How does Stephen Hawking continue defying his ALS prognosis?

Wednesday, 4 March, 2015

British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, at the age of 21, and was expected to live no longer than two to five years. At age 72 though, he is still very much with us. And while some sufferers may live for a couple of decades, Hawking’s situation has left many people baffled:

So what makes Hawking different from the rest? Just luck? Or has the transcendent nature of his intellect somehow stalled what seemed an imminent fate? No one’s quite sure. Even Hawking himself, who can expound at length on the mechanics that govern the universe, is circumspect when it comes to an accomplishment that rivals his academic triumphs. “Maybe my variety [of ALS] is due to bad absorption of vitamins,” he said.

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So much for “doctor” and patient confidentiality online…

Tuesday, 3 March, 2015

Are you hitting the search engines looking for information about an illness you’ve – erroneously more than likely – diagnosed yourself with, based on material you’ve discovered by way of the same search engines?

It might be an idea to stop, and not just because you may have misinformed yourself, but on account of the apparent levels of surveillance such look-ups are subject to:

But an astonishing number of the pages we visit to learn about private health concerns – confidentially, we assume – are tracking our queries, sending the sensitive data to third party corporations, even shipping the information directly to the same brokers who monitor our credit scores. It’s happening for profit, for an “improved user experience,” and because developers have flocked to “free” plugins and tools provided by data-vacuuming companies.

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Happiness is a skill, not something that might just happen

Tuesday, 24 February, 2015

To be happy, you have to work at being happy, you have to become skilled in being happy, this from gaming website Polygon:

I’ve often heard that happiness is a skill, not a feeling, and I realized how little time I was spending working on the skill of happiness, while waiting passively for the feeling to reach me.

And then there’s this:

If you have a large family or simply many obligations in life – and this is just about everyone – setting concrete, workable goals for what games you want to play or books you want to read and chipping away at the list in an organized manner may make a huge difference in how you approach your free time. These things became fun again, instead of feeling like obligations that waited for me at the end of every day.

Listing out everything you need to do, and almost rationing time to action said objectives, may not result in a life that’s particularly spontaneous, but it is about the only way to do everything. But don’t worry about that lack of spontaneity, we live in far too chaotic a universe for there to be a great many dull moments.

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If you want to look 20 years younger in 20 years, stop smiling now

Friday, 20 February, 2015

As a ten year old year old girl, so the story goes, Tess Christian decided to stop smiling. She thought that doing so would maintain her youthful looks.

Aside from the difficulty in making a conscious effort not to smile, no matter how overwhelming the temptation may be, as a way of maintaining one’s youthful looks, there just might be something in such a strategy. What do you think?

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All things in moderation, including anxiety

Thursday, 19 February, 2015

As if we could avoid it… anxiety, however, or a certain, limited I would think, amount of it, can be beneficial, it seems:

This picture of anxiety as a dark and pernicious force certainly has illustrious supporters. Even so, I believe that it is mistaken. It goes against the grain to say this, but anxiety can be a good thing. Indeed, I hope to persuade you that it is central to our ability to successfully navigate moral and social life. I won’t go as far as to say that we need more of it, but we should cultivate it. Worry is important; we should get it right.

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Déjà vu and other things that might be, or were

Monday, 2 February, 2015

A British man appears to be so afflicted by what might be called persistent déjà vu, he avoids watching TV, listening to the radio, or keeping up with the news, because he feels he has already seen and heard it all before.

Interestingly, his condition has prompted some medical professionals to speculate that there may be a link between feelings of déjà vu and anxiety. But déjà vu is not the only instance of feeling something that may not be something.

  • Jamais vu: when something familiar, such as a word, seems alien, or unknown
  • Presque vu: the sense of almost, but not actually, recalling a memory
  • Déjà entendu: the feeling of having heard part of a conversation before

I’m pretty sure I’ve encountered déjà entendu, in addition to déjà vu of course, but not often.

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Dangerous sex positions… say what?

Friday, 30 January, 2015

Holy moly… it seems some sex positions are more dangerous than others. I would think that some of what we see in, say, the Kama Sutra might be asking for trouble, but the four that have been identified here, are just a little more day to day, as it were. Linked in the interests of keeping everyone out there safe and happy…

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The three Fs of tooth care, floss, floss, and floss

Wednesday, 28 January, 2015

I hope my dentist sees me posting this… if you’ve decided you want to take better care of your teeth, then you ought to read this.

The main standouts though are to floss daily, and, somewhat surprisingly to me at least, not to brush your teeth in the shower. I can’t say I’ve known, or even heard of, anyone who does that, but I guess there’s a first time for everything.

Experts think the issue is underlying inflammation that can set off a chain of reactions capable of damaging the body’s normal functioning – which isn’t good even if you’re NOT trying to be a parent. (Bacteria that flourish in an unhealthy mouth can lead to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and respiratory illness, research suggests.) A toothbrush’s bristles can’t adequately clean between the teeth or under the gums – but you already know that. What you probably don’t know is the correct way to floss (and you need to be doing it every day).

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On public speaking and anxiety disorders

Tuesday, 27 January, 2015

The prospect of speaking in public is probably enough to unsettle the best of us, but how does someone with an anxiety disorder manage? Scott Stossel, writing for The Alantic, outlines his preparations ahead of a speaking engagement.

Four hours or so ago, I took my first half milligram of Xanax. (I’ve learned that if I wait too long to take it, my fight-or-flight response kicks so far into overdrive that medication is not enough to yank it back.) Then, about an hour ago, I took my second half milligram of Xanax and perhaps 20 milligrams of Inderal. (I need the whole milligram of Xanax plus the Inderal, which is a blood-pressure medication, or beta-blocker, that dampens the response of the sympathetic nervous system, to keep my physiological responses to the anxious stimulus of standing in front of you – the sweating, trembling, nausea, burping, stomach cramps, and constriction in my throat and chest – from overwhelming me.) I likely washed those pills down with a shot of scotch or, more likely, vodka, the odor of which is less detectable on my breath.

How daunting is that? I may dread public speaking, but thankfully I don’t have to deal with an anxiety disorder.

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To juice cleanse, or detox, or not?

Monday, 26 January, 2015

Go into, say, Sydney’s Centennial Park on the first work day of the year, in the early evening, and see how many people are out running. Go back a week later, and see how few there are. Hmm, behold the fickle sway of new year’s resolutions…

If then, by chance, one of your resolutions for the new year, was to try out a detox, or juice cleanse, you ought to read this BuzzFeed piece on the subject… assuming that particular undertaking hasn’t already gone by the wayside.

“I don’t know why someone would do a juice cleanse,” Dr. John Buse, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the division of endocrinology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told BuzzFeed Life. “There’s very little evidence that it does anything good for you.”

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