Have a cup of black tea every day

Imagine you being tired, stressed and overwhelmed with daily work and suddenly you get to sip a cup of warm tea. How does it feel? Relaxed, rejuvenated and energetic? Well, exactly that is what your heart feels when you treat yourself to a warm cup of black tea daily. Your heart, which is at work 24/7, needs more attention than you think. While exercise and right diet can help you keep your heart healthy, a cup of black tea can complement your efforts manifold. From exercising to the right, you should adopt healthy habits to keep your heart healthy.

a cup of black tea with teapot

Heart health benefits of black tea

There are studies that indicate consumption of black tea significantly reduce the risk of coronary heart diseases due to the presence of antioxidants and tea polyphenols. While many experts believe that tea can have a dehydrating effect on the body, studies suggest that black tea, when taken in adequate amounts (less than 250 mg) per day, has a therapeutic effect on the heart [1]. A few other health drinks also have therapeutic effect on the heart.

Another study also showed that regular consumption of black tea helped to reduce the bad or LDL cholesterol considerably and keep the arteries healthy and clean. Cholesterol build-up in arteries is one of the many reasons for heart troubles like angina, heart attack and other coronary diseases [2]. Not just cholestrol, many other things can be damaging your heart. 

Here’s how to brew a cup of black tea

  • Boil water in a pan, add tea leaves to it and allow it to boil for some more time.
  • Next strain the liquid in a cup and your brew is ready.
  • It is best to have it without added sugar. However if you want, you can also squeeze half a lemon to enhance the taste.
  • Remember not to exceed more than three cups a day.

13 Easy Yoga Poses To FLUSH Stress Hormones From Your Body

We’ve always known stress is incredibly unhealthy. It can make you sick, is harmful to your mental, emotional and physical well-being, and just makes daily life miserable. We want to be productive and happy, and de-stressing is a big part of that. Stress is also an enemy to weight loss.

The good news is you can battle stress and work toward weight loss simultaneously with restorative yoga.

Looking to eliminate the feeling of stress from your life?

Take a look through this infographic to learn step-by-step instructions on how to perform 13 stress relieving yoga poses as well as their health benefits.


12-yoga-stress-inline-01 (1)

These are the discoveries that made Stephen Hawking famous

Stephen Hawking is probably the most famous genius of the modern age.

But what exactly is he famous for – apart from his astonishing resilience to an incapacitating disease, that instantly-recognizable retro-robotic voice, and his walk-on roles on The Simpsons and Star Trek?

Stephen Hawking has had a long career (Credit: Danita Delimont/Alamy Stock Photo)

Didn’t he discover black holes? Or the Big Bang? Or tell us what time is, or something? No, no and no again. But it’s hard to cut through the thickets of myth and get to the things that he really did discover. Hawking’s own legend risks obscuring his real achievements.

Today, Hawking delivers this year’s Reith Lecture: an appointment that signifies the speaker’s status, not just as an expert in his or her discipline, but as a public intellectual. So now seems an opportune moment to put aside Hawking the icon and examine Hawking the physicist.

In several polls of the greatest physicists of the 20th century, or even of the top living physicists, Hawking is either absent or crawls in at the bottom of the list. Is he, then, not all he’s cracked up to be?

Massive bodies, such as the Sun, cause space to curve around them

On the contrary, he is a huge presence in modern physics. It’s just that physics has a lot of astonishing minds, and Hawking is one among many.

Hawking’s genius, which arguably deserves a Nobel Prize, is to have brought together several different but equally fundamental fields of physical theory: gravitation, cosmology, quantum theory, thermodynamics and information theory.

It starts with general relativity: the theory of gravitation that Albert Einstein devised in the 1910s to replace that of Isaac Newton.

Newton’s view of gravity assumed that massive objects created a “field” that permeated space, rather like the field of a magnet. This field enabled one body with mass, like the Earth, to exert a force on another, like the Moon or an apple. Newton did not claim to know what this force was. It was simply a fact of nature that all objects that possess mass create it.

Many physicists could not believe in something as bizarre as a singularity

But according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity, gravity is not a field in space. Instead, it is a property of space itself.

The idea is that massive bodies, such as the Sun, cause space to curve around them. This distortion of space affects the motion of anything nearby. For instance, it holds the Earth in orbit around the Sun, like a marble rolling around the rim of a bowl.

One of the predictions of Einstein’s theory is that a sufficiently large object, such as a really massive star, can collapse under the pull of its own gravity in a runaway process. All the mass shrinks into an infinitesimally small point of infinite density, called a singularity.

This collapse creates a region of space so severely warped by gravity that not even light can escape from it. We call this a black hole.

All this had been proposed in a 1939 paper by the American physicist Robert Oppenheimer – who would later help develop the atomic bomb – and his student Hartland Snyder.

It was only really at this point that Hawking’s exceptional intellect began to shine through

But many physicists could not believe in something as bizarre as a singularity. So for years the idea languished, as others assumed that some process would intervene to prevent it.

It was only around 1959, when Hawking began his undergraduate studies at the University of Oxford, that physicists started to take the idea seriously. It was examined closely by John Wheeler at Princeton University in New Jersey, who allegedly gave black holes their name, Roger Penrose in the UK, and Yakov Zel’dovich in the Soviet Union.

After completing his degree in physics, Hawking started a PhD at the University of Cambridge, under the supervision of cosmologist Denis Sciama. His attention was captured by this resurgence of interest in general relativity and black holes.

It was only really at this point that Hawking’s exceptional intellect began to shine through. He had just scraped a First at Oxford, and had a lot of mathematical catching-up to do. He had also recently been diagnosed with a form of motor neurone disease called amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which would ultimately leave him almost entirely paralysed.

Hawking’s disability was severe, and even walking with crutches was very difficult for him

Under Sciama’s guidance, Hawking began thinking about the Big Bang theory: the idea that the universe began as a tiny speck that subsequently expanded. Nowadays this is widely accepted, but at the time it was still up for debate.

Hawking realised that the Big Bang was rather like the collapse of a black hole in reverse.

He developed this idea with Penrose. In 1970 the two of them published a paper showing that general relativity implies that the universe must have begun as a singularity.

By this time Hawking’s disability was severe, and even walking with crutches was very difficult for him. In late 1970, as he was getting laboriously into bed one night, he had a sudden realisation about black holes: one that would spark a series of discoveries about how they behave.

Hawking realised that a black hole can only increase, never decrease, in size.

This may seem obvious. Since nothing that gets too close can escape, a black hole can only ever swallow more matter and thus gain mass.

The total entropy of the universe can only increase, never decrease

A black hole’s mass in turn determines its size, measured as the radius of the event horizon, the point beyond which nothing can escape. This boundary will creep inexorably outwards like the skin of an inflating balloon.

But Hawking went further. He showed that a black hole can never be split into smaller ones – even, say, through the collision of two black holes.

Then Hawking made another intuitive leap. He argued that the event horizon’s ever-expanding surface area was analogous to another quantity that, according to physics, could only grow.

That quantity was entropy, which measures the amount of disorder in a system. Atoms stacked together regularly in a crystal have low entropy, while atoms drifting around randomly in a gas have high entropy.

According to the second law of thermodynamics, the total entropy of the universe can only increase, never decrease. In other words, the universe inevitably gets more disordered as it gets older. Hawking pointed out that these two rules of nature – the increasing surface area of a black hole and the increasing entropy of the universe – were oddly similar.

Most physicists – including Hawking – thought Bekenstein’s proposal made no sense

When Hawking announced his result at the end of 1970, a young physicist named Jacob Bekensteinmade a bold proposal: what if this wasn’t just an analogy? Bekenstein suggested that the surface area of a black hole’s event horizon might be a measure of the black hole’s entropy.

But that seemed wrong. If an object has entropy, it must also have a temperature. And if it has a temperature, then it must radiate energy, yet the whole point of a black hole is that nothing gets out.

For this reason, most physicists – including Hawking – thought Bekenstein’s proposal made no sense. Even Bekenstein himself said that the black hole’s apparent temperature couldn’t be “real” since it leads to a paradox.

But when Hawking set out to prove Bekenstein wrong, he found that the young student was, as he later admitted, “basically correct”. In order to show this, he had to bring together two areas of physics that nobody else had managed to unify: general relativity and quantum theory.

Quantum theory is used to describe invisibly small things, like atoms and their component particles, while general relativity is used to describe matter on the cosmic scale of stars and galaxies.

According to quantum theory, allegedly empty space is in fact far from a void

The two theories seem fundamentally incompatible. General relativity assumes that space is smooth and continuous like a sheet, whereas quantum theory insists that the world and everything in it is grainy at the smallest scales, parcelled into discrete lumps.

Physicists have struggled for decades to unify the two theories – which might then point to a “theory of everything”. Such a theory is, to use an apt cliché, a holy grail of modern physics.

In his early career Hawking expressed a yearning for such a theory, but his analysis of black holes did not pretend to offer one. Instead, his quantum analysis of black holes used a sort of patchwork of the two existing theories.

According to quantum theory, allegedly empty space is in fact far from a void, because space cannot be smoothly, absolutely empty at all scales. Instead it is alive with activity.

Pairs of particles are constantly fizzing spontaneously into existence, one made of matter and the other antimatter. One of the particles has positive energy and the other negative, so overall no new energy is being created. The two then annihilate one another so quickly that they cannot be directly detected. As a result, they are called “virtual particles”.

Hawking had proved himself wrong: black holes can get smaller after all

Hawking suggested that these pairs of particles could be upgraded from virtual to real, but only if they are created right next to a black hole.

There is a chance that one of the pair will be sucked inside the event horizon, leaving its partner stranded. This severed twin may then shoot out into space. If the negative-energy particle is absorbed by the black hole, the total energy of the black hole decreases, and therefore so does its mass. The other particle then carries away positive energy.

The end result is that the black hole radiates energy, now known as Hawking radiation, while gradually getting smaller. In other words, Hawking had proved himself wrong: black holes can get smaller after all. This is tantamount to saying that the black hole will slowly evaporate, and that it is not truly black at all.

What’s more, that shrinkage would not necessarily be gradual and sedate.

In 1971 Hawking conceived a radical new vision of black holes. During the Big Bang, he suggested, some lumps of matter could have collapsed into miniature black holes. Each lump would weigh billions of tons, which sounds a lot but is far smaller than the Earth, and the resulting black hole would be smaller than an atom.

Because a black hole’s temperature increases as its event horizon’s surface area gets smaller, black holes this tiny would be hot: Hawking described them as “white hot”. They would fizz with Hawking radiation, shedding mass until they eventually disappeared.

And they would not go quietly. A mini-black hole would get hotter as it got smaller, until eventually it would explode with the energy of a million one-megaton hydrogen bombs.

Hawking outlined his theory of Hawking radiation and exploding primordial mini-black holes in a paper in Nature in 1974. It was a shocking, controversial idea. Yet nowadays most physicists believe that Hawking radiation really will be generated by black holes.

So far nobody has managed to detect this radiation. That’s not surprising, though: an ordinary black hole’s temperature would barely be above absolute zero, so the energy it emits as Hawking radiation would be extremely tiny.

Seven years later, Hawking announced another disturbing implication of disappearing black holes. They destroy information, he said.

When particles or light rays pass inside a black hole’s event horizon, they never return to the rest of the universe. Any such entity can be considered to carry information: for example, information about a particle’s mass and position. This information is also locked away inside the black hole.

However, what happens to that information if the black hole evaporates? There are two possibilities: either it is somehow encoded in the Hawking radiation emitted by the black hole, or it is gone for good. Hawking claimed that it vanished.

When Hawking suggested that black holes destroy information, Susskind argued that he was plain wrong

When Hawking spoke in San Francisco in 1981 about the paradox of vanishing information in black-hole physics, the American physicist Leonard Susskinddisagreed. He was one of the few who appreciated just how disturbing it would be if information were lost from the universe.

We like to imagine that causes come before their effects, not the other way around. In principle, although generally not in practice, that means we could trace and reconstruct the history of any particle in the universe based on the information about its current state.

But that reconstruction from effects to cause would become impossible if information is being destroyed in black holes. If information is truly being lost, the whole notion of cause and effect starts to look shaky.

So when Hawking suggested that black holes destroy information, Susskind argued that he was plain wrong.

The debate raged, in a fairly collegial manner, for decades. In 1997 it took on the form of a wager, something Hawking loves to indulge. Hawking bet John Preskill of the California Institute of Technology an encyclopaedia that information was indeed lost in black holes, while Preskill bet that it was not.

He tried to describe the Big Bang in quantum mechanical terms

At a conference in Dublin in 2004, Hawking finally conceded that Susskind was right – and that Preskill should get his encyclopaedia. But in typically stubborn fashion, he qualified that statement by claiming that the information was only returned to the universe in a corrupted form that was virtually impossible to read, and that he had proved that this was so.

Hawking spelt out his argument in a short paper the following year. It did not convince everyone that his argument was better than Susskind’s.

The episode was characteristic of Hawking’s style. He is bold and brilliant, but not always rigorous enough to fully persuade, and sometimes seemingly driven by an intuition that can turn out to be quite wrong – as when he bet against experimental detection of the Higgs particle.

The melange of general relativity, quantum theory, thermodynamics and information theory in Hawking’s work on black holes is innovative and remarkable. Nothing else he has done has equalled it.

The very concept of an “origin” in time vanishes into the quantum foam

In the 1980s he tried to describe the Big Bang in quantum mechanical terms. Working with James Hartle,he developed a simple quantum equation that supposedly describes the entire universe in its early stages. But it does so in such general terms that, for many physicists, it doesn’t say anything very meaningful.

The one thing the equation does suggest, however, is that it is futile to ask about the ultimate origin of the universe.

When the universe was still extremely tiny, less than a billionth of a yoctometre across, quantum theory implies that the distinction between space and time was extremely fuzzy. That means the early universe did not have meaningful boundaries in time or space, even though it was still self-contained. The very concept of an “origin” in time vanishes into the quantum foam.

This is the model explained in Hawking’s best-selling A Brief History of Time (1988), which secured his status as a global celebrity. The idea is still debated.

There is now a sense that Hawking is tinkering, inventively but somewhat marginally, at the end of his career, taking thoughtful excursions into ideas largely conceived by others. He has more than earned the right to do that.

We as a society are still uncomfortable with disability

It is far less clear that he has earned the right to pronounce onartificial intelligence, genetic engineering or alien civilizations, let alone to perpetuate the gender stereotypes of a 1960s undergraduate.

It is almost unfortunate that the iconic Hawking has so much eclipsed the physicist. Nowadays, nothing can be spoken in that trademark android monotone without immediately acquiring oracular status and being breathlessly reported.

This is the flipside of the otherwise life-affirming Hawking story. There is a presumption that he must be an endless source of gnomic wisdom. In fact he is fallible, just like every other human being regardless of their genius. His story is an inspiring one, but that doesn’t mean we should deny him this aspect of his humanity.

Perhaps it is because we as a society are still uncomfortable with disability. We are strangely fascinated with the idea that a severely disabled person in a wheelchair can be enormously intelligent. We should not be surprised, and the fact that we are says more about us than it does about Stephen Hawking.

Year-in-space astronaut Scott Kelly hangs up his spacesuit, retires

Scott Kelly also holds the American record for most time in space, 520 days over four missions.

After spending nearly a year in space, astronaut Scott Kelly is hanging up his spacesuit.

NASA announced Kelly’s retirement on Friday, less than two weeks after he returned to Earth. He leaves the space agency on April 1.

 The 52-year-old Kelly spent a U.S.-record 340 days in orbit on the International Space Station to see how the human body holds up for long periods of time in space. His results are being compared to those on the ground from his twin brother, Mark, who is a retired astronaut.

Scott Kelly also holds the American record for most time in space: 520 days over four missions.

“I look forward to continuing my 30 years of public service in a new role,” Kelly, who joined the Navy in 1987, said in a Facebook post. “To continue toward any journey, we must always challenge ourselves to take the next step.” During his one-year trip, Kelly posted hundreds of images, mostly of Earth from orbit, on social media. But he also engaged in a little fun, donning a gorilla suit that was a gag gift from his brother and chasing fellow astronauts through the space station in a video. “This year-in-space mission was a profound challenge for all involved, and it gave me a unique perspective and a lot of time to reflect on what my next step should be on our continued journey to help further our capabilities in space and on Earth,” Kelly said in a statement issued by NASA. No specific plans for what’s next were announced. But Kelly will continue to undergo periodic medical tests as part of his year-in-space mission, NASA said. “Adjusting in space is easier than adjusting to Earth for me,” Kelly said in his first postflight news conference a week ago. Even then he gave a hint of what was to come, saying he doubted he’d fly again for NASA but adding, “I’ll never be done with space. I will always be involved.” Kelly’s departure means the space agency is losing its biggest star, said John Logsdon, a retired space policy professor. “I’m willing to bet that no one could name another NASA astronaut, anyone not close to the program,” Logsdon said. “It clears the way for the next generation of space fliers. There are a few veteran fliers left, but not many.”

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a retired astronaut himself, said the space agency and science in general is grateful to Kelly, who he added deserves “meals that don’t come in a bag, a cold beer, hot showers, cool autumn breezes, the sounds of birds chirping, the ability to lay his head on an actual pillow and so much more of the pleasures of life.” Astronauts who eventually will land on Mars “will be following in the footsteps of one of the finest astronauts in the history of the space program, my friend, Commander Scott Kelly,” Bolden said in a statement. Kelly returned from the space station on March 2, landing in Kazakhstan with Russia’s Mikhail Kornienko, his partner for the one-year mission.

The usual space station stint is six months. His re-entry into land-living was good and bad. Home in Houston, he dove into his backyard pool still in his blue flight suit, going underwater for the first time in nearly a year. But clothing was a problem. In space, his clothes floated around him and didn’t touch his skin. “It’s very, very sensitive,” he told reporters last week. “It’s almost like a burning feeling wherever I like sit or lie or walk.” Before leaving orbit, Kelly tweeted: “The journey isn’t over. Follow me as I rediscover (hash)Earth!” His Twitter followers have since read about his first steak, first dental appointment, first rain and that dip in the pool.


The 8 Minute Surgery That Will Give You Superhuman Vision. Forever.


A new bionic eye lens currently in development would give humans 3x 20/20 vision, at any age.

The lens, named the Ocumetics Bionic Lens, was developed by Dr. Garth Webb, an optometrist in British Columbia who was looking for a way to optimize eyesight regardless of a person’s health or age.

With this remarkable lens, patients would have perfect vision, ending the need for driving glasses, progressive lenses, and contacts, all of which are set to become a dim memory as the eye-care industry is transformed,CBC reports.

Even better is the fact that people who get the lens surgically inserted will never get cataracts, because the lens replaces that of their natural eye, which inevitably decays over time.

Webb says that anyone over the age of 25 is the best candidate, because that is when the eye is fully developed.

This is vision enhancement that the world has never seen before,” he says, “If you can just barely see the clock at 10 feet, when you get the Bionic Lens you can see the clock at 30 feet away.

The lens, which would be custom-made, is folded like a taco in a saline-filled syringe and placed in the eye, where it unravels itself within 10 seconds.

Quick & Painless Surgery


Dr. Garth Webb says the bionic lens would allow people to see to infinity and replace the need for eyeglasses and contact lenses. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Webb says that the surgery can be done within 8 minutes and immediately corrects a patient’s vision.

The project has been in the works for the last eight years, Webb told CBC, costing about $3 million in research and development fees, along with the acquisition of international patents and the securing of a biomedical manufacturing facility in Delta, B.C.

His mission is fueled by the “obsession” he’s had to free himself and others from corrective lenses since he was in Grade 2, when he was saddled with glasses.

My heroes were cowboys, and cowboys just did not wear glasses,” Webb says.

Webb’s efforts were recently recognized after he presented the lens to 14 top ophthalmologists in San Diego during a gathering of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.

Surgeons from all around the world were intrigued by his “clever” design, Webb says.

I think this device is going to bring us closer to the holy grail of excellent vision at all ranges — distant, intermediate and near,” said Dr. Vincent DeLuise, an ophthalmologist who teaches at both Yale University and Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.

Trials & Tribulations

Pending clinical trials on animals and then blind human eyes, the Bionic Lens could be available in Canada and elsewhere in about two years, depending on regulatory processes in various countries, Webb says.

Webb is hopeful that his lens will do away with the need for laser eye surgery, a procedure that still isn’t as efficient as it could be.

Perfect eyesight should be a human right,” he says.

What are your thoughts on the bionic lens? Share with us in the comment section below!

A low-fibre diet could affect gut microbiota diversity over generations

Every time you eat whole grains, fresh fruit and vegetables – foods very rich in dietary fibre, which is a type of carbohydrate present in plants – you are not only taking care of your health, but also nourishing some of the trillion microbes inhabiting your gut that, in turn, take care of you. And as a new study suggests, your diet not only conditions your health and microbial community but also those of your children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren.

According to the results of research led by microbiologists of Stanford University and published inNature, you do not just pass your genes on to your offspring, but also a whole gut ecosystem shaped in response to your dietary habits. If fibre intake plummets, so does the richness and diversity of bacteria living in the gut.

In a study conducted with mice, Justin and Erica Sonnenburg and colleagues at Stanford Universitywanted to simulate the effects of a low-fibre diet on the gut microbes of mice. To do so, they transplanted microbiota from a human donor (a 36-year-old American man) to a group of 10 germ-free mice.

They then separated the rodents into two groups: one was fed a diet rich in fibre and the other just the opposite. The animals were monitored for seven weeks and although in the beginning the microorganisms present in the mice’s guts in both groups were similar, after some weeks therodents on the low-fibre diet showed a depletion in the diversity of their gut microbiota. In fact, they had 60% fewer bacteria species compared with the animals following the control diet.

Researchers switched the food regime of the microbiota-depleted mice and put them on the control diet to check whether they could recover some microbial diversity. This was partly achieved when a high-fibre diet was reintroduced, although 33% of all species remained at low or undetectable levels.

What about those mice’s offspring? Would they also suffer the consequences of this depletion? In order to answer this question, the scientists bred four generations of both groups of mice. They observed that the pups from the mice following a low-fibre diet showed a reduced microbial richness in every generation. Indeed, the fourth generation showed 72% less microbiota diversity.If those pups were switched to a high-fibre diet, their microbial community experienced a small recovery, but remained 67% lower than in rodents that had always been fed with a high-fibre diet.

Recent studies have linked the benefits of higher dietary fibre intake to less cardiovascular disease and lower body weight. Nevertheless, humans cannot metabolise the complex dietary carbohydrates found in fruit and vegetables nor obtain energy from them; rather, gut microbiota does it for us.

In light of the results of this research, it seems that once an entire population has experienced the depletion of key bacterial species, simply ‘eating right’ may no longer be enough to restore these lost species to the guts of individuals within that population.

We must not forget, however, that the study has been carried out with mice, so caution must be exercised before extrapolating results to humans. In fact, as the authors point out in their article, the next step will be to test whether the same results are relevant to humans.

The 18 Best Biopic Transformations


High-speed ‘Hyperloop’ could transport passengers between 3 European cities in minutes.

High-speed travel may soon be revolutionized by a futuristic transport system that could take passengers on a 700 mph (1,126 kpm) journey between three European cities in just minutes. A deal on the system has been struck, and testing is scheduled for 2020.
© Hyperloop Transportation Technologies

The deal between Slovakia and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT), which has slated testing for 2020, brings the Hyperloop one step closer to reality. HTT  the deal on its website Thursday.

In short, the system would involve passenger pods being driven by electricity through a low-friction vacuum tunnel stretching between the three cities at speeds much higher than that of regular railways.

If the plan goes ahead, the 78 kilometer (48 mile) journey between the Austrian and Slovakian cities of Vienna and Bratislava would take just eight minutes – a journey which currently takes around an hour by train. Meanwhile, the 200 kilometer (124 mile) journey from Bratislava to the Hungarian capital of Budapest would take just 18 minutes, according to the Verge.

The proposed transport system was originally conceived by entrepreneur Elon Musk, who heads up Tesla Motors and SpaceX. He unveiled the idea in a 2013 whitepaper on the SpaceX website, intentionally leaving the idea open for others to develop.

Concept design of Hyperloop. © wikipedia

The Slovakia deal represents the first time that the technology has been proposed outside the US, where a few companies are also exploring the idea.

Slovakia is a technological leader in the automotive, material science, and energy industries, many of the areas that are integral to the Hyperloop system,” HTT’s CEO, Dirk Ahlborn, said. “Having a European Hyperloop presence will incentivize collaboration and innovation within Slovakia and throughout Europe.

The high-speed system has been praised by Slovakian Finance Minister Vazil Hudak, who said in a statement that it would “redefine the concept of commuting and boost cross-border cooperation in Europe.

Slovakia’s minister of economy, Vazil Hudak, also expressed enthusiasm for the project.

Hyperloop in Europe would cut distances substantially and network cities in unprecedented ways. A transportation system of this kind would redefine the concept of commuting and boost cross-border cooperation in Europe,” he said.

SpaceX  is hosting a competition this year for student teams and independent engineering groups to design the best Hyperloop capsule.

While we are not developing a commercial Hyperloop ourselves, we are interested in helping to accelerate development of a functional Hyperloop prototype,” SpaceX wrote on its .

Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Structural Abnormalities in Bipolar Disorder

Background  The neuropathogenesis of bipolar disorder remains poorly described. Previous work suggests that patients with bipolar disorder may have abnormalities in neural pathways that are hypothesized to modulate human mood states. We examined differences in brain structural volumes associated with these pathways between patients with bipolar disorder hospitalized with mania and healthy community volunteers.

Methods  Twenty-four patients with bipolar disorder and mania were recruited from hospital admission records. Twenty-two healthy volunteers were recruited from the community who were similar to the patients in age, sex, race, height, handedness, and education. All subjects were scanned using a 3-dimensional radio-frequency–spoiled Fourier acquired steady state acquisition sequence on a 1.5-T magnetic resonance imaging scanner. Scans were analyzed using commercial software. Prefrontal, thalamic, hippocampal, amygdala, pallidal, and striatal volumetric measurements were compared between the 2 groups.

Results  Patients with bipolar disorder demonstrated a significant (Λ=0.64; F6,37=3.4; P=.009) overall differencae in structural volumes in these regions compared with controls. In particular, the amygdala was enlarged in the patients. Brain structural volumes were not significantly associated with duration of illness, prior medication exposure, number of previous hospital admissions, or duration of substance abuse. Separating patients into first-episode (n=12) and multiple-episode (n=12) subgroups revealed no significant differences in any structure (P>.10).

Conclusion  Patients with bipolar disorder exhibit structural abnormalities in neural pathways thought to modulate human mood.

A Spotless Mind: Good or Bad?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to delete a painful memory—just obliterate it?

Maybe you saw the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (link is external)(2004), one of the wackier products of writer Charlie Kaufman’s imagination. Its premise was that people could erase selective memories to eliminate the distress they incur.

I loved the film. I found it funny, absurd, and profoundly moving. What its protagonists (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) perceive is that not only do they cling to their most difficult memories but they also tend to repeat their past mistakes, even as they forget the life lessons they believe to have learned from them. It’s like Groundhog Day (link is external)(1993) with a realistic twist.

But guess what? Scientists have discovered a drug that can potentially efface memories of profoundly painful, even traumatic events. As Richard A. Friedman wrote in the New York Times:(link is external)

“Who among us hasn’t wanted to let go of anxiety or forget about fear? Phobias, panic attacks and disorders like post-traumatic stress are extremely common: 29 percent of American adults will suffer from anxiety at some point in their lives.”

Well, there may be a cure for that. And its name is propranolol.

Studies show that if someone who has a phobia—let’s say spiders—takes this drug at the moment they are exposed to that fear, it vanishes. Friedman (link is external)explains the process:

“Propranolol blocks the effects of norepinephrine in the brain. This chemical, which is similar to adrenaline, enhances learning, so blocking it disrupts the way a memory is put back in storage after it is retrieved—a process called reconsolidation.”

Things get a lot trickier in Spotless Mind, in which both protagonists undergo an all-night brain treatment to erase the memory of their failed relationship. The problem is that the treatment works. Both come to regret their decision to erase the memories of each other and scramble to recover them. Despite the painfulness of their parting, neither wants to let go of the bittersweet memory of their intimate involvement. Call it love.

Fear of spiders seems relatively minor in relation to human heartbreak. But think also about the epidemic of post-traumatic stress disorder in recent years—not only among veterans returning from war but also among those (many of them women) who have suffered sexual and/or domestic abuse on the homefront.

We are hyper-sensitized to stories of trauma and their disabling effects. We hear that survivors are subject to recurring nightmares, panic attacks resulting from “triggers,”social isolation, depression and suicidal impulses.

I do not doubt any of these findings. Rather, I think that these stories may help to deepen our understanding and appreciation of the complex (and barely understood) processes of memory.

Contemporary neuroscience tells us that every time we retrieve and relive a personal memory, we revise it in terms of the context of its retrieval. Say you hear a song that reminds you of a moment of special significance in your past. The instant in which you recall this memory intermingles with the circumstance that evoked it. As a result, the reminiscence that will now be re-stored in your long-term memory will bear traces of what is happening here and now. The present, as a result, continues to revise the past. This is not a matter of personal choice or self-determination. It’s a brain function that happens regardless of what we consciously wish or desire.

I wonder if the success of exposure therapy (an offshoot of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) may work in part like this. I’ve never tried this technique. But I can imagine how reliving a traumatic experience (such as a rape) in a controlled environment, where you can summon a response other than helplessness and terror, might help form new associations about what happened. It may mute the primary memory’s traumatic effects. I can also see how this therapy might not be enough. Friedman reports that it works in only about half of the PTSD patients who try it. Some may even experience the re-living of the past as an excruciating replay of the original trauma.

I’m torn about these new findings. Would I want to erase the most painful memories of my past—nearly all of which have to do with close relationships? Like the lovers in Spotless Mind, the memories that most torment me concern the major emotional losses of my life. Would I want to erase these?

I do not mind the prospect of taking a federally-approved drug to enhance my health, longevity, or emotional well-being (e.g., high blood pressure, migraine, anxiety or depression). But I don’t like the idea of losing my personal memory, as one does because of Alzheimers or dementia. For me, the most difficult memories are also the ones that have propelled me into the future. Experiencing disappointment or failure, even in personal relationships, has caused me to develop a more complex understanding of myself and others. It has allowed me to discover greater inner resources.

For example: When I once lost a job, I got so mad that I demanded to meet with the president of the college. This didn’t save my job, but it did teach me to be more assertive. I treasure this memory as much as I value the ones that revealed to me how I “messed up” with spouses, lovers, and friends. How else would I learn what matters?

I don’t seek the solace of a spotless mind—that is to say, one in which I may forget the most challenging, but also most life-changing, events of my life.

What about you? Would you take such a drug? For what reasons?

Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind / film photo used with permission
Source: Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind / film photo used with permission