Greenpeace co-founder says no proof that humans cause warming


Senate there is “no proof” humans cause climate change

 

Moore claims Greenpeace has taken a “sharp turn to the political left” and lost interest in science

 

Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore has angered environmentalist groups after saying climate change is “not caused by humans” and there is “no scientific proof” to back global warming alarmism.

The Canadian ecologist told US lawmakers there is “little correlation” to support a “direct causal relationship” between CO2 emissions and rising global temperatures.

“There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years,” he told a US Senate Committee “If there were such a proof, it would be written down for all to see. No actual proof, as it is understood in science, exists.”

He also criticised the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for claiming “it is extremely likely” that human activity is the “dominant cause” for global warning, noting that “extremely likely” is not a scientific term.

Moore warned the statistics presented by the IPCC are not the result of mathematical calculations or statistical analysis, and may have been “invented” to support the IPCC’s “expert judgement”.

The Greenpeace co-founder argued the increase in atmospheric temperature on the earth’s surface goes back the Ice Age when C02 was “10 times higher than today, yet human life flourished” at this time.

He added: “I realise that my comments are contrary to much of the speculation about our climate that is bandied about today.

“However, I am confident that history will bear me out, both in terms of the futility of relying on computer models to predict the future, and the fact that warmer temperatures are better than colder temperatures for most species.”

Moore co-founded the environmental activist group as a PhD student in ecology in 1971. He left Greenpeace in 1986 after the group became more interested in “politics” than science.

“After 15 years in the top committee I had to leave as Greenpeace took a sharp turn to the political left, and began to adopt policies that I could not accept from my scientific perspective,” he said. “Climate change was not an issue when I abandoned Greenpeace, but it certainly is now.”

Could seaweed stop the tide of obesity?


 Scientists creating supplement that blocks fat.

Supplement could be put into everyday foods to stop fat absorption

Researchers at Newcastle University have identified varieties of the plant that prevent the body absorbing fat.

They are exploring how seaweed extracts, or alginates, could be used as a supplement to make everyday foods like cakes, sausages and pastries healthier.

By reducing the amount of fat available for the body to absorb by about 75 per cent, seaweed beats most anti-obesity treatments available over the counter.

Professor Jeff Pearson, of Newcastle University’s Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences, said: “We have already added alginate to bread and initial taste tests have been extremely encouraging.

“Now the next step is to carry out clinical trials to find out how effective they are when eaten as part of a normal diet.”

Tangle or “cuvie” seaweed, found widely around the UK’s coastline, is the most effective preventing the digestion of fat.

Its brown, slimy appearance may not be the most appetising but if scientists can concentrate its properties into a tasteless supplement, it could go unnoticed in a cupcake or biscuit.

Bladderwrack, another type of seaweed native to British shores, and bull kelp also topped the league table.

Dr Matthew Wilcox said: “What we have shown is that the seaweeds with a high level of guluronate stop the body breaking down and absorbing fat.

“As they are already used in the food industry in small amounts, we are looking at increasing their levels in foods which could reduce the amount of fat that we get which could help in weight management.”

Cancer patient’s leg was attached to his arm to be kept ‘alive’ during surgery


Doctors believe the procedure carried out on Ian McGregor may be the first of its kind in the UK

Surgeons rebuilt the body of a man who underwent surgery to remove a tumour using a part of his leg that they had attached to his arm to keep it alive during surgery.

The 18-hour operation carried out on Ian McGregor, 59, is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, the BBC reported.

Surgeons at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital amputated his calf and attached it to his arm so that it could be used to repair the site of the operation.

Mr McGregor, from Sunderland, told the BBC: “You just can’t put into words what they did.”

He had been suffering from a large, aggressive tumour that had spread from his pelvis into his thigh.

Doctors had unsuccessfully attempted to treat the cancer over the past decade – but they feared the latest attempt would leave an irreparable hole.

Surgeons came up with a solution to remove Mr McGregor’s lower leg, leaving only the bones, and attach to his foreman, where it could be kept alive.

They then removed the tumour and used the amputated calf to repair the surgical area.

The surgery took place in August last year, commencing at 9am and lasting until around 3am the following morning.

Mr McGregor told the BBC he had initially viewed the idea as “Star Trekky”.

“I couldn’t imagine what they were telling me, how they would do it and if I would wake up from the operation,” he said.

And he said that without the operation he believed he would now be dead.

“You can’t describe the feeling, you think you’re at death’s door and then you wake up and think wow, I’m here. It’s a wonderful feeling,” he said.

Experts at the Newcastle hospital believe a similar procedure may have taken place in the United States but over the course of two operations.

Three consultant specialists worked together on the plan.

Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon Mani Ragbir told the BBC: “We are not aware of anyone having done this particular procedure before.

“It’s not easy for a surgeon to tell a patient that they haven’t done this particular procedure before.”

They now plan to publish their work and believe it may open up a new approach to surgery.

Doctors aim to grow ears from fat.


Back of child's head
New ears could be the first application of the technique

Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London are aiming to reconstruct people’s faces with stem cells taken from their fat.

The team has grown cartilage in the laboratory and believe it could be used to rebuild ears and noses.

They say the technique, published in the journal Nanomedicine, could revolutionise care.

Experts said there was some way to go, but it had the potential to be “transformative”.

The doctors want to treat conditions like microtia, that results in the ear failing to develop properly and can be missing or malformed.

At the moment, children have cartilage taken from their ribs, which is then delicately sculpted by surgeons to resemble an ear and implanted into the child.

It requires multiple operations, leaves permanent scarring on the chest and the rib cartilage never recovers.

From fat

The team envisage an alternative – a tiny sample of fat would be taken from the child and stem cells would be extracted and grown from it.

An ear-shaped “scaffold” would be placed in the stem cell broth so the cells would take on the desired shape and structure. And chemicals would be used to persuade the stem cells to transform into cartilage cells.

This could then be implanted beneath the skin to give the child an ear shape.

The researchers have been able to create the cartilage in the scaffold, but safety testing is needed before they could be used in patients.

One of the researchers, Dr Patrizia Ferretti, told the BBC: “It is really exciting to have the sort of cells that are not tumourogenic, that can go back into the same patient so we don’t have the problem of immunosuppression and can do the job you want them to do.

“It would be the Holy Grail to do this procedure through a single surgery, so decreasing enormously the stress for the children and having a structure that hopefully will be growing as the child grows.”

New ear

Samuel Clompus
Samuel Clompus before the operation to rebuild his ear

The technique could help patients like 15-year old Samuel Clompus, who has had the reconstructive ear surgery.

His mother, Sue, said the family welcomed the research.

She told the BBC: “They wouldn’t have needed to take the cartilage.

“He has a scar there now and Sam said it was the most uncomfortable bit.”

The technique could be used to create cartilage for other tissues such as the nose, which can be damaged in adults after cancer surgery.

Doctors say they could also make bone using the same starting material.

“Obviously we are at the beginning of this, the next step will be to perfect just the choice of materials and to develop this further,” said Dr Ferretti.

Commenting on the study, Prof Martin Birchall, a surgeon at University College London, said: “If you had something that was truly regenerative, that would be transformative.”

He was involved in the first operations to give people lab-grown windpipes.

He said the fat-based technique needed more safety testing to reach that stage.

“We used [bone marrow] stem cells as they’ve been used in 10,000s of people for bone marrow transplants, fat stem cells are likely to be fine, but they haven’t got that safety record yet.”

Nightmares may be ‘health warning’


Nightmare of a clown
Disturbed sleep may be a sign of mental health problems.

Regular nightmares in childhood may be an early warning sign of psychotic disorders, researchers in the UK warn.

The study, in the journal Sleep, said most children had nightmares, but persistent ones may be a sign of something more serious.

Having night terrors – screaming and thrashing limbs while asleep – also heightened the risk.

The charity YoungMinds said it was an important study which may help people detect early signs of mental illness.

Nearly 6,800 people were followed up to the age of 12.

Parents were regularly asked about any sleep problems in their children and at the end of the study the children were assessed for psychotic experiences such as hallucinations, delusions and thinking their thoughts were being controlled.

“Start Quote

Nightmares are relatively common, as are night terrors, it is quite normal, but if they persist then there may be something more serious about it””

Prof Dieter Wolke University of Warwick

The study showed that the majority of children had nightmares at some point, but in 37% of cases, parents reported problems with nightmares for several years in succession.

One in 10 of the children had night terrors, generally between the ages of three and seven.

Warning light

The team at the University of Warwick said a long-term problem with nightmares and terrors was linked to a higher risk of mental health problems later.

Around 47 in every 1,000 children has some form of psychotic experience.

However, those having nightmares aged 12 were three-and-a-half times more likely to have problems and the risk was nearly doubled by regular night terrors.

One of the researchers, Prof Dieter Wolke, told the BBC: “Nightmares are relatively common, as are night terrors, it is quite normal, but if they persist then there may be something more serious about it.”

The relationship between sleep problems and psychosis is not clear.

One theory is that bullying or other traumatic events early in life can cause both symptoms.

Or the way some children’s brains are wired means the boundaries between what is real and unreal, or sleeping and wakefulness, are less distinct.

It means treating the sleep issues may not prevent psychotic events.

However, nightmares may act as an early warning sign of future, more serious, problems.

Prof Wolke said a regular routine and quality sleep were key to tackling nightmares: “Sleep hygiene is very important, they should have more regular sleep, avoid anxiety-promoting films before bed and not have a computer at night.”

Night terrors occur at specific points during sleep and can be managed by briefly waking the child.

Lucie Russell, the director of campaigns at YoungMinds, said: “This is a very important study because anything that we can do to promote early identification of signs of mental illness is vital to help the thousands of children that suffer.

“Early intervention is crucial to help avoid children suffering entrenched mental illness when they reach adulthood.”

Tackling Tumors With Space Station Research.


In space, things don’t always behave the way we expect them to. In the case of cancer, researchers have found that this is a good thing: some tumors seem to be much less aggressive in the microgravity environment of space compared to their behavior on Earth. This observation, reported in research published in February by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal, could help scientists understand the mechanism involved and develop drugs targeting tumors that don’t respond to current treatments. This work is the latest in a large body of evidence on how space exploration benefits those of us on Earth.

Thyroid cancer cell line FTC-133 after four hours of exposure to simulated microgravity. Nuclei are stained blue, components of the cytoskeleton stained green and red

Research in the weightlessness of space offers unique insight into genetic and cellular processes that simply can’t be duplicated on Earth, even in simulated microgravity. “Microgravity can be approximated on Earth, but we know from the literature that simulated microgravity isn’t the same as the real thing,” says Daniela Gabriele Grimm, M.D., a researcher with the Department of Biomedicine, Pharmacology at Aarhus University in Aarhus, Denmark, and an author of the FASEB paper.

True weightlessness affects human cells in a number of ways. For one thing, cells grown in space arrange themselves into three-dimensional groupings, or aggregates, that more closely resemble what happens in the body. “Without gravitational pull, cells form three-dimensional aggregates, or spheroids,” Grimm explains. “Spheroids from cancer cells share many similarities with metastases, the cancer cells which spread throughout the body.” Determining the molecular mechanisms behind spheroid formation might therefore improve our understanding of how cancer spreads.

The FASEB paper resulted from an investigation in the Science in Microgravity Box (SIMBOX) facility aboard Shenzhou-8, launched in 2011. Cells grown in space and in simulated microgravity on the ground were analyzed for changes in gene expression and secretion profiles, with the results suggesting decreased expression of genes that indicate high malignancy in cancer cells.

The work was funded by a grant from the German Space Life Sciences program, managed by the German space agency, DLR, in collaboration with Chinese partners.

Grimm and her colleagues are following up with additional research, a Nanoracks Cellbox investigation called “Effect of microgravity on human thyroid carcinoma cells,” scheduled to launch in March on SpaceX’s third commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station. Another follow-up investigation, “Spheroids,” is planned in 2015. The overall goal is to find as many genes and proteins as possible that are affected by microgravity and to identify the cellular activities they influence. Researchers can then use this information to develop new strategies for cancer research.

In a recent paper published in Nature Reviews Cancer, Jeanne Becker, Ph.D., a cell biologist at Nano3D Biosciences in Houston and principal investigator for theCellular Biotechnology Operations Support System (CBOSS) 1-Ovarianstudy, examined nearly 200 papers on cell biology research in microgravity during four decades. This body of work shows that not only does the architecture of cells change in microgravity, but the immune system also is suppressed. Other studies in addition to Grimm’s have shown microgravity-induced changes in gene expression. The key variable, Becker concluded, is gravity. And the only way to really mitigate gravity is to go into space.

To maximize use of the space station’s unique microgravity platform, in 2011 NASA named the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) as manager of the station’s U.S. National Laboratory. By selecting research and funding projects, connecting investors and scientists and improving access to the station, CASIS accelerates new technologies and products with the potential to benefit all humanity.

CASIS recently requested proposals for research on the effects of microgravity on fundamental stem cell properties. That request, says Patrick O’Neill, communications manager, generated a terrific response from the research community – larger than any other CASIS proposal to date. That, he says, is because CASIS has become more known within the scientific and research community as a viable option for sending research to the space station. It is also because, now that the station is complete, crew members can increase their focus on research. All in all, this is an ideal time to send research to the station.

Grimm agrees. “The station is an invaluable tool for long-term studies of cells in microgravity. Exposure to real microgravity in space will always be the gold standard for all microgravity research and will therefore always be an important cornerstone of our work.”

Thanks to that research in space, scientists continue to learn more about diseases and their possible treatment here on Earth. With this new knowledge, we can turn that unexpected behavior in microgravity to our own advantage.

Math: Your Secret Weapon Against Wall Street and the NSA.


Edward Frenkel wants you to understand mathematics so economists, bankers, corporations, and intelligence agencies can’t manipulate you anymore.

Edward Frenkel. 

As Edward Frenkel sees it, the way we teach math in schools today is about as exciting as watching paint dry. So it’s not surprising that when he brings up the fact that he’s a mathematician at dinner parties, eyes quickly glaze over. “Most people, unfortunately, have a very bad experience with mathematics,” Frenkel says. And no wonder: The math we learn in school is as far from what Frenkel believes is the soul of mathematics as a painted fence is from “The Starry Night” by Van Gogh, Frenkel’s favorite painter.

The Russian born University of California-Berkeley mathematician, whose day job involves probing the connections between math and quantum physics, wants to change that. Rather than alienating drudgery, Frenkel views math as an “archipelago of knowledge” that’s universally available to all of us, and he’s been everywhere of late spreading the word. In particular, Frenkel is intent on warning us about how people are constantly using (or misusing) math to get our personal data, to hack our emails, to game our stock markets. “The powers that be sort of exploit our ignorance, and manipulate us more when we are less aware of mathematics,” said Frenkel on the latest episode of the Inquiring Minds podcast. If you hated math in high school, maybe that will catch your attention.

Frenkel’s paean to math begins with an emphasis on its unifying nature. To him, math—not religion—is the one shared body of firm, unchanging knowledge that we all possess and that nobody can ever take away from us. “You meet someone, you don’t know where they come from, what language they speak, what is their background,” he says. “But you already know that there is so much you have in common, because all the mathematical ideas that have ever been discovered, we all share them.” If you met an alien intelligence, the same would be true. Math never changes. It sometimes has discoverers, but never authors or owners. “It’s a great equalizer,” Frenkel says.

The implications of math’s universality, incidentally, are downright spooky. Take thisNew York Times essay by Frenkel, contemplating whether the fact that math works so perfectly and without fail suggests we might be living in a Matrix-like simulation. For a while, it was the most viewed article on the paper’s website. The question of why math works to describe the universe, even as we also just happen to have brains that can understand it, is a pretty momentous one. Or as Galileo put it:

Philosophy is written in this grand book, the universe, which stands continually open to our gaze. But the book cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and read the letters in which it is composed. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one wanders about in a dark labyrinth.

Such contemplations have driven more than one scientist to God. But then, hey, it could just be Agent Smith.

Deep philosophical dives aren’t Frenkel’s only approach to math popularization: His leading approach is egalitarian. Liberal. He argues that today, and often to our peril, we leave the tough math to experts—whether they are working on quantum physics, stock market trajectories, or encryption systems that are supposed to protect our data.

But our mathematical illiteracy can have disastrous consequences. Case in point: Frenkel blames the global economic crisis of 2008-09 on inadequate mathematical models used by bankers and traders to predict the financial markets. “We should all have access to the mathematical knowledge and tools needed to protect us from arbitrary decisions made by the powerful few in an increasingly math-driven world,” writes Frenkel in his book, Love and Math: The Heart of Hidden Reality. “Where there is no mathematics, there is no freedom.”

Or take another example: Last year in Slate, Frenkel explained how the NSA manipulated math in order to install secret “backdoors” in the encryption systems that are supposed to protect our data. That’s what allows the agency to hack into our emails and personal information. The math is very high level, involving a field called “elliptic curve cryptography,” but in this highly watched YouTube video Frenkel explains it pretty simply:

Or take yet another example of people using math to take advantage of us. Frenkel has also explored how attempted changes to the formula for calculating the consumer price index, or CPI—a measure of inflation that is crucial to any number of economic policies and decisions—in effect represent a stealth way to raise our taxes and cut Social Security benefits. But we just shrug because it’s math, says Frenkel. “I’m not even going to try to understand what this formula is,” he says, summing up the typical thought process. “If they’re telling me it should be replaced, it should be replaced.”

In other words, you might call it the politically progressive, look-out-for-the-little-guy case for math literacy. “Mathematics equals rigor plus intellectual integrity times reliance on facts,” adds Frenkel in his book.

Certainly, Frenkel makes a strong case that going through the world in a math-illiterate state is equivalent to having your defenses down. You won’t understand the algorithms that Facebook, Amazon, and Google are using to populate your screen with stuff they want you to buy. You won’t know how safe you are on the internet. And you won’t see the next big economic shenanigan coming until it’s too late.

But the question is, is such understanding really possible or plausible for most people? Most of us think that in order to truly appreciate the mysterious beauty of mathematics, we need to study it intensely for a long period of time. Not so, insists Frenkel. While most of us learn the basics of biology in school and have at least a rudimentary understanding of fundamental concepts like genetics and evolution, we generally don’t even know what the fundamental concepts of high-level mathematics are. But Frenkel insists that we need not suffer through years of math study to grasp the key mathematical ideas. Rather, we can learn “a few chords,” he says, just as we can on the guitar.

So here comes one of those chords: Frenkel thinks that rather than learning something ancient and dry like Euclidean geometry, we should all understand the principle of symmetry. It’s a very simple idea, but also a concept that is “incredibly powerful,” says Frenkel, and one that is relevant across geometry, algebra, and other aspects of math. An object is symmetrical insofar as it is the same no matter what you do to it; it is invariant despite transformations. Like a round glass: “If I turn away, and you rotate it, and I look back, I will not know the difference,” says Frenkel.

Symmetry may seem like a simple idea. But the mathematics of symmetry quickly grow elaborate, and thinking about symmetry actually played an important role in the discovery of quarks, the elementary particles that comprise protons and neutrons.

Certainly, symmetry is not the kind of thing that you learned in your boring high school math classes; and for Frenkel, that’s the problem. “What most people talk about when they say the word ‘math’ is not really math—it is painting fences,” says Frenkel. Not only is that a tragedy, it’s a disadvantage.

And that’s why you should care about math. Forget the idea that it’s alienating and hard. According to Frenkel, life is hard without it.

Physics World brings Feynman lecture to life.


Commissioned by Physics World for the March 2014 education special issue, which examines new ways to teach and learn physics, this colourful image is based on a lecture by Richard Feynman called “The Great Conservation Principles”. It is one of seven Messenger Lectures that the great physicist gave at Cornell University in the US exactly 50 years ago, a video of which can be watched here or in the digital version of Physics World.

Physics World doodle by Perrin Ireland

The drawing’s creator is professional “science doodler” Perrin Ireland – science communications specialist at the Natural Resources Defense Council in the US – who describes herself as “a learner who needs to visualize concepts in order to understand them”. For people like Ireland, thinking visually or in a story-like way helps them to recall facts and explanations, which can come in very useful when trying to learn something new.

So to find out what science doodling could bring to physics, we invited Ireland to watch Feynman’s 1964 lecture and create a drawing for us – the picture above being the result. Half a century after his lecture, Feynman remains an iconic figure in physics and although we’ll never know what he would have made of Ireland’s doodle, our bet is he would have been amused.

You can click on the image to see it in greater detail, and if you’re a member of the Institute of Physics (IOP), you can find out more about Ireland’s work and her motivations in an article in thedigital version of the magazine or via the Physics World app, available from the App Store andGoogle Play.

Physics World March 2014

If you’re not yet in the IOP, you can join as an IOPimember for just £15, €20 or $25 a year to get a full year’s access to Physics World both online and through the apps. We’ll also be making a free PDF download of the special education issue available to everyone later in March.

The issue is well worth checking out as it contains a heap of other great material on physics education. We examine the huge growth of “massive open online courses”, or MOOCs, in which universities make their lectures freely available in video form on the Internet, while physicist Philip Moriarty describes his experiences as one of the stars of the Sixty Symbols series ofYouTube science videos. Both articles have specially made videos embedded in the digital magazine.

We also look at the importance of giving children computer-programming skills from an early age and there’s a great feature by BBC science presenter Fran Scott, who reveals her golden rules for engaging children with science. Physics-education experts Eugenia Etkina and Gorazd Planinšič, meanwhile, examine the implications for teachers of the fact that learning involves physical changes in the brain.

For the record, here’s a a run-down of highlights in the issue.

 Taking modern physics into schools – Having helped to introduce a new curriculum in Scottish schools that showcases the latest physics research, Martin Hendry describes the lessons learned in bringing cutting-edge physics into the classroom

 Feynman’s failings – They were never successful as a textbook. So why, a half-century after their publication, do so many physicists keep Richard Feynman’s three volumes within reach? Robert P Crease has a theory

 Computing in the classroom – Computer science is essential for modern physics, yet students come little prepared for it. That may soon change, says Jon Cartwright

 The power of YouTube – As one of the presenters of the hugely successful Sixty Symbols series ofYouTube science videos, Philip Moriarty describes his experiences in front of the  camera and how they have transformed his ideas about bringing physics to wider audiences

 Rules of engagement – Empowering children to look at the world around them with
curious, questioning eyes is the goal of Fran Scott, who describes the golden rules she follows to do just that

 Learning by doodling – Do your reams of written lecture notes ever really sink in?
Louise Mayor investigates how visual methods can help you process and remember information

 The MOOC point – Massive open online courses give students free access to some of the world’s top educators. James Dacey explores the benefits and drawbacks of these courses compared with those traditionally offered by universities

 Thinking like a scientist  Eugenia Etkina and Gorazd Planinšič describe how research into how people learn – plus the desire to help all students develop scientific “habits of mind” – is reshaping the way they teach physics

 We are bound by symmetry  Matthew R Francis reviews The Universe in the Rearview Mirror: How Hidden Symmetries Shape Reality by Dave Goldberg

 Plutopia forever  Kate Brown reviews The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kierman

 Graduate careers special – Our bi-yearly special looks at the challenges of working abroad for physicists

 Navigating new cultures – Working overseas is a common career step for physics graduates, but moving countries can produce a culture shock. Sharon Ann Holgate explains how to manage the effects of cultural differences

 Making the right move – Your first steps into the world of work after graduation are an
adventure and working abroad can seem like an especially exciting way to begin. But is it
right for you? Marcia Malory investigates

 Lateral Thoughts: But it’s obvious  David Pye on strange conventions in physics

Schumacher now unlikely to make a full recovery, say brain experts.


Doctors say the failure to wake Michael Schumacher from his 2-month coma does not bode well for a recovery

Schumacher now unlikely to make a full recovery, say brain experts

Schumacher fell while skiing in France and hit the right side of his head on a rock.

Nearly two months after Michael Schumacher suffered serious head injuries in a skiing accident, neurologists say the seven-time Formula One champion seems unlikely to make a full recovery.

The 45-year-old Schumacher fell while skiing in France and hit the right side of his head on a rock, cracking his helmet. Doctors operated to remove blood clots from his brain but some were left because they were too deeply embedded.

Schumacher’s condition stabilized after he was placed in the coma. Late last month, doctors began the process of withdrawing sedatives to try to wake him up.

His agent, Sabine Kehm, said in an email that “Michael is still in the wake-up phase” and that “this phase can be long.” Schumacher’s family has released few details of his condition to protect his privacy.

“It does not bode well,” said Dr. Tipu Aziz, professor of neurosurgery at Oxford University who is not connected to Schumacher’s care. “The fact that he hasn’t woken up implies that the injury has been extremely severe and that a full recovery is improbable.”

Patients who have had major head injuries are sometimes put in a drug-induced coma to give the brain a chance to heal; a coma reduces the need for blood flow and may help the swelling go down.

Dr Aziz said doctors typically try every few days to bring someone out of a coma.

“If you don’t start getting any positive signs, that becomes very worrisome,” he said, adding that Schumacher’s doctors are probably doing regular brain scans to look for signs of activity – though such signs may be difficult to detect if he is still being sedated.

Other experts said it was premature to make an accurate prognosis.

“About 90 percent of the recovery is made within nine to 12 months, so this is still early days,” said Dr. Anthony Strong, an emeritus chair in neurosurgery at King’s College London. “The longer someone is in a coma, the worse their recovery tends to be.”

Now that several weeks have passed since the accident, doctors may also have a better idea of how the rest of Schumacher’s brain is doing.

“MRI scans can show any secondary deterioration in the brain structure,” said Dr. Colin Shieff, a neurosurgeon at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London and a trustee for Headway, a British brain injury charity.

He said other parts of Schumacher’s brain that weren’t directly affected by the accident might now be starting to show worrying signs that may not have been visible before.

Shieff said that if Schumacher does eventually come out of the coma, he probably would face significant disabilities because of the length of time he has already spent comatose.

While there have been rare instances of people emerging from comas months and years later with the ability to communicate, Shieff was doubtful that would be the case with Schumacher. He said the cases where comatose people made a surprising recovery had mostly suffered things like poisoning, strokes or failed resuscitation attempts.

Consistent blood pressure control may cut rate of second stroke in half.


Stroke survivors who consistently control their blood pressure may reduce the likelihood of a second stroke by more than 50 percent.
Less than a third of stroke survivors maintained consistent blood pressure control more than 75 percent of the time.

Stroke survivors who consistently control their blood pressure may reduce the likelihood of a second stroke by more than half, according to new research in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

For the study, researchers analyzed the results from the Vitamin Intervention for Stroke Prevention (VISP) trial, which enrolled 3,680 ischemic stroke patients ages 35 and older in 1996-2003. Ischemic strokes are caused by a clot or other blockage in a blood vessel supplying the brain. Participants had been tested for several risk factors, including blood pressure levels at baseline, a month after the start of the study, at six months and every six months thereafter up to 24 months.

Researchers determined results after controlling for age, sex and prior history of stroke, heart disease and other factors. Blood pressure was considered “controlled” at 140 mmHg over 90 mmHg or lower.

Researchers found:

Fewer than 30 percent of stroke survivors studied maintained consistent blood pressure control more than 75 percent of the time.
Among individuals with elevated blood pressure at baseline (systolic blood pressure over 153 mm Hg), second stroke rate was reduced by 54 percent among participants who kept their blood pressure under control more than 75 percent of the time, compared with those who kept it under control less than 25 percent of the time.
“It’s not enough to control blood pressure some of the time. Averages do not take into account variability in blood pressure readings from one check to the next,” said Amytis Towfighi, M.D., study lead author and assistant professor of neurology at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Calif. “Fluctuations in blood pressure may be associated with greater cardiovascular risk.”

Changes in care management may be needed to ensure patients maintain consistent control of blood pressure. Rather than check blood pressure during clinic visits only, it should done regularly, perhaps at home by machines that can remotely transmit the data, she said.

“One of the things we really emphasize is getting patients involved in their own care, and learning how to control their risk factors,” said Towfighi, who is also associate chief medical officer at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, Calif.

Reducing salt intake, eating a healthy diet (rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables) and exercising regularly can also reduce stroke risk.

With the low percentage of trial participants controlling their blood pressure from one check to the next, “you can only imagine how poor blood pressure control is outside of the clinical trial setting,” Towfighi said.

In the study, participants with a history of heart attacks were most likely to keep their blood pressure under control most of the time, possibly suggesting patients and healthcare practitioners are more aware of controlling blood pressure after heart attack but less diligent after stroke.