Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Sun has 'flipped upside down' - Nasa - its north and south poles reversed -

Sun has 'flipped upside down' - Nasa - its north and south poles reversed - 

The sun has fully "flipped upside down", with its north and south poles reversed to reach the midpoint of Solar Cycle 24, Nasa has said.

Now, the magnetic fields have once again started moving in opposite directions to begin the completion of the 22 year long process which will culminate in the poles switching once again.

"A reversal of the sun's magnetic field is, literally, a big event," said Nasa's Dr. Tony Phillips.

"The domain of the sun's magnetic influence (also known as the 'heliosphere') extends billions of kilometers beyond Pluto. Changes to the field's polarity ripple all the way out to the Voyager probes, on the doorstep of interstellar space."

To mark the event, Nasa has released a visualisation of the entire process.

At the beginning, in 1997, the video shows the sun with its positive polarity on the top (the green lines), and the negative polarity on the bottom (the purple lines).

Over the next 11 years, each set of lines gradually move toward the opposite pole, eventually showing a complete flip.

By the end, both set of lines representing the opposing magnetic fields begin to work their way back, which will eventually culminate in the completion of the full 22 year magnetic solar cycle in approximately 11 years, before the whole process starts over again.

"At the height of each magnetic flip, the sun goes through periods of more solar activity, during which there are more sunspots, and more eruptive events such as solar flares and coronal mass ejections," said Nasa's Karen C. Fox.

"Cosmic rays are also affected," added Dr. Phillips. "These are high-energy particles accelerated to nearly light speed by supernova explosions and other violent events in the galaxy."

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Rabbi Sued After Baby's Penis Severed During Circumcision... -

Rabbi Sued After Baby's Penis Severed During Circumcision... - 

A local rabbi is being sued after allegedly botching a bris, the traditional Jewish circumcision ritual, and severing a newborn boy’s penis.
The incident detailed in the lawsuit happened at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill within the last year.
The Jewish circumcision ceremony was performed by Pittsburgh Rabbi Mordechai Rosenberg – who is also a mohel.

Sometime during the bris, according to the lawsuit, Rosenberg severed the baby boy’s penis.
The baby was rushed to Children’s Hospital, where doctors performed emergency microsurgery.
“If your finger, your thumb was cut off and was put back on, that is pretty exciting,” said renowned UPMC plastic surgeon Dr. Joe Losee.
Dr. Losee was not involved in the boy’s treatment and he can’t talk specifics.
But our sources say it took eight hours. The baby needed six blood transfusions and was hospitalized for nearly two months. Sources describe the reattachment procedure as successful.
Dr. Losee says microsurgery advances every day, but it’s risky.
“Sometimes, it doesn’t always work,” he says. “When you’re reattaching a portion where you include nerves, sometimes the nerves don’t heal well beyond where you reattached it. So there are limitations for sure.”
On his website, Rabbi Rosenberg says he is recognized as a “certified mohel by the American Board of Ritual Circumcision.” His site also says “a doctor’s medical circumcision, usually performed in the hospital, is not considered valid according to Jewish law.”
“That is extraordinarily serious and is extraordinarily rare,” said attorney David Llewellyn.
Llewellyn handles cases involving injury during circumcision – injury brought on by both doctors in the hospital and mohels in religious ceremonies.
“Your average pediatric urologist probably spends about 20 percent of his or her time repairing children who have been circumcised,” Llewellyn says.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, one in every 500 newborn boys experience significant acute complications as a result of circumcision.
“This is pretty much unregulated,” Llewellyn said.
He says there is no regulated standard for training or certification of mohels, or any place for reporting injuries from circumcision.

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STUDY: Brain function boosted for days after reading good novel... -

STUDY: Brain function boosted for days after reading good novel... - 

Being pulled into the world of a gripping novel can trigger actual, measurable changes in the brain that linger for at least five days after reading, scientists have said.

The new research, carried out at Emory University in the US, found that reading a good book may cause heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory.

The changes were registered in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language, as well as the the primary sensory motor region of the brain.

Neurons of this region have been associated with tricking the mind into thinking it is doing something it is not, a phenomenon known as grounded cognition - for example, just thinking about running, can activate the neurons associated with the physical act of running.

“The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” said neuroscientist Professor Gregory Berns, lead author of the study.

“We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.”

21 students took part in the study, with all participants reading the same book -  Pompeii, a 2003 thriller by Robert Harris, which was chosen for its page turning plot.

“The story follows a protagonist, who is outside the city of Pompeii and notices steam and strange things happening around the volcano,” said Prof Berns. “It depicts true events in a fictional and dramatic way. It was important to us that the book had a strong narrative line.”

Over 19 days the students read a portion of the book in the evening then had fMRI scans the following morning. Once the book was finished, their brains were scanned for five days after.

The neurological changes were found to have continued for all the five days after finishing, proving that the impact was not just an immediate reaction but has a lasting influence.

“Even though the participants were not actually reading the novel while they were in the scanner, they retained this heightened connectivity,” added Prof Berns. “We call that a ‘shadow activity,’ almost like a muscle memory.”

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The U.S. consumes more than 50 tons of antibiotics a day—80% of which is not used for humans -

The U.S. consumes more than 50 tons of antibiotics a day—80% of which is not used for humans - 

The United States consumes more than 50 tons of antibiotics a day—80% of which is not used for humans.

Rather, about 40 tons goes to promote agricultural production, such as giving antibiotics to cattle and chickens.

This practice has dire ramifications for human health, two experts warn, as the abundance of antibiotics in the food chain has resulted in drug-resistant bacteria that can leave people vulnerable to infections and other illnesses.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a critical threat to public health,” Aidan Hollis and Ziana Ahmed wrote in The New England Journal of Medicine. “The value of antibiotics for human health is immeasurable.”

Hollis, an economics professor at the University of Calgary, and Ahmed, an economist at the University of Toronto, estimated the U.S. goes through 51 tons of antibiotics a day. They estimate that each year The U.S. uses 13,540,000 kilograms (kg) for livestock, 3,290,000 kg for humans, 150,000 for aquaculture, 150,000 kg for pets and 70,000 kg for crops.

But, “the main use of this invaluable resource is rather disappointing: approximately 80% of antibiotics in the United States are consumed in agriculture and aquaculture,” they wrote.

Hollis and Ahmed say there is “a great deal of concern” that the overuse of antibiotics is “contributing to the development and spread of resistant organisms. Agricultural industry groups, in line with their short-term financial interests, argue that there is no conclusive proof that the antibiotics used in agriculture harm human health. Unfortunately, evidence is mounting that resistant pathogens are emerging and being selected for at least partly because of nonhuman uses of antibiotics”

Farmers and other agricultural industry groups have come to rely too much on these drugs to boost food production and achieve short-term financial gains, Hollis and Ahmed say. One solution, they argue, would be to impose a user-fee on the non-human application of antibiotics. This would discourage farmers from overusing these medicines.

“Modern medicine relies on antibiotics to kill off bacterial infections,” Hollis told Homeland Security News Wire. “This is incredibly important. Without effective antibiotics, any surgery—even minor ones—will become extremely risky. Cancer therapies, similarly, are dependent on the availability of effective antimicrobials. Ordinary infections will kill otherwise healthy people.”

He added: “The real value of antibiotics is saving people from dying. Everything else is trivial.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff

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