014 10:18:00 -0500
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Sooner is much better than later.

That’s the word from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which warned Sunday humans need to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions in the next few decades to prevent dangerous levels of climate change.

The IPCC’s report says the recent increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases is unprecedented. Emissions growth from 2000 to 2010 was more than the three previous decades combined. (via Global Carbon Project)

The climate scientists described a global temperature milestone of two degrees Celsius higher than pre-industrial levels.

They say exceeding that limit could cause “dangerous interference with the climate system.” Staying under the two-degree ceiling would require a reduction in global greenhouse emissions of as much as 70 percent by mid-century. (Via IPCC)

“The biggest single thing that needs to happen according to the report is it significant movement away from generating electricity, coal and oil to renewables. The scientists say there is still a window opportunity to stop climate change.” (Via BBC)

The Wall Street Journal points to resistance to the IPCC’s findings. One example: oil-producing countries who say mathematical models cannot accurately predict warming trends.

But official response has been generally supportive. EU climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard agrees there’s no plan B for climate change. ''There is only plan A: collective action to reduce emissions now. The more you wait, the more it will cost. The more you wait, the more difficult it will become.'' (Via Flickr / European Parliament, The Guardian)

This is the third of four conferences that make up the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report. Members met in Yokohama, Japan last month to discuss the impact and vulnerabilities associated with a warming planet. (Via IPCC)

The IPCC will convene one more meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark this October to issue its final report on contemporary climate change.

<![CDATA[ISS Glitch Could Delay SpaceX Launch, Warrant Spacewalk]]> Sat, 12 Apr 2014 15:41:00 -0500
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NASA is weighing its options after a backup computer on the International Space Station failed to respond to commands Friday. Astronauts might have to replace the device during a spacewalk.

The device, which helps control the station’s Mobile Transporter rail car pictured here, is called a multiplexer demultiplexer. It takes commands from the computer and routes them to external systems.

NASA issued a statement confirming the crew was in no danger from the malfunctioning device, but are trying to determine “whether the station has enough redundancy to permit the launch” of a SpaceX cargo craft.

A craft, which NBC reports contains “about 4,600 pounds of supplies and equipment, including scientific experiments and the legs for the station's Robonaut 2 android.”

It is important to note the device is a backup — the prime computer is functioning normally, but the team wants to take all possible precautions. (Via NASA)

The SpaceX cargo craft will be caught and berthed by the station’s robotic arm. NASA says the team is deciding whether there are enough backup systems in place for the robotic arm to warrant the launch. points out “SpaceX's Dragon launch has already been delayed nearly a month.” Officials are working to get the necessary supplies and equipment aboard the ISS swiftly and safely.

NASA says as of now, the craft is still scheduled to launch on Monday with an anticipated arrival Wednesday.

<![CDATA[Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment]]> Sat, 12 Apr 2014 09:35:00 -0500
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Researchers say they've uncovered clues about the environment of the Ice Age, after analyzing rare leafcutter-bee fossils found in the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California. 

Archeologists have found many mammal fossils in the La Brea Tar Pits, including the saber-tooth tiger mammoths. These animals became trapped there when tar seeped up through the ground and hardened. (Via Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits)

Fossils of a rare kind of leafcutter bee's nests was discovered in the tar pits in the 1970s. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Bob Peterson)

Science World Report says researchers used a micro-CT scanner to analyze the physical features of the bee pupae, which is the stage when larva turn into an adult bee, as well as the architecture of the fossilized nests.  

Here's what the fossilized nest looked like before, and here's what the scanner showed the leafcutter bee pupa looked like inside it somewhere between 23,000 and 40,000 years ago. (Via PLOS)

Nature World News says researchers determined the bees found in those nests are actually related to a species of bee still living today and that the prehistoric bees "lived in a moderately moist environment that occured at a lower elevation during the Late Pleistocene." 

Live Science reports researchers concluded that the mother bee purposely planted her babies in the ground--as is common with the leafcutter bee. Because the nest was planted near an asphalt pipe, it became trapped in the tar. 

In the study, which was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, researchers say they studied the leafcutter fossils because "these specimens frequently serve as the most valuable paleoenvironmental indicators due to their narrow climate restrictions and life cycles."

It's important to note that the U.S. Department of Agriculture concluded one-third of bee populations have died out over the last seven years. Beekeepers and biologists have not been able to come to a solid conclusion as to why, though. 

The researchers plan to continue studying the bee fossils, hoping information gained about the past environment will provide insight into what the climate will be like in the future.

<![CDATA[New Hepatitis C Treatment Boasts Over 90% Cure Rate]]> Sat, 12 Apr 2014 08:01:00 -0500
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Scientists say a new treatment for hepatitis C could potentially cure the millions of people who are battling the infection.

"Researchers report an experimental oral drug, called ABT-450, has cured more than 90 percent of patients infected with Hepatitis C." (Via KIVI)

According to a study on the new treatment, it has cured 90 percent of previously untreated hepatitis C patients and 82 percent of patients who didn't respond to previous therapy in just weeks. (Via YouTube / hepctv)

Researchers tested the treatment, which is actually a combination of two different drugs, on 380 patients in four countries back in 2013.

They split the trial into two studies — one looked at the effect the drug had on patients over the course of 12 weeks, and the other stretched on for 24 weeks. After 12 weeks, 91.8 percent of patients were hepatitis C-free. And the 24-week study boasted a staggering 95.9 percent of patients cured. (Via New England Journal of Medicine)

The study's lead researcher told the BBC the drug works by zeroing in on the protein that makes the virus and stops it from multiplying. "It is fantastic. I am so excited for the patients. There is finally hope for their future."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 3.2 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C, but most don't even know it because there are often no symptoms. But if the virus is left untreated, it can lead to serious liver problems or even death.

And treatment's currently available have been painful and expensive. But this new drug could change that.

If it gets approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ABT-450 could potentially replace Sovaldi, a medication that can cost up to $1,000 a day to use.

And even better? CBS reports none of the trial participants have suffered any adverse side effects from the drug. But some did report experiencing some mild ones like fatigue, headache, nausea and insomnia.

There is currently not a vaccine available to prevent hepatitis C, but doctors say you can protect yourself by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease. That includes injection drug use.

<![CDATA[NASA's New 'Flying Saucer' Key to Mars Missions]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 21:10:00 -0500
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Residents of Hawaii, please do not panic! This June, the U.S. government will test what looks like a flying saucer in your state, but it’s no UFO.

It’s NASA’s Low Density Supersonic Decelerator, or LDSD, a spacecraft addition that could be the key to putting a man on Mars. During landing, once a certain speed is reached, the LDSD inflates like a giant donut, giving it that classic flying saucer look.

The inflation is crucial, as it increases atmospheric drag and slows down the craft until a massive 30-meter parachute floats it down to a safe landing. (Via NASA)

Or, as Extreme Tech explains it, “something with a rugged first stage to take the initial brunt of interplanetary deceleration, and then a big ol’ parachute to bring you down to ground-approach speeds.”

NASA’s newest innovation is all about Mars, with the red planet featuring an atmosphere too thick for rocket deceleration and too thin for parachute landings with heavier cargo.

Either method could destabilize the spacecraft which, according to The Independent, “is bad enough when you’re risking a $2 billion lander like Curiosity, but out of the question if humans are the payload.”

With the current rover’s landing sequence a relic from 1976, the LDSD could safely land up to 3 tons of cargo, doubling previous limits. It’s an imperative move if we ever want to visit or even colonize the red planet.

As NASA official Allen Chen tells the New Scientist, "It may seem obvious, but the difference between landing and crashing is stopping."


NASA will test the addition on the island of Kauai, where it will freefall from over 34 miles above the Earth. If all goes well, the LDSD could be ready for launch by 2018.

<![CDATA[Subway To Cut 'Yoga Mat' Chemical From Bread]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 18:14:00 -0500
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After facing two months of consumer backlash, Subway announced Friday that starting next week their bread will be officially free of the infamous "yoga mat" chemical.

Subway's sandwich bread used to be made with azodicarbonamide, a chemical which strengthens and textures dough. Although the chemical is banned in Europe and Australia over health concerns, the FDA does allow small amounts of azodicarbonamide to be used in food.

Food blogger Vani Hari first raised the issue with Subway back in February, noting the chemical is also used for creating foamed plastics like yoga mats and shoe soles. Hari started a petition which drew over 95,000 signatures, calling for Subway to remove the chemical.

In the face of this backlash, Subway told consumers it was already in the process of phasing the yoga mat chemical out of the bread recipe. And Friday a Subway rep confirmed the chemical should be gone from all Subway resturants by next week.

But Hari still isn't impressed with the restaurants' new bread formula. She told NBC Subway's still off the menu for now.

"The FDA is allowing thousands of chemicals in our food that haven't been tested in three decades and we don't know their cumulative effect. ... It takes five ingredients to make bread. When they start doing that, that's when I'll start eating there again."

And consumers looking to avoid the yoga mat chemical might have a hard time. The Environmental Working Group notes azodicarbonamide is used in at least 500 different food products.

<![CDATA[Lab-Grown Vaginas Successfully Transplanted In Humans]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 14:19:00 -0500
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In what's being called a medical "milestone," for the first time in history scientists have successfully implanted full functioning lab-grown vaginas. 

The study involved four girls, ages 13 through 18, who were born with a rare genetic condition that caused them to lack or have underdeveloped vaginal organs. A medical analyst for WTVT explained how the process of recreating the organs worked. (Via Time)

"What they do is they take cells from the girls..  and then they use a matrix that comes from pigs ... and then they develop this organ. ... They take that, they implant it into they girls and it grew with them."

Researchers from the U.S. and Mexico conducted the study and continued to follow up with the girls. Over time — it's now has been about eight years — the implants developed into true vaginal tissue with nerves and blood supply. 

The results, published in the journal Lancet, reveled the implants "showed variables in the normal range in all areas tested, such as desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and painless intercourse."

But that's not the only groundbreaking news to come out of the medical world Friday. In a separate study out of London, doctors were able to help cancer patients through tissue engineering. 

"They created human cartilage from a patient's cells, rebuilding the damaged nostrils of five skin cancer patients. With a major shortage of organs, researchers hope their work in the lab will someday help relieve the crisis." (Via  KAUZ)

But researchers admit they are still a long way off. In time, if the methods are approved by the FDA, doctors could potentially help a wide range of patients, including those with cancer or injuries or even men seeking sex-change operations. 

<![CDATA[Daddy Longlegs Once Had 4 Eyes]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 14:05:00 -0500
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As if they couldn't get any creepier, the arachnids we all know today as daddy longlegs once had not just one pair of eyes but two.

Researchers say a 305-million-year-old harvestman fossil discovered in France says a lot about the evolutionary history of the critters, which presently only have one set of clustered eyes on top of their heads. (Via National Geographic)

But high-resolution X-ray images of the fossil reveal ancestors of the spider-like daddy longlegs had another set of eyes closer to the sides of their heads, called lateral eyes. (Via LiveScience)

The researchers then looked at modern harvestmen embryos and found they still retain the gene for the lost set of eyes — though they only form one set when they hatch. (Via American Museum of Natural History)

So why did modern daddy longlegs lose those extra eyes? According to Wired, one of the study's authors speculates the species might have adapted to darker areas and no longer needed them. 

The researchers say the bodies of these species have changed very little as they've evolved, but the discovery is a rare, detailed look into the differences between ancient and modern arachnids.

As the study's lead researcher notes, "Terrestrial arthropods like harvestmen have a sparse fossil record because their exoskeletons don't preserve well." (Via American Museum of Natural History)

Harvestmen have exoskeletons like spiders, but it's important to note, although they might look like spiders, they're really not.

As the International Business Times reports, they're more closely related to scorpions, which also have exoskeletons. And unlike spiders, daddy longlegs' bodies look like single, oval-shaped structures.

And of course, real spiders have even more eyes than their look-alikes — usually about six or more. (Via Slate)

<![CDATA[Is Stockpiling Tamiflu A Waste Of Government Money?]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 22:11:00 -0500
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Governments around the world have spent billions of dollars stockpiling drugs to fight flu pandemics, and this week an independent review shows all that money might have been a waste.

In new studies by The Cochrane Collaboration and the British Medical Journal, researchers say the drug Tamiflu doesn't fight the flu much more effectively than regular, over-the-counter Tylenol.

"The effectiveness has been overplayed and the harms underplayed, which really must bring into question the decision to stockpile the drug and the continuing guidance from WHO to do so."

The findings came after doctors and scientists pressured Tamiflu's manufacturer Roche into releasing all of its clinical trial data, much of which had been kept secret.

For years, Tamiflu has been touted as the only anti-viral capable of stopping the spread of the flu virus. Governments bought up the drug after 2005's bird flu scare and 2009's swine flu pandemic. (Via Vimeo / Olive Make-Up Artistry)

Specifically, the U.S. government spent around $1.3 billion and the U.K. government spent around $700 million. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Alcibiades)

And while the studies do show some modest effects, the researchers say Tamiflu just doesn't do what governments bought it for.

First, the good news for the drug: it has been shown to reduce flu symptoms and shorten the duration of those symptoms, but only by around half a day on average. And it works best on patients who are sickest. Now the bad news: it has plenty of side effects, like nausea, vomiting and even psychiatric problems, it doesn't affect the worst complications of the disease like pneumonia, the effects in children are inconclusive and it doesn't do much to stop the spread of the disease person-to-person — which was the whole point. (Via

So why are we just finding this out now, instead of back when the drugs were being reviewed? One of the doctors involved in the report says this whole episode points to big problems in how drug trials are handled.

Writing in The Guardian, Ben Goldacre says, "The bigger scandal is that Roche broke no law by withholding vital information on how well its drug works. In fact, the methods and results of clinical trials on the drugs we use today are still routinely and legally being withheld from doctors, researchers and patients."

Roche said in a statement that it disagrees with the report's conclusions and that Tamiflu is a useful medicine and a vital part of preparing for pandemics. One spokesperson also pointed out to the BBC Tamiflu has been approved by dozens of regulators around the world.

"When I look at that in that context versus one report ... that is a significant body of expertise that have looked at our data and share the same position that we do.

The CDC and the World Health Organization both still recommend the use of Tamiflu for fighting flu outbreaks.

<![CDATA[Kathleen Sebelius To Resign As HHS Secretary]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 19:59:00 -0500
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Despite Thursday's announcement that 7.5 million people have signed up for the Affordable Care Act — exceeding the 7 million sign-ups goal — White House officials said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius plans to step down.

According to USA Today, two unnamed senior White House officials said President Obama accepted Sebelius' resignation and that she made the decision on her own.

Sebelius, who is 65, ends a five-year tenure as HHS secretary and will leave her post as the public scapegoat for last year's botched Obamacare rollout.

Sebelius took the brunt of attacks from lawmakers.

Kathleen Sebelius: "Insurers have this information about their customers because that's who's being paid and that's who's enrolling."

Tom Price: "It begs credulity, madame secretary, that you don't know." 

And also apologized to Americans for the glitches on that marred the rollout. 

Kathleen Sebelius: "You deserve better. I apologize. I am accountable to you for fixing these problems." 

Many said because of what took place over the past few months, the news of Sebelius' resignation isn't exactly surprising.

Ed Henry: "Once they turned the page on the website failures, but also getting those signups up, it was an opportunity for the president to say, "See ya later.'" (Via Fox News)

Not to read too much into it, but Sebelius was also notably absent from President Obama's Rose Garden speech in which he announced Obamacare had 7 million people actually sign up. (Via The White House)

But CNN's Athena Jones says Sebelius' is leaving on a high note: 

"One last thing those critics could point to. Kathleen Sebelius was able to show this positive number then bow out." 

President Obama is expected to nominate Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell to replace Sebelius in the near future. 

<![CDATA[Foodborne Illness More Likely In Restaurants: Study]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 13:32:00 -0500
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Those who choose to dine out rather than in might want to give that a second thought. A recent report claims you are more likely to get sick from food prepared at a restaurant than at home.

Researchers from the Center for Science in the Public Interest looked at data from almost 4,000 food poisoning cases over 10 years. They say nearly double the amount of outbreaks were caused by foodborne illnesses from restaurants than private homes.

That includes sicknesses caused by the most common contaminants: E. coli, salmonella, hepatitis A, botulism and listeria.

The researchers say they also found a 42 percent drop in the number of outbreaks reported since 2002. It's important to note that doesn't mean food poisoning cases have decreased over the years.

According to one of the researchers, underreporting has "reached epidemic proportions," and not being able to investigate any outbreaks prevents health officials from "[shaping] food safety policy and [making] science-based recommendations to consumers." (Via Center for Science in the Public Interest)

But among the food poisoning cases that have been tracked back to the source, more than double the illnesses occurred from FDA-regulated food such as fresh produce, seafood and packaged food — not meat or poultry regulated by the USDA. (Via WABC)

The report notes the Food Safety Modernization Act signed into law in 2011 was supposed to allow the FDA to conduct more inspections on food-processing facilities, but lack of funds has stalled the agency's efforts.

And as a measure to combat the increasing number of food poisoning cases, the CDC began gene mapping to monitor different strains of harmful bacteria — a process called advanced molecular detection.

Every year, the CSPI estimates roughly 48 million Americans suffer from food poisoning, resulting in almost 130,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths.

<![CDATA[Study: E-Cig Vapor Affects Cells Similarly To Tobacco Smoke]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 05:42:00 -0500
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Electronic cigarettes have seen a surge in popularity over the past few years, mostly because they're often portrayed as a safer alternative to regular cigarettes.

But new research presented at the American Association of Cancer Research's annual meeting this week says that might not be the case. (Via Al Jazeera)

The study, published in the journal Nature, found that people exposed to e-cigarette vapors suffer from "strikingly similar" negative effects as people who smoke or are around traditional cigarettes.

To come to this conclusion, researchers looked at human bronchial cells grown in a medium that were exposed to e-cigarette vapor. They then exposed a separate group of cells grown in a different medium to tobacco smoke. (Via Flickr / Lauri RantalaWikimedia Commons / Tomasz Sienicki)

After comparing the two mediums, the scientists found that the cells exposed to the e-cigarette vapor showed very similar gene mutations to the ones exposed to tobacco smoke.

One of the study's authors told Digital Trends, "They may be safer [than tobacco], but our preliminary studies suggest that they may not be benign."

Now, further research into the discovery is needed. But these similar gene mutations could be an indicator that e-cigarette vapor could increase a user's risk of cancer — even though the vapor is tobacco free.

But there have been other recent studies that show more dangers of electronic cigarettes. A report from The New York Times shows an increasing number of people are getting poisoned just from the liquid used to refill the tanks on e-cigarettes — especially kids.

Because of these scary potential risks, several states have taken steps to outlaw the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors and ban them from being consumed in certain public places. (Via WNBC)

The moral of the story here? Smoking electronic cigarettes is harmful, but we have a ways to go before we know exactly how dangerous it really is.

<![CDATA[Were All These People Duped Into Making Geocentrism Film?]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 22:00:00 -0500
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It's not unusual for movie trailers to get sci-fi enthusiasts excited, but the trailer for a small documentary blew up on the Internet this week and briefly left those same nerds just... confused.

The film is called "The Principle," and the trailer features two popular physicists and a voice that's unmistakable for Star Trek fans.

"Everything we think we know about our universe is wrong."

The voice you just heard was Kate Mulgrew, most recently known for playing prison chef Galina Reznikov in Netflix's "Orange is the New Black," but also known for playing Captain Janeway in the mid-90's TV show "Star Trek: Voyager."

The physicists were Lawrence Krauss and Michio Kaku, both of whom frequently appear in the media to help explain major scientific findings to the public. So far so good, right? Nothing weird about scientists appearing in a documentary narrated by a sci-fi star. Except this documentary disputes an idea at the very heart of astronomy: that the Earth orbits the sun, not the other way around.

Yes, for a brief period earlier this week, fans were actually starting to wonder whether Mulgrew believed in geocentrism. But she quickly posted her side of the story on her Facebook page: that she's not a geocentrist, that she doesn't support the film's conclusions and that she was "a voice for hire, and a misinformed one, at that." (Via Jezebel, Daily Mail, The Huffington Post)

Krauss said something similar in a Slate article titled "I Have No Idea How I Ended Up in That Stupid Geocentrism Documentary." That's pretty straightforward. He guessed the footage of him was either taken from another source or that he was interviewed under false pretenses.

As far as we could tell, Kaku hasn't addressed the issue.

But Raw Story did some more digging and got in contact with a representative for the filmmaker, who said the film is not about geocentrism. Rather, it questions the Copernican Principle (that's the principle alluded to in the title), that the Earth doesn't occupy a special place in the universe. He said in 600 years, "No one has been able to prove that the Earth is moving."

The film's producers also released a statement slamming Krauss, saying, "I can tell him how he ended up in our film. He signed a release form, and cashed a check." He also claims Krauss himself has made statements affirming the possibility that Earth is at the center of the universe, saying "Yes, folks. He has said exactly that. Please check."

We got curious and went looking. Since the producer didn't say which of Krauss's statements he was referring to, we're guessing that it was his 2006 piece for the Edge Foundation. In it, Krauss talked about the cosmic microwave background, the radiation left over from the Big Bang, and how it appears to line up with Earth's orbital plane.

Krauss wrote: "Is this Copernicus coming back to haunt us? That's crazy. We're looking out at the whole universe. There's no way there should be a correlation of structure with our motion of the earth around the sun ... That would say we are truly the center of the universe."

The findings he's talking about are real and scientists have been talking about the possible implications for years. But throwing out Copernicus isn't one of them. The idea that the sun, not the Earth, is the center of our solar system has been the basis of astronomy — and every interplanetary NASA mission — for hundreds of years, and that's not likely to change any time soon.

As for the controversial film, the movie's rep admitted to Raw Story that Krauss hadn't been told the final product would have a geocentric slant. But he was harder on Mulgrew, saying: "Obviously she knew what the film was about. She read the script into a microphone."

<![CDATA[Teen Drinking Rates Linked To Alcohol Mentions In Pop Music]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 16:47:00 -0500
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New research shows the alcohol pouring in pop music could lead to the alcohol taken by teens.

“A new study links teen drinking with pop music that references alcohol … Participants who could remember 'alcohol brand names' in songs were twice as likely to drink alcohol and were more likely to binge drink.” (Via KBAK)

The study surveyed 3400 people ages 15-to-23.  The participants clocked in an average of 2.5 hours of music per day, with three to four brand-mentions every hour.

References to Grey Goose Vodka, waking up in the morning with a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey, and shots of Patron Tequila are just a few of the brands used as musical influences.

Researchers published their findings in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.  They found listeners could be separated into three groups - high, medium, and low.

The high group owned and liked a considerable amount music with alcohol-branded lyrics. When compared to the low group who rarely liked the music, the highs were actually more than three times as likely to have a complete drink of alcohol, and twice as likely to binge drink sometime in their life.

So, is this pop-music mind control? Not really. But Health explains, the team discovered when drinking is mentioned in a pop song, it is almost always shown in a positive, party-hard form.

The downsides of excessive drinking like alcoholism, violence, and incarceration are rarely suggested in the lyrics.

When it comes to "who's really talking on the track", it’s hard to say whether alcohol brands have spent money on rap lyrics or if “Bud Light” just rhymed better in the songwriter’s head.  Either way, the study points out the legality of the issue.


Study author Dr. Brian Primack explains these artists might be in violation of “current guidelines” which state alcohol marketing should portray products in a responsible manner.

You’ve already seen those current guidelines in tagged on to the end of advertisements like this,

“Please drink responsibly” (Via Guinness)

However, Primack says the rules are also “vague and challenging to interpret” and therefore hard to enforce.

<![CDATA[Men With Eating Disorders Wait To Get Help, Study Finds]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 15:20:00 -0500
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​We’re all familiar with the stereotype that bulimia and anorexia are uniquely a women’s problem. A new study suggests that perception is so engrained in our culture it keeps men with eating disorders from seeking treatment.

Researchers from the University of Oxford and University of Glasgow determined, "Men with eating disorders are underdiagnosed, undertreated and under-researched." (Via Flickr / piyosell

They interviewed 29 women and 10 men — all of whom suffered from eating disorders. The men in the group said it took them longer to realize they had the signs of an eating disorder.

Those signs, according to the National Eating Disorder Association, include fear of gaining weight, binge eating and purging and self-esteem overly related to one’s body image.

Once they recognized their symptoms, many of the men in the study said they waited to get help, fearing they wouldn't be taken seriously. 

And for some, that seemed to be the case — several were misdiagnosed and others were made to wait a long time for specialist referral. One of the study's participants said he thought eating disorders only effected "fragile teenage girls." (Via ABC Australia, WRC-TV)

Part of the problem, the researchers say, is a lack of information on eating disorders that is designed specifically for men. Medical professionals, they say, need to recognize it’s a gender-neutral disease.

As one nutritionist put it to ABC“It can be the guy who is purging to make weight on the wrestling team or the guy who wants the perfect body, but not necessarily the kind girls want.”

Previous studies have shown at least 25 percent of normal-weighing men think they don’t weigh enough, and estimates suggest men account for 1 in 4 eating disorder cases. 

<![CDATA[Small Group Of Doctors Gets Lots Of Money From Medicare]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 13:17:00 -0500
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​​The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Wednesday released a database detailing Medicare payments and other information related to Medicare beneficiaries. The biggest finding? A small group of doctors make a lot of money off Medicare. 

The move comes as part of the Obama administration’s push to make the healthcare system "more transparent, affordable, and accountable," according to the release. And that transparency is already making headlines. (Via The White House / Pete Souza)

KQCW reports the database reveals more than 70 billion dollars in billing. “Overall, the data covers $77 billion in billing involving 880,000 practitioners in 2012.”

KTTV mentions a Newport beach doctor who’s near the top of the list. "He's one of more than one dozen doctors who made more than $10 million on the national healthcare program for seniors."

A writer for The Wall Street Journal breaks it down into the percentages we all love: "The top 1% of 825,000 individual medical providers accounted for 14% of the $77 billion in billing recorded in the data."

And WTVT gives a look at the doctor making the most from Medicare.

"This is doctor Salomon Malgen. He's an ophthalmologist in South Florida, and he earned $20.8 million in 2012. … He made more from Medicare than any other doctor in the country." (Via WTVT)

Malgen is now under investigation as officials try to determine if he billed Medicare improperly.

And a writer for Bloomberg notes another benefit of the published database — more attention paid to doctors who order unnecessary tests and procedures. "A review of court records showed about half of 700,000 stent procedures in the U.S. annually are elective-surgery patients in stable condition." 

So while the database certainly appears to make the healthcare system more accountable, Politico reports critics of the move say it could hurt doctors in the end.

"Physician groups have long resisted such a specific accounting of individual providers' pay, and they continue to warn that the raw payment information — lacking the right context — could ruin the careers of quality docs." (Via Politico)

Which is likely one of the reasons why, as a writer for The New York Times points out, the American Medical Association has fought to block the release of this information for so long.

And officials are worried the data could be easily misinterpreted: "An individual doctor, for example, may seem to have a high volume of services because that doctor oversees medical residents or physician assistants but bills for those services." (Via The New York Times)

Overall, officials caution against jumping to any conclusions without first properly looking at the data. 

As a medical director told the Los Angeles Times, ophthalmologists might be topping the list, yes, but they also treat many of the conditions most often associated with the elderly, like macular degeneration and glaucoma. Meaning, they treat more Medicare patients to begin with. 

<![CDATA['Dream Come True' Research Has Paralyzed Men Moving Again]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 08:38:00 -0500
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Paralysis is usually permanent. But for four men suffering from spinal cord injuries, there is new hope and all it took was a zap.

"An electrical stimulator was implanted on the men's spinal cords ... Researchers found the stimulator helped the men move their toes, ankles and knees on their own." (Via WRC-TV)

Spinal cord zaps have been used before. But according to the lead researcher, Susan Harkema, this is the first time electrical stimulation applied directly to the spinal cord has shown voluntary activity.

 "Stimulator is off. Left leg up, left leg down ... Now the simulator is on. Left leg up, left leg down." (Via University of Louisville)

Essentially, the stimulation works by retraining the nerve to communicate with the brain. But this progress came as a surprise.

CNN reports the goal of Harkema's study was to analyze how nerve pathways reacted when electrical stimulation was applied to broken spinal cords. So when one of the patients said I can move my toe, Harkema was shocked. 

And so were the paralyzed men. In a phone interview in 2011, one of the first men to receive the stimulator spoke about his improvements.

"Being able to move my toes, ankles, knees on command... it was absolutely incredible .. there are not enough words to describe how I felt. At one point it was just a dream, and now it's reality." (Via NBC)

If that dream come true can be proven effective in more subjects, some doctors say it could alter the prognosis of the thousands that are suffering from spinal cord injuries in the U.S.

A doctor not involved in the study told LiveScience"Spinal cord injury may no longer mean a lifelong sentence of complete paralysis." 

But a BBC medical correspondent points out this technique does not actually repair the spinal cord. The four patients involved in the study are still unable to walk without assistance.

More information is needed, but researchers now have the money to implant the stimulator into 8 more patients. These preliminary findings will be published in the journal Brain on Tuesday

<![CDATA[Applebee's Customer Bites Into Slider, Gets Metal Bolt]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 07:42:00 -0500
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Not exactly something you want inside you. An Applebee's customer in Albuquerque says she bit into a slider, and her teeth hit a sizable metal bolt.

​"She bit into it and got a funny look on her face, and we said, 'What's wrong?' She kind of pulled the slider out of her mouth a little bit and there's this bolt."

"You heard her right: a metal bolt."

"It was embedded in the meat."

KOB-TV reports the Applebee's did comp the family's meal, though the family argues that location should have stopped selling sliders then and there. Apparently other people were still served the same meat.

Luckily, the customer was OK. The Consumerist was able to make a little joke here — that she got a free metal bolt with her burger.

But when stories like this one make headlines, we're always reminded of the nasty, surprise-filled-food past. 

Like when this person claimed to have found a screw inside their Moe's burrito. (Via

Or this guy, who chipped his tooth on a bolt he found in his soup at Outback Steakhouse in 2008. (Via Naples Daily News)

"In the third spoon that I put in my mouth was a large industrial bolt."

Definitely a reason to bolt. We would get into some other "weird item found in food" stories, but it's a lot of mice, and it's gross. As for this story, Applebee's did tell KOB it's investigating, and doesn't think the bolt came from within the restaurant. 

<![CDATA[Can Twitter Use Lead To Relationship Problems?]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 19:25:00 -0500
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Love Twitter and your significant other? If a recent study is correct, all your tweeting and hashtagging could lead to the bitter, bitter end of your relationship.

Titled “The Third Wheel,” a study from University of Missouri grad student Russell Clayton concludes that people who use Twitter most often have a good chance of creating relationship problems because of it.

Clayton predicts the worst, writing that if Twitter use leads to problems, “it is plausible to speculate that such conflict could lead to unfavorable relationship outcomes such as cheating, breakup or divorce."

The survey cited 581 Twitter users who were asked how often they argued with significant others about the social network and whether they’ve ever physically or emotionally cheated with someone they met on Twitter.

But not everyone is blindly retweeting(?) the results. The Week’s Jon Terbush points out that ”You should absolutely expect that people who use Twitter more often would have more "Twitter-related conflicts" since there are simply more opportunities for those problems to arise.”

And Brian Fung of The Washington Post writes that ”The fact that too much of anything might be grounds for a breakup seems self-evident.”

So maybe it’s just common sense to put down the timeline during dinner.


In the study, Clayton agrees, recommending that “users should cut back to moderate, healthy levels of Twitter use if they are experiencing Twitter or Facebook – related conflict.”


But if you just can’t get enough of those little blue notifications, there’s an app for that. 2Life combines a couple’s social accounts into one (hopefully) conflict-free feed while others advise couples just share one account across the board.

The report is actually Clayton’s second such study. Just last year, Clayton found that excessive Facebook use led to, you guessed it, Facebook-related strife in relationships.

<![CDATA[Blood Test Could Detect Common Cancers]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 14:37:00 -0500
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Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine discovered a simple blood test can help detect cancer tumors. 

"Researchers say the test works for the most common types of cancer including breast, lung and prostate."(Via News 12 New Jersey)  

The test was able to identify stage one lung cancer 50 percent of the time and stage two and up 100 percent of the time. (Via Wikimedia Commons / GrahamColm

It works by using tumor DNA as a biomarker. Every system in our bodies has its own biomarkers, and they can be used to diagnose and analyze all sorts of different biological conditions. 

Plus, according to NPR, the blood test cuts the cost of diagnosis to a fraction of current methods. (Via NPR)

According to the press release, "cancer cells are continuously dividing and dying. As they die, they release DNA into the bloodstream, like tiny genetic messages in a bottle. Learning to read these messages ... can allow clinicians to quickly and noninvasively monitor the volume of tumor, a patient's response to therapy and even how the tumor mutations evolve over time.​ (Via EurekAlert!

The technique is called Cancer Personalized Profiling by deep Sequencing and although it doesn't help cure cancer... 

The World Health Organization notes, detection is key when it comes to fighting cancer. 

Researchers say they are optimistic they can improve the test in order to identify a much higher rate of cases. 

<![CDATA[New Volcanic Island Swallows Nearby Island]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 13:46:00 -0500
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<![CDATA[Child Obesity Costs $20K Over Lifetime]]> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 13:01:00 -0500
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As if we needed another reason to stay in shape. Now a recent study suggests losing those extra pounds during childhood could save thousands in extra medical costs later down the road. 

According to new findings published in the journal Pediatrics, an obese 10-year-old's medical costs could rise as much as $20,000 over a lifetime compared to kids of healthier weight.

USA Today reports when that number is multiplied by the 20 percent of U.S. children who are obese, medical costs over a lifetime amount to a total of about $14 billion combined. 

The Duke researchers say even normal-weight children who become obese later in life will see their medical costs increase by almost $13,000. (Via HBO / "The Weight of the Nation")

But those figures account for only direct medical costs like medication, and don't include indirect costs such as quality-of-life issues, which could actually add to those numbers.

The study cites a need to target childhood obesity to address obesity in adults, one third of which are obese in the U.S. (Via WSB-TV)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obese children are more likely to develop conditions both in the short and long term. Those conditions include cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

Time quotes the study's lead author who said, "reducing childhood obesity is a public-health priority that has substantial health and economic benefits."

The researchers suggest decreasing or eliminating those extra medical costs related to obesity can be done if kids can keep the weight off by forming healthy eating habits. (Via KSPS)

But getting there isn't exactly easy, especially with the prevalence of sugary, processed foods many kids consume today.

A health professional tells HealthDay"We didn't see this kind of obesity 25 years ago. It's not only about personal and family responsibility. Society needs to change."

The overall obesity rate in the U.S. has not changed during the past decade, but it is notable in toddlers aged 2 to 5 it's dropped 43 percent.

<![CDATA[Chili's Cancels Fundraiser For Anti-Vaccine Charity]]> Sun, 06 Apr 2014 22:02:00 -0500
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National Restaurant Chain, Chili's is holding a fundraiser Monday that is causing a lot of negative backlash. 

The fundraiser is for Autism Awareness Month, 10 percent of all profits made at any Chili's around the country Monday will go toward charity.

The problem is which charity. Chili's is donating the money to the National Autism Association which is known by many not for it's contributions to autism research but for it's stance on vaccinating children. 

"Based on parent reports ... sharp regression occurred in their children directly following immunizations. ... Though published mainstream science fails to acknowledge a causal link to any of these specific exposures, it’s important that parental accounts be carefully considered."

<![CDATA[This Week's Space News Roundup]]> Sat, 05 Apr 2014 19:20:00 -0500
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A Norwegian skydiver had a close encounter with a falling object, the "Blood Moon" cometh and NASA wants you to guess when the moon will get a new crater. Here's a look at what's happening in the skies above. 

Let's start relatively close to home, at almost 13,000 feet above earth, where a skydiver wearing a wingsuit captured something never-before-seen on video — what's believed to be a plummeting meteorite mid-flight. (Via NRK)

The skydiver told the Norwegian public broadcasting company he watched the falling object on video and initially dismissed it as just a rock tucked into his parachute. But after further review, he said it was too big for that. 

And others agreed, including experts from the Norwegian Space Centre and at least one fellow from the Norwegian Meteor Network who did a pretty thorough analysis of the video.

According to Universe Today, the video was recorded back in 2012 but was kept a secret for two years so volunteers and other researchers could locate the meteorite. So far, no dice. 

There's still a chance that the whole thing could be a hoax — because, you know, lies on the Internet — but researchers seem to agree the video is legit. An astrophysicist told Universe Today the video was released to the public in hopes that more people will help look for the meteorite. 

If we travel past our own atmosphere about 240,000 miles, we'll find our moon getting ready to put on a show. With lighting help from the Sun and shadowing from the Earth, people in North America will soon get a look at a total lunar eclipse. (Via Time and Date)

"The action starts on April 15 when the full moon passes through the amber shadow of Earth, producing a midnight eclipse visible across North America. That night marks the beginning of a lunar eclipse tetrad." (Via NASA)

A tetrad is a series of four lunar eclipses that'll occur six months apart. That's good news for star watchers since the last lunar eclipse visible to North America was in 2011.

A writer at EarthSky explains the moon gets its blood-red glow from the Sun's rays passing through Earth's atmosphere. As the moon becomes submerged in the Earth's shadow, the refracted sunlight projects onto the moon making it all pretty and stuff. 

A writer at USA Today says some Christians believe the lunar tetrad coincides with an end-times prophecy. For astronomers and other observers though, April 15 will present a pretty good time to whip out those binoculars and telescopes to get a look at a rare astronomical event. 

April's going to be a busy month for the moon. The folks over at NASA predict that the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer, or LADEE, will crash into the lunar surface. Who's driving that thing anyway? reports the LADEE spacecraft has been studying the moon's atmosphere and lunar dust environment since October, but now it's time to go out with a bang. 

A LADEE project scientist said at a news conference the spacecraft will smash into the moon going about 5,250 feet per second, but they don't know exactly when that'll happen. 

So, they're leaving it up to you, space fans. NASA created the "Take the Plunge" Challenge where you can guess the date, hour and minute of impact for a chance to win a "commemorative, personalized certificate from the LADEE program." 

Yeah, the prize sounds kind of lame but since your NCAA bracket is busted and you don't have anything else to do ... why not give it a shot? Thanks for watching. 

<![CDATA[Mars Shines Brighter Than It Has In Six Years]]> Sat, 05 Apr 2014 16:15:00 -0500
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Mars can usually be faintly seen from Earth in the night sky, but this month many will be able to see the planet shine even brighter and bigger.

According to NBC, the distance between Earth and Mars changes dramatically as they orbit around the sun, sometimes separated by as many as 250 million miles. But now that gap will shorten to 57 million April 14. 

Mars will be the closest it's been to Earth in more than six years. Although the Red Dwarf can be seen at its shinier state all month long, April 8 is when it will align directly opposite the sun — allowing greater visibility to the planet's markings and polar cap. (Via NASA)

 Sky and Telescope reports sky gazers will also be able to clearly see Mars' yellow-orange color next to Virgo's bluish star, Spica.

And it looks like Mars isn't the only planet getting the spotlight this month.

EarthSky says you will also be able to see Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury for a few days in the evening skies.

Those planets won't stick around as long as Mars will, but Jupiter will shine even brighter than Mars when it passes near the moon this weekend. (Via NASA)

Of course, you'll need a telescope if you want to see all the fine details on Mars' surface.

But for those who don't have the tools and want to see Mars shine, The Virtual Telescope will provide real-time images April 8.

<![CDATA[Insomnia Might Raise Stroke Risk, Especially In Young Adults]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 15:52:00 -0500
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We all know not getting a good night’s sleep can be bad for your health, but a new study says it might be worse than we think — increasing the risk of stroke by more than 50%.

According to a large, four-year study out of Taiwan, those who suffer from insomnia are 54% more likely to suffer a stroke than their sound-sleeping peers. (Via WJBK)

And, perhaps surprisingly, the odds are worse for younger people, with 18 to 34-year-old insomniacs showing an eight-fold increase in stroke risk compared to those not suffering from insomnia. (Via KAUZ)

Quoted by Fox News, the study’s author said, “Despite the fact that insomnia is one of the most common sleep complaints, it is often perceived merely as a symptom of another disease or as a side effect. People should pay more attention to monitor their insomnia symptoms.”

The study looked at the randomly-selected health records of more than 80,000 people in Taiwan. The researchers found about one-fourth of people selected were insomniacs and that stroke risk tends to be higher in people who experienced insomnia more often or for a longer period of time.

HealthDay writes, “People who suffered persistent insomnia had a higher risk of stroke than people with intermittent insomnia, and both groups were at greater risk than people whose insomnia stopped during the study.”

Despite the frightening numbers though, The Huffington Post reports the researchers are slow to declare a cause-and-effect relationship between insomnia and stroke. Though they do note that insomnia can affect health via inflammation, blood pressure and glucose tolerance.”

And there is other research that points to a sleep-stroke connection.  

As Time reported back in 2012, a similar study from the University of Alabama in Birmingham found that adults who slept less than six hours per night were four times more likely to have a stroke.

Researchers note that anyone experiencing chronic insomnia should seek treatment. Their findings were published in the American Heart association journal Stroke.

<![CDATA[Does TV Smoking Influence Real-Life Rates?]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 13:19:00 -0500
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According to a new report portrayals of smoking on U.S. television have dropped over the last few decades, and that might have contributed to a decrease in cigarette sales and smoking all around.

According to the largest study of its kind published Thursday, Pennsylvania researchers watched more than 1,800 hours of prime-time television shows aired over 65 years — shows including "Charlie's Angels," "Gunsmoke" and "House M.D."

They found the number of instances of tobacco-related acts, including chewing tobacco and buying cigarettes, fell from almost 5 per hour in 1961 to 0.29 per hour in 2010 — suggesting a decrease in the consumption of cigarettes in real life has been influenced by less smoking shown on TV. (Via Tobacco Control)

According to the Los Angeles Times, the study's lead researcher adds, "TV characters who smoke are likely to trigger the urge to smoke in cigarette users, making it harder for them to quit."

The researchers might be onto something here, but some have pointed out the study's shortcomings.

Smoking has declined over the years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 18 percent of adults in the U.S. currently smoke, compared to 42 percent in 1964. But it's still questionable whether smoking on television has influenced that decline.

According to Medical News Today, the study didn't take into account whether the depictions of smoking were positive or negative — or even whether it was the villain or hero doing the smoking.

And even the researchers themselves say they didn't review cable television shows, especially those where smoking is commonplace such as "Mad Men."

Still, the researchers claim a single instance of smoking per episode across two years accounts for the consumption of nearly two packs of cigarettes per U.S. adult. (Via WNBC)

According to one of the researchers, the findings suggest television and other screen-based media are "an important factor to consider in continued efforts to reduce the burden of smoking related illness." (Via Los Angeles Times

The researchers add future studies should look into the effects of tobacco portrayal on other media such as cable television and YouTube.

<![CDATA[FDA Approves Heroin Overdose Antidote For Bystanders To Use]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 20:46:00 -0500
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In response to the rising death rates of heroin and other drug overdoses, the FDA rapidly approved a new, hand-held device called Evzio (ee-VEE-zee-oh) that delivers a life-saving heroin and painkiller antidote called naloxone. 

"It's a device that automatically injects the right dose of naloxone to someone who has overdosed. It can be prescribed by doctors to family members or caregivers to keep on hand just in case." (Via Time Warner Cable)

If naloxone is delivered to an overdose patient within the one- to three-hour window before death, it can give him or her enough time to get to a hospital for treatment. (Via WGRZ)

Evzio is the first kit approved for use by people who are not in the medical community and use of the device doesn't require extensive training.

According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, parents and friends of adult heroin addicts have been pushing for more distribution of the drug to keep on hand. CNN explains how it works: 

"The drug locks onto receptors in the brain, it slows the body down. Lock up too many, and you stop breathing. Naloxone can free up those receptors, essentially bringing you back to life." 

The drug apparently causes instantaneous and severe withdrawal symptoms when the patient wakes up. People who administer it should still call 911 or take the patient to a hospital immediately. (Via Los Angeles Times)

The Washington Post reports naloxone has long been used against a class of painkillers that includes heroin called "opioids." There are 16,000 painkiller-abuse deaths in the U.S. each year.

But, as Newsy reported back in February, The White House began pushing for more wide-spread distribution due to the rapidly rising number of overdose deaths and high-profile overdose cases like that of Phillip Seymour Hoffman. (Via New York Post)

According to Time, the distribution of the drug was limited until now because it was only available by prescription and by complicated injections. 

Forbes reports the price of the kit hasn't yet been decided, but it will cost more than the typical naloxone dosage, which costs about $45. 

So far, 17 states have approved measures to increase the availability of naloxone, and states like New Jersey and New York are giving antidote kits to emergency and police officials. 

<![CDATA['Ocean' Of Liquid Water Found On Icy Moon Of Saturn]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 19:09:00 -0500
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It’s not quite little green men but scientists say they may have discovered the greatest opportunity so far for life in outer space. And it’s all thanks to a tiny ice ball near Saturn.

According to research published in Science, Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, features an ocean of liquid water, possibly as large as Lake Superior, beneath nearly 25 miles of ice.

Because of that ice, lead researcher Luciano Iess told The Verge that the moon “was believed to be geologically inactive — essentially a dead body."

But in 2005, Enceladus shocked scientists with water geysers a few hundred kilometers high. At the time, one researcher said it was "as if we'd flown past Earth and found that Antarctica was warmer than the Sahara." (Via NASA)

Since then, NASA’s nearby spacecraft, Cassini, has seen its mission extended ten years in order to further study Enceladus, which joins fellow Saturn moon Titan and Jupiter moon Europa as possible hosts of extraterrestrial life.

And it’s the moon’s newly uncovered rock core that could foster that life, which, combined with jets of "salty water and organic molecules," form "the basic chemical ingredients for life,” according to Cassini project leader Linda Spilker.

As The New York Times writes, ”this tiny, shiny cueball of a moon... is now the most promising place to look for life elsewhere in the solar system, even more than Mars.”

And ultimately, Iess says the discovery is important whether or not we finally find E.T. swimming around on Enceladus.

“The main implication is that there are potentially habitable environments in the Solar System in places which are completely unexpected.” (Via Sapienza University of Rome)

An informal plan from one NASA scientist to scoop up geyser particles from the moon has yet to leave developmental stage. 

<![CDATA[Organizations Work To Eliminate River Blindness In Africa]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 14:22:00 -0500
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World leaders gathered in Paris Wednesday to announce a public-private partnership that started two years ago to fight against neglected tropical diseases, or NTDs, is working.

​​These diseases, according to The Jakarta Post, put one in six people worldwide at risk of sickness, being disabled or disfigured. The World Health Organization’s director general says –

“Together with the governments of endemic countries, we are fast approaching the goal of controlling or eliminating many of these ancient causes of human misery.” (Via Global Health Strategies)

One of the NTDs is river blindness. According to the World Health Organization, it affects 18 million people.

But 99 percent of those cases are found in Africa. (Via The Carter Center)

The disease is spread through these small black flies, which are found in fast flowing waters. When one carrying the disease bite a person, it drops worm larvae in the skin. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Jake Lindsey’s Ecology of Commanster Site)

These worms cause intense itching and rough, depigmented skin and eventually, blindness. (Via The Carter Center)

River Blindness is not fatal, but CNN reports living with it, is miserable. And while there is no vaccine a drug called ivermectin is stops the spread of the worms, thus treating those infected with the disease.

Former President Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center  is part of the group fighting the disease. Carter tells CNN –

“We found if we did it at the right time and in the right way that we could not only control the disease, but we could actually eliminate it.”

He goes on saying, they’ve successfully eradicated the disease in six countries in Latin America. (Via The Carter Center)

Uganda has plans to do the same by the year 2020. At the event in Paris, a group of WHO partners announced new funding in the fight against NTDs, including a $120 million donation toward NTD control and elimination in Africa.

<![CDATA[Why Are Cereal Mascots Staring At You?]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 12:55:00 -0500
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Ever notice how the mascots on cereal boxes have the same, creepy stare? Well, science says there's a reason the breakfast cereal aisle has become such a kids trap.

According to a recent Cornell study, the angle at which cereal box characters stare has a lot to do with convincing shoppers to buy the product and creating brand loyalty.

"I'm cuckoo for cocoa puffs."

The researchers looked at about 65 different cereals. The characters marketed on children's cereal boxes tended to look downward to make eye contact whereas those marketed on adult cereals looked straight ahead.

That's because the boxes are already strategically placed on shelves where their intended targets are more likely to see them — sugary, kids' cereals down low and healthy, adult cereals up high. (Via ABC)

In fact, the magnetic gaze was a major factor explaining how shoppers felt about a particular brand.

Businessweek reports the researchers observed college students were 16 percent more likely to trust a brand whose cereal box illustrated a mascot making eye contact versus one with a mascot looking away.

The researchers suggest these findings could help cereal companies not only successfully market their products but also influence — or hypnotize?— children to make healthier choices.

"What they can do is take kids' cereals, and use the same thing to make healthy cereals more compelling to kids. Put Scooby Doo on a healthy cereal and have Scooby look right at 'em." (Via YouTube / Brian Wansink)

For those whose children have become victim to the cereal stares, the researchers leave you with some — friendly advice, "If you are a parent who does not want your kids to go 'cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs,' avoid taking them down the cereal aisle."

<![CDATA[Morning Light Exposure Could Help Keep You Thinner]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 12:49:00 -0500
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Good news for early risers! Getting up when the sun does could help keep you healthy and fit.

"According to a study by Northwestern University, people exposed to sunlight in the morning are more lean. Researchers say the earlier people are exposed to light — the lower their body mass index." (Via KVVU)

Sunlight keeping you thin may sound like just another weight loss fad, but there is evidence to back the link up. 

As the Los Angeles Times points out, keeping our internal clock in sync with the natural light-dark cycle can help regulate metabolism, and previous studies have shown morning light can influence the hormones that affect appetite.

"It affects hormones that regulate appetite, it affects hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate the sleep-wake cycle." ​(Via KSEE)

To come to this conclusion, the researchers gathered 54 adults from the Chicagoland area with an average age of 30 to participate in the study. The team had them wear monitors on their wrists that tracked both their light exposure and sleep patterns for a seven day period.

The participants were also required to record what they were eating each day so researchers could estimate their caloric intake. (Via WBRE)

The study's author told NPR, no matter how much the participants ate, slept and exercised or what season it was or how old they were, "We found that the earlier this light exposure occurred during the day, the lower individuals' body mass index. ... We weren't necessarily surprised by the findings."

Medical Daily reports, to reap this health benefit, people should aim to soak up about 20 to 30 minutes of morning light between the hours of 8 a.m. and noon.

Though more research into the subject is needed, the study's authors say light exposure at the right intensity and duration could help prevent and manage obesity in modern societies. The study was published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One.

<![CDATA[Facebook Photo May Have Saved Girl's Vision]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 12:43:00 -0500
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Mothers everywhere put up or post cute pictures of their kids that’s no surprise. But a picture posted by one mother on social media actually saved her daughter’s eyesight.

“A Tennessee three-year-old was diagnosed with a rare eye disease after her mother posted a picture of her on Facebook. Two of Tara Taylor’s friends urged her to get it checked because one eye appeared to be glowing.” (Via KTVN)

WREG reports one of her friends wrote, “Hey, I’m sure it’s nothing. It’s probably the lighting, but your daughter’s eye is glowing and you might want to have it checked out because it’s a sign there could be an issue with her eye.”

Taylor took her daughter, Rylee, to a doctor and she was diagnosed with Coat’s disease, which is a condition that leads to vision loss or blindness. WTVT spoke with a doctor who explains Rylee’s case in depth.

“In her particular case it was a vascular problem that affected the retina but it can also be a tumor. In this case it was  a tumor if you see the child right here. The right eye.”

According to Coats Disease Foundation, if the condition is found early on there is a chance of saving some level of vision.

Taylor said Rylee has never experienced problems with seeing before but is very grateful for her friends who noticed.

<![CDATA[Party Drug Ketamine Could Be Used To Treat Depression]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 08:00:00 -0500
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You probably know ketamine, otherwise known as "special K," as a scary, powerful drug — a drug intended to be used as a tranquilizer that's turned into one for the party scene. But now — it could be used to treat depression.

Doctors in the UK tested the drug on 28 people who have been battling depression for years — they found that some patients noticed their symptoms disappearing just hours after taking low doses of the drug. (Via BBC)

The trial's lead researcher told reporters, "We've seen remarkable changes in people who've had severe depression for many years that no other treatment has touched. It's very moving to witness." ​(Via The Guardian)

During the study, which was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, each of the 28 patients were given around 80 milligrams of ketamine in a controlled and monitored environment.

Over the course of three weeks, the participants were given up to six infusions of the drug that lasted 40 minutes each. The research team then gave them cognitive tests to assess brain function.

After those three weeks were up, researchers found in the people who actually responded to the treatment, reported no symptoms for between 25 days and eight months. (Via Journal of Psychopharmacology)

And, though ketamine can cause bladder damage and impaired brain function when taken recreationally, the low doses administered during the study didn't cause either in any of the participants, as Nature World News reports.

Now, it's actually no secret that ketamine could help those with depression — research teams around the world have been studying its potential use for years. 

And the results of this newest study are promising. But as the BBC points out, the short duration of the drug's effect is still a problem. And there are some serious side effects to worry about too, including the possibility of the supply of blood to the brain being interrupted.

The study's lead author says they are now working to build up clinical experience with ketamine in a small number of monitored patients in order to find a way to "prolong its dramatic effect." As of now, the team has given 400 infusions to a total of 45 patients.

<![CDATA[WebMD Survey Says Most Doctors Believe Medicinal Weed Works]]> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 19:42:00 -0500
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When it comes to the legalization of marijuana, in the media a lot of times we see average people out promoting the movement. But according to new survey hippies don't make up majority of supporters — it's actually the men, and women,  white coats, holding a perceiption pad. 

According to the survey 62 percent of doctors said medical marijuana can be helpful in treating certain medical issues while only 52 percent of consumers said the same. 

"It has a whole host of therapeutic indications. I mentioned cancer patients, i mentioned AIDS patients. It's useful for glaucoma. It has anti inflammatory properties... It's been used for hundreds of years for a variety of aliments." (Via CBS)

According to HealthDay News, "Support for medical marijuana was highest among cancer specialists (oncologists) and blood disorder specialists (hematologists). For those two groups, 82 percent said marijuana can provide real benefits to patients."

The WebMD survey looked at answers from more than 1,500 doctors and almost 3,000 consumers. However, the survey's findings might not have much bearing on whether states will decide to legalize pot. 

The site explains that's because, "Solid data on marijuana’s health benefits are lacking. Research has been limited because the federal government has designated marijuana as a 'Schedule I' substance, a designation used for the most dangerous drugs having 'no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.'"

But as states are starting to legalize it, more research is being done and doctors are gaining more knowledge. 

Here's the breakdown of what doctors said in the survey: 

69% said it can help with certain treatments and conditions.

67% said it should be a medical option for patients.

56% support making it legal nationwide.

50% of doctors in states where it is not legal said it should be legal in their states.

52% of doctors in states considering new laws said it should be legal in their states.

The survey was conducted from late February to early March. 

<![CDATA[NASA Cuts Contact With Russia For Everything Except ISS]]> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 19:00:00 -0500
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Tensions between Russia and the U.S. have reached space, despite earlier assurances they wouldn't. An internal memo by NASA says the agency is cutting ties with Russia's space agency Roscosmos.

The memo, obtained Wednesday by SpaceRef, says all contact between the two agencies is suspended until further notice: no visits between officials, no phone calls, no emails, nothing.

Except in the place it matters most: the International Space Station. That's the one area where the two space programs will continue to work together.

There are currently six crew on board the ISS: three Russian, two American and one Japanese. All six of them got there by hitching a ride on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, just like every other crew member for the last few years. (Via NASA)

Ever since the Space Shuttle program was retired in 2011, the U.S. has been entirely dependent on Russia for manned space flight. Each ride on the Soyuz costs the U.S. about $70 million per seat. (Via NASA)

But it's not like Russia has all the leverage here. While U.S. astronauts are stranded without Russian help, NASA administrator Charles Bolden told Congress last week Russia can't operate the station without help from the U.S.

"The partners would probably have to shut the space station down. If you're thinking that the Russians will continue to operate the International Space Station, can't be done."

For that reason, a NASA official told National Journal earlier this month that cooperation in space goes beyond politics. "We are confident that our two space agencies will continue to work closely as they have throughout various ups and downs of the broader U.S.-Russia relationship."

Now here we are a week later, and only cooperation on the ISS program itself has been spared. Tech writers saw that as a very bad omen.

Ars Technica said, "Historically, the interaction between NASA and Russia has been firmly amicable; for the tensions over Crimea to leak into that relationship is truly ominous."

And Mashable was even more grim, pointing out, "The U.S. and Russia have never worked together in space during a war involving the two nations."

NASA is working with private companies to restore the U.S.' ability to get astronauts to the station on its own, but the current projection is that none of those programs will be ready before 2017.

<![CDATA[Do Popular Kids Face Greater Risk Of Bullying?]]> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 07:54:00 -0500
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​Being popular might not be all it’s cracked up to be. Researchers at the University of California-Davis say, in most cases, popularity increases the risks of getting bullied. And not only that — WNYW notes bullying might be harder on popular children.

"The report says children who are newly popular may not handle the teasing as well as the other kids who are picked on for different reasons." 

The study, published in the American Sociological Review, is based around a survey of more than 4000 8th, 9th and 10th grade students.

Researchers determined popularity by mapping out friendships within the school and conducting interviews. "Students were asked to nominate up to five schoolmates who picked on or were mean to them and up to five peers whom they picked on or were mean to."

The study’s lead author, Robert Faris, said the bullying worsened as kids climbed the social ladder, because they’re all competing for social status. WXXV reports only a small number of kids were safe from bullying.

"Only the five percent most popular kids in school were spared from any social harassment."

A writer for TIME sums up the effect of bullying on popular youths: "They reported higher rates of anxiety, depression, and anger, and lower rates of feeling central to their social group."

Faris explains in a UC-Davis article this is likely because after climbing the social ladder, they "feel they have farther to fall."

The researchers say they hope their findings will help widen the focus of bullying prevention programs to included those in higher social rankings among peers.

<![CDATA[Why Do Zebras Have Stripes? Scientists Blame Bug Bites]]> Wed, 02 Apr 2014 07:42:00 -0500
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Ever wondered why zebras have stripes? Well, the researchers behind a new study think they have a pretty good answer to that question.

"California scientists say the animal's black and white pattern helps keep flies away by disrupting their vision and making it difficult for them to land." (Via WMAQ)

"Apparently zebras are really susceptible because they have short hair."​ (Via WHDH)

The study was published in the scientific journal Nature Tuesday.

In their summary, the scientists say they came to their conclusion after they couldn't find consistent evidence showing that the stripes could be used as camouflage or helping control "heat management." (Via YouTube / Rachelle Zukerman)

National Geographic notes scientists have been trying to figure out the mystery of why zebras have their stripes for more than a century. The scientists in this most recent study used statistics to find their information rather than observations.

But a scientist from UCLA told USA Today statistics aren't enough: "We really need to know what happens with live zebras in the field before we can be sure."

Even without those observations, the scientists say the statistics provided pretty strong evidence.

A biologist who worked on the study told NBC: "I was surprised myself to see, again and again and again, greater intensity of striping on species and subspecies where we have this biting fly annoyance for months." 

The study also found zebras that lived in areas with more aggressive bugs tended to have more stripes. (Via University of California Davis)

<![CDATA['Breakthrough' Stem Cell Research Might Have Been Fabricated]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 18:47:00 -0500
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At the time it was hailed as a major scientific breakthrough — a simple method to create stem cells from adult cells — but now the lead researcher behind that study is being accused of fabricating her findings. (Via Science, CNN, The Independent)

“A recently announced breakthrough in stem cell research may have been based on false information.” (Via News 12 Connecticut)

“Scientists at The RIKEN Research Institute in Tokyo believe the paper’s lead author Haruko Obokata manipulated, or faked, pictures of DNA fragments.” (Via KING)

In that news conference Tuesday, a disciplinary committee found Obokata guilty of misconduct and vowed she would be punished. They added:

“There is no doubt that she was fully aware of this danger. We've therefore concluded this was an act of research misconduct involving fabrication." (Via BBC)

Back in January Obokata along with Japanese and American colleagues, published research claiming they had discovered a process by which adult mouse cells could be reverted into their stem cell form through an acid bath or physical force. (Via  NHK, Nature)

It was a method that some believe could have led to new treatments for conditions like heart disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s — while simultaneously alleviating ethical concerns. (Via CNN)

But the research soon began to unravel. In mid-February The Wall Street Journal reported that several labs were unable to replicate the study’s results.

And according to Time, by March one of the senior scientists on the paper called for the research to be retracted — saying he could only replicate the findings with Obokata’s help.

But, the plot thickens — as at least one lab claims they have successfully replicated the results.

According to The Guardian: “In a bizarre twist in an already convoluted story, the committee's ruling against Obokata came moments before an independent researcher claimed to have succeeded in making the cells using a slightly different procedure.” (Via The Guardian)

For her part, The Japan Times says Obokata felt “shock and outrage” over the ruling and has vowed to appeal.

The studies were published in the journal Nature.

<![CDATA[Happy Disgust? Humans Have 21 Facial Expressions, Study Says]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 18:33:00 -0500
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Well, Pharrell, turns out we can be more than just "Happy." A new study suggests humans have many facial expressions that can convey distinct emotions such as "happily surprised" or even "happily disgusted."

"Happy and sad might be the obvious ones, but scientists say they've mapped 21 emotional states using new computer software." (Via BBC)

But in February, another study claimed humans only have between four and six expressions, depending on whether researchers combine fear and surprise or anger and disgust. (Via GeoBeats)

But the study released Monday identified more complicated combinations of those emotions, including "angrily surprised" or, weirdly, "happily disgusted." (Via Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences)

In a statement obtained by LiveScience, one of the study authors described the six-emotion model as "painting a portrait with only primary colors." 

To observe emotions, the authors told 230 college students a series of statements, such as "You just got some great unexpected news," or "You smell a bad odor." (Via The Independent)

Next, researchers used the Facial Action Coding System, which was developed in 1978, to codify the 5,000 images of expressions, resulting in their increased set of basic facial expressions. (Via Time)

But hold on a second. Even if we do have 21 emotions, that still means the vast majority of emojis we can send in text messages ... are lies.

(make an exaggerated sad face) Cheer up, all might not be lost for your texting game. Some critics say this view is too simplistic. 

Among them: Dean Burnett, a neuroscientist who writes for The Guardian. He says, "This reductionist view of human behaviour may make things easier to grasp, but it does a disservice to the true complexity of people." 

Still, the findings could be used in the future to help implement facial-expression recognition software in, say, witnesses testifying in trials or people going through airport security. Or, of course, as emojis.  

<![CDATA[Obama's 'Between Two Ferns' Bit Likely Boosted Obamacare]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 14:46:00 -0500
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Remember when President Obama's made that hilarious appearance on Funny Or Die's "Between Two Ferns" last month? 

"Have you heard of" "Ugh. Here we go. Okay. Let's get this out of the way. What'd you come here to plug?"

"Have you heard of the Affordable Care Act?" "Oh yeah. I heard about that. That's that thing that doesn't work." (Via Funny of Die


Well, that bemoaned plugging of and sparring with host Zach Galifianakis may have helped the government program surge towards its 7 million enrollees goal. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told The Huffington Post this: 

"Well, we definitely saw the Galifianakis bump. The website traffic surged once the 'Between Two Ferns' interview went on."

Shortly after the "Between Two Ferns" video was posted, TechCrunch reported it was actually the largest driver of traffic to the HealthCare website at the time. The writer says, "They wanted hits, and they got them."

Obama's appearance might have been seen as comical by some, but others also found it controversial. NBC's Chuck Todd even mocked it with a montage. (Via Politico) (Via Salon) (Via Breitbart

"We put together a montage of what's been a giant White House - Health Care sales pitch. ... I don't see two ferns. Can we have a round table with two ferns?" (Via NBC) 

Since introducing the Affordable Care Act, The White House has put an emphasis on recruiting young people to check it out. 

In the same Huffington Post interview we mentioned earlier, Sebellius said, "What we're trying to do is reach people in the language that they most understand." 

That "youth-movement" has included teaming up with NBA basketball stars like LeBron James, "Sign up now. You never know when you might take a hit."​

An appearance on "The Ellen Show", "You can get health insurance, in some cases, for $100 or less. 

(Via Warner Brothers / "The Ellen Show"

And much, much more. 

While final numbers may not be released for weeks, multiple media outlets report the Affordable Care Act IS expected to reach its goal of 7 million enrollees. 

<![CDATA[Affordable Care Act Reaches 7 Million Sign-Ups]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 13:46:00 -0500
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​Technical glitches and a surge of newly-insured Americans marked the final day of open enrollment on

USA Today is reporting the website founded under the Affordable Care Act was on track to reach its target of seven million enrollees by midnight, Monday, according to an anonymous government official.


The New York Times adds, White House spokesperson Jay Carney admitted he didn’t have any concrete numbers, but at a press conference he estimated the number of sign-ups is “significantly above six million.”

The Congressional Budget Office originally set the goal of seven million signups, which was then scaled back to six million after the delayed launch of the program’s website.  However, it might be weeks before the official tally is in.

And when the numbers are out, enters its next challenge: the quality of the program itself.

ABC says, despite enrollment by the millions, Obamacare’s success hinges on the type of people who make up that seven million.

“The White House has six million have signed up, but they haven’t been able to tell us how many were previously uninsured and how many of them were young and health, both Diane [Sawyer] critical of this program’s success.”

The White House has said it needed at least 38% of its participants to be young people under the age of 35.

GOP Senator John Barrasso has criticized the Obama Administration for “cooking the books” on their final count.  On Fox News he added,

“Once all this is said and done, what’s the kind of insurance will those people actually have?  Will people be able to keep their same doctor? How much more is it going to cost them? And we know some of the best cancer hospitals wants nothing to do with Obamacare.”


Even with so many unanswered questions, the looming deadline prompted even more Americans to sign up.  Bloomberg reports on Monday, the federal exchange website received an unprecedented amount of traffic.  it recorded 4.8 million visits, the most in a single day.  It’s call center also received more than 2 million calls.


Those unprecedented numbers came even after the website was temporarily unavailable early Monday.

CBS News reports an unexpected software bug crashed the site and made it unusable for new enrollees for a few hours. The bug was not related to the large volume of users.


A small portion of users will be exempt from the deadline for now.  Those who have started the application process Monday,  but could not finish by midnight will have one more week to complete their applications for coverage.

<![CDATA[Weight Loss Surgery May Put Diabetes Into Remission]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 10:40:00 -0500
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Talk about killing two birds with one stone. New research shows obesity surgery will put type 2 diabetes into remission for good, and the surgery even works if you're not morbidly obese.

"The study finds the surgery is better than medication for treating the duo of obesity and type 2 diabetes. After 3 years, more than 90 percent of patients who have had the operation did not need insulin." (Fox News) 

In addition to not needing insulin, those patients also lost 25 percent of their body weight (Medical News Today).

Obesity is the main trigger for type 2 diabetes and affects 1 in 3 adult Americans. The American Diabetes Association says if present trends persist, then by 2050 around 1 in 3 adults in the US will have diabetes. (Medical News Today)

<![CDATA[Statins For High Cholesterol Could Improve Erectile Function]]> Mon, 31 Mar 2014 18:09:00 -0500
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​We all know that getting some men to go to the doctor can be difficult — but here’s some news that might make those suffering from high cholesterol more likely to make that appointment.

A new study from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School found that statins, drugs typically given to reduce bad cholesterol and lower the risk of heart attack, may improve erectile function in men. (Via American College of Cardiology)

The meta-analysis looked at 14 previous studies and found the drugs had a statistically significant effect on erectile function. Those taking statins reported an overall improvement of 24.3 percent. (Via AstraZeneca)

But, while significant, the researchers behind the study say statins may not be ready to take on that little blue pill.

Quoted by Counsel and Heal, lead investigator John Kostis said, "The increase in erectile function scores with statins was approximately one-third to one-half of what has been reported with drugs like Viagra, Cialis or Levitra."

The researchers also note that statins shouldn’t be used by men who don't have high cholesterol just for the erectile effects, though it might make those with high cholesterol more likely to stay on their medication. (Via

Researchers pointed out erectile improvement from statins was greater than just altering lifestyle habits. The study was published in the The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

<![CDATA[London's Lost Black Death Mass Grave Discovered]]> Sun, 30 Mar 2014 18:37:00 -0500
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It has plagued scientists and archeologists in the UK for over 600 years but now a shroud has been lifted on the most lethal catastrophe in recorded history. (BBC) (The Guardian)

"Two carefully laid out rows, with carefully spaced inhumations...And, the depth they are and the type of pottery we're getting strongly suggests that they're part of the Black Death symmetry of that 14th century." (BBC)

Workers on London's Crossrail project, which boroughs under the heart of the city, unearthed those remains last year. And, to test the theory, all it took was one tooth from several skeletons for scientists to extract DNA. (The Irish Times)

What they found: the presence of the plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis, meaning those people had been exposed to -- and likely died from -- the Black Death, which killed six of every ten people in London within a year during the 14th century plague. (Irish Times) (The Guardian)

Scientists also compared the DNA with samples from a recent outbreak in Madagascar which killed 60 people. And, sure enough, almost perfect match, meaning the 14th century plague that wiped out about half of London was no more harmful than it is today. (Daily Mail)

Digging even further, some scientists now believe the catastrophic disease was less bubonic and more pneumonic and say it spread from human to human by coughs and sneezes rather than by rat fleas nibbling away at their victim's body. (Daily Mail) (The Guardian)

One researcher told the Guardian: "As an explanation [rat fleas] for the Black Death in its own right, it simply isn't good enough. It cannot spread fast enough... to cause the huge number of cases that we saw during the Black Death."

Crossrail is Europe's largest infrastructure project, covering more than 60 miles of track and nine new stations. Since it began in London more than 10,000 items of archeological interest have been uncovered. (The Star)

<![CDATA[12-Year-Old Girl Recovering Quickly From Weight-Loss Surgery]]> Sat, 29 Mar 2014 13:29:00 -0500
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A 12-year-old girl with a rare metabolic disorder is making great progress following her weight loss surgery last week.

NBC reports Alexis Shapiro is now feeling full after eating, and she no longer depends on insulin or other medications to manage her type two diabetes. 

It all started back in 2011 after brain surgery to remove a tumor damaged her hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates weight, appetite and moods. (Via The Huffington Post)

From there, Alexis began gaining weight at an alarming rate because of her insatiable hunger and inability to feel full.

"Alexis Shapiro went from 50 pounds to 200 in just two years and now has type 2 diabetes." (Via KPRC)

Doctors kept people appraised of Alexis' gastric bypass surgery via social media, but halfway through the surgery tweeted the procedure wasn't going as planned.

The doctors tweeted, "Planned gastric bypass & vagotomy no longer safest option for Alexis today given liver size." Then a few minutes later, "Moving forward w staged approach: sleeve gastrectomy today. Gastric bypass & vagotomy at later date." (Via Twitter / @CincyChildrens)

Friday, Alexis' mother Jenny Shapiro shared this post on the "Hope and love for Alexis" Facebook page, "Guess what???? We were able to be discharged from the hospital. we will continue to stay in Cincinnati for another week... I cannot thank the team and Cincinnati children's enough! They are all wonderful!" (Via Facebook / Hope and love for Alexis)

Alexis' doctor predicts she could lose about 40 pounds in the first few months after her surgery. 

<![CDATA[Polar Vortex Might Mean Harsher Allergy Season]]> Sat, 29 Mar 2014 09:46:00 -0500
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It's almost April, but it doctors are now predicting this winter's polar vortex is still going to be giving us trouble, this time in the form of allergies.  

"Some people are already feeling the effects. Doctors say they're complaining of itchy, watery eyes, runny noses and, of course, sneezing." (Via WVEC

WFMZ spoke with an allergist who explained how all the snow from this past winter will affect people with allergies.

"When it starts melting there will be even more moisture for the trees. They will be well primed to produce more pollens. ... There's more chances of having more molds."

Most years, trees gradually pollinate throughout March and April, but Time says everything could begin pollinating at once if the weather warms up quickly and stays warm. 

New York 1 says even people who aren't effected by seasonal allergies, may be taking a trip to the doctor this spring.

"What we're seeing is the snow cover is starting to melt in surrounding areas, and what that does, that puts mold spores into the air. And many people who are sensitive to mold, and even not sensitive to mold, react when mold spores are high."

The CDC says the Institute of Medicine discovered a link between outdoor mold exposure and respiratory problems in otherwise healthy children. It's important to note that as long as there's moisture in the air, mold can grow on any surface outside or inside the home. 

While it might seem impossible to avoid all the pollen and mold spores floating around in the air, a doctor gave the readers of Fox News a few pointers. 

Avoid staying outdoors for too long between the hours of 5 to 10 a.m., when the pollen counts are highest. Keep your windows closed and change air conditioning filters often. And, take frequent showers to ensure pollen isn't tracked into your house. 

Doctors advise people with allergies to start taking their allergy medication about two weeks before spring hits their area. 


<![CDATA[Marriage Is Good For Heart Health, Study Says]]> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 14:53:00 -0500
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Not sure whether you should walk down the aisle? Well, a new study says getting married could be good for your heart.

NYU Langone Medical Center researchers found marriage lowers your risk of heart disease by five percent. They found that out after surveying 3.5 million women and men across the nation. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Luchoang nguyen)

The study also showed people who are widowed have a 3 percent higher chance of getting any vascular disease and for divorced people, a 5 percent higher chance. (Via New York University)

And apparently, marriage was most beneficial to those under the age 50. The study says that group had a 12 percent lower risk of heart problems. (Via Flickr / James Gordon)

But Dr. Tara Narula said on CBS this morning that the quality of the marriage makes a big difference. This study applies to marriages with good relationships.

“Married couples help each other to eat better, exercise, avoid smoking and alcohol. They serve as a buffer for stressful life events for each other. They encourage each other to take their medications and go to doctors appointments.”

Now, if you’re worried about your heart health, one doctor told Heath Day News said regardless of your marital status “Don’t smoke; eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet; sweat every day; achieve your ideal body weight; and stay on your medicines.”

<![CDATA[Can This App Help People Overcome Alcoholism?]]> Fri, 28 Mar 2014 08:13:00 -0500
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Researchers at The University of Wisconsin have created an app that provides alcohol-dependent individuals with what they call a relapse-prevention system. It's proven successful for people post-rehab.

The app, known as A-CHESS, has a built-in library of relaxation audio, a peer social network, and even an event calendar. Counselors can keep track of their patients through a web app, which is linked to the mobile version. (Via Andrew Isham / YouTube)

Counselors work with their patients to log information in the app, including sleep/wake hours, high-risk locations and more. The app can then provide support if a patient nears a high-risk location. (Via NIATxNPO / YouTube)

And that support can come in the form of a live video conference with a counselor, an automated text message asking a friend for support, and more.

The app certainly appears to be helping. In recent clinical trials published in JAMA Psychiatry, the study found that users reported fewer "risky drinking days" — those days in which drinking exceeded a standard number of drinks in a two-hour period — and a higher likelihood of abstinence than those who did not use the app. 

The University of Wisconsin says A-CHESS will be available commercially at the end of July. For those battling addiction, the app has been quite a success.

"If this was around ten years ago, there'd still be people that are sober that are using right now ... It's kind of like a comfort system right in your pocket." (Via CHESSwisc / YouTube)

<![CDATA[CDC: Autism Rate Increases 30 Percent Between 2008 and 2010]]> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 16:51:00 -0500
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report Thursday that shows a sharp increase in the rate of autism among children.

"One in 68 children has autism, and just perspective, that's a huge jump because it used to be one in 88.  That was the figure from two years ago."

The CDC report has some interesting data points on how autism affects certain demographics.  Boys are about five times more likely to be diagnosed than girls.  1 in 42 boys were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, compared to only 1 in 182 girls.  The number of children identified ranged widely from 1 in 175 in areas of Alabama to 1 in 45 in areas of New Jersey.

USA Today notes, "That means virtually every grade in every elementary school has at least one child with autism - a seemingly astonishing rise for a condition that was nearly unheard of a generation ago."

CBS points out the report didn't try to address the causes of autism, which are still unclear.  It did note however there has been some evidence exposure to toxins like pesticides and lead may contribute.

And just this Wednesday the New England Journal of Medicine released a report saying autism may start in the womb as a result of disorganized cells in a child's brain tissue.

For more information on the new data and methods for detecting autism, visit the CDC's website.

<![CDATA[Doctors To Suspend Patients Between Life And Death]]> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 13:30:00 -0500
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From "Flatliners" to "Frankenstein", the thought of dying and being brought back to life has always existed in movies. But it may soon become a reality.

Through a process called suspended animation, doctors could put patients in a state of suspension between life and death. It would give doctors more time to help fix life-threatening injuries. (Via Gawker)

Gizmodo explains how it works. All of the patient’s blood is quickly removed from his or her body and replaced with saline solution, which slows down cellular activity. Doctors then have about two hours to fix the injuries and replace the saline with blood. The patient’s heart should start up again with or without some help.

So patients are technically dead during that time. The FDA gave doctors at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh the OK to perform the procedure, but only on patients who are extremely likely to die from their injuries, like gunshot wounds.

The Verge reports this procedure was tested on pigs in 2002 and some survived. But suspended animation is more controversial on humans because there wouldn’t be enough time to get consent from the patient or their family.

New Scientist describes it as a “groundbreaking emergency technique” and says it will be tested initially on ten patients. Those patients will then be compared to other patients who did not receive the procedure.

So while doctors work on the bringing-the-dead-back-to-life procedure, we’re sure it will be a lot different than Hollywood’s portrayal.

“It’s moving. It’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive, it’s alive!” (Via Universal Pictures / Frankenstein)

<![CDATA[WHO Declares India Free Of Polio]]> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 12:47:00 -0500
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The World Health Organization has declared India free of polio after three years of no new cases — meaning 80 percent of the world is now free of the virus.

According to BBC, many experts thought India would be the last of the polio-affected regions to completely eradicate the disease because of the country's large population and widespread unsanitary conditions.

Polio is an infectious disease that causes paralysis in a matter of hours. It is transmitted through contaminated water or food and mainly affects children younger than 5 years old. The problem — it cannot be cured, only prevented. (Via CNN)

To prevent the disease from spreading, the campaign to vaccinate Indian children began in 1995. The Wall Street Journal reports by 2009, the number of polio cases in the country fell but still made up half the world's total polio cases.

By 2012, the World Health Organization no longer classified India as a country where polio was endemic. But the process wasn't easy.

As part of immunization efforts, the Indian government organized two days a year to administer polio vaccines to as many as 170 million children each day. Health workers also commuted to houses making sure children had received the vaccine. (Via BBC)

Although prevalence of polio has dropped 99 percent since 1988, the fight against the virus is ongoing. According to CNN, the disease is still endemic in Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan.

And in December, the Worldwide Health Organization began immunization efforts in the Middle East following an outbreak in Syria reportedly due to war and violence in the area preventing children from getting access to healthcare. (Via  Euronews)

But CBS reports the disease is on the rise particularly in Pakistan, where Islamic militants often attack health workers and vaccination efforts are seen as a ploy to spy on Muslims.

As part of a plan to completely eradicate polio globally by 2018, the World Health Organization urges countries to start phasing out the current oral polio vaccine, which contains the live virus, and introduce an injectable vaccine with the inactivated virus by 2015.

<![CDATA[New Planet At Solar System's Edge Gets 'Biden' Nickname]]> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 12:26:00 -0500
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​The vice president has his own planet. Well, sort of.

Astronomers have discovered a new planet that's even farther away than Pluto. In fact, this planet is so far away it has helped extend scientists' understanding of the  solar system's edge.

Fox News says the existence of the dwarf planet suggests there could be another full-size planet out there.  Scientists had thought the solar system ended about 50 astronomical units from the sun where the Kuiper Belt, a doughnut-shaped ring full of icy objects like comets, sits.  But the new planet is much farther than 50 astronomical units away from the sun.

The Earth sits 1 astronomical unit away from the sun.  Neptune, the most distant major planet, sits at 30.  However, the newly discovered dwarf planet is 83 astronomical units away. It takes more than 10,000 years to complete one full orbit.

It is still unclear how the newly-discovered planet and similar objects moved so far away from the sun.  One hypothesis is a nearby star's gravitational pull could have dragged objects toward the edge of the solar system.

The new planet has been designated 2012 VP113, which prompted the discovery team to call it Biden for short.

Though Dr. Scott Sheppard, who co-discovered the new planet, told Politico the name is actually a result of the discovery classification system and has nothing to do with the Vice President.

“It’s kind of a big f**king deal,” said Nathan Byrne, an editorial lead at Newsy.

Once scientists have confirmed the orbit of the planet, a name will be submitted to the International Astronomical Union.  Until then we're sure the Vice-President doesn't mind the exposure.

*enter biden quote*

<![CDATA[Autism Could Begin Before Child Is Born]]> Thu, 27 Mar 2014 08:37:00 -0500
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New clues suggest autism could be detected before birth.

"Researchers found unusual cell development in parts of children's brains that develop during pregnancy. The abnormalities were found in areas that control social functioning, emotions, and communication." (Via CBS)

The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers studied brain tissue from 11 children who died young and also had autism. 

The study revealed patches of disorganization of neurons near the cortex of the brain, a thin layer of cells that control learning and memory. 

One of the researchers told NBC the cells didn't develop properly.  "Brain cells are there but they haven’t changed into the kind of cell they are supposed to be. It's a failure of early formation."

These are signs that the changes causing autism likely happen while a child is still in the womb. (Via KCNC)

But according to a writer for Wired, these latest findings will only add to the uncertainty of autism research, where the neuroscience and genetics are already conflicted.

"The researchers found these abnormalities in ... areas with roles in language and cognition that are — in a very broad and hand-wavey sort of way — relevant to the symptoms of autism. They did not see them in the occipital cortex, a region primarily associated with vision, which isn’t typically disrupted in autism." 

While these researchers do believe their findings are a step forward in early detection of autism, some doctors say to be cautious about any findings.

A geneticist at UCLA told NPR he'd like to know the results from hundreds of brains, rather than just 11. "What fraction of all the kids with autism are going to have these small patches? I think the jury's out on that."

Currently, autism affects 1 in 50 U.S. children. No cure has been discovered. 

<![CDATA[2 Giant Sea Turtle Fossils Fit Perfectly After 160 Years]]> Wed, 26 Mar 2014 14:20:00 -0500
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An incredible find by a paleontologist in New Jersey led to the discovery of the “second half” of a giant sea turtle fossil. Take a look.

“The guys (...) came down with their half of the bone and thought lets compare it and see what happens. And sure enough two halves of the same bone.” (Via YouTube / Drexel University)

Now, to be clear the second half was found more than 160 years after the discovery of the first half in 1849. So the chances of them fitting perfectly, let alone being reunited were very small. (Via National Geographic)

But now that they are reunited, researchers were had a better idea of how big the sea turtle was. Los Angeles Times reports it was about 10 feet long and lived about 70 million years ago.

So about the size of a small car, give or take a few feet. A writer for RedOrbit highlights how this unique find could impact future research.

“The paleontologists said the discovery should spark a reexamination of the conventional wisdom that says exposed fossils cannot survive for long periods.”

More information on the discovery will be published in the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

<![CDATA[Copenhagen Zoo Euthanizes Lion Family After Giraffe Killing]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 17:11:00 -0500
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The same Copenhagen zoo that killed a healthy giraffe last month is under fire again for killing an entire family of healthy lions. 

The two lions and two 10-month-old lion cubs were euthanized because the zoo was receiving a new male lion.

In a statement, the Copenhagen Zoo said, ​"Because of the pride of lions' natural structure and behaviour, the zoo has had to euthanise the two old lions and two young lions who were not old enough to fend for themselves." (Via The Guardian)

The zoo said the new male lion would've killed the lion cubs as quickly "as he got the chance" and the parents were reaching their maximum age-limit anyway. 

The same zoo received global backlash in February for killing a healthy giraffe named Marius, then feeding his carcass to those lions. The zoo killed Marius because he didn't have the ideal genetic makeup for its breeding program. (Via CNN

The zoo's CEO spoke with Danish news site Politiken about the killing of the lions and how the backlash from Marius' killing influenced the decision. "I think many people have become more informed of the case of Marius. We have not been scared of Marius, it is academically the most correct."

The Copenhagen Zoo posted on its site about receiving a young male lion, saying that with the new lion and the zoo's current female lion, they'll "form the future lion population."

Not surprisingly, the zoo isn't getting much praise for the killing of these lions. 

When news first broke, a Facebook page called Boycott Copenhagen Zoo, which has more than 7,000 likes, said: "Can this realy [sic] be true? How can they get away with this yet again?"

The zoo says attempts to relocate the lion cubs were unsuccessful. The lions' bodies were not fed to other animals. Some animals were used for research while others were discarded. 

<![CDATA[Using Facebook During Sex Happens More Than You Think]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 16:06:00 -0500
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Facebook and sex… Facebook and sex? Apparently using the social media site while making love happens more than you think.

Condom maker Durex polled 2,000 people in the UK and found 5 percent of them have done it. Not to mention 12 percent have answered the phone and 10 percent have read a text during sex. (Via YouTube / Durex Earth Hour)

Talk about priorities. A writer for CNET says “I’m not sure if I should be disturbed or impressed by such an apparent mastery of multitasking. …. [But] combining the two probably means you’re doing one of them wrong.”

To cut those people some slack, a writer for Time says it’s understandable if, say, it’s a really important phone call or text message.

“But Facebook? Can’t you just wait till after you’re done to find out what your co-worker’s kid ate for breakfast? Seriously, guys. We need to draw the line somewhere.”

Durex agrees and draws the line at Earth Hour of all times. It’s commercial asks everyone to unplug from technology and enjoy each other on March 29th from 8:30 - 9:30 p.m. (Via YouTube / Durex Earth Hour)

But maybe it’s worth unplugging more often than one hour on a random day. Metro reports the study found 33 percent of people said technology gets in the way of their sex life.

The video at least got people talking. Whether it will actually do something or not, is still to be determined — but PolicyMic gives Durex some props.

“It’s clever marketing designed as a counter-narrative to our increasingly technological culture. But sexual satisfaction depends on a lot of factors, ranging from how much better you think other peoples’ sex lives are to how often you do it.”

<![CDATA[Marijuana Pills, Sprays Might Ease MS Symptoms]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 14:51:00 -0500
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​People living day-to-day with multiple sclerosis could seek marijuana remedies to ease symptoms.

"New guidelines suggest that those with MS would benefit from taking medical marijuana in a pill or oral spray. The report says that those with MS who use the drug may feel less pain and see other symptoms reduced." (Via WBTV)

Those guidelines are from the American Academy of Neurology. Specifically, pill and oral spray forms of cannabis can help curb common MS symptoms like muscle stiffness and frequent urination. The study concluded smoking marijuana had no significant effect on the symptoms either.

However, doctors like Harvard Assistant Professor Pushpa ​Narayanaswami stress there is not enough evidence to show the medicinal drug can change the course of the disease.

On top of that, he and many experts warn the side effects of using marijuana — like seizure, dizziness and depression — are still a hazard and are amplified by onset MS. The assistant professor told Everyday Health:

"I don't think that any physician treating multiple sclerosis will decide that these forms of marijuana would be the first-line agents … because we do know that there are significant side effects."

And he’s likely right. Marijuana falls into a category of treatments called CAM therapies, or complementary and alternative medicine.  Los Angeles Times says 80% of MS patients seek these treatments simply because there are so few options available.

According to Fox News, researchers with the American Academy of Neurology created the new guidelines after reviewing 2,608 studies on CAM therapies, among them pill and oral spray marijuana.

Bloomberg lists the other treatments reviewed in the study, which were also linked to helping MS patients.

Ginkgo biloba might reduce tiredness, but does not help thinking and memory issues.

Magnetic therapy. Patients lie on a mat with electronic magnetic feeds which relaxes muscles, but does not help with a patient's depression.

Reflexology is another option that's proved positive results. (Via Bloomberg)

It’s legal in 20 states for doctors to prescribe patients medicinal marijuana. Cannabis in pill form is available in the US, so is marijuana oral spray but it is not regulated by the FDA so users might not know what they're getting.

<![CDATA[Blindness, Poor Vision Rates Falling In Developed Countries]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 12:46:00 -0500
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Looks like blindness is becoming much less of a problem in developed countries, according to a new study.

A report published Monday in the journal BMJ says both blindness and poor vision rates in developed nations around the world have fallen drastically over the past twenty years.

During the study, researchers examined data from 243 studies that were conducted in 190 countries. 

They found that, between 1990 and 2010, the rate of blindness around the world plummeted 37 percent. And as for poor vision, those cases fell by 27 percent. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Peter Clarke)

HealthDay reports the biggest reductions were seen in wealthy nations. The study showed the rate of blindness dropped by fifty percent, and the rate of poor vision fell 38 percent.

The study's lead researcher told USA Today one of the main reasons for these decreases is the spread of cataract surgery.

According to the World Health Organization, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness across the globe today. Fortunately, affected people are often able to regain their sight with surgery.

And researchers say providing eyeglasses for common vision problems could make those percentages drop even lower. (Via YouTube / drvickyfischer)

But some bad news: the study's authors also say a surge in diabetes cases around the world could have a negative impact on eye health. 

Business Insider points out about 100 million people are expected to develop diabetic retinopathy, and around a third of them run the risk of losing their sight. Diabetes also increases the risk of glaucoma and cataracts.

<![CDATA[NASA Lets The Internet Pick A New Spacesuit Design]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 12:31:00 -0500
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NASA is building a new space suit, and they're crowdsourcing part of the design.

"NASA is allowing internet users to select the overlay for the next spacesuit.  ... Each of the suits can fit over the new prototype Z-2 spacesuit that is being developed, and voting began Monday and will run through April 15."

The new Z-2 suit is a follow up to the Z-1, which Time Magazine named one of the best inventions of 2012.  The Z-1 featured more-flexible joints than previous models, radiation protection, and a hatch on the back of the suit that can dock with spacecrafts and rovers.

NASA is touting the Z-2 as the first surface-specific planetary mobility suit to have a hard upper torso and be tested in full vacuum.  The Z-2 is also the first suit to use 3D-printed hardware for suit development and sizing.

The first design is Biomimicry, which NASA says was inspired by the world's deep oceans.  It mirrors the bioluminescent qualities of many aquatic creatures.  The second is technology, which features wire and light-emitting patches, allowing for easy identification of crew members.  The third and final design is "Trends in Society," which is said to mimic modern sportswear.

NBC reports the hard composite upper torso combined with the suit port that was included in the Z-1 will make the suit more durable for use in environments like the surface of Mars.

Though they note the light-emitting features probably won't make it to the red planet.  That's because they reduce the suit's ability to endure radiation exposure and temperature swings.

The International Business Times says, "The Z-2 spacesuit features three choices that look like something a child would dream up which means it is perfect for the future of space exploration."

To vote on the designs, click the link in the transcript.  NASA plans to have the first prototype ready by November 2014.

<![CDATA[WHO: 1 In 8 Global Deaths Linked To Air Pollution]]> Tue, 25 Mar 2014 12:07:00 -0500
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​A shocking new study from the World Health Organization estimates 1 in 8 global deaths is linked to air pollution. And the BBC says these new estimates make air pollution the biggest environmental health risk.

"Air pollution is the world’s single biggest threat to health … most deaths occur among poor- and middle-income countries in South and East Asia." (Via BBC)

And WTVT says outdoor air pollution isn’t the only concern.

"7 million people died from air pollution in 2012 … according to the health organization, indoor smoke from stoves is the bigger issue." (Via WTVT)

An Assistant Director for the organization explains: "Poor women and children pay a heavy price from indoor air pollution since they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from leaky coal and wood cook stoves." (Via World Health Organization)

A writer for CNN points out over 3 billion people across the world rely on coal and wood burning stoves for cooking — these fuels release tiny particles that are often breathed in, which can result in many respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.

According to the report, these new estimates — which are more than double the previous ones —  come as researchers have found better ways to measure exposure to air pollution. The World Health Organization credits improved technology and understanding of air pollutants.

The organization broke down diseases caused by indoor and outdoor air pollution. Indoor air-pollution, alone, contributed to the following deaths:

- 34% stroke

- 26% ischemic heart disease

- 22% COPD

- 12% lower respiratory infections in children

- 6% lung cancer

The World Health Organization says it plans to release air quality guidelines, measurements, and data for air pollutants in different countries.

<![CDATA[Ebola Virus Spreads Quickly Across Guinea]]> Mon, 24 Mar 2014 09:19:00 -0500
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The race is on to contain an outbreak of the ebola virus in West Africa. 

<![CDATA[Creationists Want Time On deGrasse Tyson's 'Cosmos']]> Sun, 23 Mar 2014 15:47:00 -0500
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National Geographic's new series, Cosmos: A Space Odyssey reportedly made television history

<![CDATA[New Program Turns DNA Into 3-D Mugshot]]> Sat, 22 Mar 2014 13:33:00 -0500
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What if you could create a mugshot of a criminal using only a single strand of their hair? Well, thanks to new research, we're getting closer to making that reality.

A team of researchers led by anthropologist Mark Shriver of Penn State University made headlines Friday with this: a computer program that can create an accurate model of a face from a DNA sample. (Via The Verge, Nature, TIME)

Now, using genes to predict eye and hair color is something scientists can do pretty easily already.

But using DNA to determine the structure of the rest of the face is a whole other story, Shriver said in the study published Saturday in PLOS Genetics

To create the program, the scientists recruited about 600 volunteers with mixed European and West African ancestry living in the U.S., Brazil and Cape Verde and took high-resolution images of their faces.

Nature reports the team used those images to create computerized 3-D models, which were then made into digital meshes made up of about 7,000 data points.

The scientists used those meshes to measure how genes associated with ancestry and gender affect facial structure. (Via PLOS Genetics)

According to Scientific American, the researchers then tested each volunteer for 76 genetic variants that could cause abnormalities in the face when mutated. From there, they were able to pinpoint 20 of those genes that can be specifically traced back to facial shape.

The computer program the team designed takes that information and uses it to turn a DNA sequence from an unknown person into an image of what that person looks like. (Via YouTube / Stated Clearly)

Pretty cool, but Shriver and his team have a lot more work to do to perfect the program.

A biologist told TIME some basic facial characteristics are tough for the program to predict. "One thing we’re certain of: there’s no single gene that suddenly makes your nose big or small."

And, as The Verge points out, the researchers also need to conduct similar studies in different areas to see if they can successfully replicate their results.

But back to the mugshots. For now, the results of this kind of facial analysis aren't allowed in court, however they can be used to help identify potential suspects. 

<![CDATA[ERs Prescribing More Painkillers]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 13:56:00 -0500
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Ever been in the ER and gotten stronger painkillers than you may have needed?

A new study shows a severe increase in the number of emergency rooms prescribing pain medications like Vicodin, Percocet, and Oxycodone. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Thierry Geoffroy)

The study says between 2001 and 2010 ERs showed a 49 percent increase in prescriptions for opiates.

Now before you think stronger medicines may be better, an ER doctor in Kentucky told HealthDay sometimes Tylenol and ibuprofen are more ideal. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Rotellam1, Ragesoss)

HealthDay also explains why this is happening. “In 2000, the Joint Commission, which accredits U.S. hospitals, set new standards for evaluating and treating patients’ pain.”

Which could have prompted some doctors to feel obligated to prescribe stronger pain meds.

PsychCentral spoke with a few doctors who say this growing trend can be dangerous because people can become addicted. “This trend is especially concerning given dramatic increases in opioid-related overdoses and fatalities in recent years.”

The number of overdoses is surprising, the CDC says about 15,000 Americans die every year from them. And back in 2010, it estimated about 12 million Americans abuse opiates.


Another fact from the CDC: “enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for a month.” 

<![CDATA[Scientists Complete Largest Sequenced Genome Yet]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 12:56:00 -0500
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U.S. scientists have fully sequenced the largest known genome — that of a tree.

It's called the loblolly pine and is found throughout the southeastern U.S. Like the tree itself, its genetic code is huge and scientists finally sequenced 16 billion genome fragments — making its genome about seven times bigger than the human genome. (Via Genetics)

To put it into perspective, the loblolly pine genome has about 22 billion base pairs whereas the human genome has only 3 billion.

This is where things get a little complicated. Because of the sheer amount of the tree's genes, it would have taken years to sequence its DNA using technology for sequencing the human genome.

But as NBC reports, for the first time the researchers were able to use a process in which computers sort all the "puzzle pieces" and eliminate duplicates — saving the researchers a lot of time.

The successful sequencing of the tree will be helpful in understanding its longevity and disease resistance. As Tech Times reports, the loblolly pine is the "most commercially important" tree in the U.S. because of its use as a source for lumber and paper products.

The researchers also say the genome mapping will allow scientists to understand disease resistance in southern pines, which are prey to many diseases such as fusiform rust.

The director for the organization that funded the study notes the research will further the forestry industry. He adds, "[The] Loblolly pine will take on even greater importance as we look for new sources of biomass to drive our nation's bio-economy, and ways to increase carbon sequestration and mitigate climate change." (Via University of California)

The team says its next project will be even bigger — sequencing the genome of the sugar pine, which has more than double the number of base pairs as the loblolly pine.

<![CDATA[Humans Can Distinguish Over 1 Trillion Smells, Says Study]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 20:57:00 -0500
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Our eyes can distinguish at least 2 million different colors, and our ears can catch about 340,000 different tones. But new research shows that our nose might have all of our other senses beat — it can pick up more than 1 trillion different odors.

Scientists at The Rockefeller University tested the proboscis — that's the nose of a mammal — by creating scent mixtures of 128 different smell molecules. The researchers asked people to pick between three smells: two of the same scent, and one slightly different scent.

The study found more than half of the participants could find the odd smell out as long as the mixture was at least 50 percent different. The scientists then extrapolated from their own data to find all the possible smell combinations a nose can distinguish, and arrived at more than 1 trillion different scents.

​Study lead Andreas Keller told Science"It's not that we need to smell all those odors, but what happened is that our olfactory system evolved to have a very good resolution to discriminate very similar smells.

The study is giving the nose some long overdue credit — The Washington Post notes previous estimates capped the number of smells we can distinguish at 10,000 for decades.

"The 10,000-smell estimate stems from an outdated 1927 manuscript by two American chemists. They came up with an odor classification system based on four primary smells ... with a total of 6,561 possible different smells. Later, that number was rounded up to 10,000."

And a smell scientist told HealthDay, since the study limited itself to 128 basic components, 1 trillion smells might be just the beginning of what our noses can accomplish.

"If you were to do a test involving all kinds of intensities and many more components, you'd arrive at a figure that is probably much, much higher than a trillion. ... I'd say that a trillion is probably a severe underestimate of our ability to smell."

The study was published Thursday in the journal Science.

<![CDATA[Only Half Of U.S. Women Can Spot Stroke Symptoms]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:01:00 -0500
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Almost 800,000 Americans have a stroke every year, but according to a recent report, only about half of women can spot the symptoms of one.

The study — published in the journal Stroke — surveyed more than 1,200 women about their knowledge of stroke symptoms. According to the results, 51 percent knew a stroke can cause weakness on one side of the body, 44 percent identified speech impairment as a symptom, and only 18 percent acknowledged loss of vision as a symptom.

That makes 1 in 5 women who can't identify a single symptom of a stroke, even though it affects about 55,000 more women than men each year.

But a large majority of the respondents said they knew to immediately call 911 if they were to experience a stroke. According to the study's lead researcher from Columbia University, "This lack of recognition of stroke signs and symptoms could be a significant barrier to reducing death and disability related to stroke." (Via The Huffington Post)

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted by either a blood clot or broken blood vessel — resulting in bodily impairments, paralysis or even death, depending on the severity of the stroke. (Via National Stroke Foundation)

The American Heart Association's "FAST" acronym is a way to remember common signs of a stroke. That's F-A-S-T — Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, and Time to call 911.

Stroke specialists say acting quickly at the onset of a stroke is crucial, and even though the FAST acronym identifies the common signs, it's important to recognize all the signs since they differ for each person.

A neurologist who was not a part of the study tells NPR that men might be just as confused about stroke symptoms as women are. He says to be safe, "If there is an abrupt change neurologically, ... that could be a stroke and that needs to be taken seriously."

The study comes amid new prevention guidelines for women last month. According to USA Today, there are risks unique to women that could increase their stroke risk, such as taking birth control pills or pregnancy.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 130,000 Americans die each year from strokes.

<![CDATA[Obese, 44-Pound Baby Goes On Lifesaving Diet]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 08:44:00 -0500
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An 8-month-old baby boy from Colombia weighs in at a whopping 44 pounds. 

"Now he is going on a special diet of fruits and vegetables. Doctors want to wean him off of formula and get him down to 17 pounds to reduce the stress on his heart."

ABC reports Santiago has now been put on a strict diet. He was so obese, he was actually having trouble moving, so his mother Eunice Fandiño sought medical attention.

New York Daily News says Santiago's mother admits it was her own ignorance that led to her child's outlandish weight gain. 

"​Every time he cried, she gave him food or milk to calm down."

Volunteers at the Chubby Hearts Foundation have stepped in to help administer life-saving treatment for Santiago, who has been hospitalized many times since he was born due to his weight. 

BabyCenter notes the average weight of an infant boy from 6-9 months old is 16-21 pounds. It isn't until children are around 6 years old that they reach what baby Santiago currently weighs.

"Doctors say nothing, right now, is medically wrong with the baby, he's just been overfed." (Via WDRB)

The Daily Mirror reports Santiago is officially Colombia's fattest baby, a title he likely won't be proud of when he's older. 

"[The] Chubby Hearts director... said the boy would be evaluated by specialists at Bogota's Colina Clinic. They would try to bring his weight down then embark on a series of operations."

A surgeon noted Santiago will need plenty of physical activity and health education when he's older. He noted if the young boy stays heavy, he could end up suffering from diabetes or high blood pressure.

<![CDATA[Researchers Discover Giant 'Chicken From Hell' Dinosaur]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 22:26:00 -0500
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U.S. researchers unveiled a huge dinosaur discovery Wednesday. And when we say huge, we mean, like, 10-feet-tall-and-500-pounds huge.  

The team, comprised of scientists from the Carnegie and Smithsonian museums and the University of Utah, put together fossils dating back more than 60 million years to discover Anzu wyliei​ — more affectionately known as the "chicken from hell." And it's really not hard to see why they've given it that name. (Via Carnegie Museum of Natural History)

Researchers discovered the fossils in the Hell Creek rock formation in North and South Dakota. According to The Washington Post, those prehistoric puzzle pieces revealed an animal "with a beak, no teeth, a bony crest atop its head, murderous claws, prize-fighter arms, spindly legs, a thin tail and feathers sprouting all over the place."

Anzu wyliei gets its name from the ancient Mesopotamian mythical figure Anzu, a bird-like demon. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Anton Nyström)

If that isn't a enough to sully the newly-discovered dinosaur's reputation, one of the head researchers for the study said, "One [of the Anzu specimens] appears to have a broken and healed rib, and the other has evidence of some sort of trauma to a toe." Translation: It might've been a fighter. (Via The University of Utah)

Of course you can't call something the "chicken from hell" without some interesting responses. 

A writer from io9 wants you to imagine outrunning this behemoth. I'd like to turn the tables and think of problems one would have after catching and killing an Anzu. 

Think about the "fried chicken sandwich from hell." Or the "chicken wings from hell." There wasn't enough ranch or celery on prehistoric Earth to handle all of that. (Via Flickr / avrene, powerplantop)

All jokes aside, the final results of the study took years to come together. According to NBC, the Anzu was closely related to dinosaurs known as oviraptorosaurs, a group of flightless dinosaurs that lived during the Cretaceous Period. (Via NBC)

The Anzu was most likely a vegetarian and once roamed North America. One researcher told the BBC the collection of fossils give an incredibly complete picture as to what the Anzu looked like. And there's more. 

"It also greatly increases the diversity of dinosaurs that were alive at the very end of the Cretaceous Period, just before we had the asteroid ending." 

He added that it was previously thought dinosaur diversity was on the decline before the extinction event. Anzu suggests otherwise. 

The Wire reports two of the partial skeletons are at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. The researchers published their findings in the journal PLOS ONE

<![CDATA[Titanium Golf Clubs Linked To Fires At Calif. Courses]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 22:23:00 -0500
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Before you break out your titanium golf clubs for the warmer weather, you might want to grab a fire extinguisher as well. 

"The UC-Irvine Engineering Department and OC Fire Authority study finds that titanium clubs produce sparks when they hit rocks in the rough and the sparks stay intensely hot for longer than usual." (Via  KTTV

Yes, a typical golf swing, under the right conditions and with a titanium club can — and already might have — produced brush fires. (Via U.S. Golf Association)

The researchers behind the study believe at least two California brush fires started this way: one in Mission Vejo and one that burned 25 acres at Shady Canyon Golf Course in Irvine. (Via The Telegraph)

Published in the journal Fire and Material, the study's author James Earthman says titanium reacts violently with oxygen in a way other metals don't. Hence the sparks and occasional fire.

Orange County's fire chief tells ESPN the finding means he and other "Investigators who were 'laughed at' when they first floated the golf club theory have been vindicated."

For the sake of avoiding more brush fires, the OC Fire Authority is giving golfers permission to break the rules and actually move their golf ball out of the rough if they fear their swing could create a spark.

<![CDATA[Earth Narrowly Avoided Huge Solar Storm In 2012]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 19:22:00 -0500
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So it turned out 2012 wasn't the big "end of the world" cataclysm some folks thought it would be, but a new report says it came closer than you might expect. (Via NASA)

The study, published in Nature Communications, looked at solar storms in 2012 and says this explosion, captured by NASA's STEREO observatory, just missed hitting Earth by a few days.

Not to scare you, but coronal mass ejections, where a bit of the sun breaks off and goes flying toward Earth, are common, and if a big one like 2012's hit us, it could pretty much collapse our electronic infrastructure.

In the press release accompanying the study, the researchers describe a perfect storm: two blasts with the power of a billion hydrogen bombs occurring back-to-back, racing along a path cleared out by a mid-sized blast a few days earlier. And all of it went right through the area where Earth had just been. (Via University of California, Berkeley, NASA)

These kinds of solar events are the cause behind auroras, the northern and southern lights. Charged particles light up Earth's magnetic poles, putting on a massive show. (Via NASA)

But they do way more than that. These magnetic storms can wreak havoc on electronics.

The biggest solar storm ever recorded took place in 1859. The so-called Carrington Event caused auroras visible all the way into the tropics. The near-global spectacle has become the stuff of legend: the NOAA tells the tale of Colorado gold miners who got up and went to work at 1 a.m. because the lights were so bright they thought the sun had come up, and Ars Technica posts a supposed transcript between two telegraph operators who were able to keep sending signals across the country with no batteries because there was so much current in the cable. (Via NASA, NOAA, Ars Technica)

Of course, that was before most of the electronics we have now even existed. A storm that size today would be much more destructive, taking out power grids, satellites and communications.

Estimates vary, but generally it's thought another Carrington Event now would cause trillions of dollars in damages and could take years to recover from, maybe even decades. (Via National Academy of Sciences)

And guess what? That's exactly the kind of storm we unknowingly avoided in 2012! Fingers crossed for 2014, everyone.

<![CDATA[Half Of U.S. Believes In Medical Conspiracy Theories]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:57:00 -0500
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There are scary things out there wen it comes to health — from HIV, cancer, to the food we consume. But could it all just be part of a conspiracy? Well, according to a new study, about 50 percent of American believe in at lease one medical conspiracy. 

Conducted by researchers out of the University of Chicago, more than 1,300 adults were asked about six common medical theories. (Via The JAMA Network )

Those theories — The FDA prevents natural cancer cures. (Via National Cancer Institute

Cell phones cause cancer. 

GMO will shrink the population. 

The CIA intentionally infected African Americans with HIV.

Fluoride masks chemical dumping that end up in our water supply. 

And doctors know vaccines cause autism and other problems but insist it not to be true. 

Eighteen percent of people agreed with three or more of those theories. The most well known and widley believed were that the FDA prevents natural cures, cell phones cause cancer and vaccines cause autism. 

In a statement, the studies lead author Eric Oliver, "One of the things that struck us is that people who embrace these beliefs are not less health conscious... They're just less likely to embrace traditional medicine." Like getting vaccinated or using sun block. (Via NPR)

So why are so many people distrusting of the government — believing there's more than meets the eye? Well, Oliver attributes that to an evolutionary trait of an obsession with the unknown. 

"If you hear a noise in the bush, it's much more adaptive to believe that there's a predator there than not." (Via LiveScience)

But Bill Maher has another theory about theories. "We need conspiracy for the same reason we need God, because we can not accept that things are just random." (Via HBO / "Real Time With Bill Maher"

Oliver notes doctors should be aware of patients who endorse medical conspiracy theories and treat them accordingly. He also says the improvement of education in science and medicine can help people gain more knowledge and less uncertainty. 

<![CDATA[Why Dark Chocolate Is Good For You]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 15:43:00 -0500
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We’ve all heard it before — dark chocolate is “healthy” for you, but a new study finally explains why.

Louisiana State University tested cocoa powders in the digestive tract and found some microbes in the gut use the dark chocolate for good. (Via Slate)

“Good bacteria in the stomach feasts on the chocolate and then produce compounds that are anti-inflammatory cardiovascular tissues than absorb the compounds improving your heart health.” (Via Texas Cable News)

The study’s lead researcher John Finley elaborates saying, “When these compounds are absorbed by the body, they lessen the inflammation of cardiovascular tissue, reducing the long-term risk of stroke.” (Via HealthDay)

So go ahead, reach for that extra piece of dark chocolate. But while you’re at it, add some fruit.

“Scientists say combining dark chocolate with solid fruits like pomegranates and asai could provide even greater benefits.” (Via WRC-TV)

A writer for io9 reminds us dark chocolate is also full of antioxidants and can help reduce blood pressure, ease depression and control blood sugar.

Just make sure your dark chocolate is made up of more than 70 percent cocoa.

<![CDATA[Could Genetics Be To Blame For Weight Gain From Fried Foods?]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 13:01:00 -0500
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Next time you’re looking at a menu and deciding whether to go that side of fries, you may want to first consider your genetic risk.

A new study out of Harvard found eating fried food more than four times a week is twice as bad for those who are genetically predisposed to obesity compared to those aren’t. (Via ABC

The researchers studied more than 37,000 men and women who were participants in three health trials. The researchers controlled for factors like physical activity and soda intake. (Via Wikimedia Commons / ebru

Among the participants who had a low risk for obesity, there was little difference between those who ate fried foods and those who didn’t. But of the high risk participants, the ones who ate fried foods more often tended to have a higher body mass index. (Via BBC

In other words, the more pro-obesity genes you have, the worse off your waistline will be from eating fried foods.

Of course, a diet full of fatty foods isn’t good for anyone. The researchers say, regardless of your genetics, people should watch what they eat. (Via Channel 4

But as one genomic expert told HealthDay"Your peers can afford to have an extra serving or be sedentary and they will be OK, but for you it won't happen. That's important to know."

According to USA Today, the researchers hope their findings can lead to more individualized prescriptions for treating obesity. The findings of the study were published in the British Medical Journal.

<![CDATA[Are Fish Oil Benefits A Myth?]]> Tue, 18 Mar 2014 13:05:00 -0500
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Fish oil supplements are supposed to have many heart benefits, but new reports claim they might not be any better than any other dietary fats.

The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil are said to help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of "good" cholesterol; whereas, saturated fats increase levels of "bad" cholesterol. (Via Nature Made)

But two separate studies — from the University of Cambridge and University of Ioannina — published this week say the so-called healthy fats don't really protect against overall risk of heart disease as believed. (Via Bloomberg)

According to HealthDay, a researcher for one of the studies says saturated fats aren't the problem and they actually carry the same risk for heart disease as other fats, including unsaturated fats and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

But don't throw out that bottle of fish oil supplements just yet.

According to Businessweek, a nutrition professor says the American Heart Association's current recommendations for dietary fish oil should still be followed because "they came from five years of review and they're based on a lot of different studies."

After all, one of the recent studies was a meta-analysis of many other past studies — meaning there could be biases and inaccuracies in each study analyzed. (Via Annals of Internal Medicine)

And CNN reports although there is no consensus on how much and which types of fatty acids are best, it's agreed avoiding trans fats and increasing consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains contribute to a healthy heart.

The researchers also note consumers should focus on getting omega-3 fatty acids from food sources rather than supplements.

<![CDATA[3,200-Year-Old Skeleton Had Cancer]]> Tue, 18 Mar 2014 09:02:00 -0500
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As far as archeological finds go — this one is pretty rare. 

"A 3,200-year-old skeleton with cancer. ... The remains of the wealthy man, believed to be around 30 when he died, were found close to the Nile River."

British scientists who made the find say it's the oldest example of cancer ever discovered. 

KHQ-TV reports the skeleton was found in a Sudanese tomb, and showed a malignant soft-tumor cancer that had spread to several bones, including the man's shoulder blades, upper arms and collar bone. 

So why's this such a big deal? Cancer is largely thought of as a modern-day ailment, but a BBC reporter got to take a first hand look at the discovery, and says scientists have big hopes for what they can learn from it. 

"These bones suggest that the disease has its roots much deeper and our past and that is something that could be useful to medical researchers trying to combat cancer."

In fact the lead author of the study called cancer's history so far quote "almost unknown" — pointing out there are very few known examples of the disease before the first millennium AD. 

As Daily Mail points out, researchers still don't know what caused the man's cancer, but they've theorized carcinogens from wood fire smoke or genetic factors could be possibilities. 

The researchers' findings can be found in the science journal PLOS One

<![CDATA[Monday's Big Bang News: Even More Complicated Than The Higgs]]> Mon, 17 Mar 2014 22:27:00 -0500
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If you checked out science news sites last week, you might have seen rumors of a major scientific discovery set to be announced Monday. The rumors said the discovery, if true, would be a shoe-in for a Nobel Prize. (Via The Guardian, Popular Science, Universe Today)

But come Monday, there wasn't a peep on the discovery from CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC. And it's not hard to grasp why: turns out it's really, really hard to explain.

The discovery deals with the Big Bang, and specifically what happened in the tiny fractions of a second immediately after the universe began. It's a time period scientists would love to get a closer look at, because understanding what happened in those first few moments could reveal whole new kinds of physics.

Using a telescope at the South Pole and technical and scientific expertise from more than a dozen universities and organizations, like Stanford University, NASA and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, researchers now say they've gotten the earliest-ever look at that critical time period. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Christopher Michel)

A detailed explanation is way over our heads, so here's the quick and dirty version.

Scientists have known the universe is expanding since Edwin Hubble observed the galaxies moving away from each other in 1929. The expansion continues to this day, with Harvard researchers discovering in 1998 that the expansion is actually getting faster and faster. (Via NASA, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

But in 1980, physicist Alan Guth put forward that, during the universe's first moments, and for an unimaginably brief period of time, the rate of expansion surged to incredible speeds before slowing back down again. (Via NASA)

Now, that animation from NASA showing this inflationary phase is a bit misleading because it shows galaxies. The best estimates we could find are that the universe started that time period at billionths the size of a proton and ended somewhere around the size of a golf ball.

Monday's discovery is that gravitational waves caused by that inflation are still around today, and have been observed for the first time. That's where it gets really tricky to explain. (Via Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

In trying to illustrate what gravitational waves are, The Guardian compared them to "tiny waves on a lake – from far away, the lake's surface looks glassy smooth; only up very close can the details of the surface be seen."

The BBC went another route. "I've got a sock here which I can try and illustrate with you. Basically, when these waves go through the universe they stretch and squeeze it like that."

We couldn't find a way to explain gravitational waves with anything more mundane than a sock. But perhaps neither we nor most broadcast journalists fully understand that part of it anyway.

So what does it all mean, and what implications does this have for physics? Well, out of all the theories of inflation out there, the findings point to one in particular, meaning scientists can now focus more in that direction.

Slate's resident astronomer Phil Plait points out the findings could help reconcile Einstein's theory of relativity with the field of quantum mechanics. And physicist Lawrence Krauss got all poetic about it.

"This is not only a Nobel Prize, but this is a game changer. ... It turns metaphysics and speculation into hard science." (Via  KAET)

Of course, that's all assuming the findings hold up. With something this important, other experiments will need to confirm it. But for physicist Andrei Linde, who predicted this discovery back in the 1980's, this is about the most affirmation you can get. Stanford provided a video of him hearing the news for the first time.

"If this is true, this is a moment of understanding of nature of such a magnitude that it just overwhelms."

<![CDATA[You Could Have The Flu And Not Know It, Study Says]]> Mon, 17 Mar 2014 14:08:00 -0500
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Coughing, sneezing, aches and pains — all normal symptoms of the dreaded flu. But did you know you can actually have no symptoms at all?

A new study out of England found that about three-quarters of infected people showed no signs of the seasonal flu or swine flu in recent years — potentially making the spread of the virus all the more likely. (Via U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

To get the results, researchers looked at data during the winter flu seasons between 2006 and 2011, including the 2009 outbreak of swine flu. 

The results, published in The Lancet, showed about 18 percent of people without a vaccine got the virus but only 23 percent of those people actually developed symptoms. (Via Flickr / Ray Dumas

"And about fewer than one in five people were sick enough to see a doctor or stay home from work. ... Well, that's not really getting the flu, is it?" (Via WHBQ)

Well, it's not like any flu I've ever had ... or at least one I knew I had.

One of the lead researchers makes a little more sense of the results: "Most people don't go to the doctor when they have flu. ... Surveillance based on patients who consult greatly underestimates the number of community cases, which in turn can lead to overestimates of the proportion of cases who end up in hospital or die."

Now, there are still a lot of unanswered questions with this study — one being, if you hardly show signs, how easily can the virus be passed along? Flu incognito — creepy. 

<![CDATA[Yawning Is More Contagious For The Young, Study Says]]> Sat, 15 Mar 2014 22:13:00 -0500
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Yawning. We all do it and yet there's no set explanation on why we do it. And just as mysterious is that the act of yawning seems to be contagious. A new study looking at that issue has found that age might be a factor. (Via Blip.TV)

The study, one of the largest ever to focus on contagious yawning, was published online at PLOS ONE, and found that young people are more apt to "catch" a yawn than older people. 

328 participants were asked to watch a three-minute video of people yawning and to keep track of how many times they yawned. Of the 328 participants, 222 contagiously yawned. (Via YouTube / AsapSCIENCE)

While past research has linked empathy, time of day, and intelligence to yawning, the Duke University researchers found no such links.

USA Today spoke with one researcher not involved in the study who has found that "contagious yawning is most common among family members, followed by friends, acquaintances, then strangers."

But what benefits could there possibly be from studying yawning? 

Referring to autism and schizophrenia, a press release for the study said  "A deeper understanding of contagious yawning could lead to insights on these diseases and the general biological functioning of humans." (Via EurekAlert)

As to why we actually yawn? Well, various theories exist, but one of the most widely held says yawning cools the brain. 

<![CDATA[A Black Hole Might Be Eating A Gas Cloud]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 18:45:00 -0500
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A supermassive black hole might consume a gas cloud. Now, that just sounds epic.

The celestial showdown is going on right now, and it looks something like this. (Via NASA)

You won’t be able to see it without a telescope from this approved list, so yeah, we’ll just wait for the scientists to share. (Via GASCLOUDwiki)

Thing is, no one knows exactly what’s going to happen.

Astrophysicists with the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics first spotted the gas cloud, dubbed G2, in 2011. They noted it was on a crash course to the black hole and would likely hit in 2013. (Via Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics)

They’ve since adjusted their prediction, but still can’t say with certainty what time the potential galactic snack fest will take place.

Should G2 collide with the black hole in this way, ITN reports, “the gas will slowly break up over the next two decades.” (Via ITN)

Or if it doesn’t turn into destruction some are expecting. Reports indicate, the gas cloud could simply keep on its course around the black hole and, well, not get eaten. (Via NASA)

If G2 survives, it could give us insight into the evolution of galaxies. If not, it will be the first time we’ve been able to see this happen. One of the leaders on the observation campaign tells Wired, no matter what “it will be absolutely stunning to see the physics at work.” (Via ESO)

Ironically, this has all already happened.

The Milky Way’s center is 26,000 light-years away, remember. So this happened 26,000 years ago. Talk about holding for dramatic effect. (Via NASA)

Point here is something is going to happen. But we don’t know what. And whatever it is will be new and hopefully bring us some clarity. That is, if we can get a good look at it. The Epoch Times reports – 

“With our current technology, it may still be difficult to discern with much clarity what exactly is going on, but it’s the best observation opportunity we’ve had yet.”

<![CDATA[Rare Woman-To-Woman HIV Transmission Reported By CDC]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 18:34:00 -0500
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For the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a case of female-to-female transmission of HIV — something that is extremely rare. 

This comes after a lesbian couple, both in their 40s — one HIV positive, the other negative — were having sexual intercourse. In 2012 the Houston Department of Health reported the HIV negative woman had contracted the virus during the monogamous relationship. (Via Flickr / Oteo

The women who originally had the virus was diagnosed in early 2009 but by late 2010 she had stopped taking prescribed medications. 

According to the CDC, genetics tests of the virus carried by the two women was more than 98 percent identical— which is about as sure as it gets when it comes to proving one had infected the other. 

Although these types of cases are rare, The New York Times reports, "In numerous previous studies of women who thought they might have been infected by other women, either no genetic testing was done or the newly infected women reported other activity that could have been the cause, such as recent sex with men, drug injection or transfusions."

But in this recent transmission the infected woman reported no other sexual partners during the six months before her diagnosis or other risk factors like tattoos. 

NPR notes it's difficult for researchers to pinpoint the risk factors of infection between women, but just like with heterosexual couples, unprotected sex definitely plays into an increased risk of infection. 

"The potential for HIV transmission by female-to-female sexual contact includes unprotected exposure to vaginal or other body fluids and to blood from menstruation, or to exposure to blood from trauma during rough sex." Sharing sex toys can also play into the potential. (Via CDC)

The women described their sex life as rough at times, sometimes so rough it would induce bleeding. They also admitted to using toys and having unprotected sex while on their periods. (Via YouTube / Boehringer Ingelheim

As a writer for Jezebel puts it, "​While this case doesn't suggest that the risk factor for women who have sex with women is any higher than it was known to be before, it's a helpful reminder that no one is immune to STI." 

<![CDATA[5-Second Rule Backed Up By Science]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 15:16:00 -0500
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We’ve all done it — drop your food on the floor, scramble to pick it up and keep eating it because of the 5 second rule. Well, new research says the 5 second rule might actually be legit.

“Researchers at Aston University in England studied how quickly food picks up bacteria when it falls on the floor. They found out the less time food spends on the floor, the less germs it gets. We all knew that, right?” (Via KXAS)

Researchers also found what type of floor you drop your food on makes a big difference. Carpet is less likely to transfer bacteria than laminate and tiled floors. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Sfaurch480, Wikimedia Commons / Parvathisri)

And what you drop also matters because moist foods picked up bacteria faster than dry foods. (Via Wikimedia Commons / ProjectManhattan)

So the moral of the study is the faster you pick it up, the better you are give or take a few factors.

But before you eagerly reach for that dropped piece of food, the study’s lead researcher has a disclaimer. (Via Physician News)

Consuming food dropped on the floor still carries an infection risk as it very much depends on which bacteria are present on the floor at the time.” (Via Aston University)

So, there essentially is a risk every time for bacteria that could get you sick, regardless of how long your food has been on the floor. But we’re going to agree with TIME on this one who says despite the study, “we’re not taking any chances.”

Now before you say you never use the 5 second rule, the study also said 87% of the people they surveyed admitted to doing it, with women slightly more likely to use it than men.