(Back to) the Future is here: Lexus builds a working hoverboard


While it isn’t quite a flying car, one highly-anticipated vision of 2015 predicted 30 years ago in ‘Back to the Future’ seems to be just around the corner: Lexus has announced that it managed to build a functional hoverboard.

Still from YouTube video/Lexus International

That’s right: a skateboard that carries the rider above the ground.

The board isn’t up for sale yet, but this is still amazing news for anyone disappointed by the present day being a far cry from the 2015 visited by Marty McFly in the 1985 classic ‘Back to the Future’, which famously featured hoverboards in an iconic scene.

The device is billed as the “first real, rideable hoverboard” on the Lexus website and is branded under the name SLIDE. Indeed, a video demonstrates it sliding through the air like a floating skateboard, although a rider is conspicuously absent.

The gravity-defying board is made possible with magnetic levitation, using nitrogen cooled superconductors, according to the website. It is designed to utilize materials familiar to users of Lexus products, such as those that the car brand’s interiors are often built with, including bamboo.

“When technology, design, and imagination come together, amazing things can be achieved. Presenting SLIDE,” Lexus said in a tweet.

The promotional video shows the board working on pavement, rather than just on metal tracks like previous attempts at creating a hoverboard.

The technological principles behind this board already have serious commercial applications. The L0 series of maglev train set a rail speed record of 375 mph (603 km/h) in April.

Advances in such technology should give those who are who want to see a flying car reason to rejoice.

“It’s very confidential information but we have been studying the flying car in our most advanced R&D area,” Hiroyoshi Yoshiki, a managing officer in Toyota’s Technical Administration Group, told Bloomberg. A “flying car means the car is just a little bit away from the road, so it doesn’t have any friction or resistance from the road.”

Watch the video. URL: https://youtu.be/7zTCgMPZRuo

 

Cuba becomes first nation to eliminate mother-to-child HIV .


Cuba’s success demonstrates that universal access and universal health coverage are feasible and indeed are the key to success.

Cuba, Cuba HIV, Cuba HIV transmission, HIV, HIV patients, HIV Cuba, Mother to child HIV, Cuba mother to child HIV, WHO, Cuba latest news, HIV latest news, World latest news

Each year, 1.4 million women living with HIV around the world become pregnant. Left untreated, they have a 15 to 45 per cent chance of passing the virus to their children during pregnancy, labor, delivery or breastfeeding. (Source: Reuters)

By: AFP | Wasington | Published on:July 1, 2015 8:20 am

Cuba has become the first country in the world to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis, the World Health Organisation has said.

“Eliminating transmission of a virus is one of the greatest public health achievements possible,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said yesterday.

“This is a major victory in our long fight against HIV and sexually transmitted infections, and an important step towards having an AIDS-free generation.”

Universal health coverage, improved access to tests and increased attention to maternal care were credited with the success, defined by health authorities as fewer than 50 cases of mother-to-child transmission of syphilis or HIV per 100,000 live births.

A small number of cases are allowed to persist, despite the certification, because antiretroviral treatment to prevent mother-to-child-transmission of HIV is not 100 per cent effective.

Rather, WHO and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) define the milestone as “a reduction of transmission to such a low level that it no longer constitutes a public health problem.”

Health authorities have been working in Cuba since 2010 to “ensure early access to prenatal care, HIV and syphilis testing for both pregnant women and their partners, treatment for women who test positive and their babies, caesarean deliveries and substitution of breastfeeding,” said a WHO statement.

“Cuba’s success demonstrates that universal access and universal health coverage are feasible and indeed are the key to success, even against challenges as daunting as HIV,” said PAHO Director Carissa Etienne.

Each year, 1.4 million women living with HIV around the world become pregnant. Left untreated, they have a 15 to 45 per cent chance of passing the virus to their children during pregnancy, labor, delivery or breastfeeding. But the risk of transmission is just over one per cent if antiretroviral medicines are given to both mothers and children.

The number children born annually with HIV was 400,000 in 2009. By 2013, the number was down to 240,000 in 2013. But intense effort is needed to meet the global target of less than 40,000 new child infections per year by 2015, health authorities say.

“It shows that ending the AIDS epidemic is possible and we expect Cuba to be the first of many countries coming forward to seek validation that they have ended their epidemics among children,” said Michel Sidibe, executive director of the United Nations AIDS agency.

Suicide by soda: Sugary drinks kill 184,000 people a year, study says — RT News


Reuters / Sam Hodgson

If you love the taste of an ice cold soda, you may want to determine whether the flavor is actually worth the risk. Sugary drinks are killing around 184,000 people each year, according to a new study.

The research, published in the American Heart Association’s Circulation journal, points the finger at sugar-laden drinks ranging from sodas to sweetened iced tea, fruit drinks, and sports/energy drinks.

“Many countries in the world have a significant number of deaths occurring from a single dietary factor, sugar-sweetened beverages,”said study author Dariush Mozaffarian from Tufts University in Boston.

According to the research, most of the 184,000 global deaths are from people who die of diabetes due to the consumption of“sugar-sweetened beverages” (SSBs).

Another 45,000 die globally from cardiovascular diseases caused by sugary drink consumption, and 6,450 people die from cancers linked to sugar-laden beverages.

Those numbers prompted Mozaffarian to advise soda lovers to “substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from [their] diet.”

“There are no health benefits from sugar-sweetened beverages, and the potential impact of reducing consumption is saving tens of thousands of deaths each year,” he added.

Although the numbers cite global deaths, Mexico had the highest death rate due to sugary drinks, with 450 deaths per million adults. It was followed by the US, with 125 estimated deaths per million adults.

Seventy-six percent of deaths related to sugary drinks occur in low-to-middle income countries, according to the report.

The findings “indicate the need for population based efforts to reduce SSB consumption throughout the world through effective health policies and targeted interventions directed at stemming obesity-related disease,” the report states.

The research examined 62 dietary surveys from more than 611,000 people, conducted between 1980 and 2010 across 51 countries. The participants represented almost two-thirds of the world’s adult population.

Published on Monday, the study is the first comprehensive assessment of worldwide deaths attributable to sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). It was conducted by an international team of researchers from Harvard, Tufts, and Washington universities in the US, and Imperial College London.

Why Do Pets Make Us Feel Better?


When we are sad, stressed, scared, or wondering how we can possibly deal with whatever life has thrown our way, animals have the ability to make us feel better. Why else would there be millions of cat videos on YouTube and not one, but four, “panda cams” in the United States alone?

But while Grumpy Cat and Bao Bao can make us smile, our pets can actually have a positive effect on our health.

Studies have shown that interacting with animals (even fish!) helps lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and decrease depression. Scientists have also observedthat interacting with animals increases levels of the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin has a number of important effects on the body. It slows a person’s heart rate and breathing, reduces blood pressure, and inhibits the production of stress hormones. All of these changes help create a sense of calm and comfort.

In an interview with National Public Radio, Rebecca Johnson, PhD, RN, FAAN, Director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, said: “Oxytocin has some powerful effects for us in the body’s ability to be in a state of readiness to heal, and also to grow new cells, so it predisposes us to an environment in our own bodies where we can be healthier.”

This healing can be emotional as well as physical, as oxytocin makes us feel happy, encourages trust, andpromotes bonding. This helps explain why we literally fall in love with our pets.

At the same time, pets offer us their unconditional love—and yes, even empathy—in return. After a cancer diagnosis and during treatment, pets don’t judge or try to give advice. They don’t ask questions or need reassurance that everything will be okay. Pets are just there when you need them, to show affection, to provide companionship, and to offer comfort.

In a study of therapy dogs at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City, researchers followed 42 people who were receiving six weeks of intense chemotherapy and radiation therapy for head and neck cancer. Before each treatment session, all of the participants visited with a trained therapy dog for about 15 minutes. At the end of the study, the researchers found that although the participants’ physical well-being decreased during treatment, their emotional and social well-being increased.

It is no wonder, then, that even Florence Nightingale believed that “a small pet animal is often an excellent companion for the sick, for long chronic cases especially.

​2-week inactivity may leave kids with pensioner’s muscle strength


Reuters / Michael Kooren

Parents who allow their kids to ditch football practice for video games may want to re-think their strategy. A new study says it only takes two weeks for children to lose one-third of their muscle strength, putting them on par with someone 50 years older.

The research, conducted by the Center for Healthy Aging and the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen and published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, immobilized one leg of both younger and older men by attaching a pad to that limb.

To determine the effects of immobilization on muscle mass, the researchers measured maximal voluntary contraction, leg work capacity, and leg lean mass by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry. Muscle biopsies were also performed, and were evaluated for fiber type, fiber area and capillarization.

The findings showed that it took just two weeks for the young participants to lose one-third of their muscle strength, leaving them with the same physical ability as someone 40 to 50 years older.

That loss in muscle strength is very similar to what is found in older men, according to researcher Andreas Vigelsoe.

“Having had one leg immobilized for two weeks, young people lose up to a third of their muscular strength, while older people lose approx. one fourth,” Vigelsoe said in a university press release.

The research also stated that while both young and older men lose muscle mass when immobilized for two weeks, young men lose more – 485 grams compared to 250 grams. However, young men have more to lose in the first place, as they carry approximately 1kg more muscle mass in each leg than older men.

But the “loss of muscle mass is presumably more critical for older people, because it is likely to have a greater impact on their general health and quality of life,” researcher Martin Gram said.

Once the two-week immobilization period was over, the participants trained on a bicycle three to four times a week, for six weeks. Cycling was enough to regain muscle mass, but not muscle strength.

“Unfortunately, bicycle-training is not enough for the participants to regain their original muscular strength. Cycling is, however, sufficient to help people regain lost muscle mass and reach their former fitness level. If you want to regain your muscular strength following a period of inactivity, you need to include weight training,” Vigelsoe said.

And although biking aided with the return of muscle mass, re-gaining it wasn’t as quick or easy as losing it.

“It’s interesting that inactivity causes such rapid loss of muscle mass, in fact it’ll take you three times the amount of time you were inactive to regain the muscle mass that you’ve lost. This may be caused by the fact that when we’re inactive, it’s 24 hours a day,” Gram said.

Can you teach people to have empathy?


 

Two men facing each other

Empathy is a quality that is integral to most people’s lives – and yet the modern world makes it easy to lose sight of the feelings of others. But almost everyone can learn to develop this crucial personality trait, says Roman Krznaric.

Open Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird and one line will jump out at you: “You never really understand another person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

Human beings are naturally primed to embrace this message. According to the latest neuroscience research, 98% of people (the exceptions include those with psychopathic tendencies) have the ability to empathise wired into their brains – an in-built capacity for stepping into the shoes of others and understanding their feelings and perspectives.

The problem is that most don’t tap into their full empathic potential in everyday life.

You can easily find yourself passing by a mother struggling with a pram on some steps as you rush to a work meeting, or read about a tragic earthquake in a distant country then let it slip your mind as you click a link to check the latest football results.

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Can you read someone’s mind through their eyes?

The empathy gap can appear in personal relationships too – like when I find myself shouting in frustration at my six-year-old twins, or fail to realise that my partner is doing more than her fair share of the housework.

So is there anything you can do to boost your empathy levels? The good news is that almost everyone can learn to be more empathic, just like we can learn to ride a bike or drive a car.

A good warm up is to do a quick assessment of your empathic abilities. Neuropsychologist Simon Baron-Cohen has devised a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes in which you are shown 36 pairs of eyes and have to choose one of four words that best describes what each person is feeling or thinking – for instance, jealous, arrogant, panicked or hateful.

The average score of around 26 suggests that the majority of people are surprisingly good – though far from perfect – at visually reading others’ emotions.

Going a step further, there are three simple but powerful strategies for unleashing the empathic potential that is latent in our neural circuitry.

Make a habit of “radical listening”

“What is essential,’ wrote Marshall Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of Non-Violent Communication, “is our ability to be present to what’s really going on within – to the unique feelings and needs a person is experiencing at that very moment.”

Listening out for people’s feelings and needs – whether it is a friend who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer or a spouse who is upset at you for working late yet again – gives them a sense of being understood.

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Let people have their say, hold back from interrupting and even reflect back what they’ve told you so they knew you were really listening. There’s a term for doing this – “radical listening”.

Radical listening can have an extraordinary impact on resolving conflict situations. Rosenberg points out that in employer-employee disputes, if both sides literally repeat what the other side just said before speaking themselves, conflict resolution is reached 50% faster.

Look for the human behind everything

A second step is to deepen empathic concern for others by developing an awareness of all those individuals hidden behind the surface of our daily lives, on whom we may depend in some way. A Buddhist-inspired approach to this is to spend a whole day becoming mindful of every person connected to your routine actions.

So when you have your morning coffee, think about the people who picked the coffee beans. As you button your shirt, consider the labour behind the label by asking yourself: “Who sewed on these buttons? Where in the world are they? What are their lives like?”

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Think about all the people you take for granted

Then continue throughout the day, bringing this curiosity to who is driving the train, vacuuming the office floor or stacking the supermarket shelves. It is precisely such mindful awareness that can spark empathic action on the behalf of others, whether it’s buying Fairtrade coffee or becoming friends with the office cleaner.

Bertolt Brecht wrote a wonderful poem about this called A Worker Reads History, which begins: “Who built the seven gates of Thebes? / The books are filled with the names of kings / Was it the kings who hauled the craggy blocks of stone?”

Become curious about strangers

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I used to regularly walk past a homeless man around the corner from where I live in Oxford and take virtually no notice of him. One day I stopped to speak to him.

It turned out his name was Alan Human and he had a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford. We subsequently developed a friendship based on our mutual interest in Aristotle’s ethics and pepperoni pizza.

This encounter taught me that having conversations with strangers opens up our empathic minds. We can not only meet fascinating people but also challenge the assumptions and prejudices that we have about others based on their appearance, accents or backgrounds.

It’s about recovering the curiosity everyone had as children, but which society is so good at beating out of us. Get beyond superficial talk but beware interrogating people. Respect the advice of oral historian Studs Terkel – who always spoke to people on the bus on his daily commute: “Don’t be an examiner, be the interested inquirer.”

These are the kinds of conversations you will find happening at the world’s firstEmpathy Museum, which is launching in the UK in late 2015 and will then be travelling to Australia and other countries.

Amongst the unusual exhibitions will be a human library, where instead of borrowing a book you borrow a person for conversation – maybe a Sikh teenager, an unhappy investment banker or a gay father. In other words, the kind of people you may not get to meet in everyday life.

Empathy is the cornerstone of healthy human relationships.

As the psychologist and inventor of emotional intelligence Daniel Goleman puts it, without empathy a person is “emotionally tone deaf”.

It’s clear that with a little effort nearly everyone can put more of their empathic potential to use. So try slipping on your empathy shoes and make an adventure of looking at the world through the eyes of others.