Diagnosis: Broken-Heart Syndrome

Dorothy Lee and her husband of 40 years were driving home from a Bible study group one wintry night when their car suddenly hit the curb. Mrs. Lee looked at her husband, who was driving, and saw his head bob a couple of times and fall on his chest.

In the ensuing minutes, Mrs. Lee recalls, she managed to avoid a crash while stopping the car, called 911 on her cellphone and tried to revive her husband before an ambulance arrived. But at the hospital, soon after learning her husband had died of a heart attack, Mrs. Lee’s heart appeared to give out as well. She experienced sudden sharp pains in her chest, felt faint and went unconscious.

When doctors performed an X-ray angiogram expecting to find and treat a blood clot that had caused Mrs. Lee’s symptoms, they were surprised: There wasn’t any evidence of a heart attack. Her coronary arteries were completely clear.

Doctors eventually determined that Mrs. Lee had suffered from broken-heart syndrome, a name given by doctors who observed that it seemed to especially affect patients who had recently lost a spouse or other family member. The mysterious malady mimics heart attacks, but appears to have little connection with coronary artery disease. Instead, it is typically triggered by acute emotion or physical trauma that releases a surge of adrenaline that overwhelms the heart. The effect is to freeze much of the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber, disrupting its ability to contract and effectively pump blood.

The phenomenon is a “concussion” of the heart, says Scott Sharkey, a cardiologist at Minneapolis Heart Institute. “It’s really a heart attack which is triggered by stress rather than by a blocked artery,” he says.

Diagnosis: Broken-Heart Syndrome – WSJ.com.

The Recent Future / February 10, 2010 / Health / 0 Comments

Google leaps language barrier with translator phone

GOOGLE is developing software for the first phone capable of translating foreign languages almost instantly — like the Babel Fish in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

By building on existing technologies in voice recognition and automatic translation, Google hopes to have a basic system ready within a couple of years. If it works, it could eventually transform communication among speakers of the world’s 6,000-plus languages.

The company has already created an automatic system for translating text on computers, which is being honed by scanning millions of multi-lingual websites and documents. So far it covers 52 languages, adding Haitian Creole last week.

Google also has a voice recognition system that enables phone users to conduct web searches by speaking commands into their phones rather than typing them in.

via Google leaps language barrier with translator phone – Times Online.

The Recent Future / February 8, 2010 / SciFi, Star Trek Did It!, Tech / 0 Comments

Water Freezes When Heated

Usually water freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit and temperatures below that. But now scientists – reporting today in the journal Science — have found a way to keep water in a liquid form at -40 degrees F. What’s more, the scientists have found another way to make the water freeze when it’s heated. It’s a curious phenomenon to say the least, but the results could have implications for computer climate modeling. Igor Lubomirsky and his colleagues from Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science achieved this unusual feat using dust-free water on materials called pyroelectric amorphous solids, which change their electrical charge depending on their temperature.

One of the materials the scientists looked at was lithium tantalate. At 12 degrees F, the material has a negative charge. But raise the temperature to 17.6 degrees F, and it has a positive charge.

When the scientists put dust-free water on the material, the freezing point no longer was the normal 32 degrees. In fact, the freezing point depended on the charge. The scientists were able to supercool the water down -40 F without it freezing.

A negative charge did the opposite. So when they applied a negative charge to the surface, thereby raising the temperature to 17, the “heated” water froze.

via Water Freezes When Heated : Discovery News.

The Recent Future / February 5, 2010 / Nature, SciFi / 0 Comments

Electric Icarus: NASA Designs a One-Man Stealth Plane: Scientific American

A super-quiet, hover-capable aircraft design, NASA’s experimental one-man Puffin could show just how much electric propulsion can transform our ideas of flight. It looks like nothing less than a flying suit or a jet pack with a cockpit.

On the ground, the Puffin is designed to stand on its tail, which splits into four legs to help serve as landing gear. As a pilot prepares to take off, flaps on the wings would tilt to deflect air from the 2.3-meter-wide propeller rotors upward, keeping the plane on the ground until it was ready to fly and preventing errant gusts from tipping it over. The Puffin would rise, hover and then lean over to fly horizontally, with the pilot lying prone as if in a glider. When landing, the extending spring legs would support the 3.7-meter-long, 4.1-meter-wingspan craft, which is designed with carbon-fiber composites to weigh in at 135 kilograms, not including 45 kilograms of rechargeable lithium phosphate batteries.

In principle, the Puffin can cruise at 240 kilometers per hour and dash at more than 480 kph. It has no flight ceiling—it is not air-breathing like gas engines are, and thus is not limited by thin air—so it could go up to about 9,150 meters before its energy runs low enough to drive it to descend. With current state-of-the-art batteries, it has a range of just 80 kilometers if cruising, “but many researchers are proposing a tripling of current battery energy densities in the next five to seven years, so we could see a range of 240 to 320 kilometers by 2017,” says researcher Mark Moore, an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. He and his colleagues will officially unveil the Puffin design on January 20 at an American Helicopter Society meeting in San Francisco.

via Electric Icarus: NASA Designs a One-Man Stealth Plane: Scientific American.

The Recent Future / January 21, 2010 / SciFi, Tech / 0 Comments

Green Sea Slug Is Part Animal, Part Plant

Green Sea SlugIt’s easy being green for a sea slug that has stolen enough genes to become the first animal shown to make chlorophyll like a plant.

Shaped like a leaf itself, the slug Elysia chlorotica already has a reputation for kidnapping the photosynthesizing organelles and some genes from algae. Now it turns out that the slug has acquired enough stolen goods to make an entire plant chemical-making pathway work inside an animal body, says Sidney K. Pierce of the University of South Florida in Tampa.

The slugs can manufacture the most common form of chlorophyll, the green pigment in plants that captures energy from sunlight, Pierce reported January 7 at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. Pierce used a radioactive tracer to show that the slugs were making the pigment, called chlorophyll a, themselves and not simply relying on chlorophyll reserves stolen from the algae the slugs dine on.

“This could be a fusion of a plant and an animal — that’s just cool,” said invertebrate zoologist John Zardus of The Citadel in Charleston, S.C.

Microbes swap genes readily, but Zardus said he couldn’t think of another natural example of genes flowing between multicellular kingdoms.

Pierce emphasized that this green slug goes far beyond animals such as corals that host live-in microbes that share the bounties of their photosynthesis. Most of those hosts tuck in the partner cells whole in crevices or pockets among host cells. Pierce’s slug, however, takes just parts of cells, the little green photosynthetic organelles called chloroplasts, from the algae it eats. The slug’s highly branched gut network engulfs these stolen bits and holds them inside slug cells.

Some related slugs also engulf chloroplasts but E. chlorotica alone preserves the organelles in working order for a whole slug lifetime of nearly a year. The slug readily sucks the innards out of algal filaments whenever they’re available, but in good light, multiple meals aren’t essential. Scientists have shown that once a young slug has slurped its first chloroplast meal from one of its few favored species of Vaucheria algae, the slug does not have to eat again for the rest of its life. All it has to do is sunbathe.

But the chloroplasts need a continuous supply of chlorophyll and other compounds that get used up during photosynthesis. Back in their native algal cells, chloroplasts depended on algal cell nuclei for the fresh supplies. To function so long in exile, “chloroplasts might have taken a go-cup with them when they left the algae,” Pierce said.

There have been previous hints, however, that the chloroplasts in the slug don’t run on stored-up supplies alone. Starting in 2007, Pierce and his colleagues, as well as another team, found several photosynthesis-related genes in the slugs apparently lifted directly from the algae. Even unhatched sea slugs, which have never encountered algae, carry “algal” photosynthetic genes.

via Green Sea Slug Is Part Animal, Part Plant | Wired Science | Wired.com.

The Recent Future / January 11, 2010 / Nature, SciFi / 0 Comments

Alcohol substitute that avoids drunkenness and hangovers in development

The new substance could have the added bonus of being “switched off” instantaneously with a pill, to allow drinkers to drive home or return to work.

The synthetic alcohol, being developed from chemicals related to Valium, works like alcohol on nerves in the brain that provide a feeling of wellbeing and relaxation.

But unlike alcohol its does not affect other parts of the brain that control mood swings and lead to addiction. It is also much easier to flush out of the body.

Finally because it is much more focused in its effects, it can also be switched off with an antidote, leaving the drinker immediately sober.

The new alcohol is being developed by a team at Imperial College London, led by Professor David Nutt, Britain’s top drugs expert who was recently sacked as a government adviser for his comments about cannabis and ecstasy.

He envisions a world in which people could drink without getting drunk, he said.

No matter how many glasses they had, they would remain in that pleasant state of mild inebriation and at the end of an evening out, revellers could pop a sober-up pill that would let them drive home.

via Alcohol substitute that avoids drunkenness and hangovers in development – Telegraph.

The Recent Future / December 26, 2009 / SciFi, Star Trek Did It! / 0 Comments

Soviet Scientist Turns Foxes Into Puppies

Aww, aren’t those puppies cute?

Those aren’t dogs. They’re foxes, believe it or not.

In the 1950s, Soviet scientist Dmitri Belyaev set out to breed a tamer fox that would be easier for their handlers in the Russian fur industry to work with. The foxes included in his breeding experiment were determined by their temperament. To select candidates to breed, Belyaev would stick out his hand in front of foxes, and rank them based on how they reacted. The foxes that snapped or bit at his hand would be disqualified from the experiment, and the foxes that cowered or exhibited curiosity without attacking his hand would be mated together. The best behaved of the selected foxes offspring would be mated again, etc.

The scientists expected a long and tedious experiment with little immediate effects. Much to the their shock, however, noticeable changes in the foxes behavior emerged after just about 10 generations. Not only were the new foxes better behaved, they were also playful, smaller in size, and even had white patches of fur on on large swaths of their bodies. Many wagged their tails like dogs, and some even had blue eyes.

Shocked with the results, Belyaev and his team began to investigate. Testing a hypothesis, they discovered that the new ‘Silver’ foxes, had a significantly lower level of adrenaline than their original counterparts. Adrenaline directly affected the behavior of the foxes, the size the foxes grew, and somehow, the color of the foxes. Through some more testing, the scientists discovered that the level of melanin (a chemical responsible for pigmentation) in the foxes was lower as well, explaining how the foxes emerged with colors never before heard of from their breed.

Scientists theorize that the domestication of wolves to dogs probably began the same way. Generally thought to have developed their affectionate temperament over hundreds or thousands of generations, wolves could have become the dogs we know today quicker than anyone could have imagined.

via Overpill – Soviet Scientist Turns Foxes Into Puppies.

The Recent Future / December 26, 2009 / Nature / 0 Comments

Pizza Hut cheese is not just cheese, its silicone!

Pizza Hut cheese is not just cheese, its silicone!

In this issue, writer John Bunting details how Pizza Huts cheese supplier Leprino Foods uses a silicone-based industrial chemical in the patented manufacturing of Pizza Cheese

That chemical Polymethylsiloxane has no FDA approval for use as a food ingredient.

Polymethylsiloxane is sold by Dow-Corning as Antifoam FG 10 .

THIS MATERIAL IS APPROVED BY FDA FOR USE IN FOOD PLANTS ONLY AS AN ANTI-FOAMING AGENT FOR BOILER WATER.
In its patented manufacturing process, Leprino Foods liberally sprays Polydimethylsiloxane on cheese granules . Leprinos Pizza Cheese supplied to Pizza Huts contains about 900 parts per million of Polymethylsiloxane: 90 times higher residue concentration than FDA allows when Polymethylsiloxane is used as a boiler water anti- foaming agent.


Repeat: Polydimethylsiloxane has no FDA approval as a safe food ingredient. It is a violation of FDA rules to use an unapproved ingredient in human foods. Silicone is amazing stuff.

In its various forms, silicone may enhance the female anatomy (ala amply-endowed actress Pamela Anderson). Silicone products can caulk seams around the bathtub to seal out water. Silicone compounds are used for lubricants. However, using silicone products in human foods is a novel, if extra-legal, application.

Leprino Foods, the worlds largest Italian cheese manufacturer, is the nearly exclusive supplier of Pizza Cheese to the 6000+ Pizza Hut restaurants in the U.S. Leprino is based in Denver, Colorado. To control costs (and boost profits), Leprino Foods uses patented manufacturing processes that add large volumes of water, salt and food starch to so-called granules of Pizza Cheese prior to flash-freezing.

Clearly, Leprino Foods use of Dow-Corning Antifoam FG 10 as an agent contained in an aqueous solution sprayed directly on cheese granules does not conform with FDAs rules governing ingredients used in human foods.

Science & Technology | Silicone Based Chemical in Pizza Huts Cheese is Polymethylsiloxane | Science news and scientific advances

The Recent Future / December 23, 2009 / Health / 0 Comments

Scientific Link to Autism Identified

During its research into the application of neuroscience in business, a New Jersey based think tank, The Center for Modeling Optimal Outcomes®, LLC (The Center) made an inadvertent and amazing discovery.

According to The Center’s founder, William McFaul, a retired business person and not a member of the scientific community, “Because of its universal applicability, our Life Sciences group has already used the model as a tool to identify highly probable causal paths for several illnesses and disease entities. Autism was one of most difficult illnesses The Center had attempted to analyze.

If it hadn’t been for so many parents insisting that vaccines were responsible for the condition, we might never have found the fact that the stabilizer in MMR and a few other vaccines is hydrolyzed gelatin; a substance that is approximately 21% glycine. It appears that, based on readily verifiable science, the use of that form of glycine triggers an imbalance between the amino acid neurotransmitters responsible for the absorption rate of certain classes of cells throughout the body. It is that wide-spread disruption that apparently results in the systemic problems that encompass the mind and the body characterized in today’s ‘classic’ autism.” He also added, “The use of our model indicates each of the disorders within Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is attributable to different disruptions in homeostasis. We look forward

Scientific Link to Autism Identified JACKSON N.J. Nov. 18 /- During i….

The Recent Future / December 7, 2009 / Health / 0 Comments

Splitting Time from Space – New Quantum Theory Topples Einstein’s Spacetime

Was Newton right and Einstein wrong? It seems that unzipping the fabric of spacetime and harking back to 19th-century notions of time could lead to a theory of quantum gravity.

Physicists have struggled to marry quantum mechanics with gravity for decades. In contrast, the other forces of nature have obediently fallen into line. For instance, the electromagnetic force can be described quantum-mechanically by the motion of photons. Try and work out the gravitational force between two objects in terms of a quantum graviton, however, and you quickly run into trouble—the answer to every calculation is infinity. But now Petr Hořava, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, thinks he understands the problem. It’s all, he says, a matter of time.

More specifically, the problem is the way that time is tied up with space in Einstein’s theory of gravity: general relativity. Einstein famously overturned the Newtonian notion that time is absolute—steadily ticking away in the background. Instead he argued that time is another dimension, woven together with space to form a malleable fabric that is distorted by matter. The snag is that in quantum mechanics, time retains its Newtonian aloofness, providing the stage against which matter dances but never being affected by its presence. These two conceptions of time don’t gel.

The solution, Hořava says, is to snip threads that bind time to space at very high energies, such as those found in the early universe where quantum gravity rules. “I’m going back to Newton’s idea that time and space are not equivalent,” Hořava says. At low energies, general relativity emerges from this underlying framework, and the fabric of spacetime restitches, he explains.

Hořava likens this emergence to the way some exotic substances change phase. For instance, at low temperatures liquid helium’s properties change dramatically, becoming a “superfluid” that can overcome friction. In fact, he has co-opted the mathematics of exotic phase transitions to build his theory of gravity. So far it seems to be working: the infinities that plague other theories of quantum gravity have been tamed, and the theory spits out a well-behaved graviton. It also seems to match with computer simulations of quantum gravity.

More via Splitting Time from Space—New Quantum Theory Topples Einstein’s Spacetime: Scientific American.

The Recent Future / November 25, 2009 / Nature, SciFi / 0 Comments