Vaccine against cigarettes or cocaine on the way

Imagine a vaccine against smoking: People trying to quit would light up a cigarette and feel nothing. Or a vaccine against cocaine, one that would prevent addicts from enjoying the drug’s high.

Though neither is imminent, both are on the drawing board, as are vaccines to combat other addictions. While scientists have historically focused their vaccination efforts on diseases like polio, smallpox and diphtheria — with great success — they are now at work on shots that could one day release people from the grip of substance abuse…

Unlike preventive vaccines — like the familiar ones for mumps, measles and so on — this type of injection would be administered after someone had already succumbed to an addictive drug. For instance, cocaine addicts who had been vaccinated with one of Dr. Kim Janda’s formulations before they snorted cocaine reported feeling like they’d used “dirty coke,” he said. “They felt like they were wasting their money.”

The scientific principle behind Dr. Janda’s vaccines is, as he put it, “simplistically stupid.” Much like vaccines against disease, they introduce a small amount of the foreign substance into the blood, causing the immune system to create antibodies that will attack that substance the next time it appears…

The contrast, he said, is to anti-opiates like Suboxone or methadone that are currently used to treat heroin addiction. Rather than blocking the drug’s effects, they seek to replace the heroin high…

He is quick to caution that taking away someone’s ability to get high off of one drug hardly cures them of their addiction problems. There’s nothing to stop a vaccinated cocaine addict, for example, from turning to methamphetamines.

Like any anti-addiction treatment, his vaccines are simply meant as “a crutch for people wanting to go into abstinence,” Dr. Janda said. “The whole thing with addicts is you have to want to get off the drug, or it’s not going to happen.”

RTFA. Dr. Janda is at least as interesting as his work. He has a sound scientific outlook about his work, about the patients his work could be treating.

I’d say he has a sound analysis about the unlikelihood of his work ever being funded by pharmaceutical companies that want more frequent product usage to keep their pockets full enough to motivate support. His treatment once every six months probably wouldn’t be profitable enough to satisfy corporate medicine.

China rushes to become an urban nation at breakneck speed

Every few minutes another car brakes sharply as it reaches Tangbaguan on Guiyang’s new ring road. Another driver does a double-take. The dual carriageway ends abruptly in a narrow dirt track twisting downwards through heaps of rubble.

The city is eating hungrily into the hillsides, swallowing up maize fields and rice terraces in loops of tarmac and towers of concrete and glass. But the pace of change is so rapid, the transition so sharp, that its citizens are increasingly bewildered by their surroundings. Some, like the migrant workers building the roads, are new to city life. Others no longer recognise their hometown as it sprawls across the land.

This is the year China finally became an urban nation. In April the census revealed that 49.7% of its 1.34 billion population was living in cities, compared with around a fifth as economic reforms got off the ground in 1982. By now, China’s urbanites outnumber their country cousins. “The process they have been going through over three decades took four or five decades in Japan and [South] Korea and 100 years in the west,” says Edward Leman, whose Chreod consultancy has advised numerous Chinese cities on development.

It is not only the extraordinary speed that is “unprecedented and unparalleled”, says Prof Paul James of the Global Cities Institute at RMIT University in Melbourne. “It represents the most managed process of urbanisation in human history. The state is involved in every way. It manages the building of new cities. It regulates the housing of internally displaced people. It responds actively and sometimes oppressively to new waves of squatters.”

The new five-year plan pushes urbanisation even further, as the government seeks to raise living standards and promote development in the poorer central and western regions. A hard landing for the economy could slow this process – local government debt is a particular worry – but will not stop it…

And don’t hold your breath expecting a hard landing.

Continue reading

Mexico City considers renewable marriage licenses

The Roman Catholic Church reacted harshly [predictably]… to a bill proposed by Mexico City legislators that would require all couples to sign a prenuptial agreement specifying how to handle child custody and other issues in case of divorce — and estimating how long the marriage is expected to last.

Sponsors of the bill submitted this week in the city council say the proposal aims to cut down on the lengthy, nasty divorce proceedings choking the capital district’s courts, by making potential couples decide about monetary and custody issues by mutual agreement before they get married.

But the bill also says “the duration of the marriage will be bound by the terms that the couple negotiate in the familial agreement, which shall not be less than two years…”

“People can specify terms of 99 years, or ’til death do us part,’ if they think the marriage, or their lives, are going to last that long,” Carlos Torres said.

Catholic leaders don’t see it that way…

“This is a proposal made by people who do not understand the nature of marriage,” Valdemar said. “It is not a commercial contract; it is a contract between two people for a life project, and the creation of a family.”

“This denigrates the concept of the family … and makes it more like a pact between friends,” he said…

Equal friends at that. Interested in running their own lives as they see fit – instead of leaving everything in the hands of a sectarian rulebook from the 14th Century.

We are looking for solutions to problems that are seen every day in family courts … in which there is emotional blackmail, or the children are used as pawns,” Torres said. “This would cut down of the torturous proceedings at the time of a divorce.”

The bill is meant to solve a big problem in the city of 8.9 million people, where divorce proceedings are so costly, painful and time consuming that many people just skip them and start a new family.

The Roman Catholic church has always opposed democracy and the freedom of individuals to order their own lives. The obvious decline of their power and profits speaks volumes of how that opposition has failed.

That the proposed legislation also allows for parents to agree beforehand on what religious education – if any – their children might endure is another challenge to the church’s political power. As it should.

First photos from ALMA radio telescope array

Combined view of the Antennae Galaxies, ALMA and Hubble

After years of planning, construction and assembly, a gigantic observatory billed as the world’s most complex array of ground-based telescopes has opened its eyes in South America and captured its first image.

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array, or ALMA, is now officially open for business high in the Chilean Andes. The huge $1.3 billion radio telescope, a collaboration of many nations and institutions, should help astronomers explore some of the coldest and most distant objects in the universe, researchers said…

To mark the moment, scientists released an early image snapped by ALMA. It shows the Antennae Galaxies (also known as NGC 4038 and 4039), a pair of colliding spiral galaxies found about 70 million light-years away in the constellation Corvus (The Crow)…

ALMA is a complex of 12-meter radio telescopes sitting at an elevation of 5,000 meters on the Chajnantor plateau in northern Chile. These individual antennas each pick up light in the millimeter/submillimeter range — about 1,000 times longer than visible-light wavelengths.

Observing in these long wavelengths will allow ALMA to detect extremely cold objects, such as the gas clouds from which stars and planets form, researchers said. The observatory should also be able to peer at very distant objects, opening a window in the early universe.

Rock on, ALMA. Basic science, basic research into astrophysics and astronomy will serve mankind well – as it always does.

I’m exceedingly jealous of the geeks who get to work there – whatever the job description.

An untold tale of September 11th


I’ve mentioned before that I grew up subsistence fishing on the New England coast. I come from island people – on my father’s side of the family.

Prince Edward Isle up in Canada. South Uist in the Outer Hebrides before that. And no matter what you do for a living the sea is an integral part of your life.

These are the some of the people who work on the water – who helped folks on the morning of 9/11.

Thanks, Ursarodina

Man drops daughter trying to catch foul ball

A baseball fan in Taiwan dropped his toddler daughter while trying to catch a foul ball.

Cameras at the televised game between the Taipei Brother Elephants and Taoyuan’s Lamigo Monkeys, also caught the fan’s wife shouting at him afterwards.

Mr Bai later said “I was going to catch the ball using one hand but ended up lifting both hands and dropped my daughter.”

The girl said she slightly hurt one leg but was otherwise unhurt.

Do not miss the look – that look, dumbass – and somewhat “corrective” words from this guy’s wife at the end.