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February 28, 2014

Ghosts might just be your eyeballs resonating

At 18 Hz your eyeball vibrates. It's the resonant frequency of your peepers. When people are exposed to that particular vibration it makes them see things, ghostly images and weird presences. In 1998, Vic Tandy, experimental officer and...
In 1998, Vic Tandy, experimental officer and part-time lecturer in the school of international studies and law at Coventry University, and Dr. Tony Lawrence of the psychology department wrote a paper called “Ghosts in the Machine” for the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. Their research suggested that an infrasonic signal of 19 Hz might be responsible for some ghost sightings. Tandy was working late one night alone in a supposedly haunted laboratory at Warwick, when he felt very anxious and could detect a grey blob out of the corner of his eye. When Tandy turned to face the grey blob, there was nothing. The following day, Tandy was working on his fencing foil, with the handle held in a vise. Although there was nothing touching it, the blade started to vibrate wildly. Further investigation led Tandy to discover that the extractor fan in the lab was emitting a frequency of 18.98 Hz, very close to the resonant frequency of the eye given as 18 Hz by NASA. This was why Tandy had seen a ghostly figure—it was an optical illusion caused by his eyeballs resonating. The room was exactly half a wavelength in length, and the desk was in the centre, thus causing a standing wave which caused the vibration of the foil.

February 10, 2014

On the mystry of sloth poop

Evolution is ceaselessly mind-blowing. Sloth poop, moths and algae form a beautiful chain of symbiosis according to this article. The Mystery of Sloth Poop: Yes, That's a Thing | TIME.com
Among the greatest mysteries of the tropical rainforest are the pooping habits of sloths. Really. Those furry, slow-moving tree dwellers almost never descend from the safety of the tree tops—except for once a week, when nature calls. It’s a dangerous and often lethal potty break. On the forest floor, they are spectacularly vulnerable to predators, and the question biologists have been asking for years is, why descend at all? What possible benefit could make this life-or-death journey better for the sloth than simply cutting loose, as it were, from the safety of a tree? Theories abound: Maybe the sloths are somehow picking up minerals from the soil that their leafy diets don’t provide them. Maybe they are fertilizing their favorite trees with their poop. Or maybe it has to do with the other species that call the sloths themselves home. Sloth fur is populated by colonies of moths and flourishing coats of green algae. The moths are known to leap onto sloth poop to lay their eggs before returning to their host when the bathroom break is through. But symbiosis being what it is, there ought to be some benefit to the sloth from this arrangement too.

February 05, 2014

Antioxidants negate the benefits of exercise, promote cancer

Antioxidants, once unequivocally supported, now look to be pretty bad mothers indeed. The Evidence Piles Up: Antioxidant Supplements Are Bad For You. In the Pipeline:
You may remember a study that suggested that antioxidant supplement actually negated the effects of exercise in muscle tissue. (The reactive oxygen species generated are apparently being used by the cells as a signaling mechanism, one that you don't necessarily want to turn off). That was followed by another paper that showed that cells that should be undergoing apoptosis (programmed cell death) could be kept alive by antioxidant treatment. Some might read that and not realize what a bad idea that is - having cells that ignore apoptosis signals is believed to be a common feature in carcinogenesis, and it's not something that you want to promote lightly. Here are two recent publications that back up these conclusions. The BBC reports on this paper from the Journal of Physiology. It looks like a well-run trial demonstrating that antioxidant therapy (Vitamin C and Vitamin E) does indeed keep muscles from showing adaptation to endurance training. The vitamin-supplemented group reached the same performance levels as the placebo group over the 11-week program, but on a cellular level, they did not show the (beneficial) changes in mitochondria, etc. The authors conclude: Consequently, vitamin C and E supplementation hampered cellular adaptions in the exercised muscles, and although this was not translated to the performance tests applied in this study, we advocate caution when considering antioxidant supplementation combined with endurance exercise. Then there's this report in The Scientist, covering this paper in Science Translational Medicine. The title says it all: "Antioxidants Accelerate Lung Cancer Progression in Mice". In this case, it looks like reactive oxygen species should normally be activating p53, but taking antioxidants disrupts this signaling and allows early-stage tumor cells (before their p53 mutates) to grow much more quickly. So in short, James Watson appears to be right when he says that reactive oxygen species are your friends. This is all rather frustrating when you consider the nonstop advertising for antioxidant supplements and foods, especially for any role in preventing cancer. It looks more and more as if high levels of extra antioxidants can actually give people cancer, or at the very least, help along any cancerous cells that might arise on their own. Evidence for this has been piling up for years now from multiple sources, but if you wander through a grocery or drug store, you'd never have the faintest idea that there could be anything wrong with scarfing up all the antioxidants you possibly can.