Saturday, November 28, 2009
If the Earth's global s surface temperature goes up by a mere two degrees, Chennai and Mumbai could be submerged undersea THE GLOBAL WARMING ISSUE HEATS UP AGAIN.
TAKE A CLOSE look at the map of India and its coastline as it stands today. In the not-so-distant-future, only a fraction of the land space constituting Chennai, Mumbai and Kolkata might remain.
These cities are among the international danger zones that face the threat of submersion if global temperature rises at the present rate. Studies say that even an increase in the warmth of the planet by two degrees could spell catastrophe.
Climate change resulting from global warming has become the biggest ecological and social challenge faced by the Indian subcontinent. The Geneva-based Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its recent report predicted that if the Earth's global surface temperature goes up by a mere two degrees, Chennai and Mumbai could be submerged under sea and up to seven million residents might have to shift to other cities, which means a citizen could become a refugee in his own country.
In recent times, the country has seen unprecedented and extreme weather conditions.
Landslides (in Assam) and flooding (the recent Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka deluges) have been attributed to global warming.
In contrast, in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka the very same m o n s o o n wrecked havoc with devastating human and economic repercussions. Scientists estimate that the Himalayan glaciers are melting the fastest in the world and it is most dangerous given that more than a billion people are dependent on glacier-fed rivers in the Himalayan-Hindu Kush-Tibetan region. The South Asia zone is projected to be the most vulnerable in the world to agricultural failure as a result of warmer temperatures, reduced rainfall and lower soil fertility.
She goes on to add, "The Indian land mass has already warmed by 0.5 degrees over the 20th century -- and this is only an average; we have seen spikes in temperature rise across the country. A rise in one degree Celsius results in approx 10 per cent loss in our agricultural security. Almost 60 per cent of our children suffer from malnutrition -- this additional agricultural burden signals severe health and social stability consequences for India. At a regional level, in some places, such as central Andhra Pradesh, we are seeing a 10 degrees Celsius rises -- reaching almost 45 degrees Celsius in the driest parts."
Experts believe that temperature rise in already dry areas will lead to evaporation of water and groundwater will go down further. Rivers could go dry and there would be widespread hardship for people and wildlife as well.
But all hope is not lost. Environmentalists say going back to the basics holds the key for reversing the damage done. There are several ways in which organic farming helps reduce carbon footprint and even contributes to the reversal of climate change. For instance, composting allows the release of carbon dioxide back into the soil rather than into the atmosphere.
Similarly, organic farming does not depend on fertilizers and pesticides. It also cuts down pollution occurring due to `food miles', which the distance is taken for your food to reach your plate from the garden where it is grown. As all our organic products are sold in local markets, the food miles are significantly lower when compared to inorganic products.
NOW, SOLVE PUZZLES TO CUT FLAB
Solving puzzles is not only a good exercise for your brain, it also helps burn 90 calories within an hour, a research claims. "Our brains require 0.1 calories every minute simply to survive. When we do something challenging such as a puzzle or a quiz we can burn through 1.5 calories every minute," said lead researcher Tim Forrester from cannyminds.com.
"Doing puzzles burns an average of 90 calories every hour," Forrester was quoted by Daily Mail.
He said that the brain is made up of nerve cells called neurons which produce neurotransmitters -the chemicals used to relay signals to transmit messages to the body. Neurons extract three-quarters of sugar, calories and a fifth of oxygen from the blood to create neurotransmitters, he said.
COUGHING CURE IN THE OFFING
A cure for coughing is in the offing, thanks to scientists who have identified the process that leads to the reflex.
Coughing has largely remained a mystery to science. Now, a UK team has found that the problem actually lies with receptors on nerve endings in the lungs which react to irritants. For victims of persistent coughing in which no useful purpose is being served, the receptors on these nerve endings are repeatedly prompting the cough reflex.
If those receptors are blocked, coughing could be stopped, according to scientists from Britain's National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London and Hull University.
Lead scientist Prof Maria Belvisi of the National Heart and Lung Institute and Imperial College said: "For some people, chronic coughing can be annoying and uncomfortable, but for others it can be distressing and can have a severe impact on their quality of life.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
The hormone melatonin, secreted only at night and in the dark, may be implicated in triggering seizures.
There may be something in the centuries-old superstitions about the influence of the moon on epilepsy and seizures, says a new study.
Scientists at University College London have discovered that the number of epileptic seizures -- which are related to electrical activity in the brain -- goes down when the moon is at its brightest.
For their study, the scientists examined the record of seizures in a dedicated epilepsy unit, in which every seizure in each 24hour period is logged for patients.
They compared the timing of each seizure with the brightness of the moon.
Their results showed that during the brighter phases of the moon's cycle there were fewer epileptic seizures in the corresponding 24-hour period, the Daily Mail reported.
"These findings suggest that epileptic seizures are at less likely to occur on brighter nights," lead scien tist Dr Sallie Baxendale of Institute of Neurology at University College London, was quoted as saying.
Experts believe the effect of the hormone melatonin, which is secreted only at night and in the dark, may be implicated in triggering be implicated seizures.
CHOCOLATE THAT HELPS IN SLIMMING
Good news for chocoholics trying hard to resist their favorite sweet treat: a chocolate that helps people slim has been invented. Called Lola, the chocolate has chemicals that suppress hunger, while tasting as rich and satisfying as regular chocolates.
It has a slight green tinge because of its unusual ingredients, which promote weight loss. The chocolate, made by Spanish manufacturer Cocoa Bio, contains the dietary supplement spirulina, a microscopic algae with high level of nutrients like vitamin A and B12, which have weight loss benefits.
WEB ADDRESSES LIKELY TO RUN OUT NEXT YEAR
The world could well run out of Internet addresses next year, unless urgent action is taken to switch to a new generation of net addresses, the European Commission has warned.
According to the commission, businesses urgently need to upgrade to Internet protocol version six or IPv6, a new version of the Internet's addressing protocol, which will hugely increase the number of available addresses.
The IPv6 system has been ready for over a decade and is providing 340 trillion, trillion, trillion web addresses. But, not many companies are actually ready to migrate to the new platform.
In fact, a survey, conducted by the Commission, found that few companies are prepared for the switch from the current naming protocol, IPv4, to the new regime, IPv6, 'The Daily Telegraph' reported. The IPv4 and IPv6 protocols refer to the way in which web addresses are created and assigned. Each website has a unique IP address, represented by a string of numbers, such as 192.168.1.1, which are then given a user-friendly web address to make them easier to remember.
The IPv4 protocol uses 32-bit addresses, which enables the web to support around 4.3 billion unique addresses while IPv6 uses 128-bit web addresses, creating billions of possible new web addresses.
The EC survey found that of the 610 government, educational and other industry organizations questioned across Europe, the Middle East and Asia, just 17 per cent have upgraded to IPv6.
The Commission has warned that the timely deployment of the protocol is vital to the growth and stability of the Internet. Detlef Eckert, Director in Commission's information society and media directorate-general, said: "In the last 10 years, the Internet has become hugely important worldwide from a socio-economic perspective.”Only by ensuring that all devices connected to the internet are compatible with IPv6 can we stay connected and safeguard sustainable growth of the Internet and the global digital economy, now and in the years to come."
Thursday, November 19, 2009
EIGHT CUPS OF TEA A DAY CAN BOOST LONGEVITY
Drinking eight cups of tea daily might sound a bit too much for some people, but health experts say the intake can help fight heart disease, improve brain power and also boost longevity.
Independent dietician Dr Carrie Ruxton''s research on caffeine at King''s College, London, saw her review 47 published studies to reach the conclusion that caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee and cocoa have positive effects on mental function, increasing alertness, feelings of well-being and short-term memory.
Previous studies have already linked the drink's healthy antioxidant properties and high flavonoid content to preventing heart disease and cutting the risk of some cancers.
Dr Ruxton has supported earlier reports by claiming that an optimal intake of 400mg of caffeine a day leads to "key benefits in terms of mental function and heart health."
She assessed three studies, accounting for almost 90,000 patients, to find that drinking four cups of tea or coffee a day reduced chances of cardiovascular disease.
She referred to another study of 26,500 middle-aged smokers, which hinted that men who ingested more than two cups of tea a day pulled down the probability of getting a stroke by 20 per cent.
Dr Ruxton insisted that she aimed to "debunk" false beliefs surrounding caffeine.
Moreover, she asserted that people who avoid drinking tea might be doing more harm than good.
"People who cut out caffeinated drinks may miss out on the potential health benefits of the compounds they contain," the 'Daily Express' quoted her as saying.
She further suggested that there was "no need" for parents to stop children from drinking tea and coffee. In fact, she claimed it was better than juice in some regards.
Also, Dr Catherine Hood, of the Tea Advisory Panel, agreed to Dr Ruxton's claims.
She said: "Caffeinated drinks have been unfairly demonized. Black tea, in particular, contains polyphenols, which are natural plant antioxidants. These have beneficial effects on many biochemical processes in the body because they protect cells against harmful free radicals."
"Flavonoids are thought to be especially useful, with a number of studies reporting a link between them and lower risk of heart attack," she further added.
UNTREATED RAINWATER IS HEALTHY
Drinking untreated rainwater is safe for your health, according to an Australian study.
Researchers from Melbourne's Monash University looked at 300 homes that used rainwater collected in water tanks as their primary drinking source in what they described as a "world first" study that comes amid growing criticism of bottled water.
All of the homes were given a bench top filter and told it would remove any potential gastroenteritis causing organisms from their water, but half of the devices did not contain filters.
Families recorded their health over a year and the researchers found that the rate of gastro cases recorded by these two groups were very similar and also matched the broader community who drank treated tap water.
US SURGEON SPEAKS OUT – ALLAYS FEARS OVER SWINE FLU
An eminent US neurosurgeon has lambasted World Health Organization for scaring people by terming swine flu a "pandemic". "A group of scientists and vaccine manufacturers were doing all they could to fuel the fear and they were quietly making deals with WHO to be among the companies selected to manufacture the pandemic vaccine for the world.
Being anointed by WHO would guarantee tens of billions of dollars of profit," said Dr Russelle Blaylock, neurosurgeon, researcher and educationist.
According to Dr Blaylock, swine flu was not as dangerous as common flu. Quoting from studies conducted by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health, National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the respected New England Journal of Medicine, Dr Blaylock has pointed out that H1N1 virus is neither dangerous nor contagious.
"The H1N1 virus is no more pathogenic than the ordinary seasonal flu. It is no way matched the pathogenicity of the 1917-1918 H1N1 viruses. It also did not infect other tissues or brain," writes Dr Blaylock in an e-mail message to his peers and colleagues.
He said an unpublished study by the US Department of Health's CDC has found that swine flu has very low communicability. "A study in New York State proves that only 6.9 per cent of the population had contracted the virus from others." This is far below the 50 per cent predicted by the President's Council of Advisors on science and Technology. In fact, the death rate due to H1N1 was much below the usual seasonal flu death rate, especially in New Zealand.
Dr Blaylock has blamed the media, doctors and Parma companies for blowing out of proportion the deaths attributed to swine flu. "Surveys and studies have proved that all deaths attributed to swine flu were caused by underlying health problems before the infection. He said it was those who were affected with obesity and asthma who lost their lives.
"The US studies have proved that vaccinating pregnant women resulted in babies with more health problems," said Dr Blaylock.
The rRT-PCR test for diagnosing swine flu was devised by the pharma company that holds the rights for selling the much publicized drug Tamiflu and Relenza all over the world. Neither the test nor the drugs have had the mandatory human studies before being let loose on the gullible public!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
HARRY POTTER’S INVISIBILITY CLOAK MAY SOON BE A REALITY
The dream of every Harry Potter fan of owning an "invisibility cloak" seems to be soon coming true, with British scientists developing such a garment which will render the wearer invisible to the human eye.
A team at Imperial College hopes to create a cloak from a new material that can manipulate light. Normally, when light hits an object, it bounces off the surface and into the eye, making the object visible.
According to the scientists, the invisibility cloak made from "meta-material" would work by "grabbing hold" of light waves and making them flow smoothly around an object; in the same way that water in a river flows round a stick.
Putting the cloak on will allow the wearer to move around unseen, the Daily Mail reported. In fact, the scientists say the meta-material could have a range of other applications, including creating super-sensitive microscopes and airport security sensors that can spot tiny amounts of chemicals.
However, they admit the Harry Potter cloak is likely to generate the most interest. Sir John Pendry, who is leading the project, which is being funded by the Leverhulme Trust and will be carried out with the University of Southampton, said: "We've shown that an optical invisibility cloak is theoretically possible - the big challenge now is to build it."
SCIENTISTS DEVISE DIFFICULT SECURITY QUESTIONS TO STRENGTHEN ONLINE SECURITY
Rutgers computer scientists are testing a new tactic that could strengthen online security by making it harder to crack security questions.
“We call them activity-based personal questions,” said Danfeng Yao, assistant professor of computer science in the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences.
“Sites could ask you, ‘When was the last time you sent an e-mail?’ Or, ‘What did you do yesterday at noon?’” she added.
Yao and her students have been testing how resistant these activity questions are to “attack,” – computer security lingo for when an intruder answers them correctly and gains accesses to personal information such as e-mails or to do online shopping or banking.
Early studies suggest that questions about recent activities are easy for legitimate users to answer, but harder for potential intruders to find or guess, according to Yao.
“We want the question to be dynamic,” she said. “The questions you get today will be different from the ones you would get tomorrow,” she added.
Yao said she gave four students in her lab a list of questions related to network activities, physical activities and opinion questions, and then told them to “attack” each other.
“We found that questions related to time are more robust than others. Many guessed the answer to the question, ‘Who was the last person you sent e-mail to?’ But fewer were able to guess, ‘What time did you send your last e-mail?’” she said.
Yao explained that it should not be difficult for an online service provider to formulate these kinds of security questions by looking at its users’ e-mail, calendar activities or previous transactions.
Computers would have to use natural language processing tools to synthesize understandable questions and analyze the answers for accuracy.
Yao is proposing further studies to determine the practicality of the new approach and the best way to implement it.
KIDS WITH “TOUGH LOVE” UPBRINGING “DOES WELL IN LIFE”
Children who are raised with "tough love" by their parents are likely to do well in life, a new report has found.
The report, by think tank Demos, suggested that experiencing a combination of warmth and discipline means youngsters are more likely to develop skills such as application, self-regulation and empathy than those with laissez-faire, authoritarian or disengaged parents.
These characteristics boost children’s life chances, social mobility and opportunity and were profoundly shaped in pre-school years, according to the report.
The Building Character report, which analyzed data from more than 9,000 households in the UK from the Millennium Cohort Study, showed that kids with "tough love" parents were twice as likely to develop good character capabilities by the age of five as children with "disengaged" parents.
The report also looked at factors such as family structure and income, reports the Daily Star.
It found that kids from the richest backgrounds were more than twice as likely to develop crucial characteristics as the poorest.
Children with married parents were twice as likely to show the traits as children from lone parent or step-parented families, the study found.
The researchers of the study said that when parental style and confidence were factored in, the difference in child character development between richer and poorer families disappeared; indicating parenting was the most important influence.
Monday, November 2, 2009
‘CELL PHONE WASTE, THE NEXT BIG THREAT TO ENVIRONMENT’'
Sporting a new mobile phone may be fashionable in these well-connected times, but the discarded old handsets could poison the environment, as a whopping 8,000 tonnes of cell phone waste is estimated to burden the earth by 2012.
As per a whitepaper by global consultancy Deloitte, there is a growing need to better manage the rising cell phone waste, as it is posing a threat to the environment.
Replacement sales predict that more cell phones would be retired every year with rapid changes in technology and product designs discouraging mobile repairs and increasing demand for new mobiles and disposal of old ones.
"With the absence of a proper recycle and reuse program, about 8,000 tonnes of toxic cell phone components are estimated to be dumped in landfills by 2012. The resulting contamination will have far reaching consequences for the environment and all living beings," said Parag Saigaonkar, Deloitte consulting India regional managing director.
The problem begins when retired handsets end up in landfill sites or if they are dumped illegally, leading to toxic substances seeping into the groundwater, making disposal of old cells a problem for the world, the report revealed.
"As India is one of the fastest growing markets in the world in terms of mobile phone subscribers, India need to be more aware of the threat, which these gadgets pose to the environment and strict government guidelines should be created to deal with it," Mr Saigaonkar added.
The Deloitte report stated that mobile phone waste globally is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of about nine per cent between 2008 and 2012, with more than 80 per cent of the cell phone waste being hazardous.
The main contributors to cell phone waste are those who upgrade and replace their handsets regularly.
About 65 per cent of subscribers in Asia, Europe and the Americas replace their cell phones at least once in two years. This means every 2 years, about 100 million cell phones reach landfills if they are not recycled or reused, it added.
Elaborating on the ways to minimize the growing cell phone waste, the report stated that recycling and refurbishing of used cell phones is necessary.
Refurbishing extends the lifetime of used phones and recycling reduces the need for the raw materials used to make new products. The inclusion of recycling or refurbishing would change the traditional view of the cell phone life cycle.
"In this new life cycle model, every stakeholder will have to play a role in reducing the environmental footprint of cell phones," it added.
WEIGHT-LOSS NOODLES TO HIT SHELVES IN 2010
Here's some good news for figure conscious people, weight-loss noodles will soon hit the shelves.
Researchers from the University Sains Malaysia (USM) have innovated a dry yellow noodle that allows consumers to sustain a feeling of fullness for longer and lose weight.
"The noodle was the first such product in Malaysia to be tested clinically for its Glycaemic Index prior to commercialization," Chief researcher Assoc Prof Azhar Mat Easa said.
This noodles release sugar slower than regular ones and is more suitable for those who are sensitive to the sugar content in food and those with a weight problem.
"The product was specially formulated and prepared to encourage the formation of cross-linked proteins that can trap starch, and is fortified with additional starch that blocks digestion," he said.
He said the product's ability to block digestion allowed the noodles to remain in the digestive system and keep dieters feeling full for longer.
"If the noodles are consumed in the morning, a person will feel full until night, and consumers can now enjoy yellow noodles without worrying about excessive increase in their sugar blood levels."
The product is expected to hit the markets in February, he said, adding the taste is similar to that of regular noodles and can be cooked in any way.
CLIMATE CHANGE ‘A BIGGEST THREAT TO CHILDREN’ NEXT YEAR
A quarter of a million kids might lose their lives next year due to adverse effects of climate change, warns a charity.
Save the Children insists that figure could rise to more than 400,000 by 2030.
Its report 'Feeling the Heat' claims that climate change is the biggest global health threat to children in the 21st century.
Experts believe that almost 175 million children per year are likely to suffer the consequences of natural disasters like cyclones, droughts and floods by 2030.
They further say that more than 900 million children in the next generation will be affected by water shortages and 160 million more children will be at risk of catching malaria - one of the biggest killers of children under five - as it spreads to new parts of the world.
Ultravox star Midge Ure, a Save the Children ambassador, recently returned to Ethiopia 25 years after the 1984 famine, and created Band Aid with Bob Geldof.
"Climate change is no longer a distant, futuristic scenario, but an immediate threat," the Daily Express quoted him as saying.
"We've all heard about the East African food crisis but I've been in Ethiopia seeing firsthand the impact it's having on children's lives.
"I've seen how vulnerable children are to the effects of climate change," he added.
SLEEP COMES BETTER AFTER RETIREMENT
People are likely to sleep better after they retire, a new study has found.
The findings suggest that this general improvement in sleep is likely to result from the removal of work-related demands and stress rather than from actual health benefits of retirement.
Results show that the odds of having disturbed sleep in the seven years after retirement were 26 per cent lower than in the seven years before retiring.
Sleep disturbance prevalence rates among 14,714 participants fell from 24.2 per cent in the last year before retirement to 17.8 per cent in the first year after retiring.
The greatest reduction in sleep disturbances was reported by participants with depression or mental fatigue prior to retirement.
The post-retirement improvement in sleep also was more pronounced in men, management-level workers, employees who reported high psychological job demands, and people who occasionally or consistently worked night shifts, the website Eurekalert reported.
Lead author Jussi Vahtera, professor in the department of public health at the University of Turku in Finland, noted that the participants enjoyed employment benefits rarely seen, including guaranteed job stability, a statutory retirement age between 55 and 60 years, and a company-paid pension that was 80 per cent of their salary.
"We believe these findings are largely applicable in situations where financial incentives not to retire are relatively weak," said Vahtera.
"In countries and positions where there is no proper pension level to guarantee financial security beyond working age, however, retirement may be followed by severe stress disturbing sleep even more than before retirement."
The study involved employees from the French national gas and Electricity Company, who retired between 1990 and 2006 at a mean age of 55 years.
The study includes data from 11,581 male and 3,133 female workers who reported sleep disturbances at least once before and once after the year of retirement. Around 35 percent of participants had worked night shifts, and 17 per cent reported having depression.
Participants completed questionnaires concerning health, lifestyle, individual, familial, social and occupational factors.
The authors conclude that in the present time when people are expected to live many years beyond the traditional age of retirement, consideration should be given to the restructuring of working life to enable older workers to remain economically active without compromising their future health.
The results were published in the November issue of the journal 'Sleep.'