How cleaner air could actually make global warming worse

A significant amount of the climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions in the past century has been hidden from us, scientists say — by another type of pollution that actually cools the climate and temporarily cancels out some of the warming. Two new studies, both released today in the journal Nature Geoscience, address the powerful influence of aerosols — fine particles or drops of liquid often released by industrial activity — on the climate, and suggest that as nations around the world work to reduce this type of air pollution, we will begin to see more rapid warming than expected. And that could hurt our ability to meet the climate goals set in last year’s Paris Agreement.

Scientists have long been aware that certain types of aerosol emissions — most notably, sulfate — can block solar radiation from getting through to the surface of the Earth, either by scattering sunlight directly or by helping to increase the extent and reflectivity of cloud cover over the planet. This results in a kind of cooling effect, especially in the areas where the pollution is heaviest, which can temporarily mask the ongoing warming effect caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

The important thing to remember about aerosols, though, is that they tend to have a rather short lifespan in the atmosphere — eventually, the rain brings them back out of the sky. If humans are continuously pouring pollution into the air, then the cooling effect will probably appear pretty constant. But as certain parts of the world start cutting down on their aerosol emissions, scientists have actually noticed a phenomenon known as “regional brightening,” in which the dimming effect on solar radiation begins to lift away.

This effect is already having a significant impact on certain parts of the world, as one of the new Nature Geoscience studies points out. That paper examines the impact of European reductions in aerosol emissions on warming in the Arctic, which is proceeding at a faster rate than other parts of the world. Out of all the regions of the world, Europe has reduced its aerosol loading the most in the past several decades, which means its policies have likely had the biggest effect on recent aerosol-related climate changes.

Using simulations from a climate model, which took changes in aerosol loading into account, the authors conclude that as much as 0.5 degrees Celsius of the warming that took place in the Arctic between 1980 and 2005 can be explained by aerosol reductions in Europe during that time. In other words, as the aerosol “mask” is being pulled away, researchers are seeing an enhanced regional warming as a result.

It’s true that aerosols produce the biggest effects in the regions where they’re emitted. Unlike greenhouse gases, which stay in the atmosphere for long periods of time and gradually diffuse out over the Earth, aerosol particles cluster in the sky where they were originally emitted — they don’t really have time to spread out much before raining back down.

The reason that changes in aerosols over Europe have such an effect in the Arctic has to do largely with the oceanic and atmospheric currents that run between Europe and the Arctic. In an accompanying commentary in Nature Geoscience, Thorsten Mauritsen of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology — who was not involved with the study — notes that “Europe is situated right on the main pathway that air and ocean currents take from more southerly latitudes into the Arctic.”

So, he adds, “In summer, the warming of the atmosphere and upper ocean through reduced aerosol cooling over and around Europe yields a strengthened transport of heat into the Arctic.” And because the Arctic is generally so pristine otherwise, any aerosols that managed to drift up there from Europe would have likely had a more noticeable cooling effect than in other parts of the world — translating to a similarly pronounced increase in warming when they finally rained back down to Earth.

The researchers on that study are already starting an examination of whether changes in North American aerosol emissions — though less pronounced than the changes that have taken place in Europe — might have had similar effects, said the paper’s senior author Annica Ekman, a professor of meteorology at Stockholm University. But for now, the new paper points to the significant influence aerosol emissions can have on the Earth’s climate, at least regionally — and how their disappearance from the atmosphere might be revealing a more profoundly warming world than suspected.

As if that’s not enough, the second study published in Nature Geoscience on Monday points to the significance of the aerosol effect on a global scale.

Because of the major impact aerosols can have on the Earth’s temperature, many scientists agree that it’s important to consider them when making predictions about the earth’s climate future. And one important way of understanding what future warming will look like is to investigate a phenomenon known as Earth’s “transient climate sensitivity” — that is, how much the planet’s temperature will change when the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reaches double the level it was in preindustrial times.

This carbon dioxide doubling is expected to occur some time in this century, depending on how much humans are able to reduce carbon emissions in the meantime, said Trude Storelvmo, an associate professor of atmospheric science at Yale University and lead author of one of the new papers. So it’s important to figure out what kind of temperature changes we might expect to see as a result.

These calculations are generally based on the temperature responses caused by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere already. But because aerosol emissions are believed to have masked a significant amount of the warming that’s happened on Earth so far, some scientists believe that estimates of Earth’s climate sensitivity are too low — that the climate may, in fact, be more sensitive to carbon emissions than anyone realized, which would likely mean greater warming in the future.

Storelvmo and an interdisciplinary group of colleagues decided to investigate. But rather than using climate models, which they say don’t always accurately simulate the effect of aerosols on clouds in the atmosphere, they instead based their calculations entirely on records of temperature and solar radiation taken from more than a thousand measurement sites around the world between 1964 and 2010. They then performed a statistical analysis designed to help distinguish between the temperature changes that were caused by greenhouse gas emissions and those caused by aerosols.

Their analysis suggests that about a third of the continental warming that occurred between 1964 and 2010 was masked by the cooling effect caused by aerosols. In other words, greenhouse gas emissions during that period had a bigger effect on the climate than they actually appeared to at the time. Taking this into account, the researchers then calculated Earth’s transient climate sensitivity and found that at the time of carbon dioxide doubling — whenever that occurs — we should see a temperature increase of about 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels.

Previous estimates of the transient climate sensitivity have produced a wide range of results, anywhere from below 1 degree to above 3 degrees Celsius, the authors point out, although they note that most other observational studies have produced central estimates below 2 degrees. Storelvmo suggests that some of these studies may have underestimated the influence of aerosols, or that their methods were too sensitive to short-term fluctuations in the climate, such as the so-called warming hiatus over the past decade.

On that note, this paper’s results are significant because of the goals that were set during December’s UN climate conference in Paris. Until that point, many climate activists had pushed to keep warming below a 2-degree limit, citing the potentially catastrophic climate effects that could occur otherwise. But more recently, scientists have suggested that allowing even 2 degrees of warming might be too much. So during the Paris conference, world leaders agreed to make an effort to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Obviously, [our study] has the implication that we can’t allow for carbon dioxide doubling to happen if we care deeply about these warming limits,” Storelvmo said. “And so it has really implications in the sense that the higher the transient climate sensitivity is, the more fossil fuels will have to stay in the ground.”

Both studies contain sobering sets of results that speak to both the urgency of reducing global dependence on fossil fuels and the importance of taking the aerosol effect into account when making estimates about global warming.

When it comes to the Arctic, one of the world’s most vulnerable and rapidly changing regions, Ekman noted that “it seems like our aerosol particles have somehow masked the amplified Arctic warming, and as greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase, it’s going to take over — basically, it’s going to warm more and more in the Arctic.”

And as more and more parts of the world start to cut down on their aerosols as well — a process that is vital for the improvement of air quality and the protection of human health around the globe — we may start to see the mask begin to lift away in other areas as well.

Paleontologists find out how to tell what sex a dinosaur was for the first time

The dirty little secret in the world of dinosaurs is that paleontologists have no means of telling what sex adinosaur was. Mary Schweitzer with North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is the first to develop a method that tells what sex a Tyrannosaurus rex was. The discovery wasreported in the March 15, 2016, edition of the journal Scientific Reports.

The discovery was assisted by the fact that the dinosaur in question, called MOR1125, was pregnant when it died. The specimen had one of the few known fetal dinosaurs with it when it was first found in 2005. The researchers found a second means of determining sex by examining the bone growth and chemistry of this dinosaur.

The study found that female dinosaurs like their bird descendants develop a medullary bone. The structure is not permanent in birds or dinosaurs. The temporary bone serves to supply shell for the animal’s eggs. This is the first known discovery of a medullary bone in a dinosaur.

Microscopic examination of the medullary bone from the pregnant T. rex showed a bone structure that is very similar to the medullary bone of modern birds. The scientist also compared the amount of keratan sulfate in the dinosaur bone and the bones in a chicken and an ostrich. The chemical analysis of the dinosaur bone had similar amounts of keratan sulfate as modern birds. The chemical test provides a means of determining the sex of a dinosaur chemically without the presence of a medullary bone provided some bone marrow is still present in the fossil.

Happy kids may become adults with lower heart attack risk

Kids who live in a stress-free environment may grow up to be adults with a lower risk of heart attacks than their peers who experience social, emotional or financial difficulties during childhood, a Finnish study suggests.

Happy kids may become adults with lower heart attack risk   

Researchers assessed these challenges – known as psychosocial factors – in 311 kids at age 12 and 18. Then, at age 28, they looked for calcium deposits in their arteries that can narrow blood vessels and increase the risk of heart attacks.

The adults who had high psychosocial wellbeing as kids were 15 percent less likely to have calcium deposits clogging their arteries as adults, the study found.

“This study suggests that childhood psychosocial factors may have long-term consequences on cardiovascular health,” lead study author Dr. Markus Juonala of the University of Turku in Finland said by email.

To understand the connection between how kids feel growing up and how their arteries look decades later, Juonala and colleagues analyzed data gathered from 1980 to 2008 as part of the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study.

Among other things, this study measured psychosocial wellbeing by looking at family income and education levels, parents’ job status, parents’ mental health and history of smoking or substance abuse, parents’ weight and exercise habits, stressful events such as divorce, death or moves, as well as the child’s level of aggressive or anti-social behaviors and ability to interact with other people.

In addition, researchers analyzed results from computed tomography (CT) scans of coronary arteries to assess the amount of calcium clogging vessels.

Overall, 55 participants, or about 18 percent, had at least some calcification in their arteries, researchers report in JAMA Pediatrics.

Among this group with calcification, 28 participants had low levels of buildup, 20 had moderate amounts of calcium and 7 had substantial deposits, the study found.

Even after accounting for adult circumstances like psychosocial factors and risk factors for heart disease like obesity, smoking, high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol, the research team still found wellbeing during childhood influenced the odds that coronary arteries would be clogged for adults.

The study is observational and doesn’t prove childhood stress causes clogged arteries or heart attacks, only that the two things are related, the authors note.

It’s possible, however, that stress during childhood might trigger changes in metabolic functioning and inflammation that later contribute to calcium deposits in the arteries, the researchers point out.

It’s also possible that happier kids may develop healthier habits like better diets and more rigorous exercise routines that help keep arteries unclogged and lower their risk of heart disease later in life.

“The take-home message for parents is to understand that stress in childhood may have many adverse effects and that they should help their children avoid stress,” said Dr. Stephen Daniels, a researcher at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Parents may not always be able to eliminate stress, however, particularly the stress that can come from environmental factors like lower socioeconomic status, Daniels, who wasn’t involved in the study, added by email.

When children grow up with stress, they can still take charge of their health as adults to lower their risk of heart disease, Daniels noted.

“For an adult who had a stressful childhood, the best approach is to be aware of their cardiovascular risk status and to reduce their risk by improving diet and physical activity and avoiding cigarette smoking,” Daniels added. “Where risk factors exist, such as high blood pressure, they should be appropriately treated.”

Hypersensitivity and How Not to Take Things Personally


  • Depression, hypersensitivity, and PTSD can contribute to being wary of things said to us. We may react by over-analyzing, ruminating, and even getting depressed and anxious over interpersonal interactions. For some of us a simple conversation gone wrong can make us feel sick. So how can we stop doing this to ourselves? How can we turn the radio dial down on our heightened sensitivity so that we don’t suffer? In this post we are going to explore some ways to build in some cognitive and emotional buffers so that we don’t take things so personally.


    I am going to preface this post by telling you outright that when you take things personally you are not necessarily “too sensitive” or paranoid. Sometimes sensitivity simply means that you are not naïve. While most people are riddled by figuring out people and their motivations, we can hone in and view someone’s core with astonishing speed. And we are usually accurate in our perceptions. (Know that there are times when you do get it wrong and you have to be aware of that too.) Think about it. You are the one who first knew that your friend’s new boyfriend was a snake. You sensed the control freak underneath your boss’s superficial “open to new ideas” public persona. You knew who was going to be the self promoting back stabbing co-worker. You can sniff out fake people and their B.S. a mile away. In a previous post I wrote about how some of us are neither optimists nor pessimists but depressive realists.  We possess clarity to see through the layers of superficiality and it can be quite unnerving. It is my personal belief that this is a skill that you should not lose. However, you shouldn’t suffer for it either.


    How do we stop suffering for being sensitive and how do we stop taking things so personally?


    Stop giving your power away


    When I was in therapy one of the wisest things my therapist asked me was: “Why are you giving your power away?” This was usually in response to allowing myself to get upset by what others might say. The more you allow someone to upset you, the more power you give to them. As a child you have very little power. We are dependent upon our caregivers. If you were in a situation as a child where the adults in your life abused their power, you may still believe that you are helpless even as an adult. As difficult as it may be to believe, time does change this equation. You do have control and power as an adult. You don’t have to put up with a bad situation and you don’t have to give away your power to anyone.


    Limit your interactions with toxic people


    Toxic people are quite skilled at personal attacks. You take what they say personally because there is no doubt that it was meant that way. These are the people in your life who drain you of emotional energy. After an encounter with a toxic person you may feel nervous, angry, devalued, or depressed. In extreme situations one solution may be to cut off contact completely. If that is not possible then limiting interaction with the person may be in your best interest. You should never have to forfeit your mental health for anyone. In a previous post I describe in detail how to handle difficult people. In addition, Deborah Gray has written about how to cope with toxic parents.

  • Ask for clarification


    Instead of ruminating and picking apart conversations to try to understand what someone means, ask the person directly for clarification. It is important that you ask this question in a non-defensive way in order to prevent needless confrontation. Although you may not always get a straight answer back, you have opened the door for open communication. This is almost always better than allowing things to fester and stew in your own head. In a future post we will delve more deeply into conversational interactions and things we can do to promote healthy communication.


    Know what pushes your buttons


    Everyone is sensitive to certain topics or issues. Some sensitive areas may be one’s weight, making mistakes, or any perceived faults. You may also be sensitive to anything you were ever bullied for in the past. Being aware of these tender spots and how you may tend to over-react when they come up in conversation. The key is to not allow yourself to get sucked into feeling your old wounds open when these topics are brought up.


    Be aware of mixed messages


    One type of communication which can send the best of us into an emotional tizzy is when someone gives us “mixed messages.” They may say one thing at a certain time and then say something completely incompatible in another situation. You may witness the person saying something to you and then going to someone else and saying the opposite. The most harmful type of communication can be what is called the “double bind” message. You can identify the double bind message by the fact that the content of what the person is saying does not match up to the speaker’s body language, tone of voice, and other non-verbal modes of communication. The classic example is a mother who says “I love you” to her child but then stiffens up when the child tries to give her a hug. It is not such a bad idea to be wary of the person who engages in giving mixed messages.


    Understand that you don’t have any control over what people say.


    You may have had the desire at some point of wishing to control what others say. You can’t. People will think things. They will say things you don’t like. Other people may be mean. You can’t stop that. But you can control how you react and respond. You can choose to be assertive. You can choose to limit your interactions with this person. You can choose to not give this person your power by allowing them to upset you. Focus on what you can do instead of what the other person is doing or saying.


    Realize that some people say stupid things.


    When most people talk, they aren’t thinking about you or anyone else. It does take some time, energy, and skill to formulate an intentional dig at someone. In other words, most people are not going to waste their time thinking of ways to intentionally hurt someone. Think of a bull in a china shop. The bull isn’t thinking about the china. Likewise, most people aren’t thinking about you and your sensitivities. There are many people who say hurtful things because they don’t know how to express themselves and they are oblivious to their audience. This is no excuse for rude behavior but at least you know in some instances it is not about you. What people say is always more about themselves than anyone else.


    Use the three strikes rule when necessary.


    How many of you have heard this saying before? Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me. When someone says something you perceive to be hurtful it may be wise to back off the first time and give the person some slack. Assess whether this is a person is socially awkward, having a bad day, or is just oblivious to what they are communicating. Is there a pattern of this person acting this way with other people? If the person continues to say hurtful things to you the ball is now in your court as to how you wish to respond. I usually go by the “three strikes you are out” rule. If a person is a jerk to me more than three times, I then decide if I am going to call the person on their rude behavior or simply limit any future interactions. Pick and choose your battles wisely. Is this person a part of your daily life or routine? Is this person someone with whom you will have an on-going relationship? If the answer is no, it may be wise to let go.


    Focus on the positive relationships in your life.


    You only have so much time and energy right? Why give your precious energy to people who make your life miserable? Stop trying to “work” at bad relationships or fix negative interactions. Let them go. It is not your job to make everyone nice. Move on to focusing on the people who do matter most in your life. These are people who are mostly likely being neglected because you are too busy fussing over jerks. When some interaction distracts you from functioning ask yourself these questions. Is this interaction important in the scheme of things? Do I need to seek clarification? Do I need to be assertive? What do I have to gain by responding or letting it go? Is this the best use of my time and energy?


    Being sensitive in a seemingly insensitive world can feel like you are always getting hurt. But you don’t have to suffer. There are things you can do to be less vulnerable. Although I have listed many strategies in this post on how to cope with being highly sensitive, I am sure you all have other ideas. We want to hear them. We greatly value your opinion and your shared experiences. Don’t hesitate to share your story here.



Unique beak evolved with tool use in New Caledonian crow

Unique beak evolved with tool use in New Caledonian crow
A 3-D reconstruction of the New Caledonian Crow skull with key measuring points. 

It was as plain as the beak on a bird’s face. Cornell ornithologist and crow expert Kevin McGowan recalls the day in the late 1990s when he first saw stuffed specimens of the New Caledonian crow.

“I remember saying to a student, ‘I don’t know what this bird does, but it does something different from any other corvid on Earth because its bill is so weird,'” said McGowan, project manager for distance learning in bird biology at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

In 2000, McGowan read a paper by Gavin Hunt, a senior research fellow at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, on use by these crows and he had an insight into the New Caledonian crow’s unusual beak.

Now, Hunt, McGowan and a team of scientists from Japan have quantified what makes the New Caledonian crow’s beak different and how it got that way. Their findings were published March 9, 2016 in the journal Scientific Reports.

“We used shape analysis and CT [computer tomography] scanning to compare the shape and structure of the New Caledonian crow’s bill with some of its crow relatives and a woodpecker species with a similar foraging niche,” said lead author Hunt.

“This study shows that the unique bill contributes to the birds’ ability to use and probably make tools,” he said. “We argue that the beak became specialized for tool manipulation once the birds began using tools, and that this enhanced tool manipulation ability may have allowed the crows to make more complex tools.”

Such tools may range from sticks to barbed leaves or hooked twigs used to fish the crow’s favorite food from the trunk of a tree – the juicy grubs of the longhorn beetle. The birds annoy their prey by poking around the grub’s large, sensitive mandibles. When the grub grabs the stick or other tool, the bird hauls it out.

“Their bill is shorter than a regular crow’s,” McGowan said. “It’s blunter, and it doesn’t curve down like nearly all bird bills do. The lower mandible actually curves slightly up, which likely gives it the strength it needs to hold the tool. And because the bill doesn’t curve downward it brings the tool into the narrow range of the bird’s binocular vision so it can better see what it is doing.”

Birds with blunter, straighter bills were probably more adept at handling tools for foraging and over time those features evolved, McGowan said. Tool use has now become ingrained in the crow’s biology. In the case of the New Caledonian crow’s beak, you might say it’s not so much “you are what you eat,” but “you are how you eat.”

“They hold the stick tool so that it goes up along the side of their head along the length of the bill,” McGowan explains. “Apparently there are birds that favor one side of the head over the other—left-sticked or right-sticked, you could call it—it’s really cool.”

The question that cannot be answered is why the started using tools in the first place. It may have been a matter of chance because most do just fine foraging with their beaks and feet without resorting to tool-making, McGowan said.

Climate change redistributes global water resources

Rising temperatures worldwide are changing not only weather systems but also the distribution of water around the globe, thereby affecting the availability of potable water, a new study has found.

Researchers analysed more than 40 years of water samples archived at the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest (HBEF) in the US and found how the sources of precipitation have changed.

Over the years, there has been a dramatic increase, especially during the winter, of the amount of water that originated far to the north, researchers said.

“In the later years, we saw more water derived from evaporation of the Arctic and the North Atlantic oceans,” said Tamir Puntsag from SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) in New York.

The study marked the first time scientists have used specific measurements to demonstrate how water sources are changing, especially in northeastern US.

The study marked the first time scientists have used specific measurements to demonstrate how water sources are changing, especially in northeastern US. Reuters File Photo for representation.

“Climate change has an important relationship to the water cycle. It goes beyond temperature effects,” said Myron Mitchell, an ESF biogeochemist.

“This study shows how climate change is altering the spatial patterns and amounts of precipitation – where it comes from and where it falls. Such effects can drastically affect the availability of potable water and also contribute to the massive flooding we have seen in recent years,” Mitchell said.

As record warmer temperatures in the Arctic cause dramatic decreases in the depth and coverage of sea ice, the Arctic vortex (often called the polar vortex) has become less stable, occasionally spilling frigid air onto the eastern US, such as occurred in October last year and February this year, when areas from New York to Miami experienced record cold, researchers said.

The findings of the study will help scientists understand changes that are likely to affect global water resources, Mitchell said.

With 85 per cent of the world’s population living in the driest half of the planet and 783 million people living without access to clean water, according to the United Nations, it is vital for scientists and policymakers to understand how a changing climate affects water resources, researchers said.

“Our research helps our understanding of the sources of rain and snow and how these precipitation patterns have changed. Our study also sheds light on what is going to happen to water resources in the future,” said Mitchell.

Researchers used isotopic analysis (identification of the structure of the atoms that make up a substance, such as water) to develop a story of the water’s travels.

Water always contains two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen but its isotopic composition can vary from one water source to another.

They also used mathematical models to trace the sources of these water sources in precipitation.

H1N1 vaccines and flu shots are useless for preventing disease, CDC studies admit

Image: H1N1 vaccines and flu shots are useless for preventing disease, CDC studies admit

The alternative media has long reported that flu shots are at least ineffective and at most an outright scam. Now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is acknowledging that the vaccines generally don’t work. According to two studies published by the CDC last week, an influenza vaccine packaged as a nasal spray failed to protect children from the 2009 H1N1 strain in 2013–14, when it was said to be the dominant circulating strain.

One of the studies, published in the journal Pediatrics, compared the live, attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) for H1N1, FluMist, with the inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV), a regular flu shot, over three seasons following the 2009–10 “pandemic.” The other study, published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, reviewed the 2013–14 flu season and included adults. The studies were conducted essentially by the same researchers, who used the US Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness (Flu VE) Network to help with their research.

Nasal spray vs. flu shot

In the LAIV–IIV comparison in Pediatrics, the researchers analyzed Flu VE Network data on children aged 2 to 17 years during four flu seasons from 2010–11 through 2013–14. The investigators then calculated the probability of testing positive or negative for influenza among the 2,703 children.

Among the group, approximately 637 received LAIV and 2,066 received IIV during the four seasons. Over all four seasons, the researchers found no statistically significant difference in the rate of the influenza among children vaccinated with LAIV versus IIV flu shot for two of the three strains, including H3N2 and influenza B.

However, the odds of contracting the 2009 H1N1 strain of flu were three times higher for children with the LAIV over all four seasons. Furthermore, in 2013–14, a year when then 2009 H1N1 was predominant, protection against all three strains was five times lower in LAIV-vaccinated children 2 to 8 years, and three times lower in children of all ages.

No protection against H1N1 in children vaccinated 2013–14

In the other study, published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, the researcher reviewed the H1N1-dominated 2013–14 season using Flu VE Network data on 5,637 kids and adults 6 months or older who had acute respiratory illness attended by healthcare workers.

The researchers found that overall flu vaccine effectiveness (VE) against medically attended 2009 H1N1 was 54 percent. The VE for LAIV in children was only 17 percent. There were not enough adults involved in the study to meaningfully calculate the VE for adults. The authors of the study highlight that their results have been cross-verified by the Pediatrics study and another observational test-negative design study sponsored by MedImmune.

Both studies offer several hypotheses about why the LAIV in children offered little, if any, protection against the H1N1 virus. In fact, the researchers write that the properties of the vaccine itself might be to blame, meaning that these children would have been better off had they not been vaccinated.

“An amino acid sequence was identified in the HA [hemagglutinin] stalk region of wild-type A/California/7/2009 H1N1pdm09 virus that reduced thermal stability of the LAIV vaccine virus containing the A/H1N1pdm09 HA gene,” they wrote. “This stalk sequence resulted in lower virus infectivity in ferrets and greater susceptibility to degradation at high temperatures.”

In light of these studies, it’s clear that the vaccine industry doesn’t really care about protecting children. Perhaps the CDC should shorten their abbreviated name to reflect their true nature: the Centers for Disease.

Here’s More Evidence That Depression Affects The Entire Body

In case you needed more proof that mental health = physical health.

Here’s yet another friendly, scientific reminder that mental health conditions are not within your control. Depression is an illness that can affect your entire body — potentially on a cellular level, according to a recent study.

Researchers from the University of Granada conducted a meta-analysis of 29 previous studies, where they looked at biomarkers in the cells of people with depression before and after treatment with antidepressants and compared them with a healthy control group. In particular, they looked at levels of malondialdehyde — a biomarker in the body that indicates cell deterioration and oxidative stress — finding an association between depression and elevated levels of the compound.

Oxidative stress occurs when the body both overproduces and then struggles to flush out free radicals, which are molecules that can negatively alter proteins, lipids and DNA in the body and trigger a number of illnesses. While it’s unknown how depression and oxidative stress are linked, the study indicates a connection between the two.

Before treatment, depressed people had high levels of malondialdehyde and low levels of the antioxidants zinc and uric acid, indicating oxidative stress. But after the patients received treatment, their malondialdehyde dropped so significantly that most treated depression patients’ levels were nearly indistinguishable from healthy patients, the researchers found.

The findings indicate that depression “should be considered a systemic disease,” according to the researchers. It could also explain the link between depression andother maladies such as cardiovascular disease.

“Results suggest that oxidative stress plays a role in depression and that antidepressant activity may be mediated via improving oxidative stress [and] antioxidant function,” the study authors wrote in the conclusion.

Previous research suggests a clear link between a person’s mental health and physiological state. Depression may be linked with inflammation and expertsbelieve that the illness could be genetic. Moreover, those with the disorder experience physical symptoms, such as gastrointestinal issues and severe headaches.

Despite these links, another recent study published in the journal Health Affairs found that doctors follow up with patients with depression the least when compared to individuals with other conditions like diabetes or asthma.

Research like this most recent study and the Health Affairs study may play a role in changing the way everyone views mental illness. “The brain and body are connected,” Sagar Parikh, associate director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Depression Center previously told The Huffington Post. “The bottom line is that treating mental health problems not only reduces individual pain but it actually has an impact on physical health.”

Smart insulin patch to control diabetes

Scientists have created a synthetic painless patch filled with natural insulin-producing cells that can control blood sugar levels on demand.

For decades, researchers have tried to duplicate the function of beta cells, the tiny insulin-producing entities that do not work properly in patients with diabetes.

Now, scientists from University of North Carolina (UNC) in the US have devised another option, a synthetic patch filled with natural beta cells that can secrete doses of insulin to control blood sugar levels on demand with no risk of inducing hypoglycemia. Imagr courtesy: Twitter

Insulin injections provide painful and often imperfect substitutes. Transplants of normal beta cells carry the risk of rejection or side effects from immunosuppressive therapies, researchers said.

Now, scientists from University of North Carolina (UNC) in the US have devised another option – a synthetic patch filled with natural beta cells that can secrete doses of insulin to control blood sugar levels on demand with no risk of inducing hypoglycemia.

The proof-of-concept builds on an innovative technology, the “smart insulin patch.” Both patches are thin polymeric squares about the size of a quarter and covered in tiny needles, like a miniature bed of nails.

However, whereas the former approach filled these needles with manmade bubbles of insulin, this new “smart cell patch” integrates the needles with live beta cells.

Tests of this painless patch in small animal models of type-1 diabetes demonstrated that it could quickly respond to skyrocketing blood sugar levels and significantly lower them for 10 hours at a time.

“This study provides a potential solution for the tough problem of rejection, which has long plagued studies on pancreatic cell transplants for diabetes,” said Zhen Gu from UNC.

“Plus it demonstrates that we can build a bridge between the physiological signals within the body and these therapeutic cells outside the body to keep glucose levels under control,” said Gu.

Beta cells typically reside in the pancreas, where they act as the body’s natural insulin-producing factories.

In healthy people, they produce, store, and release the hormone insulin to help process sugar that builds up in the bloodstream after a meal, researchers said.

However, in people with diabetes, these cells are either damaged or unable to produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels under control, they said.

Researchers constructed the “smart cell patches” using natural materials commonly found in cosmetics and diagnostics.

They stuffed the hundreds of microneedles, each about the size of an eyelash, with culture media and thousands of beta cells that were encapsulated into microcapsules made from biocompatible alginate.

When applied to the skin, the patch’s microneedles poked into the capillaries and blood vessels, forming a connection between the internal environment and the external cells of the patch. The findings were published in the journal Advanced Materials. – See more at:

Why I Left Management Consulting to Start a Philosophy Company

When I was in graduate school studying philosophy, our university bookstore moved locations. Amidst the chaos of the move, the store set up makeshift sections and stacked books like Jenga pieces between partially constructed wooden shelves. After carefully navigating toward the philosophy section (usually easy to identify due to the absence of living souls), I was immediately presented with one of the most profound sentences I had ever read. Undoubtedly penned by a store clerk to bring order to the chaos, two signs simply read: Mathematics ends and Philosophy begins.

Why I Left Management Consulting to Start a Philosophy Company

I immediately snapped a picture of the sign that has remained as my phone’s wallpaper, even several years later when working as a management consultant. One day at work, the phrase got me thinking about the nature of consulting. We use mathematics to help businesses address complex problems. Businesses struggle each day with tremendous uncertainty as they are routinely confronted with the unknown. They call upon hard calculations to predict end results. History has shown, however, that mathematics alone cannot predict the success or failure of companies.

When studying for consulting case interviews, one inevitably reads about AT&T’s cell phone mishap, and the details came rushing back to me. In the early 1980s, AT&T turned to management consultants to decide whether or not they should enter into the cell phone market. Using mathematical forecasts, the consultants anticipated cell phones being a niche market and not one AT&T should waste its time with. Like the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) of the 1960s, who wrongly predicted that there would never be a demand for personal computers, AT&T miscalculated one of the most important technological and commercial innovations of our time. This was due to their exclusive reliance on mathematics. Mathematics tells us how to build a phone but it struggles to tell us what a phone is and why somebody would pay money for it. In other words, mathematics ends.

I then began to explore alternative approaches to solving complex business challenges and reached the same conclusion as the book store clerk: when mathematics ends, philosophy begins. There are a host of organizations that assist businesses in their answering of questions that begin with how, and I was part of one. But I struggled to find an organization that helps companies engage with equally important questions that extend beyond logistics. Given the rapid increase of globalization and the exponentially faster development of technology, businesses will need both mathematics and philosophy to adapt and thrive in the 21st century. Had any manager at AT&T read the DEC case study coupled with the works of Jules Verne, for example, perhaps AT&T would have anticipated our collective fascination with futuristic technology.

So, armed with this knowledge, I left management consulting and partnered withDr. David Brendel, a pioneer in the neurohumanities space. Together, we formed a company that uses the humanities and cognitive science to help organizations operate more effectively. We use philosophical training to build high-performing cultures and, with the help of Dr. Paul Zak, we use mathematics to measure the very real effects of our training. Our recipe for creating and sustaining such high-performing cultures is the collective enhancement of skills embodied within Theory of Mind.

Theory of Mind is broadly defined as the capacity to understand what is going on in the minds of other people; its synonyms being empathy and emotional intelligence. Possessing advanced Theory of Mind skills means being able to conceptualize what others think and feel; to form hypotheses about why others act as they do; and to appreciate complex emotional and behavioral dynamics in groups. It often leads to increased levels of strategic thinking, collaboration, leadership, and trust within organizations. Businesses are starting to recognize the incredible importance of Theory of Mind in professional settings; so much so, global executives recently agreed these skills are the most critical for professional success.

Recent research also suggests that the most effective way to develop and further enhance one’s Theory of Mind is to read and discuss great humanities texts. (Now, thanks to the people who didn’t study philosophy, the neuroscientists, I can finally explain to my parents why I did). The humanities – of which philosophy is a part, along with literature, history, art, and music – are broadly characterized as the study of human experience and culture. Effectively, they serve as case studies, much like the cases I pored over when interviewing to become a management consultant. However, instead of evaluating the mathematics of AT&T’s cell phone miscalculation, the humanities delve a bit deeper, ultimately developing superior interpersonal and analytic skills within the reader, far more so than the calculative case studies of business school. The humanities help us see the bigger – and often more complex – picture. As written in the Harvard Business Review: “[Business] knowledge can be acquired in two weeks…People trained in the humanities… have learned to play with big concepts, and to apply new ways of thinking to difficult problems that can’t be analyzed in conventional ways.”

As more and more businesses start recognizing the prosperity enjoyed by companies that leverage both mathematics and philosophy, they will see that possessing the ability to understand what is going on in the minds of other people uniquely positions them for future success. Professionals will now be able to augment mathematical calculation with the cognitive calculations found within the likes of Plato, Shakespeare, Austen, Verne, and Sun Tzu. Some leaders are ahead of the curve. Jack Bogle, founder of Vanguard, often relied upon poetry for guidance when building his company. He told me during a recent phone call that Shelley’s Ozymandias remains on his desk to this day.

And that is why I left management consulting to start a philosophy company: to help those who have not yet leveraged the power of the humanities to secure the continued success of their organization in our globalized, highly technical economy.