Stories tagged Interdependence of Life


Mind And Body

The body and mind are interconnected and emotions play a big part in determining one's health status. Stress and its negative effect on the immune system remains the major challenge to good health. The immune system with its holistic nature is significantly affected by its close associations with psychology, neurology, endocrinology, nutrition and the environment. Recent studies show 70-80% of all physician visits are stress related; 80% health problems are stress related; 100 million people "out" everyday due to stress; and 40% employee turnover due to stress. Chronic stress depletes the body's resources and ability to adapt. Over a long period coping functions are compromised and illness results.

A comprehensive approach to maintaining good health includes increasing self-responsibility for wellness, healthy lifestyle choices, health-promoting diet and a positive mental attitude. The concept of "Don't Worry. Be Happy," is not new. By the end of the 1970's several studies had shown that negative emotions suppress immune function. The 1979 book, Anatomy of An Illness, by Norman Cousins was a personal account of his experience using positive emotional states (humor and laughter) with guided imagery and meditative states to enhance immune system function in the face of serious, life-threatening disease.

That was then, this is now. Research at the Institute of HeartMath (IHM) shows negative emotions of anger, frustration and fear cause disorder in the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and positive emotions of care, appreciation and love create harmony in the ANS, increase the efficiency of the heart and boost the immune system. IHM is situated in the Santa Cruz mountains in Boulder Creek, California. Since 1991, the research and education organization has developed simple user-friendly tools people can use in the moment to relieve stress and break through into greater levels of personal balance, creativity and intuitive insight. The tools and technologies developed at IHM offer hope for new, effective solutions to the many daunting problems that currently face our society, beginning by restoring balance and maximizing the potential within the individual. IHM mission is to put the heart back into the people business and to facilitate a fundamental cultural shift in how organizations view people and how people view each other and themselves.

Today the heart is recognized as a symbol for love and compassion, through the ages it has been known as the "seat of compassion, joy and love". HeartMath researchers believe love is a physical state that we can be taught to create in ourselves; that it is created within this 10 ounce muscle (heart) by changing our heartbeat rhythms; and that simply by focusing in the heart with feelings of love and appreciation, this change in rhythm occurs.

Recent research at IHM has shown that the electricity generated by the heart can be detected and measured in the brain waves of-another person when people are near each other or touching. Electrically, the heart generates 40 to 60 times more amplitude than the brain and the electricity it produces can be measured several feet away from the body.
HeartMath research has proven that WHEN WE LOVE:

* The stress response in our bodies is reversed within seconds.
* The electromagnetic energy generated by the heart(about 2.5 watts of power) changes from a state of chaos into an ordered, harmonic pattern of waves.
* Many systems in our bodies that were operating independently of each other begin to function together in a state of order and harmony called entrainment.
* The ANS that runs the unconscious functions of the body changes from a state of conflict and imbalance into an ordered, efficient, balanced state.



delaware drug rehab


Karl Pha feels like he is in prison—he has been confined to an Eau Clair Hospital. Mr. Pha has active TB and refuses to take his medicine. The medication causes extreme itching. I understand his unhappiness, but he has 5 young children. If he doesn’t care about his own life he should at least worry about his kids. TB is a serious disease. Public health officials are not only concerned about Mr. Pha’s health and his family’s health but also the development of an antibiotic resistant strain.

This case brings up a few questions:

  • Should public health officials have the authority to confine someone with an infectious disease?
  • How would you define a situation that requires confinement?
  • Who pays for this hospitalization or other confinement costs?

Note: original title using the term fertilizer was corrected to read atrazine
Leopard frog
Leopard frogCourtesy Heather Dietz

What is happening to our frogs?

A recent study showed that atrazine in pond water could lead to a higher population of snails, which harbor parasites that also infect frogs. For the study, Lucinda Johnson and her colleagues at UMD collected leopard frogs from 18 wetlands near St. Cloud, Minnesota. The researchers found a positive correlation between the amount of atrazine in a wetland and the number of parasites in that wetland's frogs. The parasite in question is a tiny worm called a trematode. They can have a negative effect on frog populations.

How atrazine effects frogs

More fertilizer = more pond scum (periphyton)
More periphyton (snail food) = more snails
More snails = more snail parasites (trematodes)
More trematodes = more trematode larva attacking tadpoles
Larva infested tadpoles and frogs have lower survival rates when atrazine is present

The trematode worm that infects the frogs gets passed to frog-eating birds like herons and egrets. Inside the birds, the worms develop to adulthood. The adults produce eggs that are released into water with the birds' feces. The eggs hatch, develop into larvae, and burrow into snails. After further development, they burrow their way out again and swim in search of tadpoles. They infect them, the tadpoles turn into frogs, and the cycle continues.

Learn more about atrazine and frogs

Source articleUMNews: The tadpoles tale .
Article in Nature: Agrochemicals increase trematode infections in a declining amphibian species


The more happy people you know, the happier you're likely to be: But is it worth it?
The more happy people you know, the happier you're likely to be: But is it worth it?Courtesy ripleybsx
Okay, okay, y’all are getting stressed out about fear being contagious (I can smell it), so consider this:

Happiness is infectious too.

It’s not contagious in quite the same way as fear though. There are no pheromones directly involved—no, just being happy makes other people happy, they make people happy, and so forth (leave it to happiness to have such a milquetoast, touchy-feely method of transmission).

What’s remarkable here isn’t that being happy or sad can make other people happy or sad, it’s how happiness seems to have a cascade effect through social networks (you know, like Facebook, right, but in real life).

When someone is sad for whatever reason, their sadness doesn’t necessarily make a ton of other people sad. But when someone becomes happy, their happiness seems to flow into their social network by three degrees of the familiar six degrees of separation that divide any two people in a huge social network. That is, if you’re happy, your friends are more likely to be happy, and so are your friends’ friends, and so are your friends’ friends’ friends, but that’s about where it stops.

If you’re happy, friend living within one mile from you have a 25% increase in their chances of being happy, a co-resident spouse has an 8% increase, siblings a 14% increase, and next door neighbors a 34% increase in their likelihood of being happy. (Isn’t that odd? Your neighbors are more than 4 times more likely to be affected by your happiness than your spouse is.) And if any of these people do become happy, then the effect rolls over to their friends, neighbors, etc., and the system usually stretches to about 3 degrees from the original happy person.

Researchers figured the specifics of this out by mining through data on 5000 subjects over 20 years collected by the Framington Heart Study, which collected information on the social networks of its participants, as well as their ratings on the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Index.

It’s kind of like that movie Pay it Forward, except without Kevin Spacey. See, Kevin Spacey is never happy. His childhood was haunted by a series of premature deaths of pet guinea pigs, his adolescence marred by a rare bone condition known as “wiggle fingers,” and on the day he would win the Best Actor award for “American Beauty” he swallowed a pen cap, ruining the whole evening. The chain of happiness ends with Kevin Spacey.

The study also confirmed that popularity does indeed lead to happiness. If you’re at the center of a social network (i.e. popular), you’re more likely to be surrounded by happy people, and so more likely to be happy yourself (because happiness cascades, but sadness doesn’t, more friends and associates just increases your odds).

Hmm. Now that I think of it, it’s not just like Pay it Forward, it’s like every zombie movie ever made. If you’re a zombie, people living near you and people who might try to band up with you in a zombie disaster are more likely to become zombies themselves (although we’d have to boost that spouse probability up from 8%). And, the same way the popularity increases your chance of happiness, being surrounded by zombies increases your chances of becoming a zombie (or at least your chances of getting your face eaten).

So I guess the take-home messages are as follows:

-Social networks aren’t just on the Internet. (Questionable)
-If you’re happy, that doesn’t mean Kevin Bacon will be happy, even if he knows your friends’ friends’ friends.
-If you’re happy, that certainly doesn’t mean that Kevin Spacey will be happy. (But don’t feel bad about it.)
-Being an individualist makes you less likely to be happy.
-Popularity is everything. But…
-Being popular also increases your chances of having your face eaten by a zombie.

Are y’all with me?


Oh, it will make sense: And you should be ashamed.
Oh, it will make sense: And you should be ashamed.Courtesy wwhyte1968
We’re stuck in a deadly cycle Buzzketeers! We need to separate, take some deep breaths, and shower. Well, I won’t shower, because I don’t bathe with water, but I’ll at least rub myself down with powdered bleach.

Ooooh, but how are we even supposed to get that far? I feel like we’re surrounded by spiders! Oh, this is weird. I am positively terrified.

How is this happening? Well, first we have to understand, Buzzketeers, that we have a connection, you and I. Sure, we’re separated by miles and computer monitors, but the fact remains: there’s a special bond between us. We’re so close that, against all the laws of nature, we are somehow able to smell each other. Open your nostrils and smell… y’all smell like cornnuts and Axe body spray, and I smell like powdered bleach, and… there’s something else… there it is: fear!

Someone in our Science Buzz hive lost their nerve, became afraid, and now the fear has infected the rest of us. It’s a literally horrifying feedback loop.

What’s that I hear? (If I can smell you, then naturally I can hear you too.) “That’s crazy talk, JGordon!”

Yeah, maybe some of it is crazy talk, but not all of it; new research shows that fear not only stinks, but it also may be contagious.

The methods used in the research, I think, are hilarious. (If, by the way, I seem less afraid now, it’s only because I medicated myself heavily over the course of the last two sentences. The fear is still there.) Researchers at Stony Brook University in New York taped absorbent pads to the armpits of 40 first-time skydivers, and collected the sweat they excreted during their jumps.

The researchers then took a second group of volunteers, wired their heads up to, like, brain monitoring machines (what—do I look like a scientist?), and had them breath in the skydiver’s sweat, along with some boring ol’ normal sweat.

The skydiver sweat provoked noticeably increased activity in the fear-centers of the volunteers’ brains (the amygdala and the hypothalamus). While similar studies done in the past have shown that people can often distinguished between calm sweat and stressed sweat, the volunteers in this study were not able to tell the sweat samples apart, nor were they even told the purpose of the experiment.

The results reinforce the idea that there may be “a biological component to human social dynamics”—that is, if one person is frightened (or similarly stressed), their body may give off chemical signals that affect the stress levels of other people nearby, even if these others aren’t directly exposed to whatever was causing the fear in the first place.

For example, one of you out there in Buzzspace is afraid, and it’s driving the rest of us up that wall. I’m doing better now, thanks to some powdered dolphin teeth (it’s tremendously calming for me, and most of the side effects fall on the dolphin itself). So who is it? What is it? Let me throw some stuff out there, see if I can get a response: Yeah, you’re going to need some fungicide for that… No, it wasn’t a dream—better not show face in the cafeteria for a while… Uh huh, your grandma totally knows. No hiding something like that from Gramgram… Yes, that’s poisonous to cats…

There! Did you guys smell that? Someone out there has either accidentally poisoned a cat, or has consumed cat poison, and doesn’t understand the term “a cat person.” Well cut it out! The cat is beyond your help. Or, in the latter case, you have nothing to worry about, unless the cat poison was arsenic, which is also people poison. Go take a shower and some dolphin teeth, because you’re giving us the willies.

That’s better. Back to the story. It has been speculated that research like this could be used for some sort of weapons technology (something that wouldn’t hurt you, but would just make you terrified), and it doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence that the study was funded by DARPA, the Pentagon’s military research wing. DARPA, however, has more or less stated, “that’s cool, but we’re not really into that.” (They’re more interesting in things like flaming death balls, maybe.) Scientists have pointed out, too, that it’s not necessarily enough to simply give someone a physiological cue to make them scared—a “fear smell” might prompt physical symptoms of fear in people, but they really need to actually be in a frightening situation to be scared-scared. That seems like a strange distinction, but there you go.


The formula looks right...: But it's not happening.
The formula looks right...: But it's not happening.Courtesy FireFawkes
The journal Sexual Health has blown minds the world over with a new study’s assertion that, of all students, science students have the least sex. And male science students? They have the least sex of all, ranking neck and neck with amoeba.

Do you know who the study says has the most sex? Female art students. But I’ve never pretended to understand art kids, so we’ll leave that be and get back to our poor science nerds.

What gives? Is it the chicken or the egg? (The chicken being people who don’t often have sex, the egg being the study of science. Duh.) Does deciding to study science equate to putting on an invisible chastity belt? Is it (if we’re talking about chickens) a persistent rooster-block, if you will? Or are people for whom sex is not a huge priority, or even something to be avoided, attracted to the study of science?

The answer, according to the study, is “yes.”

The research was performed at the University of Sydney in Australia. The science department at the university has a high proportion of international students, who may have different cultural attitudes towards sex than those hedonistic, liberal arts, Australian-born students. Also, as we have discussed on Buzz, girls are often less attracted to studying math and science than boys, and boys, according to the psychotherapist quoted in the article, start having sex later than girls.

The demands of studying science, likewise, aren’t helping things. Students are kept out of environments where they would meet women, and spend most of their time “carrying on doing experiments, going to the library, and doing their assignments.”

A horde of very busy introverts—it’s the perfect storm. But don’t let this dissuade you from studying science, Buzzketeers—maybe this is just the sort of social environment you’re looking for. Or maybe you can start a brand new scientific revolution.


A bear of constant sorrow: The expression on his face speaks volumes.
A bear of constant sorrow: The expression on his face speaks volumes.Courtesy Sketchzilla
Buzzketeer General Liza put me on to this story last week, and I’m glad she did. Folks should know the plight of the polar bear.

So, you know those images of polar bears standing on the edge of ice sheets, looking sad because the ice is shrinking, and they need that ice to, you know, stay alive? You know what I’m talking about.

Well… it turns out that shrinking ice may be the least of their worries.

How do I put this? There’s trouble down south in the far north? A great big bear has a… Oh, forget it. Polar bears’ genitals are shrinking.

Oh, this is bleak. Two genital-based posts in a row? I don’t like it any more than you do, and I know you don’t like it. But we’re being beaten down and overwhelmed by genitals in the news, and we can’t ignore the news.

So, yes, after millennia of fearlessly swimming in an ocean of ice water, the mighty polar bear is finally suffering from shrinkage. But this isn’t one of the many problems that global warming can solve—this little situation is being caused by pollution, not cold water.

Y’all know about bioaccumulation and biomagnification? Toxic compounds can be found at very low concentrations in the environment, but still end up at dangerously high levels in certain plants and animals. This is caused by organisms taking in toxins faster than they can get rid of them, and by animals eating lots of other animals or plants that already have toxins in them. That’s what’s happening in the arctic. Tiny organisms are absorbing certain organic pollutants from the environment, and those organisms are getting eaten by tiny fish, and those tiny fish are getting eaten by bigger fish, and so on until big fish, with lots of the pollutants stored up in their bodies get eaten by an animal that doesn’t often get eaten by anything else, animals like killer whales, arctic foxes, or polar bears.

Biologists studied preserved polar bear genitals (penises, testicles, and ovaries) collected between 1999 and 2002, and found that individual bears with higher concentrations of these organic pollutants (called “organohalogens”) consistently had smaller bits and pieces. The organohalogens act like hormones in the bears, and we all know the amazing things hormones can do.

Now we must ask ourselves that age old question: “What does this mean for the bears?” Well, it seems that bears can’t rely on personality alone for successful mating. Polar bears don’t reproduce that often in the first place, and shrinking reproductive organs (in both boy-bears and lady-bears) is only going to make things trickier. And then there’s that whole ice-shrinking thing, which has probably taken a back seat in the minds of young bears everywhere.

In related news, a couple of polar bears at a Japanese zoo were having trouble conceiving until their handlers finally realized that they were both female. (I imagine that they would still have trouble conceiving, but I think the pressure is off now.) Apparently telling male and female bears apart is difficult as it is.


This bunny isn't that cute: But it may be paralyzed, so it sort of fits with the story.
This bunny isn't that cute: But it may be paralyzed, so it sort of fits with the story.Courtesy Franco Folini
Cross reference with “cute,” “animal health,” and “cyborg.”

Yes, here at Science Buzz we tirelessly pursue any and all stories on wheeled animals for you, the Buzzketeer.

So check this out: a wheelie bunny! Oh, man!

What does this have to do with science? Um, I don’t know. Does it matter? Did you see that little bunny?

Ah, fine. It’s about animals, obviously, and animals are sort of sciencey. Health, too, I guess—Bun bun there was left paralyzed by some mystery disease. The pathology of rabbit paralysis probably isn’t a huge priority in medical research, so they don’t know exactly what happened to this bunny, but a number of conditions that affect the nervous system can result in paralysis. If you’re really into the many ways rabbits can become disabled, check out this page, but the short version is that roller-bun probably became paralyzed after a protozoal infection (protozoa, remember, are little, single-celled organisms), in particular an infection caused by the protozoan parasite Encephalitozoon cuniculi. For a little bit more on encephalitozoonosis click here.

And I guess this is sort of about prosthetics too, but old-school, basic prosthetics. No Luke Skywalker limbs for paralyzed bunnies.

The main thing, again, is that picture of the bunny.


Mountain pine beetle: download brochure by clicking on Forest Service
Mountain pine beetle: download brochure by clicking on Forest ServiceCourtesy US Forest Service

Why are all the trees dying?

Last summer I spent a week in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain National Park. One question was repeatedly being asked by visitors, "Why are all the trees dying?" In many places every lodgepole pine over five inches was dead as far as the eye could see. From the Mexican border all the way up into Canada millions and millions of acres of mountain pine forest are dead or dying.

Mountain Pine Beetles

A black, hard-shelled beetle called Dendroctunus, which means tree killer, drills through pine bark and lays its eggs in the sweet, rich cambium layer that provides nutrients to the tree. They also inject a fungus to stop the tree from moving sap, which could drown the larvae. Officials claim that this is the largest known insect infestation in the history of North America.

Why is this happening now?

Mountain Pine Beetles used to be mostly killed off by -30 to -40 degree below temperatures. That has not happened for about ten years. Eight years of drought also has weakened the trees and their ability to flush out invaders with sap flow.

Dead trees create problems

Dead trees will eventually fall down. This means removing millions of trees near homes and along roads and trails.

At Vail Ski Resort, for example, which has been particularly hard hit, workers have removed thousands of dead trees and planted new ones. In Yellowstone the beetles are killing the white-barked pine trees, which grow nuts rich in fat that are critical to grizzly bears in the fall. In Colorado and Wyoming, officials have closed 38 campgrounds for fear trees could fall on campers. They have reopened all but 14.

Wildfire is the biggest threat. Many homes and communities are surrounded by dry, dead trees. The Forest Service and logging companies are clear-cutting “defensible space” so firefighters have a place to fight fires. The amount of dead wood is overwhelming, though. Hopefully entrepreneurs will find ways to use it. I am afraid that what is left behind is not going to be very "scenic" for a long time.

Learn more about the mountain pine beetle infestation

Source article: New York Times
Video: Americas disappearing forests
US Forest Service: Regional bark beetle information
Denver Post editorial by Merrill Kaufmann: Battling the pine beetle epidemic
32 page teacher packet (pdf): Mountain Pine Beetle Mania


Yellowstone snowmobiles: A guide leads a pack of snowmobiles through Yellowstone National Park on a recent winter trip.
Yellowstone snowmobiles: A guide leads a pack of snowmobiles through Yellowstone National Park on a recent winter trip.Courtesy National Park Service
A federal judge is working through proposals that would lower the number of snowmobiles that can zip through Yellowstone National Park each year. And as seems to be the case with conflicting ideas over uses of public recreational lands, there are lots of ideas on what the optimum level should be. You can get the full details here.

The newest plan would lower the current snowmobile limits by 40 percent, or 318 snowmobiles a day. That’s a little more than the average of 294 snowmobiles per day the park saw last year, but significantly lower than the 557 that were in the highest daily number recorded last winter.

Pristine snow blanket: Environmental purists want winter in Yellowstone to look more like this without snowmobile noise, exhaust or tracks.
Pristine snow blanket: Environmental purists want winter in Yellowstone to look more like this without snowmobile noise, exhaust or tracks.Courtesy Apollomelos
The judge has been drawn into the debate between environmentalists who want no or minimal snowmobile presence in the park versus snowmobile enthusiasts who enjoy motoring through the picturesque park. Snowmobile limits for the park haven’t been adjusted in 28 years.

What role, if any, do you think snowmobiles should have in a national park like Yellowstone? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.