E-cigarettes and the rise of “Vaper” culture?

Wednesday, 16 April, 2014

With so-called e-cigarettes, or e-cigs, being touted as safer than the more regular variety, though the jury is actually still out on that point, vapers, the name given to people who partake, are probably going to become a common sight.

E-cigarettes are not cigarettes. As the name suggests, they simulate smoking and, via an inner heating element, deliver nicotine through the vapor of liquid nicotine instead of the combustion of tobacco leaves. That’s why e-cigarettes are often promoted as a safer alternative to smoking. But the public-health debate is in full bloom. Trace amounts of toxic substances have been detected in e-cigarettes, and their usage among youth doubled in 2012. Yet many cite the devices as remedies that can stop their decades-long tobacco-smoking habits.

I did see someone… puffing on an e-cig in a cafe a few weeks ago. While it seemed he couldn’t decide if he was pretending to smoke, or posing – I imagine he felt mildly self conscious “smoking” in a public enclosed space – the word is e-cigs can help those who are trying to give up smoking. That can’t be a bad thing.

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Editing our DNA, not with a keyboard, but through bacteria

Friday, 14 March, 2014

By tapping into the workings of the immune systems of certain types of bacteria, it may be possible to makes changes to, or edit, human DNA. The implications here are both positive and negative, but interesting nonetheless.

The sequences, it turns out, are part of a sophisticated immune system that bacteria use to fight viruses. And that system, whose very existence was unknown until about seven years ago, may provide scientists with unprecedented power to rewrite the code of life. In the past year or so, researchers have discovered that the bacterial system can be harnessed to make precise changes to the DNA of humans, as well as other animals and plants.

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Might multiple sclerosis make some people run faster and longer?

Wednesday, 12 March, 2014

Despite being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) three years ago, US high school student Kayla Montgomery, also a member of her school’s distance running team, was determined to improve her running times.

Although MS is a progressive disorder that may eventually result in paralysis, it can, in some instances, improve an athlete’s performance, temporarily at least, as Montgomery has learned:

Because M.S. blocks nerve signals from Montgomery’s legs to her brain, particularly as her body temperature increases, she can move at steady speeds that cause other runners pain she cannot sense, creating the peculiar circumstance in which the symptoms of a disease might confer an athletic advantage. But intense exercise can also trigger weakness and instability; as Montgomery goes numb in races, she can continue moving forward as if on autopilot, but any disruption, like stopping, makes her lose control.

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Eye, optometrist

Friday, 7 March, 2014

I linked to an article a month or two ago warning that advances in technology could see machines taking on the work of skilled professionals such as doctors and accountants… and sooner rather than later, at that.

If an online service that offers comprehensive and accurate eye tests, allowing people to perform such check-ups from their computer or smartphone, while also issuing a prescription if needed, is all that is cracked up to be, then optometrists could be among the first of these workers to be thus affected.

Since people with astigmatism see the world stretched at certain angles, Opternative shows a fan of red and green lines. The stretching causes the red and green to bleed together into yellow that users can pick out to identify the angles where they have astigmatism. By asking for your shoe size and then telling you to take heel-to-toe steps away from your screen, Opternative can accurately measure your sight at different distances. It all feels clever and easy – almost fun.

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Quid pro quo, a Tetris addiction may nullify other addictions

Wednesday, 5 March, 2014

Tetris may be a highly addictive game, but playing it can stave off other cravings or fixations, such as the desire to smoke, or eat or drink excessively, it would seem. A case of substituting one obsession for another? Maybe, but that could be a small price to pay if you’re trying to cut back on these sorts of things.

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Is running so addictive that it requires a health warning?

Monday, 3 March, 2014

For all the benefits, people who, say, run long distances, or spend a couple of hours a day working out at the gym, could be addicted to their exercise regimen. While this may not seem like much of a problem at first glance, it can become all too easy to burn the candle at both ends, as it were:

Two weeks ago I woke up feeling a little under the weather, but this condition didn’t keep me from leaving the house at 4:45 a.m. in rainy, 38-degree weather to cover 11 miles with hill intervals worked in for good measure. It was really never a choice. I wouldn’t have considered doing anything else. When I finally made it back home I felt like death, immediately came down with a high fever, and was confined to bed for three days. This was, I had to admit it, a self-inflicted flu.

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A longer life is elsewhere, such as a longevity hot spot

Monday, 17 February, 2014

People residing in certain regions of Greece, Italy, Japan, California, and Costa Rica, tend to live longer than those elsewhere. Relocating to one of these places would only be part of the longevity equation though, if you wanted to try and boost your lifespan.

After discovering that there are longevity hot spots where people tend to live especially long, writer Dan Buettner spent the last 12 years locating and documenting these areas, dubbed “blue zones.” “I increasingly was interested in mysteries that dealt with the human condition,” says Buettner, a National Geographic fellow. Through that research, he found several factors that might prolong health and life for people in blue zones. “Longevity is a consequence of constant, longterm little things,” Buettner says. “There’s no silver bullet.”

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Telling yourself you slept is a placebo for no sleep, it seems

Monday, 3 February, 2014

Convincing yourself you had a full night’s sleep, when possibly you barely slept a wink, is akin to enjoying said night’s full and relaxing sleep, or so says some research into the topic:

A great victory was won here for lies, over truth. This study shows that if you’re in the mindset that you’re well-rested, your brain will perform better, regardless of the actual quality of your sleep. Conversely, constantly talking about how tired you are, as so often happens in our culture, might be detrimental to your performance.

I absolutely would not go for any of this if you need to drive somewhere, especially a long distance, though.

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2014, it’s not all doom and gloom in the world…

Friday, 10 January, 2014

A counterbalance hopefully, similarities to 1914, and the possible prospect of a Great War like conflict notwithstanding, the outlook is not all despair. For instance, literacy rates are rising, diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis are on the wane, while poverty and hunger are in decline globally, among other positive trends.

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Smoking, and the damage done

Tuesday, 17 December, 2013

Tobacco Body is a website created by the Cancer Society of Finland, that sets out, all to plainly, the toll that smoking can take, by comparing images of a non-smoker with a smoker.

Via Feel Desain.

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