How hugs can help fight the flu

WE know that hugs make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. And this feeling, it turns out, could actually ward off stress and protect the immune system, according to new research from Carnegie Mellon University. It’s a well-known fact that stress can weaken the immune system. In this study, the researchers sought to determine whether hugs — like social support more broadly — could protect individuals from the increased susceptibility to illness brought on by the particular stress that comes with interpersonal conflict. “We know that people experiencing ongoing conflicts with others are less able to fight off cold viruses. We also know that people who report having social support are partly protected from the effects of stress on psychological states, such as depression and anxiety,” the study’s lead author, psychologist Dr Sheldon Cohen, said in a statement. “We tested whether perceptions of social support are equally effective in protecting us from stress-induced susceptibility to infection and also whether receiving hugs might partially account for those feelings of support and themselves protect a person against infection.” In the experiment, over 400 healthy adults who filled out a questionnaire about their perceived social support and also participated in a nightly phone interview for two weeks. They were asked about the frequency that they engaged in interpersonal conflict and received hugs that day. Then, the researchers exposed the participants to a common cold virus, and monitored them to assess signs of infection. They found that both perceived social support and more frequent hugs reduced the risk of infection associated with experiencing interpersonal conflict. Regardless of whether or not they experienced social conflicts, infected participants with greater perceived social support and more frequent hugs had less severe illness symptoms. “This suggests that being hugged by a trusted person may act as an effective means of conveying support and that increasing the frequency of hugs might be an effective means of reducing the deleterious effects of stress,” Cohen said. “The apparent protective effect of hugs may be attributable to the physical contact itself or to hugging being a behavioural indicator of support and intimacy … Either way, those who receive more hugs are somewhat more protected from infection.” If you needed any more reason to go wrap your arms around someone special, consider this: Hugs also lower blood pressure, alleviate fears around death and dying, improve heart health and decrease feelings of loneliness.


Before His Death, Father Of ADHD Admitted It Was A Fictitious Disease

If you or someone you know has a child that has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), chances are the child is actually just fine. At least this is what the “father” of ADHD, Leon Eisenberg, would presumably say if he were still alive. On his death bed, this psychiatrist and autism pioneer admitted that ADHD is essentially a “fictitious disease,” which means that millions of young children today are being needlessly prescribed severe mind-altering drugs that will set them up for a life of drug addiction and failure. As explained by The Sons of Liberty host Bradlee Dean, who also writes for The D.C. Clothesline, ADHD was merely a theory developed by Eisenberg. It was never actually proven to exist as a verifiable disease, despite the fact that Eisenberg and many others profited handsomely from its widespread diagnosis. And modern psychiatry continues to profit as well, helping also to fill the coffers of the pharmaceutical industry by getting children addicted early to dangerous psychostimulant drugs like Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Adderall (amphetamine, dextroamphetamine mixed salts). “ADHD is fraud intended to justify starting children on a life of drug addiction,” said Dr. Edward C. Hamlyn, a founding member of the Royal College of General Practitioners, back in 1998 about the phony condition. Adding to this sentiment, psychiatrists Peter Breggin and Sami Timimi, both of whom oppose pathologizing the symptoms of ADHD, say that ADHD is more of a social construct than it is an objective “disorder.” Psychiatric profession all about generating obscene profits for Big Pharma The purpose all along for pathologizing ADHD symptoms, of course, was to generate more profits for the drug industry. According to the citizen watchdog group Citizens Commission on Human Rights International (CCHRI), roughly 20 million American children today are taking dangerous, but expensive, psychiatric drugs for made-up behavioral conditions like ADHD. And another one million or so children have been blatantly and admittedly misdiagnosed with phony behavioral conditions for which psychiatric medications are being prescribed. “Remember, there are two ways drug companies can make money: Invent new drugs, and invent new diseases already invented drugs can treat,” writes Dr. Jay Parkinson, M.D., M.P.H., about the fake disease-creation industry.

Before his death, father of ADHD admitted it was a fictitious disease

“In the past decade or so, Big Pharma has created no less than 10 new novel drugs per year,” he adds, noting that many of the people who have been told they suffer from ADHD actually suffer from “the consequence of bad design,” meaning a conventional social and educational system that is unable and unwilling to recognize unique individuality. This is definitely true for Jacob Barnett, the 14-year-old autistic genius whose mother was told that her son would probably never read or write. Today, Jacob is already working on his Master’s Degree in quantum physics while most of his peers are still in junior high. He is also currently developing his own original theory in astrophysics, according to recent reports. “The psychiatric/pharmaceutical industry spends billions of dollars a year to convince the public, legislators and the press that psychiatric disorders such as Bi-Polar Disorder, Depression, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, etc. are medical diseases on par with verifiable medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease,” explains CCHRI. “Yet unlike real medical disease, there are no scientific tests to verify the medical existence of any psychiatric disorder.”


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Blue Eyes Originated 10,000 Years Ago in the Black Sea Region

A team of researchers from Copenhagen University have located a single mutation that causes the mysterious phenomenon of blue eyes. And all blue eyed people are genetically related to a person who lived in the Black Sea region sometime between 6 – 10,000 years ago. The research was published in the Journal of Human Genetics. A mutation in a gene called OCA2 came into being nearly 8,000 years ago. It can be definitively traced back to an ancestor from the Black Sea. Dr. Hans Eiberg claims that before this time, every human being had brown eyes. “A genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a ‘switch,’ which literally ‘turned off’ the ability to produce brown eyes,” Eiberg said.

Blue Eyes Originated 10,000 Years Ago in the Black Sea Region

When blue-eyed peoples from Jordan, Denmark and Turkey were examined, their genetic difference was traced back to the maternal lineage according to Eiberg’s team. The brown melanin pigment is still dominant. However, following the last Ice Age, Europeans developed this rare mutation that differentiated them from the rest of the human race. Ninety-five percent of Europeans in Scandinavian countries have blue eyes. They are also found to have a greater range of hair and skin color. Comparatively, Europe has a wider variety of hair color and skin pigment than is found in any other continent in the world. These mutations are recent as Europe was colonized only a few thousand years ago, say mainstream scientists. Through interbreeding, the brunette with blue eyes was evidenced about 25,000 years ago. Researchers attribute this to ancient interbreeding with Neanderthals. Although no Neanderthal DNA has been found in modern Homo Sapien-Sapien, mainstream science clings to this theory as fact because they haven’t come up with anything better. “The question really is, ‘Why did we go from having nobody on Earth with blue eyes 10,000 years ago to having 20 or 40 percent of Europeans having blue eyes now?” John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison said. “This gene does something good for people. It makes them have more kids.

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Live forever: Scientists say they’ll extend life ‘well beyond 120’ .

Ernestine Shepherd
Bodybuilder Ernestine Shepherd, 78, attributes her youthful looks to diet and exercise. But scientists now say they will soon be able to do much more with drugs.

In Palo Alto in the heart of Silicon Valley, hedge fund manager Joon Yun is doing a back-of-the-envelope calculation. According to US social security data, he says, the probability of a 25-year-old dying before their 26th birthday is 0.1%. If we could keep that risk constant throughout life instead of it rising due to age-related disease, the average person would – statistically speaking – live 1,000 years. Yun finds the prospect tantalising and even believable. Late last year he launched a $1m prize challenging scientists to “hack the code of life” and push human lifespan past its apparent maximum of about 120 years (the longest known/confirmed lifespan was 122 years).

Yun believes it is possible to “solve ageing” and get people to live, healthily, more or less indefinitely. His Palo Alto Longevity Prize, which 15 scientific teams have so far entered, will be awarded in the first instance for restoring vitality and extending lifespan in mice by 50%. But Yun has deep pockets and expects to put up more money for progressively greater feats. He says this is a moral rather than personal quest. Our lives and society are troubled by growing numbers of loved ones lost to age-related disease and suffering extended periods of decrepitude, which is costing economies. Yun has an impressive list of nearly 50 advisers, including scientists from some of America’s top universities.

Yun’s quest – a modern version of the age old dream of tapping the fountain of youth – is emblematic of the current enthusiasm to disrupt death sweeping Silicon Valley. Billionaires and companies are bullish about what they can achieve. In September 2013 Google announced the creation of Calico, short for the California Life Company. Its mission is to reverse engineer the biology that controls lifespan and “devise interventions that enable people to lead longer and healthier lives”. Though much mystery surrounds the new biotech company, it seems to be looking in part to develop age-defying drugs. In April 2014 it recruited Cynthia Kenyon, a scientist acclaimed for work that included genetically engineering roundworms to live up to six times longer than normal, and who has spoken of dreaming of applying her discoveries to people. “Calico has the money to do almost anything it wants,” says Tom Johnson, an earlier pioneer of the field now at the University of Colorado who was the first to find a genetic effect on longevity in a worm.


In March 2014, pioneering American biologist and technologist Craig Venter – along with the tech entrepreneur founder of the X Prize Foundation, Peter Diamandis – announced a new company called Human Longevity Inc. It isn’t aimed at developing anti-ageing drugs or competing with Calico, says Venter. But it plans to create a giant database of 1 million human genome sequences by 2020, including from supercentenarians. Venter says that data should shed important new light on what makes for a longer, healthier life, and expects others working on life extension to use his database. “Our approach can help Calico immensely and if their approach is successful it can help me live longer,” explains Venter. “We hope to be the reference centre at the middle of everything.”

Aubrey de Grey is chief scientific officer of his own charity, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (Sens) Research Foundation. He funds about $5m of research annually.

In an office not far from Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, with a beard reaching almost to his navel, Aubrey de Grey is enjoying the new buzz about defeating ageing. For more than a decade, he has been on a crusade to inspire the world to embark on a scientific quest to eliminate ageing and extend healthy lifespan indefinitely (he is on the Palo Alto Longevity Prize board). It is a difficult job because he considers the world to be in a “pro-ageing trance”, happy to accept that ageing is unavoidable, when the reality is that it’s simply a “medical problem” that science can solve. Just as a vintage car can be kept in good condition indefinitely with periodic preventative maintenance, so there is no reason why, in principle, the same can’t be true of the human body, thinks de Grey. We are, after all, biological machines, he says.

His claims about the possibilities (he has said the first person who will live to 1,000 years is probably already alive), and some unconventional and unproven ideas about the science behind ageing, have long made de Grey unpopular with mainstream academics studying ageing. But the appearance of Calico and others suggests the world might be coming around to his side, he says. “There is an increasing number of people realising that the concept of anti-ageing medicine that actually works is going to be the biggest industry that ever existed by some huge margin and that it just might be foreseeable.”

Since 2009, de Grey has been chief scientific officer at his own charity, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (Sens) Research Foundation. Including an annual contribution (about $600,000 a year) from Peter Thiel, a billionaire Silicon Valley venture capitalist, and money from his own inheritance, he funds about $5m of research annually. Some is done in-house, the rest sponsored at outside institutions. (Even his critics say he funds some good science.)

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Aubrey de Grey is chief scientific officer of his own charity, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (Sens) Research Foundation. He funds about $5m of research annually. Photograph: Tim E White/Rex
De Grey isn’t the only one who sees a new flowering of anti-ageing research. “Radical life extension isn’t consigned to the realm of cranks and science fiction writers any more,” says David Masci, a researcher at the Pew Research Centre, who recently wrote a report on the topic looking at the scientific and ethical dimensions of radical life extension. “Serious people are doing research in this area and serious thinkers are thinking about this .”

Although funding pledges have been low compared to early hopes, billionaires – not just from the technology industry – have long supported research into the biology of ageing. Yet it has mostly been aimed at extending “healthspan”, the years in which you are free of frailty or disease, rather than lifespan, although an obvious effect is that it would also be extended (healthy people after all live longer).

“If a consequence of increasing health is that life is extended, that’s a good thing, but the most important part is keeping people healthy as long as possible,” says Kevin Lee, a director of the Ellison Medical Foundation, founded in 1997 by tech billionaire Larry Ellison, and which has been the field’s largest private funder, spending $45m annually. (The Paul F Glenn Foundation for Medical Research is another.) Whereas much biomedical research concentrates on trying to cure individual diseases, say cancer, scientists in this small field hunt something larger. They investigate the details of the ageing process with a view to finding ways to prevent it at its root, thereby fending off the whole slew of diseases that come along with ageing. Life expectancy has risen in developed countries from about 47 in 1900 to about 80 today, largely due to advances in curing childhood diseases. But those longer lives come with their share of misery. Age-related chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, stroke and Alzheimer’s are more prevalent than ever.

The standard medical approach – curing one disease at a time – only makes that worse, says Jay Olshansky, a sociologist at the University of Chicago School of Public Health who runs a project called the Longevity Dividend Initiative, which makes the case for funding ageing research to increase healthspan on health and economic grounds. “I would like to see a cure for heart disease or cancer,” he says. “But it would lead to a dramatic escalation in the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease.”

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American biologist and technologist Craig Venter whose company Human Longevity Inc plans to create a database of a million human genome sequences by 2020. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters
By tackling ageing at the root they could be dealt with as one, reducing frailty and disability by lowering all age-related disease risks simultaneously, says Olshansky. Evidence is now building that this bolder, age-delaying approach could work. Scientists have already successfully intervened in ageing in a variety of animal species and researchers say there is reason to believe it could be achieved in people. “We have really turned a corner,” says Brian Kennedy, director of the Buck Institute for Research on Ageing, adding that five years ago the scientific consensus was that ageing research was interesting but unlikely to lead to anything practical. “We’re now at the point where it’s easy to extend the lifespan of a mouse. That’s not the question any more, it’s can we do this in humans? And I don’t see any reason why we can’t,” says David Sinclair, a researcher based at Harvard.

Reason for optimism comes after several different approaches have yielded promising results. Some existing drugs, such as the diabetes drug metformin, have serendipitously turned out to display age-defying effects, for example. Several drugs are in development that mimic the mechanisms that cause lab animals fed carefully calorie-restricted diets to live longer. Others copy the effects of genes that occur in long-lived people. One drug already in clinical trials is rapamycin, which is normally used to aid organ transplants and treat rare cancers. It has been shown to extend the life of mice by 25%, the greatest achieved so far with a drug, and protect them against diseases of ageing including cancer and neurodegeneration.

American biologist and technologist Craig Venter whose company Human Longevity Inc plans to create a database of a million human genome sequences by 2020.

A recent clinical trial by Novartis, in healthy elderly volunteers in Australia and New Zealand, found a variant of the drug enhanced their response to flu vaccine by 20% – our immunity to flu being something that declines with old age.

“[This was] the first [trial] to take a drug suspected to slow ageing, and examine whether it slows or reverses a property of ageing in older, healthy individuals,” says Kennedy. Other drugs set to be tested in humans are compounds inspired by resveratrol, a compound found in red wine. Some scientists believe it is behind the “French paradox” that French people have a low incidence of heart disease despite eating comparatively rich diets.

In 2003, Sinclair published evidence that high doses of resveratrol extend the healthy lives of yeast cells. After Sirtris, a company co-founded by Sinclair, showed that resveratrol-inspired compounds had favourable effects in mice, it was bought by drug giant GlaxoSmithKline for $720m in 2008. Although development has proved more complicated than first thought, GSK is planning a large clinical trial this year, says Sinclair. He is now working on another drug that has a different way of activating the same pathway.

One of the more unusual approaches being tested is using blood from the young to reinvigorate the old. The idea was borne out in experiments which showed blood plasma from young mice restored mental capabilities of old mice. A human trial under way is testing whether Alzhemier’s patients who receive blood transfusions from young people experience a similar effect. Tony Wyss-Coray, a researcher at Stanford leading the work, says that if it works he hopes to isolate factors in the blood that drive the effect and then try to make a drug that does a similar thing. (Since publishing his work in mice, many “healthy, very rich people” have contacted Wyss-Coray wondering if it might help them live longer.)

James Kirkland, a researcher who studies ageing at the Mayo Clinic, says he knows of about 20 drugs now – more than six of which had been written up in scientific journals – that extended the lifespan or healthspan of mice. The aim is to begin tests in humans, but clinical studies of ageing are difficult because of the length of our lives, though there are ways around this such as testing the drugs against single conditions in elderly patients and looking for signs of improvements in other conditions at the same time. Quite what the first drug will be, and what it will do, is unclear. Ideally, you might take a single pill that would delay ageing in every part of your body. But Kennedy notes that in mice treated with rapamycin, some age-related effects, such as cataracts, don’t slow down. “I don’t know any one drug is going to do everything,” he says. As to when you might begin treatment, Kennedy imagines that in future you could start treatment sometime between the age of 40 and 50 “because it keeps you healthy 10 years longer”.

With treatments at such an early stage, guesses as to when they might arrive or how far they will stretch human longevity can only be that. Many researchers refuse to speculate. But Kirkland says the informal ambition in his field is to increase healthspan by two to three years in the next decade or more. (The EU has an official goal of adding two years to healthspan by 2020). Beyond that, what effects these drugs might have on extending our healthy lives is even harder to predict. A recent report by UK Human Longevity Panel, a body of scientists convened by insurer Legal and General, based on interviews with leading figures in the field, said: “There was disagreement about how far the maximum lifespan could increase, with some experts believing that there was a maximum threshold that could not be stretched much more than the current 120 years or so, and others believing that there was no limit.”

Nir Barzilai, director of the Institute for Ageing Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, is one of the pessimists. “Based on the biology that we know today, somewhere between 100 and 120 there is a roof in play and I challenge if we can get beyond it.” Venter is one of the optimists. “I don’t see any absolute biological limit on human age,” he says, arguing that cellular immortality – in effect running the clock backwards – should be possible. “We can expect biological processes to eventually get rid of years. Whether this will happen this century or not, I can’t tell you”. Such ideas are just speculation for now. But John Troyer, who studies death and technology at the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath, says we need to take them seriously. “You want to think about it now before you are in the middle of an enormous mess.”

What happens if we all live to 100, 110, 120 or beyond? Society will start to look very different. “People working and living longer might make it more difficult for a new generation to get into the labour force or find houses,” says Troyer. And, with ageing delayed, how many children are we talking about as being a normal family? “There is a very strong likelihood there would be an impact on things like family structures.” A 2003 American president’s Council on Bioethics report looked at some of these issues suggesting there may be repercussions for individual psychology, too.

One of the “virtues of mortality” it pointed out is that it may instill a desire to make each day count. Would knowing you had longer to live decrease your willingness to make the most of life? De Grey acknowledges potential practical challenges but cheerily says society would adapt, for example by having fewer children, and with people able to decide when to end their lives. There are pressing questions too about who would benefit if and when these interventions become available. Will it just be the super rich or will market incentives – who wouldn’t want it? – push costs down and make treatment affordable?

Will Britain’s NHS or health insurers in other countries pay for drugs that extend peoples lives? The medical cost of caring for people in their twilight years would fall if they remained healthier longer, but delayed ageing will also mean more people draw pensions and state benefits. But advocates say these challenges don’t negate the moral imperative. If the period of healthy life can be extended, then doing so is the humanitarian thing to do, says Nick Bostrom, director of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute. “There seems to be no moral argument not to,” he says. Troyer agrees but asks whether living longer does necessarily mean you will be healthier – what does “healthy” or “healthier” mean in this context? he asks.

The far future aside, there are challenges for the new tech entrants. Calico may get too side-tracked by basic research, worries de Grey; Venter’s approach may take years to bear fruit because of issues about data gathering, thinks Barzilai; while the money on offer from the Palo Alto prize is a paltry sum for the demanded outcome and potential societal impact, says Johnson. Still, history reminds us, even if they don’t succeed, we may still benefit.

Aviator Charles Lindbergh tried to cheat death by devising ways to replace human organs with machines. He didn’t succeed, but one of his contraptions did develop into the heart-lung machine so crucial for open-heart surgery. In the quest to defeat ageing, even the fruits of failure may be bountiful.

Tech billionaires who want to make death an elective
Why might tech zillionaires choose to fund life extension research? Three reasons reckons Patrick McCray, a historian of modern technology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. First, if you had that much money wouldn’t you want to live longer to enjoy it? Then there is money to be made in them there hills. But last, and what he thinks is the heart of the matter, is ideology. If your business and social world is oriented around the premise of “disruptive technologies”, what could be more disruptive than slowing down or “defeating” ageing? “Coupled to this is the idea that if you have made your billions in an industrial sector that is based on precise careful control of 0s and 1s, why not imagine you could extend this to the control of atoms and molecules?,” he says.

Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel, 47, PayPal co-founder and Facebook’s first investor, recently told Bloomberg Television he took human growth hormone (HGH) as part of his regime to reach 120 (there is no evidence it works and it can even cause harm). He also follows a Paleo diet, doesn’t eat sugar, drinks red wine and runs regularly. He has given more than $6m to Aubrey de Grey’s Sens Foundation, dedicated to extending the human lifespan. In a recent interview he identified three main ways to approach death. “You can accept it, you can deny it or you can fight it. I think our society is dominated by people who are into denial or acceptance, and I prefer to fight it.”

Sergey Brin
Google co-founder Sergey Brin, 41, is known for his love of special projects like Google Glass and CEO Larry Page has credited him for helping bring its new biotech company Calico to fruition. “We’re tackling ageing, one of life’s greatest mysteries,” says the website of the research and development company launched in 2013 and which in September 2014 joined with biopharmaceutical firm AbbVie to pour up to $1.5bn into a research facility focused on fighting age-related diseases. An extra reason for Brin’s interest may be that he discovered in 2008 he carries a genetic mutation that gives him a greater likelihood of developing Parkinson’s disease. Bryn’s wife is co-founder of personal genomics company 23andMe.

Larry Ellison
Larry Ellison, co-founder of computer company Oracle, told his biographer Mark Wilson. “How can a person be there and then just vanish, just not be there?” Ellison, 70, created the the Ellison Medical Foundation in 1997 to support ageing research and has spent more than $335m in the area, though it announced in 2013 that it would no longer fund further grants in the area. Ellison remains tight lipped about why, but there are reports that, with the emergence of Calico, he felt that he’d done his bit.

Craig Venter
“A lot of people spend their last decade of their lives in pain and misery combating disease,” says Craig Venter, San Diego based pioneering biologist and billionaire entrepreneur who raced to sequence the human genome. “I think it is possible to begin to do more about that than we are doing.” Venter, 68, announced his new company, Human Longevity, to promote healthy ageing using advances in genomics and stem cell therapies in March 2014. Would Venter like to beat death? “I am not sure our brains and our psychologies are ready for immortality,” he says. “[But] if I can count on living to 100 without major debilitating diseases I would accept that Faustian bargain right now.”

Dmitry Itskov
A digital copy of your brain turned into a low-cost, lifelike avatar, which doesn’t age. That’s the vision of Dmitry Itskov, a thirtysomething Russian multi-millionaire internet mogul who founded an online media company New Media Stars. His 2045 Initiative, so-called for the year he hopes to complete it, aims to “create technologies enabling the transfer of a individual’s personality to a more advanced non-biological carrier, and extending life, including to the point of immortality”. Though not from Silicon Valley himself, his ideas draw on those of Ray Kurzweil, a prominent futurist, who is director of engineering at Google. Kurzweil has predicted that scientists will one day find a way to download human consciousness, no longer necessitating the need for our bodies.

This physicist has built a supercomputer from old PlayStations .

A home-made PlayStation 3 supercomputer is 3,000 times more powerful than any desktop processor, and is being used to study black holes.

Next time you upgrade your gaming console for the latest model, there may be a better option than simply throwing the old one away – you can use it for science instead.

Guarav Khanna, a black hole physicist at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in the US, has managed to build a powerful and extremely cheap supercomputer using old PlayStation 3s (PS3s), and he’s used it to publish several papers on black holes.

His research focusses on finding gravitational waves, which are curvatures in space-time that ripple out from a violent astrophysical event, such as two black holes colliding. They were first predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, but no one has been able to observe them.

“Science has become expensive,” Khanna told Parker. “There’s simply not that much money going around, either at the university or the federal level. Supercomputing allows scientists to make up for the resources they don’t have.”

In theory, a supercomputer basically involves linking many standard computers together via a network. But instead of using regular laptops, Khanna decided to go a cheaper option, and link up PS3s. Their main benefit was that they allow users to install their preferred operating system on the console, and they retail for around US$250.

To help with his research, Sony donated four consoles to the experiment, and Khanna and the university bought another 12.

All 16 were then loaded up with Linux and linked over the Internet – the result was a processor that could speed up calculations by a factor of nearly 10 compared to an ordinary computer. He published the results of the make-shift supercomputer in thejournal Parallel and Distributed Computing Systems in 2009.

He used that first device to model the behaviour of gravitational waves and publish several papers on the phenomenon, but since then he’s now made an even more powerful model, as Parker reports.

In 2010, the US Air Force Research Laboratory in New York found out about Khanna’s PS3 supercomputer, and decided to make their own out of 1,760 consoles, pictured below, in order to process radar image surveillance.


As a thank you, the US Department of Defense donated 176 additional PS3s to Khanna and his team. They now house their supercomputer in a refrigerated shipping container, designed to carry milk. This model is as powerful as 3,000 desktop computers, and only cost around US$75,000 to make – a ridiculously cheap amount for a supercomputer.

Although PS3s have their limitations – the memory is much smaller than traditional supercomputers, for example – their supercomputer is continuing to grow in power and has helped not only Khanna with his research, but other scientists around the university. The team will add another 220 PS3s to the system by 2015.

The next project Khanna wants to work on is creating a supercomputer out of PC graphics cards, which are equally low-cost but as powerful as around 20 PS3 consoles.

“The next supercomputer we’re going to build will probably be made entirely of these cards,” Khanna told Parker. “It won’t work for everything, but it will certainly cover a large set of scientific and engineering applications, especially if we keep improving on it.”

Source: The New York Times


India launched vaccine to treat deadly bluetongue disease

The vaccine was launched by the Gachibowli facility of Indian Immunologicals Limited (IIL) to treat bluetongue disease that affects lakhs of sheep, goats and cattle countrywide.

The vaccine has been launched with an aim to minimise the economic loss of the animal farming community due to the disease.

The development of the vaccine took a period of three years and is a result of the collaborations between IIL, TANUVAS (Tamil Nadu University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences) and ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research).

The vaccine is priced at Rs 5 for the farmers and has been developed to protect the animals against five strains of the ‘bluetongue’ virus prevalent in the country.

India is one of the countries in the world that top animal diseases.

India has a population of 70 million sheep.

Universal anti-venom for snake bite planned by researchers

A universal life-saving anti-venom against the bite of every deadly snake is all set to become a reality.

Scientists from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine are attempting to develop the first universal anti-venom in sub-Saharan Africa.
LSTM has more than 400 snakes in its institute using venom milked from up to 80 of the reptiles each week.

Snake bites kill an estimated 30,000 people a year in the region.

The current need to give many vials to treat a patient not only increases the risk of side-effects but often makes treatment unaffordable to the rural, impoverished subsistence farmers that are at greatest risk.

The current limitations to multi-species anti-venoms arise from the process used to make them. Venom is extracted from several species before being injected in low doses into horses or sheep. This does not cause illness in the animals bit induces an immune response causing the animals to produce antibodies. These antibodies are then purified from the blood to create anti-venom.

Using multiple snake species, however, means that the animals only make a small amount of antibody to any one species, and the resulting anti-venom is quite weak.

Dr Robert Harrison, the lead scientist for the research, said “Not only do we expect that our anti-venom will be cheaper, and safer and much more effective than anything else, but it will be able to be used anywhere south of the Sahara”.

“There are over 20 species of deadly snakes in Sub-Saharan Africa and doctors often rely on the victim’s description of the animal to help them decide which treatment to administer,” says Dr Harrison.

“The preferred option therefore is to give a broad-spectrum or poly-specific, anti-venom to cover all the possible snake species that could be responsible. Because these treatments are generally not very effective against any one species, the doctor therefore administers many vials. However, each dose carries a risk of serious side effects and this risk increases with each additional vial.”

The research team at LSTM, and their collaborators at the Instituto Clodomiro Picado, San Jose, Costa Rica and the Institute de Biomdedicina de Valencia, Spain, have devised a plan to vastly improve the potency of poly-specific anti-venom using a new technique called ‘antivenomics’ which will significantly expand the effectiveness of the anti-venom, covering all of the most medically-important snakes of sub-Saharan Africa.

Researchers will use the proteins from all of the collected venom to make the universal snake bite treatment. They will add stabilizing chemicals so that it can be stored in the African heat.

Did You Know Running Was Injurious To Health? You Will After Reading This.

“What do I talk about when I talk about running?” If you’re bestselling Japanese novelist and ultramarathoner Haruki Murakami, you raise questions existential in nature. But Indian sprinting enthusiasts keep their thoughts grounded, musing on the best ways to beat traffic, pollution and stray animals. If you’re a female runner, the last category includes those out to cop a feel.

Running as a sport has taken off in India. According to Vivek Singh, joint MD of Procam International which kicked off the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon run in 2004, today there are over 100 recognized distance races in India. However, urban infrastructure hasn’t kept pace with its popularity. Those training for marathons face several hazards daily. Last month, The New York Times reported that international athletes competing in the Delhi Half Marathon had difficulty breathing because of smog; earlier, in October, Bangalore marathoners took a train to the finish line after their pace car got them stuck in traffic.

“Where are the spaces to run?” asks Preeti Aghalayam, a professor at IIT Madras who has been running for the last 12 years. Parks across most cities aren’t much use to those whose average weekday run is 10 km. Sandeep Srivastava, a Delhi-based runner, calls it “mind-numbing” to train for a 20+ km marathon in a park. “Four rounds of the park next to my house is 1.2 km.I’d have to do almost 80 rounds,” says Srivastava, a management consultant who participated in his first marathon in 2007.


AP (File Photo)

Residents of coastal cities like Chennai and Mumbai have the option of running on the beach or beach front, but the humidity can be sapping. Plus, they have to dodge morning walkers.

Which is why most Indian marathoners are, by default, road runners.”We’re okay with asphalt, tar, concrete, even cobblestones,” says Aghalayam. What they run into is a different story . “Bus and truck drivers are the worst; they see us but they won’t stop,” says Suresh Pathi of Jayanagar Jaguars (JJ), one of Bangalore’s oldest running groups. Pathi’s group, which has mapped routes across Jayanagar, starts at 5am and winds up by 7 am to beat traffic and pollution. Unless you have access to a school, college facility or stadium, it’s tough to do interval, strength training and track workouts, all important for long-distance runners, so JJ members carry their own equipment — ladders, hurdles, steppers, etc — in their cars.

Having a facility in the vicinity doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a step up — Srivastava, a Mayur Vihar resident, says the infrastructure that came with the Commonwealth Games is being abused. The CWG village track, which surrounds a football field, is blocked by players relaxing at off-time. “How would they feel if I sat in the middle of the field during their game?” he asks. The cycling track from Akshardham to Noida is overrun by bikers and even cars driving at breakneck speed, making listening to music while running a dangerous distraction. “Why ask for infrastructure when the attitude of people using it has gone from bad to worse,” says the 50-year-old who is often greeted with jeers like ‘Hey tau, how to lose weight?’ and ‘Ghutney aapke theek hain?’ Aghalayam says that women on early morning runs are most vulnerable. “Men come on two wheelers and squeeze your butt as you run. Recently, a friend was teased by a bunch of young guys on a bullock cart,” she says, recommending running in groups, sticking to familiar, well-lit roads, going against the traffic and being clearly visible in bright clothes as safeguards.

Stray dogs, cats and even monkeys, if you’re running in shaded areas with a water bottle in hand, are a menace. On the flip side, encountering a swift deer is inspiring, says Aghalayam who often runs on the IIT campus. Pollution literally has Srivastava in tears. “Crops are burnt on the Yamuna belt where I run. For the last year-and-a half, the sweat from my forehead running into my eyes burns like someone has put acid on them. I have to keep stopping and washing my eyes with water,” he says.

Despite the hurdles, no one’s hanging up their running shoes. Enthusiasts have found solutions and silver linings -Aghalayam says training in humid conditions helps ace races in drier towns while Srivastava has a way to maximize results from park running. “One round clockwise, the other anti-clockwise to use all your muscles,” he says. And while runners who’ve participated in international marathons come away impressed by daily running conditions abroad, Aghalayam, for one, wouldn’t trade tracks. “There is still an innocence to the Indian running fraternity that you won’t find in the US, where people are more focused on meeting personal goals. Here, we don’t mind if you finish five minutes ahead. We’ll still take a selfie together at the end.”

This Headband Blocks Out Noise So You Can Sleep

Are you sick of listening to your partner snore (or looking for a headband to match your new pajamas)? There’s a headband for that.

SleepPhones are headbands that you wear to sleep. They have built-in headphones, through which you can play white noise, ambient music or whatever else you’d like. It certainly seems a lot more comfortable than sleeping with headphones on.

Here’s what it looks like:


The earliest version of SleepPhones plugged into a phone, computer or music player. Newer versions are wireless, but significantly more expensive: The original costs $39.95, while the wireless versions cost $99.95.

The latest version, SleepPhones Effortless, is wireless and features induction charging. It connects to your music player through Bluetooth and charges when placed on a charging stand.

Late last year, SleepPhones Effortless was named a 2015 Consumer Electronics Show Innovation Awards Honoree. The device will be featured this week at the annual Consumer Electronics Show, which is taking place in Las Vegas.

The Effortless will be available for purchase in April for $129.95.

Sleeping while wearing earbuds isn’t comfortable, but SleepPhones are lightweight, padded and don’t stick anything in your ears as they block out noise. The headband can also double as an eye mask. Getting a good night’s sleep has been proven to have a number of benefits, including improved test scores, a stronger immune system andbetter judgment.

But while there are many reasons why you need to prioritize sleep, a device like this one, while handy, may not be the way to do it. In fact, one of the best ways to improve your sleep is to banish technological devices from the bedroom: televisions, computers, phones and everything else. A recent study showed that children who sleep with electronic devices in their bedrooms get less sleep than those who don’t. The light emitted by electronic devices like phones, tablets and computers has also been shown to inhibit sleep.

Your best bet is probably a cool room, an eye mask and some old-fashioned earplugs.

How Hydrogen Fuel Is Made

Is hydrogen fuel the future of car fuel? How is it made?

Hydrogen-powered cars are a promising innovation, but there are still plenty of hurdles ahead before the technology becomes fully sustainable, affordable, and popular.

One of the promising aspects of hydrogen is its abundance. There is a lot of hydrogen in our world. It’s comprised simply of one proton and one electron. In total, hydrogen accounts for an estimated 75 percent of the known universe. On top of this, the U.S. is creating more than 9 million tons of hydrogen per year.

Since 1839, automakers have been producing hydrogen fuel cells, taking in oxygen and hydrogen to power a car, emitting only clean water vapor through the process. Currently, the main form of production consists of natural gas steam reformation: using high temperatures and pressures to break natural gas into hyrdrogen and carbon monoxide molecules. Alternatively, hydrogen producers are relying on electrolysis: using electricity to split water into hydrogen atoms and oxygen. Both processes have some pretty major caveats though. Steam reformation produces carbon monoxide, which is toxic to humans. Electrolysis needs an energy source to power that process, usually relying on coal power. Once hydrogen is made, it has to be stored, cooled, and transported-all of which require more fossil fuels in our current mode of production.

Still, there’s reason to be optimistic. In the U.S., the government is partnering with private companies to build more hydrogen fuel stations for consumers. California has an ambitious goal of having 15 percent of all cars in the state be zero-emission vehicles by 2025. To accomplish that, the state needs more fueling stations and investment-both of which are in the works.