Friday, June 29, 2007

Genetics in the news, 3 studies

1. Human migration traced by mutations in maternal genes

From wired:

Researchers collected mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, from nearly 80,000 people, who received a report on how their ancestors came to live where they live.
[They gathered this information into a database, called The Genographic Project].

The database is the tip of the iceberg for a burgeoning field of science called genetic anthropology, which involves combining DNA data with physical evidence and histories of past civilizations. The database contains more samples than in any previous collection of its kind. As scientists study it further, they expect a detailed history of human migration in Europe will emerge.

This database and publication is freely available at PLoS (a peer-reviewed open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science) today.

2. Alcohol abuse risk is genetic
From physorg:
According to a study by the research group "Alcoholism and drug addiction", of the University of Granada (Universidad de Granada), although there are no specific reasons to become an alcoholic, many social, family, environmental, and genetic factors may contribute to its development. Thanks to this study, researchers have shown that the lack of endorphin is hereditary, and thus that there is a genetic predisposition to become addicted to alcohol.
They found that beta-endorphin levels of chronic alcoholics is lower than that of the general population. They determined that low beta-endorphin levels are associated with higher likelihood of alcohol addiction, and that the beta-endorphin levels are pre-set by birth.

3. Breast cancer development and prognosis is genetic
Also from physorg:
The chances of developing breast cancer are to some extent inherited, but important new findings suggest survival also runs in the family. Research published in the online journal Breast Cancer Research suggests that if a woman succumbs to breast cancer her daughters or sisters are over 60 percent more likely to die within five years if they develop the disease.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Exercise, the natural antidepressant: helping grow new brain cells

From Science Daily:
Exercise has a similar effect to antidepressants on depression. This has been shown by previous research. Now Astrid Bjørnebekk at Karolinska Institutet has explained how this can happen: exercise stimulates the production of new brain cells.
Though this study was done in rats, it did show that both exercise and antidepressant medications increase the formation of new cells in an area of the brain that is important to memory and learning.

Too bad HMOs don't include gym memberships in their coverage plans. Maybe someone should start an exercise rewards program. I remember enjoying the summer reading programs from the public library as a child. You would get a stamp for each book you read, and after a certain number of stamps, you could redeem them for prizes.

CDC Disease Cards

That's right, the Center for Disease Control has created a set of collectible cards of infectious disesases.

Originally designed for middle school students, these cards have already sold out. Fortunately, you can freely download and print these .pdf files from the CDC website.

My first instructables post: practice poi

A wonderful community website for sharing projects, instructions, and collaborative creativity.

Here is my first instructables contribution:
Quick, easy practice poi for under $5

For more on poi, check out

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Dream sharing website/community

Just what it sounds like, a place to ramble about your dreams, and have strangers and the 'dreamopedia' reference analyze it for you.

From the dreamcrowd intro screen:

Dreamcrowd is most certainly one of the most unique online communities in the world. It is based on the dreams that we have, what they mean, and what others think about them.

Our lives are driven by our dreams, both the ones that we have in our sleep and the ones that we envision while we're awake. Whether you've dreamt of a plan for world peace or that you had wings and could fly, you should share it!
You might be surprised what the community has to say about it.

The Dreamcrowd site provides a means to:
  • Post dreamlogs to the Dreamcrowd site;
  • Intepret common dream themes using our Dreamopedia; and
  • See what others have to say.

Drugs are bad: smoking bad for alcohol, antidepressants bad for bones

Sure, this is common sense, but I never realized the magnitude of the neurocognitive damage.

Science Daily — Alcoholics frequently smoke. Anywhere from 50 to 90 percent of individuals in North America who seek alcoholism treatment are also chronic smokers. New findings indicate that smoking may interfere with alcoholics' neurocognitive recovery during their first six to nine months of abstinence from alcohol.

And, as if treating elderly depressed people wasn't difficult enough, between their hesitation in coming in to seek help, and the multitude of comorbid medical conditions, there is now the risk of worsening their osteoporosis if we give them SSRI antidepressants.

Science Daily — The class of antidepressant medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors may be associated with an increased rate of bone loss in older men and women, according to two articles in the June 25 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Talking about it really does help us to feel better

From ScienceDaily:

"When you put feelings into words, you're activating this prefrontal region and seeing a reduced response in the amygdala," he said. "In the same way you hit the brake when you're driving when you see a yellow light, when you put feelings into words, you seem to be hitting the brakes on your emotional responses."
As a result, an individual may feel less angry or less sad.

This is ancient wisdom," Lieberman said. "Putting our feelings into words helps us heal better. If a friend is sad and we can get them to talk about it, that probably will make them feel better."

It's so nice to see science that supports what we already intuitively know. This particular one gives me hope that I really AM helping people in my job, even when I'm not giving them pills.

An anamorphic painting of a ship, c 1744-1774

Oooh, pretty.

From ingenious:

Picture number: 10309036
Credit:Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library

Caption: An anamorphic painting, a composition that can only be viewed with a special mirror that restores the deformed image. This example was originally attributed to Van de Velde, a Dutch artist, but its origins are now uncertain. Painted on a wooden panel, the painting is unrecognisable until a cylindrical mirror is placed at its centre over a circular portrait of a lady. Viewed from above, a sailing ship without rigging will suddenly heave in sight. Paintings of this type were quite popular during the 18th century, especially anamorphic portraits that concealed the identity of the sitter from prying eyes.

Pullman's 'The Golden Compass' voted best children's book in the last 70 years

Originally published as Northern Lights, it was entitled The Golden Compass in North America. This is the first book of His Dark Materials Trilogy.

From the Guardian:

The opening book of His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman's epic trilogy of wonder and love, won the supreme accolade in its field last night. Northern Lights was declared the finest children's book of the past 70 years, handsomely topping a readers' poll as the best winner of the annual Carnegie medal published in that time.

Pullman believed the story it introduces - of a girl and boy leading the struggle of multiple universes to throw off the oppressive agents of a senile God - would have difficulty finding an audience. His influences, including Milton, William Blake and Tom Paine, are unprecedented in a children's narrative.

This is a wonderful trilogy, and I loved it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

AR Facade: an interactive drama game?

Steven Dow, a Georgia Tech Ph.D. candidate, demonstrates the AR Facade. The game puts you in the middle of an uncomfortable argument using augmented reality technology.

Brought to you by Virginia Tech, this game uses a head mounted display, and a laptop worn on a backpack. puts you in the middle of an excruciatingly uncomfortable argument between Trip and Grace, a bickering thirty-something married couple.

Do you play moderator and decide to help broker a truce? Do you instigate them by complimenting Grace on her decorating style or pretending to be impressed with your pal Trip's place?

Or do you act as if everything's peachy while their arguing heats up? Whatever path is taken, this participatory soap opera at a Georgia Tech research lab is at times funny, awkward and intriguing. And it's always intense and emotionally draining.

Here's the youtube demo.

Glowing light without batteries

What is Lunabrite?

From gizmag:
...glowing strip lights that recharge fully in the sunlight and glow for between 3 and 12 hours after dark without ever needing batteries or electricity.'s completely child and pet-safe, non-toxic, weather- and UV-resistant and anti-microbial. The luminescent lighting strips activate within 5 minutes of exposure to sunlight or ambient light, and achieve maximum brightness after 30 minutes. They'll then glow brightly for 3-4 hours, dimming slowly until they are imperceptible after about 12 hours.
Several diameters are available, from 5/16" down to a tiny 1/8" diameter that is machine-washable and suitable for use in clothing and footwear. Custom sizing will be available and the tubes can be cut to length using normal scissors. They will initially be available in bright blue and blue/green.
Possibilities are endless. Reminds me of ELwire, but less bright, and without the need for batteries.

Can't wait to try some out!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Prostitutes, not circumcision are correlated with the spread of AIDS

A couple of months ago, there was a lot of hype in the news about circumcision decreasing the spread of AIDS. This was mostly due to the work of Daniel Halperin, an H.I.V. specialist at the Harvard Center for Population and Development and one of the world's leading advocates for male circumcision.

Though it is hypothesized that circumcision does decrease the risk of contracting HIV in a single sexual encounter by 50-60%, after repeated exposures disease transmission is inevitable.

From ScienceDaily:
...John R. Talbott, has conducted statistical empirical research across 77 countries of the world and has uncovered some surprising results.

Talbott's new study suggests that the reason is that Africa as a whole has four times as many prostitutes as the rest of the word and they are more than four times as infected. Some southern Africa countries have as many as 7% of their adult females infected and working as prostitutes while in the developed world typically this percentage of infected prostitutes is less than .1%. If these 7% of infected prostitutes in Africa sleep with five men in a week that means they are subjecting 35% of the country's male population to the virus weekly.
Read his article here.

Automatic waffle maker, 2.0

For anyone who remembers my previous post about the automatic waffle maker, here's their new and improved 2.0 version, complete with informative text along the way.
Their new version is cleaner and smoother all around.

Sunscreen summary: screening 800 sunscreens

This website, developed by the Environmental Working Group, has a comprehensive report reviewing a great plethora of sunscreen products.
It also has a sunscreen search sidebar, and any information you ever wanted to know about sunscreen.

There is also a Top 118 sunscreens list, as well as the Worst 37. Too bad I recognize more names on the worst list than the best list.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Volunteers needed for round trip Mars simulation, in Russia!

Strange, but apparently true.

From cnet news:
The European Space Agency wants you to join the astro-nut corps. At the Paris Air Show, the agency announced that it is now taking applications for people who want to simulate a trip from Earth to Mars and back, locked up in a test facility in Russia for about 520 days.
The final six people selected for the mission will not see the rest of the world for almost two years, and will have to wait as long as 40 minutes for each radio contact with "Earth" stations. The mission will take place at a special facility in Moscow in conjunction with the Russian Institute of Biomedical Problems and the ESA.
Apply at the ESA. Deadline is September 30, 2007.

Who knows, this could be the next hot reality TV series, like Survivor or Big Brother.

Using technological tracking to predict dementia

Pic: Elaine Bloomquist looks down at a sensor attached to her refrigerator in her home Monday, June 18, 2007, in Milwaukie, Ore. Tiny motion sensors are attached to the walls, doorways and even the refrigerator of Elaine Bloomquist's home, tracking the seemingly healthy 86-year-old's daily activity. It's like spying in the name of science with her permission to see if round-the-clock tracking of elderly people's movements can provide early clues of impending Alzheimer's disease. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Various studies are testing and tracking the elderly to look for earlier predictors of dementia.

From physorg:

It's like spying in the name of science - with permission - to see if round-the-clock tracking of elderly people's movements can provide early clues if impending Alzheimer's disease.
Now it takes years to determine if someone's developing dementia," laments Dr. Jeffrey Kaye of Oregon Health & Science University, which is placing the monitors in 300 homes of Portland-area octogenarians as part of a $7 million federally funded project.
Early predictors may be as simple as variations in speed while people walk their hallways, or getting slower at dressing or typing.

Researchers at New York's Mount Sinai School of Medicine are heading a study that ultimately plans to recruit 600 people over age 75 to help test in-home "kiosks" that turn on automatically to administer monthly cognitive exams. A video of a smiling scientist appears on-screen to talk participants through such classic tests as reading a string of words and then, minutes later, repeating how many they recall, or seeing how quickly they complete connect-the-dot patterns.

Finally, a souped-up pill dispenser called the MedTracker is added to some of the studies, wirelessly recording when drugs are forgotten or taken late.

Of course, there is still the problem of treatment even after the most likely victims are identified. There are medications like Namenda that slow down the progress of dementia, but currently there are no cures.

Friday, June 15, 2007

What more could Oral B add to the toothbrush?

Apparently, enough bells and whistles to make their next flagship toothbrush $150.

Here's engadget's blurb:

Proving that adding an LCD screen and a radio transmitter are sure-fire ways to improve even the lowliest of products, Oral-B has unveiled the latest in its Triumph line of intelligent toothbrushes.

The multi-head brush, which has 4 programmable cleaning patterns, communicates with a mirror-mounted LCD display that instructs you on where and how long to brush, and warns you if you're brushing too hard -- just like mom.

The handle keeps track of data if you step out of range of the dispay and re-syncs when you come back to spit, so you'll never miss a stroke.

So simple my brain hurts: Electronic rock/paper/scissors keychain

Rock/paper/scissors LED keychains, sold in 2 packs, so you can battle it out with a push of a button instead of hand shapes.

Even the website advertises it as the "lamest electronic game ever developed".


Beauty tips from your Nintendo DS?

Apparently, the 'game' is called 'Dream Skincare', and contains video directions from a beauty expert on facials, skin check up techniques, and even on etiquette.

From physorg:

"Players input their daily body temperature and weight by marking a graph that shows up on the touch panel, according to Konami Corp., which made the software.

The "beauty navigation software," as the company describes it, asks questions that the player answers such as skin tone and smoothness, as well as exposure to sunlight and hours of sleep.

Advice on a daily regimen for healthy skin pops up on the screen, including directions to drink more water, or to eat apples and ginger, food that had a reputation for warming up the body.

Hormonal balance is key for avoiding wrinkles and age spots, and body temperature and weight fluctuations are good indicators for any hormone swings, which can get awry from overwork and stress, according to Konami."

Goes on sale October 18 in Japan. I guess it can't be worse than the violent shoot'em ups.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

RoboGames in San Francisco this weekend


RoboGames is the world's largest open robot competition (even the Guinness Book of World Records says so!) We invite the best minds from around the world to compete in over 70 different events. Combat robots, walking humanoids, soccer bots, sumo bots, and even androids that do kung-fu. Some robots are autonomous, some are remote controlled - but they're all cool!

Happening this weekend, June 15-17, at Fort Mason in SF, from noon to 10pm.
Tickets available here.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Diet pill to go over the counter this Fri

The FDA has finally approved orlistat, better known by its prescription name brand xenical, to become available over the counter (OTC) this Friday, 6/15. The OTC version will be called alli.

Since the main side effects are loose, oily stools (steatorrhea), increased flatulence, and decreased absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K, and beta-carotene), I wonder if sales of Depends and multivitamins will increase.

Nursing home for dogs, in Japan

For $800 (98,000 yen) a month, your retired doggie will get fortified food, around the clock veterinarian monitoring, and even a group of puppies hired to play with them to 'make your dog feel younger'.

The home will start with a 20 dog capacity.

From Associated Press.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The right to suicide for the mentally ill?

Great article by medscape.

Apparently, Switzerland is the most lenient country in the world for allowing assisted suicide; it's been legal there since 1918. And now, they are extending this even further.
"It [Switzerland] remains the only jurisdiction that allows nonresidents to terminate their own lives.[3] It is also the only jurisdiction that does not require that a physician be involved in the process.Now, a recent decision by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court threatens to undermine yet another longstanding taboo in the debate over assisted suicide and euthanasia. In its ruling on November 3, 2006, the high tribunal in Lausanne laid out guidelines under which, for the first time, assisted suicide will be available to psychiatric patients and others with mental illness.[4]"
The latest case involves a bipolar man who had 2 previous suicide attempts, and brought his case to court because he could not find any physician who would prescribe him a lethal dose of sodium pentobarbital. His argument:
"as the plaintiff argued before the Swiss high court, in challenging "medical paternalism," we are entering an era during which psychiatric patients do not need to be protected, but empowered.[11] Our goal should be to maximize the options available to the mentally ill."
If I were working in Switzerland, my job would probably be much more complicated. Imagine getting sued for keeping someone alive!

Liquid camera lens, no mechanical moving parts

Pic: Different voltages change the shape of this six millimetre lens from convex to concave (Image: Philips)

From NewScientistTech:

"The first liquid camera lens with no moving parts, and that can switch between two levels of magnification, has been designed by a German research team. The work is an important step towards liquid zoom lenses that can sweep through a range of magnifications.
Liquid lenses bend light using the curved boundary between watery and oily liquids. When the two liquids are held in the right container, the boundary between them can be made to curve in a way that focuses light simply by applying a voltage."
Smaller and cheaper than conventional lenses, they have yet to achieve the zoom magnification of traditional lenses. However, Samsung has been using liquid lenses in some of their cellphones since 2004.

Artificial 'skin' that heals itself

Science Daily — The next generation of self-healing materials, invented by researchers at the University of Illinois, mimics human skin by healing itself time after time. The new materials rely upon embedded, three-dimensional microvascular networks that emulate biological circulatory systems
Their model is the circulatory and vascular system found in nature.
From that, they developed the following:
"To create their self-healing materials, the researchers begin by building a scaffold using a robotic deposition process called direct-write assembly. The process employs a concentrated polymeric ink, dispensed as a continuous filament, to fabricate a three-dimensional structure, layer by layer.
Once the scaffold has been produced, it is surrounded with an epoxy resin. After curing, the resin is heated and the ink -- which liquefies -- is extracted, leaving behind a substrate with a network of interlocking microchannels. In the final steps, the researchers deposit a brittle epoxy coating on top of the substrate, and fill the network with a liquid healing agent."

Brings us one step closer to self sustained robots.

Friday, June 8, 2007

First patent on man made life form, and it's already being challenged


The ar­ti­fi­cial or­gan­ism, a mere mi­crobe, is the brain­child of re­search­ers at the Rock­ville, Md.-based J. Craig Ven­ter In­sti­tute. The or­gan­iz­a­tion is named for its found­er and CEO, the ge­net­icist who led the pri­vate sec­tor race to map the hu­man ge­nome in the late 1990s. The re­search­ers filed their pat­ent claim on the ar­ti­fi­cial or­gan­ism and on its ge­nome.
Ge­net­i­cally mo­di­fied life forms have been pa­tented be­fore; but this is the first pa­tent claim for a crea­ture whose genome might be created chem­i­cally from scratch, Mooney said.
Sounds reasonable so far. Their goal was to design a bare bones organism, a "bac­te­ri­um to have a “min­i­mal ge­nome”—the small­est set of genes any or­gan­ism can live on. ".

Unfortunately, the group that is challenging the patent has this to say about it:

The idea of own­ing a spe­cies breaches “a so­ci­e­tal bound­ary,” said Pat Mooney of the Ot­ta­wa, Canada-based ETC Group, which is asking the pat­ent ap­pli­cants to drop their claim. Creat­ing and own­ing an or­gan­ism, he added, means that “for the first time, God has com­pe­ti­tion.”
That's just creepy.
However, here are some better reasons for challenging this:
By cre­at­ing a man-made or­gan­ism as a plat­form for oth­er genes to be added at will, like soft­ware on a com­put­er, “Ven­ter’s en­ter­prises are po­si­tion­ing them­selves to be the Mi­crosoft of syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy,” ETC said in a state­ment.The or­gan­iz­a­tion claimed there could be draw­backs to al­low­ing one company to mo­nop­o­lize this in­forma­t­ion. For in­stance, the mi­crobe could be har­nessed to build a vir­u­lent path­o­gen, Thom­as
said. It could be a b­low for “o­pen source” bi­ol­o­gy – the idea that re­search­ers should have free ac­cess to the fun­da­men­tal tools and com­po­nents of syn­thet­ic bi­ol­o­gy, the new and grow­ing sci­ence of re-de­signing and re-building nat­u­ral bi­o­log­i­cal sys­tems from the ground up for var­i­ous pur­poses.
All quotes taken from here.

Hopefully (I know, this is totally unrealistic, but....) this will force us to redefine how patents are used in society. If Venter can successfully exclude competitors from using this technique for 20 years (standard patent law), it could significantly slow down advances in research, or at least limit it to only those who can pay for the right. Unfortunately, the priorities will most likely be set by whoever has the most money.

Volume expanding diet pill fills you up so you eat less

Pic: Jelly belly, from about the size of a spit wad the compound grows to a tennis ball so dieters sit down feeling full. Image: Courtesy of Prof. Luigi Ambrosio

From wired:

MILAN -- Italian scientists are testing a new diet pill that turns into a clear, gelatinous blob the size of a tennis ball that may help shrink waistlines by giving dieters a sense of satiety.

This is currently in clinical trials in Rome. If all goes well, they hope to have it available to the public in about a year.

When swallowed, it is in powder form, but when you add water (you are supposed to drink 2 glasses of water with this), this cellulose hydrogel can soak up to 1,000 times its weight.

I wonder if this could dehydrate people, especially since most people don't actually take their pills as prescribed. Without the 2 glasses of water, that liquid will come from somewhere, and I'll be interested in seeing if this creates any electrolyte imbalances.

Of course, the safer way to diet would be to focus on foods with lower caloric density.

From physorg:

Eating smart, not eating less, may be the key to losing weight. A year-long clinical trial by Penn State researchers shows that diets focusing on foods that are low in calorie density can promote healthy weight loss while helping people to control hunger.
Foods that are high in water and low in fat – such as fruits, vegetables, soup, lean meat, and low-fat dairy products – are low in calorie density and provide few calories per bite. “Eating a diet that is low in calorie density allows people to eat satisfying portions of food, and this may decrease feelings of hunger and deprivation while reducing calories” said Dr. Julia A. Ello-Martin, who conducted the study as part of her doctoral dissertation in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State.

May not be as cool and high tech, but definitely sounds cheaper and safer.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A nice step for telesurgery

From physorg:
Robotic surgery may be coming to your town. Robots that perform surgery can be driven by surgeons who no longer stand by the patient, but direct the operation from a computer console. In most cases the surgeon is seated at a console within the theatre, only a few metres away from the patient. Now a team of surgeons and scientists have shown that the surgeon and robot can be linked via a 4,000 mile Internet connection, or by satellite, reported in the journal The International Journal of Medical Robotics and Computer Assisted Surgery.
They found using a satellite link had a much longer delay than using the internet, 600 milliseconds vs. 55 milliseconds respectively. With practice, the surgeon adapted to the lag, and did just fine with either setup.

Yay waldos!

Over the counter home fertility test kit

Fertell measures men's 'concentration of motile sperm' and women's follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) levels, taken on day 3 of menses, to determine 'ovarian reserve'.

It works much like the standard home pregnancy test, where there is a control line, and then another line that appears depending on what you are measuring. (In home pregnancy tests, the 2nd line usually means you have a positive pregnancy test).

It's been available in the UK for over a year, and is purportedly 95% accurate. Now available over the counter in the US, for about $100.

Their website has a video demo of how it all works.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Paper that talks to you

Pic: The billboard contains a paper layer with embedded electronics

Designed by Paper Four, this paper will play back a pre-recorded message when someone touches it.

How does it work? "The key to the billboard's capabilities is a layer of digital paper that is embedded with electronics.
This is printed with conductive inks, which, when applied with pressure, relay information to a micro-computer that contains recorded audio files. Sound then streams out from printed speakers, which are formed from more layers of conductive inks that sit over an empty cavity to form a diaphragm.
This functional layer is sandwiched between a thick sheet of extra-strong cardboard and another sheet of paper that is printed with the billboard's design. "

The BBC article describes a variety of uses for this, from spoken warnings on packs of cigarettes to marketing displays for storefronts.

The possibilities are endless! This could be a great way to advertise to the blind, or embed catchy tunes into term papers, or, for the paranoid, a great way to pass germs around so that your whole class of gradeschoolers can all have chicken pox at the same time. :-)
But really, if they can get this small enough to use in every day paper products, our world could get a lot more noisy, but not necessarily in a bad way.

Forgetting helps to optimize competing memories

Stanford researchers used fMRI to study how memory works.

"It's somewhat of a counter-intuitive idea," said Brice Kuhl, a doctoral student working in the lab of Associate Professor Anthony Wagner of the Psychology Department. "Remembering something actually has a cost for memories that are related but irrelevant." But this cost is beneficial: The brain's ability to weaken unimportant memories and experiences enables it to function more efficiently in the future, Kuhl said.

"As irrelevant memories are forgotten, the neural systems that help us remember do not need to work as hard," Wagner said. "While forgetting can be frustrating, it may represent a fundamental benefit for our ability to remember." "

It's very taoist.
The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be named
is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery.
—(Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English, 1972).

Ecstasy (MDMA) neurotoxicity: another study

Ecstasy (MDMA) is a recreational drug which is known for causing euphoria and increased tactile sensitivity. See wikipedia entry for more information.

"Science Daily — Even low doses of Ecstasy may be associated with a decline in language-related memory, according to a report in the June issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of the JAMA/Archives journals."

They hypothesize that ecstasy depletes serotonin in areas of the brain responsible for verbal recall and verbal recognition. They also speculate this could be reversible. They found no difference in drug effects been males and females.

"In conclusion, our data indicate that low doses of Ecstasy are associated with decreased verbal memory function, which is suggestive for Ecstasy-induced neurotoxicity," the authors conclude. "Further research on the long-term effects of Ecstasy as well as on the possibility of additive effects of Ecstasy use on aging of the brain is needed."

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Wearable ads for the masses

From techcrunch:

Reactee has announced the launch of a line of interactive t-shirts that combine fashion, SMS and activism through “shirts that text back”.

Reactee allows users to create t-shirts that include a personalized message such “Stop Global Whaling” or “Andrew Keen is a Luddite” that is then complimented by a unique keyword such as SUSHI or MORON on the shirt. People who see the shirt can then respond to it by sending the keyword via SMS to 41411. In return senders receive a custom text message response created by the T-Shirt creator.

T-shirts have been a common advertising vehicle for years, so it makes sense that someone would eventually make it an interactive ad.

If your potential viewer:
1. Remembers enough of your ad to actually be able to SMS
2. Is curious enough to find out what you'll automatically SMS them back
then there's a chance it could actually catch on.

This sort of thing seems much easier as a moo card. Nothing to write down or remember. When you find it in your pocket, you might decide to SMS it and find out what it is...

Nanowires connecting cells to machines

Closer to the borg every day...
"Science Daily — Scientists in California are reporting an advance toward one of the futuristic goals nanobiology and nanomedicine -- developing technology for "wiring" together individual cells and connecting cells via nanowires to external sensors and other devices."

Apparently, the cells grow in culture around the silicon nanowires, which then can be connected up to any inorganic devices on the other end.