“We are interested in the biological material an infant inhales, especially during their first year of life when they are crawling. Many studies have shown that inhalation exposure to microbes and allergen-carrying particles in that portion of life plays a significant role in both the development of, and protection from, asthma and allergic diseases…”…“There are studies that have shown that being exposed to a high diversity and concentration of biological materials may reduce the prevalence of asthma and allergies later in life.”
Go ahead! Keep texting and your head will fall off
“It is an epidemic. Or, at least, it’s very common,” New York-based spine surgeon Kenneth Hansraj told The Washington Post last week. He was referring to something that is being called “text neck,” a purported condition of the spine related to the posture of bending forward to look at a phone…
…It was an interesting account of the suggestions of one private-practice neurosurgeon. But the post and the illustration spread widely around the Internet, and the stakes elevated quickly.
In the past week, the study and the diagram have been published by hundreds of outlets, including The Chicago Tribune, Slate, NPR, Business Insider, The Sydney Morning Herald, NBC News, The Globe and Mail, Today, Time, Yahoo, Shape, BuzzFeed, The Huffington Post, and many others. New York’s headline, for example, was “Look at How Texting Is Warping Your Spine.” At several publications, the story was the most popular post on the site. With claims of epidemic and implications of serious spinal damage, the story has elevated to something that maybe warrants a closer look.
Hunching over isn’t ideal, and it’s worth thinking about sitting or standing up straight when possible. But our necks are made to bend forward, and it’s not something that’s new to humans. Texting invokes the same posture as holding a book.
Or a baby.
Or a rock…
The reality is that an axial load, one applied from the top down onto the spine, at the weights in question is not dangerous. “People can carry a lot more than 60 pounds on top of their head if it’s actually an axial load,” neurosurgeon Ian Dorward said, noting that people have evolved to have their heads flexed in a variety of different angles and postures without issue…
For most people, though, the point remains that good posture is generally good when possible, but texting is not an imminent threat to spinal health.
RTFA for all the details of an unnecessary flap over a non-problem.
Flights rerouted around Alaska beaches crowded with walrus climate refugees
The plight of thousands of walruses forced to crowd on to an Alaska beach because of disappearing sea ice has set off an all-out response from the US government to avoid a catastrophic stampede.
The Federal Aviation Authority has re-routed flights, and local communities have called on bush pilots to keep their distance in an effort to avoid setting off a panic that could see scores of walruses trampled to death…
Curiosity seekers and the media have also been asked to stay away.
An estimated 35,000 walruses were spotted on the barrier island in north-western Alaska on 27 September by scientists on an aerial survey flight.
The biggest immediate risk factor for the walruses now is a stampede – especially for baby walruses – but they have been facing a growing threat from climate change, the scientists said.
The extraordinary sighting – the biggest known exodus of walruses to dry land ever observed in the Arctic under US control – arrived as the summer sea ice fell to its sixth lowest in the satellite record last month.
“Those animals have essentially run out of offshore sea ice, and have no other choice but to come ashore,” said Chadwick Jay, a research ecologist in Alaska with the US Geological Survey.
Read the whole sad article.
The only animal that our politicians worry about is the bloodsuckers who fund their endless election campaigns.
Scientists uncover essentially invisible motion in magnified video
A 30-second video of a newborn baby shows the infant silently snoozing in its crib, his breathing barely perceptible. But when the video is run through an algorithm that can amplify both movement and color, the baby’s face blinks crimson with each tiny heartbeat.
The amplification process is called Eulerian Video Magnification, and is the brainchild of a team of scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.
The team originally developed the program to monitor neonatal babies without making physical contact. But they quickly learned that the algorithm can be applied to other videos to reveal changes imperceptible to the naked eye. Prof. William T. Freeman, a leader on the team, imagines its use in search and rescue, so that rescuers could tell from a distance if someone trapped on a ledge, say, is still breathing…
The system works by homing in on specific pixels in a video over the course of time. Frame-by-frame, the program identifies minute changes in color and then amplifies them up to 100 times, turning, say, a subtle shift toward pink to a bright crimson…In one video presented by the scientists, a stationary crane sits on a construction site, so still it could be a photograph. But once run through the program, the crane appears to sway precariously in the wind, perhaps tipping workers off to a potential hazard.
It is important to note that the crane does not actually move as much as the video seems to show. It is the process of motion amplification that gives the crane its movement.
The program originally gained attention last summer when the team presented it at the annual computer graphics conference known as Siggraph in Los Angeles.
Since then, the M.I.T. team has improved the algorithm to achieve better quality results, with significant improvements in clarity and accuracy.
First, it’s great knowing that Siggraph still rocks, still a regular part of the future of computing.
Second, we’re witnessing one more of an endless stream of concepts that become more than daydreams with the sort of computing horsepower it is possible to put into motion. What’s next?
Insights in human knowledge from the
mouths minds of babies
Seated in a cheerfully cramped monitoring room at the Harvard University Laboratory for Developmental Studies, Elizabeth S. Spelke, a professor of psychology and a pre-eminent researcher of the basic ingredient list from which all human knowledge is constructed, looked on expectantly as her students prepared a boisterous 8-month-old girl with dark curly hair for the onerous task of watching cartoons.
The video clips featured simple Keith Haring-type characters jumping, sliding and dancing from one group to another. The researchers’ objective, as with half a dozen similar projects under way in the lab, was to explore what infants understand about social groups and social expectations.
Yet even before the recording began, the 15-pound research subject made plain the scope of her social brain. She tracked conversations, stared at newcomers and burned off adult corneas with the brilliance of her smile. Dr. Spelke, who first came to prominence by delineating how infants learn about objects, numbers, the lay of the land, shook her head in self-mocking astonishment.
“Why did it take me 30 years to start studying this?” she said. “All this time I’ve been giving infants objects to hold, or spinning them around in a room to see how they navigate, when what they really wanted to do was engage with other people..!”
Spain arrests 80-year-old nun — head of baby-selling racket
Portrait of fascist Franco proudly displaying his Catholic Papal medal
An 80-year-old nun has become the first person to be accused of baby snatching in the scandal over the trafficking of newborns in Spanish hospitals.
Sister María Gómez has been formally named as a suspect in the investigation into one of more than 1,500 cases of suspected illegal trafficking of babies who were stolen, sold or given away by adoption over four decades until the 1980s.
Although the nun’s name appears in many of the complaints made by those seeking lost children, the accusation centres on a single case involving María Luisa Torres and her 29-year-old daughter, Pilar. They were reunited eight months ago after families affected by the trafficking began campaigning for the truth…
Torres told the magistrate she had contacted Gómez after separating from her husband and becoming pregnant by another man. The nun, who worked with two Madrid clinics in the 1970s and 80s, had placed ads in local newspapers offering to help single mothers. Torres said Gómez promised to put the baby in an orphanage where she could visit her until she was able to look after the child herself. But after the birth Gómez told her the baby had been given to another family.
When Torres complained, the nun allegedly threatened to denounce her for the crime of infidelity and have her other daughter, born to her first husband, taken away. “Her words were: ‘I’m taking this one away and I can take the other one too. And then you’ll go to jail,'” Torres told Antena 3 television…
Last year, as hundreds of alleged cases of baby snatching began to emerge, Torres’s other two daughters set out to find their lost sister. In July a TV programme put the families in contact and paid for DNA tests…
It appears that what began as a system for removing babies from families deemed politically dangerous by the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco allegedly evolved into an illicit business that targeted single mothers and the poor.
In one Madrid clinic where Gómez worked it is alleged that doctors kept a baby’s corpse to show to mothers as proof that their child had died.
Anyone surprised that segments of the Catholic church which officially collaborated with the fascist Franco dictatorship eventually settled into criminal enterprise?
Prescription drug junkie births are as disturbing as deaths
According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription drug overdose deaths in Florida are up a staggering 265% since 2003. But it’s not just the deaths that have Florida officials worried; it’s the births.
“We saw the number of crack babies that died, and this is just another version of that,” Broward County Sheriff Al Lamberti said. “We all need to be concerned.”
According to state health records, 635 Florida babies were born addicted to prescription drugs in the first half of 2010 alone. South Florida doctors and intensive care nurses report an dramatic uptick in babies born hooked on pills that their mothers abused while pregnant.
“They go through withdrawal symptoms,” said Mary Osuch, the head nurse at Broward General Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit. “They’re crampy, miserable. They sweat. They can have rapid breathing. Sometimes, they can even have seizures…”
Marsha Currant, who runs the Susan B. Anthony Recovery Center near Fort Lauderdale, says prescription drug addiction overtook crack in 2009 as the main problem afflicting the pregnant women who are treated there…
Currant says new mothers who are hooked on prescription drugs are often reluctant to seek help for fear the authorities will take their babies from them.
“We wanted to have a place where women didn’t have to chose between getting treatment and having their children go into foster care,” she said.
Compounding the problem, women who are addicted to prescription drugs and find themselves pregnant cannot safely go off the drugs without medical supervision. They need to be weaned off slowly, or the baby will go into withdrawal in the womb.
Yes, Florida has a Tea Party governor who made his billions dispensing drugs. He’s so “serious” about the problem that he actually says stuff about it. And had to be dragged kicking and screaming into signing a bill requiring a statewide database tracking pill prescriptions. He calls it an invasion of privacy.
Meanwhile, Florida is the pill center of America. A situation which reflects a lax medical community as a whole – and a governor whose walk-in clinics established the record for the largest fine ever paid for Medicare fraud.
Malaysia Airlines banning babies in first class on long flights
Malaysia Airlines will ban babies from traveling first class on its Airbus A380 super jumbo jets…
The decision comes after the airline banned babies from the first class section of its fleet of Boeing 747-400 jets…
The airline ordered six A380s and the first is expected to be delivered in June 2012. “We’re planning to stick to our policy for now,” CEO Tengku Azmil told Australian Business Traveller in a Twitter exchange when asked whether the first class section of its A380 planes will have bassinets…
Some Twitter users questioned why the airline doesn’t try other nursing techniques, such as employing sky nannies and distributing baby blankets.
Defending his policy, Azmil said that while it was “a tough call,” it addresses complaints from first class passengers that they spend a lot of money on first class travel but are often unable to sleep because of wailing infants.
Instead, babies and their parents will now need to fly in the airline’s business and economy classes.
I think I’ll skip a smart-ass comment on this one. Certainly, I appreciate some level of accommodation for air passengers. I’m not at all certain everything should be decided on the basis of profit and class.
Dependent on prescription drugs – before they are born
Administering methadone to a 4-week-old infant
As prescription drug abuse ravages communities across the country, doctors are confronting an emerging challenge: newborns dependent on painkillers…Infants…have to stay in the hospital for weeks while they are weaned off the drugs, taxing neonatal units and driving the cost of their medical care into the tens of thousands of dollars.
Like the cocaine-exposed babies of the 1980s, those born dependent on prescription opiates — narcotics that contain opium or its derivatives — are entering a world in which little is known about the long-term effects on their development. Few doctors are even willing to treat pregnant opiate addicts, and there is no universally accepted standard of care for their babies, partly because of the difficulty of conducting research on pregnant women and newborns.
Those who do treat pregnant addicts face a jarring ethical quandary: they must weigh whether the harm inflicted by exposing a fetus to powerful drugs, albeit under medical supervision, is justifiable.
“I’ve had pharmacies that have just called back and said: ‘This lady’s pregnant. Why do you want me to fill this scrip? I can’t do that,’ ” said Dr. Craig Smith, a family practitioner in Bridgton, Me. “But when you stop and think about what actually happens during withdrawal and how violent it can be, that would certainly be not in the baby’s best interest…”
There are no national figures that document the extent of the problem, but interviews with doctors, researchers, social workers and women who abused painkillers while pregnant suggest that it has grown rapidly, especially in rural regions, where officials say such abuse is most common…
RTFA. Please. This is an addictive disaster that is not slowing down in the least.
Wanted: 100,000 volunteers, all pregnant
Alejandra agreed to be part of the study when she was pregnant. Isabella was born in August.
Although Alejandra was exactly what the scientists were looking for — a pregnant woman — she was “a bit scared,” she said, about giving herself and her unborn child to science for 21 years.
Researchers would collect and analyze her vaginal fluid, toenail clippings, breast milk and other things, and ask about everything from possible drug use to depression. At the birth, specimen collectors would scoop up her placenta and even her baby’s first feces for scientific posterity.
“Nowadays there are so many scams,” Alejandra said in Spanish, and her husband, José, “initially didn’t want me to do the study.” (Scientists said research confidentiality rules required that her last name be withheld.) But she ultimately decided that participating would “help the next generation.”
Chalk one up for the scientists, who for months have been dispatching door-to-door emissaries across the country to recruit women like Alejandra for an unprecedented undertaking: the largest, most comprehensive long-term study of the health of children, beginning even before they are born.
Authorized by Congress in 2000, the National Children’s Study began last January, its projected cost swelling to about $6.7 billion. With several hundred participants so far, it aims to enroll 100,000 pregnant women in 105 counties, then monitor their babies until they turn 21.
It will examine how environment, genes and other factors affect children’s health, tackling questions subject to heated debate and misinformation. Does pesticide exposure, for example, cause asthma? Do particular diets or genetic mutations lead to autism…?
Study officials are trying to determine what information to give participants and when. Some experts say people should get results of their chemical or genetic tests only if medical treatments exist because otherwise it only causes anxiety. Others agree with Patricia O’Campo, a member of the study’s advisory committee and the independent panel, who says the study should be “less ivory towerish” and disclose more information to families and communities.
RTFA. Interesting. If you’re interested in advancing knowledge, health, through science, it’s more than worthy of support.
OTOH, I expect the most sectarian nutballs, libertarian paranoids and old-fashioned Luddites will reject any notion of cooperating with such a study.