Latest from Health and Science

April 1st, 2011
by George S. Crimmin

[private] v9-4-georgeFor decades now the World Health Organization has been advising women around the world who miscarry to wait at least six months before getting pregnant again.  But new research from Scotland found the opposite to be true.  Women who conceived within six months of miscarrying had the BEST CHANCE of a successful pregnancy. In fact, the study showed that the longer women waited (particularly older women) to try again, even by a few months, the higher their risk of having another miscarriage.

Since childhood, I have been led to believe that competition is good for the soul.  Well, it may be good for the soul but apparently not so for the life span, according to the results of a new study on longevity.  Research scientists found that men, who grew up in places where males outnumbered females – and thus had to compete mightily for mates, had a shorter life span than those who came of age in an environment with a more even sex ratio.  The authors say the stress of fending off rivals can explain the shorter life spans. Fascinating don’t you think?  During my high school years I attended a co-ed boarding academy with about 125 males and only 75 females.  The males were under enormous pressure to find a partner quickly, otherwise you’d have to wait for a breakup or spend the whole year alone, so yes, I get it.

I believe we can all agree that a good night’s sleep is very important for maintaining good health.  I believe we can also agree that an uninterrupted night sleep is a rare commodity.  Spend a weekend in West End and you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Try sleeping with disco music thumping, cars honking their horns, drunken people yelling on the streets, TV’s blaring, toilets flushing and dogs barking.  The sleeping brain is designed to tune out these auditory distractions, but some people’s brains do so a lot better than others.  The key to a good nights’ sleep then is in the brain and researchers now have the first clues to understanding why.  Scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital analyzed the brain waves of 12 self-described healthy sleepers during a three-night study in a sleep lab.

The volunteers were given cozy beds, but throughout the night they were assaulted with sounds, including car traffic, airplane noise and slamming doors – piped through speakers at varying volumes. It turned out that those who slept through the loudest noises were those whose brain recorded the most “sleep spindles”.  Scientists say that the “spindles” are produced by activity in the thalamus (a region deep in the brain that processes incoming activity) and can be used as a measure of how well the brain blocks out sound during sleep. And, soon they will be able to regulate “spindle” activity to help light sleepers and those with sleep disorders get a good night sleep.  I can’t wait; I might not have to move after all.

Visitors to our fair islands are sometimes mesmerized by hummingbirds, fascinating and beautiful creatures capable of flying at more than 30 miles per hour and flapping their wings up to 90 times per second. Few can resist looking on in awe when a hummingbird is hovering at the bird feeder.  The US Department of Defense however may be hoping that its’ latest spy weapon, an artificial hummingbird drone, doesn’t draw quite as much attention as the real deal.

Just 6.5 inches wide, this latest spy in the sky can fly 11 miles per hour and carries a tiny video camera.  To quote a Pentagon spokesman “The possibilities are limitless” – yes, and perhaps a bit unsettling as well.  I don’t know what Mr. John J. Audubon would have thought about this latest bird of America, but I feel certain the James Bonds of the world will be very impressed.

or decades now the World Health Organization has been advising women around the world who miscarry to wait at least six months before getting pregnant again.  But new research from Scotland found the opposite to be true.  Women who conceived within six months of miscarrying had the BEST CHANCE of a successful pregnancy. In fact, the study showed that the longer women waited (particularly older women) to try again, even by a few months, the higher their risk of having another miscarriage.
Since childhood, I have been led to believe that competition is good for the soul.  Well, it may be good for the soul but apparently not so for the life span, according to the results of a new study on longevity.  Research scientists found that men, who grew up in places where males outnumbered females – and thus had to compete mightily for mates, had a shorter life span than those who came of age in an environment with a more even sex ratio.  The authors say the stress of fending off rivals can explain the shorter life spans. Fascinating don’t you think?  During my high school years I attended a co-ed boarding academy with about 125 males and only 75 females.  The males were under enormous pressure to find a partner quickly, otherwise you’d have to wait for a breakup or spend the whole year alone, so yes, I get it.
I believe we can all agree that a good night’s sleep is very important for maintaining good health.  I believe we can also agree that an uninterrupted night sleep is a rare commodity.  Spend a weekend in West End and you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Try sleeping with disco music thumping, cars honking their horns, drunken people yelling on the streets, TV’s blaring, toilets flushing and dogs barking.  The sleeping brain is designed to tune out these auditory distractions, but some people’s brains do so a lot better than others.  The key to a good nights’ sleep then is in the brain and researchers now have the first clues to understanding why.  Scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital analyzed the brain waves of 12 self-described healthy sleepers during a three-night study in a sleep lab.
The volunteers were given cozy beds, but throughout the night they were assaulted with sounds, including car traffic, airplane noise and slamming doors – piped through speakers at varying volumes. It turned out that those who slept through the loudest noises were those whose brain recorded the most “sleep spindles”.  Scientists say that the “spindles” are produced by activity in the thalamus (a region deep in the brain that processes incoming activity) and can be used as a measure of how well the brain blocks out sound during sleep. And, soon they will be able to regulate “spindle” activity to help light sleepers and those with sleep disorders get a good night sleep.  I can’t wait; I might not have to move after all.
Visitors to our fair islands are sometimes mesmerized by hummingbirds, fascinating and beautiful creatures capable of flying at more than 30 miles per hour and flapping their wings up to 90 times per second. Few can resist looking on in awe when a hummingbird is hovering at the bird feeder.  The US Department of Defense however may be hoping that its’ latest spy weapon, an artificial hummingbird drone, doesn’t draw quite as much attention as the real deal.
Just 6.5 inches wide, this latest spy in the sky can fly 11 miles per hour and carries a tiny video camera.  To quote a Pentagon spokesman “The possibilities are limitless” – yes, and perhaps a bit unsettling as well.  I don’t know what Mr. John J. Audubon would have thought about this latest bird of America, but I feel certain the James Bonds of the world will be very impressed.

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