3 Magic Words You Should Say Today.

“He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.” ~ Lao Tzu

For years my life was defined by deep feelings of inadequacy as well as concurrent actions of striving to keep those feelings at bay. Even as a young child, I felt nothing I did was good enough, and I can still recall feelings of intense anxiety, sometimes terror, at simply waking up and knowing I had to go to school. While my parents meant well, I was inculcated with the belief that to be loved meant having to prove your worth each and every day, which meant doing things in a certain way—staying quiet, doing what you were told, getting good grades, taking certain subjects.  In other words, I was given a supposed checklist of success, which would supposedly lead to this elusive state called “happiness.”
















I was taught to be competitive, to believe that my self-worth was directly tied to accomplishment.  I could not be of value unless I achieved something. This is a belief system embraced by many, and for me, it only served to deepen the feelings of emptiness and downright devastation that I experienced, especially if I failed at something.  When one lives in a constant state of competition, there is no such thing as ever being good enough.  One lives in a constant fear that you NEVER will be good enough. Even as I continually achieved and collected accolades, I suffered from constant panic attacks, chronic anxiety and depression.  Therapy and anti-depressants would provide short-lived respite.

However, even as I spent most of waking time dedicated to “doing,” part of me was suspicious of what the point exactly was to all this “doing.”  A secret voice was always asking, “Is this all there is?”  Part of me was deeply ashamed that this voice even existed. After all, society was reinforcing that I was doing things the “right way.”  I dutifully checked off the items on my checklist of success, completely believing that once I completed each task, I would be closer and closer to that state called “happiness.”  However, with each accomplishment, I only seemed to be further and further away from where I wanted to be. A part of me resigned myself to believing that perhaps what I really wanted could never be attained, that it was elusive and outside myself.  But even as I tried to give into resignation, that voice and its question “Is this all there is?” continued to plague me.  I had become an adult and done everything that was expected of me.  And I was completely miserable.

“Is this all there is?” became an accusation.  But I busied myself with tasks to which I attached great importance.  I cooked gourmet meals.  I traveled to faraway places.  I did yoga.  I went through the motions of what a good life was supposed to be, never realizing in all those years that what I had longed for resided within myself.  My self-worth still resided in the external— from accomplishments and material possessions, in the need for validation from others.  It never occurred to me that I could give myself validation because I had never been taught that.

I remember back in 2001 discovering a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, in which he spoke about suffering.  It struck a chord with me, but I could not understand it.  For he said to lessen suffering in the world, you had to reduce suffering within yourself.  That concept seemed completely foreign to me. I did not understand how lessening MY suffering could possibly lessen the suffering of others. So even when we are well-meaning in focusing on the suffering of others, it only serves to distract from addressing what needs to change within ourselves.

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Fast forward to the present, I now realize that we cannot possibly give or receive love without knowing love within ourselves first.  And how did I finally understand this?  It was when I heard the words, “Who you are is enough.”  I don’t know from whom or exactly when I heard this, but the concept was so revolutionary to me that I shed tears.  And for the first time, I felt free.  I have heard this mantra echoed numerous times from many spiritual teachings and teachers since hearing it the first time, but I finally understood what Thich Nhat Hanh meant.

I have dedicated the past few years to releasing my old belief systems related to worthiness. When the inner voice asked the question “Is there all there is?”, it was really asking, “Are you good enough?”  And the answer has been and always will be, “I am enough.”

You are enough. Always have been and always will be…

Do you think your life would look any different if you knew that you were enough? You can share your insights by joining the conversation in the comment section below :)

Increase Metabolism .


Need another reason to love your body? It burns calories all by itself—as long as you don’t get in the way. See, every cell in your body plays a role in energy metabolism—the process of turning the food you eat into energy that keeps your heart beating, lungs pumping, and muscles moving. The faster your metabolism, the more calories you burn. And just like there are ways to speed it up—by working out, for instance—certain habits can hit the brakes on your natural calorie-churning engine.


Here are 10 things to avoid in order to keep your metabolism humming.


From the desk of Zedie.

A tiny molecule may help battle depression.

Levels of a small molecule found only in humans and in other primates are lower in the brains of depressed individuals, according to researchers at McGill University and the Douglas Institute. This discovery may hold a key to improving treatment options for those who suffer from depression.

Depression is a common cause of disability, and while viable medications exist to treat it, finding the right medication for individual patients often amounts to trial and error for the physician. In a new study published in the journal Nature Medicine, Dr. Gustavo Turecki, a psychiatrist at the Douglas and professor in the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry at McGill, together with his team, discovered that the levels of a tiny molecule, miR-1202, may provide a marker for depression and help detect individuals who are likely to respond to antidepressant treatment.

“Using samples from the Douglas Bell-Canada Brain Bank, we examined brain tissues from individuals who were depressed and compared them with brain tissues from psychiatrically healthy individuals, says Turecki, who is also Director of the McGill Group for Suicide Studies, “We identified this molecule, a microRNA known as miR-1202, only found in humans and primates and discovered that it regulates an important receptor of the neurotransmitter glutamate.”

The team conducted a number of experiments that showed that antidepressants change the levels of this microRNA. “In our clinical trials with living depressed individuals treated with citalopram, a commonly prescribed antidepressant, we found lower levels in depressed individuals compared to the non-depressed individuals before treatment,” says Turecki. “Clearly, microRNA miR-1202 increased as the treatment worked and individuals no longer felt depressed.”

Antidepressant drugs are the most common treatment for depressive episodes, and are among the most prescribed medications in North America. “Although antidepressants are clearly effective, there is variability in how individuals respond to antidepressant treatment,” says Turecki, “We found that miR-1202 is different in individuals with depression and particularly, among those patients who eventually will respond to antidepressant treatment.”

The discovery may provide “a potential target for the development of new and more effective antidepressant treatments,” he adds.

Researchers Discover Traces of the Planet That Helped Create the Moon.

Researchers believe that a planet, named Theia, collided with Earth 4.5 billion years ago, creating the moon from floating debris

Analysis of moon rocks brought back by Apollo astronauts has revealed remnants of Theia, the planet that researchers believe collided with Earth to create the moon 4.5 billion years ago.

Researchers have long hypothesized that Theia — named after the Greek goddess who was the mother of Selene, the goddess of the moon — collided with Earth and was destroyed upon impact. Remains of the colliding planet and debris from Earth were thought to have joined together, eventually forming the moon. The moon’s thin core suggests that it was created with the help of two other planets, but no hard evidence has been found to confirm the theory until now.

According to the study published in the journal Science, an analysis of different varieties of oxygen, called isotopes, in the lunar rocks reveals equal traces of both the moon and the colliding planet. The moon rocks also contain a rare material called enstatite chondrite, which is not found on earth, also suggesting that the moon was formed by planetary coalescing.

The team, led by Dr. Daniel Herwartz from the University of Goettingen, wrote to Science that previous analysis of the rocks showed little difference in isotopes, but that the recent analysis “supports the view that the Moon was formed by a giant collision of the proto-Earth with [an impactor].”

Despite the new discoveries, some scientists are still not convinced that the minor differences in isotopes confirm the big-impact hypothesis. Dr. Mahesh Anand from the Open University told BBC that the rocks shouldn’t be used to represent the entire moon and that “further analysis of a variety of lunar rocks is required for further confirmation.”

Automating Cybersecurity.

If only computers themselves were smart enough to fight off malevolent hackers.

That is the premise of an ambitious two-year contest with a $2 million first prize, posed to the world’s computer programmers by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, better known by its acronym, Darpa. It is the blue-sky, big-think organization within the Defense Department that created a precursor of the Internet in the late 1960s and more recently held a contest that spurred development of self-driving cars.

Michael Walker, the Darpa cybersecurity program manager who is running the contest, imagines a future in which sensors on computer networks could detect intruders, identify the flaws that let them in, and automatically make the necessary repairs, all without a human computer expert lifting a finger.

No such system exists today. The network security flaw called Heartbleed, for example, persisted for years in Web servers around the world before experts found it in April; hackers who knew about it could have used it to steal passwords and personal information. (Whether anyone did is unknown, but there were attacks after the bug was disclosed.) “Not a single automation tool has stepped forward and said it could find that flaw unassisted,” Mr. Walker said.

With numerous flaws in complex software, large data thefts have become commonplace. The credit card numbers of millions of Target shoppers were stolen last year. Last month, eBay told its users to change their passwords after its servers were breached.

“The problem is the fortification principle,” Mr. Walker said. “The cost for defenders of trying to block every possible weakness is so much greater than the cost of attackers, to be able to find one way in.”

The targets of the future will be even wider as networked computer processors show up in watches, thermostats, cars — the so-called Internet of Things. Then the potential consequences will include not just stolen data and crashed computers but crashed cars in the real world.

“If we don’t have a new security model,” said Daniel Kaufman, the director of Darpa’s Information Innovation Office and Mr. Walker’s boss, “we’re kind of doomed.”

Mr. Kaufman said that perfect security was impossible, but that the goal was to make cyber security more like physical security. A determined thief can break into a locked, alarmed house, but cannot burglarize an entire neighborhood in one swoop.

“It’s not like the bad guys are going to say, ‘Well played, Darpa — we give up,’ ” he said. “But if nothing else, we will have eliminated easy attacks and raised the cost to them of any attack.”

Darpa announced its Cyber Grand Challenge last fall. On Tuesday, it will release details that will allow programmers to start preparing the qualifying round, to be held a year from now. More than 35 teams have already signed up to compete.

Seeking Collaboration

The fundamental security imbalance is that human experts are too slow to spot and fix vulnerabilities before attackers can exploit them.

The top experts, who tend to work for the government or financial companies, are often able to protect the most valuable and sensitive information. But vast stretches of the Internet are less carefully protected.

And computers that might automate the task have limited sleuthing skills.

Mr. Walker likened the situation to computers that play chess. It was in 1950 that Claude E. Shannon, the pioneering computer scientist, outlined what it would take to create a competitive chess program; that, Mr. Walker said, is about where automated cybersecurity stands now.

Not until 1970 did the Association for Computing Machinery set up a chess tournament in which computers played each other. (Good human players were bored by such feeble opponents.)

The competition spurred quick improvements as programmers collaborated with chess players, blending the expertise of both fields. Seven years later, a computer beat a player with a grandmaster rating. In 1997, IBM’s Deep Blue defeated Garry Kasparov, the world chess champion.

Mr. Walker said he expected the cybersecurity challenge would bring together hackers with academic researchers, and the collaboration could similarly spur advances. “We want to collide the two,” he said.

Darpa also has a history of successful grand challenges. In 2004, it offered a $1 million prize for a robotic vehicle that could drive itself 150 miles across the Mojave Desert in California.

The most successful competitor drove just 7.3 miles. The following year, five cars finished the entire course. Many of the engineers who competed in the Darpa challenge now work at Google, developing self-driving cars that are driving on public roads today.

‘A Petri Dish’

The Cyber Grand Challenge is modeled roughly after “capture the flag” competitions at computer security conferences like Def Con, held each year in Las Vegas, in which teams are given software with deliberate flaws. They quickly analyze the software and figure out how to exploit the flaws to read hidden information on competitors’ computers while devising defenses to fend off attacks from the other teams. (The Darpa team has hired programmers who had previously put together the Def Con competitions.)

The hope is that such an elaborate analysis-and-defense system can be automated. “Studying software sounds like it’s something machines should be able to do,” Mr. Walker said. But like chess, cybersecurity is far from simple. Pieces of such a system do exist. David Brumley, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and chief executive of the start-up ForAllSecure, led a team that developed a computer program that scans software for the Linux computer operating system. In 33,000 pieces of Linux software, it discovered 13,000 flaws that could cause the software to crash — and it demonstrated the crashes.

“We actually generate a working exploit,” Dr. Brumley said. “That’s the difficult part.”

In 152 cases, they showed that they could even take over the computer, turning it into a zombie to follow their commands.

In the Cyber Grand Challenge, the competitors will each be given a suite of software programs with hidden, intentional security flaws that perform some tasks on a closed computer network, perhaps things like receiving and sending email, responding to information requests like a Web server.

As the automated systems defend themselves, they must ensure that these workaday programs (called challenge binaries) continue to operate. Thus, the cybersecurity system acts like an airport checkpoint: It will earn points if it allows the challenge binaries to operate as designed — the equivalent of letting harmless luggage pass through an X-ray machine — while detecting and stopping attacks from competitors.

The contest software and network will be incompatible with the Internet — partly so none of the flaws and hacks accidentally escape and infect, but mainly to create a simplified, controlled environment in which the teams can come up with general strategies that can be widely applied.

“It’s a petri dish for computer security,” Mr. Walker said.

A Lingering Friction

Darpa is providing grants of $750,000 to each of seven teams, including one organized by Dr. Brumley, but the competition is open to any team.

Dr. Brumley’s team will consist of employees of ForAllSecure. While he has a system for finding and exploiting bugs, he lacks other parts of an automated system, like the ability to fix them.

The top seven teams in the qualifying round will then each receive $750,000 to prepare for the finals, which will be held in 2016 in Las Vegas, at the same time and place as Def Con. The winning team will take home $2 million. The second-place finisher will win $1 million, and third place receives $750,000.

Because Darpa events are free and open to the public while Def Con is a paid conference, the two events will be separate but adjoining. That represents a bit of a détente between the government and the hacker world, whose relations have been particularly tense since Edward J. Snowden’s revelations about the computer surveillance tactics of the National Security Agency. Last year, Jeff Moss, the founder of Def Con, wrote in a public message, “I think it would be best for everyone involved if the feds call a ‘time-out’ and not attend Def Con this year.”

Mr. Moss said that this year there would not be a big welcome mat for government employees, “but we’re not going to say, ‘You’re disinvited’ or ‘Stay away.’ ”

Mr. Moss did not hold the N.S.A. spying revelations against Darpa. “I think Darpa is a completely different animal,” he said. The cybersecurity challenge will be an exciting match, Mr. Moss added. “It’s a glimpse into the future. These problems seem ripe for automation.”

Mr. Walker also said he wanted to broadcast the competitions over the web and to enlist game developers to come up with eye-catching visualizations showing the ebb and flow of battle between the computers.

“We also need sportscasters,” he said, adding: “ ‘Sportscaster’ may not be the right word. Professional explainers.”

For the humans behind the computer competitors, it will be an odd change from the capture-the-flag competitions. Instead of several intense days pounding on keyboards, they will just set up their systems and then watch with everyone else.

“It’s going to be nerve-racking,” Dr. Brumley said.

25 Amazing Benefits & Uses For Hydrogen Peroxide .

Hydrogen peroxide is the only germicidal agent composed only of water and oxygen. Like ozone, it kills disease organisms by oxidation! Hydrogen peroxide is considered the worlds safest all natural effective sanitizer. It kills microorganisms by oxidizing them, which can be best described as a controlled burning process. When Hydrogen peroxide reacts with organic material it breaks down into oxygen and water. Here are 25 amazing benefits and uses of hydrogen peroxide:

Note: always be sure to use proper doses and be careful not to over dose on hydrogen peroxide.

1. Whiten Clothes – An Alternative to Beach 

Add a cup of peroxide to white clothes in your laundry to whiten them. Peroxide is great to get rid of blood stains on clothes and carpets. If there is blood on clothing, just pour it directly on the spot, let it sit for about a minute, then rub and rinse with cold water. Repeat if necessary.

2. Health 

Your body makes hydrogen peroxide to fight infection which must be present for our immune system to function correctly. White blood cells are known as Leukocytes. A sub-class of Leukocytes called Neutrophils produce hydrogen peroxide as the first line of defense against toxins, parasites, bacteria, viruses and yeast.

3. Rejuvenating Detoxifying Bath 

Use about 2 quarts 3% hydrogen peroxide to a tub of warm water. Soak for at least a 1/2 hour, adding hot water as needed to maintain a comfortable water temperature.

4. Foot Fungus 

While studies have yet to have been done to show this works for everyone, it is a quick home remedy that is worth a try. To help treat foot fungus, spray a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water on them (especially the toes) every night and let dry.

5. Douche 

Add 2 capfuls of 3% hydrogen peroxide into warm distilled water one to two times a week to remove even chronic yeast infections.

6. Colonic or Enema

For a colonic, add 1 cup (8 oz.) of 3% H202 to 5 gallons warm water. (Do not exceed this amount) For an enema, add 1 tablespoon of 3% H202 to a quart of warm distilled water. UPDATE! Some research indicated that using this solution can result in damage of colonic mucosa and therefore this solution is not recommended although some still prescribe it. Please do your research before trying this one in particular.

7. Infections 

Soak any infections or cuts in 3% for five to ten minutes several times a day. Even gangrene that would not heal with any medicine has been healed by soaking in hydrogen peroxide. Put half a bottle of hydrogen peroxide in your bath to help rid boils, fungus or other skin infections.

8. Bird Mites Infections 

Patients infected by tiny mites report that hydrogen peroxide effectively kills the mites on their skins. They spray it on their skin a couple of times (with a few minutes between the applications) with amazing results.

9. Sinus Infections 

A tablespoon of 3% Hydrogen peroxide added to 1 cup of non-chlorinated water can be used as a nasal spray. Depending on the degree of sinus involvement, one will have to adjust the amount of peroxide used.

10. Wound Care 

3% H2O2 is used medically for cleaning wounds, removing dead tissue, and as an oral debriding agent. Peroxide stops slow (small vessel) wound bleeding/oozing, as well.

Some sources recommend soaking infections or cuts for five to ten minutes several times a day. However, washing and rinsing action is sufficient. You shouldn’t leave the solution on open tissue for extended periods of time as, like many oxidative antiseptics, hydrogen peroxide causes mild damage to tissue in open wounds. Therefore it is important to use with caution.

Personal Care

Mouthwash / Tooth Care

Healing Properties: Take one capful (the little white cap that comes with the bottle) and hold in your mouth for 10 minutes daily, then spit it out. You will not have canker sores and your teeth will be whiter. If you have a terrible toothache and cannot get to a dentist right away, put a capful of 3% Hydrogen peroxide into your mouth and hold it for 10 minutes several times a day. The pain will lessen greatly.

11. Mouthwash 

Many people don’t realize that hydrogen peroxide makes a very effective and inexpensive mouthwash. Use 3% H202 – add a dash of liquid chlorophyll for flavoring if desired.

12. Toothpaste 

Use baking soda and add enough 3% H202 to make a paste.

13. Toothbrush Cleaning 

Or, just dip your brush in 3% H202 and brush. Soak your toothbrush in hydrogen peroxide to keep them free of germs.

14. Tooth Ache 

Hydrogen peroxide is not a pain-killer; however, as an anti-viral, antibacterial and anti-fungal agent, it is effective at treating the pathogen that is causing the infection. The following is from my own personal experience: My dentist wanted to give me a root canal some time ago as one tooth was inflamed and, in her opinion, would die. I felt some discomfort but told her that I would give it a chance to heal. I rinsed with hydrogen peroxide (several times a day) as well as coconut oil (once a day). The discomfort went away and I have had no further problems with the tooth.

15. Tooth Whitening 

Having used 3% Hydrogen peroxide as a mouth wash for sometime, I am thrilled to note that my teeth have been beautifully and effortlessly whitened. I used to pay so much for professional whitening, those silly strips and uncomfortable trays. Live and learn.

NOTE: Do not swallow any peroxide. When the peroxide rinse is done, be sure to rinse out your mouth with water.

16. Hair Lightening 

Peroxide is a bleaching agent and is used for lightened hair. Dilute 3% Hydrogen peroxide with water (50 / 50) and spray the solution on your wet hair after a shower and comb it through. You will not have the peroxide burnt blonde hair like the hair dye packages, but more natural highlights if your hair is a light brown, faddish, or dirty blonde. It also lightens gradually so it’s not a drastic change.

17. Contact Lenses 

Hydrogen peroxide is used as a disinfectant in CIBA Vision’s Clear Care no rub contact lens cleaning solution, due to its ability to break down the proteins that build up on the lens from the eye’s immune response, resulting in increased comfort for those with sensitive eyes.

Sanitizing / Disinfectant / Cleaning

18. Straight or Diluted Hydrogen Perioxide

Clean your counters and table tops with hydrogen peroxide to kill germs and leave a fresh smell. Simply put a little on your dishrag when you wipe, or spray it on the counters. Use hydrogen peroxide to clean glass and mirrors with no smearing.

Keep a spray bottle of 3% (straight) to disinfect the interior of the refrigerator and kids’ school lunch boxes.

19. In the Dishwasher

Add 2 oz. of 3% hydrogen peroxide to your regular washing formula.

Fill a spray bottle with a 50/50 mixture of 3% hydrogen peroxide and water and keep it in every bathroom to disinfect without harming your septic system like bleach or most other disinfectants will. After rinsing off your wooden cutting board, pour or spray hydrogen peroxide (and then vinegar) on it to kill salmonella and other bacteria.

I use peroxide to clean my mirrors, there is no smearing.

Combination of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide make a cheap, effective and non-toxic disinfectant agent and is said to be more effective at killing pathogens than bleach. As it is non-toxic, you can use it to disinfect fruits and vegetables, as well as pet toys, equipment and cages. In tests run at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, pairing Vinegar and Hydrogen Peroxide mists, kills virtually all Salmonella, Shigella, or E. coli bacteria on heavily contaminated food and surfaces.

You need TWO spray bottles. DO NOT MIX the solutions together. Put straight vinegar in one and straight Hydrogen peroxide in the other spray bottle.

NOTE: Light destroys peroxide rather quickly. It’s best to leave it in its original bottle and screw in a spray head. DO NOT DILUTE THEM.

Remember for any sanitizer to work properly, the surface has to be clean before you use it.

When you want to sanitize a surface (vegetables, cutting board, counters, sink, cages, toys. toilets, floors, etc.), spray one (it doesn’t matter which one you use first) on the surface, then you spray on the other. When they mix, for a brief time the chemical action of the two make a very powerful sanitizer. You can rinse off the surface afterwards, if you want, but the result is non-toxic. Fortunately it is cheap. Added note: We use it in the bathroom to sanitize the counters, toilets, floors, etc.

20. Mold 

Clean with hydrogen peroxide when your house becomes a biohazard after its invaded by toxic mold, such as those with water damage.

21. Humidifiers/Steamers 

Use 1 pint of 3% hydrogen peroxide to 1 gallon of water.

22. Laundry / Stain Removing

Stain Remover

3% hydrogen peroxide is the best stain lifter if used fairly soon – although blood stains as old as 2 days have been successfully lifted with Hydrogen Peroxide. Although it will bleach or discolor many fabrics. If a little peroxide is poured onto the stain it will bubble up in the area of the blood, due to a reaction with catalyse. After a few minutes the excess liquid can be wiped up with a cloth or paper towel and the stain will be gone.

3% H2O2 must be applied to clothing before blood stains can be accidentally “set” with heated water. Cold water and soap are then used to remove the peroxide treated blood.

23. Washing/Laundry 

You can also add a cup of hydrogen peroxide instead of bleach to a load of whites in your laundry to whiten them. If there is blood on clothing, pour directly on the soiled spot. Let it sit for a minute, then rub it and rinse with cold water. Repeat if necessary.

Peroxide is a perfect alternate solution to keep those clothes white. Also, when chlorinating clothes, they tend to wear out faster – peroxide won’t do that.

Food Preparation

24. Vegetable Soak 

Use as a vegetable wash or soak to kill bacteria and neutralize chemicals. Add 1/4 cup of 3% H202 to a full sink of cold water. Soak light-skinned (light lettuce) 20 minutes, thicker skinned (like cucumbers) 30 minutes. Drain, dry and refrigerate. Prolongs freshness.

If time is a problem, spray vegetables (and fruits) with a solution of 3%. Let stand for a few minutes, rinse and dry.

25. Meat Sanitizing 

You can also use it to rinse off your meat before cooking.

What Is the Fermi Paradox?

The Fermi Paradox seeks to answer the question of where the aliens are. Given that our star and Earth are part of a young planetary system compared to the rest of the universe — and that interstellar travel might be fairly easy to achieve — the theory says that Earth should have been visited by aliens already.

As the story goes, Enrico Fermi (an Italian physicist) first came out with the theory with a casual lunchtime remark in 1950. The implications, however, have had extraterrestrial researchers scratching their heads in the decades since.

“Fermi realized that any civilization with a modest amount of rocket technology and an immodest amount of imperial incentive could rapidly colonize the entire galaxy,” the Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) said on its website.

Strange Discovery on Titan Leads to Speculation of Alien Life

“Within ten million years, every star system could be brought under the wing of empire. Ten million years may sound long, but in fact it’s quite short compared with the age of the galaxy, which is roughly ten thousand million years. Colonization of the Milky Way should be a quick exercise.”

Plentiful planets

It is true that the universe is incredibly vast and old. One estimate says the universe spans 92 billion light-years in diameter (while growing faster and faster). Separate measurements indicate it is about 13.82 billion light-years old. At first blush, this would give alien civilizations plenty of time to propagate, but then they would have a cosmic distance barrier to cross before getting too far into space.

The sheer number of planets that we have found outside of our solar system, however, indicates that life could be plentiful. A November 2013 study using data from the Kepler Space Telescope suggested that one in five sun-like stars has an Earth-size planet orbiting in the habitable region of its star, the zone where liquid water would be possible. That zone is not necessarily an indication of life, as other factors, such as the planet’s atmosphere, come into play. Further, “life” could encompass anything from bacteria to starship-sailing extraterrestrials.

A few months later, Kepler scientists released a “planet bonanza” of 715 newly discovered worlds, pioneering a new technique called “verification by multiplicity.” The theory essentially postulates that a star that appears to have multiple objects crossing its face or tugging at it would have planets, as opposed to stars. (A multiple star system at such close proximity would destabilize over time, the technique postulates.) Using this will accelerate the pace of exoplanet discovery, NASA said in 2014.

Our understanding of astrobiology (life in the universe) is just at a beginning, however. One challenge is these exoplanets are so far away that it is next to impossible for us to send a probe out to look at them. Another obstacle is even within our own solar system, we haven’t eliminated all the possible locations for life. We know from looking at Earth that microbes can survive in extreme temperatures and environments, giving rise to theories that we could find microbe-like life on Mars, the icy Jovian moon Europa, or perhaps Saturn’s Enceladus or Titan.

All of this together means that even within our own Milky Way Galaxy — the equivalent of the cosmic neighborhood — there should be many Earth-size planets in habitable zones that could host life. But what are the odds of these worlds having starfarers in their bounds? [Countdown: 13 Ways to Hunt Intelligent Aliens]

Life: plentiful, or rare?

The odds of intelligent life are estimated in the Drake Equation, which seeks to figure out the number of civilizations in the Milky Way that seek to communicate with each other. In the words of SETI, the equation (written as N = R* • fp • ne • fl • fi • fc • L) has the following variables:

N = The number of civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.

R* = The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life.

fp = The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.

ne = The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.

fl = The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.

fi = The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.

fc = The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space.

L = The length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

None of these values are known with any certainty right now, which makes predictions difficult for astrobiologists and extraterrestrial communicators alike.

There is another possibility that would dampen the search for radio signals or alien spacecraft, however: that there is no life in the universe besides our own. While SETI’s Frank Drake and others suggested there could be 10,000 civilizations seeking communications in the galaxy, a 2011 study later published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggested that Earth could be a rare bird among planets.

It took at least 3.5 billion years for intelligent life to evolve, the theory by Princeton University researchers David Spiegel and Edwin Turner said, which indicates it takes a lot of time and luck for this to happen.

Other explanations for the Fermi paradox include extraterrestrials “spying” on Earth, ignoring it altogether, visiting it before civilization arose, or visiting it in a way that we can’t detect.

Viagra Frisky Might Be Melanoma Risky

Men who used the erectile-function drug sildenafil (Viagra) had almost twice the risk of melanoma compared with men who never used the drug, a study of 26,000 men showed.

Recent sildenafil use was associated with an 84% greater risk of melanoma. Use of the drug had no association with the risk of nonmelanoma skin cancers, according to Jiali Han, PhD, of the Indiana University School of Public Health in Indianapolis, and co-authors. Moreover, erectile function per se did not correlate with melanoma risk, they reported in JAMA Internal Medicine.

“Our study cannot prove cause and effect,” the authors concluded. “A longer follow-up and more detailed assessment of the dose and frequency of sildenafil use at multiple times in the [study cohort] would be necessary for future studies.”

“Nevertheless, our data provide epidemiological evidence on possible skin adverse effects of PDE5A inhibitors [the sildenafil drug class] and support continued investigation of this relationship,” they added.

Though just an association — not proof of causality — the link between sildenafil and melanoma does have a potential molecular basis, said Ryan Sullivan, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

“Sildenafil may promote tumor growth, at least in tumor cells,” Sullivan told MedPage Today. “There’s plausibility, but this not causation as of yet. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done before we can definitively say that drugs for erectile dysfunction cause melanoma.”

If the association proves to be a real relationship, then the effect on melanoma risk probably applies to all drugs in the PDE5-inhibitor class, he added.

The underlying biologic mechanisms of melanoma involve multiple molecular entities within a complex signaling pathway. Mutations in BRAF occur in about half of all melanomas. Drugs that target BRAF have demonstrated efficacy in the treatment of melanoma.

Recently, the enzyme phosphodiesterase 5A (PDE5A) was reported to be a downstream target of BRAF, the authors noted. Activated BRAF downregulates PDE5A to facilitate invasion and metastasis of melanoma cells. Additionally, other molecules in the melanoma-associated signaling pathway, notably NRAS, have been shown to downregulate PDE5A in melanoma cell lines.

“This indicates that PDE5A suppression by sildenafil use mimics an effect of BRAF/NRAS activation and thus may potentially function as one of the ‘hits’ for melanomagenesis,” according to the authors’ background information.

Two PDE5 inhibitors have been shown to promote melanin synthesis, which may stimulate melanoma development, they continued. The body of evidence led Han and colleagues to hypothesize the existence of an association between sildenafil use and melanoma.

To test the hypothesis, investigators analyzed data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS), which began in 1986 and has a total enrollment of 51,529 male health professionals ages 40 to 75. Each participant completed a health survey at baseline and then every 2 years.

In the 2000 follow-up survey, HPFS participants were asked whether they had undergone surgery or received other treatment for erectile dysfunction within the previous 3 months. With respect to sildenafil use, respondents were not asked to provide specific information about drug dosage or frequency of use.

The 2000 survey also included items related to erectile function before 1986, and from 1986 to 1986, 1990 to 1994, and 1995 to 2000, as well as during the past 3 months. Men who reported poor or very poor erectile function at or before 2000 were considered to have erectile dysfunction in 2000.

The HPFS questionnaires also included items related to risk factors for melanoma, such as hair color and skin type, number of lifetime sunburns, moles on the arms, state of residence at birth and at 15 and 30, and tendency to sunburn during adolescence.

Family history of melanoma was included in the 1990 and 1992 surveys. In 2008, the survey included items related to midday sun exposure at ages from high school to 60. Every biennial survey collected information about smoking, body mass index, and physical activity.

Men who completed the 2000 HPFS questionnaire provided the study population. Investigators excluded participants who had diagnoses of squamous-cell skin cancer, basal-cell skin cancer, or melanoma prior to 2000. Follow-up continued to the last completed questionnaire or the 2010 questionnaire, whichever came first.

The analysis included 25,848 men who had a mean baseline age of 64.8. The authors found that 5.3% of the men reported recent use of sildenafil, and 6.3% reported any use.

Sildenafil users tended to:

  • Be older and obese
  • Have a history of severe and blistering sunburns
  • Be more likely to undergo physical examinations
  • Be exposed to less sunlight as adults

From 2000 to 2010, 142 melanoma diagnoses were documented, as were 580 cases of squamous-cell skin cancer and 3,030 cases of basal-cell skin cancer.

In a multivariate analysis, men who reported current sildenafil use at baseline had a melanoma hazard ratio of 1.84 versus men who had never used the drug (95% CI 1.04-3.22). Men who reported any use of sildenafil had a similar melanoma risk (HR 1.94, 95% CI 1.14-3.22).

In contrast, sildenafil use did not influence the risk of squamous-cell or basal-cell skin cancer.

The increased risk of melanoma persisted among sildenafil users after exclusion of patients who had major comorbidities at baseline, including in increased risk with recent use (HR 2.24, 95% CI 1.05-4.78) and any use (HR 2.77, 95% I 1.32-5.85).

Sleep on it: Scientists reveal exactly how good sleep boosts memory .

A good night’s sleep is crucial for better memory and studying. While this has been long known, scientists lacked exact evidence of what happened inside the brain. But now US and Chinese researchers have revealed precisely how sleep boosts memory.

Sleeping after learning something new encourages the growth of the dendritic spines, tiny protrusions which help one brain cell connect to another, and thus, pass on information across synapses (a junction where the two cells meet). These spines represent the physical correlate of a memory, neuroscientists from New York University and Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine have proved.


Image from wikipedia.org
















“We’ve known for a long time that sleep plays an important role in learning and memory,” senior investigator Wen-Biao Gan, a professor at Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine, said. “If you don’t sleep well, you won’t learn well.”

They used advanced microscopy to uncover the mechanisms of new connections between brain cells – synapses – form during sleep, a study published in the journal Science said.

As the main subject of their study, the scientists used mice, whom they trained to walk on top of a rotating rod, a skill that was totally new for the rodents.

After training the mice for an hour, some of them were allowed to fall asleep for seven hours, while the others were kept awake.

Next, the scientists looked inside the living brain to see what happened when the animals were either sleeping or sleep-deprived.

It turned out that the sleeping mice formed significantly more new connections between neurons, meaning they were learning more. The researchers also disrupted sleep at different stages. This proved that deep or slow-wave sleep was necessary for memory formation. During this stage, the brain was “replaying” the activity from earlier in the day.


Image from wikipedia.org

“Finding out sleep promotes new connections between neurons is new, nobody knew this before,” the BBC reported professor Wen-Biao Gan, of New York University, as saying. “We thought sleep helped, but it could have been other causes, and we show it really helps to make connections and that in sleep the brain is not quiet, it is replaying what happened during the day and it seems quite important for making the connections.”

The sleep-deprived rodents sprouted significantly fewer dendritic spines.

What is also interesting is that even after the mice that slept longer woke up, their brains developed roughly 5 percent of new spines in the motor cortex in the 24 hours after waking up.

The Newest Fashion for Archaeologists: Wearable Submarines That Allow Them to Explore Shipwrecks .

he Exosuit looks like it belongs in outer space. But it’s meant for another environment hostile to human life: the sea. Archaeologists are planning to use these suits off the coast of Rhode Island and then in Greece, where they will excavate the wreck where the still-mysterious Antikythera mechanism was found over 100 years ago.

In 1900, when sponge fishermen discovered the wreck, they were only able to spend five minutes there. But they found the mechanism, which researchers trying to figure out what the heck it is describe as “the most sophisticated mechanism known from the ancient world.” The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project:

The machine dates from around the end of the 2nd century B.C….Nothing as complex is known for the next thousand years. The Antikythera Mechanism is now understood to be dedicated to astronomical phenomena and operates as a complex mechanical “computer” which tracks the cycles of the Solar System.

In 1976, Jaques Cousteau was able to spend a luxurious 10 whole minutes vacuuming up parts of the site. Today’s archaeologists will need to dive down to nearly 400 feet to reach the wreck. At that depth, traditional diving methods offer only a limited amount of time and require that divers carefully ascend to avoid serious harm to their bodies. Mark Harris at the New Scientist explains the advantages of the new suit:

The new expedition won’t face such time constraints. “With the Exosuit, our bottom time becomes virtually unlimited,” says Brendan Foley, co-director of field operations at WHOI’s Deep Submergence Laboratory. “Now we can have an archaeologist in the suit for hours, and we’ll only have to come up to answer the call of nature.”

One of the main difficulties with the suit is learning how to use the instruments attached to the hands. Designers haven’t been able to create an effective glove for the suit (although it is in development). The suit is equipped with cameras, lights and thrusters at the back, controlled by the diver’s feet. It’s also connected to a ship by a cable that provides the suit with power and communication to the world above.

The suit, still in an experimental stage, will only be available to the archaeologists for a few weeks. The rest of the time, the divers will be using rebreathers to stay at the bottom for 30 minutes at a time.

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