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August 04, 2009

Science! Divorce will mess you up forever

Well - Divorce, It Seems, Can Make You Ill - NYTimes.com
New research shows that when married people become single again, whether by divorce or a spouse’s death, they experience much more than an emotional loss. Often they suffer a decline in physical health from which they never fully recover, even if they remarry. And in terms of health, it’s not better to have married and lost than never to have married at all. Middle-age people who never married have fewer chronic health problems than those who were divorced or widowed. The findings, from a national study of 8,652 men and women in their 50s and early 60s, suggest that the physical stress of marital loss continues long after the emotional wounds have healed. While this does not mean that people should stay married at all costs, it does show that marital history is an important indicator of health, and that the newly single need to be especially vigilant about stress management and exercise, even if they remarry.

Cold temperatures improve sleep

Really? - The Claim - Cold Temperatures Improve Sleep - Question - NYTimes.com
Studies have found that in general, the optimal temperature for sleep is quite cool, around 60 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. For some, temperatures that fall too far below or above this range can lead to restlessness. Temperatures in this range, it seems, help facilitate the decrease in core body temperature that in turn initiates sleepiness. A growing number of studies are finding that temperature regulation plays a role in many cases of chronic insomnia. Researchers have shown, for example, that insomniacs tend to have a warmer core body temperature than normal sleepers just before bed, which leads to heightened arousal and a struggle to fall asleep as the body tries to reset its internal thermostat. For normal sleepers, the drop in core temperature is marked by an increase in temperature in the hands and feet, as the blood vessels dilate and the body radiates heat. Studies show that for troubled sleepers, a cool room and a hot-water bottle placed at the feet, which rapidly dilates blood vessels, can push the internal thermostat to a better setting.

Vol Libre, the first fractal-generated film ever.

Via Waxy. Vol Libre, an amazing CG film from 1980
In 1980, Boeing employee Loren Carpenter presented a film called Vol Libre at the SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference. It was the world's first film using fractals to generate the graphics. ... That must have been absolutely mindblowing in 1980. The audience went nuts and Carpenter, the Boeing engineer from out of nowhere, was offered a job at Lucasfilm on the spot. He accepted immediately. ... The commercial worked on Lucas but a few years later, the computer graphics group at ILM was sold by Lucas to Steve Jobs for $5 million and became Pixar. Loren Carpenter is still at Pixar today; he's the company's Chief Scientist.

Vol Libre from Loren Carpenter on Vimeo.

August 01, 2009

We are less than ten years away from vat-grown meat

Fake meat: burgers grown in beakers
"We're developing a very simplified version of what we know as meat," he explains. "The cells are grown in this dish within a growing medium and this unit is where they receive the electrical stimulation. These electrodes ensure there is an electrical current - about 1Hz - passing through the cells. To make these skeletal cells develop into muscle, they need to be constantly exercised, just like in the body." This, he explains, is one of the scientific hurdles for in vitro meat that has not yet been fully addressed. "We can convert stem cells into skeletal muscle cells; however, turning them into trained skeletal muscle appears to be a little harder." But overcoming that challenge would bring vast rewards. The red-meat market was worth $61 billion last year in the US alone, according to Mintel. Carve out even a pastrami-thin slice and the in vitro pioneers will be wealthy beyond imagination. The rewards are not only financial. Livestock's Long Shadow, an influential 2006 report by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, calculated that the global livestock industry is responsible for about 18 per cent of mankind's greenhouse-gas emissions - more than all of our cars, trains, shipping and planes combined. The FAO said it also accounts for more than eight per cent of our freshwater use, largely to grow crops fed to animals. Meat production now uses up 70 per cent of the world's agricultural land. And then, of course, there is the animal suffering attributed to the industry and intensive animal-farming. Last year, the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) announced a $1 million prize for the first team to develop and market in vitro meat. There were, admittedly, some pretty exacting clauses: it set the rather optimistic deadline of June 30, 2012. It also insisted that the winning entrant must "produce an in vitro chicken-meat product that has a taste and texture indistinguishable from real chicken flesh to non-meat-eaters and meat-eaters alike; and manufacture the approved product in large enough quantities to be sold commercially... at a competitive price". Lastly, it said a panel of ten Peta judges would assess the taste and texture of the in vitro chicken, prepared using a classic Southern fried-chicken recipe. No pressure, then.