Skylon spaceplane engine concept achieves key milestone.

_52918042_sabre464The UK company developing an engine for a new type of spaceplane says it has successfully demonstrated the power unit’s enabling technology.

Reaction Engines Ltd (REL) of Culham, Oxfordshire, ran a series of tests on key elements of its Sabre propulsion system under the independent eye of the European Space Agency (Esa).

Esa’s experts have confirmed that all the demonstration objectives were met._64434154_vlcsnap-2012-11-28-12h19m36s138_64434156_vlcsnap-2012-11-28-12h21m54s34skylon_engine_dev_624in

REL claims the major technical obstacle to its ideas has now been removed.

“This is a big moment; it really is quite a big step forward in propulsion,” said Alan Bond, the driving force behind the Sabre engine concept.

The company must now raise the £250m needed to complete the next phase of development.

This would essentially take the project to the final designs that could be handed to a manufacturer.

Although the British government has put significant sums into REL’s technology in the past, the company’s preference is to pursue city finance.

“The project to date has been more than 90% privately funded, and we intend to continue with that type of structure,” explained Tim Hayter, the CEO of Reaction Engines Ltd.

“Yes, we would encourage government money but we’re not reliant on it and we’re certainly not depending on it.

“What is more important to us is government endorsement. That gives everyone the confidence that the UK is behind this project.”

REL’s idea is for an 84m-long vehicle called Skylon that would do the job of a big rocket but operate like an airliner, taking off and landing at a conventional runway.

The vehicle would burn a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen but in the low atmosphere the oxygen would be taken from the air, in the same way that a jet engine breathes air.

Only once it had achieved very high speeds would Skylon switch to full rocket mode, burning onboard fuel supplies.

Taking its oxygen from the air in the initial flight phase would mean Skylon could fly lighter from the outset with a higher thrust-to-weight ratio, enabling it to make a single leap to orbit, rather than using and dumping propellant stages on the ascent – as is the case with current expendable rockets.

If such a vehicle could be made to work, its reusability should transform the costs of accessing space.

But its success depends on the Sabre engine’s ability to manage the very hot air entering its intakes at high speed.

These gases have to be cooled prior to being compressed and burnt with the onboard hydrogen.

REL’s solution is a module containing arrays of extremely fine piping that can extract the heat and plunge the inrushing air to about -140C in just 1/100th of a second.

Ordinarily, the moisture in the air would be expected to freeze out rapidly, covering the piping in a blanket of frost and dislocating their operation.

But the company’s engineers have also devised a means to control the frosting, permitting the Sabre engine to run in jet mode for as long as is needed before making the transition to full rocket mode to take the Skylon spaceplane into orbit.

It is the innovative helium cooling loop with its pre-cooler heat-exchanger that REL has been validating on an experimental rig.

“We completed the programme by getting down to -150C, running for 10 minutes,” said Mr Bond. “We’ve demonstrated that the pre-cooler is behaving absolutely as predicted.”

The UK Space Agency asked Esa’s propulsion division to audit the tests, and the Paris-based organisation has declared its satisfaction with the outcome of the experimental programme.

“One of the major obstacles to developing air-breathing engines for launch vehicles is the development of the lightweight high-performance heat exchangers,” it said in a statement.

“With this now successfully demonstrated by REL, there are currently no technical reasons why the Sabre engine programme cannot move forward into the next stage of development.”

Dr Mark Ford, who heads the propulsion engineering group at the agency, added: “The gateway is now open to move beyond the jet age.”

The next phase is a three-and-a-half-year project. It would see a smaller version of Sabre being built on a test rig. The demonstrator would not have the exact same configuration as the eventual engine but it would allow REL to prove Sabre’s performance across its air-breathing and rocket modes.

“Its parts will be spread out slightly; there’s no need for us to package it as we would a real engine,” said Mr Bond.

“Also, we will want the ease of access to exchange parts, so it will look a little bit like an anatomy exhibition.”

The UK government is currently assessing what its involvement should be in the next phase of Skylon/Sabre, but David Willetts, the science minister, was keen on Wednesday to add his personal support to the project: “The engine being developed by Reaction Engines is a potential game-changer in terms of space technology,” he said.

“This successful testing validates the assessment made of the engine concept by the UK Space Agency back in 2010 and is yet another example of the UK’s world class space industry. It would be a fantastic achievement if we could one day use this home-grown technology for our own commercial space launches.”

Esa is certain to do more study work with REL. Although it is currently working on new versions of its Ariane rocket – a classic expendable vehicle – the agency also wants to keep an eye on future launcher technologies.

REL itself is considering other applications for its technology. These could include incorporating Sabre-like heat-exchangers into existing gas turbine jet engines to improve their fuel-burn efficiency; and also into desalination plants.





‘Pac-Man’ in Saturn moon Tethys is a repeat performance.

SUNAstronomers have seen that the temperature of Saturn’s moon Tethys has hotter regions uncannily like the 1980s arcade game character Pac-Man.

A similar feature was spotted in 2010 on Mimas, another Saturnian moon.

A report in Icarus suggests the effect is due to high-energy electrons bombarding the sides of the moons that face their direction of orbital travel.

That compacts the surfaces to a hard, icy texture that does not heat or cool as rapidly as the unaffected surface.

Thermal images of both moons were obtained by the Cassini-Huygens mission, launched in 1997 to study the Saturn system in detail.

The temperatures seen by the spacecraft are distinctly chilly – the warmest parts of Tethys were at – 183C, but inside the “mouth” of the Pac-Man shape it was 15C cooler still.

At the time of the finding of the first Pac-Man shape on Mimas, scientists were unsure what might be the cause, theorising that differing surface textures probably played a role.

The existence of another such shape nearby has cemented the idea that fast-moving electrons are responsible.

“Finding a second Pac-Man in the Saturn system tells us that the processes creating these ‘Pac-Men’ are more widespread than previously thought,” said Carly Howett, of the Southwest Research Institute in Texas and lead author of the study.

“The Saturn system – and even the Jupiter system – could turn out to be a veritable arcade of these characters,” she said.



Bread that lasts for 60 days could cut food waste.

bread_53268759_breadpileAn American company has developed a technique that they say can make bread stay mould-free for 60 days.

The bread is zapped in a sophisticated microwave array which kills the spores that cause the problem.

They claim it could significantly reduce the amount of wasted bread, which in the UK alone amounts to almost a third of all loaves purchased.

The technique can also be used with a wide range of foods including fresh turkey and many fruits and vegetables.

World of waste

Food waste is a massive problem in most developed countries. In the US, figures released this year suggest that the average American family throws away 40% of the food they purchase – which adds up to $165bn (£102bn) annually.

Bread is a major culprit, with 32% of loaves purchased in the UK thrown out as waste when they could be eaten, according to figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

One of the biggest threats to bread is mould. As loaves are usually wrapped in plastic, any water in the bread that evaporates from within is trapped and makes the surface moist. This provides excellent growing conditions forRhizopus stolonifer, the fungus that leads to mould.

In normal conditions bread will go mouldy in around 10 days.

But an American company called Microzap say they have developed a technique that will keep the bread mould free for two months.

At their laboratory on the campus of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, chief executive Don Stull showed off the long, metallic microwave device that resembles an industrial production line. Originally designed to kill bacteria such as MRSA and salmonella, the researchers discovered it could kill the mould spores in bread in around 10 seconds.

“We treated a slice of bread in the device, we then checked the mould that was in that bread over time against a control, ” he explained.

“And at 60 days it had the same mould content as it had when it came out of the oven.”

Question of taste

The machine the team has built uses much the same technology as found in commercial microwaves – but with some important differences, according to Mr Stull.

“We introduce the microwave frequencies in different ways, through a slotted radiator. We get a basically homogeneous signal density in our chamber – in other words, we don’t get the hot and cold spots you get in your home microwave.”


20th-Century history of bread


  • 1928: First bread slicing machine, invented by Otto Rohwedder, exhibited in US
  • 1930: Large UK bakeries take commercial slicers and sliced bread first appears in shops
  • 1933: About 80% of US bread is pre-sliced and wrapped, and the phrase “the best thing since sliced bread” is coined
  • 1941: Calcium added to UK flour to prevent rickets
  • 1942: The national loaf – much like today’s brown loaf – introduced to combat shortage of white flour
  • 1954: Conditions in bakeries regulated by the Night Baking Act
  • 1956: National loaf abolished
  • 1961: The Chorleywood Bread Process introduced

Source: The Federation of Bakers

The company’s device has attracted plenty of interest from bread manufacturers – but they are worried that it could add to their costs in an industry where margins are very tight.

And there is also a concern that consumers might not take to bread that lasts for so long. Mr Stull acknowledges it might be difficult to convince some people of the benefits.

“We’ll have to get some consumer acceptance of that,” he said. “Most people do it by feel and if you still have that quality feel they probably will accept it. ”

Mr Stull believes that the technology could impact bread in other ways. He said that bread manufacturers added lots of preservatives to try and fight mould, but then must add extra chemicals to mask the taste of the preservatives. If bakers were able to use the microwave technology, they would be able to avoid these additives.

While a wholesale change in the bread industry might be difficult to achieve, there may be more potential with other foods, including ground turkey.

In 2011, food giant Cargill had to recall 16 million kg of the product after a salmonella outbreak. Mr Stull believes that using microwaves would be an effective way of treating this and several other products ranging from jalapenos to pet foods.

The only fruit that his device was unable to treat effectively were cantaloupes.

“We’ve used our tumbler machine to treat them, he says “but you can’t tumble cantaloupes because they damage.”




Stem cells being made from blood.


A patient’s own blood has been used to make personalised stem cells, which doctors hope will eventually be used to treat a range of diseases.

The team at the University of Cambridge says this could be one of the easiest and safest sources of stem cells.

In a study, published in the journal Stem Cells: Translational Medicine, the cells were used to build blood vessels.

However, experts cautioned that the safety of using such stem cells was still unclear.

Stem cells are one of the great hopes of medical research. They can transform into any other type of cell the body is built from – so they should be able to repair everything from the brain to the heart, and eyes to bone.

One source of stem cells is embryos, but this is ethically controversial and they would be rejected by the immune system in the same way as an organ transplant.

Researchers have shown that skin cells taken from an adult can be tricked into becoming stem cells, which the body should recognise as part of itself and would not reject.

The team at Cambridge looked in blood samples for a type of repair cell that whizzes through the bloodstream repairing any damage to the walls of blood vessels. These were then converted into stem cells.

Dr Amer Rana said this method was better than taking samples from skin.

“We are excited to have developed a practical and efficient method to create stem cells from a cell type found in blood,” he said.

“Tissue biopsies are undesirable – particularly for children and the elderly – whereas taking blood samples is routine for all patients.”

Dr Rana told the BBC the cells also appeared to be safer to use than those made from skin.

“The fact that these appeared to be fairly stable is very promising,” he said.

“The next stage obviously is to say, ‘OK if we can do all this, let’s actually make some clinical grade cells,’ we can then move this technology into the clinic for the first time.”

Prof Chris Mason, an expert on regenerative medicine at University College London, said there was some “beautiful work” coming out of the lab in Cambridge.

“It’s a hell of a lot easier to get a blood sample than a high quality skin sample, so that’s a big benefit,” he said.

“However, induced pluripotent stem cells [those converted from adult cells] are still very new, we need far more experience to totally reprogram a cell in a way we know to be safe.”

The British Heart Foundation said these cells had “great potential”.

The Medical Research Council said there was “rapid progress” being made in the this field.








Screening and Rapid Molecular Diagnosis of Tuberculosis in Prisons in Russia and Eastern Europe: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis.

Prisons of the former Soviet Union (FSU) have high rates of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) and are thought to drive general population tuberculosis (TB) epidemics. Effective prison case detection, though employing more expensive technologies, may reduce long-term treatment costs and slow MDR-TB transmission.

Methods and Findings

We developed a dynamic transmission model of TB and drug resistance matched to the epidemiology and costs in FSU prisons. We evaluated eight strategies for TB screening and diagnosis involving, alone or in combination, self-referral, symptom screening, mass miniature radiography (MMR), and sputum PCR with probes for rifampin resistance (Xpert MTB/RIF). Over a 10-y horizon, we projected costs, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), and TB and MDR-TB prevalence. Using sputum PCR as an annual primary screening tool among the general prison population most effectively reduced overall TB prevalence (from 2.78% to 2.31%) and MDR-TB prevalence (from 0.74% to 0.63%), and cost US$543/QALY for additional QALYs gained compared to MMR screening with sputum PCR reserved for rapid detection of MDR-TB. Adding sputum PCR to the currently used strategy of annual MMR screening was cost-saving over 10 y compared to MMR screening alone, but produced only a modest reduction in MDR-TB prevalence (from 0.74% to 0.69%) and had minimal effect on overall TB prevalence (from 2.78% to 2.74%). Strategies based on symptom screening alone were less effective and more expensive than MMR-based strategies. Study limitations included scarce primary TB time-series data in FSU prisons and uncertainties regarding screening test characteristics.


In prisons of the FSU, annual screening of the general inmate population with sputum PCR most effectively reduces TB and MDR-TB prevalence, doing so cost-effectively. If this approach is not feasible, the current strategy of annual MMR is both more effective and less expensive than strategies using self-referral or symptom screening alone, and the addition of sputum PCR for rapid MDR-TB detection may be cost-saving over time.




Tracking Mars: Curiosity Makes Its Mark on the Red Planet

Since Curiosity landed on mars on Aug. 6, the rover has traveled hundreds of feet over the Martian surface. In the process, it has tracked up the sandy, dusty terrain, leaving tire marks, scoop divots, Morse code and one tiny piece of itself behind.

Unlike the Apollo astronauts’ footprints on the moon, Curiosity’s trails will probably be wiped away by the planet’s frequent wind and sand storms. But there is still something so incredible about these little ephemeral marks we are making on another world.

Though the physical traces won’t last, their impact lives on in the images the rover is sending back to Earth. Here are some of our favorite shots of Curiosity’s tracks on Mars.






This Simple Trick Stops Aging in Its Tracks.

stops-agingAlmost from the beginning of time, people have been looking for a fountain of youth, or at the very least a magic potion that can keep you feeling and looking forever young.

The potions usually come in a bottle or a jar — or from plastic surgery — but as it turns out, we’ve been searching in the wrong places.

Instead of running to the nearest outpatient center for plastic surgery or to the store to buy a “potion,” we should be looking no further than our running shoes and workout clothes.

Exercise is One of the Best Ways to Slow Aging

According to new research published in the American Journal of Physiology,1 the best way to stay young is to simply pick up your feet and start exercise training. The training triggers mitochondrial biogenesis, a decline of which is common in aging. This reverses significant age-associated declines in mitochondrial mass, and in effect, stops aging in its tracks.

This is not the first time researchers have linked exercise to mitochondrial changes. A 2011 review in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism2 points out that exercise induces changes in mitochondrial enzyme content and activity, which can increase your cellular energy production and in so doing decrease your risk of chronic disease.

Aside from impacting your skeletal muscle and fat tissue, researchers noted that exercise induces mitochondrial changes that may also benefit your liver, brain and kidneys. The mitochondria is the “power plant” of your cells, responsible for generating the energy that drives all metabolic functions.

Increasing mitochondrial activity is extremely important because free radicals, which are toxic byproducts of metabolism as well as exposures to chemicals, pollutants and other toxins, can overwhelm your body’s defenses, leading to oxidative damage to cells and tissues that can destroy cellular proteins, lipids and DNA; this process often leads directly to the loss of mitochondrial function. In the long-term, irreversible damage in the mitochondria can occur, leading to:

  • Impaired ability to utilize carbohydrates and fat for energy
  • Insulin resistance
  • Lower threshold for physical exercise
  • Excessive weight gain
  • Accelerated aging

At least two additional studies, one in the Journal of Applied Physiology3 and the other in Neuroscience,4 also showed that exercise induces mitochondrial biogenesis in the brain, with potential benefits such as reduction or reversal of age-associated declines in cognitive function and helping to repair brain damage following a stroke, respectively.

What’s One of the Best Anti-Aging Exercises?

Make no mistake — virtually all forms of exercise are beneficial, provided you’re challenging yourself without overdoing it. Overdoing it, particularly with long bouts of traditional cardio, can actually damage your mitochondria and should be avoided. According to fitness expert Ori Hofmekler

“When done chronically, it [aerobics] causes accumulated oxidative stress in the mitochondria with increased risk of oxidative damage. And when chronic aerobic overtraining comes along with inadequate nutrition (such as with those dieters who obsessively run on a treadmill to burn excess calories they get from a bad diet) the results could be even worse…

The combined effect of bad nutrition with bad training can be extremely destructive, and may lead over time to irreversible damage in the mitochondria along with a total metabolic decline.”

The end result is not to shun all forms of aerobic exercise, but to learn how to do it wisely. This brings me to my most preferred form of anti-aging exercise, which is Peak Fitness, or high-intensity interval training. High-intensity interval-type training boosts your body’s natural production of human growth hormone (HGH), a synergistic, foundational biochemical that addresses the serious muscle loss and atrophy that typically occurs with aging.

Your production of vital human growth hormone increases by up to 771 percent during a Peak Fitness workout because you are stimulating your fast muscle fibers, which are rarely used during most exercise programs. The higher your levels of growth hormone, the healthier and stronger you will be. Once you hit the age of 30, you enter what’s called “somatopause,” at which point your levels of HGH begin to drop off quite dramatically. This decline of HGH is part of what drives your aging process, so maintaining your HGH levels gets increasingly important with age.

The longer you can keep your body producing higher levels of HGH, the longer you will likely experience more robust health and strength. Some athletes choose to inject it for this very reason, though it is a banned substance in nearly every professional sport. I do not recommend injecting HGH however, due to the potential side effects, the cost and, more importantly, it is likely to cause more long-term harm than good. Fortunately, your body produces HGH naturally when you exercise your super-fast muscle fibers during vigorous, high-intensity exercise like Peak Fitness.

Because these exercises are so intense, you only need to do them three times a week, and the entire workout takes just 20 minutes. Doing them more often can actually be harmful, as your body will not have enough time for recovery. Here’s a summary of what a typical Peak Fitness routine might look like:

  1. Warm up for three minutes
  2. Exercise as hard and fast as you can for 30 seconds. You should feel like you couldn’t possibly go on another few seconds
  3. Recover for 90 seconds
  4. Repeat the high intensity exercise and recovery 7 more times

As you can see, the entire workout is only 20 minutes. Twenty minutes! That really is a beautiful thing. And within those 20 minutes, 75 percent of that time is warming up, recovering or cooling down. You’re really only working out intensely for four minutes!

Keep in mind that you can use virtually any type of equipment you want for this – an elliptical machine, a treadmill, swimming, even sprinting outdoors (although you will need to do this very carefully to avoid injury) — as long as you’re pushing yourself as hard as you can for 30 seconds. But do be sure to stretch properly and start slowly to avoid injury. Start with two or three repetitions and work your way up, don’t expect to do all eight repetitions the first time you try this, especially if you are out of shape. For an in-depth explanation of Peak Fitness, read this past article, and watch my video demonstration below.

Fasting, and Fasting Before Exercise, Might Give You Even More of an Anti-Aging Boost

I have recently begun integrating Peak Fitness exercise with intermittent fasting, as it appears this will greatly catalyze the potential of exercise to reduce your risk of chronic disease and help keep your body biologically young. Simply put, exercise and fasting yield acute oxidative stress, which actually benefits your muscle.

Ori explains that acute oxidative stress is:

” … essential for keeping your muscle machinery tuned. Technically, acute oxidative stress makes your muscle increasingly resilient to oxidative stress; it stimulates glutathione and SOD [superoxide dismutase, the first antioxidant mobilized by your cells for defense] production in your mitochondria along with increased muscular capacity to utilize energy, generate force and resist fatigue. Hence, exercise and fasting help counteract all the main determinants of muscle aging. But there is something else about exercise and fasting. When combined, they trigger a mechanism that recycles and rejuvenates your brain and muscle tissues.”

The mechanism he refers to is triggering genes and growth factors, including IGF-1, brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) and muscle regulatory factors (MRFs), which signal brain stem cells and muscle satellite cells to convert into new neurons and new muscle cells respectively. This means that exercise while fasting may actually help to keep your brain, neuro-motors and muscle fibers biologically young. Even if you take the exercise component out, modern science has confirmed there are many good reasons for fasting, including:

  • Normalizing your insulin sensitivity, which is key for optimal health as insulin resistance (which is what you get when after prolonged periods of over-secreted and elevated insulin) is a primary contributing factor to nearly all chronic disease, from diabetes to heart disease and even cancer
  • Normalizing ghrelin levels, also known as “the hunger hormone”
  • Promoting human growth hormone (HGH) production, which plays an important part in health, fitness and slowing the aging process
  • Lowering triglyceride levels
  • Reducing inflammation and lessening free radical damage

There’s also plenty of research showing that fasting has a beneficial impact on longevity in animals. There are a number of mechanisms contributing to this effect. Normalizing insulin sensitivity is a major one, but fasting also complements the insulin like growth factor (IGF-1) and mTOR pathways, which plays important roles in the repair and regeneration of tissues for sustaining a youthful body.

Aging is associated with a substantial decline in IGF-1 and mTOR expression and fasting can help reverse this process. Furthermore, fasting has also shown to inhibit the over expression of IGF-1 and mTOR, such as in the case of chronic inflammatory disease or cancer, which are often caused by age related metabolic disorders and immune deficiencies. The fact that it improves a number of potent disease markers also contributes to fasting’s overall beneficial effects on general health.

Interestingly, one recent study that included more than 200 individuals, found that fasting also triggered a dramatic rise in HGH—1,300 percent in women, and an astounding 2,000 percent in men!5 The only other thing that can compete in terms of dramatically boosting HGH levels is high-intensity interval training, as mentioned in the section above.

Intermittent fasting isn’t as hard as it may sound, as it includes either fasting completely or simply minimizing your food intake during the day to small servings of light, low glycemic, mostly raw foods such as fruits, vegetables, whey protein or lightly poached eggs every 4-6 hours. You then do your workout while fasting (30 minutes after your latest snack) followed by a very important recovery meal (whey protein) and then have your main meal at night. For more information on healthy, safe intermittent fasting, read this.

What Else Does an Anti-Aging Lifestyle Entail?

That said, longevity is the result of an overall healthy lifestyle, so in addition to exercise, these additional strategies can further help you stay young and vibrant, longer:

  • Optimize your insulin and leptin levels – Of all the healthy lifestyle strategies I know of that can have a significant impact on your longevity, normalizing your insulin and leptin levels is probably the most important. There is no question that this is an absolute necessity if you want to slow down your aging process, and that means modifying your diet to avoid excessive amounts of fructose and other sugars, grains, and other pro-inflammatory ingredients like synthetic trans fats. Aside from avoiding grains and sugars, exercise is one of the most effective ways to regain insulin sensitivity.
  • Learn how to effectively cope with stress – Stress has a direct impact on inflammation, which in turn underlies many of the chronic diseases that kill people prematurely every day, so developing effective coping mechanisms is a major longevity-promoting factor.

Meditation, prayer, physical activity and exercise are all viable options that can help you maintain emotional and mental equilibrium. I also strongly believe in using energy psychology tools such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to address deeper, oftentimes hidden emotional problems.

  • Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels to between 60 and 80 ng/ml using safe sun exposure, a safe tanning bed, or a vitamin D3 supplement.
  • Animal based omega-3 fats – Correcting the ratio of omega-3 to healthful omega-6 fats is an essential component in helping people live longer. This typically means increasing your intake of animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil, while decreasing your intake of damaged omega-6 fats (think hydrogenated oils and rancid vegetable oils).
  • Get most of your antioxidants from foods – Good sources include blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, beans, and artichokes.
  • Get your resveratrol naturally – Because resveratrol appears to be so effective at warding off many diseases associated with aging, it is often referred to as a “fountain of youth” that can extend lifespan. Good sources of naturally occurring resveratrol include whole grape skins and seeds, raspberries and mulberries.
  • Use coconut oil – Another excellent anti-aging food is coconut oil, known to boost heart-protective HDL cholesterol and stimulate brain metabolism in a way that may protect against Alzheimer’s disease, among other things.
  • Avoid as many chemicals, toxins, and pollutants as possible – This includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
  • Avoid unnecessary prescription drugs – Pharmaceutical drugs kill thousands of people prematurely every year. And, if you adhere to a healthy lifestyle, you most likely will never need any of them in the first place.


  • ·         Source: Dr. Mercola


Exercise Helps Your Immune System Protect Against Future Cancers.

fight-cancer-exerciseIf you are like most people, when you think of reducing your risk of cancer, exercise probably isn’t at the top of your list. However, there is compelling evidence that exercise can not only help slash your risk of cancer, but can also help cancer patients get well sooner, and help prevent cancer recurrence.

Research has also shown it may help minimize the side effects of conventional cancer treatment.

A preliminary study presented at The Integrative Biology of Exercise VI meeting in mid-October1 helps shed light on why exercise is so effective for decreasing the risk of secondary cancers in survivors, or why it can decrease your risk of getting cancer in the first place.

Exercise Improves Your Immune System’s “Cancer Surveillance”

Sixteen cancer survivors who had just completed chemotherapy participated in the three-month long study. The fitness program, which was tailored to each individual, included:

The researchers examined the immune cells in the participants’ blood before and after completion of the 12-week program, and the analysis showed that a large portion of the T cells were altered into a more effective disease-fighting form, called “naïve” T cells. As reported by Medical News Today:2

“[Lead researcher] Bilek explained, ‘What we’re suggesting is that with exercise, you might be getting rid of T cells that aren’t helpful and making room for T cells that might be helpful.’

This research is important because it not only emphasizes the advantages of exercise for cancer patients and cancer survivors, but it also demonstrates how it can benefit healthy individuals. However, the increased ‘cancer surveillance,’ or the power of the immune system to stop emerging cancers, is particularly beneficial for those struggling with cancer, or who have just survived it.

Bilek concluded: ‘There’s a litany of positive benefits from exercise. If exercise indeed strengthens the immune system and potentially improves cancer surveillance, it’s one more thing we should educate patients about as a reason they should schedule regular activity throughout their day and make it a priority in their lives.'”

Viewing Exercise as a Drug

Besides altering your immune cells into a more potent disease-fighting form and improving circulation of those immune cells in your blood, another primary way exercise lowers your risk for cancer is by reducing elevated insulin levels. This creates a low sugar environment that discourages the growth and spread of cancer cells. It’s also been suggested that apoptosis (programmed cell death) is triggered by exercise, causing cancer cells to die.

The trick though, is understanding how to use exercise as a precise tool. I like to suggest viewing it as a “drug” that needs to be carefully prescribed to achieve its maximum benefit. This ensures you’re getting enough to achieve the benefit, not too much to cause injury, and the right variety to balance your entire physical structure and maintain strength, flexibility, and aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels.

Ideally, doctors would prescribe exercise in specific “doses” and intervals. To do this properly, oncologists would be wise to develop relationships with personal trainers, and prescribe training sessions for their patients. If you have cancer, I would highly recommend discussing exercise with your oncologist, and/or work with a trained fitness professional who can help you devise a safe and effective regimen.

Unfortunately, many public health guidelines still focus only on the aerobic aspects of exercise, and this exclusive focus can lead to imbalances that may actually prevent optimal health.

It’s important to include a large variety of techniques in your exercise routine, such as strength training, aerobics, core-building activities, and stretching. Most important of all, however, is to make sure you include high-intensity, burst-type exercise, once or twice a week, in which you raise your heart rate up to your anaerobic threshold for 20 to 30 seconds, and then you recover for 90 seconds. These exercises can increase your body’s natural production of human growth hormone.

Compelling Evidence in Support of Exercise as Cancer Prophylactic

In the 1980s the notion that exercise may help prevent cancer started getting its due attention. According to a study published 12 years ago in the British Medical Journal,3 which explored the relationship between exercise and cancer, exercise affects several biological functions that may directly influence your cancer risk. These effects include changes in:

Cardiovascular capacity Energy balance
Pulmonary capacity Immune function
Bowel motility Antioxidant defense
Hormone levels DNA repair


In 2003, a paper in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise4 reported that “more than a hundred epidemiologic studies on the role of physical activity and cancer prevention have been published.” The authors noted that:

“The data are clear in showing that physically active men and women have about a 30-40 percent reduction in the risk of developing colon cancer, compared with inactive persons … With regard to breast cancer, there is reasonably clear evidence that physically active women have about a 20-30 percent reduction in risk, compared with inactive women. It also appears that 30-60 min·d-1 of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity is needed to decrease the risk of breast cancer, and that there is likely a dose-response relation.”

Cancer Groups Recommend Making Exercise Part of Standard Care

In recent years, a number of cancer groups have started taking exercise seriously. For example, a recent report issued by the British organization Macmillan Cancer Support5 argues that exercise really should be part of standard cancer care. It recommends that all patients getting cancer treatment should be told to engage in moderate-intensity exercise for two and a half hours every week, stating that the advice to rest and take it easy after treatment is an outdated view.

According to Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support:7

“Cancer patients would be shocked if they knew just how much of a benefit physical activity could have on their recovery and long term health, in some cases reducing their chances of having to go through the grueling ordeal of treatment all over again…”

Indeed, the reduction in risk for recurrence is quite impressive. Previous research has shown that breast and colon cancer patients who exercise regularly have half the recurrence rate than non-exercisers.8 Macmillan Cancer Support also notes that exercise can help you to mitigate some of the common side effects of conventional cancer treatment, including:

Reduce fatigue and improve your energy levels Manage stress, anxiety, low mood or depression Improve bone health
Improve heart health (some chemotherapy drugs and radiotherapy can cause heart problems later in life) Build muscle strength, relieve pain and improve range of movement Maintain a healthy weight
Sleep better Improve your appetite Prevent constipation

Exercise Tips for Cancer Patients

I would strongly recommend you read up on my Peak Fitness program, which includes high-intensity exercises that can reduce your exercise time while actually improving your benefits.

Now, if you have cancer or any other chronic disease, you will of course need to tailor your exercise routine to your individual circumstances, taking into account your fitness level and current health. Often, you will be able to take part in a regular exercise program — one that involves a variety of exercises like strength training, core-building, stretching, aerobic and anaerobic — with very little changes necessary. However, at times you may find you need to exercise at a lower intensity, or for shorter durations.

Always listen to your body and if you feel you need a break, take time to rest.

Just remember that exercising for just a few minutes a day is better than not exercising at all, and you’ll likely find that your stamina increases and you’re able to complete more challenging workouts with each passing day. In the event you are suffering from a very weakened immune system, you may want to exercise at home instead of visiting a public gym. But remember that exercise will ultimately help to boost your immune system, so it’s very important to continue with your program, even if you suffer from chronic illness or cancer.

That said, if your body will not allow you to exercise, either due to pain or worsening of your underlying condition, then you have no practical option but to honor your body’s signals and exercise less. Even though your body desperately needs the exercise to improve, you will only get worse if you violate your current limitations.

Protein Intake Also Crucial for Cancers

I recently interviewed Dr. Ron Rosedale for nearly fifteen hours and i hope to be able to start posting those articles very soon. He is one of the first physicians in the U.S. that started measuring leptin levels clinically and was far ahead of the curve on this one. In our interview, he helped me understand the major importance that excessive protein intake can have on cancer growth.

The mTOR pathway is short for mammalian target of rapamycin. This pathway is ancient but relatively recently appreciated and has only been known for less than 20 years. Odds are very high your doctor was never taught this is medical school and isn’t even aware of it. Many new cancer drugs are actually being targeted to use this pathway. Drugs using this pathway have also been given to animals to radically extend their lifespan. But you don’t have to use drugs to get this pathway to work for you.

You can biohack your body and merely restrict your protein intake and replace the decreased protein with healthy fats as this will provide virtually identical benefits as these dangerous and expensive drugs.

Eating excessive protein can be an additional synergistically powerful mechanism. Dr. Rosedale believes that when you consume protein in levels higher than one gram of protein per kilogram of LEAN body mass you can activate the mTOR pathway, which will radically increase your risk of cancers. It is very easy to consume excess protein and my guess is that most people reading this are. I know I was, and as a result of this new insight I have reduced my protein intake by about half.

To determine your lean body mass find out your percent body fat and subtract from 100. So if you are 20% body fat you would have 80% lean body mass. Just multiply that times your current weight to get lean body mass. For most people this means restricting protein intake from 35 to 75 grams. Pregnant women and those working out extensively need about 25% more protein though.

Of course when you reduce protein you need to replace it with other calories, so the key is to replace the lost calories with high-quality fats such as avocados, butter, coconut oil, olives, olive oil, nuts and eggs. It is also very helpful to avoid eating anything for three hours before going to bed as this allows you to have relatively low blood sugars while you are sleeping. This is another good trick to move your body to fat burning mode.

Nearly everyone is primarily in carb burning mode because of the amount of carbohydrate content that they consume. The beauty of shifting over to fat burning mode is that it virtually eliminates hunger. Intermittent fasting is one way to help achieve this, but radically cutting back on non-vegetable carbs is also very important. Coconut oil is particularly useful to use in making the transition to fat burning mode as it is primarily short and medium chain fats which break down very quickly and can be used as an energy source which is important for countering the decreased energy and other physical challenges that many encounter in the several weeks it typically takes to make the transition to fat burning mode .

Cancer Prevention Begins with Your Lifestyle Choices

While exercise is an important facet of cancer prevention and treatment, it’s certainly not the only one. I believe the vast majority of all cancers could be prevented by strictly applying the healthy lifestyle recommendations below:

  • Avoid sugar, especially fructose. All forms of sugar are detrimental to health in general and promote cancer. Fructose, however, is clearly one of the most harmful and should be avoided as much as possible.
  • Optimize your vitamin D. Vitamin D influences virtually every cell in your body and is one of nature’s most potent cancer fighters. Vitamin D is actually able to enter cancer cells and trigger apoptosis (cell death). If you have cancer, your vitamin D level should be between 70 and 100 ng/ml. Vitamin D works synergistically with every cancer treatment I’m aware of, with no adverse effects. I suggest you try watching my one-hour free lecture on vitamin D to learn more.
  • Limit your protein. Newer research has emphasized the importance of the mTOR pathways. When these are active, cancer growth is accelerated. The best way to quiet this pathway is by limiting your protein to one gram of protein per kilogram of lean body weight, or roughly a bit less than half a gram of protein per every pound of lean body weight. For most people this ranges between 40 and 70 grams of protein a day, which is about 2/3 to half of what they are currently eating.
  • Avoid unfermented soy products. Unfermented soy is high in plant estrogens, or phytoestrogens, also known as isoflavones. In some studies, soy appears to work in concert with human estrogen to increase breast cell proliferation, which increases the chances for mutations and cancerous cells.
  • Improve your insulin and leptin receptor sensitivity. The best way to do this is by avoiding sugar and grains and restricting carbs to mostly fiber vegetables. Also making sure you are exercising, especially with Peak Fitness.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight. This will come naturally when you begin eating right for your nutritional type and exercising. It’s important to lose excess body fat because fat produces estrogen.
  • Drink a pint to a quart of organic green vegetable juice daily. Please review my juicing instructions for more detailed information.
  • Get plenty of high quality animal-based omega-3 fats, such as krill oil. Omega-3 deficiency is a common underlying factor for cancer.
  • Curcumin. This is the active ingredient in turmeric and in high concentrations can be very useful adjunct in the treatment of cancer. For example, it has demonstrated major therapeutic potential in preventing breast cancer metastasis.9 It’s important to know that curcumin is generally not absorbed that well, so I’ve provided several absorption tips here.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, or at least limit your alcoholic drinks to one per day.
  • Avoid electromagnetic fields as much as possible. Even electric blankets can increase your cancer risk.
  • Avoid synthetic hormone replacement therapy, especially if you have risk factors for breast cancer. Breast cancer is an estrogen-related cancer, and according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer rates for women dropped in tandem with decreased use of hormone replacement therapy. (There are similar risks for younger women who use oral contraceptives. Birth control pills, which are also comprised of synthetic hormones, have been linked to cervical and breast cancers.)

If you are experiencing excessive menopausal symptoms, you may want to consider bioidentical hormone replacement therapy instead, which uses hormones that are molecularly identical to the ones your body produces and do not wreak havoc on your system. This is a much safer alternative.

  • Avoid BPA, phthalates and other xenoestrogens. These are estrogen-like compounds that have been linked to increased breast cancer risk
  • Make sure you’re not iodine deficient, as there’s compelling evidence linking iodine deficiency with certain forms of cancer. Dr. David Brownstein10, author of the book Iodine: Why You Need It, Why You Can’t Live Without It, is a proponent of iodine for breast cancer. It actually has potent anticancer properties and has been shown to cause cell death in breast and thyroid cancer cells.

For more information, I recommend reading Dr. Brownstein’s book. I have been researching iodine for some time ever since I interviewed Dr. Brownstein as I do believe that the bulk of what he states is spot on. However, I am not at all convinced that his dosage recommendations are correct. I believe they are too high.

  • Avoid charring your meats. Charcoal or flame broiled meat is linked with increased breast cancer risk. Acrylamide—a carcinogen created when starchy foods are baked, roasted or fried—has been found to increase cancer risk as well.

Source: Dr. Mercola

How to invent in an age of information overload.

In 1945, Vannevar Bush, the then-director of the United States Office of Scientific Research and Development, penned a poignant and prescient essay titled “As We May Think.”

In it, he explores the challenges of information overload in an era of rapid technological innovation.

More than half a century before blogging, instagramming, tweeting, and the rest of today’s ever-proliferating means of producing content, Bush laments the unmanageable scale of the recorded human experience.

He writes: “The difficulty seems to be, not so much that we publish unduly in view of the extent and variety of present day interests, but rather that publication has been extended far beyond our present ability to make real use of the record.”

He goes on to envision something called the “memex” – from “memory” and “index” – a kind of desk-sized personal hard drive decades before those became a common way of organising information.

A user would store all of his books, photographs, film reels, and so forth in the memex.

In making this personal library navigable and useful, Bush emphasised the importance of what we now call hyperlinks and metadata – information about the information, often based on associations.

He marvels at the state of technology, where microfilm compression would soon allow for the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica to fit in the volume of a matchbox.

Making connections

The Harvard scientist Sri Kosuri recently spoke about his team’s groundbreaking feat of encoding the world’s first book onto a DNA molecule. He said that if all the world’s existing information, which amounts to an estimated 1.8 trillion hard drives, were encoded on DNA, it would be the size of a pencil.

So we’ve come a long way. But Bush admonished that as much as we may be able to compress the information and automate its retrieval, that’s only half the equation – the other half is making connections, which can only take place in the mind of the memex user and cannot be outsourced to the machine itself.

This, I believe, is as true today as it was then. And it is the defining characteristic of what we often call “creativity” – this combinatorial process that brings together existing ideas and bits of knowledge and memories and information into new combinations.

One of the most familiar examples of this is Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. The common tale implies a search for a solution to a problem, followed by a Eureka moment, and the transfer of technology from the wine press to the printing press.

But Gutenberg’s innovation was the result of far more sophisticated “associative indexing,” to use Vannevar Bush’s term.

He didn’t just merge the wine press with the idea of movable type. He sampled from a much wider array of technologies and fields.

From chemistry, he created a new and better kind of ink that was more resilient than anything used before. From metallurgy, he built a metal type that was not just easily cast but also had a consistent look. From the concept of division of labour and service design, he enlisted an army of workers in a well-oiled machine that produced books at an unprecedented rate.

It was the convergence of all these domains of knowledge that made the printing press efficient enough to be a success.

Fast-forward half a millennium and, the computer is a near-identical tale, combining a number of existing technologies, all of which were in place by 1918, but which weren’t combined together into the first working computer until nearly three decades later.

Knowledge curators

The point of all this is that it is not the existence of knowledge but the convergence and cross-pollination of knowledge that drives progress.

Now, the challenge with the internet is that it’s a medium increasingly well-tailored for helping us find more of what we know we’re looking for, but increasingly poorly suited to helping us discover what we don’t yet know exists and thus don’t yet care to be interested in.

This creates a kind of “filter bubble” – to use internet activist Eli Pariser’s term – that only deepens our existing interests rather than broadening our intellectual horizons and filling our mental libraries with precisely the kind of diverse pieces that we can then combine into new ideas.

So how do we discover what we don’t yet know we’re interested in and take an interest in what doesn’t appear to be “useful”?

Because it’s been applied so indiscriminately to such a large spectrum of activities, “curation” is terrible term. But terrible as it may be, “curation” is a buzzword placeholder for a very real and tangible service of investing creative and intellectual labour in sifting the signal from the noise in an age of actual information overload.

It brings to the forefront that which is interesting, meaningful, and stimulating and memorable.

I recently saw designer Simon Collision speak at the Creative Mornings breakfast lecture series, and he captured the present challenge wonderfully. He said, “I collect articles in Readability and Instapaper like pennies – and, like pennies, I do nothing with them.”

A great curator, to me, is someone who takes such bits of information and transmutes them into useful knowledge.

It’s someone who shines a spotlight on the timeless corners of the “common record”, the ones that are perhaps obscured from view, or forgotten, or poorly understood, making them timely again by contextualising them and linking them to ideas and issues of present urgency, correlating and interpreting.

It’s this transmutation of information into practical wisdom about how the world works, and moral wisdom about how the world ought to work that sets the human apart from the algorithm – and from the computer.

It offers, I believe, the only real hope of making use and making sense of humanity’s collective knowledge.

Maria Popova is editor of the essay website Brain Pickings, which she describes as “a human-powered discovery engine for interestingness”.



iPhone apps: Therapists that are always on call.

Smartphone apps that act as surrogate “therapists” for conditions like depression and anxiety are becoming increasingly common. But there is still a lot to understand about how – and if – they work.

Think of a therapy session and you might picture the patient reclined on a worn leather Chesterfield being questioned by a mild-mannered, caring doctor. But what if you could access this kind of psychological help without leaving the comfort of your own sofa?

That is the promise of “therapy” apps for smartphones, which hope to make treatment – or at least help – for conditions like depression and anxiety available to anyone, anywhere.

Take a look at Apple’s App Store, the largest app marketplace, and you will find more than 100 “medical” apps tagged with the word “depression”, for example. They range from apps like Moody Me, which simply help people keep track of what makes them happy to others,  to iCouch CBT, which claims to “help you train your emotions and feel better” by offering more specific strategies, similar to those which patients learn in professional therapy.

It is easy to understand this surge. Smartphones are increasingly popular with more than 50% of the population in the US owning one, for example. And depression is also becoming more common. According to the World Health Organization, it’s the third greatest ‘disease burden’ worldwide, just behind lower respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases. It is expected to rise to number one in developed countries by 2030.

Apps that cost $1.99 a pop have the potential to reach millions of people who either cannot or will not engage with more traditional therapy. As a result, Dr Steve Daviss of the American Psychological Association describes iPads and iPods as the physician’s “electronic black bag”.

“They don’t replace the role of a therapist, but they can augment the work we do between sessions.”

For example, a patient tapping an emoticon to say how they feel is a lot less intrusive than filling out paper diaries and can help a doctor track mood swings. And because the device is always on and in a person’s pocket, it allows people to carry out beneficial exercises regularly and discretely.

Role play

One of the firms working in this growing industry is Hoa’s Toolshop, a Swedish startup that creates digital apps for personal development. “We are developing people, not just apps,” says Hoa Ly, a clinical psychologist and Founder of the firm. “We want to make people use apps that really matter, instead of just Facebook and Instagram.”

Hoa’s flagship service, Viary, is a “behavior-change” application designed to help users overcome depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. To do this, it prescribes a mix of old therapy tricks with new apps which make it easy to collect and track important data on behaviors and actions.

“Data motivates people” Ly explains, “and with it personal development can become more concrete and measurable. We are translating an analog world to a digital world.”

To create Viary, Ly used elements of a common type of treatment called cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Specifically he uses so-called “behavior activation”- a common treatment for depression that encourages patients to perform specific actions or behaviors that help them change their thoughts and reactions to the world and feel better.

Together with a therapist, Viary’s clients choose specific actions that will help them achieve a desired goal. For example a client may decide that exercising, eating healthier food, and listening to classical music makes them feel less depressed. Viary sets reminders for these behaviors- walk for 15 minutes every morning, take a vegetarian lunch, tune into some Beethoven etc, – and the app then collects data on these completed actions. Therapists or coaches can then monitor a client’s progress in real time and even respond.

“This small reinforcement can matter quite a lot” Ly says.

The approach is similar to Nike’s highly popular Nike + running app, Ly claims, which encourages users to set personal running goals, track activities, find new running routes and share the results with friends. Nike’s tagline, “stay motivated, challenged and connected” is in essence what most behavior-change therapy apps like Viary are all about.

Dr Paul Blenkiron, a consultant psychiatrist in the UK, says that because CBT therapy uses a lot of self-guided ‘homework’, apps like this certainly have a role to play. “They offer portability, choice, flexibility and ease of access to your own self help plan when you need it,” he explains. But, he adds, they are only for “practical coping, not ‘black couch’ therapy.”

Puzzling games

In fact, there is still a long way to go to understand if – and how – these apps work at all. Most practicing therapists are unaware of the existence of these apps, and little research has been done confirming their effectiveness. And, even when studies have been done, they tend to have confusing results, says Dr Richard McNally, director of clinical training at Harvard University.

“There’s still a lot of research going on- there’s positive findings and null findings,” he says. “It’s really up in the air.”

At his lab, PhD students have been conducting research on the use of smartphone apps to treat anxiety, through a technique known as attention bias modification.

This is based on lab tests that show people with anxiety – a feeling of fear or dread – tend to have a “bias” towards noticing hostile, or angry faces in a crowd, rather than neutral, happy or relaxed ones. The idea is that by reducing this bias, you can short circuit the feelings that follow, interrupting the feeling of anxiety.

The team tested the idea using a simple game app, which showed people two faces, one with a neutral expression and one looking hostile. The faces appear one above the other on the screen before disappearing, to be replaced by a letter on one half of the screen. The game requires patients to identify this letter.

If all of this sounds very abstract, that is because the true intention of the game is not to identify letters. Rather, the letter appears in a position that encourages the user to shift their gaze from the part of the screen that showed the hostile face. Play the game enough, the logic goes, and a person should train their eyes to look away automatically, providing them with an impulsive control in real life situations that can help control anxiety.

Or at least that is the theory. Hundreds of participants took part in the study, some of which showed a reduction in their anxiety. Yet, other people showed no change and, perhaps more puzzlingly, the control group also showed a reduction in anxiety.

“It totally surprised us,” he says. It appeared that just by playing the game with the belief that it would reduce anxiety, participants actually did reduce their anxiety, something commonly known as the “placebo effect.”

The results have left him with a “cautious optimism”, as he puts it. “We still need to know the variables of when and how these app treatments work. We need to do more proper randomised control trials.”