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July 21, 2008

For the Future of Farming, Look Up

WaPo | For the Future of Farming, Look Up
The "vertical farm" or "sky farm" -- a glass skyscraper that functions as a giant urban greenhouse -- is an idea gaining traction among environmentalists and venture capitalists. Championed by Dickson Despommier, a professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University, the concept calls for tall buildings in which each floor would host hydroponically grown crops, including grains, as well as small livestock such as pigs.... Depending on its size, each vertical farm is estimated to be able to feed from 10,000 to 35,000 people annually -- a significant sum, given that more than 80 percent of the developed world's population will live in cities by 2050, according to the Population Resource Center.

Male lust is blind

Male lust is blind, research suggests - Telegraph

Men have long been accused of judging women on looks alone, but even the plainest Jane can get their hormones raging, a study has found.

Research involving a group of male students found that their levels of the hormone testosterone increased to the same extent whether they were talking to a young woman they found attractive – or to one they didn't fancy much at all.

After 300 seconds alone in the same room as a woman they had never met before, and in some cases did not find particularly attractive, the men's testosterone levels of the hormone had shot up by an average of around eight per cent.

(via Tor's new site)

July 17, 2008

Is there a correlation between aloof parents and authistic children?

Aloof parents may produce autistic children - health - 17 July 2008 - New Scientist

It's not just autistic children who view the world differently from the rest of us – it seems their parents may do so as well.

Some parents of autistic children evaluate facial expressions in a strikingly similar way to people with the disorder, even though they would not be classified as autistic themselves.

The finding strengthens the link between genetics and autism, and may help pinpoint the genes responsible for some of the behavioural traits associated it.

July 10, 2008

Alaskan volcano spews acid cloud

Volcano spews lethal acid brew - earth - 10 July 2008 - New Scientist Environment

ALL the fish and birds were gone, the trees were defoliated and their mosses dead, and the local lakes and rivers were lined with yellow scum. This was the aftermath of a mysterious catastrophe in July 2005, as reported by a lodge-owner near the remote Chiginagak volcano in Alaska.

A group of geologists has now pieced together what happened. In May 2005, they say, a torrent of sulphurous liquid and mist gushed from the volcano's icy crater, leaving a trail of sulphur deposits and turning salmon spawning-grounds as acidic as lemon juice.

"We haven't seen an event like this in the historical record," says Johan Varekamp of the Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, who reviewed the group's work.

July 08, 2008

How Prozac sent the science of depression in the wrong direction

How Prozac sent the science of depression in the wrong direction - The Boston Globe

PROZAC IS ONE of the most successful drugs of all time. Since its introduction as an antidepressant more than 20 years ago, Prozac has been prescribed to more than 54 million people around the world, and prevented untold amounts of suffering.

But the success of Prozac hasn't simply transformed the treatment of depression: it has also transformed the science of depression. For decades, researchers struggled to identify the underlying cause of depression, and patients were forced to endure a series of ineffective treatments. But then came Prozac. Like many other antidepressants, Prozac increases the brain's supply of serotonin, a neurotransmitter. The drug's effectiveness inspired an elegant theory, known as the chemical hypothesis: Sadness is simply a lack of chemical happiness. The little blue pills cheer us up because they give the brain what it has been missing.

There's only one problem with this theory of depression: it's almost certainly wrong, or at the very least woefully incomplete. Experiments have since shown that lowering people's serotonin levels does not make them depressed, nor does it does not make them depressed, nor does it worsen their symptoms if they are already depressed.