Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

PETA cries foul over selling cockroaches as pets... -

PETA cries foul over selling cockroaches as pets... - 

Cockroaches aren’t on the typical child’s Christmas list, but an Ann Arbor company is hoping to change that with a cyborg device meant to turn the creepy crawlers into scientific entertainment they can control with a smartphone.

Backyard Brains has developed a Kickstarter project, the RoboRoach, that allows one to cut live cockroaches and implant electrodes to control the insects’ movements. One hundred and eighty three people have pledged $12,339 — exceeding the $10,000 goal to fund the project.

It’s like a remote-controlled car in the body of a live bug, the game “Operation” writ large. But the creators want it to be taken seriously, with Greg Gage saying his product advances the study of neural circuits, allowing students to make scientific discoveries.

“Twenty percent of the world will have a neurological disorder with no known cure and so what we are trying to do is get kids interested in neuro-science at an early age and and we can actually capture those kids and turn them into neuro-scientists and actually help us cure these diseases,” said Gage.

PETA doesn’t see it like that. PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is crying fowl and believes the RoboRoach kit should be declared illegal. PETA counsel Jerrod Goodman claims it promotes the practice of veterinary medicine without a license by altering an animal from its normal condition.

“This cruel and inhumane product instructs children to, without anesthesia, send down various parts of a living cockroach’s body,” Goodman said in a statement Tuesday. “They stab a syringe through the animal, force electrodes into the animal, and superglue apparatuses to the inside and the outside of the cockroach’s body.”

According to Backyard Brain’s website, The RoboRoach circuit is not a toy, but a tool for studying neural circuits and allows for students to make discoveries about electrical micro-stimulation.

“Cockroaches are intelligent animals, they have learning and memory capacities,” Goodman said. “They have sophisticated social lives with each other and they can feel pain. It’s not okay to pull the wings off of flies and it’s not okay to teach children to torture and mutilate cockroaches. You can hate and dislike someone all you like, but it doesn’t make it okay to torture them.”


A Chip In The Head: Brain Implants Will Be Connecting People To The Internet By The Year 2020 -

A Chip In The Head: Brain Implants Will Be Connecting People To The Internet By The Year 2020 - 

Would you like to surf the Internet, make a phone call or send a text message using only your brain?  Would you like to “download” the content of a 500 page book into your memory in less than a second?  Would you like to have extremely advanced nanobots constantly crawling around in your body monitoring it for disease?  Would you like to be able to instantly access the collective knowledge base of humanity wherever you are? 

Image: Wikimedia Commons.
All of that may sound like science fiction, but these are technologies that some of the most powerful high tech firms in the world actually believe are achievable by the year 2020.  However, with all of the potential “benefits” that such technology could bring, there is also the potential for great tyranny.  Just think about it.  What do you think that the governments of the world could do if almost everyone had a mind reading brain implant that was connected to the Internet?  Could those implants be used to control and manipulate us?  Those are frightening things to consider.
For now, most of the scientists that are working on brain implant technology do not seem to be too worried about those kinds of concerns.  Instead, they are pressing ahead into realms that were once considered to be impossible.
Right now, there are approximately 100,000 people around the world that have implants in their brains.  Most of those are for medical reasons.
But this is just the beginning.  According to the Boston Globe, the U.S. government plans “to spend more than $70 million over five years to jump to the next level of brain implants”.
This new project is being called the Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies (SUBNETS), and the goal is to be able to monitor the “mental health” of soldiers and veterans.  The following is how a recent CNET article described SUBNETS…
SUBNETS is inspired by Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), a surgical treatment that involves implanting a brain pacemaker in the patient’s skull to interfere with brain activity to help with symptoms of diseases like epilepsy and Parkinson’s. DARPA’s device will be similar, but rather than targeting one specific symptom, it will be able to monitor and analyse data in real time and issue a specific intervention according to brain activity.
This kind of technology is being developed by the private sector as well.  In fact, according to Scientific American scientists are becoming increasingly excited about how brain implants can be used to “reboot” the brains of people with depression…
Psychological depression is more than an emotional state. Good evidence for that comes from emerging new uses for a  technology already widely prescribed for Parkinson’s patients. The more neurologists and surgeons learn about the aptly named deep brain stimulation, the more they are convinced that the currents from the technology’s implanted electrodes can literally reboot brain circuits involved with the mood disorder.
Would you like to have your brain “rebooted” by a chip inside your head?


Russia’s goodie bag gifts ‘bugged’ G-20 delegates - “Trojan Horses” designed to download info and send it back -

Russia’s goodie bag gifts ‘bugged’ G-20 delegates - “Trojan Horses” designed to download info and send it back - 

They’re spies like us!

Crafty Russian operatives gave goodie bags to world powers at the G-20 summit with USB drives and phone chargers — but they were “Trojan Horses” designed to download info and send it back to the motherland.

The cloak-and-dagger spy game played out at last month’s conference in St. Petersburg, where Vladimir Putin and President Obama appeared to patch up their feud.

But little did Obama know that Putin’s henchmen were making sure every delegate at the G-20 walked out with equipment that could compromise state secrets.

The clever Boris-and-Natasha ploy was reported Tuesday by the major Italian newspapers La Stampa and Corriere della Sera as the US remains under fire for NSA spying on world leaders’ phone calls.

European Union President Herman Van Rompuy became suspicious of the gift-bag devices, which bore the red-and-blue “Russia G20” logo, so he asked technical experts in Belgium and Germany to check them out, according to EU sources.


Woman to hand out 'obese letters' to overweight children on Halloween -

Woman to hand out 'obese letters' to overweight children on Halloween - 


Imagine going trick-or-treating for candy this Halloween and getting a critical letter in your candy bag.  

That’s what may be happening to some kids in North Dakota this year. One woman called into the Y94 radio station in Fargo this week to say she doesn’t plan to just give Halloween candy to all of the children who come to her door.  

She said she also plans to give a sealed letter to any overweight children who visit her, which the children are then supposed to give to their parents. In the letter, the woman plans to tell the parents that they are acting irresponsibly by sending their children out to seek candy when they are already overweight.

The letter, which Y94 says was emailed to them by the woman, reads in part:

“You [sic] child is, in my opinion, moderately obese and should not be consuming sugar and treats to the extent of some children this Halloween season.

My hope is that you will step up as a parent and ration candy this Halloween and not allow your child to continue these unhealthy eating habits.”

When asked by the hosts of the show why she didn’t give out toys or stickers instead of candy, the woman, who identified herself only as Cheryl, said she didn’t want to be the “mean lady” in the neighborhood. The woman also said that she doesn’t plan to deny candy to any of the children who visit her house.

“Well really, I just want to send a message to the parents of kids that are really overweight. It’s just, these kids, I can see them and they’re struggling to stay healthy and they want to play with the other kids, and I think it’s really irresponsible for parents to send them out looking for free candy just because all the other kids are doing it,” the woman said.

Corey “Zero” Schaffer, one of radio hosts who conducted the interview, said they plan to follow up with the woman to see if she carried out her plans.

“I’d love to have her back on Friday morning and see if she went through with giving those letters out,” Schaffer told FoxNews.com.


NFL offers tackling 'safety' clinic for moms... - "Football Safety Clinic for Moms." -

NFL offers tackling 'safety' clinic for moms... - "Football Safety Clinic for Moms." - 

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell came to town to teach mothers how to tackle safely.

I am not making this up.

The event, sponsored by the league and the Chicago Bears, was titled "Football Safety Clinic for Moms." The intent, no doubt, was to ease fears about letting their sons play the game. The timing was nothing if not fortuitous.

Last month, studies by researchers at the Virginia Tech-Wake Forest University School of Biomedical Engineering and Sciences concluded that football players as young as 7 suffer hits to the head every bit as traumatic as those suffered by high school and adult players. Last week, an HBO Real Sports-Marist poll headlined "Youth Football Takes Hard Hit" found that 56 percent of respondents said the risk of long-term brain injury would be an important factor in deciding whether to allow their son to play football.

Five kids aged 16 or younger have died playing high school football since August, two from brain injuries and a third suffered a broken neck. More than 25,000 football players from 8 to 19 years old seek treatment for concussions at emergency rooms every year.

None of that was mentioned during the breezy, 80-minute clinic.

It began with an introduction from Goodell, followed by remarks from TV talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz, who's a heart surgeon by training but needed no coaching on how to sell the game. Maybe because he's already featured in an NFL promotional campaign that aired during last weekend's games called "Together We Make Football."

Oz was followed by athletic trainers who stressed the importance of properly feeding and hydrating young football players, and they were followed by Dr. Elizabeth Pieroth, who is the Bears neuropsychological consultant, but not a medical doctor. She presented checklists for recognizing concussion symptoms and recommendations for treatment, but suggested on balance that "boys like to hit things" and without proper channels for their aggression, they might do other things like drive too fast or drink too much.

It made me wonder how much more havoc NFL players might wreak if they weren't playing, but then came time for the 200 or so moms to line up and learn the tackling techniques taught as part of USA Football's "Heads Up Football" program.

"I line up my front foot right in the middle of my target, and why?" one of the instructors said during a demonstration, without waiting for an answer.

"So I can put my head to the side and make the tackle safely."

Never mind that the improving science on concussions increasingly suggests all those measures above combined - and applied at every level - will reduce the numbers only so much, let alone the way the game is played in the NFL.

At one point, I walked up to Goodell and tried to ask how much safer he believed football could actually be made. Instead of answering, he looked away and a burly member of his security detail inserted himself between us and said "No questions."

Fortunately, though, Goodell had time for the moms. And after 20 minutes of practice, they were stoked. When they returned to their seats for a final 20-minute question-and-answer session with a panel that included the commissioner, Pieroth and several former Bears, one of the first questions was:

"My son is 5 years old. I see linebacker in his future. When is too soon for him to start playing?"

Understandably, several panel members assumed she was asking about flag football. When people in the crowd made clear there were tackle football leagues in the area for kids that young, the consensus on the panel was that each family had to make its own determination.


Study Shows Eating Alone Is Bad For Your Health -

Study Shows Eating Alone Is Bad For Your Health - 

You are what you eat -- but apparently, who you eat with is pretty important too. Research shows that eating alone means eating a less nutritious diet, especially for those over 50.

The European Prospective Investigation of Cancer (EPIC Norfolk) has shown that loneliness and social isolation have a harmful impact on the eating habits of older adults. Started in 1993, the study followed 25,000 people between the ages of 40 and 80 in Europe over the past 20 years. Researchers looked at how diet and lifestyle affect the onset of chronic diseases including diabetes and cancer.

Older adults that were single ate 2.3 fewer vegetable servings per day, and widows or widowers living alone ate 1.1 fewer vegetables servings per day than their married or cohabiting counterparts. Widows and widowers living with someone, however, ate just as many vegetables as married or cohabiting people -- highlighting the importance of social interaction.

Vegetables are essential to any diet. They provide key nutrients that can reduce the risk of a wide range of health problems including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

"People's diet is not fixed, it changes over time. Furthermore, the ability to eat healthily is influenced by a person's social environment, including factors like marriage, cohabitation, friendships and general social interacting. As people age, they are less likely to eat well -- and when older people are living alone their diet often suffers," says social epidemiology researcher, Annalijn Conklin, in a release.

An estimated 19 percent of men and around 37 percent of women over 65 live alone, according to the National Institute on Aging, a number rising in the last 40 years.

Researchers say this phenomenon means a growing need for concern as the population of aging people rises. In the U.S., the number of people over 65 will more than double what it was in 2000, to nearly 80 million, the Administration on Aging estimates.

The UK-based Campaign to End Loneliness says loneliness affects overall health as much as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for you than other health risk factors like drinking and lack of exercise. Lonely people are more likely to suffer from dementia, depression, and cognitive decline.

The good news in all of this is improving the social ties of older adults can potentially improve not only their physical health but their emotional well-being. Since post 50s are more likely than any other group to lose relationships due to divorce or death, researchers say it's important for communities to provide more social opportunities for aging populations.


Alberta grizzlies getting fatter, more fertile due to global warming, study says -

Alberta grizzlies getting fatter, more fertile due to global warming, study says - 

A grizzly in Banff. The study conducted over 10 years found that warmer temperatures and easier access to food help grizzlies build more body fat and increase their likelihood of reproduction

Research by the University of Alberta shows that grizzly bears in parts of the province are getting fatter and more fertile thanks to global warming.

The study conducted over 10 years found that warmer temperatures and easier access to food help grizzlies build more body fat and increase their likelihood of reproduction.

Bears in the more development-prone foothills of the Rockies are generally larger and healthier than those in remote old-growth forests in places like Jasper National Park, data shows.

“It is kind of contrary to what you would think,” said Scott Nielsen, a biologist in the university’s Department of Renewable Resources in Edmonton.

Bears in secluded alpine environments are less productive because they have a more limited food supply, Nielsen said. The down side is that animals that live closer to development have higher mortality rates.

“The bears do better, but they don’t live as long,” Nielsen said. “The important thing is controlling their interactions with people. They do quite well if left alone.”

Nielsen and colleagues at the Foothills Research Institute in Hinton monitored 112 grizzly bears over the duration of the study, which concluded in 2008. Funding for the project was received from more than 40 sources, including the Alberta Conservation Association, Canadian Wildlife Service, Carleton University, Environment Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Suncor, Syncrude and Weyerhaeuser.


Animal sightings spark 'kid cages' at New Mexico bus stops -

Animal sightings spark 'kid cages' at New Mexico bus stops - 


A child waiting for a school bus in Reserve, a tiny community in rural New Mexico, may feel a little caged in, perhaps claustrophobic — but that’s precisely the point.

About a half-dozen wooden and mesh "kid cages" are located at bus stops in the rural, western New Mexico town, where there have been sightings of the Mexican gray wolf. Some of the 300 or so residents say the shelters could save the life of a child who waits in the predawn hours for a ride to school, but critics say they are part of an effort by ranchers to demonize the animals.

“They’re designed so children can step up in them and sit down and wait for the bus,” Catron County Sheriff Shawn Menges told FoxNews.com. “What happens out here in these rural areas is that most of the time, the parents are going to sit and wait with the children [for the bus] in their vehicle, but that’s not always true.”

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