Pain doctors weigh in on maximal owies. gizmodo.com
New research is zeroing in on a biochemical basis for the placebo effect — possibly opening a Pandora’s box for Western medicine. [Gary Greenberg] www.nytimes.com
A 40,000-year-old painting of a mysterious, wild cow-like beast discovered in a Borneo cave is the oldest human-made drawing of an animal on record, a new study finds. www.livescience.com
“Cute aggression” is the technical name for the overwhelming urge to nuzzle and play-nibble at puppies, kittens and babies. Researchers are studying it to understand how pleasure and other impulses and instincts play out in the brain.
Scientists are figuring out the biological mechanism that led to humans losing their fur (which could lead to a cure for baldness, which I’d like). But we still don’t know the evolutionary purpose furlessness serves. www.smithsonianmag.com
50 years ago Friday, Apollo 8 took off and on Christmas Eve that year, human beings first saw the Earth from the moon. Humbling.
Also, men tolerate cold better than women – a fact which nobody told my body, because I don’t like cold and Julie does much better with it. About 30% of our conversations in summer is about me wanting to not turn on the ac.
Robert Ballard, who discovered the wreck of the Titanic, says it was a cover for a military mission to recover two sunken nuclear subs. Holy crap!
After decades of research, we still don’t know very much about how diet relates to weight loss. And I’m sure the author of this article never gets any jokes about her name.
Researchers are relying on unreliable, self-reported data for studies showing too much screen time is bad for you. That same unreliability problem has plagued nutrition studies.
“Cube-shaped wombat poop” would be a good name for a podcast.
British scientists did DNA tests on the 9,000-year-old “Cheddar Man” skeleton in 1997 and found his descendant lived a half-mile from the burial site and taught history. (William D. Montalbano, Los Angeles Times)
Dogs were the first species we domesticated — many thousands of years before plants and other animals.
At one time, it might have been reasonable to assume that people would continue living longer and longer indefinitely, as nutrition improved and medical science got better at fixing disease and injury. But new research indicates that the black camel’s going to kneel at your door no later than age 115, no matter how well you take care of yourself, says Jan Vijg, a researcher at Albert Einstein College of Medicine
The oldest living person in the 1990s was around 115, and the same is true today.
In the photo: Jeanne Calment, who died in France at age 122. We won’t see her like again soon, and nobody’s ever going to have to face the challenge of blowing out 125 candles on their birthday cake.
My $0.02: I don’t doubt Vilg’s research has discovered the limit of the current hardware, even with the best maintenance. Extending the life of the product further will require ferocious hardware hacking.
(Carl Zimmer, The New York Times)
Tectonic shift moves Australia at the brisk rate of 2.7 inches northward a year, with a slight clockwise rotation as well. That means every couple of decades the nation needs to adjust coordinates of everything in the country to make then more accurate, which becomes more of a big deal as next-generation GPS systems reach accuracy of one inch. The last adjustment, in 1994 was about 656 feet, “enough to give the delivery driver an alibi for ringing your neighbor’s doorbell instead of yours,” says Michelle Innis at The New York Times. The next adjustment, at the end of the year, will be about 1.5 meters or 5 feet.
Science is just beginning to figure it out, writes Jennie Dear at The Atlantic:
“Roughly from the last two weeks until the last breath, somewhere in that interval, people become too sick, or too drowsy, or too unconscious, to tell us what they’re experiencing,” says Margaret Campbell, a professor of nursing at Wayne State University who has worked in palliative care for decades. The way death is talked about tends to be based on what family, friends, and medical professionals see, rather than accounts of what dying actually feels like.
James Hallenbeck, a palliative-care specialist at Stanford University, often compares dying to black holes. “We can see the effect of black holes, but it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to look inside them. They exert an increasingly strong gravitational pull the closer one gets to them. As one passes the ‘event horizon,’ apparently the laws of physics begin to change.”
What does dying feel like? Despite a growing body of research about death, the actual, physical experience of dying—the last few days or moments—remains shrouded in mystery. Medicine is just beginning to peek beyond the horizon.
Scientists study the brain activity of people who claim to be able to do just fine on five hours or less sleep per night. Research finds that these people might be more efficient than the rest of us at performing the memory consolidation that sleep provides. They might also be falling asleep for a minute or two at a time when things get boring. And maybe these short sleepers are just kidding themselves about how they function well on very little sleep.
I need more sleep than I’d like. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights I got four to five hours of sleep per night, and suffered for it. By Thursday and Friday I was a wreck. Last night I slept eleven hours and today it feels like my brain is packed in cotton.
NASA built a dome on the isolated slopes of a Hawaiian volcano, where six people lived on a simulated Mars mission for a year. They wore space suits when they went out. Inside, they enjoyed six bedrooms, one bath, kitchen, pantry, science lab, solar power, preserved food, and an Internet connection with a 20-minute delay (just like on Mars). The dome even has a TARDIS, though it’s out of order.