Four-month-old baby panda named Peanut


Click to enlargeDaily Mail UK

Realized we haven’t had a panda picture here in a spell. This is from the Daily Mail.

Força Chapecoense

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Click to enlargeFernando Remor/EPA

“Que essa seja a última imagem dos nosso guerreiros”

❝ Police in Colombia have confirmed that at least 75 people were killed when a plane carrying, among other passengers and crew, the first-team squad of Brazilian top-flight team Chapecoense, went down close to the town of Cerro Gordo in the early hours of Tuesday. Initial reports said there were six survivors, including players and a travelling journalist, but police said one person had died in hospital. The plane was carrying 72 passengers and nine crew members.

❝ Based in the city of Chapecó in the state of Santa Carina, Chapecoense were en route to Medellín to play the first leg of the final of this year’s Copa Sudamericana (South America’s answer to the Europa League), against the current Copa Libertadores holders Atlético Nacional. Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper reported there were 22 players from the squad on board as well as 22 football journalists. A 23rd Chapecoense player, whom the newspaper did not name, had been supposed to travel with his team-mates but was not on the plane…

Team sports are a special part of athletic life. They were a year-round part of my childhood. Growing up when I did, where I did, meant The Beautiful Game wasn’t central to my young life. For most of the world – that centrality would be automatic.

Once in a great while a disaster claims the lives of athletes, a whole team, managers, medicos, trainers, heros and hardly-ever starters. They had a life together that also was something with a life of its own. And now death.

A new way to die in the West — thanks to Colorado

❝ Apart from the presidency, Tuesday’s election offered some interesting results for the way Americans meet their ends. In Nebraska, Oklahoma and California, voters supported restoring or accelerating the death penalty.

Meanwhile in Colorado, voters approved a measure that will allow terminally ill people to end their own lives. This makes it the sixth state to offer such an option.

❝ Assisted suicide allows a terminally ill person to buy — with a doctor’s permission and evaluation — a barbiturate, usually pentobarbital or secobarbital. These drugs depress central nervous system function, and can be used as anti-convulsants or anesthetics. At high doses, they cause death.

Colorado’s ballot initiative passed overwhelmingly, with two-thirds of voters in support and just one-third opposed…

❝ Colorado’s new law was modeled after Oregon’s “Death with Dignity” law, which passed 22 years ago. The much-publicized assisted death of 29-year-old Brittany Maynard in that state was a central aspect of the campaign in Colorado; her husband, Dan Diaz, has been working to change the law in other states…

California, Vermont and Washington have similar laws that allow some form of medical aid in dying. In Montana, people can be given the option through case-by-case court approval. Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Switzerland also allow medically assisted death…

Nicest thing about the Colorado law? C’mon, you already know the answer to this one. In Colorado you can get stoned on the way out – making the experience a bit easier on the decision-maker.

Scientists have identified how cigarettes damage your DNA

❝ The dangers of smoking tobacco are undeniable — it kills more than 480,000 in the US alone each year. Scientists have known for a while that smoking tobacco causes significant damage to the body; as well as causing or worsening respiratory and cardiovascular issues, smoking can trigger genetic mutations that can result in cancer. But the detailed mechanisms on how smoking wreaks damage on the body’s DNA have remained somewhat elusive.

❝ There’s finally some clarity in a new study, which provides a comprehensive picture on the devastating impact of smoking. People who smoke a pack a day (20 cigarettes) for a year develop the following mutations every year:

150 extra mutations in each lung cell
97 in each larynx cell (voice box)
23 in each mouth cell
18 in each bladder cell
six in each liver cell.

Each mutation doesn’t necessarily pose an immediate danger (most mutations are relatively harmless). But the more mutations there are, the higher the risk that accumulating mutations occur in key genes that turn cells cancerous.

❝ “You can really think of it as playing Russian roulette,” Ludmil Alexandrov, lead researcher and biologist at Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico told the Guardian. “You can miss the right genes. But if you smoke you still play the game. It’s a very strong message for people not to start smoking. If you smoke even a little bit you’ll erode the genetic material of most of the cells in your body.”

One of my few really bright accomplishments at an early age. Quitting smoking. Like most kids in my factory town neighborhood, I was smoking by age 12. It’s what our parents did. Made us “grown-ups”. By 20 I was smoking over 2 packs a day.

Quit cold turkey. Motivation doesn’t matter. Ayup, one of the best things I did for my own life as a young man.

Pokémon Go got you to walk 25 percent more than you used to


Ina Fried/ReCode

Pokémon Go’s creators want the hit mobile game to get people out of the house and exploring their neighborhoods. A new study confirms that’s really happening.

In “Influence of Pokémon Go on Physical Activity,” researchers from Microsoft Research and Stanford University studied, over the course of a month, how many steps were recorded by the Microsoft Bands — wearable activity trackers — belonging to Pokémon Go fans. The most engaged fans of the game walked 25 percent more than they did before Pokémon Go’s release…

All told, the study estimates that Pokémon Go players across the U.S. walked an additional 144 billion steps in the game’s first month in the wild. It says that if those players were to keep up the same level of increased activity over a longer period of time, they could add nearly three billion years, collectively, to their lifespans.

I’m a lifetime walking addict. Count in miles spent backpacking, hillwalking, hiking, walking because because I found an interesting place to walk, etc…I’ve spent a good piece of my waking hours walking. It all helps.

Looks like exercise turns white fat into brown — that’s a good thing!

❝ Exercise may aid in weight control and help to fend off diabetes by improving the ability of fat cells to burn calories, a new study reports. It may do this in part by boosting levels of a hormone called irisin, which is produced during exercise and which may help to turn ordinary white fat into much more metabolically active brown fat…

❝ Irisin…entered the scientific literature in 2012 after researchers from Harvard and other universities published a study in Nature that showed the previously unknown hormone was created in working muscles in mice. From there, it would enter the bloodstream and migrate to other tissues, particularly to fat, where it would jump-start a series of biochemical processes that caused some of the fat cells, normally white, to turn brown.

Brown fat, which is actually brown in color, burns calories. It also is known to contribute to improved insulin and blood sugar control, lessening the risk for Type 2 diabetes. Most babies, including human infants, are plump with brown fat, but we humans lose most of our brown fat as we grow up. By the time we are adults, we usually retain very little brown fat.

❝ In the 2012 study, the researchers reported that if they injected irisin into living mice, it not only turned some white fat into brown fat, it apparently also prevented the rodents from becoming obese, even on a high-fat, high-calorie diet.

But in the years since, some scientists have questioned whether irisin affects fat cells in people to the same extent as it seems to in mice — and even whether the hormone exists in people at all.

❝ A study published last year in Cell Metabolism by the same group of researchers who had conducted the first irisin study, however, does seem to have established that irisin is produced in humans. They found some irisin in sedentary people, but the levels were much higher in those who exercise often

❝ So for the new study, which was published in August in the American Journal of Physiology — Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers at the University of Florida turned to white fat tissue from women who had undergone breast reduction surgery at the university hospital (with permission) and also to a very small amount of brown fat from people who had had surgery to treat kidney cancer. Most of our meager stores of brown fat cluster around our kidneys.

The researchers, who had previously studied irisin’s effects in mice, had a form of the human hormone available and now set out to marinate the fat cells with it, using three different dosages…

❝ The results strongly indicate that irisin nudges human white fat to become brown and also suppresses the formation of new white fat, says Li-Jun Yang, a professor of hematopathology at the University of Florida and senior author of the study (which was funded by the scientists themselves). It also seems to promote the formation of bone…

But these were living cells, not living bodies, and the effects of irisin in actual people still need to be established, she says, especially since many studies have shown that exercise rarely results in significant weight loss. Scientists also do not know what types of exercise lead to the greatest production of irisin or what amount of irisin might be ideal for health purposes…

❝ But even now, the science related to irisin is compelling enough, she says, that “my advice is, exercise as much as you can. We know it’s healthy and now we’re beginning to understand better why.”

RTFA for the details. Nothing unsurprising if you’ve read along from earlier studies. I blogged about the original study, hopes, conjecture. And I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Yang.