Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

STUDY: Knocking wood, throwing salt over shoulder 'can reverse bad luck'... -

STUDY: Knocking wood, throwing salt over shoulder 'can reverse bad luck'... - 

SUPERSTITIOUS people may have been right all along as knocking on wood really could protect you against bad luck, scientists claim.

Those who perform long-held rituals such as throwing salt over their shoulder are less likely to worry about ill-fortune, according to researchers from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Superstitions reverse perceived bad fortune by making participants believe ill-fortune was less likely to happen.

Professor Jane Risen, of Chicago University, said knocking on wood seems to create the sense bad luck is being pushed away.

The study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology said: "General said knocking on wood is the most common superstition in Western culture used to reverse bad fortune or undo a "jinx."

Other cultures maintain similar practices - like spitting or throwing salt - after someone has tempted fate. 

Even people who aren't particularly superstitious often participate in these practices.

People believe that negative outcomes are especially likely after a jinx. 

If someone says “no one I know will ever get into a car accident” it often feels a crash is likely to occur.

But people's elevated concerns after tempting fate can be eliminated if they engage in a ritual to undo that bad luck.


VW’s augmented-reality app moves amateur mechanics out from under the shade tree -

VW’s augmented-reality app moves amateur mechanics out from under the shade tree - 


Ever wondered how automotive technicians are able work on every single car from a brand – or several brands, for that matter? The answer involves lots of training and online step-by-step instruction repair manuals.

That is, until now.

Let me introduce you to what I believe is the future for not only dealership-based automotive repair but also at-home, do-it-yourself repair. The system is called MARTA (Mobile Augmented Reality Technical Assistance) and it is going to revolutionize the repair industry.

Developed by Volkswagen, MARTA uses the built-in camera on tablet device to display service information for a vehicle in real time. Specifically, the system was developed for the Volkswagen XL1.

When MART is activated, it projects an image on the tablet screen over the live image of the vehicle, as you can see in the video below. Going step by step, MARTA shows the technician the steps and tools required to complete the job.

In the video, we see that MARTA shows a torque wrench is needed to loosen a part of the front clip on the VW XL1.

I come from an automotive repair background. Not having to turn around and dig through an antiquated computer program for repair steps every couple minutes, forced to decipher poorly rendered black and white images, would have been a godsend during my mechanic days.

Sadly, for now, the MARTA only works for the Volkswagen XL1.

I am sure, however, that in a matter of a few years, this technology will expand across the new car field. It can then trickle down to the aftermarket, which will be ideal for tech-savvy shade tree mechanics like me.


Chinese boy 'gives birth' to twin brother after doctors find fetus growing in his stomach -

Chinese boy 'gives birth' to twin brother after doctors find fetus growing in his stomach - 


A 2-year-old Chinese boy had surgery to "give birth" to his twin brother, after stunned doctors discovered his parasitic twin brother's fetus inside his stomach.

Xiao Feng, from Huaxi, China was taken to hospital after his stomach became so enlarged he was having difficulty breathing. X-Rays and MRI scans revealed Feng was carrying the undeveloped fetus of his twin inside his swollen stomach.

Shocked doctors diagnosed Feng as "pregnant" and rushed him into emergency surgery, where he was forced to "give birth" as doctors removed the twin fetus, reported the Inquisitr.

The fetus was nearly 8 inches wide and had developed a spine, fingers and toes. It had grown so much that it was taking up almost two-thirds of the boy’s stomach, doctors said.


Beaver butts emit goo used in vanilla flavored foods - "natural flavoring" -

Beaver butts emit goo used in vanilla flavored foods - "natural flavoring" - 

Next time you pick up a vanilla candy, think twice. A chemical compound used in vanilla flavored foods and scents comes from the butt of a beaver.

Castoreum comes from a beaver's castor sacs, located between the pelvis and base of the tail. Due to its proximity to the anal glands, the slimy brown substance is often mixed with gland secretions and urine.

"I lift up the animal's tail," Joanne Crawford, a wildlife ecologist at Southern Illinois University told National Geographic. "I’m like, 'Get down there, and stick your nose near its bum.'"

"People think I'm nuts," she added. "I tell them, 'Oh, but it's beavers; it smells really good.'"

Beavers use the brown slime, often compared to a thinner version of molasses, to mark their territory. The musky, vanilla scent is attributed to a beaver's diet of bark and leaves.

Manufacture have been using castoreum as an additive in foods and perfumes for at least 80 years, according to a 2007 study in the International Journal of Toxicology.

But getting a beaver to emit castoreum is not easy. Foodies are willing to "milk" the animals in order to get their hands on the gooey substance.

"You can milk the anal glands so you can extract the fluid," Crawford said. "You can squirt [castoreum] out. It's pretty gross."

Only 292-pounds per year is collected because the milking method is unpleasant for all parties involved.

And the worst part? The FDA-approved castoreum is not required to be listed as an ingredient on food items. Manufacturers may list "natural flavoring" instead.

Perhaps a bit too natural for us.


Exercise may be ‘as effective’ as drugs for treating common diseases - such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes -

Exercise may be ‘as effective’ as drugs for treating common diseases - such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes - 

Routine exercise has long been touted as a preventative lifestyle choice that can help lower an individual’s risk for developing health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

But now, new research has shown that exercise may be equally as effective as certain prescription medications at treating these chronic – and sometimes deadly – diseases.

In a study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers from the London School of Economics, Harvard Medical School and Stanford University School of Medicine were interested in comparing the benefits of both exercise and drugs from past clinical trials, to see how they measured up in terms of extending a person’s mortality.

“What we have is a body of research that looks at benefits of exercise alone and then a separate body of research that looks at benefits of drugs on their own,” lead researcher Huseyin Naci, a researcher at the London School of Economics and a pharmaceutical policy research fellow at the Harvard Medical School, told FoxNews.com. “There’s never been a study that compares these two together, so that’s the rationale for this research.”

Naci and his team looked at four areas of health where evidence has shown that exercise can have lifesaving benefits: secondary prevention of heart disease, stroke rehabilitation, treatment of heart failure and prevention of diabetes.

Researchers then compiled a list of the different classes of drugs people commonly take to manage these conditions, and ultimately came up with 305 randomized clinical trials to analyze.  The study involved 339,274 people, 15,000 of whom received physical intervention for their health conditions while the rest were included in drug trials.

Overall, the researchers saw no significant difference between exercise and drug intervention for the secondary prevention of heart disease and the prevention of diabetes.  And in the case of stroke patients, exercise was found to be more effective than drug treatment at extending a person’s mortality.  However, diuretic drugs were found to be more effective than exercise and other drugs for the helping patients with heart failure.

Given their findings, Naci argued that the study’s results should not dissuade heart disease and diabetes patients from changing their current treatments.

“One thing that is very much not a takeaway is that patients should stop taking their medications without consulting with their doctors,” Naci said.  “However, doctors do need to have really candid conversations with patients about the lifesaving benefits of exercise.”

Naci also said that combination therapies utilizing both diet and exercise may not be the answer either.  A recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that statins, commonly prescribed cholesterol lowering medications, may actually block some of the health benefits seen from exercise.


Wave of jellyfish shut down nuclear power plant... -

Wave of jellyfish shut down nuclear power plant... - 

The Swedish operators of one of the world’s largest nuclear reactors say they are preparing to restart the facility after it had to be shut down because of a wave of jellyfish.
A wave of jellyfish was huge enough to force one of the world’s largest nuclear reactors to shut down – a phenomenon that marine biologists say could become more common.
Operators of the Oskarshamn nuclear plant in southeastern Sweden had to scramble reactor number three on Sunday after tonnes of jellyfish clogged the pipes that bring in cool water to the plant’s turbines.
By Tuesday, the pipes had been cleaned of the jellyfish and engineers were preparing to restart the reactor, which at 1400 megawatts of output is the largest boiling-water reactor in the world, said Anders Osterberg, a spokesman for OKG, the plant operator.
All three Oskharshamn reactors are boiling-water types, the same technology at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant that suffered a catastrophic failure in 2011 after a tsunami breached the facility’s walls and flooded its equipment.
Jellyfish are not a new problem for nuclear power plants. Last year the California-based Diablo Canyon facility had to shut its reactor two after gobs of sea salp – a gelatinous, jellyfish-like organism – clogged intake pipes. In 2005, the first unit at Oskarshamn was temporarily turned off due to a sudden jellyfish influx.
Nuclear power plants need a constant flow of water to cool their reactor and turbine systems, which is why many such plants are built near large bodies of water.
Marine biologists, meanwhile, say they would not be surprised if more jellyfish shutdowns occur in the future.
“It’s true that there seems to be more and more of these extreme cases of blooming jellyfish,” said Lene Moller, a researcher at the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment. “But it’s very difficult to say if there are more jellyfish, because there is no historical data.”
The species that caused the Oskarshamn shutdown is known as the common moon jellyfish.
“It’s one of the species that can bloom in extreme areas that . are overfished or have bad conditions,” said Moller.
“The moon jelly likes these types of waters. They don’t care if there are algae blooms, they don’t care if the oxygen concentration is low. The fish leave . and (the moon jelly) can really take over the ecosystem.”
Moller said the biggest problem right now is that there’s no monitoring of jellyfish in the Baltic Sea.


Space Burials at $1,990 Give Aging Japan Cheaper Funeral Option -

Space Burials at $1,990 Give Aging Japan Cheaper Funeral Option - 

Burial options in Japan are expanding beyond the traditional Buddhist ceremony. You can now send a loved one’s ashes into space.
Closely held Elysium Space Inc. is offering a service in Japan to send a portion of a person’s cremated remains in a capsule that will circle the earth for several months for $1,990. Relatives and friends can track the spacecraft’s trajectory on a mobile phone app. Like a meteorite, the remains disintegrate upon entering the earth’s atmosphere, “blazing as a shooting star,” according to a company statement.
About one gram of a person’s remains are placed into an individual “space-grade” aluminum capsule, Benjamin Joffe, a spokesman for the company said in an e-mail. Missions will carry between 100 to 400 individual capsules, he said.
The service will give a new option for Japanese looking to reduce the size and expense of funerals as relatives become fewer and traditional ties weaken in one of the world’s fastest aging societies. The cost of a renting a burial plot and buying a tomb stone in Tokyo is about 2.7 million yen ($27,400), according to Japan Institute of Life Insurance.
The market for funeral services in Japan rose 0.7 percent to 1.3 trillion yen in the year ended March 2010 from a year earlier as the number of aged Japanese increased, according to the marketing and credit research firm Teikoku Databank Ltd. based in Tokyo.

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