Archive for the ‘ Health and Sciences ’ Category

Hubble’s still got it. Telescope finds possible galaxy that might be the oldest thing ever seen

Hubble’s still got it.

The aging beauty of a space telescope has glimpsed a presumed galaxy that astronomers say might just be the oldest thing ever seen, a small, hot affair that blazed to life during the childhood of the cosmos.

Age of Hubble: Almost 21.

Age of the possible galaxy: 13 billion years, give or take.

Although NASA’s Hubble has offered a generation’s worth of spectacular images – sparkling galaxies, billowing nebulae, stunning star clusters – its latest quarry lacks charisma. The presumed oldest galaxy is but a faint smudge on Hubble’s Ultra Deep Field image, the astronomical equivalent of a days-long staring contest.

In 2009, Hubble’s operators turned the telescope toward a dark pocket in the southern sky and “bored a hole,” in the words of one Hubble enthusiast, funneling a trickle of light thrown off by the most ancient stuff we’ve ever seen.

The Ultra Deep Field displays a roiling zoo of galaxies – thin ones, fat ones, cigars, pinwheels, discs, and clouds. But the oldest galaxy is nothing but a smear.

Still, this “candidate” galaxy – so-called because it could turn out to be something much less exciting – marks the latest entry in a quickening deep-space race among astronomers to bag and tag ever older objects.

Hubble’s new wide field camera 3, installed during a tense 2009 spacewalk, has sparked the race, peering into the heavens with 40 times the sensitivity of its predecessor.

“The idea that you can detect something from the beginning of cosmic time by looking at a patch of sky for 87 hours is just wild,” says Rychard Bouwens, an astronomer from Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands, who led the team that made the discovery.

As for the impossible-sounding age of the possible galaxy, Bouwens adds, “I’m kind of wowed by it myself.”

Or, as Daniel Fabricant, an astronomer at Harvard University puts it: “If true, the discovery would be a very big deal.”🙄

Much advice about the effects of drinking proves to be false

From doctors to bartenders to new year’s resolutionaries, there’s no shortage of people offering advice about alcohol. Now take a look at what scientists have found when they put some conventional wisdom under the microscope.

Drinking coffee will get you sober faster.

FALSE: Caffeine may wake you up, but it won’t lower your blood alcohol level. In fact, a cup of coffee may make it harder for you to realize you’re drunk, according to Thomas Gould of Temple University in Philadelphia.

In experiments on mice, reported in 2009 in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, he found that caffeine – the equivalent of one to eight cups of coffee for humans – made the rodents more alert but did nothing to reverse the cognitive impairment caused by alcohol, such as their inability to avoid stimuli they should have known were unpleasant. In other words, a shot of caffeine may simply fool drunken people into thinking they are sober.

Beer then liquor, never sicker. Liquor then beer, never fear.

FALSE: There is no chemical interaction between these drinks that makes you feel particularly bad the next day. It is the total amount of alcohol consumed that matters.

Perhaps when you have already had several beers you’ll drink more shots, and more quickly, as your self-control will be reduced.

What is less clear is whether darker drinks such as bourbon are more likely to give you a hangover than a clear spirit such as vodka. That idea appeared to be confirmed by a 2009 Brown University study. One possible explanation is that dark drinks have a higher concentration of congeners, the byproducts of fermentation.

However, another study, at the Boston University School of Public Health, found no connection between getting a hangover and the type of alcohol consumed.

James Bond was right: Martinis should be shaken, not stirred.

TRUE: for most people’s taste. British Agent 007 ordered his vodka martinis “shaken, not stirred,” but is there really any difference? Yes, according to a team at the University of Western Ontario in Canada that studied the ability of the classic martini, made with gin and vermouth, to deactivate hydrogen peroxide, which is produced by the body’s metabolism and is a potent source of free radicals. In 1999, they showed that martinis were more effective at deactivating hydrogen peroxide than their main ingredients alone. For reasons that are not clear, the shaken mix was twice as effective as the stirred mix.

But does the resulting cocktail tastes better? One suggestion is that an agitated martini contains more microscopic shards of ice, giving it a more pleasant texture, or “mouthfeel.” However, the most likely reason for Bond’s preference seems to be that it helps reduce the taste of residual oil left over when vodka is made from potatoes, the base vegetable used at the time Ian Fleming wrote his spy novels.

Champagne gets you drunker than wine.

TRUE: The bubbles in champagne may make a difference. A small 2003 study in Alcohol and Alcoholism suggested that it may be more intoxicating than wine. The reason remains a mystery. Perhaps bubbles open the pyloric valve in the stomach, letting the alcohol reach the intestine and hence the bloodstream more quickly. Alternatively, fizzy drinks might increase the rate of alcohol absorption by stimulating the lining of the stomach.

Wine consumption explains the “French paradox.”

FALSE: French people suffer a relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease, despite having a diet rich in saturated fats.

🙄

Can too much Twitter kill you?

Reading this article may be shortening your life.

A new study suggests that spending four or more hours per day in front of a screen is not only bad for your health, but may be
life-threatening.

According to the report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) the risk of heart attack and stroke for those that spend over the allotted four hours in front of a screen (TV or computer monitor) increased by 113 percent and the risk of death by any cause increased by almost 50 percent. Those numbers are as compared to people who spend less than two hours in front of a screen.

The findings come from a survey of 4,500 Scottish adults, who were analyzed based on their medical records after being asked how much TV they watch, according to ABC News.

But it seems the problem may actually come from sitting, not simply looking at a screen.

From ABC News:
“Assuming that leisure-time screen time is a representative indicator of overall sitting, our results lend support to the idea that prolonged sitting is linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and premature mortality,” notes the report’s lead author, Emmanuel Stamatakis of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College in London. “Doing some exercise every day may not compensate for the damage done during very long periods of screen time.”

In any case, the study shows that despite regular exercise and a decent diet, many people still remain at risk for catastrophic health problems, due to prolonged periods of inactivity. The inactivity caused by sitting burns so few calories, that simply standing and moving around can double your metabolic rate.

🙄

Why we should and why we don’t

You already know that exercise is good for you. A deluge of studies has documented its health benefits. What’s impressive about the research, aside from the sheer volume, is the number of conditions exercise seems to prevent, ameliorate, or delay.

We’re used to hearing about exercise fending off heart attacks. And it’s not hard to envision why exercise helps the heart. If you’re physically active, your heart gets trained to beat slower and stronger, so it needs less oxygen to function well; your arteries get springier, so they push your blood better; and your levels of “good” HDL cholesterol go up.

It’s also not much of a surprise that exercise helps prevent diabetes. Muscles that are used to working are more receptive to insulin, the hormone that ushers blood sugar into cells, so in fit individuals, blood sugar levels aren’t as likely to creep up.

But what about exercise to help fight cancer? It seems to help, and on several fronts: breasts, colon, endometrial (uterine), perhaps ovarian. The effect of exercise on breast cancer prevention may be stronger after menopause than before, although some research suggests that it takes quite a lot to make a difference: four to seven hours of moderate to vigorous activity a week. Recent studies have found that if you’ve had colon cancer or breast cancer, exercise reduces the chances of the cancer coming back.

To top things off, exercise seems to help not only the body but also the brain. Several studies have found that exercise can reduce the symptoms of depression, and it changes the brain in ways similar to antidepressant medications. In old age, physical activity may delay the slide of cognitive decline into dementia, and even once that process has started, exercise can improve certain aspects of thinking.

Why We Don’t Exercise

The problem is, if the benefits of physical activity are legion, so are the reasons for avoiding it. For instance, in this day and age, many people (perhaps most) don’t need to be physically active unless they choose to be. And most studies show that about half of adults don’t meet one of the most oft-cited guidelines, which calls for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (a fast walking pace) most days of the week. About a quarter of adults say they devote none of their free time to active pursuits.

Clearly, some of us are less athletic than others — and some unathletic individuals were simply born that way. Twin studies suggest that about half of the difference in physical activity among people is probably inherited. And researchers are making a headway in
identifying particular genes that may influence how we respond to physical exertion.

But genetic explanations for behaviors like exercising only go so far. Many other influences come into play: family, neighborhood, cultural attitudes, historical circumstances. Research has shown, not surprisingly, that active children are more likely to have parents who encouraged them to be that way.

The types of activities offered to people make a difference, too. Researchers at San Diego State University reported results three years ago of a study that offered sedentary low-income Latino women aerobic dance classes at store-front exercise sites three times a week. At the end of the six-month study, the dance sessions resulted in a fivefold improvement in their maximal oxygen uptake, an important measure of fitness.

Excuses, Excuses

It is easy to come up with a list of reasons not to exercise. You’re tired from a long, busy day. Maybe you don’t think you have the right equipment. Or perhaps you’ve given up trying to exercise regularly because you never seem to stick with it for long.

Whatever your chosen excuse, it’s time to give it up. You can do it! With some creativity, flexibility, and a change in thinking, you can find ways to overcome the barriers that are keeping you from reaping the many benefits exercise brings.

1. Excuse: I don’t have time to exercise.

Truth: There’s time. The trick is to find or make time.

• Shoot for short sessions. Exercise is not an all-or-nothing commitment. For example, take three 10-minute walks throughout the day rather than one 30-minute walk.

• Think activity rather than exercise. Mow the lawn, climb the stars, park farther from your destination and walk.

• Get up earlier. If your days are packed, get up 30 minutes earlier twice a week to exercise. Once you’ve adjusted to early-morning workouts, add another day or two to the routine.

• Schedule exercise into your day like you would an appointment. Reserve a time slot each day for physical activity and protect that time. If you wait to find the time, you probably won’t do it.

• Turn off the TV. You might be surprised at the free time you gain by choosing to watch one less program. If there’s a program you just can’t miss, be active while you’re watching. Use hand weights, ride a stationary bike or do some stretching.

2. Excuse: Exercise is boring.

Truth: It doesn’t have to be.

• Choose activities you enjoy. This way, you’re more likely to stay interested.

• Vary the routine. Rotate among several activities — such as walking, swimming, and dancing — to keep you on your toes while conditioning different muscle groups.

• Listen to music. Upbeat music can rev you up and make time pass more quickly.

• Enlist a friend. Enjoy the camaraderie and offer encouragement to each other when the going gets tough. You’re less likely to skip a workout if someone’s counting on you to show up.

3. Excuse: I’m too old to exercise.

Truth: You’re never too old to be physically active and it’s never too late to start. Even moderate physical activity, such as walking, can help prevent or delay age-associated conditions such as heart diseases, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Strength, flexibility, and balance training can help prevent falls and maintain bone density.

4. Excuse: I’m too tired to exercise.

Truth: You may be tired because you’re not exercising. Without exercise, you’ll have no energy. It’s a vicious cycle. But breaking the cycle is one of the best gifts you can give yourself.

• Jump-start your morning. Hop on the treadmill while you listen to the radio. Or step outside for a brisk walk.

• Make lunchtime count. If you’re working, keep a pair of walking shoes under your desk and take a brisk walk during lunch break.

• Go to bed early. Running on empty is no way to face a full day. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

5. Excuse: I’m self-conscious about how I look when I exercise.

Truth: The rewards are worth it.

• Remember that you’re your own worst critic. Keep in mind that most people around you are probably feeling the same way.

• Look inside, not out. Remind yourself what a great favor you’re doing for your health, or focus on how much stronger you will feel after a workout.

• Go solo, at first. As you become healthier and more at ease, you may feel confident enough to exercise with others.

6. Excuse: I’m not overweight so I don’t need to exercise.

Truth: Being thin doesn’t necessarily mean you’re fit. Although a healthy weight is important, it’s also important that your body gets regular exercise.

The bottom line is: Very few things have as profound an effect on health as exercise and staying active. It’s one of the best moves you can make towards the goal of living a longer and healthier life.

So, no more excuses, get up and move!

🙄

Did she or didn’t she? Guys often don’t know what really happened in bed

A little Barry White. A candlelight dinner. An amorous encounter — and fireworks as the angels sing. At least, that’s what he thinks happened.
Men and women often walk out of the bedroom with completely different ideas about what just occurred, recent research showed. The recently released National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior found that men overestimate whether their partner has had an orgasm and underestimate their pain.
In the survey, 64 percent of women reported having an orgasm last time at bat, but 85 percent of men said their female partners had one. Also, about 30 percent of women reported that sex was painful and, presumably, men are unaware of that too, or else, being the gallant gentlemen we are, we’d stop and snuggle. (Hey, it could happen.)

Granted, this stuff can be funny — as dozens of sitcoms testify. But the findings from the survey, culled from 5,865 people ranging in age from 14 to 94, underscores the troubling fact that men and women, young and old — even couples who’ve been together for many years, don’t talk about sex. And because we are not, we are missing out.
“Sex is hard to talk about even when things are going well. We approach our sexual limitations with fear,” said Debby Herbenick, one of the survey’s authors and the associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University in Bloomington. And when things aren’t going well, communication is even worse.
Even cancer patients who are used to discussing everything from nausea and bowel movements to hair loss and blood counts with their partner won’t talk about sex, numerous studies show.
“When patients had poor erectile function, their partners were more likely to report that the couple avoided open spousal discussions; this in turn was associated with partners’ marital distress,” a team from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center reported in the journal Psycho-Oncology last year.
Taboo conversation
If all this seems odd for a 21st century sex-saturated country like ours, June Reinisch isn’t surprised at all. She’s been studying sexuality, and counseling couples, for 41 years, 11 of those as director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, and all that experience has taught her that couples young and old “are not comfortable, and they don’t get comfortable” exchanging information about their sexual needs and desires.

Why? Because, Reinisch argued, from the time boys and girls are about 5 years old, they segregate into same-gender groups. Boys play with boys, girls with girls, and then society enforces that natural segregation when it comes time to talk about our bodies.
“We do nothing to enhance communication between males and females,” she said. Even today, sex education often happens in same gender classes. The message sent, Reinisch argued, “is that it’s taboo or undercover, that you do not talk about male things with females and vice-versa.”
What we ought to be doing, she said, is, from young ages, teaching boys and girls what it means to be a good friend, how a loving family operates, and later, not just how each gender’s body works, but what love is, how to be a good boyfriend, a good girlfriend. Talks about sex shouldn’t just be between father and son, mother and daughter.
Once we are adults, we need to think beyond the obvious about what’s behind our reluctance to talk. “There is research in women with vulvodynia” — a condition that results in pain when the female vulva is touched or stimulated — “that they feel they are not being a good wife,” said Herbenick told me. So it’s not about the pain itself, it’s the fear of one’s own self-perception.
Story: New sex survey reveals our steamy secrets
Story: Pretzel nation: American have sex in 41 combination
For example, Reinisch explained, the reasons men might ask for oral sex aren’t just about the physical feeling.
“The penis has incredible meaning, way beyond that it feels good, in terms of the sense of self, goodness, lovability and being loved,” she said. But women can’t be blamed for not fully appreciating this. “If you talk to men as I have in my career, they don’t think about how much it means, they just know they like it a lot and protect it with their lives. But when it is honored by their partner it makes them feel better about their whole selves…It’s quite amazing. I don’t think women understand the power of honoring that little part.”
(Note to women: calling it “little” probably isn’t a good way to honor it.)
Likewise, she said, men need to better understand the bigger meaning of women’s sexuality. A woman might not want to say sex hurts because maybe she’s growing a little older “and in this culture, God forbid you get old. So maybe she feels it’s a sign she’s not sexy, she is not lubricating, or she is not being aroused.”
Let’s talk about sex
The obvious way out, of course, is to talk — really talk, openly and frankly. That works best if couples are used to experimenting and Reinisch doesn’t just mean the ropes and latex variety, she means collaborating on new positions, new products – some women are even reluctant to use vaginal lube for fear it signals waning youthfulness and sexual allure– or new methods of seduction.
Couples also have to be accepting when a lover makes a suggestion, she says. Saying “How did you come up with that? Did you try it with somebody else?” is a bad idea. When a partner who has been reluctant to share does so, he or she should be rewarded.
For those whom talking is simply too uncomfortable, Reinisch stresses “baby steps,” even non-verbal communication if necessary. Some couples have been so closed off that she has counseled them to use two small porcelain dolls on a mantle; a doll facing out can mean “I’m in the mood,” one with its back turned can mean “not tonight.”
Whatever strategy couples use, there is a reward for communicating. Women can stop feeling pain, men can stop guessing about orgasms, and both partners can get the kind of sexual experiences they want. That’s why, Reinisch insisted, says “communication is the best lubrication.”

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America Unzipped: In Search of Sex and Satisfaction