Showing posts with label Science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Science. Show all posts

January 23, 2017

Theory Based on Quantum Physics in Which Death Is Not The End

image: image for What Happens When You Die article
This is  theory adamfoxie is sharing with you and is posted by 
It has nothing to do with religious believes but instead on the laws seen as physics and relativity.
                        We watch our loved ones’ age and die and assume that’s the end of the story. We believe in death because we’ve been taught we die. Also, of course, because we associate ourselves with our body and we know bodies die. But biocentrism — a new theory of everything — tells us death may not be the terminal event we think. Amazingly, if you add life and consciousness to the equation, you can explain some of the biggest puzzles of science. For instance, it becomes clear why space and time — and even the properties of matter itself — depend on the observer.
One well-known aspect of quantum physics is that certain observations cannot be predicted absolutely. Instead, there is a range of possible observations each with a different probability. One mainstream explanation, the “many-worlds” interpretation, states that there are an infinite number of universes (the ‘multiverse’). Everything that can possibly happen occurs in some universe. Death doesn’t exist in any real sense in these scenarios since all of them exist simultaneously regardless of what happens in any of them. Although individual bodies are destined to self-destruct, the alive feeling — the ‘Who am I?’— is just a 20-watt fountain of energy operating in the brain. But this energy doesn’t go away at death. One of the surest axioms of science is that energy never dies; it can’t be created or destroyed. But does this energy transcend from one world to the other?
Consider an experiment that was published in in the prestigious scientific journal Science (Jacques et al, 315, 966, 2007). Scientists in France shot photons into an apparatus, and showed that what they did could retroactively change something that had already happened in the past. As the photons passed a fork in the apparatus, they had to decide whether to behave like particles or waves when they hit a beam splitter. Later on — well after the photons passed the fork — the experimenter could randomly switch a second beam splitter on and off. It turns out that what the observer decided at that point, determined what the particle actually did at the fork in the past. Regardless of the choice you, the observer, make, it is you who will experience the outcomes that will result. The linkages between these various histories and universes transcend our ordinary classical ideas of space and time. Think of the 20-watts of energy as simply holo-projecting either this or that result onto a screen. Whether you turn the second beam splitter on or off, it’s still you, the same battery or agent responsible for the projection.
According to Biocentrism, space and time are not the hard cold objects we think. In truth, you can’t see anything through the bone that surrounds your brain. Your eyes are not portals to the world. Everything you see and experience right now — even your body — is a whirl of information occurring in your mind. Wave your hand through the air — if you take everything away, what’s left? Nothing. The same thing applies for time. Space and time are simply the tools for putting everything together.
Death does not exist in a timeless, spaceless world. Einstein knew this. In 1955, when his lifelong friend Michele Besso died, he wrote: “Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Immortality doesn’t mean a perpetual existence in time without end, but rather resides outside of time altogether.
This was clear with the death of my sister Christine. After viewing her body at the hospital, I went out to speak with family members. Christine’s husband — Ed — started to sob uncontrollably. For a few moments I felt like I was transcending the provincialism of time. I thought about the 20-watts of energy, and about experiments that show a single particle can pass through two holes at the same time. I could not dismiss the conclusion: Christine was both alive and dead, outside of time.
Christine had had a hard life. She had finally found a man that she loved very much. My younger sister couldn’t make it to her wedding because she had a card game that had been scheduled for several weeks. My mother also couldn’t make the wedding due to an important engagement she had at the Elks Club. The wedding was one of the most important days in Christine’s life. Since no one else from our side of the family showed, Christine asked me to walk her down the aisle to give her away.
Soon after the wedding, Christine and Ed were driving to the dream house they had just bought when their car hit a patch of black ice. She was thrown from the car and landed in a banking of snow.
“Ed,” she said “I can’t feel my leg.”
She never knew that her liver had been ripped in half and blood was rushing into her peritoneum.
After the death of his son, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “Our life is not so much threatened as our perception. I grieve that grief can teach me nothing, nor carry me one step into real nature.”
Life is an adventure that transcends our ordinary linear way of thinking. When we die, we do so not in the random billiard-ball-matrix but in the inescapable-life-matrix. Life has a non-linear dimensionality — it’s like a perennial flower that returns to bloom in the multiverse.
Whether it’s flipping the switch for the Science experiment, or turning the driving wheel ever so slightly this way or that way on black-ice, it’s the 20-watts of energy that will experience the result. In some cases the car will swerve off the road, but in other cases the car will continue on its way to my sister’s dream house.
Christine had recently lost 100 pounds, and Ed had bought her a surprise pair of diamond earrings. It’s going to be hard to wait, but I know Christine is going to look fabulous in them the next time I see her. 

January 21, 2017

When knife Placed on Corpse to Remove Cornea Eyes Flinch, Still Dead?

Reader Advisory-Not for everyone, this is a true medical story. 

 Be educated while your brain works, tell them now how things should be handle or may be you don’t care because you will be dead; But would you really be dead?
The Beating Heart ❥Corpses

Their hearts are still beating. They urinate. Their bodies don’t decompose and they are warm to the touch; their stomachs rumble, their wounds heal and their guts can digest food. They can have heart attacks, catch a fever and suffer from bedsores. They can blush and sweat – they can even have babies.
And yet, according to most legal definitions and the vast majority of doctors these patients are thoroughly, indisputably deceased.
These are the beating heart cadavers; brain-dead corpses with functioning organs and a pulse. Their medical costs are astronomical (up to $217,784 for just a few weeks), but with a bit of luck and a lot of help, today it’s possible for the body to survive for months – or in rare cases, decades – even though it’s technically dead. How is this possible? Why does this happen? And how do doctors know they’re really dead?
Premature burials
Identifying the dead has never been easy. In 19th Century France there were 30 theories about how to tell if someone had passed away – including attaching pincers to their nipples and putting leeches in their bottom. Elsewhere, the most reliable methods included yelling a patient’s name (if the patient ignored them three times, they were dead) or thrusting mirrors under their noses to see if they fogged up.
Suffice to say, the medical establishment wasn’t convinced about any of them. Then in 1846, the Academy of Sciences in Paris launched a competition for “'the best work on the signs of death and the means of preventing premature burials” and a young doctor tried his luck. Eugène Bouchut figured that if a person’s heart had stopped beating, they were surely dead. He suggested using the newly invented stethoscope to listen for a heartbeat – if the doctor didn’t hear anything for two minutes, they could be safely buried.
He won the competition and his definition of “clinical death” stuck, eventually to be immortalised in films, books and popular wisdom. “There wasn’t much that could be done, so basically anyone could look at a person, check for a pulse and decide whether they were dead or alive,” says Robert Veatch from the Kennedy Institute of Ethics.
But a chance discovery in the 1920s made things decidedly messier. An electrical engineer from Brooklyn, New York, had been investigating why people die after they’ve been electrocuted – and wondered if the right voltage might also jolt them back to life. William Kouwenhoven devoted the next 50 years to finding a way to make it happen, work which eventually led to the invention of the defibrillator.
It was the first of a deluge of revolutionary new techniques, including mechanical ventilators and feeding tubes, catheters and dialysis machines. For the first time, you could lack certain bodily functions and still be alive. Our understanding of death was becoming unstuck.
The invention of the EEG – which can be used to identify brain activity – dealt the final blow. Starting in the 1950s, doctors across the globe began discovering that some of their patients, who they had previously considered only comatose, in fact had no brain activity at all. In France the mysterious phenomenon was termed coma dépasse, meaning literally “a state beyond coma”. They had discovered the ‘beating-heart cadavers’, people whose bodies were alive though their brains were dead.
This was an entirely new category of patient, one which overturned 5,000 years of medical understanding in a single sweep, raising new questions about how death is identified and dredging up some thorny philosophical, ethical and legal issues to boot.
 “It goes back and forth as to what people call them but I think patient is the correct term,” says Eelco Wijdicks, a neurologist from Rochester, Minnesota.
These beating heart cadavers should not be confused with other kinds of unconscious patients, such as those in a coma. Though they aren’t able to sit up and respond to the sound of their name, they still show brain activity, undergoing cycles of sleep and (unresponsive) wakefulness. A patient in a coma has the potential to make a full recovery.
A persistent vegetative state is decidedly more serious – in these patients the higher brain is permanently, irretrievably damaged – but though they will never have another conscious thought, again, they are not dead. 
To qualify as a beating heart cadaver, the entire brain must be dead. This includes the “brain stem”, the primitive, tube-shaped mass at the bottom of the brain which controls critical bodily functions, such as breathing. But, somewhat disconcertingly, our other organs aren’t as troubled by the death of their HQ as you’d think.
Alan Shewmon, a neurologist from UCLA and outspoken critic of the brain death definition, identified 175 cases where people’s bodies survived for more than a week after the person had died. In some cases, their hearts kept beating and their organs kept functioning for a further 14 years – for one cadaver, this strange afterlife lasted two decades.
How is this possible?
In fact, biologically speaking, there has never been a single moment of death; each passing is really a series of mini-deaths, with different tissues dropping off at different rates. “Choosing a definition of death is essentially a religious or philosophical question,” says Veatch.
For centuries, soldiers, butchers and executioners have observed how certain body parts may continue twitching after decapitation or dismemberment. Even long before life support, 19th Century physicians related accounts of patients whose hearts had continued to beat for several hours after they stopped breathing.
At times, this slow decline can have alarming consequences. One example is the Lazarus sign, an automatic reflex first reported in 1984. The reflex causes the dead to sit up, briefly raise their arms and drop them, crossed, onto their chests. It happens because while most reflexes are mediated by the brain, some are overseen by “reflex arcs”, which travel through the spine instead. In addition to the Lazarus reflex, corpses also have the knee-jerk reflex intact.
Further along the life-death continuum, skin and brain stem cells are known to remain alive for several days after a person has died. Living muscle stem cells have been found in corpses which are two-and-a-half-weeks old.
Even our genes keep going long after we’ve taken our last breath. Earlier this year, scientists discovered thousands which spring to life days after death, including those involved in inflammation, counteracting stress and – mysteriously – embryonic development.
Beating heart cadavers can only exist because of this lopsided decline – it’s all dependent on the brain dying first. To get to grips with why this happens, consider this. Though the brain makes up just 2% of a person’s body weight, it sucks up a staggering 25% of all its oxygen. 
Neurons are so high-maintenance in part because they are active all the time. They are constantly pumping out ions to create miniature electrical gradients between their insides and the surrounding environment; to fire, they simply open up the floodgates and let the ions flow back in.
The trouble is, they can’t stop pumping. If their efforts are stalled by a lack of oxygen, neurons are rapidly inundated with ions which build to toxic levels, causing irreversible damage. This “ischaemic cascade” explains why if you accidentally lop off a finger, it can usually be sewn back on, but most people can’t hold their breath for more than a few minutes without fainting.
Which brings us back to that perennial medical problem: if your heart’s still beating, how can doctors tell you’re dead? To begin with, doctors identified victims of coma dépasse by checking for the absence of brain activity on an EEG. But there was a problem.
Colleen Burns woke up just as doctors were about to remove her organs 
Alarmingly, alcohol, anaesthesia, some illnesses (such as hypothermia) and many drugs (including Valium) can shut down brain activity, conning doctors into thinking their patient is dead. In 2009, Colleen Burns was found in a drug-induced coma and doctors at a hospital in New York thought she was dead. She woke up in the operating room the day before doctors were due to remove her organs (NB: it’s unlikely this would have gone ahead, because her doctors had planned additional tests before the surgery).
Several decades earlier in 1968, a group of esteemed Harvard doctors called an emergency meeting to discuss exactly this. Over the course of several months, they devised a set of foolproof criteria which would allow doctors to avoid such blunders and establish that beating heart cadavers were definitely dead. 
The tests remain the global standard today, though some of them look uncannily like those from the 19th Century. For a start, a patient should be “unresponsive to verbal stimuli”, such as yelling their name. And though leeches and nipple pincers are out, they should remain unresponsive despite numerous uncomfortable procedures, including injecting ice-cold water into one of their ears – a technique which aims to trigger an automatic reflex and make the eyes move. This particular test is so valuable it won its discoverer a Nobel Prize.
Finally, the patient shouldn’t be able to breathe on their own, since this is a sure sign that their primitive brain is still going. In the case of Burns, the horrifying incident was only possible because her doctors ignored tell-tale signs that she was alive; she curled her toes when they were touched, moved her mouth and tongue and was breathing independently, though she was hooked up to a respirator. Had they followed the Harvard criteria correctly, they would never have declared her dead.
Cadaver donor management
You might expect all medical treatment to stop after someone is considered dead – even if they are a beating heart cadaver – but that’s not quite true. Today beating heart cadavers have spawned a strange new medical specialty, “cadaver donor management”, which aims to improve the success of transplants by tending to the health of the dead. The aim of the game is to fool the body into thinking everything is fine until recipients are lined up and their surgeons are ready.
In all, nearly twice as many viable organs – around 3.9 per cadaver– are retrieved from these donors compared to those without a pulse and they’re currently the only reliable source of hearts for transplant.
Intriguingly, the part of the brain that the body misses most is not its primitive stem or, as we’d like to think, the wrinkled seat of human consciousness (the cortex), but the hypothalamus. The almond-shaped structure monitors levels of important hormones, including those which regulate a person’s blood pressure, appetite, circadian rhythms, sugar levels, fluid balance and energy expenditure – then makes them, or instructs the pituitary gland to do so.
Instead the hormones must be provided by intensive care teams, who add just enough to an intravenous drip as and when they are needed. “It’s not just a case of putting them on a ventilator and giving them some food – it’s far more than that,” says Wijdicks.
Once the consent forms have been signed, dead patients receive the best medical care of their lives 
Of course, not everyone is comfortable with the idea. To some, organ donor management reduces human beings to mere collections of organs to be stripped for parts. As journalist Dick Teresi cynically put it, once the consent forms have been signed, dead patients receive the best medical care of their lives.
These interventions are only possible because the Harvard tests promise to sort the dead and the living into neat boxes – but alas, yet again death is messier than we’d like to think. In a review of 611 patients diagnosed as brain dead using their criteria, scientists found brain activity in 23%. In another study, 4% had sleep-like patterns of activity for up to a week after they had died. Others have reported beating heart cadavers flinching under the surgeon’s knife and there have even been suggestions that they should be given an anaesthetic – though this is controversial.
To inject further controversy into the mix, some people don’t even agree with the definition in principle, let alone in practice. In the United States, many Orthodox Jews, some Roman Catholics and certain ethnic minorities – in total, around 20% of the population – like their dead with a flat-lining heart rate and cold to the touch. “There’s this group of people who quite militantly are offended when a doctor tries to pronounce death on someone that the family thinks are still alive,” says Veatch.
“Even with clinical death, there are disputes – for instance about how long it’s necessary for circulation to be lost before it’s impossible for it to be restored. We use five minutes in the US but there isn’t really good evidence that that’s the right number,” says Veatch.
At the heart of many legal struggles is the right to choose your own definition of death and when life support should be removed, issues Veatch is particularly passionate about. “I have consistently supported individuals who would insist on a circulatory definition, though that’s not the one I would use,” he says.
Where it gets particularly sticky is if the victim is pregnant. In these cases, the patient’s family have a heart-breaking choice to make. They can either accept that they’ve lost her unborn baby, or begin the intensive and often gruesome battle to keep her going long enough to deliver, which is usually when the foetus is about 24-weeks-old.
Back in 2013, Marlise Munoz was found unconscious at her home in Texas. Her doctors suspected that she had suffered a pulmonary embolism and discovered that she was 14 weeks pregnant. Two days later she was declared dead. Munoz was a paramedic and had previously told her husband that in case of brain death, she would not want to be kept alive artificially. He petitioned to have her life support removed – but the hospital refused.
“In Texas there’s an automatic invalidation of a pregnant woman’s advanced directive. If she wanted them to withdraw life-sustaining treatment, then when she died that would not be allowed – that would be ripped up. She would be provided life-sustaining treatment,” says Christopher Burkle, an anaesthetist from Rochester, Minnesota who co-authored a paper on the subject with Wijdicks.
The circumstances are extremely rare, with only about 30 reported cases between 1982 and 2010, but the tug-of-war between the interests of the mother and those of her unborn baby begs the question: which human rights should we retain when we’re dead?
“In the US a dead patient still has rights to the protection of their medical information, for example. You can’t publish their medical record on the 6 o’clock news – a person who is dead has privacy rights in that respect. It’s not a huge jump to suggest that rights be maintained in other avenues for a dead person,” says Burkle.
And things may be about to get a lot more complicated. At the moment, doctors are bound by the “dead donor rule”, which asserts that no organs can be removed until a person is dead – that is, totally brain-dead or with a heart which has already stopped beating. But some people, including Veatch, think this should change.
They have proposed the “higher brain” definition, which means a person isn’t dead when their heart stops beating, or even when they stop breathing – a person is dead when they lose their “personhood”. Those with crucial parts of their brains intact and the ability to breathe independently would be dead so long as they could no longer have conscious thoughts. 
By loosening up the definition a little further, transplant doctors would have access to a much larger pool of potential donors than they do at the moment and save countless lives.
Death isn’t an event, it’s a process – but after thousands of years of trying, we’re still searching for something more definitive. It doesn’t look like this is about to end any time soon.
 --By Zaria Gorvett
  From BBC Future, Earth, Culture.

December 26, 2016

Gay Men Can Now Donate Bone Marrow(life saving) in the US

This posting appeared a couple of hours ago on the by . Iam posting it here just as it appeared on NBC”s post. All credit is given to NBC. Due to time limitations and importance of the story this blog wanted it posted as soon as possible and after editing to fit in our page it was posted here.

Cara Pagels was teaching in South Korea when she found out she had aplastic anemia. Like many people who are diagnosed with bone marrow disorders, she didn't know what the disease was. 
"The first time I heard about it, I assumed it was something I could fix by taking iron pills," Pagels told NBC Out. 
The reality is that aplastic anemia, a rare condition that affects just two in a million people, devastates the body's ability to make new blood cells. Patients commonly suffer from organ failure, spontaneous bleeding and even brain hemorrhage as a result. The causes of the disease, which are thought to be exposure to toxins and pesticides, are unknown, but its impact can be fatal. Aplastic anemia can be treated with medications and transfusions. But for Pagels, without a bone marrow match, she could die. 

Cara Pagels Cara Pagels

In July 2016, the 26-year-old left her job and her school in South Korea, where she had spent three years teaching. She initially headed to the East Asian country after tutoring at a refugee center, and while there, she said she "absolutely fell in love with teaching." 
Patients in need of a bone marrow donation often face extraordinary challenges to finding that perfect match. While there are eight different blood types, there are millions of varieties of tissue types. Some people will never find a donor, and for the 13.5 million people currently enrolled in the National Bone Marrow Registry, there's only a 1 in 430 chance volunteers will ever be called upon to donate tissue. 
But for Pagels, the challenge is also personal. 
Many of her friends are gay or bisexual and historically unable to donate to blood centers under Federal Drug Administration policy. The FDA placed a lifetime ban on men who have sex with men (MSMs) until December 2014, when the policy was lifted in favor of a 12-month deferral period. Accustomed to being turned away from blood centers due to the fear they might transmit HIV, Pagels' gay and bisexual male friends were worried they wouldn't be able to help her out.   

Long lines of people wait at the OneBlood Donation Center to donate blood for the injured victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Gerardo Mora / Getty Images

Christopher Rosner, 26, a longtime friend and former coworker of Pagels', attempted to donate blood in college, prior to the new policy being put into place. Rosner, who wasn't aware of the ban on MSM donations at the time, said he was "furious." 
"It was the first time I had ever been discriminated against because of my sexual orientation," Rosner said, adding, "There's plenty of people who would be willing to help out, but we can't." 
That groundbreaking policy change traces its beginnings all the way back to 2005, when Be the Match first received guidance from the FDA that populations considered at "high risk" for HIV transmission could donate bone marrow in instances of extreme urgency -- such as an instance where an individual who had previously been banned from the registry constituted the only match for a patient in need of a life-saving donation. 

Bone Marrow Aspiration

Bone marrow aspiration BSIP/UIG / Getty Images

Enforcement of those guidelines, however, was slow to change. Gay and bisexual men continued to be turned away for bone marrow donation until last year, as Medium writer John Colucci found out when he attempted to sign up for the registry in February 2015. Be the Match told him in an email that the group was working to "amend our policy and be more inclusive of potential donors while continuing to ensure safe and effective marrow donations for patients in need." 
Just 10 months later, the group stopped asking questions about donors' sexual orientation during the recruitment process. As Director of Community Engagement Mary Halet explained, this decision was made after years of consultation with guiding committees and infectious disease experts. 
"What we learned over time is that as donors donated having those risk factors, we found consistently that their infectious diseases were negative," Halet said. "Patients were not placed at any additional profound risk. The risk of dying from leukemia or blood cancer is far greater than the potential risk of dying from infectious disease transmission." 

Bone marrow donation

After swabbing the insides of his checks, a volunteer deposits his swabs into a collection envelope during a bone marrow drive in Portland, Maine, on February 9, 2015. Amelia Kunhardt / Press Herald via Getty Images

To sign up for the National Bone Marrow Registry, Be the Match representatives collect tissue from the inside of donors' cheeks with a Q-Tip. Each potential donor is then put through a rigorous screening process. If selected, volunteers are first tested to make sure their human leukocyte antigen (HLA) typing matches the cotton swabs collected at registration. After that, tissue samples are put through two rounds of infectious disease testing, which scans for diseases ranging from HIV to Hepatitis B and the West Nile Virus. 
During screening, donors are asked additional questions on the basis of individual risk. Italy and Spain have switched to a similar system for blood donations, which determines eligibility based on behavioral factors like intravenous drug use and unprotected sex, without an outbreak of infectious diseases in the blood supply. 
"We've had no pushback," Halet said of the decision to allow MSM donations. "The response has been very favorable." 
Jason Cianciotto, the Vice President of Policy, Advocacy and Communications at Harlem United, believes if allowing MSMs to donate tissue has had no negative impact on the bone marrow registry, the FDA should do the same for blood donation. The FDA, which regulates donation guidelines, sets its blood and tissue recommendations separately. It's time for the organization, he said, to update its policies to meet current scientific understanding on HIV. 
"[The 12-month deferral period] is a scientifically unsound policy that particularly stigmatizes gay and bisexual male communities, as well as transgender women," he told NBC Out. "It carries forward the false notion that HIV is a gay disease. Gay and bisexual men who are HIV-negative and who practice safe sex, are married and in monogamous relationships, or on PrEP—and if they're taking it regularly, have little to no risk of contracting HIV—are effectively banned for life." 
Some MSMs will remain celibate and be able to donate blood. A vast majority will not.  
The original FDA policy dates back to 1983, when it was more difficult to test for HIV in the blood supply. Through rapid advancements in screening technology, the medical community has shortened that window, able to confirm presence of the virus in a blood sample as few as nine days. Today, the chances of contracting HIV through a blood transfusion are just 1 in 1.47 million, but the FDA, according to critics, remains stuck in the past. The government body has currently said it's reviewing its standards. 
The impact of allowing gay and bisexual men to donate blood is impossible to underestimate. In 2014, a report from UCLA's The Williams Institute found that striking down the ban on MSM donations could increase the blood supply by 4 percent each year and could help save the lives of more than a million people. 
While Be the Match said lifting the MSM tissue ban has generated excitement among LGBTQ donors, few are initially aware of the policy change. That knowledge gap continues to put at risk many of the individuals who are the least likely to have a match, most of whom are people of color. Thirty-four percent of African Americans in need of a bone marrow donation do not have a match, and the numbers are similar for Asian Americans (28 percent), Latinos (20 percent) and Native Americans (23 percent). In contrast, 97 percent of Caucasian patients have a match.  
"Eighteen to 24-year-old male donors are our primary target," Melissa Betheil, an account executive with the New York Blood Center who works with Be the Match, told NBC Out. "Women get pregnant. When you're pregnant, you can't donate. When you're breastfeeding, you can't donate. We really want men to donate, yet excluded some of them for so long." 
Pagels argues that it's important for blood and tissue centers to do further outreach to these communities and fight the stigma that keeps many from donating. It could save lives like hers. 
"It's sad and depressing that people are rejected that opportunity to help fellow humans," Pagels said. "It really limits the chances we have for survival when so many people are being excluded from the registry." 
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June 24, 2015

Why does The Pope knows about Climate Change? “400y.o.The Collective”


Sick of hearing about the pope’s encyclical? How about the “400-year-old collective […] that operates as the pope’s eyes and ears on the natural world,” a.k.a. the “secret science committee” behind that encyclical?

Didn’t think so. Here’s the scoop from Bloomberg:

The Pontifical Academy has about 80 members, all of them appointed for life. Scientists hail from many nations, religions, and disciplines, which today include astronomy, biochemistry, physics, and mathematics. Members pursue the scientific issues they deem most important to society, without Vatican interference. Unlike the National Academy of Sciences, which is financially independent from the U.S., the Pontifical Academy relies on the Vatican to keep the lights on.

The full academy meets every two years and is often granted an audience from the pope. In the stretches between the biannual sessions, scientists hold workshops and produce reports on whichever topics they agree are most important for the pope to understand.

And they’ve been worried about climate change for quite some time:

Academy events have addressed the basics of climate change going back at least to October 1980. That’s when Italian physicist Giampietro Puppi addressed the academy during a weeklong workshop on energy.

“The introduction into the atmosphere of an additional amount of particulates and gas, as a result of fuel burning,” said Puppi, an academy member from 1978 until his death, in 2006, “represents in the medium term, decades to centuries, the most important issue and the one of greatest concern on a global scale.”

Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, has been a member of the academy since 2004. He told Bloomberg that the group is completely secular: “Not all of them even believe in a god. They are there for pure scientific excellence, and they are not co-opted by any country. They’re not co-opted by the United Nations.”

In April, the academy invited religious leaders from all over — Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and other Christians — to the Vatican for a symposium on climate change. Here’s more from Bloomberg:

They heard from Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen, who popularized the notion that human industry has shoved the world into a new geological phase — the “anthropocene,” or in plainspeak, “the human age.”

And they heard Jeffrey Sachs, prolific writer and Columbia University economist, say that “we can still, but just barely,” avoid pollution levels that lead to dangerous climate change risk.

But the pope doesn’t necessarily take advice from the committee, Werner Arber, a Nobel-winning molecular biologist and the president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, told Bloomberg. If he doesn’t “appreciate” their work, he’s free to pretty much ignore it.

In an email to Bloomberg, British astronomer Martin Rees, who has been on the committee since 1990, wrote that “the Vatican is as opaque to me as to you!” But he added that this encyclical is encouraging — it could have an impact in the developing world and “maybe also in your Republican Party.”

Yeesh. That’s embarrassing. And also, unfortunately, pretty wishful thinking.

May 1, 2015

Neuroscientists Perfected a Genetic Switch for Mice Behavior on/off /UR Next/

Neuroscientists have perfected a chemical-genetic remote control for brain circuitry and behavior. This evolving technology can now sequentially switch the same neurons — and the behaviors they mediate — on-and-off in mice, say researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health. Such bidirectional control is pivotal for decoding the brain workings of complex behaviors. The findings are the first to be published from the first wave of NIH grants awarded last fall under the BRAIN Initiative
“With its new push-pull control, this tool sharpens the cutting edge of research aimed at improving our understanding of brain circuit disorders, such as schizophrenia and addictive behaviors,” said NIH director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Bryan Roth, M.D., Ph.D.  External Web Site Policy, of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Michael Krashes, Ph.D.  External Web Site Policy, of NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; and colleagues, debut the second generation of the tool, called DREADD — Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs — on April 30, 2014 in the journal Neuron.
DREADD 2.0 improves on a widely-adopted technology developed by Roth, a grantee of NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health, and colleagues, over the past decade. It achieves remote control by introducing a synthetic brain chemical messenger system that integrates with the workings of naturally-occurring systems. 
Researchers genetically-engineer mice to have brains containing what they dub “designer receptors” in specific circuits. These are synthetic proteins on the surface of neurons that can only be activated by a matching synthetic chemical that otherwise has no biological effect – like a lock that can only be opened by a unique key. When the “designer drug” binds to its receptor, depending on its programming, it either triggers or blocks neuronal activity, thus giving researchers experimental control over the animal’s brain circuits and behaviors.
Updated DREADD
The updated DREADD (Designer Receptors Activated Exclusively by Designer Drugs) achieves bidirectional remote control of a neuron (bottom) and behavior by introducing a synthetic, experimental chemical messenger system into specific brain circuits in mice. It consists of a receptor protein (top) and matching inert chemical (middle) for increasing neuronal activity (red) and another set for reducing activity (blue). Source: Bryan Roth, Ph.D., University of North Carolina
Early iterations of DREADD could only control activity in one direction – on or off – in the same population of cells. DREADD 2.0 takes advantage of properties offered by a particular type of receptor, paired with a biologically inert chemical that binds to it, to add bidirectional control. Coupled with an existing DREADD, it can be used experimentally to probe circuitry of a broad range of behaviors via sequential, on-and-off control of neurons. It’s like having two sets of locks with their own unique keys – one triggering “on,” the other turning “off.” For example, the researchers demonstrated how the improved DREAD toolkit can bi-directionally control animals’ movement and feeding behaviors.

Since DREADD effects last about an hour – as opposed to milliseconds with an alternative optical-genetic technology – it may be the tool of choice for studies of behaviors requiring prolonged control of circuitry and/or minimal invasiveness.
Grants: MH105892, DA017204, DA035764, DK075087, DK075089, AA019454, AA17668, AA020911, AA02228001, AA018335, AA021312
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About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit
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Vardy E, Robinson JE, Li C, Olsen RHJ, DiBerto JF, Giguere PM, Sassano FM, Huang X-P, Zhu H, Urban DJ, White KL, Rittiner JE, Crowley NA, Pleil KE, Mazzone CM Mosier PD, Song J, Kash TL, Malanga CJ, Krashes MJ, Roth BL. A new DREADD facilitates the multiplexed chemogenetic interrogation of behavior. Neuron, April 30, 2015.

March 10, 2015

Atomic Scientists Report on Who is got Nukes and How Many


Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Reports on   United

States/Russia/China/Britain/Israel Nuclear Arsenals

In ArchiveBritainChinaIsraelMilitaryRussiaUSA on March 7, 2015 at 11:42 AM
These are the most up-to-date reports from Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on the nuclear arsenals of the world’s biggest superpowers. This post will continually be updated with the most recent reports as they are published, including those of other major players such as France, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and any others, when they become available.

United States (March/April 2015)
As of early 2015, the authors estimate that the US Defense Department maintains about 4,760 nuclear warheads. Of this number, they estimate that approximately 2,080 warheads are deployed while 2,680 warheads are in storage. In addition to the warheads in the Defense Department stockpile, approximately 2,340 retired but still intact warheads are in storage under the custody of the Energy Department and awaiting dismantlement, for a total US inventory of roughly 7,100 warheads. Since New START entered into force in February 2011, the United States has reported cutting a total of 158 strategic warheads and 88 launchers. It has plans to make some further reductions by 2018. Over the next decade, it also plans to spend as much as $350 billion on modernizing and maintaining its nuclear forces.
Russia (March/April 2014)
Russia has taken important steps in modernizing its nuclear forces since early 2013, including the continued development and deployment of new intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), construction of ballistic missile submarines, and development of a new strategic bomber. As of March 2013, the authors estimate, Russia had a military stockpile of approximately 4,300 nuclear warheads, of which roughly 1,600 strategic warheads were deployed on missiles and at bomber bases. Another 700 strategic warheads are in storage along with roughly 2,000 nonstrategic warheads. A large number—perhaps 3,500—of retired but still largely intact warheads await dismantlement.
China (November/December 2013)
The number of weapons in China’s nuclear arsenal is slowly growing, and the capability of those weapons is also increasing. The authors estimate that China has approximately 250 warheads in its stockpile for delivery by nearly 150 land-based ballistic missiles, aircraft, and an emerging submarine fleet. China is assigning a growing portion of its warheads to long-range missiles. The authors estimate that China’s arsenal includes as many as 60 long-range missiles that can reach some portion of the United States. The US intelligence community predicts that by the mid-2020s, China could have more than 100 missiles capable of threatening the United States.
Britain (July/August 2013)
Recent research has revealed new facts about the British nuclear arsenal over a 25-year period starting in 1953. This accounting and the authors’ own research support an estimate that the British produced about 1,250 nuclear warheads between 1953 and 2013. From a peak of about 500 warheads in the period between 1974 and 1981, the UK arsenal has now been reduced to some 225 weapons.
Israel (November/December 2014)
Although the Israeli government neither confirms nor denies that it possesses nuclear weapons, it is generally accepted by friend and foe alike that Israel is a nuclear-armed state—and has been so for nearly half a century. The basis for this conclusion has been strengthened significantly since our previous estimate in 2002, particularly thanks to new documents obtained by scholars under the US Freedom of Information Act and other openly available sources. We conclude that many of the public claims about the size of the Israeli nuclear arsenal are exaggerated. We estimate that Israel has a stockpile of approximately 80 nuclear warheads for delivery by two dozen missiles, a couple of squadrons of aircraft, and perhaps a small number of sea-launched cruise missiles.

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