Could You Travel In A Straight Line In Space And Return To Earth?


An infinitely repeating Universe would mean that someone could travel in a straight line and return to where they began. Image credit: V. Springel et al. and the Virgo Consortium/Millennium simulation, edited by E. Siegel.

An infinitely repeating Universe would mean that someone could travel in a straight line and return to where they began.

Back when people thought the Earth was flat, it was almost heretical to suggest that traveling in a straight line for a long enough distance would eventually bring you back to your starting point. But it’s true: travel about 40,000 kilometers (or 25,000 miles) in any one direction — over the mountains, oceans and any other terrain you ran across — and return you would to where you began. It makes you wonder if space could be the same way. If you got in a rocket ship and traveled fast enough for long enough, and didn’t ruin things by colliding with a distant star or galaxy, could you eventually return to where you started?

A simulation of the structure of the Universe. If you leave one "edge" of the Universe and return through another, you just might live in a recurrent Universe. Image credit: NASA, ESA, and E. Hallman (University of Colorado, Boulder).

A simulation of the structure of the Universe. If you leave one “edge” of the Universe and return through another, you just might live in a recurrent Universe.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. We might think that the Universe is infinite, going on forever in all directions, but the evidence we have for the size and shape of the Universe is very much finite. For one, it’s only been 13.8 billion years since the Big Bang, and so we can only see the amount of space that 13.8 billion years of light traveling through the Universe and winding up where we are can illuminate. For another, there are hundreds of billions of galaxies, all appearing younger in the distant past the farther away we look. Is it possible that one (or more) of them is an infant version of the Milky Way we grew up in? And finally, could it be the case, just as the Earth has two dimensions we can move in on it (north-south and east-west, but not up-and-down), that the Universe might be a higher-dimensional structure like a hypersphere or a hypertoruswhere the various dimensions are closed and finite, curving back on themselves?

In a hypertorus model of the Universe, motion in a straight line will return you to your original location. Image credit: ESO and deviantART user InTheStarlightGarden, under a c.c.-by-s.a. 4.0 license.

In a hypertorus model of the Universe, motion in a straight line will return you to your original location.

If that were the case, if you could travel in a straight line for long enough, you would wind up right back where you started. If you didn’t age, perhaps you could even wind up seeing the back of your own head just by looking for long enough, as your eyes would eventually encounter the light emitted from your own origin. If the Universe were like this, how would we figure it out?

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Mental Clarity During Near-Death Experiences Suggests Mind Exists Apart From Brain


In Beyond Science, Epoch Times explores research and accounts related to phenomena and theories that challenge our current knowledge. We delve into ideas that stimulate the imagination and open up new possibilities. Share your thoughts with us on these sometimes controversial topics in the comments section below.

If the mind is just a function of the brain, it stands to reason that the worse the brain is injured, the worse the mind would function. While this is what much of current brain research is finding, a body of evidence exists suggesting otherwise: under extreme circumstances, such as close to death, the mind may function well—or even better than usual—when the brain is impaired.

This suggests the mind may function independently of the brain.

One of the researchers who has been studying such cases is Dr. Alexander Batthyany, a professor of theoretical psychology and the philosophy of psychology in Liechtenstein and at the cognitive science department at the University of Vienna.

In his most recent study, published this month in the Journal of Near-Death Studies, Batthyany and his colleagues reviewed thousands of accounts of near-death experiences (NDEs) to determine the quality of vision and cognition.

He reported: “The more severe the physiological crisis, the more likely NDEers are to report having experienced clear and complex cognitive and sensory functioning.”

Part of Batthyany’s goal was to replicate earlier studies, few as they are, that have looked at the quality of vision and cognition during NDEs.

In a 2007 study by researchers at the University of Virginia, titled “Unusual Experiences: Near Death and Related Phenomena,” 52.2 percent of NDEers reported clearer vision. Jeffrey Long, M.D., founder of the Near Death Experiences Research Foundation (NDERF), found in a survey of 1,122 NDEers, that about 74 percent reported “more consciousness and alertness.”

“I felt extremely aware, totally present, sharp, and focused. In hindsight, it’s like being half asleep when I was alive, and totally awake after I was pronounced dead,” said one experiencer, as noted in Batthyany’s study.

It’s like being half asleep when I was alive, and totally awake after I was pronounced dead.

— NDEer

“My mind felt cleared and my thoughts seemed quick and decisive. I felt a great sense of freedom and was quite content to be rid of my body. I felt a connection with everything around me in a way that I cannot describe. I felt as if I was thinking faster or that time had slowed down considerably,” said another.

While Batthyany’s study confirmed, to a certain extent, the results of the previous studies that had shown an increase in cognitive and sensory functioning during NDEs, his methodology had some limitations. He said these limitations may have led to lower estimates for the percentage of NDEers who have heightened cognition.

Methodology Limitations

He compiled thousands of written accounts from online repositories of experiences, such as the NDERF website, and ran them through a computer program, which identified words related to vision or cognition (such as “saw” or “thought”).

He and his colleagues then rated the quality of vision or cognition described in this smaller sample on a scale from -2 to +2. They further narrowed their study to experiences that included detailed explanations of the medical conditions that accompanied the NDEs. Only patients with cardiac and/or respiratory arrest were included in this study.

Previous studies had asked NDEers directly about the quality of their vision and cognition. Batthyany’s study, however, could only analyze the information given in general NDE accounts. So, for example, when he decided that there was “no change” in cognition or vision in some accounts, it may have been that there was indeed a change but that the NDEer hadn’t described it specifically enough to be counted.

Of the NDEers who mentioned visual perception, about 47 percent said they had enhanced vision. And 41 percent had unchanged vision, “which in itself is quite remarkable, given that these patients were in a severe medical crisis, and often unconscious,” Batthyany said in an email to Epoch Times.

Of the NDEers who made explicit references to awareness and mentation, about 35 percent said they had increased awareness and mentation. And about 61 percent reported normal everyday awareness during cardiac and respiratory arrest.

Given the implications of his study, Batthyany was careful to note other shortcomings in his methodology, including the fact that online NDE descriptions may include some fraudulent reports. But, he also noted reasons that these methodological shortcomings do not likely impact his overall finding that NDEs, by and large, include improved vision and cognition.

For example, concerning the risk of including fraudulent accounts, he wrote: “On NDERF, the largest contributor of NDEs studied here, less than 1 percent of posted NDEs have been removed due to concerns about their validity. Additionally, given the sheer number of accounts, it is unlikely that fake reports have significantly biased our results in one or the other direction. One would expect fake accounts … to be prototypical of the popular NDE narrative.”

Patients who have been completely incoherent for many years seem to suddenly return to their senses shortly before death.

In addition to these NDE studies, studies on the phenomena of terminal lucidity and mindsight also support the conclusion that the mind may engage in complex conscious activity even as brain functioning severely deteriorates, Batthyany said.

Terminal Lucidity, Mindsight

He has studied terminal lucidity in Alzheimer’s patients. This is a phenomenon in which patients who have been completely incoherent for many years seem to suddenly return to their senses shortly before death.

When the brain is at the furthest stage of degeneration, the expectation would be that the ability to make coherent connections between memories and various thoughts and emotions would be so far gone that a “whole” person could no longer emerge. Yet at this time, the whole mind seems to flash through, with all its connections intact.

“Mindsight” refers to the phenomenon in which blind people report being able to seeduring NDEs. This has been studied, for example, by Kenneth Ring at the University of Connecticut. Ring found that 15 out of 21 blind participants reported some kind of sight during NDEs.

Hallucinations?

Batthyany noted that some scientists consider NDEs to be hallucinations produced by neurophysiological processes.

“The findings reported in this paper and cases of terminal lucidity and mindsight, however, appear to suggest otherwise in that they indicate the presence of complex and structured conscious experience during decline, breakdown, or absence of the neurobiological correlates commonly held to be causative factors of NDEs—and of conscious experience in general,” he said.

He concluded that consciousness—including a sense of selfhood, complex visual imagery, and mental clarity—can sometimes outlive altered brain functioning, including even a flatline of electrical activity in the brain.

Terminal lucidity and mindsight are very rare phenomena, but NDEs are more numerous and “our results suggest that the continuity of visual imagery, mentation, and sense of selfhood is the rule rather than the exception during NDEs.”

Batthyany wrote: “It remains for future researchers to confirm or disconfirm our informal observation through formal analysis.”

Beyond CRISPR: A guide to the many other ways to edit a genome


The popular technique has limitations that have sparked searches for alternatives.

Argonaute proteins (model pictured) are one of many potential alternatives to the CRISPR–Cas9 gene-editing system.

The CRISPR–Cas9 tool enables scientists to alter genomes practically at will. Hailed as dramatically easier, cheaper and more versatile than previous technologies, it has blazed through labs around the world, finding new applications in medicine and basic research.

But for all the devotion, CRISPR–Cas9 has its limitations. It is excellent at going to a particular location on the genome and cutting there, says bioengineer Prashant Mali at the University of California, San Diego. “But sometimes your application of interest demands a bit more.”

The zeal with which researchers jumped on a possible new gene-editing system called NgAgoearlier this year reveals an undercurrent of frustration with CRISPR–Cas9 — and a drive to find alternatives. “It’s a reminder of how fragile every new technology is,” says George Church, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts.

NgAgo is just one of a growing library of gene-editing tools. Some are variations on the CRISPR theme; others offer new ways to edit genomes.

A mini-me

CRISPR–Cas9 may one day be used to rewrite the genes responsible for genetic diseases. But the components of the system — an enzyme called Cas9 and a strand of RNA to direct the enzyme to the desired sequence — are too large to stuff into the genome of the virus most commonly used in gene therapy to shuttle foreign genetic material into human cells.

A solution comes in the form of a mini-Cas9, which was plucked from the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus1. It’s small enough to squeeze into the virus used in one of the gene therapies currently on the market. Last December, two groups used the mini-me Cas9 in mice to correct the gene responsible for Duchenne muscular dystrophy2, 3.

Expanded reach

Cas9 will not cut everywhere it’s directed to — a certain DNA sequence must be nearby for that to happen. This demand is easily met in many genomes, but can be a painful limitation for some experiments. Researchers are looking to microbes to supply enzymes that have different sequence requirements so that they can expand the number of sequences they can modify.

One such enzyme, called Cpf1, may become an attractive alternative. Smaller than Cas9, it has different sequence requirements and is highly specific4, 5.

Another enzyme, called C2c2, targets RNA rather than DNA — a feature that holds potential for studying RNA and combating viruses with RNA genomes6.

True editors

Many labs use CRISPR–Cas9 only to delete sections in a gene, thereby abolishing its function. “People want to declare victory like that’s editing,” says Church. “But burning a page of the book is not editing the book.”

Those who want to swap one sequence with another face a more difficult task. When Cas9 cuts DNA, the cell often makes mistakes as it stitches together the broken ends. This creates the deletions that many researchers desire.

But researchers who want to rewrite a DNA sequence rely on a different repair pathway that can insert a new sequence — a process that occurs at a much lower frequency than the error-prone stitching. “Everyone says the future is editing many genes at a time, and I think: ‘We can’t even do one now with reasonable efficiency’,” says plant scientist Daniel Voytas of the University of Minnesota in Saint Paul.

But developments in the past few months have given Voytas hope. In April, researchers announced that they had disabled Cas9 and tethered to it an enzyme that converts one DNA letter to another. The disabled Cas9 still targeted the sequence dictated by its guide RNA, but could not cut: instead the attached enzyme switched the DNA letters, ultimately yielding a T where once there was a C7. A paper published in Science last week reports similar results8.

Voytas and others are hopeful that tethering other enzymes to the disabled Cas9 will allow different sequence changes.

Pursuing Argonautes

In May, a paper in Nature Biotechnology9 unveiled an entirely new gene-editing system. Researchers claimed that they could use a protein called NgAgo to slice DNA at a predetermined site without needing a guide RNA or a specific neighbouring genome sequence. Instead, the protein — which is made by a bacterium — is programmed using a short DNA sequence that corresponds to the target area.

The finding kicked off a wave of excitement and speculation that CRISPR–Cas9 would be unseated, but laboratories have so far failed to reproduce the results. Even so, there is still hope that proteins from the family that NgAgo belongs to — known as Ago or Argonautes — made by other bacteria could provide a way forward, says genome engineer Jin-Soo Kim at the Institute for Basic Science in Seoul.

Programming enzymes

Other gene-editing systems are also in the pipeline, although some have lingered there for years. For an extensive project that aimed to edit genes in bacteria, Church’s lab did not reach for CRISPR at all. Instead, the team relied heavily on a system called lambda Red, which can be programmed to alter DNA sequences without the need for a guide RNA. But despite 13 years of study in Church’s lab, lambda Red works only in bacteria.

Church and Feng Zhang, a bioengineer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts, say that their labs are also working on developing enzymes called integrases and recombinases for use as gene editors. “By exploring the diversity of enzymes, we can make the genome-editing toolbox even more powerful,” says Zhang. “We have to continue to explore the unknown.”

9 Herbs and Spices With Proven Health Benefits


9 Herbs and Spices With Proven Health Benefits

Even when our food choices aren’t the best, herbs and spices do more than just improve taste.  They give any meal a nutrition boost.  And according to a new study they may even reverse the damage from an unhealthy meal.

Researchers from Penn State University cooked up coconut chicken, cheese bread and a dessert biscuit for six men. The subjects were aged 30 to 65 and overweight but otherwise healthy.  On one day the meal was served plain.  On another day researchers added two tablespoons of a blend of nine herbs and spices to the meal.

After each meal the researchers drew blood from the subjects every 30 minutes for four hours.  They found that antioxidant activity in the blood increased 13% after the spicy meal compared to the plain meal.

The spices and herbs also decreased post-meal insulin levels by 21% and triglyceride levels in the blood by as much as 31%.  That in turn could reduce heart disease risk.

The spices used in the Penn State study included garlic powder, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon,cloves, paprika, turmeric, ginger and black pepper.  Besides heart benefits, each of these spices has its own proven health benefits.

9 Herbs and Spices With Proven Health Benefits

1. Cinnamon Balances Blood Sugar

Cinnamon normalizes blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics by improving the ability to respond to insulin. It works by slowing the rate at which the stomach empties after eating.  In one study people ate about a cup of rice pudding with and without a teaspoon of cinnamon. Adding the cinnamon slowed the rate the stomach emptied from 37% to 34.5% and significantly slowed the rise in blood sugar levels.

And a 2003 USDA study found that after 40 days of eating between just 1 and 6 grams of cinnamon (about 2 teaspoons), type 2 diabetics reduced their blood sugar levels by 18-29%.

2. Garlic Slows Atherosclerosis

The Penn State researchers noted that studies associate garlic use with a 38% decrease in the risk of heart problems.[i]  Other studies show aged garlic helps slow the progression ofatherosclerosis.[ii]

Most studies showing the heart benefits of garlic use doses of 600 to 5600 mg of garlic powder, 9 to 18 mg garlic oil, 1000 to 7200 mg aged garlic extract, or 4 to 10 grams of raw garlic.

3. Rosemary Protects Eyesight

A relative of mint, rosemary has traditionally been used to stimulate the immune system, improve digestion, increase circulation, boost memory and act as an anti-inflammatory.

Animal studies show it acts as an antidepressant, improves type 1 diabetes and evenprevents weight gain from a high fat diet.

A recent study showed that rosemary also protects against age-related macular degeneration.

4. Oregano Reduces Viral Activity

You may know oregano as the essential herb for Italian cooking especially for tomato sauces andpizza.  But it’s also a powerful medicinal herb. Studies show oregano supports the immune system, and has antifungal, antibacterial and anti-cancer properties. It also increases liver regeneration.

The oil from oregano contains an antiviral compound called carvacrol.  It can significantly reduce viral activity within 15 minutes of exposure.[iii]  Look for oregano essential oil standardized to 60-75% carvacrol.

5. Cloves Fight Pain

Cloves are rich in eugenol which has been proven to fight environmental toxins and inflammation. Studies show it may also trigger programmed cell death of colon cancer cells.  And the oil is an effective mosquito repellent.

Cloves are also a mild pain killer.  They’ve been proven to be as effective as benzocaine as a topical anesthetic.  That’s why it’s added to over-the-counter sore throat sprays and mouth washes.  It’s also a good addition to your homemade toothpaste.

6. Paprika Battles Multi-Drug Resistance

Paprika is more than a decoration for deviled eggs. It’s made by grinding red chili peppers and is full of vitamin C and carotenoids. The carotenoids from paprika have been shown to combat ulcer-causing H. pylori and help reverse multi-drug resistance.

Use paprika as a rub for meats and fish, or add a teaspoon to hummus for extra spice.

7. Turmeric Improves Memory

There are now over 600 documented health benefits to eating turmeric.

Researchers in Taiwan just added one more.  They found that just one gram of turmeric at breakfast helps improve the memory of people in the early stages of diabetes.[iv]  The turmeric improved working memory over the following six hours.  Other studies have found that turmeric also reduces the risk of dementia.

8. Ginger Soothes Muscle Pain

The Chinese have used ginger for thousands of years to treat stomach upset, diarrhea, and nausea.  Today it is known to relieve nausea due to seasickness, motion sickness, morning sickness and chemotherapy nausea. One study showed ginger root to be more effective for nausea and vomiting during pregnancy than Dramamine, a commonly used over-the-counter and prescription drug for motion sickness.

Ginger also contains anti-oxidant compounds known as gingerols which have powerful anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to reducing muscle pain from exercise, they have been shown to reduce pain and swelling, and improve mobility in those suffering from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.  Gingerol have also been found to:

9. Black Pepper Reduces Cigarette Cravings

Black pepper improves digestion by signaling the stomach to produce hydrochloric acid. It also helps prevent intestinal gas and acts as a diuretic.  And inhaling the vapors from black pepper has been shown to help people stop smoking.

You may see black pepper added to some of your supplements. That’s because one of its active ingredients piperine enhances the bioavailability of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients

Are Mental Disorders the Result of Neuroinflammation?


Are Mental Disorders the Result of Neuroinflammation?

New research is increasingly finding that not only are many cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia related to inflammation among brain tissues, but classic mental diseases such as schizophrenia and depression may also be connected to brain inflammation.

Recent research from Japan’s Kyushu University Medical School and Saga University have been revealing that many mental disorders are produced by inflammation involving the microglia cells of the brain.

What are microglia?

The microglia are immune cells categorized as macophages, but they are focused upon the health of the central nervous system – particularly the brain and spine. Microglia roam the neurons of these areas in search for toxins, intruders and possible infections.

Particularly at issue in cognitive issues such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is the build up of amyloid plaque among brain cells. The microglia are the immune cells that prevent and clean up plaque build up among brain cells.

When the microglia populations are damaged or otherwise altered, the brain and CNS becomes increasingly susceptible to mental disorders such as dementia, schizophrenia, depression and mental fatigue.

Neuroinflammation and microglia

Neuroinflammation is the result of damage among brain cells. Healthy microglia populations are focused upon preventing inflammation among neurons, in turn preventing damage to brain cells.

However, when brain cells are damaged, microglia work harder to repair the damage by producing a variety of inflammatory factors. The damage to neurons, evidenced by these inflammatory factors, hamper the brain’s function.

Like other types of macrophages, the microglia are formed within the bone marrow. Once they migrate to the brain, they differentiate into particular responsibilities and different regions. Some microglia are focused on infections, others are focused upon toxins or damaged cells. Others stimulate the repair of brain tissues.

Plaque and neuroinflammation

The build-up of plaque among brain cells – connected to dementia – stimulates the microglia as they work to try to remove the damage. Damage from oxidative stress and glycation byproducts have been linked to this build up of plaque among brain cells.

Research by Dr. Akira Monji and associates has connected mental disorders such as schizophrenia, depressive states and cognitive issues to these increases in microglia inflammatory factors such as nitric oxide and cytokines. When the microglia have rapidly expanded in the face of damage to brain cells, they produce these inflammatory factors. Dr. Monji’s research has shown that the brain tissues of schizophrenia, depression and dementia patients have increased levels of these microglia inflammatory factors.

Furthermore, their research has found that one of the central mechanisms of psychiatric drugs is that they reduce levels of these inflammatory factors – temporarily.

Like most pharmaceuticals, this temporary reduction of inflammatory factors does little to prevent or reduce the cause of the inflammation. Furthermore, by blocking inflammatory factors, the drugs work to interfere with the damage repair that is taking place, driven by the microglia immune cells. This is often the scenario for drugs that are focused upon the symptoms rather than the causes of a condition.

What causes neuroinflammation?

The cause of neuroinflammation, as shown in numerous dementia studies, relates to oxidative damage. Oxidation is produced through an imbalance between toxins that form oxidative radicals and those antioxidants that neutralize those radicals. When the system is not balanced, oxidation takes place, not only among tissues among the cardiovascular system, but also among brain tissues.

This of course is why recent research, such as a new French and Finnish INSERM study, has linked cognitive decline to increased obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

The study, led by Dr. Mika Kivimaki and associates from the French government’s investigative body, INSERM, with support from the U.S. National Institutes of Medicine, studied 6,401 adults between 39 and 63 years old. They found that people who were obese and suffered from metabolic disorder (cardiovascular disease and/or diabetes) had more than a 22% greater cognitive decline than those who were of normal weight with no metabolic disorder.

This study has been confirmed by others that have related cognitive decline to cardiovascular disease, sedentary lifestyles, obesity and increased levels of toxins.

These issues have all been connected to higher levels of inflammation in the body.

The bridge to these relationships has been provided by the Japanese research, finding that neuroinflammation is one of the key factors affecting mental disorders of many types.

Antioxidants and mental disorders

Numerous studies have shown that antioxidants neutralize oxidative radicals that produce inflammation. The very term “antioxidant” is founded upon research showing that particular phyto-chemicals directly neutralize the oxidative effects of radicals formed by toxins.

This is supported by the research.

For example, in another large French study published this March in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that a healthy diet with greater antioxidant intake was associated with reduced risk of cognitive decline after the researchers removed factors relating to exercise, alcohol intake, calories, gender, age, education and obesity.

This is of course despite the fact that other research has found that smoking and lack of exercise both increase the rate of cognitive decline, as illustrated in a study by some of the same INSERM researchers that linked obesity and cognitive decline.

What this all means is that mental disorders are no longer conditions that necessarily fall within the abstract domain of behavioral psychology and psychiatry, where treatments such as lobotomy, electric shock and psychotropic drugs have produced a myriad of adverse mental and physical effects.

Rather, the research is conclusive: Many mental disorders are in fact produced by poor diets and poor lifestyles, and thus are to a great degree preventable.

This research also brings mental disorders within the realm of natural health and nutrition. What is now known is that a person with a healthy diet containing plenty of antioxidants, together with an active lifestyle, has a significantly reduced risk of having a mental disorder.

More importantly, a person with a healthier, antioxidant-rich diet will also stand a better chance of remaining alert into their elderly years.

Text Neck: The Next Syndrome


Text Neck: The Next Syndrome

“Text neck,” the effects of prolonged head tilt on the cervical spine, is becoming a problem for an increasing number of both children and adults.

Several years ago I noticed that the children who accompanied their parents to my office sat through the visit in a near fetal position playing their Nintendos. Next came the cell phones, and the kids would sit staring downwards texting their thumbs off. I commented to the parents at the time that cell phones would create the next syndrome, the way computers initially started a spike in carpal tunnel syndrome. I suggested we start the term, Texter’s neck. Well, guess what? Medical specialists now use the term, “text neck” to describe the effects of prolonged head tilt on the cervical spine. By the way, it was not tremendous foresight on my part to suggest the name, because really, what else would you call it?

Here are some dry, but important facts. Research shows that tilting a head 15 degrees from neutral position adds 27 pounds of stress on the cervical spine and muscles. More tilt increases the force and strain on the neck. This can eventually cause degeneration of the cervical spine and discs. These degenerative changes can lead to neck pain, back pain, shoulder and wrist problems, jaw pain, headaches, and important postural changes that will be discussed shortly. One study showed that people often hold their breath or change their breathing while texting. This causes heightened stress, and can put extra burden on the neck and upper back muscles.

One study has shown that the more people use their phone, the less fit they are. I know we probably didn’t need that study. It’s hard to text while jogging. All this texting however, does lead to a more sedentary lifestyle. One study estimates that people spend almost three hours a day on their smart phones, and half of that is texting. The Journal of Behavioral Addictions indicates that these numbers are even higher, based on an online survey of college students. These are just the numbers based on phone usage. Imagine the time spent if we added other devices, like tablets.

So this prolonged time will greatly increase the risk of the above mentioned conditions. But wait, there’s more. Author and posture specialist, Dr. Steven Weiniger, has stated that people who sit 8-12 hours a day over a number of years have a 91% increase in type 2 diabetes and mortality. Your risk of heart disease and arthritis goes up, even if you exercise.

Take a look around at the children and young adults today. Notice the head in front of the body, the shoulder rolled in, the overall slouch position-even when standing. One martial arts instructor we know, commented that the children in his classes are drastically less flexible than 20 years ago. I can report that many more adolescents and young adults that lie on my treatment table have developing humps in their thoracic spine. The clinical term for this is kyphosis.

Kyphosis is an exaggerated thoracic curve. Scoliosis is when a spine has lateral curves when viewed from behind. Why do I bring this up, you ask? Severe scoliosis can result in diminished lung and heart function. Severe kyphosis can limit the space in the chest and lead to the same problems. This is significant. We actually screen for scoliosis in schools. Scoliosis develops mostly between the ages of 9-13. It is estimated that 4% of children will develop scoliosis. This is enough to warrant major prevention screenings across the country. I think we will see higher numbers with regards to kyphosis in the near future. This is a BOLD prediction, but if you look around, it’s not too hard to see.

There are some obvious corrections to be made, but getting the kids (or even adults) to follow through is another matter. I think if we talk to our children, ask them what they think they could do, we could make some headway. If they come up with solutions, they will be more likely to do them. Wives have been using this strategy on unsuspecting husbands forever.

Here is the payoff:

Talk with your children. Send me their suggestions, or plans of action. I will collect these and report them back to you. This could be enlightening, some will be hilarious, and hopefully very helpful.

Please share this with everyone you know that has kids. Otherwise, seriously, we are letting our kids hurt themselves. We need to help them!

Is Hydrogen Peroxide Mouthwash Harmful for Teeth?


Hydrogen peroxide is praised for its antiseptic and healing properties. In fact, there is a new urban myth proclaiming that hydrogen peroxide is universally beneficial for all the body organs and tissues. Regarding dental health, this couldn’t be further from the truth as evidence shows that hydrogen peroxide is actually toxic for the cells in the inner part of the teeth, also known as the dental pulp. Without a doubt, hydrogen peroxide does a really good job at bleaching and disinfecting teeth; hydrogen peroxide- based bleaching gels are essential for dentists and there is solid evidence demonstrating the efficacy of these protocols. On the other hand, there is a lot of uncontrolled information and advice, recommending hydrogen peroxide as an ideal everyday mouthwash. Taking into account that over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide concentrations can be as high as the formulas used by dentists in bleaching sessions (20-30%) and the growing popularity of hydrogen peroxide as an alternative therapy, the danger of potential long-term teeth damage by using high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide as a casual mouthwash are unknown, underestimated and largely under-discussed.

Hydrogen peroxide releases superoxide anions (powerful free radicals), which are responsible for its significant bleaching and antiseptic properties. However, its beneficial properties stop right here because research shows that it can penetrate the tooth enamel and dentin and reach the very inner tooth chamber called dental pulp. Hydrogen peroxide has low molecular weight and the ability to destroy proteins, which facilitate diffusion through enamel and dentin. The dental pulp is where the blood vessels and nerves of each tooth reside, which makes this area particularly sensitive. A unique class of cells, called odontoblasts also reside in the periphery of the dental pulp area, which support the teeth by depositing new dentin layers throughout life and are also believed to play a protective/reparative role in response to dental carries or other environmental factors that harm teeth. The problem with hydrogen peroxide is that it has a cytotoxic effect on the dental pulp cells, which means that it literally kills them. A study published in 2013 in theJournal of Endodontics shows that even low concentrations of hydrogen peroxide trigger molecular mechanisms in pulp cells, which activate programmed cell death.

Is Hydrogen Peroxide Mouthwash Harmful for Teeth?

According to another study published in the same journal in 2013, even the bleaching protocols used by dentists seem to be harmful for the dental pulp, since the damage in that area is directly correlated to the number of bleaching sessions. Odontoblasts, are directly damaged or show a significant decrease in their metabolic activity as a result of the bleaching sessions using 35% hydrogen peroxide gel. It is believed that this effect may result in tissue irritation and tooth sensitivity. A study published in the journal Scientific World Journal in 2013 shows that the higher the concentration of hydrogen peroxide, the faster it reaches the inner tooth tissues. The authors tested 35% and 20% concentrations of hydrogen peroxide and report that the 35% hydrogen peroxide diffused faster into the pulp chamber than the 20% hydrogen peroxide bleaching gel.

It is speculated that lower concentrations of hydrogen peroxide may have significantly less toxic effects on dental pulp cells, because there is more time to dilute and degrade the peroxide that reaches the pulp. However, the long-term or even short-term effects of daily use of hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash have never been evaluated. If a few bleaching sessions can cause detectable damage in the dental pulp, then, based on the existing evidence, it is reasonable to assume that using hydrogen peroxide mouthwash on a daily basis may not be the safest option at all.

5 Medical Hoaxes You Probably Believe Are True


The sheer volume of medical findings that have been published during the recent decades is absolutely staggering. As such, it is difficult, if not impossible to test each and every one of them independently. Many contain errors, or even flat out lies.

5 Medical Hoaxes You Probably Believe

There are plenty of reasons why this would be the case. Chief amongst them is the fact that scientists and researchers need money to conduct their experiments. Those who provide the funding might have their own agenda, when it comes to results, and will want the findings to reflect that agenda. In other cases, projects run out of funding, or need to be published quickly, to secure more money. In these situations, tests are often conducted improperly, or the results are not thoroughly verified.

Sometimes, a medical journal will publish preliminary, inconclusive results that will get picked up by the media and announced as if they were hardcore facts. If the news is a hit, they will often forget to mention the follow-up research that proved the initial results were incorrect.

1. Any Sort of “Scientifically Tested” Weight Loss Treatment

The truth is we’ve known how to lose weight for a very long time. Regular exercise, and a strict diet are enough to the trick in most situations. There are many different body types out there, so losing weight to the point where you look like an underfed fashion model might not be an option, regardless of how much you try.

However, losing weight the healthy way is a long, and difficult process, and a lot of people are looking for quick fixes to their problems. Popping a pill to slim down sounds like a great alternative to many.

Some products include an asterisk few people bother to check. If there is an actual medical test involved, the sample size of people is often so small it barely qualifies as a sample at all. But it’s enough that get that label attached to your product.

2. Flu Medicine that Actually Cures the Flu

It’s surprising anyone still believes that cold treatments actually work. Anyone who’s ever had the flu knows that it takes at least a few days for the symptoms to go away, even if you’re taking medicine.

The fact of the matter is, it’s not the flu medicine that’s working. At best, these treatments only alleviate the symptoms, but they don’t do anything against the actual virus. Next time you decide to buy pills that are advertised as being effective against the common cold, check their ingredients. You’ll notice they’re the same as those of common painkillers, or anti-inflammatory drugs.

The reason these drugs are marketed as flu medicine is to raise their price. It makes buyers feel like they’re going to be more effective than other drugs against influenza. And that’s going to make them willing to pay more.

3. Cancer Rates Have Increased Dramatically During the Past Decades

You’d think the numbers wouldn’t lie. And looking at statistics, it would seem that there’s a real cancer epidemic going on. While the number may or may not be true, the story that surrounds them is wildly exaggerated, to say the least.

In reality, there have been some major changes in our way of life, during the past decades. People tend to live longer. Since cancer is a disease related to aging, statistically, more people are expected to develop some form of cancer.

Secondly, people are much more aware of what cancer looks like, and medics have gotten better at detecting it. We no longer live in an age when things like ‘catching the evil eye’ can kill you. Now we can identify some of the causes that lead to diseases, and death.

So, why are the stories about soaring cancer rates so popular? It all comes down to money. The scarier the condition seems, the more funding researchers are going to receive.

4. Animal Testing Is a Good Way to Measure the Effectiveness of a Drug

Results of animal testing have very limited applicability when it comes to humans. Mice are usually preferred because they share certain genetic similarities with humans, but the truth is there similarities are not nearly enough to warrant a medical comparison.

The unreliability of animal testing, unfortunately, is often ignored. Drugs and treatments that have only been used on animals are marketed as being scientifically proven to work.

5. The “Talking Cure” Is an Effective Way to Deal with Trauma

Psychologists everywhere never cease to praise the merits of talking about a traumatic experience when it comes to depression, anxiety, and other diseases of the modern age. But patients’ testimonies seem to disprove these assessments. In some cases, the “talking cure” might actually do more harm than good. Some professionals might be so desperate to prove that the method works, that they actually convince patients that they have a deep, underlying issue they are not aware of, when that’s not the case.

And unfortunately, most antidepressants have been proven to be ineffective as well, which means more research should be done on a cure that actually works, rather than trying to prove that the old methods do have some value.

We often hear the phrase ‘Science still has a long way to go’, but rarely is used when it comes to ethics and reliability. It is true that the scientific community still has a lot to offer. But rather than always looking forward, to the next big discovery, it should take care to look to the past as well, and reanalyze the things it takes for granted, for whatever reason.

Cracking the Cholesterol Myth: How Statins Harm The Body and Mind


Cracking the Cholesterol Myth: How Statins Harm The Body and Mind

A new study finds the chemical war against cholesterol using statin drugs was justified through statistical deception and the cover up of over 300 adverse health effects documented in the biomedical literature.

Better safe than sorry, right? This is the logic that defines the grasp that the pharmaceutical company has on our psyche. Perhaps your mother, father, brother, and boyfriend have been recommended cholesterol-lowering medication, just to help hedge their bets around a possible chest-clutching demise. In fact, recent guidelines have expanded the pool of potential statin medication recipients, so that there are very few of us who seem to be walking around with acceptable levels of artery clogging sludge.

But how is it that drug companies got a foothold? How have they convinced doctors that their patients need these medications, and need them now? They are banking (literally) on the fact that you haven’t brushed up on statistics in a while.

It turns out that a common sleight of hand in the medical literature is the popularization of claims around “relative risk reduction” which can make an effect appear meaningful, when the “absolute risk reduction” reveals its insignificance.  In this way, 100 people are treated with statin medications to offer 1 person benefit, and the change from a 2% to a 1% heart attack rate is billed a 50% reduction rather than a 1% improvement, which is what it actually is.

Perhaps this would still qualify as better safe than sorry if these medications weren’t some of the most toxic chemicals willfully ingested, with at least 300 adverse health effects evident in the published literature so far, with at least 28 distinct modes of toxicity, including:

Beyond the known fact that statin drugs deplete the body of two essential nutrients: coenzyme Q10 and selenium, they are also highly myotoxic and neurotoxic. Because the heart is one of the most nerve-saturated muscles in the human body, these two modes of toxicity combined represent a ‘perfect storm’ of cardiotoxicity – a highly ironic fact considering statin drugs are promoted as having ‘life-saving’ cardioprotective properties.

A powerful expert review by Diamond and Ravnskov decimates any plausible indication for these cholesterol-lowering agents, giving full consideration to the above mentioned side effects.

They plainly state:

“Overall, our goal in this review is to explain how the war on cholesterol has been fought by advocates that have used statistical deception to create the appearance that statins are wonder drugs, when the reality is that their trivial benefit is more than offset by their adverse effects.”

The Cholesterol Meme

It’s tempting to look the number one killer of Americans in the eye, and say, “WHO did this? Who is responsible?” It is also consistent with American perceptions of health and wellness to demonize a natural and vital part of our physiology rather than look at lifestyle factors including government subsidies of inflammatory food products.

Not only is low cholesterol a problem, but it puts an individual at risk for viral infection, cancer, and mental illness because of the vital role that lipids play in cell membrane integrity, hormone production, and immunity.

A broadly toxic xenobiotic chemical, statin medications have only been demonstrated to be of slight benefit by statistical manipulation. For example, Diamond and Raynskov elucidate that:

  • The JUPITER trial of Crestor vs placebo resulted in increased fatal heart attacks in the treatment group which were obscured by combing fatal and nonfatal infarctions.
  • In the ASCOT trial was used to generate PR copy boasting Lipitor’s 36% reduction of heart attack risk, a figure arrived at through use of relative risk reduction from 3 to 2%.
  • The HPS study has 26% drop out rate prior to the beginning of the trial (which also demonstrated a 1% improvement with treatment), so that those with significant side effects were functionally excluded from the study.

While no study has ever shown any association between the degree of cholesterol lowering and beneficial outcomes described in terms of absolute risk reduction (likely because they would be perceived as insignificant), the adverse effects are not only always presented in these terms, but are also minimized through the technique of splitting common side effects up into multiple different categories to minimize the apparent incidence.

These side effects are real and common and include “increased rates of cancer, cataracts, diabetes, cognitive impairment and musculoskeletal disorders”.  Their paper focuses on three primary adverse effects, all of which  are likely to land you in the “sorry to have thought I would be better safe than sorry” category.

Cancer

In at least four trials, statistically significant increases in cancer incidence was found, and handily dismissed by all authors as insignificant because they claimed “no known potential biological basis” is known.  This may be because the authors are still thinking of cancer as a genetic time bomb that has nothing to do with mitochondrial dysfunction, loss of lipid integrity, or environmental exposures.

With statistically significant increases in cancer incidence and deaths, in some trials, the minimal cardiovascular benefit is far eclipsed by the cancer mortality. In one of the only long-term trials, there was a doubling of the incidence of ductal and lobular breast cancer in women taking statins for more than ten years. One of many reasons that women should never be treated with these medications.

Myopathy

As one of the more well-known side effects of statins, muscle breakdown and associated pain, or myopathy has also been obscured in the literature.  Despite an incidence up to 40% in the first months of treatment, researchers only catalogue patients who had muscular symptoms in addition to elevations in a blood measure called creatine kinase (CK) at ten times normal for two measures (not 9.9, not 8, and not one measure).

In fact, a 2006 study in the Journal of Pathology found that statin therapy induces ultrastructural damage in skeletal muscle in patients without myalgia,” indicating that statin-associated muscle damage may be a universal, albeit mostly subclinical problem for the millions put on them.

Central Nervous System Dysfunction

Linked to suicide in men, depression including postpartum, and cognitive dysfunction, low cholesterol is not a desirable goal for the average psychiatric patient, aka half of the American population.

It turns out that 25% of the total amount of cholesterol found in the human body is localized in the brain, most of it in the myelin sheath that coats and insulates the nerves:

 “It has been estimated that up to 70% of the brain cholesterol is associated with myelin. Because up to half of the white matter may be composed of myelin, it is unsurprising that the brain is the most cholesterol-rich organ in the body. The concentration of cholesterol in the brain, and particularly in myelin, is consistent with an essential function related to its membrane properties. “[i]

The cell membrane, specifically, is highly vulnerable to damage by statins:

“The cell membrane is an 8 nanometer thick magical pearly gate where information, nutrients, and cellular messengers are trafficked through protein gates supported of phospholipids and their polyunsaturated fatty acids. Cholesterol and saturated fat provide essential rigidity in balance with other membrane components. Without them, the membrane becomes a porous, dysfunctional swinging gate. In a self-preservational effort, cholesterol supports production of bile acids, integral to the breakdown and absorption of consumed essential dietary fats.” Source

By extension, behavioral and cognitive adverse effects may be the manifestation of this fat-based interference.  Diamond and Ravnskov state:

A low serum cholesterol level has also been found to serve as a biological marker of major depression and suicidal behavior, whereas high cholesterol is protective [54–57]. In a study by Davison and Kaplan [58], the incidence of suicidal ideation among adults with mood disorders was more than 2.5-times greater in those taking statins. Moreover, several studies have shown that low cholesterol is associated with lower cognition and Alzheimer’s disease and that high cholesterol is protective.

A review article called Neuropsychiatric Adverse Events Associated with Statins: Epidemiology, Pathophysiology, Prevention and Management discusses the state of the literature around the intersection between mental health and cholesterol control. Despite generally dismissing a strong signal for concerning psychiatric adverse events, the article seems to conclude the following:

  • Severe irritability, homicidal impulses, threats, road rage, depression and violence, paranoia, alienation, and antisocial behavior; cognitive and memory impairments; sleep disturbance; and sexual dysfunction have all been reported in case series and national registries of those taking statin medications.  Sound like the laundry list of rapidly spoken side effects at the end of a drug commercial? To anyone with a history of or current psychiatric symptoms, the role of these now ubiquitous medications should be appreciated.
  • The signal for lipophilic statins – simvastatin and atorvastatin – was stronger which makes mechanistic sense since these medications penetrate the brain and brain cholesterol deficiency has been implicated in bipolar, major depression, and schizophrenia.

Of course, none of these findings nor their suppression should be surprising because there is no pharmaceutical free lunch, and because Americans are so accustomed to interfacing with human health through the lens of a one pill-one ill model. We are yanking on that spider web and expecting only one thread to pull out.  This perspective would be less disturbing if it didn’t serve as the foundation for medical practice, determined by boards such as the American College of Cardiology and The American Heart Association , the majority of whom have extensive ties to the pharmaceutical industry. An industry that has paid out 19.2 billion dollars for civil and criminal charges in the last 5 years alone.

So, the next time you hear of a doctor recommending a cholesterol-lowering intervention, tell him you’ll take that 1% risk and spare yourself cancer, cognitive dysfunction, myopathy, and diabetes. And then go have a 3 egg omelette WITH the yolks.

IBM is one step closer to mimicking the human brain


A breakthrough in cognitive computing has enabled scientists to imitate large populations of neurons.

Scientists at IBM have claimed a computational breakthrough after imitating large populations of neurons for the first time.

Neurons are electrically excitable cells that process and transmit information in our brains through electrical and chemical signals. These signals are passed over synapses, specialised connections with other cells.

It’s this set-up that inspired scientists at IBM to try and mirror the way the biological brain functions using phase-change materials for memory applications.

Using computers to try to mimic the human brain is something that’s been theorised for decades due to the challenges of recreating the density and power. Now, for the first time, scientists have created their own “randomly spiking” artificial neurons that can store and process data.

“The breakthrough marks a significant step forward in the development of energy-efficient, ultra-dense integrated neuromorphic technologies for applications in cognitive computing,” the scientists said.

The artificial neurons consist of phase-change materials, including germanium antimony telluride, which exhibit two stable states, an amorphous one (without a clearly defined structure) and a crystalline one (with structure). These materials are also the basis of re-writable Blue-ray but in this system the artificial neurons do not store digital information; they are analogue, just like the synapses and neurons in a biological brain.

The beauty of these powerful phase-change-based artificial neurons, which can perform various computational primitives such as data-correlation detection and unsupervised learning at high speeds, is that they use very little energy – just like human brain.

In a demonstration published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the team applied a series of electrical pulses to the artificial neurons, which resulted in the progressive crystallisation of the phase-change material, ultimately causing the neuron to fire.

In neuroscience, this function is known as the integrate-and-fire property of biological neurons. This is the foundation for event-based computation and, in principle, is quite similar to how a biological brain triggers a response when an animal touches something hot, for instance.

“Populations of stochastic phase-change neurons, combined with other nanoscale computational elements such as artificial synapses, could be a key enabler for the creation of a new generation of extremely dense neuromorphic computing systems,” said Tomas Tuma, co-author of the paper.

This could be useful in sensors collecting and analysing volumes of weather data, for instance, said Sebastian, collected at the edge, in remote locations, for faster and more accurate weather forecasts.

The artificial neurons could also detect patterns in financial transactions to find discrepancies or use data from social media to discover new cultural trends in real time. While large populations of these high-speed, low-energy nano-scale neurons could also be used in neuromorphic co-processors with co-located memory and processing units.

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