New, more versatile version of Geckskin: Gecko-like adhesives now useful for real world surfaces

The ability to stick objects to a wide range of surfaces such as drywall, wood, metal and glass with a single adhesive has been the elusive goal of many research teams across the world, but now a team of University of Massachusetts Amherst inventors describe a new, more versatile version of their invention, Geckskin, that can adhere strongly to a wider range of surfaces, yet releases easily, like a gecko’s feet.

“Imagine sticking your tablet on a wall to watch your favorite movie and then moving it to a new location when you want, without the need for pesky holes in your painted wall,” says polymer science and engineering professor Al Crosby. Geckskin is a ‘gecko-like,’ reusable adhesive device that they had previously demonstrated can hold heavy loads on smooth surfaces such as glass. 

Crosby and polymer science researcher Dan King, with other UMass Amherst researchers including biology professor Duncan Irschick, report in the current issue of Advanced Materials how they have expanded their design theory to allow Geckskin to adhere powerfully to a wider variety of surfaces found in most homes such as drywall, and wood. 

Unlike other gecko-like materials, the UMass Amherst invention does not rely on mimicking the tiny, nanoscopic hairs found on gecko feet, but rather builds on ‘draping adhesion,’ which derives from the gecko’s integrated anatomical skin-tendon-bone system. As King explains, “The key to making a strong adhesive connection is to conform to a  while still maximizing stiffness.” 

In Geckskin, the researchers created this ability by combining soft elastomers and ultra-stiff fabrics such as glass or carbon fiber fabrics. By “tuning” the relative stiffness of these materials, they can optimize Geckskin for a range of applications, the inventors say. 

To substantiate their claims of Geckskin’s properties, the UMass Amherst team compared three versions to the abilities of a living Tokay gecko on several surfaces, as described in their journal article this month. As predicted by their theory, one Geckskin version matches and even exceeds the gecko’s performance on all tested surfaces. 

Irschick points out, “The gecko’s ability to stick to a variety of surfaces is critical for its survival, but it’s equally important to be able to release and re-stick whenever it wants. Geckskin displays the same ability on different commonly used surfaces, opening up great possibilities for new technologies in the home, office or outdoors.” 

Crosby notes, “It’s been a lot of fun thinking about all of the different things you ever would want to hang somewhere, and then doing it. Geckskin changes the way you think.”


Cancer-causing atrazine is world’s No. 1 drinking water contaminant

Man swims in swimming pool in Karlsruhe, southern Germany

Few chemicals are as familiar as table salt. The white crystals are the most common food seasoning in the world and an essential part of the human diet.

Sodium chloride is chemically very stable – but split it into its constituent elements and you release the chemical equivalent of demons.

The process is brutal. Vast amounts of electricity are used to tear apart the sodium and chlorine atoms in salt molecules through the process of electrolysis. It happens at vast industrial sites known as chlor-alkali plants, the biggest of which can use as much electricity as a small country.

Which is why the price of both chlorine and sodium tend to track the price of electricity very closely.

It also explains why Industrial Chemicals Ltd’s chlor-alkali plant in Thurrock, Essex, is right next to an electricity substation.

David Compton, ICL’s chief chemist, shows me a huge mound of pure white salt. It comes, he tells me, from the rock salt deposits buried under Cheshire, in the north of England, a resource that was first mined by the Romans. And it’s at least as pure, he says, as the salt you sprinkle on your dinner.

It is mixed with water in huge basins to make a concentrated brine, which is pumped into a big industrial barn that contains what looks like a giant chemistry set.

A series of huge tanks are connected by a web of pipes painted in different colours, all leading back to a big black tank. This is the business end of the process, the electrolyser.

It exploits an equivalence between chemistry and electricity that was first codified by Michael Faraday. Sodium and chlorine are both highly reactive – bring them into contact with each other and an electron passes between them, gluing them together to become salt. Reverse the process – by creating an enormous electrical current in the opposite direction – and you can split them apart again.

Inside the electrolyser, the brine is fed into a series of cells each separated by a membrane. Chlorine gas is produced at one electrode, and hydrogen gas – split off from the water molecules in the brine – at the other, leaving behind a solution of sodium hydroxide, also known as caustic soda.

Sodium reacting with chlorine to form sodium chloride (NaCl, common salt)Chlorine is named after the Greek word for “green”

Until fairly recently the process used mercury as one of the electrodes. This produced chlorine-free sodium hydroxide, but released tiny traces of mercury, which is very toxic, into the environment. So mercury cells are gradually being phased out around the world.

Inside ICL’s laboratory, Andrea Sella, professor of chemistry at University College London, hands me a fragile-looking glass balloon. It is an evil-looking greenish-yellow colour.

“That’s chlorine,” says Professor Sella, with a wicked grin, “one of the most ferociously aggressive materials out there.”

I grasp the bulb of lethal gas more carefully.

Andrea describes chlorine as aggressive because it is very reactive. That makes it extremely useful, but also very dangerous. It takes its name from its sickly colour – chloros is the Greek word for green.

As all chemists know, you need to be very careful with chlorine. Its reactivity makes it very toxic. If you inhale chlorine, it reacts with the water in your lungs, converting it into powerful acids. The effects can be horrific, as the World War One poet, Wilfred Owen, witnessed first-hand.

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

In his poem Dulce et Decorum Est, Owen describes the effects of the deadly chlorine gas used by both the German and British armies during World War I. It was particularly effective as a chemical weapon because it is heavier than air and, on still days, would collect in the trenches.

Gas-masked men of the British Machine Gun Corps with a Vickers machine gun during the first battle of the Somme.Gas-masked men of the British Machine Gun Corps during the first battle of the Somme

“Drowning” very accurately describes what happened to soldiers who were exposed to the gas. Their bodies responded to the irritation caused by the acid by filling their lungs with liquid. Many died from suffocation.

But while chlorine may have been put to some dastardly uses over the centuries, its reactivity has also been incredibly useful to humanity. It means chlorine is relatively easy to incorporate into other materials and often makes compounds more stable.

“That’s because,” says Andrea with relish, “chlorine hangs on like grim death to the atoms it bonds with.”

One of the best examples is polyvinylchloride, or PVC, which consumes a third of chlorine. This incredibly versatile and durable plastic celebrated its centenary last year. PVC crops up everywhere – packaging, signage, old-fashioned vinyl records, the leatherette effect of many car seats.

PVC in credit card

But it is the construction industry that is by far the biggest end-user of this plastic. Over 70% of PVC ends up in everything from drainpipes to vinyl floors, roofing products to double-glazed window-frames.

“We call it the construction polymer,” says Mike Smith, chlorine market expert at the consultancy IHS.

“Chlorine also goes into construction in other forms,” he adds. “Polyurethane, which is a great insulation material.”

And that has the odd consequence that the demand for chlorine rises and falls in line with property booms and busts.

And because the supply of sodium is inextricably tied to that of chlorine, it has an even odder consequence. A collapse in the housing market – as Spain suffered in recent years – can make it more expensive to manufacture staple products like soap and paper, which rely on sodium.

But PVC is just one of chlorine’s many industrial applications. Chlorine is one of the most versatile and widely used industrial chemicals.

“It is a real workhorse,” says Mike Smith, adding that much of the chemical industry would be impossible without it.

Something like 15,000 different chlorine compounds are used in industry, including the vast majority of pharmaceuticals and agricultural chemicals.

Often chlorine is used during the production process and doesn’t actually turn up in the final product. That’s true of the production of two vital elements.

Chlorine key facts

Periodic table symbol for Chlorine
  • Chemical element, second lightest member of the halogen elements
  • Toxic, corrosive, greenish-yellow gas
  • Irritating to the eyes and to the respiratory system
  • Most common compound of chlorine is sodium chloride, which is found in nature as crystalline rock salt

From a battered cardboard box Andrea produces a cylinder 15cm long and 3cm wide, encrusted with crystals of a beautiful silver-coloured metal. It is, he tells me, titanium.

Titanium is the basis of much of the paint industry. It is used in hi-tech alloys for aircraft and bicycles as well as in dental implants and chlorine is an indispensable part of the purification process.

Similarly the incredibly high-purity silicon essential for the production of computer chips and solar panels is only possible thanks to a process that uses chlorine.

But it was chlorine’s cleansing power that led to the first commercial applications of the element. Its efficacy as a disinfectant was discovered thanks to an early 19th Century effort to clean up the gut factories of Paris.

The “boyauderies” processed animal intestines to make, among other things, strings for musical instruments. A French chemist and pharmacist called Antoine-Germain Labarraque discovered that newly-discovered chlorinated bleaching solutions not only got rid of the smell of putrefaction but actually slowed down the putrefaction process itself.

Within a few decades chlorine compounds were being used to disinfect everything from hospitals to cattle sheds as well as to treat infected wounds in patients. Chlorine is credited with deodorising the Latin Quarter of Paris, until then infamous for its terrible stench.

The early advocates of chlorine did not know how chlorine worked, they just knew that it helped clear the “miasmas” thought to spread contagion.

It would be half a century before the microbes that chlorine destroys would be identified.

Chlorine is used around the world to treat water to ensure it is safe to drink.

It is the basis of many disinfectants and a key ingredient of the bleach you use to clean surfaces in your home and to purge any microbes from your toilet bowl.

It is also used to keep swimming pools free of bacteria, hence the distinctive smell.

But here’s something you probably didn’t know, and if you are a regular swimmer, may not wish to know. That smell isn’t chlorine, at least not the element. It is actually a chlorine compound called chloramine, which is created when chlorine combines with organic substances in the water.

So what are those organic substances? We are talking about sweat and urine.

So if you’ve ever noticed that the “chlorine” smell is stronger when the pool is full of kids, well now you know why.

Simple, Short HCV Regimen Has High Cure Rate.

 A single pill once a day for 8 weeks is enough to cure more than 90% of hepatitis C virus (HCV) patients with relatively uncomplicated disease, a researcher said.

In a large phase III open-label trial, 94% of patients with HCV genotype 1 and no cirrhosis were able to clear the virus after just 8 weeks of sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) and ledipasvir co-formulated in a single once-daily pill, according to Kris Kowdley, MD, of Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle.

Neither a longer duration of treatment nor the addition of the antiviral drug ribavirin had any effect on the combination’s efficacy, Kowdley reported here at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of the Liver andonline in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The fixed-dose combination was “safe and well tolerated” with adverse events more common among patients treated with ribavirin, Kowdley told a crowded plenary session of the meeting.

The outcome is “pretty dramatic,” commented Adrian Di Bisceglie, MD, of St. Louis University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo., an investigator in the study and moderator of the plenary session at which it was presented.

“You’re talking about one pill once a day for 8 weeks,” he told MedPage Today, a stark contrast to the “year of torture” involved in treating the disease only a few years ago.

Whether regimens can go even shorter remains up in the air. Kowdley said a 4-week regimen would be the “holy grail” for clinicians — because it would mean a single prescription — but that so far has eluded researchers.

Di Bisceglie said most people getting the combination were negative for the virus by 4 weeks: “How much consolidation beyond that does one need?”

But even 8 weeks, he said “makes this very manageable for patients.”

Sofosbuvir, approved last year, is one of the so-called direct-acting agents against HCV; it’s a nucleotide analog NS5B polymerase inhibitor that targets part of viral replication process. Ledipasvir, which blocks the action of the viral nonstructural protein 5A, remains under investigation, but the drugs have been put together as a single pill.

The so-called ION-3 trial is one of several phase III studies here reporting how the fixed-dose combination of the two drugs worked in different patient populations.

ION-3, Kowdley said, enrolled 647 previously untreated patients and randomly assigned them to get ledipasvir-sofosbuvir for 8 weeks, the combination plus ribavirin also for 8 weeks, or the two drugs alone for 12 weeks.

The primary endpoint was sustained virologic response at 12 weeks after the end of therapy, or SVR12, defined as a lack of detectable HCV RNA at that point. The SVR12 is regarded as tantamount to a cure because few patients relapse after they have achieved that milestone.

Kowdley and colleagues found that the SVR12 rate was:

  • 94% with 8 weeks of ledipasvir-sofosbuvir alone
  • 93% if ribavirin was added for 8 weeks
  • 95% with 12 weeks of ledipasvir-sofosbuvir alone

The minimal differences suggested that the 8-week ledipasvir-sofosbuvir regimen had efficacy that was noninferior to either of the other two, Kowdley said.

In each of the three arms, he said, response rates were high and similar based on subgroups defined by such things as sex, race, HCV sub-genotype, and baseline HCV viral load.

The proportion of patients reporting adverse events was numerically higher in the ribavirin-containing arm, he reported, as were grade 3 and 4 lab abnormalities. As expected, hemoglobin declines were more common among the patients getting ribavirin.

Action Points

  • A single pill containing sofosbuvir (Sovaldi) and ledipasvir taken once a day for 8 weeks is enough to cure more than 90% of hepatitis C virus (HCV) patients with relatively uncomplicated disease
  • Note that the fixed-dose combination was safe and well tolerated, and adverse events were more common among patients treated with ribavirin.

2,300 tubes containing SARS virus samples missing in France .

A major French biomedical research body, the Pasteur Institute, have launched an investigation into the disappearance of some 2,300 test tubes containing samples of the SARS virus. The loss was discovered during an inventory.

AFP Photo / Philippe Huguen

The Pasteur Institute filed a so-called ‘complaint against X‘ on Monday over the lost SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) samples. According to French law, such complaints allow law enforcement agencies to investigate a certain case, without targeting specific individuals or companies.

The distinguished research body has also announced it has closed its P3 laboratory, where the samples of the potentially deadly virus were kept.

Human error is the most probable reason, but we do not exclude anything,” the Institute’s Director General, Christian Bréchot, said, according to AFP.

The loss of the 2,349 SARS samples was announced by the research organization over the weekend. The institute’s routine inventory procedures revealed the missing SARS test tubes. The internal investigation from April 8 to April 12 confirmed the disappearance.

The SARS virus has a high death rate, killing approximately 10 percent of those infected. In 2003 the virus killed around 800 people, mostly in Asia.

The symptoms of SARS are like those of acute pneumonia with the infected person running a high temperature complicated by various respiratory problems.

The Pasteur Institute emphasized the missing tubes represent no danger to public health.

According to the Institute’s statement, “the tubes concerned have no infectious potential. Independent experts consulted by health authorities have qualified the risk as ‘nil’ in regards to available evidence and literature on the survival of the SARS virus.”

The director of the institute later explained that a malfunction in the laboratory’s stock freezer in 2012, led to the virus samples becoming ineffective.

Bréchot has promised a comprehensive inventory of the remaining dangerous samples in possession of the research organization.

I am committed to the Pasteur Institute redoing an inventory of micro-organisms and toxins within about a month,” he said.

Ohio Soccer Player Is Dangerously ‘Allergic’ to Her Own Sweat.

Caitlin McComish, a promising collegiate soccer player, set out for a run in her hometown of White House, Ohio, in May 2013 when she began to have trouble breathing and went into life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

As a child she’d had two or three mild attacks a year. “It’s never the same, it’s always like a group of symptoms,” said McComish, 20.

PHOTO: Caitlin McComish has a life-threatening inflammatory condition caused by her body over-heating.

But this one was different.

“I was right in front of my grade school,” she said. “I had a really upset stomach, tingly palms and the bottoms of my feet. I was really, really itchy. It hit me like uncomfortable heat waves. Then I could feel the swelling in my throat, and my tongue got tingly and thicker.”

Luckily, she said she was able to call her mother before she fell to the ground and “couldn’t see straight and could barely breathe.”

When the ambulance arrived, McComish’s throat was nearly closed and she was barely responding. “I don’t remember much,” she said.

By the time she was back in fall training at the University of Toledo, she had gone into shock 17 times, always near the soccer field.

It wasn’t until she was referred to the Cleveland Clinic that doctors discovered she was having an inflammatory reaction to her own sweat. She had a relatively common condition in an unusually serious form: cholinergic urticarial.

Technically, McComish doesn’t have an allergy, rather she has a hives disorder when her skin is exposed to heat and sweat. The reactions are so serious, they can be life-threatening.

In a published survey of 500 high school students, researchers found an estimated 10 percent had some form of the disease, but its “true prevalence is underrated,” according to Dr. David Lang, chairman of the department of allergy and clinical immunology at The Cleveland Clinic and McComish’s doctor.

“It’s a condition where people have itching and swelling and the major issue is heat or sweat as a provoking factor,” said Lang, who has treated numerous athletes, including professionals, with the condition. “It’s quite common in the general population, but in most cases, it’s mild and patients either aren’t aware of it or manage their symptoms well.”

Strenuous exercise, even a “sit in the Jacuzzi,” can trigger it, said Lang.

“The hives are very small in association with an increase in the core body temperature,” he said. “Common triggers are hot baths or shower or exercise. It’s one of a more common group of high-swelling syndromes.”

Some people can react to cold in the same way, “when they walk outside and the winter wind blows on their face, they get swelling,” he said.

Lang confirmed McComish’s diagnosis with an “exercise challenge.” He prescribed advancing doses of antihistamines and other medications.

She tried wearing a cooling vest while she played, she tried ice baths leading up to and following practice, but nothing helped. Finally, Lang put her on a drug used typically used for asthma, Xolair injections. She showed a “dramatic response,” and was also able to continue to play soccer.

McComish also delighted in the fact that she was no longer allergic to peanuts, mangoes, celery and sesame seeds.

She said she is telling her story now so that others with similar conditions might seek help. “Somehow I got to see Dr. Lang, I think out of the grace of god.”

“Caitlin has a very resilient attitude,” said Lang. “She expressed a desire to continue what she was doing, despite her tendency to have episodes,” he said.

McComish, a nursing major, has been medically disqualified from competing by NCAA rules because of a separate diagnosis P.O.T.S., a form of dysautonomia, but she has no regrets.

“I had a come-to-Jesus moment with myself,” she said. “I wasn’t really worried about my health and I wanted to play soccer. I thought if I pushed it under the rug and kept working hard, it would go away.

“The harder I worked, the worse I got, until my favorite coach said, ‘There is a difference between working hard and working smart.’ And I kind of had to realize that and simplify my life,” McComish said.

Now, she finds the silver lining in her precarious health.

“Now I know my health comes first,” she said. “I have days where I think I am getting more than I can handle, but at the end of the day, I never fall because the people I have around me, it’s just not possible.”

“Some of the best things in my life have come from this,” she said. “There are lessons learned, relationships built and what I have found out about myself. I am not saying it’s a gift, but if I have to go through it anyway, why not get something great out of it.”

Gene variant increases risk of colorectal cancer from eating processed meat.

A common genetic variant that affects one in three people appears to significantly increase the risk of colorectal cancer from the consumption of processed meat, according to study published today inPLOS Genetics. The study of over 18,000 people from the U.S., Canada, Australia and Europe represents the first large-scale genome-wide analysis of genetic variants and dietary patterns that may help explain more of the risk factors for colorectal cancer.

Dr Jane Figueiredo at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California, explained that eating processed meat is associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer and for about a third of the general population who carry this genetic variant, the risk of eating processed meat is even higher compared to those who do not. “Our results, if replicated by other studies, may provide us with a greater understanding of the biology into colorectal carcinogenesis,” said Dr Ulrike Peters of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Public Health Sciences Division.

The study population totaled 9,287 patients with colorectal cancer and a control group of 9,117 individuals without cancer, all participants in 10 observational studies that were pooled in the largest meta-analysis sponsored by the National Institutes of Health-funded Genetics and Epidemiology of Colorectal Cancer Consortium (GECCO) and Colorectal Cancer Family Registry. Scientists systematically searched 2.7 million variants to identify those that are associated with the consumption of meat, fiber, fruits and vegetables. A significant interaction between the genetic variant rs4143094 and processed meat consumption was detected.

This variant is located on the same chromosome 10 region that includes GATA3, a transcription factor gene previously linked to several forms of cancer. The transcription factor encoded by this gene plays a role in the immune system. Dr Figueiredo hypothesized that the genetic locus found to interact with processed meat may have interesting biological significance given its location in the genome, but further functional analyses are required.

Colorectal cancer is a multi-factorial disease attributed to both genetic causes and lifestyle factors; including diet. About 30 known genetic susceptibility alleles for colorectal cancer have been pinpointed throughout the genome. How specific foods affect the activities of genes has not been established but represents an important area of research for prevention. “The possibility that genetic variants may modify an individual’s risk for disease based on diet has not been thoroughly investigated but represents an important new insight into disease development,” said Dr Li Hsu, the lead statistician on the study.

“Diet is a modifiable risk factor for colorectal cancer. Our study is the first to understand whether some individuals are at higher or lower risk based on their genomic profile. This information can help us better understand the biology and maybe in the future lead to targeted prevention strategies,” said Dr Figueiredo.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by PLOS. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Jane C. Figueiredo, Li Hsu, Carolyn M. Hutter, Yi Lin, Peter T. Campbell, John A. Baron, Sonja I. Berndt, Shuo Jiao, Graham Casey, Barbara Fortini, Andrew T. Chan, Michelle Cotterchio, Mathieu Lemire, Steven Gallinger, Tabitha A. Harrison, Loic Le Marchand, Polly A. Newcomb, Martha L. Slattery, Bette J. Caan, Christopher S. Carlson, Brent W. Zanke, Stephanie A. Rosse, Hermann Brenner, Edward L. Giovannucci, Kana Wu, Jenny Chang-Claude, Stephen J. Chanock, Keith R. Curtis, David Duggan, Jian Gong, Robert W. Haile, Richard B. Hayes, Michael Hoffmeister, John L. Hopper, Mark A. Jenkins, Laurence N. Kolonel, Conghui Qu, Anja Rudolph, Robert E. Schoen, Fredrick R. Schumacher, Daniela Seminara, Deanna L. Stelling, Stephen N. Thibodeau, Mark Thornquist, Greg S. Warnick, Brian E. Henderson, Cornelia M. Ulrich, W. James Gauderman, John D. Potter, Emily White, Ulrike Peters. Genome-Wide Diet-Gene Interaction Analyses for Risk of Colorectal Cancer. PLoS Genetics, 2014; 10 (4): e1004228 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1004228

Merck’s Former Doctor Predicts that Gardasil will Become the Greatest Medical Scandal of All Time | Health Impact News

Dr Bernard Dalbergue Mercks Former Doctor Predicts that Gardasil will Become the Greatest Medical Scandal of All Time

Health Impact News Editor

Dr. Dalbergue (pictured above), a former pharmaceutical industry physician with Gardasil manufacturer Merck, was interviewed in the April 2014 issue of the French magazine Principes de Santé (Health Principles).


The full extent of the Gardasil scandal needs to be assessed: everyone knew when this vaccine was released on the American market that it would prove to be worthless!  Diane Harper, a major opinion leader in the United States, was one of the first to blow the whistle, pointing out the fraud and scam of it all.

Gardasil is useless and costs a fortune!  In addition, decision-makers at all levels are aware of it!

Cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, paralysis of the lower limbs, vaccine-induced MS and vaccine-induced encephalitis can be found, whatever the vaccine.

I predict that Gardasil will become the greatest medical scandal of all times because at some point in time, the evidence will add up to prove that this vaccine, technical and scientific feat that it may be, has absolutely no effect on cervical cancer and that all the very many adverse effects which destroy lives and even kill, serve no other purpose than to generate profit for the manufacturers.

There is far too much financial interest for these medicines to be withdrawn.

As we have reported in many previous articles here at Health Impact News, the HPV vaccine has become a huge international controversy, while enjoying widespread mainstream media and medical acceptance here in the United States. Any mainstream media reporter who dares to report on the controversy surrounding Gardasil faces ridicule and a potential loss of their career. (Just ask Katie Couric.)

U.S. law prevents anyone from suing Merck or any other vaccine manufacturer as the U.S. Congress gave them total immunity from civil lawsuits in 1986, and that legal protection which gives them a free pass to put as many vaccines into the market as they want to, was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011. In addition, the National Institute of Health receives royalties from the sales of Gardasil. So don’t expect objective, true information from the U.S. mainstream media, or your U.S. doctor.

But Merck does not have the same legal protection outside the U.S., and it is here we must find information regarding lawsuits over injuries and deaths related to Gardasil.

Gardasil: An International Scandal

SaneVax, Inc.

Press Release from Michèle Rivasi, MEP France

Michèle Rivasi, MEP Vice-Chair of the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament, organized a press conference in Paris on April 2, the topic was Gardasil, a vaccine from Sanofi-Pasteur MSD against certain human papillomavirus responsible for cancer.

In the space of seven years, nearly 2 million young women aged 13-26 years received at least one dose of this vaccine in France, reimbursed at 65% by the Social Security … even though the evidence of its effectiveness has not yet been proven.`

For Michèle Rivasi, it is likely that clinical trials of Gardasil were not conducted following the rules of science. Normally, to evaluate safety, the treatment must be compared with placebo. However, in the case of this vaccine, the “placebo” that was used was the vaccine adjuvant itself.

The French Agency for Sanitary Safety of Health Products (AFSSAPS) registered Gardasil on its list of drugs under surveillance after the crisis of the Mediator.

Today in Europe, many young women, aged 18-24 years without medical history are affected with very debilitating diseases that could be attributed directly to vaccination. Océane Bourguignon was 15 when she received two injections of Gardasil. Within months she was hospitalized for multiple sclerosis. She temporarily lost her sight and the use of her legs. Her father, Jean-Jacques, was present at the conference with their lawyer, Jean-Christophe Coubris, together with the mother of Orianne Lochu, another young victim.

Today, many whistleblowers, researchers, physicians and health professionals are against the objective set in the Cancer Plan announced by François Hollande on February 4, which is to double the “coverage “of vaccination of young girls with Gardasil until 2021 because:

– Cervical cancer in France is no longer a public health problem (1.7 % of all cancers)

– The vaccine is only effective against infections caused by some strains of the virus: Gardasil contains antigens only for strains of type 6, 11, 16 and 18 and the other vaccine, Cervarix, for 2 strains. However, infections with strains 16 and 18, established as scarecrows by manufacturers, seem rarer in Europe. Note that there are more than 100 strains, including 18 considered high-risk oncogenic

– There is no evidence to date demonstrating efficacy of the vaccine against the occurrence of cervical cancer! 20 years back would still be necessary to obtain such evidence, however, the duration of vaccine protection is limited in time.

– The presence of aluminum adjuvant is very problematic, as shown by scientists Chris Shaw and Lucija Tomljenovic, from the University of British Columbia, and Professor Authier and Gherardi, from Hospital Henri-Mondor (Créteil), all present at the conference. The aluminum migrates into the body and reaches the brain, where it accumulates. There are many adverse effects noted: death, convulsions, syncope, Guillain-Barré syndrome, transverse myelitis, facial paralysis, chronic fatigue syndrome, autoimmune diseases, pulmonary embolisms, myofasciitis macrophages, pancreatitis…

– The effectiveness of conventional smears to detect cervical cancer has been proven.

– Deal with these risks. Austria refused to include these vaccines in the vaccination schedule and Japan no longer recommends this vaccination; many challenges exist in other countries.

– A dose of Gardasil costs 123.44 euros in France, or 370.32 euros for 3 injections required, this is far too expensive. This cost could increase if boosters were necessary, because the duration of protection of initial vaccination is still not known. The period of “catch-up” could generate a cost to social security of 926 M°  euros. In subsequent years the annual cost would be € 148 M °.

-An indecent campaign of communication was engaged years ago to promote this vaccine: lobbying campaigns and aggressive advertising are conducted by laboratories that play on the fears and guilt, especially of mothers: “Protect your daughter, this is what is more natural for a mother.” One of these commercials has also been banned by the Medicines Agency in August 2010 for “lack of objectivity “.

For all of these reasons, MEP Michèle Rivasi calls for a moratorium: member states must stop recommending this vaccine until more studies are conducted on Gardasil, its effectiveness and dangers.

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur.

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team has found.

The team successfully took thermal images of a person through a piece of the new plastic. By contrast, taking a picture taken through the plastic often used for ordinary  does not show a person’s body heat. 

“We have for the first time a polymer material that can be used for quality thermal imaging – and that’s a big deal,” said senior co-author Jeffrey Pyun, whose lab at the UA developed the plastic. “The industry has wanted this for decades.” 

These lenses and their next-generation prototypes could be used for anything involving heat detection and infrared light, such as handheld cameras for home energy audits, night-vision goggles, perimeter surveillance systems and other remote-sensing applications, said senior co-author Robert A. Norwood, a UA professor of optical sciences. 

The lenses also could be used within detectors that sense gases such as carbon dioxide, he said. Some smart building technology already uses carbon dioxide detectors to adjust heating and cooling levels based on the number of occupants. 

In contrast to the materials currently used in infrared technology, the new plastic is inexpensive, lightweight and can be easily molded into a variety of shapes, said Pyun, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the UA. 

The researchers have filed an international patent for their new chemical process and its application for lenses. Several companies have expressed interest in the technology, he said. 

Norwood and his colleagues in the UA College of Optical Sciences tested the optical properties of the new lens materials and found they are transparent to mid-range infrared and result in lenses with high optical focusing power. 

The team’s discovery could provide a new use for the  left over when oil and natural gas are refined into cleaner-burning fuels. Although there are some industrial uses for sulfur, the amount generated from refining fossil fuels far outstrips the current need for the element. 

The international team’s research article, “New infrared transmitting material via inverse vulcanization of elemental sulfur to prepare high refractive index polymers,” is published online in the journalAdvanced Materials. 

Pyun and Norwood’s co-authors are Jared J. Griebel, Dominic H. Moronta, Woo Jin Chung, Adam G. Simmonds, Richard S. Glass, Soha Namnabat, Roland Himmelhuber, Kyung-Jo Kim, John van der Laan and Eustace L. Dereniak of the UA; Eui Tae Kim and Kookheon Charof Seoul National University in Korea; and Ngoc Nguyen and Michael E. Mackay of the University of Delaware. 

Research funding was provided by the American Chemical SocietyPetroleum Research Foundation, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the National Research Foundation of Korea, the Korean Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the State of Arizona Technology Research Initiative Fund and the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research. 

Norwood said the new plastic is transparent to wavelengths of light in the mid-infrared range of 3 to 5 microns – a range with many uses in the aerospace and defense industries. 

The new lenses also have a high optical, or focusing, power – meaning they do not need to be very thick to focus on nearby objects, making them lightweight. 

Depending on the amount of sulfur in the plastic, the lenses have a refractive index between 1.865 to 1.745. Most other polymers that have been developed have refractive indices below 1.6 and transmit much less light in the mid-range infrared, the authors wrote in their paper. 

Pyun and colleagues reported their creation of the new plastic and its possible use in lithium-sulfur batteries in 2013. The researchers have filed patents for that technology as well and several companies are interested. 

Pyun and first author Griebel, a UA doctoral candidate in chemistry and biochemistry, were trying to transform liquid sulfur into a useful plastic that could be produced easily on an industrial scale. 

The chemists dubbed their process “inverse vulcanization” because it requires mostly sulfur with a small amount of an additive. Vulcanization is the chemical process that makes rubber more durable by adding a small amount of sulfur to rubber. 

To make lenses, Griebel poured the liquid concoction into a silicone mold similar to those used for baking cupcakes. 

“You can pop the lenses out of the mold once it’s cooled,” he said. “Making lenses with this process – it’s two materials and heat. Processing couldn’t be simpler, really.” 

The team’s next step is comparing properties of the new  with existing plastics and exploring other practical applications such as optical fibers.

Vladimir Nabokov on Writing, Reading, and the Three Qualities a Great Storyteller Must Have | Brain Pickings

“Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story there is a shimmering go-between. That go-between, that prism, is the art of literature.”

“Often the object of a desire, when desire is transformed into hope, becomes more real than reality itself,” Umberto Eco observed in hismagnificent atlas of imaginary places. Indeed, our capacity for self-delusion is one of the most inescapable fundamentals of the human condition, and nowhere do we engage it more willingly and more voraciously than in the art and artifice of storytelling.

In the same 1948 lecture that gave us Vladimir Nabokov’s 10 criteria for a good reader, found in his altogether fantastic Lectures on Literature(UK; public library), the celebrated author andsage of literature examines the heart of storytelling:

Literature was born not the day when a boy crying wolf, wolf came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels: literature was born on the day when a boy came crying wolf, wolf and there was no wolf behind him. That the poor little fellow because he lied too often was finally eaten up by a real beast is quite incidental. But here is what is important. Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story there is a shimmering go-between. That go-between, that prism, is the art of literature.

Vladimir Nabokov by William Claxton, 1963

He considers this essential role of deception in storytelling, adding to famous writers’ wisdom on truth vs. fiction and observing, as young Virginia Woolf did, that all art simply imitates nature:

Literature is invention. Fiction is fiction. To call a story a true story is an insult to both art and truth. Every great writer is a great deceiver, but so is that arch-cheat Nature. Nature always deceives. From the simple deception of propagation to the prodigiously sophisticated illusion of protective colors in butterflies or birds, there is in Nature a marvelous system of spells and wiles. The writer of fiction only follows Nature’s lead.

Going back for a moment to our wolf-crying woodland little woolly fellow, we may put it this way: the magic of art was in the shadow of the wolf that he deliberately invented, his dream of the wolf; then the story of his tricks made a good story. When he perished at last, the story told about him acquired a good lesson in the dark around the camp fire. But he was the little magician. He was the inventor.

What’s especially interesting is that Nabokov likens the writer to an inventor, since the trifecta of qualities he goes on to outline as necessary for the great writer — not that different from young Susan Sontag’s list of the four people a great writer must be — are just as necessary for any great entrepreneur:

There are three points of view from which a writer can be considered: he may be considered as a storyteller, as a teacher, and as an enchanter. A major writer combines these three — storyteller, teacher, enchanter — but it is the enchanter in him that predominates and makes him a major writer.

To the storyteller we turn for entertainment, for mental excitement of the simplest kind, for emotional participation, for the pleasure of traveling in some remote region in space or time. A slightly different though not necessarily higher mind looks for the teacher in the writer. Propagandist, moralist, prophet — this is the rising sequence. We may go to the teacher not only for moral education but also for direct knowledge, for simple facts… Finally, and above all, a great writer is always a great enchanter, and it is here that we come to the really exciting part when we try to grasp the individual magic of his genius and to study the style, the imagery, the pattern of his novels or poems.

The three facets of the great writer — magic, story, lesson — are prone to blend in one impression of unified and unique radiance, since the magic of art may be present in the very bones of the story, in the very marrow of thought. There are masterpieces of dry, limpid, organized thought which provoke in us an artistic quiver quite as strongly as a novel like Mansfield Park does or as any rich flow of Dickensian sensual imagery. It seems to me that a good formula to test the quality of a novel is, in the long run, a merging of the precision of poetry and the intuition of science. In order to bask in that magic a wise reader reads the book of genius not with his heart, not so much with his brain, but with his spine. It is there that occurs the telltale tingle even though we must keep a little aloof, a little detached when reading. Then with a pleasure which is both sensual and intellectual we shall watch the artist build his castle of cards and watch the castle of cards become a castle of beautiful steel and glass.

Indeed, as important to the success of literature as the great writer is the wise reader, whom Nabokov characterizes by a mindset that blends the receptivity of art with the critical thinking of science:

The best temperament for a reader to have, or to develop, is a combination of the artistic and the scientific one. The enthusiastic artist alone is apt to be too subjective in his attitude towards a book, and so a scientific coolness of judgment will temper the intuitive heat. If, however, a would-be reader is utterly devoid of passion and patience — of an artist’s passion and a scientist’s patience — he will hardly enjoy great literature.

Lectures on Literature is a wealth of wisdom in its entirety. Also see Nabokov onthe six short stories everyone should read, then revisit famous writers’ collected insights on writing, including Elmore Leonard’s 10 rules of writing, Walter Benjamin’s thirteen doctrines, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s letter to his daughter,David Ogilvy’s 10 no-bullshit tips, Henry Miller’s 11 commandments, Jack Kerouac’s 30 beliefs and techniques, John Steinbeck’s 6 pointers, and Susan Sontag’s synthesized learnings.

Active Neurons Protect Mice Against Depression | I Fucking Love Science

From the desk of Zedie.