This ancient liquor popular among Vikings may be the answer to antibiotic resistance

From Business Insider: This ancient liquor popular among Vikings may be the answer to antibiotic resistance.

Scientists in Sweden are launching their own mead — an alcoholic beverage made from a fermented mix of honey and water — based on old recipes they say could help in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

Together with a brewery, the scientists, who have long studied bees and their honey, have launched their own mead drink: Honey Hunter’s Elixir.

Lund University researcher Tobias Olofsson said mead had a long track record in bringing positive effects on health.

“Mead is an alcoholic drink made with just honey and water, and it was regarded as the drink of the gods and you could become immortal or sustain a better health if you drank it,” Olofsson said. “It was drunk by the Vikings for example and other cultures such as the Mayas, the Egyptians, and it was a drink that was regarded as a very beneficial drink.”

Honey production is key to the research. In previous research published in 2014, Olofsson and Alejandra Vasquez discovered that lactic-acid bacteria found in the honey stomach of bees, mixed with honey itself, could cure chronic wounds in horses that had proved resistant to treatment.

They said their research had proved that these bacteria had the power to collaborate and kill off all the human pathogens they have been tested against, including resistant ones. They are doing so by producing hundreds of antibacterial antibiotic-like substances. [continue]

Well. Alcohol + Vikings + history + medicine. So much cool stuff in one article!

Rats dream about the places they wish to go

From New Scientist: Rats dream about the places they wish to go.

Do you dream of where you’d like to go tomorrow? It looks like rats do.

When the animals are shown a food treat at the end of a path they cannot access and then take a nap, the neurons representing that route in their brains fire as they sleep – as if they are dreaming about running down the corridor to grab the grub.

“It’s like looking at a holiday brochure for Greece the day before you go – that night you might dream about the pictures,” says Hugo Spiers of University College London.

Like people, rats store mental maps of the world in their hippocampi, two curved structures on either side of the brain. Putting electrodes into rats’ brains as they explore their environment has shown that different places are recorded and remembered by different combinations of hippocampal neurons firing together. [continue]

Is the fish kick the fastest stroke yet?

From Nautilus: Is the fish kick the fastest stroke yet?

I tug my black swim cap over my hair, strap on my pink goggles, and keep a focused calm, like Michael Phelps before a race. It’s lap swim on a Monday afternoon at my local YMCA, and I’m going to attempt the fish kick. Most fish move through the water with a horizontal wiggle. The fish kick challenges you to copy this movement: You completely submerge yourself underwater, position yourself on your side, keep your arms tight above your head in a streamline, and propel yourself forward with symmetrical undulations. After decades of swimming, some of it at the competitive level, I think I might have a shot. Pushing off the wall, and after what I can only describe as a struggle, the water resists my forward motion and I float to the surface, not unlike a dead fish.

Humans are land animals, and not natural swimmers. We have to learn how to swim, and it is up to us to find the fastest way to do so. The search may finally be coming to an end. In the last few decades, stroke mechanic experts have discovered that swimming under the surface is faster than swimming on the surface. “It’s hard to fathom that this could happen in track and field,” says Rick Madge, a swim coach and blogger. “Nobody is going to come up with a new way of running that is going to be faster than anything else. Yet we just did that in swimming.” And the fish kick may be the fastest subsurface form yet. [continue]

Are you off to the pool to try it out?

Mystery surrounds huge face etched into cliff on Reeks Island

From CTV news: Mystery surrounds huge face etched into cliff on remote B.C. island.

Was it created by man, or by Mother Nature? That’s what many are wondering about a giant face that appears to be carved into a cliff on a remote island near Vancouver Island.

Hank Gus of the Tseshaht First Nation had heard about the “face in the rocks” years ago. A Washington State kayaker stumbled upon the face back in 2008 while paddling past Reeks Island in the Broken Group Islands.

Gus had been searching for the carving for two years. Then, just a few weeks ago, he finally found the hidden treasure and took a cellphone video of the seven-foot-tall face carved into a cliff. [continue]

Isn’t that fun! Here’s more from Ha-Slith-Sa, a newspaper published by the Nuu-Chah-Nulth Tribal Council: Tseshaht Face in the Rock mystery – Man made or a gift of Mother Nature?

The face appears to be a rock carving tucked in a cleft on the small, rugged island cliffs. There are reefs along the steep shoreline making the approach to the Face in the Rock dangerous.

The formation first came to the Tseshaht Beachkeeper’s attention in 2008 when kayakers exploring the Broken Group Islands stumbled upon it.

Karen Haugen, Parks Canada First Nations Program Manager, sent an email to Tseshaht First Nation quoting a kayaker named Sandy Floe, who was visiting from Washington State.

“I went in closer to shore……..through kelp to explore a small gap in the rocky shore on the southeast side of Reeks Island. Suddenly I saw what you see in the picture. A face! I almost fell out of the kayak!” said Floe in an email to Parks Canada. [continue]

So what’s your guess about how that face came to be there?

Here’s a large photo of the face on panoramio.com, courtesy of Seacruiser. The ‘zoom in’ feature is useful.

Letting stress win: a commencement speech

From Rotten in Denmark: Letting Stress Win: A Commencement Speech.

The best advice and the worst advice I’ve ever gotten were three words long.

The best advice was ‘avoid the treadmill’. It was 2003. I was coming to the end of a master’s degree in a subject (political philosophy) and a city (London) I was ready to leave. I was 22 years old. (…)

I had two months left until I completed my master’s and my visa expired. I had no idea what I was going to do, or even what I wanted to. There was the prudent thing, moving back to the States, getting a job, starting a career, buying a house, leasing a Camry, nothing wrong with that.

There was also, however, something I had come across two weeks earlier while drinking wine and Googling Nordic underwear models: Universities in Scandinavia are free.

I told Rebecca all this (minus the Googling), and that I had found a program in Aarhus, Denmark—a master’s degree that as soon as I said it out loud I realized sounded even vaguer and more destitution-promoting than the master’s I already had.

‘European studies!’ I said.

Rebecca asked if I had ever been to Denmark, and what was my logic for considering this an option. I admitted I had none, it just sounded cool and I wanted to try it.

‘So I have to decide,’ I said. ‘Prudent, or Denmark.’

‘Mike,’ she said. ‘This is an easy one: Avoid the treadmill.’ [continue]

Running on empty

There’s a good article on Over-Training Syndrome (OTS) at Outside Online: Running on Empty.

OTS is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in my 30 plus years of working with athletes,” says David Nieman, former vice president of the American College of Sports Medicine. “To watch someone go from that degree of proficiency to a shell of their former self is unbelievably painful and frustrating.”

Nieman, a professor of health and exercise science at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, has spent his career studying the effects of training on the immune system. In 1992, he received the first of a dozen distressingly similar letters from endurance athletes, each of them describing a sudden loss of ability as they struggled with everything from anemia to chronic dehydration to a basic inability to get out of bed. Nieman was both troubled and fascinated by these tales. Their symptoms all seemed to point to overtraining syndrome, and he’s been looking into the root causes of the condition ever since. [continue]

No One Dies Alone

From good.is: Meet the Volunteers Who Comfort the Dying When No One Else Can.

In 2001, a dying man in a hospital asked his nurse, Sandra Clarke, to stay by his side as he passed away. He was alone with no family or friends to comfort him. She agreed, but first had to make her rounds. When she returned, the man had passed away. He died alone, but his passing changed the lives of countless people he’d never meet. Frustrated and angry that no one was able to stay with the dying man, Clarke resolved to create a group of volunteers to stay with patients who were alone and close to death. [continue]

Ancient human with close Neanderthal ancestor found in Romania

From the CBC: Ancient human with close Neanderthal ancestor found in Romania.

You may not know it, but you probably have some Neanderthal in you. For people around the world, except sub-Saharan Africans, about 1 to 3 per cent of their DNA comes from Neanderthals, our close cousins who disappeared roughly 39,000 years ago.

Scientists said on Monday a jawbone unearthed in Romania, of a man who lived about 40,000 years ago, boasts the most Neanderthal ancestry ever seen in a member of our species.

The finding also indicates that interbreeding with Neanderthals occurred much more recently than previously known. [continue]

Well!

The photo published with the article is pretty cool, btw.

Google Chrome is listening, without your permission

I wish Google would take the lead in respecting privacy, rather than invading privacy. But no, we have news like this. From Privacy Online: Google Chrome Listening In To Your Room Shows The Importance Of Privacy Defense In Depth.

Yesterday, news broke that Google has been stealth downloading audio listeners onto every computer that runs Chrome, and transmits audio data back to Google. Effectively, this means that Google had taken itself the right to listen to every conversation in every room that runs Chrome somewhere, without any kind of consent from the people eavesdropped on. In official statements, Google shrugged off the practice with what amounts to “we can do that”. [continue]

Sigh.

The Nightwalker and the Nocturnal Picaresque

From The Public Domain Review: The Nightwalker and the Nocturnal Picaresque.

At the end of the seventeenth century a new literary genre or subgenre emerged in England, one that might be characterized as the nocturnal picaresque. Its authors, who were moralists or satirists or social tourists, or all of these at the same time, and who were almost invariably male, purported to recount their episodic adventures as pedestrians patrolling the streets of the metropolis at night.

These narratives, which often provided detailed portraits of particular places, especially ones with corrupt reputations, also paid close attention to the precise times when more or less nefarious activities unfolded in the streets. As distinct from diaries, they were noctuaries (in his Dictionary of the English Language [1755], Samuel Johnson defined a “noctuary” simply as “an account of what passes at night”).1 These apparently unmediated, more or less diaristic accounts of what happened during the course of the night on the street embodied either a tragic or a comic parable of the city, depending on whether their authors intended to celebrate its nightlife or condemn it as satanic.

The nocturnal picaresque, composed more often in prose than verse, was a distinctively modern, metropolitan form that, like several other literary genres that emerged in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, comprised [continue]

Anonymous is supporting a new privacy-focused social network that takes aim at Facebook’s shady practices

From Business Insider: Anonymous is supporting a new privacy-focused social network that takes aim at Facebook’s shady practices.

As if there weren’t enough social networks out there, here’s another new social network. But this one hopes to attract the likes of online freedom activists, and it even wrangled the attention of Anonymous.

Minds.com is a social network like most others: It lets users share links as well as their thoughts with their followers via the usual status updates.

But Minds, which officially launched both its desktop and mobile apps today, hopes to entice users given its promise of security. The program is completely open source and encrypts all private messages sent between users.

“Our stance is the users deserve the control of social media in every sense,” Minds’ founder Bill Ottman told Business Insider.

This distinguishes itself from Facebook, which has long had questionable privacy practices.

Minds also promises to use a de-mystified algorithm to boost content. [continue]

Interesting. The registration page says Anonymous accounts are fine with us. So, hmmm, I’ll read through the terms of service and see if it might be worth trying. Do any of you use it?

On sending kids to summer camp

Did you go to summer camp as a kid? I did, and it changed my whole world.

None of the summer camps around here are for the whole summer – kids go for a week or two, that’s all. But it was still a pivotal experience to be away from routine and parents, and to be able to try new ways of being. Summer camp gave me strength, skills, and experiences that have been important to me ever since.

So I liked this Slate article: My Daughter Went Away to Camp and Changed.

The best moments of childhood—the memories that stay with you into adulthood—are ones where your parents aren’t there. They are moments you experienced truly for yourself. In Homesick and Happy, Michael Thompson writes about a study where people were asked about their happiest childhood memory; more than 80 percent name a parent-free moment. Thompson explains that kids are better off when they accomplish something without having to think about how their parents would view it. Those memories are also more indelible. The self-confidence that comes from that accomplishment sticks better because it is completely earned.

So, as a parent you should want to push your kids out of your space to where they can rack up these 80 percent experiences—to explore, take risks, and try new identities. We are not invited, which is a paper-cut echo of the truth at the heart of parenting: You’re doing it best when you’re teaching them to leave you. Camp is an intensive course in how your children can do this successfully. [continue]

Rewilding our language of landscape

If it’s words you like, hurry over to The Guardian to read The word-hoard: Robert Macfarlane on rewilding our language of landscape.

I sought out the users, keepers and makers of place words. In the Norfolk Fens – introduced by the photographer Justin Partyka – I met Eric Wortley, a 98-year-old farmer who had worked his family farm throughout his long life, who had been twice to the East Anglian coast, once to Norwich and never to London, and whose speech was thick with Fenland dialect terms. I came to know the cartographer, artist and writer Tim Robinson, who has spent 40 years documenting the terrain of the west of Ireland: a region where, as he puts it, “the landscape … speaks Irish”. Robinson’s belief in the importance of “the language we breathe” as part of “our frontage onto the natural world” has been inspiring to me, as has his commitment to recording subtleties of usage and history in Irish place names, before they are lost forever: Scrios Buaile na bhFeadog, “the open tract of the pasture of the lapwings”; Eiscir, “a ridge of glacial deposits marking the course of a river that flowed under the ice of the last glaciation”. [continue]

You’ll want to read it all, of course. And what is your favourite of all the obscure words listed in the article?

‘Commando’ archaeologists to rescue threatened artefacts in Middle East

From news.com.au: ‘Commando’ archaeologists to rescue threatened artefacts in Middle East.

The British Government is helping bankroll a team of “rescue archaeologists” to lead efforts to save priceless artefacts in Iraq, Syria and Libya.

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale will host a summit on the issue later this year and is setting up a cultural protection fund to underpin the action.

After pressure from the British Museum among others, the UK is signing up to The Hague convention on the protection of cultural property in armed conflict.

IS has deliberately demolished ancient mosques and destroyed treasures dating back to ancient Persia and Graeco-Roman times on the grounds that they “promote idolatry”. [continue]

Lost posture: Why some indigenous cultures may not have back pain

From NPR: Lost Posture: Why Some Indigenous Cultures May Not Have Back Pain.

Believe it or not, there are a few cultures in the world where back pain hardly exists. One indigenous tribe in central India reported essentially none. And the discs in their backs showed little signs of degeneration as people aged.

An acupuncturist in Palo Alto, Calif., thinks she has figured out why. She has traveled around the world studying cultures with low rates of back pain — how they stand, sit and walk. Now she’s sharing their secrets with back pain sufferers across the U.S.

About two decades ago, Esther Gokhale started to struggle with her own back after she had her first child. “I had excruciating pain. I couldn’t sleep at night,” she says. “I was walking around the block every two hours. I was just crippled.” [continue]

She’s sure not crippled anymore. Now Esther teaches other people what she learned. Go look her up on Youtube if you’d like to see what she teaches.

A few years ago I stumbled upon Esther Gokhale’s book, 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back. Worth every penny. Esther’s book taught me things I didn’t know about posture and lifting. I was captivated by her story.

I follow Esther’s advice. It’s not the only thing I do for my back, but it’s an important part of being supple and pain-free.

(Link to the NPR article found here at Mark’s Daily Apple.)

How a history of eating human brains protected this tribe from brain disease

From The Washington Post: How a history of eating human brains protected this tribe from brain disease.

The sickness spread at funerals.

The Fore people, a once-isolated tribe in eastern Papua New Guinea, had a long-standing tradition of mortuary feasts — eating the dead from their own community at funerals. Men consumed the flesh of their deceased relatives, while women and children ate the brain. It was an expression of respect for the lost loved ones, but the practice wreaked havoc on the communities they left behind. That’s because a deadly molecule that lives in brains was spreading to the women who ate them, causing a horrible degenerative illness called “kuru” that at one point killed 2 percent of the population each year.

The practice was outlawed in the 1950s, and the kuru epidemic began to recede. But in its wake it left a curious and irreversible mark on the Fore, one that has implications far beyond Papua New Guinea: After years of eating brains, some Fore have developed a genetic resistance to the molecule that causes several fatal brain diseases, including kuru, mad cow disease and some cases of dementia.

Ancient DNA reveals how Europeans developed light skin and lactose tolerance

From The Conversation: Ancient DNA reveals how Europeans developed light skin and lactose tolerance.

Food intolerance is often dismissed as a modern invention and a “first-world problem”. However, a study analysing the genomes of 101 Bronze-Age Eurasians reveals that around 90% were lactose intolerant.

The research also sheds light on how modern Europeans came to look the way they do – and that these various traits may originate in different ancient populations. Blue eyes, it suggests, could come from hunter gatherers in Mesolithic Europe (10,000 to 5,000 BC), while other characteristics arrived later with newcomers from the East. [continue]

On grit

Now this is from EMCrit, a blog about emergency medicine. But the article is excellent and of interest to all, including those who have nothing whatever to do with the medical world. It’s about grit. I’m tempted to quote great big hunks of it, but will settle for this:

Looking back at my first year of basic clinical science education, I can attest that grit seems to be important to succeed. I have watched as some very intelligent students, with elite academic pedigrees have failed. In so doing, I find it interesting how their first instinct is usually to blame the professor, the class material, or the test format. Their very image of themselves seems to have been shaken to the core and they continue to struggle. Yet there are others, many of whom do not have the same glowing list of scholarly accolades, that fail and see it as a challenge. They accept their shortcomings, acknowledge their mistakes, and work tirelessly to improve on the next exam. I sincerely admire this latter group. They demonstrate serious grit. [continue]

The article is thought-provoking. I was interested to read the bit about how the people who hire for Google have concluded that… well, you go read it and see what they’ve concluded.

Scholars reveal church’s role in Magna Carta

From The Guardian: Scholars reveal church’s role in Magna Carta.

Magna Carta, signed by King John 800 years ago on Monday, laid the groundwork for the modern state, imposing the first limits on the monarch’s power. Now the true extent of the role the church played in sending its message across Britain has been uncovered by academics studying the four surviving copies of the parchments.

After scrutinising the handwriting, researchers working on the University of East Anglia and King’s College London’s Magna Carta Project are convinced that the Lincoln and Salisbury charters were written by religious scribes working outside the court. This means the famous Runnymede deal was backed by England’s bishops, as much as by the rebel barons whom John was hoping to appease. [continue]

Conservative app puts voter identification in campaign workers’ hands

The CBC brings news on how the Conservative Party of Canada tracks people: Conservative app puts voter identification in campaign workers’ hands.

An unusually talkative Conservative staffer may have inadvertently helped CBC News glean exclusive details of a new mobile technology that will help Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s team collect and sort voter information faster than ever before.

Conservative workers are already using a new smartphone and tablet-friendly app called CIMS to Go, or “C2G”, as party members call it.

CIMS stands for Constituent Information Management System, the Conservatives’ powerful voter information database. Along with voter lists and door-knocking data, anyone who has ever donated to the party, agreed to a lawn sign or even filled out an MP comment card is captured in the system.

The new app lets party canvassers log voter information directly into CIMS as they move door-to-door, [continue]

How do you feel about polital campaign doorknockers entering details about you in a national database used by their party?

Facebook begins mass rollout of free bluetooth business “beacons”

From DailyTech: Facebook Begins Mass Rollout of Free Bluetooth Business “Beacons”.

Facebook announced this week a foray into the embedded wireless advertising market, offering up free Bluetooth beacons for business owners.

For those in New York City this may all sound somewhat familiar as Facebook has been testing the roughly hockey puck sized devices at a handful of partner sites around the city under the “Place Tips” program.

The idea inject items pertaining to the beacon-outfitted business into the News Feed on a user’s smartphone Facebook app to jump to the business’s page, encouraging likes, offering information, and to check out tips from your friends about the business you’re visiting. The beacons will offer:

  • Prompts to like the business’s Page
  • Check in reminders
  • Recommendations from your friends
  • Posts from the business’s Page (…)

In an attempt to assuage users concerns over this new so-called “proximity-based advertising” feature, [continue]

Just when I think Facebook can’t possibly get any worse, they do.

Compensating for a missing chunk of brain

From The Atlantic: Compensating for the Missing Chunk of My Brain.

“Do me a favor and don’t wear any eye makeup when you come in,” I recall the receptionist having requested over the phone. “It messes with the goggles.”

Instead of saying, “Goggles?” as I was thinking, I said, “Eye makeup?”

“Mascara, eye shadow, eyeliner,” the receptionist said.

“Sure.”

I’d been to this functional neurology center in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, several times since 2007, when I was diagnosed with having a puddle of cerebral-spinal fluid—the water that your brain floats in—about the size of a lemon where my right parietal lobe would be. The parietal lobe is the part of the brain responsible for judging time, space, distance, and the location of the body, among other tasks. I was diagnosed only a couple of months before leaving for grad school in Southern California; I had been hoping to get to the bottom of why learning to drive had proven impossible for me. [continue]

Chimpanzees in west Africa observed indulging in habitual drinking

From The Guardian: Chimpanzees in west Africa observed indulging in habitual drinking.

The boozing starts from 7am. Though large amounts are often drunk, the sessions are orderly, even sociable. A skinful later, and always before nightfall, enough is enough and they rest.

They are the chimpanzees of Bossou, south-eastern Guinea, and their secret is finally out. With 17 years of evidence in hand, scientists have declared the troop the first wild chimpanzees to indulge in regular, habitual drinking.

The west African chimps were observed in their natural forest habitat from 1995 to 2012. The action, captured on video, centred around raffia palms. Local communities harvest sugary sap from the trees, which ferments into a rich, alcoholic brew in hours.

To extract the sweet, white sap, tappers cut a wedge in the tree and suspend a container beneath. They leave it there to fill and lay leaves over the top to keep the bugs out. In a few weeks, a single tree can yield 50 litres of sap.

But the chimps have cottoned on. In a study published on Wednesday, scientists report 51 incidents of the chimps raiding the palm sap containers. The apes found a big leaf – often one covering the container – and chewed it to form an absorbent sponge or a folded scoop. They then plunged this into the sap, pulled it out and drank. [continue]