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Science

Can we cure the common hangover? (2015)

We start with shots of Jameson at 9:45PM, because Las Vegas feels like a place to do shots. I move on to Four Roses on the rocks, while Casey Newton gets started on Old Fashioneds. My notes indicate a long and serious discussion about the attractiveness of Jarvis Cocker at 10:30PM, followed by Casey stealing a colleague's drink at 10:43PM.

"I’m not leaving this bar until your handwriting looks like you’ve had a stroke," Casey informs me around 11:00PM. "You’re just going to have to keep ordering those roses." I order my fourth drink immediately. By 11:20PM, Casey and another colleague are deep in discussion regarding their romantic lives. Then the notes get sparse. At 12:47AM, I have the hiccups, but by 12:51AM, I’m cured. Shortly after that, Casey and I get in a cab headed back to our hotel.

I suspect there was a minimum of 40 roses between Casey and me by the time the evening was out, plus another shot of Jameson to send us into the cab, and then beers with the video crew when we got back to the hotel. I meant to keep track of how much I was drinking, but then I got drunk.

Ordinarily, I like a glass of wine with dinner, but that’s about it. That night, though, I was actually looking to get hungover. I’d heard about an IV hangover treatment and I wanted to see if it actually worked.

(read more)


in search of the starfish killer: the quest to save the original keystone species (2014)

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In June 2013, Steven Fradkin stumbled upon a grisly scene at Starfish Point in Washington, northwest of Seattle. About one in four of the park’s namesake animals were contorted and covered in white lesions. The seriously sick starfish were crumpled and sagging, their internal organs beginning to rupture through their skin. But that wasn’t what really stuck with Fradkin, when I spoke to him a year later. What really affected him were the arms that had ripped loose from the animals’ bodies. “There were individual arms just roaming around in a Walking Dead kind of way,” he says.

Three months after Fradkin’s group noticed the disease in Washington, divers found dying starfish north of Vancouver, Canada. By September the disease had been spotted in the Puget Sound and down the Pacific coast into Oregon and California. By the summer of 2014, it had spread to Alaska and Mexico. (read more)


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Lee Smolin thinks that time is real. If that strikes you as unusual, you haven’t spent much time with theoretical physicists, who tend to think that the passing of time is either an emergent property of the universe, or, perhaps, an illusion.

“Some of my colleagues suggest that time is an approximate description of the universe,” Smolin, a theoretical physicist at the Perimeter Institute, writes in Time Reborn. “A description that is useful on large scales but dissolves when we look too closely. Temperature is like this.” The reason that some physicists have rejected time, he argues, is that they have mistaken mathematical models for reality. Smolin says that, while superstring theory has been around since the eighties, it has no experimental support—or hope of it—in the near future, because it not only describes our world, but an infinite landscape of possible worlds, without a guiding selection principle. The further scientists venture into it, the more complicated the math becomes, and the farther from our observable world it seems to be. (read more)


Imagine that you have been shot. Nothing vital has been damaged, but a major artery was nicked. Without quick repair, you’ll die of blood loss. You only have 15 minutes, and the drive to the ER is 20. Like 35 percent of all trauma patients, you die from blood loss en route to the hospital. That’s when, as part of an experimental procedure, the medics replace your blood with a cold electrolyte solution. Now surgeons will have an hour to fix the artery, return blood, and revive you.

“It sounds Star Trek-y,” said David King, a surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. His lab did much of the animal work preparing the technique for testing in humans. Now the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center will be the first to test it in humans. (read more)


3-D printing used to construct everything from art to toys to spare parts for the space station may one day produce human organs at a hospital near you.

The 20-year-old technology uses liquid materials that become hard as they print out three-dimensional objects in layers, based on a digital model. Current medical uses are in dentistry, for hard-material crowns, caps and bridges, as well as prosthetics. Last year, a 3-D printer was used to create a structure from moldable polymer that replaced more than 75 percent of a patient’s skull.

Now, Organovo Holdings Inc. (ONVO) is using 3-D printers to create living tissue that may one day look and act like a human liver, able to cleanse the body of toxins. Drugmakers and cosmetic companies already plan to use 3-D printed human tissue to test new products. Eventually, the technology may help reduce organ shortages and cut transplant rejections as patients receive new organs constructed from their own cells. (read more)



Marijuana Research Funding Cut as Support for Drug Grows (2013)

As more states embrace legalized marijuana, the drug’s growing medicinal use has highlighted a disturbing fact for doctors: scant research exists to support marijuana’s health benefits.

Smoked, eaten or brewed as a tea, marijuana has been used as a medication for centuries, including in the U.S., where Eli Lilly & Co. (LLY) sold it until 1915. The drug was declared illegal in 1937, though its long history has provided ample anecdotal evidence of the plant’s potential medicinal use. Still, modern scientific studies are lacking.

What’s more, the federal government is scaling back its research funding. U.S. spending has dropped 31 percent since 2007 when it peaked at $131 million, according to a National Institutes of Health research database. Last year, 235 projects received $91 million of public funds, according to NIH data.

That’s left the medical community in a bind: current literature on the effects of medical cannabis is contradictory at best, providing little guidance for prescribing doctors. (read more)

 


Swartz Suicide Propels Facebook Search for Danger Signs (2013)

Facebook Inc. (FB) is helping to open a window into the minds of those who die by suicide.

The social media site is providing researchers at the suicide prevention group SAVE.org a glimpse of how those who take their own lives behave in the days leading up to their deaths, as outlined in their Facebook postings. Dan Reidenberg, executive director of Save and a national leader in the counseling field, expects the information will one day help friends, family and social media sites better identify warning signs in the words and actions that lead up to suicide. It will be a year before they have the data gathered, he said.

The Jan. 11 death of Internet activist Aaron Swartz, the latest casualty in a series of high-profile suicides in the technology industry over a decade, has spurred new interest in understanding the triggers that compel people to cut their own lives short. In the past, researchers had to overcome protective friends and family to get information. This project changes that dynamic, Reidenberg told Bloomberg in a telephone interview.  (read more)


Good viruses may help battle acne and drug-resistant diseases (2012)

Teens struggling with skin-scarring acne may soon find relief from an unusual source.

Scientists have used genetic sequencing to identify 11 new viruses with the potential to kill the out-of-control bacteria that leads to intense breakouts. The findings add to an emerging body of research that indicates benign-to-human viruses living naturally in and on the body may also be used to go after bed sores, leprosy and drug-resistant staph infections.

“Acne could be a superb clinical context for making a test-case for treatments of other diseases,” said Graham Hatfull, a biologist at the University of Pittsburgh, who co- authored the study on acne published this month. “It’s a very attractive prospect.”

The research re-energizes a century-old treatment method that was abandoned with the rise of antibiotics during World War II. As germs have built up a resistance to those drugs in recent years, scientists are seeking alternatives and the virus strategy “is in vogue again,” said Vincent Fischetti, a biologist at Rockefeller University in New York who is one of the pioneers of the revived approach. (read more)

  


Brain Collector Seeks Trump-Like Donors to Probe How Personality Is Formed (2011)

Jacopo Annese wants Donald Trump’s brain, literally.

That’s the example cited by Annese, a 45-year-old neurologist, in describing who might be the ideal candidate for a 1,000-donor campaign being run this year by his University of California San Diego brain bank. The center is seeking people who can supply detailed life histories before they die, and their physical brains afterward.

Annese already is working with a former flying monkey from the “Wizard of Oz,” and a woman who can’t feel fear. Trump’s history as a real-estate developer, author and TV star would be a good addition, he said. The center, begun six years ago, is creating novel technologies and strategies to help researchers study how personality, memories, emotions and other traits are reflected within the brain’s chemical and electrical signaling systems. Success, Annese said, depends largely on the depth of information shared by the bank’s donors.

The ideal is “someone with an interesting life, a politician or businessman whose biography has already been written,” he said in a telephone interview. “We want to write the last few chapters of their biography in neurological terms. We should go after Donald Trump, really; that’s a lot of work saved up front for us.” (read more)