What Facebook Addiction Looks Like in the Brain

Facebook Notifications

For many Facebook users, the urge to like a kitten video or snoop on a high-school flame is almost irresistible.

As it turns out, this type of “Facebook addiction” may show up in the brain: A new study found that the brains of people who report compulsive urges to use the social networking site show some brain patterns similar to those found in drug addicts.

However, the parallel isn’t perfect: Compulsive Facebook users may have more activity in impulsive systems in the brain, but the brain regions that inhibit this behavior seem to work just fine, unlike in the brains of cocaine addicts.

Wide-reaching impact

Several studies have suggested that Facebook and other social networking sites have a profound impact on people. For example, Facebook can hurt a woman’s body image, allow people to obsess over a failed relationship and even lead some people to fall into depression. In fact, so many people end up feeling left out after seeing pictures of friends at a rooftop party or eating opulent meals, for example, that there’s even a word for it: “fear of missing out,” or FOMO.

In recent years, researchers have coined the term “Facebook addiction” to describe people with an unhealthy desire to spend hours checking the social networking site.

But whether this type of compulsion is truly an addiction is hotly debated.

Facebook brain

To understand how this process affects the brain, Turel and his colleagues asked 20 undergraduate students to fill out a questionnaire that gauged addiction-type symptoms associated with Facebook use, such as withdrawal, anxiety and conflict over the site.

The researchers then used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study the participants’ brains while they looked at a series of computer images — some Facebook logos, and others of neutral traffic signs. The students were told to either press or not press a button in response to each image.

The higher people scored on the Facebook addiction survey, the more likely they were to quickly hit the button when viewing Facebook images compared to neutral images. Similarly, the participants were more likely to mistakenly press the button when they saw a Facebook logo versus a neutral traffic sign. Essentially, the Facebook cues were much more potent triggers in people’s brains than the traffic signs, Turel said.

That means that, if you’re driving on a street next to someone who has a compulsive relationship with Facebook, they are “going to respond faster to beeps from their cellphone than to street signs,” Turel told Live Science. “That’s the power of Facebook.”

The Facebook “addicts” showed greater activation of their amygdala and striatum, brain regions that are involved in impulsive behavior. But unlike in the brains of cocaine addicts, for instance, the Facebook users showed no quieting of the brain systems responsible for inhibition in the prefrontal cortex.

That could be because Facebook “addiction” is fundamentally unlike substance addiction, or it could be that the study only looked at people whose daily lives weren’t much impaired by their desire to be on Facebook, Turel said.

Hooked on Facebook?

Addiction to social networking is likely caused by a collision of biological, psychological, social and cultural factors, Cecilie Schou Andreassen, a psychologist at the University of Bergen in Norway who was not involved in the study, said in an email.

The study looked at a relatively small, homogeneous group with relatively low levels of Facebook addiction, so “it is therefore questionable whether this sample is appropriate for investigating Facebook addiction,” Andreassen told Live Science.

Social networking sites like Facebook “hook” people using four elements: a trigger, such as loneliness, boredom or stress; an action, such as logging in to Facebook; an unpredictable or variable reward, such as scrolling through a mix of juicy and boring tidbits in the newsfeed; and investment, which includes posting pictures or liking someone’s status update, said Nir Eyal, a startup founder and author of “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products,” (Nir Eyal, 2013).

“Facebook is a poster child for a company that has these hooks,” Eyal told Live Science.

Getting “unhooked” is a matter of breaking that chain by putting some friction into the process — for instance, by using a website blocker or putting an Internet router on a timer that shuts off at night, Eyal said.

The new study was published in December 2014 in the journal Psychological Reports: Disability and Trauma.

‘Mystery disease’ claims 18 in Nigeria

At least 18 people have been killed in a southeastern Nigerian town due to a “mysterious” disease which kills in less than 24 hours, government says.


A Nigerian health official wearing a protective mask waits to screen passengers at the arrivals hall of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, August. 4, 2014. (AP Photo)

A Nigerian health official wearing a protective mask waits to screen passengers at the arrivals hall of Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria, August. 4, 2014. (AP Photo)

At least 18 people have been killed in a southeastern Nigerian town due to a “mysterious” disease which kills in less than 24 hours, government says.

“Twenty-three people (were affected) and 18 deaths were recorded,” AFP quoted the Ondo state health commissioner, Dayo Adeyanju, as saying on Saturday.

Earlier in the day a government spokesman, Kayode Akinmade, had put the number of casualties at 17, saying that the mysterious disease broke out early this week in Ode-Irele town.

Akinmad added that all the victims perished within a day of falling ill and that Ebola or any other known virus has so far been ruled out as the cause by Laboratory tests, noting, “There is no patient of the disease in any hospital and the disease has not spread beyond the town.”

He added that apart from government experts and health officials, World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologists had also arrived in the town for further investigation.

WHO has confirmed having information on 14 cases and 12 deaths.

“Common symptoms were sudden blurred vision, headache, loss of consciousness followed by death, occurring within 24 hours,” said WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic, adding that an investigation was currently underway.

Urine, blood and cerebrospinal fluid samples had been taken from victims, he added. “All samples have been sent to Lagos University Teaching Hospital this morning, and results are still pending. Investigations are still ongoing”

“Twenty-three people (were affected) and 18 deaths were recorded,” AFP quoted the Ondo state health commissioner, Dayo Adeyanju, as saying on Saturday.

Earlier in the day a government spokesman, Kayode Akinmade, had put the number of casualties at 17, saying that the mysterious disease broke out early this week in Ode-Irele town.

Akinmad added that all the victims perished within a day of falling ill and that Ebola or any other known virus has so far been ruled out as the cause by Laboratory tests, noting, “There is no patient of the disease in any hospital and the disease has not spread beyond the town.”

He added that apart from government experts and health officials, World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologists had also arrived in the town for further investigation.

WHO has confirmed having information on 14 cases and 12 deaths.

“Common symptoms were sudden blurred vision, headache, loss of consciousness followed by death, occurring within 24 hours,” said WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic, adding that an investigation was currently underway.

Urine, blood and cerebrospinal fluid samples had been taken from victims, he added. “All samples have been sent to Lagos University Teaching Hospital this morning, and results are still pending. Investigations are still ongoing”

Robot astronaut Kirobo sets two Guinness World Records titles .

A robot that acts as a friend for lonely astronauts in space has today been honoured with two Guinness World Records titles.
Kirobo, a small android able to have conversations in Japanese, has set records for First Companion Robot in Space and Highest altitude for a robot to have a conversation following an 18-month stay onboard the International Space Station.
Measuring 34 cm tall and weighing 1 kg, Kirobo can recognise faces, and has a sophisticated voice recognition system.
Able to stabilise itself in zero-gravity conditions, its onboard voice synthesis coupled with a library of pre-set gestures and an advanced language processing system allows it to speak in an uncannily natural manner.
The robot astronaut was developed as part of a five-year, joint research project carried out in collaboration between advertising agency Dentsu, the University of Tokyo’s Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, Robo Garage, Toyota Motor Corporation, and JAXA the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.
One of the project’s main aims was to test if a robot could provide psychological support to a human subject experiencing severe loneliness – such as an astronaut during an extended stay in space – by acting as their conversational partner.
KIROBO left earth via a HIIB rocket on 4 August 2013, with the mission to serve as a companion robot to the astronaut, Koichi Wakata.
After arriving at the ISS on the 10th, , KIROBO gave its first speech eleven days later, declaring:“On August 21, 2013, a robot took one small step toward a brighter future for all.”
The humanoid went on to achieve the highest altitude for a robot to have a conversation record on 7 December 2013 at an altitude of 414.2 kilometers above sea level after succeeding in having multiple meaningful conversations with Wakata.
On February 10, Kirobo came safely back to Earth aboard SpaceX’s CRS-5 Dragon cargo supply spacecraft which splashed down in the Pacific Ocean off California, arriving back in Japan on March 12.
Kirobo’s first words after returning home were: “From up above, the Earth glowed like a blue LED.”
To mark the project’s achievements Erika Ogawa, Erika Ogawa vice president of Guinness World Records Japan, and official adjudicator Aya McMillan today presented official GWR certificates to the team behind Kirobo during an event at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation in Tokyo.
Looking back over the robot’s history-making stay in space, Yorichika Nishijima, Kirobo’s Communications Designer told TNW “The project launched five years ago, when nobody believed in human beings and robots co-existing. From that perspective we wanted to send it into space to show that robots and human beings… can go into a new era. It’s a sort of symbolic project so people can understand how people can interact with robots”.

Can The Earth Be Conscious?

Earth's city lights.

Right now, at this very moment, you are submerged in an invisible sea of information. Thoughts, ideas, ambitions and instructions — they are whispering past and through you on waves of modulated electromagnetic energy. From wireless Internet to satellite TV, you are bathed in an endless stream of purposeful, intentional signal.

And, it’s not just you. From the Earth’s surface out to geosynchronous orbit (22,000 miles overhead), the whole planet glows with information made manifest in light (actual light, as in radio waves, microwaves, etc.). But does all that thought mean the Earth is thinking? Does that mean it’s awake?

Maybe it’s time to consider the Noosphere.

The term Noosphere (pronounced a bit like “noah-sphere”) was first coined by the Jesuit priest/paleontologist Pierre Tielhard de Chardin. A fascinating blend of contradictions, de Chardin lived as a respected scientist on the one hand, and a passionate mystic on the other. Having seen the horrors of World War I up close, he was sure that the natural processes of evolution (which he was committed to) were leading humanity toward a kind of higher and more perfect unity.

As a paleontologist, de Chardin looked across Earth’s history and saw the critical transition Earth made billions of years ago from a dead planet to a world dominated by life (the “biosphere”). As a mystic, he believed the next step was going to take us from a “mindless” biosphere to a world ruled by intention — by “mind.” Evolution, he claimed, was taking us toward what he called the Noosphere (“nous” is greek for mind) — a global unity of consciousness, a ” ‘thinking’ sphere circling the Earth above the biosphere, which [would comprise all] human reflection, conscious souls, and love.”

If that sounds like some serious New Age “Woo,” then you’re getting the idea. While I have great respect for de Chardin’s intentions when it comes to science and spirituality, it’s always been pretty hard for me to buy into his full-blown mystical sensibilities. So, as you might imagine, the Noosphere has attracted its share of wishful thinkers — and some of it has gotten pretty silly (to me at least).

But, then, a funny thing happened on the way to the New Age. Humanity ended up building an actual Noosphere (or at least its first draft).

It was called the Internet.

Somewhere around the mid-1990s, a few people looked at the world wiring itself together and thought — “Hmmm, this seems a lot like what that de Chardin guy was thinking.” It was all pretty Utopian back then, as was most thinking about the Internet. When writing on the Noosphere and the Web, Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow, put it this way, “What Teilhard was saying … can easily be summed up in a few words. The point of all evolution up to this stage is the creation of a collective organism of Mind.” Definitely the pre-Snowden era of Internet thinking.

But others picked up the Noosphere/Internet idea and ran with it in different directions. Influential programmer Eric S. Raymond, for example, wrote about the collective mind appearing in the dynamics of open-source software development in his essay, “Homesteading the Noosphere.”

Since the 1990s, the idea of a technological Noosphere — a digitally linked “planetary membrane of thought” — has taken hold in its own way. The Noosphere has appeared in sci-fi books and movies and even video games. There is a NOosphere art gallery, a Noosphere film company and even Noosphere, the international asset management fund.

All this is fascinating in-and-of itself, but it still leaves one big open question: Can anything like a Noosphere actually exist — and what would it mean if it did? Putting aside the New Age teleology, is there any way in which it makes sense to think about planets becoming conscious?

If one is very careful, I think it does.

About 40 years ago, James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis developed their famous Gaia Hypothesis that claimed the biosphere had hijacked the planet for its own ends. From a Gaian perspective, living systems on Earth, as a whole, were capable of steering the planet toward conditions that were favorable to life. In the central premise of the Gaia Hypothesis, the biosphere was a kind of thermostat keeping planetary conditions in an optimal range for the maintenance of … the biosphere. Lovelock and Margulis gave their theory the moniker “Gaia” because that was the Greek Goddess of the Earth. While the mythical connection delighted some, it irked many scientists who saw the whole concept as imparting too much purpose into processes that had none.

The explicit scientific version of the Gaia hypothesis — life creates planetary feedbacks that are good for life — is still contested. But with refinements, Margulis and Lovelock’s general insights came to be seen as essential. They were, in fact, part of broader movement in Earth Science that took the biosphere seriously as a major player in the dynamics of the planet. Thus, instead of “Gaia,” scientists began thinking of “Earth Systems” — the strongly coupled interplay of atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, geosphere and biosphere.

So, even without asking if planets are literally alive, we still can ask meaningful questions about life and planets “co-evolving.” We can see it makes real scientific sense to understand life as more than just some green scruff forming on a planet’s surface. Thus, even if biospheres don’t control planets, they can still play huge roles in how those planets change in time. This is an idea we have to take very seriously as we begin our (remote) exploration of the many exoplanets we are discovering throughout the galaxy.

And that brings us back to the Noosphere.

We don’t have to ask if planets literally become conscious in order to ask how their evolution changes when a dominant species develops certain kinds of technologies (like wireless information processing on a massive scale and access to low-orbit space). Just as the development of a biosphere can imply entirely new evolutionary paths for a planet (like an oxygen-rich atmosphere), maybe the development of a planetary Noosphere has its own concrete evolutionary implications. This is a particularly important point to consider as we enter the so-called Anthropocene, an era when humans become the dominant force on the Earth’s systems.

So, the question of the day is as simple as it is challenging: If we are developing a Noosphere, what comes next?

Stanford Researchers Unveil New Ultrafast Charging Aluminum-Ion Battery

Last week, Stanford University researchers unveiled a new aluminum-ion battery chemistry with the unique ability to charge or discharge in less than a minute.

The battery’s incredibly fast charging and discharging times are not its only breakthrough. It is also the first aluminum-based battery to achieve an operating voltage sufficient for common applications and last longer than a few hundred charge-discharge cycles. In other words, it’s the first aluminum-ion battery to really work.

At the same time, the new battery is not without its limitations. There are a number of reasons why we probably won’t see it in our smart phones or electric vehicles anytime soon.

This post will introduce the new aluminum-ion battery technology, and then examine its key performance metrics, and how they affect its potential applications.

What’s Inside the Aluminum-Ion Battery?

To store energy, a battery requires two materials with an electrochemical voltage difference between them and an electrolyte that impedes the flow of electrons but enables the flow of ions between the two materials.

The aluminum-ion battery introduced last week uses simple aluminum metal in its negative side (anode) and a specialized three-dimensional graphite foam in its positive side (cathode). The positive and negative sides of the battery are separated by a liquid electrolyte of 1-ethyl-3-methylimidazolium chloride and anhydrous aluminum chloride. This electrolyte was selected because it contains mobile AlCl4- ions, which are exchanged between the two sides of the battery as it charges and discharges.

To test the viability of their proposed battery cell, the Stanford researchers constructed an experimental cell, and then charged and discharged it at various current rates to determine: 1) how much energy the cell can store, 2) how quickly the cell can charge or discharge, and 3) how many times the cell can be repeatedly charged and discharged.

How much energy can it store?

The amount of energy a battery can store is determined by two factors: the inherent voltage difference between its positive and negative sides, and the amount of charge the battery materials can store in the form of ions and electrons.

The voltage difference between the two sides of the aluminum-ion battery is approximately 2-2.5 volts, depending on the battery’s state of charge. This is less than the typical voltage of a lithium-ion battery, which varies from approximately 3.5-4 volts. This means about twice as many aluminum-ion battery cells would have to be placed in series to match the voltage of a comparable lithium-ion battery pack.

The aluminum-ion battery can store about 70 ampere-hours of charge per kilogram of battery material. This is approximately one half a lithium-ion battery’s charge capacity, which ranges from 120-160 ampere-hours per kilogram.

Put together, the aluminum-ion battery’s lower voltage and lower charge capacity give it about one quarter the energy density of a typical lithium-ion battery (about 40 Watt-hours per kilogram versus about 160 Watt-hours per kilogram for lithium-ion). Thus, powering your smart phone, laptop, or electric vehicle with an aluminum-ion battery would require a battery that weighs about four times the weight of a comparable lithium-ion battery.

How Much Electric Power Can It Produce?

Energy storage capacity is one important battery metric, but it isn’t the only one. Another crucial metric is a battery’s power capacity, or how quickly it can safely and reliably charge and discharge.

How quickly a battery can charge or discharge is determined by how quickly its materials can undergo an electrochemical reaction, and how quickly ions can diffuse inside the battery cell itself.

The Stanford researchers specifically designed their aluminum-ion battery to charge and discharge quickly. To speed up the motion of ions inside the negative side of the battery, they developed a unique three-dimensional graphite foam cathode with the internal gaps and surface area required to enable very fast ion movement.

Stanford’s aluminum-ion battery uses a unique three-dimensional graphite foam to speed up the movement of ions inside the battery, and unlock its unprecedented charging and discharging times. (Source: Lin et al., 2015)

This specialized cathode enables the aluminum-ion battery to charge and discharge at unprecedented rates. Researchers tested discharging and charging the battery at rates corresponding to a full charge or discharge in less than one minute. They found the battery could charge within a minute and then discharge over periods ranging from 48 seconds to 1.5 hours without suffering major capacity or efficiency losses.

The aluminum-ion battery’s fast charging and discharging times give it a decisive advantage over conventional lithium-ion batteries. On a mass basis, a hypothetical one-kilogram aluminum-ion battery could produce approximately 3,000 watts of power—enough to power about two to three typical residential homes, albeit for only a minute or less. On the other hand, a typical one-kilogram lithium-ion battery could only produce about 200-300 watts of power—about a tenth the power capacity of Stanford’s aluminum-ion battery.

How Long Does It Last?

The aluminum-ion battery’s unique three-dimensional graphite foam cathode doesn’t just unlock the ability to charge and discharge quickly; it also enables the battery to charge and discharge thousands of times over without suffering significant material degradation and capacity loss.

The Stanford researchers tested how long their battery lasts under different conditions by charging it at a fast one-minute rate, and then discharging it at the same one-minute rate thousands of times over. Across over 7,500 of these fast charge-discharge cycles, the researchers observed essentially no fade in the battery’s capacity.

This stands in contrast with a lithium-ion battery, which can typically only deliver 1,000-3,000 charge-discharge cycles before its capacity fades significantly. Thus, there is potential for the aluminum-ion battery to last much longer than conventional lithium-ion batteries.

At the same time, the Stanford researchers have not shown how their battery stands up to the effects of time, so it is unclear if the aluminum-ion battery can last long enough to fulfill electric grid applications. Because each charging or discharging process tested only took one minute to complete, the 7,500 charge-discharge cycles demonstrated correspond to an operating period of only a few of weeks. If there are other passive reactions that cause the battery to fade over longer time periods, than the aluminum-ion battery might not last the years required by grid applications.

What Might It Be Used For?

Based on the performance specifications identified above, Stanford’s aluminum-ion battery will be useful for applications that require very fast charging and discharging times and the capability to charge and discharge thousands of times without suffering capacity loss. The battery won’t be useful in applications that require energy density, because it’s energy density is only about a quarter of existing lithium-ion batteries.

Thus, you shouldn’t expect to be using Stanford’s aluminum-ion battery in your smartphone, tablet, or electric vehicle anytime soon. While the battery might allow you to charge your smartphone or electric vehicle in under a minute, it would significantly increase the weight of your phone or vehicle.

However, there is a chance you will see the aluminum-ion battery deployed on the grid one day. One application that might be a perfect fit for Stanford’s aluminum-ion battery is providing balancing and reserve power to the electric grid in order to maintain the balance between total electricity supply and total electric demand. This application requires high-power batteries with the capability to charge and discharge many times without failing. If Stanford’s aluminum-ion battery can be constructed at a sufficiently low cost in the future, it might be used to provide this service on the grid.

HCV Antiviral Simeprevir Label Now Warns of Cardiac Risk

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a label change for the hepatitis C (HCV) antiviral simeprevir (Olysio, Janssen Therapeutics) to warn prescribers and patients of an increased risk of serious symptomatic bradycardia when the drug is combined with amiodarone and the antiviral sofosbuvir (Sovaldi, Gilead Sciences).

The label change also warns of an increased risk of liver decompensation and liver failure when simeprevir is used with amiodarone and sofosbuvir.

In March, the FDA updated labeling information for sofosbuvir and the HCV antiviral combination of ledipasvir/sofosbuvir (Harvoni, Gilead Sciences) to reflect an increased risk of cardiac eventsafter the manufacturer reported nine cases of treatment-related adverse events, including bradycardia, pacemaker intervention, and even death, in patients taking amiodarone and other antiviral agents, including simeprevir.

As part of the new simeprevir labeling change, there is now a warning of postmarketing cases of symptomatic bradycardia and pacemaker intervention when used with amiodarone and sofosbuvir.

“The coadministration of amiodarone with simeprevir in combination with sofosbuvir is not recommended,” the updated label states.

If a patient must take the three agents together, they should be counseled about the risks and receive inpatient cardiac monitoring for the first 48 hours of treatment. After discharge, outpatient or self-monitoring of heart rate should be done on a daily basis for a minimum of 2 weeks.

The label also states that hepatic decompensation and hepatic failure, including fatal cases, have been documented in patients treated with simeprevir in combination with peg-interferon alfa and ribavirin or in combination with sofosbuvir. “Most cases were reported in patients with advanced and/or decompensated cirrhosis who are at increased risk for hepatic decompensation or hepatic failure,” according to the updated label.

Emotional toxicity of austerity eroding mental health, say 400 experts

“Malign” welfare reforms and severe austerity measures are having a detrimental effect on Britons’ psychological and emotional wellbeing, hundreds of psychotherapists, counselors and mental health practitioners have warned.

Reuters / Dylan Martinez

An open letter, published by the Guardian on Friday, said the “profoundly disturbing” implications for Britons wrought by the coalition’s austerity policies have been ignored in the general election campaign so far.

The group of signatories, made up of therapists, psychotherapists and mental health experts, said Britain has seen a “radical shift” in the mental state of ordinary people since the coalition came to power.

They warned people are plagued by increasing inequality and poverty as a result of the government’s austerity policies, and this reality is generating distress across the nation.

The 400 signatories, from all corners of Britain, said the government’s welfare reforms have caused emotional and mental trauma to Britons – forcing families to relocate against their will and burdening disabled, ill and unemployed benefit claimants with an intimidating benefits regime.

On a broader level, they warned British society has been ruptured by a neoliberal dogma that has serious socio-economic impacts.

British society has been “thrown completely off balance by the emotional toxicity of neoliberal thinking”and the grueling effects of this ideology are particularly visible in therapists’ consulting rooms, they said.

“This letter sounds the starting-bell for a broadly based campaign of organizations and professionals against the damage that neoliberalism is doing to the nation’s mental health,” they added.

Fit to Work: A call for reform

The letter was particularly critical of the government’s benefits sanctions scheme, which has been condemned by human rights advocates across the state as unjust, ill-conceived, ineffective and inhumane.

In particular, the mental health experts said the government’s proposed policy of linking social security benefits to the receipt of “state therapy” is utterly unacceptable.

The measure, casually coined “get to work therapy,” was first mooted by Chancellor for the Exchequer George Osborne during his last budget.

But the letter’s signatories, all of whom are experts in the field of mental health, argue it is counter-productive, “anti-therapeutic” and damaging.

Although the government’s much criticized Fit for Work program will no longer be managed by disgraced contractor Atos, the letter said the new company set to manage the nation’s work capability assessments is an “ominous replacement.”

The mental health experts called upon the sector’s key professional bodies to “wake up to these malign developments” and categorically denounce this “so-called therapy” as destructive.

The signatories called upon Britain’s political parties running for election, particularly Labour, to offer a resolute pledge to “urgently review” these regressive practices and prove their “much trumpeted commitment to mental health” if they enter government.

Among the groups represented by the signatories were Britain’s Alliance for Counselling and Psychotherapy, Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility, Disabled People Against Cuts, Psychologists Against Austerity, the Journal of Public Mental Health, and a range of academic institutions including Goldsmiths, Birkbeck, the University of London, the University of Amsterdam, Manchester Metropolitan University, the University of Brighton and others.

Although the coalition claims austerity is essential if the nation’s high levels of debt are to be eradicated and the disastrous economic legacy of the previous Labour government is to be addressed, progressive economists argue otherwise.

According to UK think tank the New Economics Foundation, austerity is a smokescreen for advancing a neoliberal agenda characterized by privatization, outsourcing and radical socio-economic reforms.

The think tank suggests Britain’s social and economic ills stem from an economic crisis created by banks and paid for by ordinary taxpayers.

It says Britain desperately requires a shift from the tired austerity narrative that dominates mainstream British politics, and must move towards more progressive and sustainable economic policies that will free the nation from casino capitalism, boom-bust cycles and the erosion of the welfare state.

A spokesman for the Conservative Party told RT the party believes mental health should be treated in the same manner as physical health.

“But for too long, that was not the case – so we legislated for parity of esteem, meaning they’ll be treated with equal priority,” he said.

“Our long-term economic plan means we’ve been able to increase spending on the NHS by £12.9 billion. This has meant that we can put £400 million into improving access to psychological therapies.”

“We are also investing £1.25 billion into funding service improvement, particularly for children. And from April 2016 we are introducing the first waiting time standards for mental health treatments so no one should have to wait longer than 18 weeks for talking therapies.”

A spokesperson for Labour said mental health “is the biggest unaddressed health challenge of our age.”

“It’s essential that we give mental health the priority it deserves if we are to thrive as a nation and ensure the NHS remains sustainable for the future,” he said.

He argued it was Labour that forced the coalition government to “write parity of esteem between physical and mental health into law,” and that the party is committed to implementing this policy if elected in May.

The spokesman pledged Labour will bring an end to the “scandal of the neglect of child mental health.”

“It is simply not right that when three quarters of adult mental illnesses begin in childhood, children’s mental health services get just six per cent of the mental health budget,” he said.

What Are Those Strange Things You See Floating In Your Eye?

Have you ever noticed a strange little worm-like speck drifting aimlessly about in your field of vision? These annoying little squiggly lines, or “cobwebs,” are called floaters and are experienced by around 70% of people. So what are they?

Floaters are actually shadows cast by objects suspended in the clear, gel-like substance that makes up the majority of the eye’s interior. This substance is called vitreous humor and helps to maintain the eye’s round shape. After passing through the lens, focused lighthas to pass through the vitreous humor in order to reach the retina at the back of the eye. It’s mostly composed of water but also contains proteins and various other substances.

Floaters are normally merely proteins of the vitreous gel that have clumped together. These stringy clusters of proteins block light and therefore cast a shadow on the retina. These floaters usually appear as transparent circles or tadpoles and stay permanently in your eye.

Sometimes, small hemorrhages in the eye can cause floaters as red blood cells enter the vitreous. This can occur if the gel pulls on blood vessels located in the retina. These floaters might take on a smoky appearance and disappear as the blood is absorbed.

Lastly, floaters can be caused by shrinkage of the vitreous gel that occurs naturally as we age. As the vitreous pulls away from the retina, bits of debris can enter the gel and become floaters. These usually look like cobwebs.

Floaters are particularly pronounced if you gaze at something particularly bright, such as a piece of white paper or a blue sky. You’ll notice that they move as your eyes move and appear to zoom across your eye as you try to look at them directly.

Floaters are usually just an annoyance that people get used to, but sometimes they can hamper vision and therefore require surgery. This procedure involves removing the vitreous and replacing it with a saline liquid.

California Poppy

 California Poppy is a medicinal herb and flower that is rich in vitamins A, C, and E as well as minerals such as calcium and magnesium. California poppy contains sedative properties that make it highly beneficial for relieving anxiety, stress, panic attacks, insomnia, hypertension, colic and bedwetting in children. It is also useful for behavioral disorders such as OCD, Bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s, ADD, and ADHD. California Poppy is good at sharpening cognitive skills such as memory and concentration which makes it a great herb for students and adults alike. California Poppy is known to be a phenomenal natural pain reliever and is a safe alternative to prescription medication. It contains analgesic and antispasmodic properties which is useful in providing relief from acute nerve and muscle related pain. California Poppy is also known to help reduce high fever, rapid pulse, and spasmodic coughs. California Poppy contains antimicrobial properties which makes it excellent for applying to cuts, wounds, and skin ailments. California poppy powder can be mixed with coconut oil as a natural treatment for the elimination of head lice. California Poppy tea is wonderful to drink before bed to help prepare the body for a full and restful night’s sleep. Add 2 tsp of dried herb to 1 cup of boiling water and let steep for at least 10 minutes, sweeten with raw honey and/or lemon if desired. California Poppy can be found in tea, tincture, extract, capsule, and cream form online or at your local health food store.

The Day Albert Einstein Died: A Photographer’s Story

Pictures from a spring day in 1955, when photographer Ralph Morse raced around New Jersey in search of the late, great Albert Einstein.

 Albert Einstein's office - just as the Nobel Prize-winning physicist left it - taken mere hours after Einstein died, Princeton, New Jersey, April 1955.



Albert Einstein, whose theories exploded and reshaped our ideas of how the universe works, died on April 18, 1955, of heart failure. He was 76. His funeral and cremation were intensely private affairs, and only one photographer managed to capture the events of that extraordinary day: LIFE magazine’s Ralph Morse.

After getting a call that April morning from a LIFE editor telling him Einstein had died, Morse grabbed his cameras and drove the 90 miles from his house in northern New Jersey to Princeton.

“Einstein died at the Princeton Hospital,” Morse, now 96 and living in Florida, told LIFE.com, “so I headed there first. But it was chaos — journalists, photographers, onlookers. So I headed over to Einstein’s office at the Institute for Advanced Studies. On the way, I stopped and bought a case of scotch. I knew people might be reluctant to talk, but most people are happy to accept a bottle of booze, instead of money, in exchange for their help. So I get to the building, find the superintendent, give him a fifth of scotch and like that, he opens up the office.”

Early in the afternoon, Einstein’s body was moved for a short time from the hospital to a funeral home in Princeton. The simple casket containing the corpse, post-autopsy, only stayed at the funeral home for an hour or so. Morse made his way there, and soon saw two men loading a casket into a hearse. For all Morse knew, Einstein’s burial was imminent. Hoping to scope out a spot near the grave, he quickly drove to the Princeton Cemetery.

“I drive out to the cemetery to try and find where Einstein is going to be buried,” Morse remembers. “But there must have been two dozen graves being dug that day! I see a group of guys digging a grave, offer them a bottle, ask them if they know anything. One of them says, ‘He’s being cremated in about twenty minutes. In Trenton!’ So I give them the rest of the scotch, hop in my car, and get to Trenton and the crematorium just before Einstein’s friends and family show up.”

 “I didn’t have to tell anyone where I was from,” Morse says of his time spent photographing the events of the day. “I was the only photographer there, and it was sort of a given that if there was one photographer on the scene, chances were good he was from LIFE.”

At one point early in the day, Einstein’s son Hans asked Morse for his name — a seemingly insignificant, friendly inquiry that would prove, within a few hours, to have significant ramifications.

“As the day was winding down, I was pretty excited,” Morse recalls, “because I knew I was the only fellow with these pictures. This was big news! Einstein was a huge public figure, world famous, and we had this story cold.” He headed to Manhattan, and the LIFE offices, certain he’d be feted for his colossal scoop.

“I get to New York with the film, and there are signs all over the place in the office: ‘Ralph, see Ed!’ Ed Thompson was LIFE’s managing editor. A great journalist. Ed says, ‘Ralph, I hear you have one hell of an exclusive.’ I say, ‘Yeah, I think I do.’ And he says, ‘Well, we’re not going to run it.’ I was stunned. Turns out Einstein’s son, Hans, called while I was on the road to New York, and asked that we not run the story, that we respect the family’s privacy. So Ed decided to kill the story. You can’t run a magazine without an editor to make those decisions, and Ed had made his. So I thought, ‘Well, that’s that,’ and went on to my next assignment. I figured the pictures would never see the light of day, and forgot all about them.”

Here, 60 years later, LIFE presents a selection of photographs from that day — pictures that capture the scene on a spring morning in New Jersey, when Ralph Morse found himself racing around an Ivy League town trying to find out what became of the late, great Albert Einstein. . . .

Finally: The stranger-than-fiction tale of Einstein’s brain — which Dr. Thomas Harvey controversially removed during the autopsy, carefully sliced into sections, and then kept for years for research purposes — and the intrigues long-associated with the famous organ are too convoluted to go into here. However, on the day that Einstein died, Ralph Morse was able to take a few quick photographs of Dr. Harvey at the hospital. Morse says he’s certain that is not Einstein’s brain under Dr. Harvey’s knife in the picture that ends the gallery above,

Then, after a pause, Morse says: “You know, it was a long, long time ago. I don’t remember every detail. So, whatever he’s cutting there. . . .” His words hang in the air.

Then, mischievously, Morse laughs.