Physics Nobel Awarded for Breakthroughs in Exotic States of Matter.


David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz share the 2016 Nobel Prize for work explaining the topological underpinnings of superconductivity and other strange phenomena.

The 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for theoretical work explaining the fundamental underpinnings of superconductivity—the resistance-free conduction of electricity that can cause magnets to levitate, as seen here. 

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2016 was split, with one half going to David J. Thouless at the University of Washington, and the other half going to F. Duncan M. Haldane at Princeton University and J. Michael Kosterlitz at Brown University. The Prize was awarded for the theorists’ research in condensed matter physics, particularly their work on topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter, phenomena underlying exotic states of matter such as superconductors, superfluids and thin magnetic films. Their work has given new insights into the behavior of matter at low temperatures, and has laid the foundations for the creation of new materials called topological insulators, which could allow the construction of more sophisticated quantum computers.

Topology is a branch of mathematics that studies properties that only change incrementally, in integer steps, rather than continuously. Thors Hans Hansson, a physicist at Stockholm University who served on this year’s Nobel Committee, explained the core concept of topology during the awards announcement by pulling a cinnamon bun, a bagel and a Swedish pretzel from a bag. “I brought my lunch,” he joked, then explained that, to a topologist, the only difference between the three foods was the number of holes in them, rather than their taste. A cinnamon bun has no holes, whereas a bagel has one, a pretzel two. To a topologist, then, the bun would fall in the same category as a saucer, whereas the bagel would be paired with a cup and a pretzel with a pair of spectacles. Thouless, Kosterlitz and Haldane’s prize-winning insights revolve around the idea that these same sorts of “topological invariants” could also explain phase changes in matter, albeit not familiar ones such as a liquid freezing to a solid or sublimating to gas. Instead, the phase changes the theorists studied took place chiefly in thin two-dimensional films cooled to cryogenic temperatures.

The first insight came in the early 1970s, when Thouless and Kosterlitz worked together to overthrow the long-held consensus that phase transitions such as superconductivity (the flow of current without resistance) and superfluidity (a fluid possessing zero friction) simply cannot occur in two-dimensional systems due to thermal fluctuations, even at absolute zero. They found instead that cold two-dimensional systems could in fact undergo phase transitions through a totally unpredicted phenomenon, the formation of pairs of vortices at very low temperatures that then suddenly drift apart as the temperature rises past a certain thermal threshold. This “KT transition” (for “Kosterlitz-Thouless”) is universal, and has been used to study superconductivity in thin films as well as to explain why superconductivity dissipates at higher temperatures.

Next, in the 1980s, Thouless and Haldane each studied how the conductivity of electricity in quantum systems followed topological rules. Thouless’s work examined the quantum Hall effect, a previously known phenomenon in which strong magnetic fields and cold temperatures in thin layers of semiconductors cause electric conductance to change only in precise integer steps, rather than continuously. The phenomenon had eluded explanation until Thouless surmised the electrons in such systems were forming what is known as a topological quantum fluid, acting collectively to flow only in integer steps. Independently, Haldane showed that topological quantum fluids can form in semiconductor layers even in the absence of strong magnetic fields, building on his earlier predictions of similar topological behavior in one-dimensional chains of magnetized atoms.

Together, the insights from Thouless’s and Haldane’s work have proved crucial in developing and understanding topological insulators, novel substances that block the flow of electrons in their interiors while simultaneously conducting electricity across their surfaces. This unique property could make topological insulators useful for ferreting out new types of fundamental particles, and for forming circuitry within quantum computers. Scientists are already discussing and in some cases making other even more exotic materials, topological superconductors and topological metals that each hold vast potential for new applications in computation and electronics.

This work “has told us that quantum mechanics can behave far more strangely than we could have guessed, and we really haven’t understood all the possibilities yet,” Haldane said in a telephone interview. “We have a long way to go to discover what’s possible, and a lot of these things were things that one wouldn’t have initially dreamed were possible.”

A Physicist’s Explanation of Why the Soul May Exist


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.

Henry P. Stapp is a theoretical physicist at the University of California–Berkeley who worked with some of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics. He does not seek to prove that the soul exists, but he does say that the existence of the soul fits within the laws of physics.

It is not true to say belief in the soul is unscientific, according to Stapp. Here the word “soul” refers to a personality independent of the brain or the rest of the human body that can survive beyond death.  In his paper, “Compatibility of Contemporary Physical Theory With Personality Survival,” he wrote: “Strong doubts about personality survival based solely on the belief that postmortem survival is incompatible with the laws of physics are unfounded.”

He works with the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics—more or less the interpretation used by some of the founders of quantum mechanics, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. Even Bohr and Heisenberg had some disagreements on how quantum mechanics works, and understandings of the theory since that time have also been diverse. Stapp’s paper on the Copenhagen interpretation has been influential. It was written in the 1970s and Heisenberg wrote an appendix for it.

Stapp noted of his own concepts: “There has been no hint in my previous descriptions (or conception) of this orthodox quantum mechanics of any notion of personality survival.”

 

Why Quantum Theory Could Hint at Life After Death

Stapp explains that the founders of quantum theory required scientists to essentially cut the world into two parts. Above the cut, classical mathematics could describe the physical processes empirically experienced. Below the cut, quantum mathematics describes a realm “which does not entail complete physical determinism.”

Of this realm below the cut, Stapp wrote: “One generally finds that the evolved state of the system below the cut cannot be matched to any conceivable classical description of the properties visible to observers.”

So how do scientists observe the invisible? They choose particular properties of the quantum system and set up apparatus to view their effects on the physical processes “above the cut.”

The key is the experimenter’s choice. When working with the quantum system, the observer’s choice has been shown to physically impact what manifests and can be observed above the cut.

Stapp cited Bohr’s analogy for this interaction between a scientist and his experiment results: “[It’s like] a blind man with a cane: when the cane is held loosely, the boundary between the person and the external world is the divide between hand and cane; but when held tightly the cane becomes part of the probing self: the person feels that he himself extends to the tip of the cane.”

The physical and mental are connected in a dynamic way. In terms of the relationship between mind and brain, it seems the observer can hold in place a chosen brain activity that would otherwise be fleeting. This is a choice similar to the choice a scientist makes when deciding which properties of the quantum system to study.

The quantum explanation of how the mind and brain can be separate or different, yet connected by the laws of physics “is a welcome revelation,” wrote Stapp. “It solves a problem that has plagued both science and philosophy for centuries—the imagined science-mandated need either to equate mind with brain, or to make the brain dynamically independent of the mind.”

Stapp said it is not contrary to the laws of physics that the personality of a dead person may attach itself to a living person, as in the case of so-called spirit possession. It wouldn’t require any basic change in orthodox theory, though it would “require a relaxing of the idea that physical and mental events occur only when paired together.”

Classical physical theory can only evade the problem, and classical physicists can only work to discredit intuition as a product of human confusion, said Stapp. Science should instead, he said, recognize “the physical effects of consciousness as a physical problem that needs to be answered in dynamical terms.”

How This Understanding Affects the Moral Fabric of Society

Furthermore, it is imperative for maintaining human morality to consider people as more than just machines of flesh and blood.

In another paper, titled “Attention, Intention, and Will in Quantum Physics,” Stapp wrote:  “It has become now widely appreciated that assimilation by the general public of this ‘scientific’ view, according to which each human being is basically a mechanical robot, is likely to have a significant and corrosive impact on the moral fabric of society.”

He wrote of the “growing tendency of people to exonerate themselves by arguing that it is not ‘I’ who is at fault, but some mechanical process within: ‘my genes made me do it’; or ‘my high blood-sugar content made me do it.’ Recall the infamous ‘Twinkie Defense’ that got Dan White off with five years for murdering San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.”

Scientists Officially Link Processed Foods To Autoimmune Disease


The modern diet of processed foods, takeaways and microwave meals could be to blame for a sharp increase in autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, including alopecia, asthma and eczema. A team of scientists from Yale University in the U.S and the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, in Germany, say junk food diets could be partly to blame.

‘This study is the first to indicate that excess refined and processed salt may be one of the environmental factors driving the increased incidence of autoimmune diseases,’ they said. Junk foods at fast food restaurants as well as processed foods at grocery retailers represent the largest sources of sodium intake from refined salts. The Canadian Medical Association Journal sent out an international team of researchers to compare the salt content of 2,124 items from fast food establishments such as Burger King, Domino’s Pizza, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Subway. They found that the average salt content varied between companies and between the same products sold in different countries.

U.S. fast foods are often more than twice as salt-laden as those of other countries. While government-led public health campaigns and legislation efforts have reduced refined salt levels in many countries, the U.S. government has been reluctant to press the issue. That’s left fast-food companies free to go salt crazy, says Norm Campbell, M.D., one of the study authors and a blood-pressure specialist at the University of Calgary. Many low-fat foods rely on salt–and lots of it–for their flavor. One packet of KFC’s Marzetti Light Italian Dressing might only have 15 calories and 0.5 grams fat, but it also has 510 mg sodium–about 1.5 times as much as one Original Recipe chicken drumstick. (Feel like you’re having too much of a good thing?

You probably are. Bread is the No. 1 source of refined salt consumption in the American diet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Just one 6-inch Roasted Garlic loaf from Subway–just the bread, no meat, no cheeses, no nothing–has 1,260 mg sodium, about as much as 14 strips of bacon.

How Refined Salt Causes Autoimmune Disease The team from Yale University studied the role of T helper cells in the body. These activate and ‘help’ other cells to fight dangerous pathogens such as bacteria or viruses and battle infections. Previous research suggests that a subset of these cells – known as Th17 cells – also play an important role in the development of autoimmune diseases. In the latest study, scientists discovered that exposing these cells in a lab to a table salt solution made them act more ‘aggressively.’ They found that mice fed a diet high in refined salts saw a dramatic increase in the number of Th17 cells in their nervous systems that promoted inflammation. They were also more likely to develop a severe form of a disease associated with multiple sclerosis in humans.

The scientists then conducted a closer examination of these effects at a molecular level. Laboratory tests revealed that salt exposure increased the levels of cytokines released by Th17 cells 10 times more than usual. Cytokines are proteins used to pass messages between cells. Study co-author Ralf Linker, from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, said: ‘These findings are an important contribution to the understanding of multiple sclerosis and may offer new targets for a better treatment of the disease, for which at present there is no cure.’ It develops when the immune system mistakes the myelin that surrounds the nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord for a foreign body. It strips the myelin off the nerves fibres, which disrupts messages passed between the brain and body causing problems with speech, vision and balance. Another of the study’s authors, Professor David Hafler, from Yale University, said that nature had clearly not intended for the immune system to attack its host body, so he expected that an external factor was playing a part.

He said: ‘These are not diseases of bad genes alone or diseases caused by the environment, but diseases of a bad interaction between genes and the environment.’ Humans were genetically selected for conditions in sub-Saharan Africa, where there was no salt. It’s one of the reasons that having a particular gene may make African Americans much more sensitive to salt. ‘Today, Western diets all have high salt content and that has led to increase in hypertension and perhaps autoimmune disease as well.’ The team next plan to study the role that Th17 cells play in autoimmune conditions that affect the skin. ‘It would be interesting to find out if patients with psoriasis can alleviate their symptoms by reducing their salt intake,’ they said. ‘However, the development of autoimmune diseases is a very complex process which depends on many genetic and environmental factors.’ Stick to Good Salts Refined, processed and bleached salts are the problem. Salt is critical to our health and is the most readily available nonmetallic mineral in the world. Our bodies are not designed to processed refined sodium chloride since it has no nutritional value. However, when a salt is filled with dozens of minerals such as in rose-coloured crystals of Himalayan rock salt or the grey texture of Celtic salt, our bodies benefit tremendously for their incorporation into our diet. “These mineral salts are identical to the elements of which our bodies have been built and were originally found in the primal ocean from where life originated,” argues Dr Barbara Hendel, researcher and co-author of Water & Salt, The Essence of Life. “We have salty tears and salty perspiration.

The chemical and mineral composition of our blood and body fluids are similar to sea water. From the beginning of life, as unborn babies, we are encased in a sack of salty fluid.” “In water, salt dissolves into mineral ions,” explains Dr Hendel. “These conduct electrical nerve impulses that drive muscle movement and thought processes. Just the simple act of drinking a glass of water requires millions of instructions that come from mineral ions. They’re also needed to balance PH levels in the body.” Mineral salts, she says, are healthy because they give your body the variety of mineral ions needed to balance its functions, remain healthy and heal. These healing properties have long been recognised in central Europe.

At Wieliczka in Poland, a hospital has been carved in a salt mountain. Asthmatics and patients with lung disease and allergies find that breathing air in the saline underground chambers helps improve symptoms in 90 per cent of cases. Dr Hendel believes too few minerals, rather than too much salt, may be to blame for health problems. It’s a view that is echoed by other academics such as David McCarron, of Oregon Health Sciences University in the US. He says salt has always been part of the human diet, but what has changed is the mineral content of our food. Instead of eating food high in minerals, such as nuts, fruit and vegetables, people are filling themselves up with “mineral empty” processed food and fizzy drinks.

Swedish Divers Discovered A ‘Stone Age Atlantis’: 11,000-Year-Old Ancient Settlement


Divers in Sweden have discovered a rare collection of Stone Age artefacts buried deep beneath the Baltic Sea.

Archaeologists believe the relics were left by Swedish nomads 11,000 years ago and the discovery may be evidence of one of the oldest settlements ever found in the Nordic region.

Some of the relics are so well preserved, reports have dubbed the find ‘Sweden’s Atlantis’ and suggested the settlement may have been swallowed whole by the sea in the same way as the mythical island in the Atlantic Ocean.

Divers in Sweden have discovered a rare collection of Stone Age artefacts buried beneath the Baltic Sea, pictured. Archaeologists believe the relics were left by Swedish nomads 11,000 years ago and the discovery may be evidence of one of the oldest settlements ever found in the Nordic region, dubbed 'Sweden's Atlantis'

Divers in Sweden have discovered a rare collection of Stone Age artefacts buried beneath the Baltic Sea, pictured. Archaeologists believe the relics were left by Swedish nomads 11,000 years ago and the discovery may be evidence of one of the oldest settlements ever found in the Nordic region, dubbed ‘Sweden’s Atlantis’

The artefacts were discovered by Professor Bjorn Nilsson from Soderton University, and a team from Lunds University, during an archaeological dive at Hano, off the coast of Skane County in Sweden.

Buried 16 metres below the surface, Nilsson uncovered wood, flint tools, animal horns and ropes.

Among the most notable items found include a harpoon carving made from an animal bone, and the bones of an ancient animal called aurochs.

Aurochs are ancestors of modern-day cattle and lived through Europe before becoming extinct in the early 1600s. The last reported auroch died in Poland in 1627.

This find is significant because it suggests a date for when these items would have been used.

Many of the artefacts have been preserved because the diving location is rich in a sediment called gyttja.

THE MYSTERY OF ATLANTIS: A LARGE ISLAND SWALLOWED BY THE SEA

article-2546720-1b00649200000578-494_625x527

Atlantis is the name for the large island or continent said to have been swallowed up by the Atlantic Ocean centuries ago. 

Tales of the mythical island first appeared in books by Greek philosopher Plato around 370BC.

In all of his books, Plato used interesting stories to contextualise and explain his ideas about government and philosophy and it is thought the story of Atlantis formed part of this.

However, this has also lead to claims the stories were made up purely for effect.

Despite this, many maps have previously featured Atlantis, including the Map of the New World by Sebastian Muller, 1540, pictured, that shows Atlantis Island in red at the bottom, labelled Nouus Orbis.

Atlantis was written about again in 1882 by Ignatius Donnelly who claimed Atlantis was not only real, but influenced cultures including the Egyptians and Mayans.

Studies of rock found at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean concluded that there has never been a large island buried in the region, and many people now think Plato may have got the location of the island wrong. 

Other claims suggest the island may have been near modern-day Santorini, off the coast of Greece.

Black, gel-like Gyttja is formed when peat begins to decay. As the peat is buried, the amount of oxygen drops and it is thought this lack of oxygen prevented the organic artefacts from being lost.

Nilsson told The Local: ‘Around 11,000 years ago there was a build-up in the area – a lagoon of sorts – and all the tree and bone pieces are preserved in it.

‘If the settlement was on dry land we would only have the stone-based things, nothing organic.’

The dive was part of a three-year excavation partially funded by the Swedish National Heritage Board.

Archaeologists are continuing the dig, and are now particularly interested to see whether there is also an ancient burial site in the region.

The artefacts were discovered by Professor Bjorn Nilsson from Soderton University during an archaeological dive at Hano, off the coast of Skane County in Sweden, marked at A. The dive was part of a three-year excavation partially funded by the Swedish National Heritage Board

The artefacts were discovered by Professor Bjorn Nilsson from Soderton University during an archaeological dive at Hano, off the coast of Skane County in Sweden, marked at A. The dive was part of a three-year excavation partially funded by the Swedish National Heritage Board

Atlantis is the name for the large island or continent said to have been swallowed up by the Atlantic Ocean centuries ago. An artist's illustration is pictured. Tales of the mythical island first appeared in books by Greek philosopher Plato around 370BC - although the remains of the island have never been found

Atlantis is the name for the large island or continent said to have been swallowed up by the Atlantic Ocean centuries ago. An artist’s illustration is pictured. Tales of the mythical island first appeared in books by Greek philosopher Plato around 370BC – although the remains of the island have never been found

This would add weight to the claims it was once a settlement location that has since been lost at sea.

If the region was a settlement, it would have similarities with Atlantis – the mythical island first referred to by Greek philosopher Plato.

Atlantis was said to have been a large island, or even a continent, in the Atlantic Ocean that sank and vanished almost overnight.

However, this underwater civilisation has never been found, and many claim Plato either made it up, or the location was not in the Atlantic Ocean.

Other claims suggest the island may have been near modern-day Santorini, off the coast of Greece.

Nilsson is quick to dismiss the claims the settlement is ‘Sweden’s Atlantis’, however, stressing that the Swedes at the time would have been nomadic.

This means that the settlement may have only been temporary, and that a village never permanently existed on the site – unlike the mythical Atlantis.

The iPad is a Far Bigger Threat to Our Children Than Anyone Realizes.


 
When the little girl pointed at the sweets at the checkout, her mother said: ‘No, they’re bad for your teeth.’ So her daughter, who was no more than two, did what small children often do at such times. She threw a tantrum.
What happened next horrified me. The embarrassed mother found her iPad in her bag and thrust it into her daughter’s hands. Peace was restored immediately.
This incident, which happened three years ago, was the first time I saw a tablet computer used as a pacifier. It certainly wasn’t the last. Since then, I’ve seen many tiny children barely able to toddle yet expertly swiping an iPad – not to mention countless teenagers, smartphone in hand, lost to the real world as they tap out texts.
It’s ten years since the publication of my book, Toxic Childhood, which warned of the dangers of too much screen-time on young people’s physical and mental health. My fears have been realised. Though I was one of the first to foresee how insidiously technology would penetrate youngsters’ lives, even I’ve been stunned at how quickly even the tiniest have become slaves to screens – and how utterly older ones are defined by their virtual personas.
Indeed, when my book came out, Facebook had just hit our shores and we were more concerned with violent video games and children watching too much TV. Seems like ancient history, doesn’t it? Today, on average, children spend five to six hours a day staring at screens. And they’re often on two or more screens at once – for example, watching TV while playing on an iPad.
Because technology moves so fast, and children have embraced it so quickly, it’s been difficult for parents to control it. And when it comes to spending a childhood in front of a screen, this generation are like lab rats. The long-term impact is not known.
Even before iPads hit the market in 2010, experts were warning that 80 per cent of children arrived at school with poor co-ordination, due to a sedentary lifestyle.
 
 
Sue Palmer, above, believes that excessive screen time can lead to obesity, sleep disorders and aggression
Along with colleagues in the field of child development, I’d seen a rise in prescriptions for Ritalin, a drug for attention deficit and hyperactivity – a four-fold increase in less than a decade. And we’d collected a mass of research showing links between excessive screen-time and obesity, sleep disorders, aggression, poor social skills, depression and academic under-achievement.
It’s little wonder, then, that the boom in iPads and smartphones has coincided with further deterioration in the physical and mental health of children of all ages. Sadly, we’re seeing the rise of the ‘techno-tot’ for whom iPads have become the modern-day equivalent of a comfort blanket.
Recent research found 10 per cent of children under four are put to bed with a tablet computer to play with as they fall asleep. One study of families owning them found a third of children under three had their own tablets. Baby shops even sell ‘apptivity seats’ into which a tablet can be slotted to keep toddlers entertained.
Few know that the late Apple boss Steve Jobs didn’t let his own children have iPads. I wish he had gone public on this as other parents might have followed suit.
Because the earlier children are hooked on screens, the more difficult it is to wean them off.
This is not the only worry. It’s not just what children get up to onscreen that affects their overall development. It’s what screens displace – all the activities they’re not doing in the real world. Today’s children have far fewer opportunities for what I call ‘real play’. They are no longer learning through first-hand experiences how to be human and are much less likely to play or socialize outdoors or with others.
One of the most depressing examples of a totally screen-based childhood involved a ten-year-old in London. The overweight, pasty-faced little lad told me: ‘I sit in my room and I watch my telly and play on my computer . . . and if I get hungry I text down to my mum and she brings me up a pizza.’ The change in children’s play has happened in little more than a couple of decades. While many parents feel uneasy about all that screen-time, they haven’t tackled it as they’ve been so busy keeping up with changes in their own lives.

And anyway, it’s happening to children everywhere – so surely it can’t be bad for them?

But real play is a biological necessity. One psychologist told me it was ‘as vital for healthy development as food or sleep’.
If the neural pathways that control social and imaginative responses aren’t developed in early childhood, it’s difficult to revive them later. A whole generation could grow up without the mental ability to create their own fun, devise their own games and enjoy real friendships – all because of endless screen-time.
It’s getting out and about – running, climbing, making dens and so on – that allows little children to gain physical skills. Playing ‘let’s pretend’ is a creative process requiring lots of personal input.
Real play develops initiative, problem-solving skills and many other positive traits, such as a can-do attitude, perseverance and emotional resilience. It’s vital for social skills, too. By playing together, youngsters learn to get along with other people. They discover how others’ minds work, developing empathy. And, as real play is driven by an innate desire to understand how the world works, it provides the foundation for academic learning. Real play is evolution’s way of helping children develop minds of their own – curious, problem- solving, adaptable, human minds.
The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends no screen-time for children under two and a maximum two hours a day there-after. This is not just due to a proven link between screen-time and attention disorders, but because it eliminates other activities essential for building healthy bodies and brains.
 
 
 
Babies are born with an intense desire to learn about their world, so they’re highly motivated to interact with people and objects around them – the beginning of real play. That’s why they love it when we play silly games with them, such as peekaboo, or they manage to grasp some household object. This is what helps them develop physical co-ordination and social skills.
But when little ones can get instant rewards from high-tech devices, they don’t need to bother with real play. Images on a screen can be just as fascinating as the real world, and even a very small child can learn to control the images with a clumsy swish of podgy fingers.
Each time babies or toddlers make something happen on screen, they get the same sort of pleasure hit as they would from a cuddle or a splash in the bath. When they can get instant rewards by swiping a screen, why bother with play that demands physical, social and cognitive effort?
Neuroscientist Susan Greenfield says: ‘We cannot park our children in front of screens and expect them to develop a long attention span.’
She also worries about the effects of technology on literacy. ‘Learning to read helps children learn to put ideas into logical order,’ she says. ‘On the other hand, staring at a screen puts their brains into suspended animation.’
Dr Aric Sigman, who has amassed a huge database of research linking children’s screen-time to ADHD, autism and emotional and behavioural disorders, also points to the conflict between screen-based activity and reading.
‘Unlike screen images, words don’t move, make noises, sing or dance. Ultimately, screen images render the printed word simply boring at a crucial phase when the child’s mind is developing,’ he says.

Yet another problem with too much screen-gazing is that it doesn’t develop resilience.

Real play gives children opportunities to learn how to cope with challenges for themselves. Finding how to learn from their mistakes, picking themselves up when they take a tumble and sorting out squabbles with playmates all help develop the self-confidence that makes children more emotionally resilient.
This is vital for mental health, especially in our high-pressure world. So I wasn’t surprised when this month Childline warned Britain is producing deeply unhappy youngsters – sad, lonely, with low self-esteem and an increasing predilection to self-harm. The charity painted a bleak portrait of our children’s emotional state, blaming their unhappiness on social networking and cyber-bullying.
It’s understandable parents feel unable to tackle their children’s social media use. After all, it has spread like a virus. In 2012, just six years after Facebook arrived here, it was the favourite website of ten-year-old girls.
That year I interviewed three 15-year-old girls in Yorkshire who have been on Facebook since the age of ten. They said they didn’t enjoy it as much as ‘when we were young’ because ‘running our own PR campaigns’ – as they wittily described the constant need to make their lives sound glamorous and exciting – was exhausting and they often felt miserable when others seemed to be having more fun.
But they couldn’t give up the social media site as it would put them out of the social loop. ‘There’s lots of cyber-bullying,’ one said. ‘So you’ve got to try to be like everyone else.’
But we can’t go on letting our children ‘be like everyone else’ when it’s damaging them. If the next generation is to grow up bright, balanced and healthy enough to use technology wisely, parents need to take action. And that means limiting screen-time, spending time together as a family and making sure get children out to play.Some say children need to use technology because that’s the way the world is going. But there’s no need to give little children high-tech devices.
Modern technology develops at a phenomenal rate – any IT skills that children learn before the age of seven will be long past their sell-by date by the time they reach their teens.But self-confidence, emotional resilience, creative thinking, social skills and the capacity for focused thought will stand them in good stead whatever the future brings.

The War on Parkinson’s: Stem Cells Successfully Injected into Patient’s Brain


IN BRIEF

A team of Australian researchers have successfully performed a procedure injecting stem cells into the brain of a Parkinson’s Disease patient. The researchers are hopeful that this could be the future of Parkinson’s treatment.

MORE HUMANE

Doctors from the Royal Melbourne Hospital successfully injected stem cells onto the brain of a 64-year old Parkinson’s Disease patient. This operation, the first of its kind, marks a positive step towards developing better Parkinson’s treatment.

Researcher Garish Nair, a neurosurgeon at Royal Melbourne, led the procedure. He and his team injected millions of stem cells at 14 sites in the patient’s brain. “The challenge was to do it in a way that you minimize the number of times that you pass your instrument through the brain, to minimize the damage,” explains Dr Nair. To do so, they had to perform around 4 dummy rounds on a 3D model before the actual procedure.

Reuters
Image source: Reuters

NOT A QUESTION OF ETHICS

The stem cell injection, the researchers hope, would boost the levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Parkinson’s is known to exhibit symptoms of “tremor, rigidity, and being unable to express emotions, affecting walking. All of those functions are mediated by dopamine,” Dr. Nair explains. If successful, patient would display improvement in these areas.

The use of stem cells in medical treatment is largely controversial because of ethical concerns, particularly with embryonic stem cells. The procedure, however, does not present an ethical problem. The stem cells used were created using neural cells in a lab of a biotech company in California.

“So the beauty of this technique is that this is an unfertilized egg activated in a lab, so there are no ethical issues surrounding this to be used as mainstream treatment down the line,” says an optimistic Dr. Nair.

Ethical concerns aside, there is also concern that its too soon for clinical trials of stem cell treatments. Earlier this year, Dr. Patrik Brundin, Director of the Center for Neurodegenerative Science at Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, MI, warned against the dangers of clinical trials being done too soon. “Acting prematurely has the potential not only to tarnish many years of scientific work, but can threaten to derail and damage this exciting field of regenerative medicine.”

The researchers understand these concerns but feel they have received the proper approvals and adequate animal testing has been done to warrant a clinical trial.

At present, statics show that more than 10 million people are affected by Parkinson’s, with about 60,000 in the US and 80,000 in Australia.

Dieting forces brain to eat itself, scientists claim 


Dieters struggle to lose weight because a lack of nutrition forces their brain cells to eat themselves, making the feeling of hunger even stronger, scientists claim.

Dieting forces brain to eat itself

A cross-section of the human brain

Like other parts of the body, brain cells begin to eat themselves as a last-ditch source of energy to ward off starvation, a study found.

The body responds by producing fatty acids, which turn up the hunger signal in the brain and increase our impulse to eat.

Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York said the findings could lead to new scientifically proven weight loss treatments.

Tests on mice found that stopping the brain cells from eating themselves – a process known as autophagy – prevented levels of hunger from rising in response to starvation.

The chemical change in their brains caused the mice to become lighter and slimmer after a period of fasting, the researchers reported in the journal Cell Metabolism.

“Treatments aimed at the pathway might make you less hungry and burn more fat, a good way to maintain energy balance in a world where calories are cheap and plentiful.”

%d bloggers like this: