Top 5 Reasons We Might Live in a Multiverse.

Conceptualization of a multiverse
Our universe may be one of many, physicists say. In fact, that’s the most likely scenario.

The universe we live in may not be the only one out there. In fact, our universe could be just one of an infinite number of universes making up a “multiverse.”

Though the concept may stretch credulity, there’s good physics behind it. And there’s not just one way to get to a multiverse — numerous physics theories independently point to such a conclusion. In fact, some experts think the existence of hidden universes is more likely than not.

Here are the five most plausible scientific theories suggesting we live in a multiverse:

1. Infinite Universes

Scientists can’t be sure what the shape of space-time is, but most likely, it’s flat (as opposed to spherical or even donut-shape) and stretches out infinitely. But if space-time goes on forever, then it must start repeating at some point, because there are a finite number of ways particles can be arranged in space and time.

So if you look far enough, you would encounter another version of you — in fact, infinite versions of you. Some of these twins will be doing exactly what you’re doing right now, while others will have worn a different sweater this morning, and still others will have made vastly different career and life choices.

Because the observable universe extends only as far as light has had a chance to get in the 13.7 billion years since the Big Bang (that would be 13.7 billion light-years), the space-time beyond that distance can be considered to be its own separate universe. In this way, a multitude of universes exists next to each other in a giant patchwork quilt of universes. [Visualizations of Infinity: A Gallery]

Patchwork quilt of infinite universes.
Space-time may stretch out to infinity. If so, then everything in our universe is bound to repeat at some point, creating a patchwork quilt of infinite universes.

2. Bubble Universes

In addition to the multiple universes created by infinitely extending space-time, other universes could arise from a theory called “eternal inflation.” Inflation is the notion that the universe expanded rapidly after the Big Bang, in effect inflating like a balloon. Eternal inflation, first proposed by Tufts University cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin, suggests that some pockets of space stop inflating, while other regions continue to inflate, thus giving rise to many isolated “bubble universes.”

Thus, our own universe, where inflation has ended, allowing stars and galaxies to form, is but a small bubble in a vast sea of space, some of which is still inflating, that contains many other bubbles like ours. And in some of these bubble universes, the laws of physics and fundamental constants might be different than in ours, making some universes strange places indeed.

3. Parallel Universes

Another idea that arises from string theory is the notion of “braneworlds” — parallel universes that hover just out of reach of our own, proposed by Princeton University’s Paul Steinhardt and Neil Turok of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, Canada. The idea comes from the possibility of many more dimensions to our world than the three of space and one of time that we know. In addition to our own three-dimensional “brane” of space, other three-dimensional branes may float in a higher-dimensional space.

parallel univeres illustration
Out universe may live on one membrane, or “brane” that is parallel to many others containing their own universes, all floating in a higher-dimensional space.

Columbia University physicist Brian Greene describes the idea as the notion that “our universe is one of potentially numerous ‘slabs’ floating in a higher-dimensional space, much like a slice of bread within a grander cosmic loaf,” in his book “The Hidden Reality” (Vintage Books, 2011).

A further wrinkle on this theory suggests these brane universes aren’t always parallel and out of reach. Sometimes, they might slam into each other, causing repeated Big Bangs that reset the universes over and over again. [The Universe: Big Bang to Now in 10 Easy Steps ]

4. Daughter Universes

The theory of quantum mechanics, which reigns over the tiny world of subatomic particles, suggests another way multiple universes might arise. Quantum mechanics describes the world in terms of probabilities, rather than definite outcomes. And the mathematics of this theory might suggest that all possible outcomes of a situation do occur — in their own separate universes. For example, if you reach a crossroads where you can go right or left, the present universe gives rise to two daughter universes: one in which you go right, and one in which you go left.

“And in each universe, there’s a copy of you witnessing one or the other outcome, thinking — incorrectly — that your reality is the only reality,” Greene wrote in “The Hidden Reality.”

5. Mathematical Universes

Scientists have debated whether mathematics is simply a useful tool for describing the universe, or whether math itself is the fundamental reality, and our observations of the universe are just imperfect perceptions of its true mathematical nature. If the latter is the case, then perhaps the particular mathematical structure that makes up our universe isn’t the only option, and in fact all possible mathematical structures exist as their own separate universes.

“A mathematical structure is something that you can describe in a way that’s completely independent of human baggage,” said Max Tegmark of MIT, who proposed this brain-twistin gidea. “I really believe that there is this universe out there that can exist independently of me that would continue to exist even if there were no humans.”

Cannabis kicks Lyme disease to the curb

Lyme disease has been controversial for some years. Many medical practitioners misdiagnose it, while several think that it’s mental. With Lyme disease, there are so many symptoms, so many debilitating, agonizing manifestations, that it’s often misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue, lupus or a mental issue.


Lyme disease is caused by a spirochetal bacteria of the Borrelia genus. Spirochetes are composed of about 40% DNA and have double-membrane envelopes that make them difficult to trace and kill. They’re apparently able to hide in deep tissue and change shapes to disguise their identities.

They’re somewhat similar to the bacteria behind syphilis, as Lyme disease affects the nervous system and brain also.

Going through the medical system with Lyme disease is like being a ball in an old fashioned pinball game machine. Being on antibiotics forever is risking serious adverse events or at least reducing one’s immunity to invite all sorts of other complications.

All this without a complete cure. But now there is considerable hope with cannabis.

Cannabis Lyme successes

There are two levels of handling Lyme with cannabis: managing symptoms well by smoking marijuana, or completely reversing the disease with cannabis oil. Not many are aware of cannabis oil pioneered by Rick Simpson a few years ago. Rick has said that most of the healing qualities of cannabis are lost in the smoke.

Alexis, diagnosed with late-stage Lyme disease, is an example of someone handling symptoms without pharmaceuticals by smoking marijuana. She was on antibiotics long enough for her gastrointestinal tract to be damaged and to be hospitalized with hemorrhagic colitis.

She was taken off antibiotics and put on several strong pain prescriptions that were barely effective while putting her into lower emotional states. Then she tried smoking marijuana.

That routine handled most of her nausea, enabled her to eat well enough to avoid wasting away, helped her sleep better and eased her pain while elevating her mood. She maintains that marijuana has been the best thing for her Lyme disease.

Alexis wrote, “In the hospital, I have needed to have morphine or lorazepam through an IV to accomplish what smoking two grams of cannabis does on the comfort of my couch, in a fraction of the time.” [1] But Alexis is looking for a long-term solution.

Some have discovered that solution using cannabis oil for Lyme disease. Cannabis oil is a highly concentrated substance that’s extracted and reduced from large amounts of cannabis with a good balance of THC and other cannabinoids.

It has become increasingly available in states that allow medical marijuana. But it’s also available “underground” if you search on the internet. This is the stuff that has been curing cancer lately.

Shelly White’s Lyme disease was so debilitating that she had endured at least 10 seizures daily for a year and a half. She began smoking marijuana from a pipe and then switched to inhaling it through a vaporizer. Just from that, her seizures had stopped. Then she decided to go to the next level of using cannabis oil.

After a month of the oil, she was able to return to work and school. At the time of writing her story, she was happy to announce that she could now move out and live on her own and enjoy a normal social life. [2]

An internet radio show called “High Noon” interviewed a couple of Lyme disease victims who had been using cannabis oil successfully, Pamela Baily and Lisa Sikes. Listen via the link at source [3].

“Lymies” should look into cannabis since it handles so many ailments associated with Lyme disease. [4]

Sources for this article include:





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Experimental ‘Implanted Insulin’ Device Seeks to Control Blood Sugar Levels – MedNews

A so-called implantable insulin delivery device could one day free people with type 1 diabetes from the need for multiple daily injections, scientists say.

“Diabetes is a difficult-to-treat condition, and yet keeping in very good balance all the time is the only way to maintain good health,” said the lead researcher on the project, Joan Taylor, a professor of pharmacy at De Montfort University in Leicester, England.

Taylor and her colleagues hope to have the device ready for human trials in as soon as two years.

The device, which is currently dubbed “a self-regulating insulin delivery device,” would be implanted in the abdomen. The outside of the device would be made of plastic or metal. There would be no electronic or moving parts, according to Taylor. The device wouldn’t need batteries, and because it’s not made of biological material, there’s no worry of rejection, she said.

The device would house a refillable insulin reservoir that would contain insulin with a protective gel layer. The insulin and gel would need to be replaced approximately every two weeks.

That gel layer would react to the presence of sugar (glucose) in the blood.

“The gel material contains a lock-and-key chemical interaction that holds the gel together and this is interrupted by the presence of glucose that enters the device gel layer from the fluid surrounding it in the body. When the gel softens, the insulin in it travels much more quickly and reaches the body circulation. Once the insulin has lowered the blood glucose, glucose starts to leave the gel again and the gel hardens, effectively closing the gateway,” Taylor explained.

This type of insulin delivery more closely mimics the natural delivery of insulin than does an insulin injection, Taylor said. Insulin is a hormone that’s necessary for the body to metabolize the carbohydrates in food. Carbohydrates transform into glucose during digestion to provide fuel for the body’s cells. But, without insulin, the glucose can’t enter the cells and builds up in the bloodstream.

High blood sugar (glucose) levels can eventually lead to serious complications, such as kidney or heart disease and vision problems. But, low blood sugar levels can also be dangerous, even potentially deadly.

“If [the gel] did not re-harden, the dose released would be higher than it should be,” said Taylor, who added that the research team is working to ensure that insulin won’t gush out. Or perhaps the researchers could design the device with a way to disable the delivery of insulin if necessary, she said.

“It goes without saying that the medical engineering needs to be perfect. It must not leak or be vulnerable to easy damage. We absolutely recognize that insulin is an extremely potent drug that needs respect,” Taylor said.

Sanjoy Dutta, senior director of treatment therapies at JDRF (formerly known as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), said he’s intrigued by Taylor’s research, but added that there are “challenges for these researchers and other groups who are trying to develop implanted devices and glucose responsive insulin.”

The ideal glucose responsive insulin needs to “deliver the right amount of insulin, which means you would not need to carb-count; you would not need to worry about [the effect on your blood sugar from] exercising one day and not the next; you would not have to worry about how stress [might change your blood sugar],” Dutta said. “Ideally, it should almost work like a pancreas, but this will take a long time to develop.”

However, Dutta noted that just 10 years ago people thought an artificial pancreas was a distant dream, yet an early version of such a system was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last summer. The artificial pancreas is worn outside the body and consists of a continuous glucose monitoring system, an insulin pump, and software with a sophisticated algorithm to predict blood sugar levels.

There are several different types of artificial pancreas systems currently in clinical trials. The goal is to have a closed-loop system that would allow someone with diabetes to let the device take over the management of their blood sugar levels. The system already approved by the FDA is called a low-glucose suspend system, and it shuts down insulin delivery when it senses that blood sugar levels have dropped too low. This system still requires the person with diabetes to direct most of their daily care, however.

Dutta said that “a true glucose responsive insulin will trump a closed-loop artificial pancreas system any day, but the question is how long will it take us to get to a true glucose responsive insulin?”

Dutta and Taylor expect that both the implanted device under development in Britain — which is not an artificial pancreas — and the insulin encased in a glucose responsive gel will face a number of regulatory hurdles worldwide.

“The FDA will look at this with a fine-tooth comb. They will require many studies and safety data,” said Dutta. But, he added, approval is not impossible. Other products that combine medications with medical devices, such as drug-eluting cardiac stents, have already been approved, he noted.

Remains of an ancient universe

WMAP map of a region of space that is cooler than its surroundings.

Wikimedia CommonsWMAP map of a region of space that is cooler than its surroundings.

Two precision studies of the remnants of the Big Bang are almost in agreement about what they have found… almost.

In the 2000s, two space probes set out to study the relics of an ancient chaos in exacting detail. Their subject was a tremendous smattering of matter and radiation across trillions of light-years, possibly all the way across the universe. Scientists believe these relics hold the complicated clues to our universe’s origins, why the laws of nature are what they are, even why the hundreds of billions of galaxies are where they are now.

The chaos itself, whose residue interests us, was caused by an event popularly called the Big Bang, and its immediate aftermath. In 2001, the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe(WMAP) was launched by NASA; in 2009, the European Space Agency launched thePlanck space-probe. While both probes studied the relic entity and produced agreeing results of the bigger picture, they do have smaller inconsistencies between them – inconsistencies physicists think need resolving because of the very-high sensitivities the instruments boast of.

Even if one of them is proved right and other wrong, our knowledge of the universe’s origins, pieced together since a monumental discovery in the 1960s, would change.

The story began in 1964 at the Bell Telephone Laboratory in New Jersey, where a radio antenna was being readied for a specific task: to listen to radio-waves being emanated by the Milky Way galaxy. The two astronomers who were going to make the observations, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, decided to start with a short wavelength of 7.35 cm. This was being done so they could check for static noise being generated by the antenna itself, before moving on to more precise readings. However, they were in for a pleasant surprise.

Cooking up heavier elements

They were able to discern a faint excessive signal of microwave radiation at 7.35 cm. No matter which way they turned the antenna, the signal persisted, meaning that it was coming in from all parts of the sky, not just specific areas. Because they’d known that pigeons had roosted in the past around the antenna’s receivers, they cleaned out those areas… but the eerie signal kept on. Penzias and Wilson used the signals strength to calculate the temperature of the objects that could be producing it – it was found to be about 3.5 K (–269.65 degrees Celsius).

They didn’t know what to make of it.

Around the same time, in March 1965, an astrophysicist named P.J.E. Peebles from Princeton University was trying to understand a strange anomaly. In the few minutes succeeding the Big Bang, the universe should have resembled a massive cauldron, with its ingredients being quickly cooked into bigger and bigger lumps of heavier elements. Today, however, fully three-quarters of matter in the universe is hydrogen. Where are the heavier elements?

Peebles surmised that there also must have been a lot of short-wavelength radiation that blasted heavier atoms apart as soon as they formed, preventing the mass-cooking of hydrogen into heavier nuclei of the metals. Further, his calculations showed that the radiation should have survived to this day, leaving the universe with a low but prevailing temperature of around 10 K. To see if he was right, Peebles and his colleagues, Robert Dicke, P.G. Roll and D.T. Wilkinson, started to set up an antenna to look for the signal from this radiation…

… when Dicke received a called from Penzias. Together, the five of them published a pair of papers in the Astrophysical Journal speculating on the implications of their finding. It was July 1965, and the start of a fascinating quest.

Relic radiation

In the decades since, physicists have been able to piece together the story of how this radiation could have originated, what it has to do with the Big Bang, and how a rapidly expanding universe’s signatures could have impinged on it. One of the first probes launched to study this relic radiation – called thecosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation – was the Cosmic Background Explorer, in 1989. This also marked the rise of cosmology, the study of the universe’s life.

In the moments immediately succeeding the Big Bang, the universe was seething hot and dense – protons, neutrons, electrons and photons were scattered about, their energy making them restless enough to resist entrapment into atoms. After 10-32 seconds, the volume of space started to expand rapidly – a period called the inflationary epoch which lasted for one microsecond but left the universe at least (hold your breath) 1 million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion times more voluminous.

After around 380,000 years, the temperature had dropped to about 3,000 K, and the first atoms formed. Because the electrons and radiation had existed in an equilibrium until then, the formation of atoms meant electrons were being used up, leaving the radiation to ‘move around’ and expand freely.

Thus formed the CMB radiation.

Because any change in the way it formed, howsoever small, would have altered it in significant proportions as it expanded, it was essential to know how precisely the CMB was distributed throughout the universe. Between 1990 and 1993, the Cosmic Background Explorer’s results presented the first view of the CMB on a vast scale.

Map of the universe

The Explorer’s successor was the Wilkinson Microwave Anistropy Probe (WMAP), launched in 2001. It is named for D.T. Wilkinson. In 2003, the WMAP presented its first results, considered to be groundbreaking for their immense detail, laying the foundation for a model of the universe that cosmologists abide by: the Lambda-CDM model. CDM here stands for ‘cold dark matter’, which WMAP found made up about 24 per cent of the universe. Of the remaining, 71 per cent came from dark energy while the rest was ordinary matter. It also measured the Hubble constant – the rate of the universe’s expansion – to be about 67.8 km/s/Mpc (interpreted as an object 1 megaparsec away moving away from the observer at 67.8 km/s).

In 2009, another probe, called simply Planck, was launched to study the CMB, as well as to investigate other cosmological problems. Planck boasted of a resolution thrice as much as WMAP’s, and could make its observations in nine frequency bands – as opposed to the one band that Penzias and Wilson used or the five bands that WMAP used. In fact, in order to achieve the precision that it did, the entire spacecraft was maintained at a temperature of 0.1 K, making it the coldest object in space!

By July 2010, Planck had completed an all-sky survey. On March 21, 2013, the results of its CMB-study were published. They were found mostly to be in agreement with the Lambda-CDM model, and the WMAP results by extension: according to Planck, the universe was 26.8 per cent dark matter, 68.3 per cent dark energy, and 4.9 per cent ordinary matter. The Hubble constant was pegged at a little less than 67.8 km/s/Mpc.

One thing that the Explorer, WMAP and Planck had all found was this: the CMB radiation was not evenly spread throughout the universe, but consisted of fluctuating ripples spreading across vast distances. This observation, called anisotropy, was attributed to minor irregularities in the way the radiation must have been packed together, predating its expansion for almost 14 billion years – the age of the universe. The experimental observation of this anisotropy was hailed as a major breakthrough in 1992.

The ‘Almost’

On the other hand, the Planck results didn’t fall in line with the WMAP results on some counts. Among the nine frequency bands that Planck had made its measurements in, the sixth band (217 GHz) was the source of concern. The data analysis team behind WMAP argued that with the exception of this band, all other bands agreed with the WMAP results.

It was an important problem because even though the inconsistencies were minor, Planck’s high precision meant that they could lead to significant alterations of our knowledge of the universe if they were true. For instance, it could place more weight on why Planck data differs from WMAP’s on the universe’s composition, or why Planck has found the universe to be expanding at a slightly slower rate than the WMAP found it to be. Perhaps, between the sensitivity of the two instruments, there might be unknown physical processes at work.

At the time (2013), the Planck team responded saying they do stand by their observations, and that the inconsistencies could be due to “the improved performance of the Planck data”. However, they did also agree to revisit their observations. Its outcome was released last week in the February 6 issue of Natureas a correspondence.

Jan Tauber, who leads the Planck science team, has concluded that the difference in values between the Planck and WMAP results are within one standard-deviation of each other. More importantly, he wrote that they differed because of “methodological variations between the respective analyses rather than by systematic errors in the Planck data”. Tauber also stated that “the small, time-dependent systematic errors … have little impact on the Planck Collaboration’s cosmological results”.

That Tauber was able to say that the results’ deviation had little impact means the Lambda-CDM model can continue to be the ‘standard model’ of cosmology in its present form. Even though it might have been presumptuous to assume something paradigm-altering could have come out of this debate, cosmology is heavily reliant on precision-measurements of extremely small values. Even a seemingly trivial deviation would imply a relatively more consequential deviation of the value before the inflationary epoch.

For example, going by the Planck and WMAP maps, a tiny unevenness of energy in the pre-inflationary CMB could have snowballed into the gargantuan galactic clusters we see today. Calculating the other way, we could ask: is some region of space colder than the CMB because of an accumulation of dark energy?

Fruit juice just another sugary drink?

Inclusion of fruit juice as a fruit equivalent is probably counter-productive, researchers at the University of Glasgow have warned. File photo
APInclusion of fruit juice as a fruit equivalent is probably counter-productive, researchers at the University of Glasgow have warned. File photo

Drinking fruit juice as a substitute for fruits could be counter-productive due to its high sugar content, researchers at the University of Glasgow have warned.

Writing in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology journal, Professor Naveed Sattar and Dr. Jason Gill both of the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, call for better labelling of fruit juice containers to make explicit to consumers that they should drink no more than 150ml a day.

They also recommend a change to the U.K. Government’s current five-a-day guidelines, saying these five fruit and vegetable servings should no longer include a portion of fruit juice.

Inclusion of fruit juice as a fruit equivalent is probably counter-productive because it fuels the perception that drinking fruit juice is good for health, and thus need not be subject to the limits that many individuals impose on themselves for consumption of less healthy foods.

Professor Sattar, who is Professor of Metabolic Medicine, said, “Fruit juice has a similar energy density and sugar content to other sugary drinks, for example: 250ml of apple juice typically contains 110 kcal and 26g of sugar; and 250ml of cola typically contains 105kcal and 26.5g of sugar.”

“Additionally, by contrast with the evidence for solid fruit intake, for which high consumption is generally associated with reduced or neutral risk of diabetes, current evidence suggests high fruit juice intake is associated with increased risk of diabetes.

“One glass of fruit juice contains substantially more sugar than one piece of fruit; in addition, much of the goodness in fruit fibre, for example is not found in fruit juice, or is there in far smaller amounts,” Sattar said.

Although fruit juices contain vitamins and minerals, whereas sugar-sweetened drinks do not, Gill argues that the micronutrient content of fruit juices might not be sufficient to offset the adverse metabolic consequences of excessive fruit juice consumption.

“In one scientific trial, for example, it was shown that, despite having a high antioxidant content, the consumption of half a litre of grape juice per day for three months actually increased insulin resistance and waist circumference in overweight adults,” Gill said.

“Thus, contrary to the general perception of the public, and of many healthcare professionals, that drinking fruit juice is a positive health behaviour, their consumption might not be substantially different in health terms than drinking other sugary drinks,” he said.

Switch Off the cell phone.

At the end of his brilliant presentation on how mobile phones are hacked, I asked C. Chellappan, dean-CEG / professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Anna University, if he had a fool-proof method to secure my phone. “Switch it off,” he said. And, we know that’s not the only benefit of switching off.

There is enough evidence to show that toggling between windows (check email, surf the Web) and apps can increase stress, interfere with short-term memory. Constant multi-tasking leaves you distracted, unable to focus.

Oh, for a few hours of mobile-free life! Honestly, how would you respond to these true “cellphone” situations? A temple priest talks into his mobile while performing arthi with one hand; 10 different ringtones blare at 4 a.m. on a train about to reach a station while the rest are sleeping; man on the beach negotiates business on the phone so loudly a baby begins to scream; car driver with cellphone attached to his ear misses you by a whisker. A teacher describes how a boy (brought up on PC / video games) struggles to control his eye movements to read. It is a long list…

Studies now warn us of self-inflicted threats from cellphone use. A Mayo Clinic (the U.S.) report says: If you’re concerned about the possible link between cellphones and cancer, consider limiting use of cellphones. A study published in Occupational And Environmental Medicine says 10 to 15 per cent of us experience some degree of tinnitus because we stay plugged into cellphones “no matter where we are”. “[There’s] a potential link between mobile phones and tinnitus as the cochlea and the auditory pathway directly absorb a considerable amount of energy emitted by a mobile.”

And there is the addiction — urge to check personal devices all the time, which human-computer interface researchers call “micro-interactions”. Own up — how many times in a day do you peek at email, social-media and apps? There is enough evidence to show that toggling between windows (check email, surf the Web) and apps can increase stress, interfere with short-term memory. Constant multi-tasking leaves you distracted, unable to focus. The next step easily is Attention Deficit Disorder.

Do you know what we have lost? Privacy and concentration. Attention span. If you are sending over a hundred messages a day, it means just one thing — you’ve lost the ability to be alone, to reflect. When I discussed it in a high school classroom, a student admitted that the thought of being unconnected unsettled her. Another asked: ‘why should I be alone?’

You should, say philosophers and psychologists. You need that down-time to realise you don’t have to be propped by ‘likes’, comments, re-tweets… You need it for self-introspection, to make thought-through decisions unhindered by social networks. As one writer put it, “the more we keep aloneness at bay, the less are we able to deal with it and the more terrifying it gets.” Being alone should not give you the heebie-jeebies. Is loneliness the disease of the Web generation?

It’s time we looked around us. Tom Chatfield, writing in BBC Future, has tips to “ditch the phone and regain your life”. Talk now, text / tweet / email later, he says. Since a cellphone facilitates all our work, we fail to put boundaries around leisure, adventure, eating, sleeping, vacations, intimacy. Is life only about digital delights? Take a phone-free day, he advises. Practise self-control to quell FOMO (fear of missing out). Change the “cellphone habit” by switching off. When travelling / sleeping get into “airplane mode” – no phones. Lock your digital devices for a while. Avoid being a search-it-all. Believe in and enjoy serendipity. Keep phones off the table. Stop “phubbing” (a word he coined) — snubbing others by paying attention to your mobile, specially at the dinner table. Look before you snap. A thousand smartphones being held aloft when an artiste is singing is not a pretty sight, nor polite. Taste before you upload: pause, think before you hit “send”. Kiss your phone goodnight, sleep well. As author Tim Harford puts it, “Smartphones are habit-forming, so think about the habits you want to form.”

Turn off automatic email notifications

* Don’t turn switching devices back on into uncontrollable yearning

* Practise thought-control exercises such as concentrating on a simple imagined object for a few minutes

* Maintain enough inner strength and freedom to avoid dependence

* Leave phone behind while you walk

Human brain now registers smiley face emoticon as real facial expression

Cultural use of emoticons has managed to reprogramme people’s brains to respond as if were a real human face, new research has found

Human brain has adapted to react to emoticons in the same way we would to expressions on real human faces, new research suggests.

Having first appeared in the 1980s, the pattern of brain activity triggered by looking at an emoticon smiley face is now the same as when someone sees a real smiling human face, scientists from the school of psychology at Australia’s Flinders University in Adelaide said.

“There is no innate neural response to emoticons that babies are born with. Before 1982 there would be no reason that ‘:-)’ would activate face sensitive areas of the cortex but now it does because we’ve learnt that this represents a face,” Dr Owen Churches told ABC News.

“This is an entirely culturally-created neural response. It’s really quite amazing.”

The smiley face emoticon was first used in a post by Professor Scott E Fahlman to the Carnegie Mellon University computer science general board in 1982, Dr Churches added.

To carry out the research, 20 participants were shown images of real faces, smiley face emoticons, and a meaningless string of characters.

Interestingly, when the series of punctuation used to create a smiley face was reversed to show ‘(-:’, or presented upright, no response was triggered. “Areas of the brain most readily involved in face perception aren’t able to process the image as a face,” said Churches.

Only when the emoticons were presented in the conventional digital communication manner – as ‘:-)’ was the punctuation read as a smiling face.

“Emoticons are a new form of language that we’re producing,” Dr Churches said, “And to decode that language we’ve produced a new pattern of brain activity.”

A robot in every home: Dyson enters race to provide ‘advanced household androids’ for all

Vacuum entrepreneur to announce new £5m robotics laboratory in London

The British entrepreneur Sir James Dyson has outlined his vision for a new era of household android robots that will be able to clean the windows, guard property – and, presumably, vacuum the carpet.

This week the inventor will announce the creation of a new £5 million robotics centre at Imperial College London, and he says a technological revolution is coming that will soon see every home in Britain filled with “robots that understand the world around them”.

His team of British-based engineers are locked in a race to build the first multi-purpose household android with scientists in Japan, where researchers at Waseda University have already unveiled the Twendy-One robot that can obey voice commands, cook and provide nursing care.

And competition also comes from the search engine giant Google, which has recently been on a robotics firm buying spree – including Japanese robotics company Schaft and military manufacturer Boston Dynamics.

Sir James, whose firm employs nearly 2,000 engineers and scientists, told the Sunday Times the new centre would aim to overcome the issue of robotic “vision” – allowing androids to see what is around them and respond accordingly.

He said previous systems of robot vision were too complicated, adding that Dyson is “almost there” in producing an automatic vacuum cleaner with both good navigations skills and good suction.

“You will send up a robot to clean windows. It will know where it is going. It will know how to clean the windows. And it will know when it is finished,” he said.

The entrepreneur wants to expand his company’s workforce to “compete in world trade”, and said that Dyson’s research into small, powerful motors and lighter materials meant it was well-placed to develop the best in robotics technologies.

Women ‘fare worse after strokes’

Older woman
Women over 75 were particularly affected

Women have a poorer quality of life after a stroke than men, a study has found.

The US research, published in Neurology, assessed the mental and physical health of 1,370 patients three months and a year after a stroke.

Women had more depression and anxiety, pain and discomfort, and more restricted mobility.

UK experts said women tended to have strokes later, and might therefore need more support.

But the study did say more people survive a stroke now than 10 years ago because of improved treatment and prevention.

“Start Quote

Women tend to have strokes at a later age than men, which lowers their chances of natural recovery”

Prof Cheryl BushnellWake Forest Baptist Medical Center, North Carolina

The researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, North Carolina, looked at patients who had had a stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke.

Quality of life is calculated using a formula that assesses mobility, self-care, everyday activities, depression/anxiety and pain.

At three months, women were more likely than men to report problems with mobility, pain and discomfort, anxiety and depression, but the difference was greatest in those aged over 75.

After a year, women still had lower quality-of-life scores overall than men but the difference between them was smaller.

Support needs

Prof Cheryl Bushnell, who led the study, said: “We found that women had a worse quality of life than men up to 12 months following a stroke.”

She said mood, ability to move about, and having pain or discomfort may contribute to the poorer quality of life for women.

And she suggested that women may have less muscle mass than men before their strokes, making it harder to recover.

She added: “As more people survive strokes, physicians and other healthcare providers should pay attention to quality-of-life issues and work to develop better interventions, even gender-specific screening tools, to improve these patients’ lives.”

Dr Madina Kara, a neuroscientist at the UK Stroke Association, said: “This study shows that women fare worse after stroke compared to men. However, the reasons for this are not entirely clear.

“It also shows that women over 65 are more likely to be living alone, which could be a contributing factor to their reduced quality of life, as they have inadequate support.”

She added: “We already know that women tend to have strokes at a later age than men, which lowers their chances of natural recovery post-stroke.

“What this study highlights is that women may not be getting the support they need to improve their quality of life after stroke.

“It is essential that all stroke survivors receive the best care and support from health and social services to make their best possible recovery.”

Vitamin C ‘keeps cancer at bay’

Vitamin C:
Vitamin C has long been used as an alternative cancer therapy but evidence is mixed

High-dose vitamin C can boost the cancer-killing effect of chemotherapy in the lab and mice, research suggests.

Given by injection, it could potentially be a safe, effective and low-cost treatment for ovarian and other cancers, say US scientists.

Reporting in Science Translational Medicine, they call for large-scale government clinical trials.

Pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to run trials, as vitamins cannot be patented.

Vitamin C has long been used as an alternative therapy for cancer.

In the 1970s, chemist Linus Pauling reported that vitamin C given intravenously was effective in treating cancer.

“Start Quote

Further studies are needed before we know for sure what benefits high dose vitamin C may have for patients”

Dr Kat ArneyCancer Research UK

However, clinical trials of vitamin C given by mouth failed to replicate the effect, and research was abandoned.

It is now known that the human body quickly excretes vitamin C when it is taken by mouth.

However, scientists at the University of Kansas say that when given by injection vitamin C is absorbed into the body, and can kill cancer cells without harming normal ones.

The researchers injected vitamin C into human ovarian cancer cells in the lab, into mice, and into patients with advanced ovarian cancer.

They found ovarian cancer cells were sensitive to vitamin C treatment, but normal cells were unharmed.

The treatment worked in tandem with standard chemotherapy drugs to slow tumour growth in mouse studies. Meanwhile, a small group of patients reported fewer side-effects when given vitamin C alongside chemotherapy.

No patent potential

Co-researcher Dr Jeanne Drisko said there was growing interest in the use of vitamin C by oncologists.

“Patients are looking for safe and low-cost choices in their management of cancer,” she told BBC News. “Intravenous vitamin C has that potential based on our basic science research and early clinical data.”

One potential hurdle is that pharmaceutical companies are unlikely to fund trials of intravenous vitamin C because there is no ability to patent natural products.

“Because vitamin C has no patent potential, its development will not be supported by pharmaceutical companies,” said lead researcher Qi Chen.

“We believe that the time has arrived for research agencies to vigorously support thoughtful and meticulous clinical trials with intravenous vitamin C.”

Dr Kat Arney, science communications manager for Cancer Research UK, said there was a long history of research into vitamin C for treating cancer.

“It’s difficult to tell with such a small trial – just 22 patients – whether high-dose vitamin C injections had any effect on survival, but it’s interesting that it seemed to reduce the side-effects of chemotherapy,” she said.

“Any potential treatment for cancer needs to be thoroughly evaluated in large clinical trials to make sure it’s safe and effective, so further studies are needed before we know for sure what benefits high dose vitamin C may have for patients.”