So, I know it's been a while since I've written. I've been
traveling quite a bit and am excited to share what I learned from my
adventures! But, I've been busy trying to catch up on everything so I haven't
had the time to write it all down.
Anyway, I decided to sit in a few creative writing classes
this semester and this week's assignment was to choose one of the seven deadly
sins and write something to "sell" the sin. In order to do that, I did a little
bit of research. So, lucky me, I'm killing two birds with one stone until I have more time to gather my thoughts!
Before I start: this postis not intended to make any religious statement or convey any opinion or belief of any single religion. It is simply the facts as collected from varies sources.
Like I said, there are seven deadly sins. Why
seven? Well, God's magic number seems to be seven. It took seven days to create
the Earth. The seventh day is a day of Sabbath, rest and religious
Here is a brief description of each...
Pride: Some people believe that pride is the underlying cause of all sin. Pride, or vanity in some texts, is the need/want to be better than
others. A person takes self-love to the extreme and it leaves them blind to the good
in others. In hell, you will be broken on the wheel, your animal in a horse and
color is violet.
Lust: Commonly thought of as intense sexual desire but can also be
applied to the excessive drive for anything. Your eternal damnation will be
spent surrounded by fire and brimstone (a.k.a. sulfer). The animal you are
assigned is a cow and your color is blue
Gluttony: The most complicated if you ask me. Most people
think of it as excessive eating which deprives the hungry of food. If you are
Jewish, this is true. But if we look at the medieval Catholic church, eating
too soon (before scheduled meals), eating elaborate foods (anything with
spices), eating too quickly, eagerly or daintily are all considered offenses.
What will you be doing in hell? Eating of course! Unfortunately it's rats,
toads and snakes... Your animal is a pig (obviously) and the color orange paints your walls.
Greed: Refers to the desire to acquire unnecessary things.
It is usually applied to material possessions. Hoarding, theft and pursuit of
material wealth are all part of being greedy. If you are guilty of this sin,
you have a pot of boiling oil to look forward to, being friends with a frog and
loving the color yellow.
Sloth: Can refer to general avoidance of physical/mental
actions but mostly it is the avoidance of that one is supposed to do. You won't
be lazy any longer when you are thrown in a pit with snakes, your only company
is a goat and you are wearing light blue.
Wrath/Rage/Anger: Uncontrolled hatred towards someone or
something. It often goes hand in hand with envy. You will be sentenced to dismemberment, possibly by your bear companion and see only red.
Envy: Coveting what another has. This may or may not be
accompanied by wrath or ill feelings towards the person. Maybe some freezing
water will teach you and your green dog a lesson.
Note: all references to animals/color/punishments are in
accordance with the views in the The
Picture Book of Devils, Demons and Witchcraft, by Ernst and Johanna Lehne and engravings by George
Pencz. Plus it's pretty important to point out that almost all sins were seen to be
related to women somehow way back when. Some might see this as sexist but I'm
choosing to say it's because women are in touch with their emotions and not
afraid to express what they want!
Each of the
sins is associated with a demon from religious texts. Pride is the
sin Satan committed when he was banished from heaven, Mammon was guilty of
greed, Asmodeus lust, Leviathan envy, Bellzebub was a glutton, Ammon succumbed
to his wrath and Belphrgor was guilty of sloth. Maybe some other time I'll go
into the details of each demon but it would definitely take a while so we will pass on it for now.
For each sin, we possess weapons, in the form of virtues, to
control ourselves. Kindness can control envy, abstinence defends you against gluttony,
chastity takes down lust, patience stops wrath, humility can help you
swallow your pride, diligence keeps you away from sloth and liberality will
Of course, there are many more types of sin. Violation of
the Ten Commandments is one example. But these are the sins that supposedly will
provide a one way ticket to hell. I personally am guilty of gluttony and sloth
on a regular basis. There is nothing like a lazy day spent eating junk food in
my opinion. I took both of the following quizzes which told me as such...
Take the quizzes if you dare and share your results in the comments!
Peter Parker was bit by a radioactive spider and he turned into Spiderman. The
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were ordinary turtles until they were exposed to radioactive waste. Bruce Banner became the Incredible Hulk after he was exposed to gamma rays. The Fantastic Four, the Phoenix from X-Men, Daredevil... all were made superheros by exposure to some type of radiation.
The question is... what effect does radiation actually have on the human body?
First off... what is radiation? Well, radiation is a type of energy and there are several different types that fall into this category.
Some radiation is always lurking in the background. It comes from cosmic rays or from radioactive sources that naturally exist in the environment. There's really not anything we can do to prevent it or to completely eradicate it. Generally speaking, it's not harmful.
Things like light, radiowaves and microwaves are non-ionizing radiation. Your wireless devices, microwave ovens and sun tan all use this type of radiation. While it can be harmful to the body, think about the bad sun burn you got when you forgot sun screen, it's not nearly as damaging as ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation is produced by unstable atoms. When an atom is unstable, it does whatever necessary to become stable again. In order to do this, it emits its excess energy or mass. The energy or mass that is given off in the form of electromagnetic waves or particles is radiation. Examples of this are x-rays, gamma rays and beta and alpha radiation.
Now, there are two types of radiation exposure. Internal exposure which occurs when radioactive materials enter the body directly and external exposure which occurs when such materials wind up on a person's skin or clothes.
Our bodies can handle a certain amount of radiation and does on a daily basis. But at high doses, we start to see hair loss, burns and skin redness. Lower doses given over long periods of time can be dangerous as well. Radiation can alter cells. These new and sometimes harmful cells then are able to divide the same way your healthy cells do. This can lead to cancer years after the exposure ceases.
If a person is exposed to high doses of radiation in a short period of time, it is likely the person will develop acute radiation syndrome (also known as radiation sickness). The exposure causes cellular degradation. Low white and red blood cell levels, nausea and vomiting, headache and decreases level of consciousness are all symptoms one has been exposed to high levels of radiation. The skin may show signs of redness and blistering. The body has a decreased ability to heal and cancer is much more likely to occur.
So then you ask how can radiation be helpful in treating cancer? Well, a high-energy radiation beam is directed at the tumor to damage the DNA of cancer cells. The damage is either done to the cell directly or by charging particles within the cell that will later alter the cell's DNA. In either case, the hope is that the damage will leave the cancer cells unable to reproduce. They will then die off and the body will dispose of the cells naturally.
And what about x-rays and other similar tests? Medical imaging technology can, and most likely has, caused cancer... but it has saved more people than it has harmed. Like everything in medicine, you have to way the risks and benefits with your doctor and make decisions accordingly.
So, exposure to radiation probably isn't going to make you a superhero. But the theory isn't completely out there. As discussed, it can cause genetic mutation and there may be some gene in the human body that can be altered to give us new abilities. Genetic mutation after all is how we evolved into the beings we are today...
The great Marion Alteri, our local horse racing expert (see her blog: Marizy Doats
), brings us this week's question. To this I say: Ha-ha. Very funny.
If you don't get the joke, it's a reference to the movie Monty Python's: The Holy Grail. They need to cross a bridge to continue their quest but in order to do so, they have to answer the above question. If you haven't seen it, click here
to see the clip from the movie. I also recommend the completely unrelated skit Monty Python's Flying Circus - Frontiers in Medicine
... it's my favorite.
Now, as you've seen in the movie (or in the clip I linked above) I could shoot back with, "What do you mean, an African or European Swallow?" and call it a day, but I'm going to take the high road. Hopefully, my answer will get us all across the bridge... even if it's in a less than funny manner.
This was certainly a tricky question to say the least. Lots of physics involved that I have pushed to those dusty corners in my mind. Not to mention you need to know a little bit about swallows.
Leave it to Marion to make me think this hard...
Let's start with what an unladen swallow is. The simple answer, it's a bird. The more complicated answer is that it's a bird with 74 distinct species of swallow. Some found in Africa, others in Europe.
What is air speed velocity? It's the relative velocity between some object, in this case the swallow, and the air.
In order to calculate the airspeed you have to take the difference between ground speed and the wind speed. Ground speed is the speed in which an object moves relative to some reference point on the ground. Wind speed is the speed in which the air moves relative to some reference point on the ground.
If there was a case in which a day had absolutely no wind, the ground speed is equal to the wind speed. Of course this is highly unlikely to ever happen.
This definition applies best to planes. When dealing with animals is a little different. To find the airspeed velocity of a bird, one must calculate the Strouhal number. The Strouhal number is usually used in the calculation of speed of fish in water. In that case, it is the ratio of frequency of the tail moving and the forward speed of the animal. A man named Graham K. Taylor discovered the same principle can be applied to birds and other animals that can fly.
For birds, the Strouhal number is the frequency multiplied by the amplitude of the wings divided by the animal's speed through the air. The frequency is the number of times the bird beats its wings a second and the amplitude is the distance the wing travels in one beat.
To get an approximate airspeed, Taylor said to invert the midpoint Strouhal number (which is 0.3). This means that the airspeed about 3 times the product of the frequency and the amplitude.
There is a very detailed blog on style.org that discusses all the fun mathematical details of the Strouhal Number if you are interested. Here's a link: The Strouhal Number in Cruising Flight
Now, in the case of the swallow, the Strouhal number is actually less than the average so it doesn't work right out of the box. For all the details, see: Estimating the Airspeed Velocity of an Unladen Swallow
In the end, it's concluded that the airspeed velocity of a (European) unladen swallow is about 24 miles per hour or 11 meters per second.
But, the real question is not about swallows at all. King Arthur in the movie had two coconut shells that he banged together to simulate the sound of a horse galloping. No one seems to know where he got them. So, the real question is how did the coconut get to medieval England? Is it possible that a swallow carried it over?
Well, I'm never one to make the claim that something is impossible. However, the swallow would have a very hard time even carrying the smallest of coconuts. It's little wings would have to beat extremely fast and it would have to be able to fly for a very long time without a break. And if the swallow carried over a seed, the coconut tree probably wouldn't survive very long as it thrives in tropical weather.
it is a lot more likely that coconuts were brought over by the
Portuguese from India in the 16th century. Another possibility is that
they "floated" through the ocean from India or possibly Australia to
England and were discovered around that time.
Now, the legend of King Arthur takes place in about the 12th century and evidence suggests coconuts did not get to England until the 16th century (as I just stated).
So, there is a very distinct possibility that the whole thing is just a mistake on the part the writers of Monty Python.
On second thought, I think it's just what they do. It's a comedy and there is a recurring theme throughout the whole movie trying to figure out where the coconuts came from. It doesn't have to make sense. It's just funny to think about... I'm sure historical accuracy wasn't exactly their concern...
So, you are sitting at your computer and everything is going swimmingly. Then suddenly your wrists start to hurt, your fingers get tingly. You give your hands a shake and get back to work. Then about twenty minutes later, the pain is back again. Other activities become harder too. Palming a ball, knitting, cutting up vegetables for dinner... any repetitive motion hurts.
You pop two or three Motrin and move on. You think it's just fatigue, so you start taking more breaks while doing these tasks. Or you simply ignore it. Either way, the problem isn't going to go away. In fact, it will probably keep getting worse.
What's wrong? Well, someone asked me and I actually had to ask myself this question not too long ago. So, I'm happy to share my findings and acquired knowledge with everyone...
It could actually be one of many problems but we are going to discuss two: carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome Both problems are becoming more and more common as we use computer more often and for longer periods of time. In fact, if you are someone who sits at a computer all day, it's considered a job hazard.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is more prevalent and consequentially it's more commonly known. But what is it exactly? Carpal tunnel syndrome is the neuropathy of the median nerve that is the result of compression of the carpal tunnel in your wrist.
A mouthful huh? Well, let's break it down. Neuropathy is a fancy word for damage to the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system consists of the nerves in your arms, legs, hands, feet and so on... pretty much all nerves besides the brain and spinal cord. The median nerve is a nerve that is located in the upper part of your limbs (arms and legs). It is the only nerve that runs through the carpal tunnel which is why it is affected by the compression of this area. The carpal tunnel is a passageway for the median nerve to connect the palm side of the hand to the forearm.
Cubital tunnel syndrome is a type of ulnar nerve entrapment. Entrapment in this context just means pinching or an obstruction of the nerve. The obstruction occurs in the cubital tunnel which is along the outer edge of the elbow. The ulnar nerve is another nerve that is part of the peripheral nervous system.
Now that we covered that... what happens when you compress or obstruct a nerve? Well think of what happens when you step on a hose. The water is blocked. Now this is a bit of a labored metaphor since signals to the brain don't get backed up but the action potentials nerves use to transmit messages to the brain are compromised. Signals won't get back to the brain which is why you experience pain and numbness. This compression overtime will cause damage to the nerve and this can become permanent.
If you suspect you have a problem, going to your doctor sooner rather than later is a good idea. In fact... I recommend this for any chronic pain or numbness but I digress. Your doctor may choose to perform an electromyography (EMG) and/or nerve conduction study (NCS). This will determine which problem you have and the severity of the condition.
Having experienced such tests I can say neither is particularly pleasant but it's nothing to be avoided. It doesn't last all that long and it was more uncomfortable than painful. During a NCS, the doctor (or nurse) electrically stimulates of the area of your body with the issue and measures your reaction time. During an EMG, very fine needles are inserted into the muscle and you have to tense the muscles in order to measure their level of functionality.
If you are diagnosed, what treatments are available? Carpal tunnel can be minimized by using an ergonomic keyboard and vertical mouse, taking breaks when performing repetitive tasks and practicing good posture. Another good thing to do is to wear wrist splints at night to keep your wrists straight. That prevents eight hours of pressure on your wrists (and you should be getting eight hours whenever possible!). Cubital tunnel can be relieved by refraining from leaning on your elbows on a hard surface for long periods of times. Wearing elbow pads can help as well as keeping your arms straight whenever possible.
If you are still suffering, cortisone shots may be administered to the affected area. Cortisone is a naturally occurring hormone in the body that is released in response to stress. Corticosteroid is a synthetic version of cortisone that is injected. It reduces inflammation and pain by suppressing the immune system. Long term use is not advised as it can cause anxiety, cataracts, depression, insulin resistance among other problems. Short term effects are pain, infection and pigment changes at the injection site. Otherwise in the short-term it's pretty safe.
If none of that helps, your doctor may recommend surgery. The surgery involves the cutting of the transverse carpal ligament or shifting the ulnar nerve in the case of cubital tunnel syndrome. This will relieve pressure on the nerve and alleviate (most) symptoms.
Some people are prone to having such conditions. Women and those with a smaller stature are more likely to experience problems. There is also a genetic component.
So, what can you do to prevent these problems from happening? Be mindful of your daily activities and making use of ergonomic devices and work stations can help. And, as I discussed in another blog about yoga, it's so important to listen to your body. Pain and numbness aren't comfortable but they are your body trying to tell you something. So... listen :-)
P.S. If you get sudden and/or extreme numbness anywhere on your body and it's not something you'd experienced before... you may want to seek medical attention. This goes with the idea of listening to your body... better to be safe than sorry!
I really wanted to get this question answered in time for
mother's day, but it's been a busy few weeks. Besides, I didn't get to see my mother to celebrate until this week, so I think it still
counts. Plus, mothers definitely deserve recognition more than one day a
year. So, to all the moms out there... this one is for you.
We have all heard the term maternal instinct and there is antidotal
evidence of its existence. Mothers, when given the option, will leap in front of a bullet
rather than let their child die. I mean that both figuratively and literally.
But is this instinctual? Or is it something else?
To start, this bond (whatever it may be) is not true of all
mothers. Among non-human life forms, we see that there are mothers who will eat
their children, abandon them and give them away.
On the flip side, many are very protective of their
children. They fight off predators, risking their life. Some primates will carry the body of their dead young, as if unable
to accept the loss. When a baby empire penguin dies, the mother will try and
steal another penguin's baby to replace hers.
I'm not a hundred percent sure if any of this proves maternal
instinct or not but it does show a bond has formed with their young.
the animal kingdom have also been known to take on the responsibility of
children that are not their own when their biological mother is unable to.
Obviously, humans don't eat their children. When a mother puts a
baby up for adoption, it's not abandonment. It's often a very hard decision and
is not because the child is unwanted. If anything, it's a selfless act; they
truly believe that the baby will have a better life with someone else. But bonding with a child that is not your own, may suggest there is something else linking a mother to her child.
Studies conduct with the aid of MRIs have shown that women
respond more to their own children than other children who are displaying signs
of the same level of stress or happiness. I'm not sure if this study included
any women who had adopted children. I'd guess no since that would add another variable
but I'd be interested to see the results of such a study.
But does that prove the bond is instinctual? Or are mothers
responding to something else? Is this bond caused by biological factors, such
as the exchange of hormones before and after a child is born?
In cases where a child is the result of a traumatic
experience, if the child is unplanned or the mother doesn't have the means to
care the child, there is less of a bond. In such situations, there is a higher
rate of postpartum depression. There is a feeling of resentment and disconnect.
This is certainly not true in all cases but it is statistically more likely.
The truth is, we really aren't sure yet. I'm inclined to say
there might be a level of instinct but it's more than that. However, in society
if a woman doesn't love children, it's assumed that she would be a bad mother
to her own children. If she isn't instantly bonded with her children after
birth, she's frigid and not a "real" woman. Those things simply aren't true.
I don't have children, I know plenty of women who do. Some of them aren't fond of other people's children. Some love all children. Some felt an instant
bond, others didn't. But they are all the best mother's they can be... which is
all one could ever ask for.
Being a mother is a huge commitment and can be exhausting. I
commend all those who take on the challenge. Especially, my own mother... for
without her, I wouldn't be writing this. And I mean that in the obvious way but
also because of her love and faith in me.
So... hi mom! Happy belated mother's day!
We have all seen the public service announcements about not talking on a cell phone or texting while driving. But does anyone ever say don't talk to your passengers? We are social creatures and silence makes us uncomfortable. It would be very hard for people to stay silent for long periods of time. And could they even enforce that? Maybe there could be a way to measure decibel levels in a car but then we'd also have to eliminate radios and they do serve a purpose while driving. They provide a way to communicate information to drivers (I'm sure at some point you've been the signs that say something like, when lights are flashing tune to 520 AM). Plus, there have been many studies that have shown reasonable use of a radio is safe while driving. Things that can be dangerous about the radio are: having it so loud that it impairs hearing and changing it while driving.
I digress. I recently took a defensive driving course and a woman in the class asked why using a cell phone was dangerous and talking to a passenger was not. I was sure they were different but didn't know of any proven theories and/or reasons. So, I did some research and I thought others would be interested in what I found out.
Fact: about 80% of accidents and 65% of close calls happen because the driver is distracted for about 3 seconds. So, the broader question is, what takes your attention away from the road for more than 3 seconds?
Doing things like playing with the radio, changing the destination on your GPS, searching for something in the car, putting on make-up or brushing your hair, changing the climate control settings and adjusting mirrors are all such distractions. Some more talked about distractions are texting and cell phone use.
Studies have shown that texting while driving it actually worse than driving drunk. A driver's reaction time is about four times slower while texting. In terms of stopping distance, a person needs to allow about 4 extra feet to brake while drunk, thirty-six extra feet when reading a text/email and seventy extra feet for writing an email/text. There is an alarming number of accidents that have been associated with texting while driving especially among young people (however that's because young people are more likely to text while driving not that older people are better at texting while driving).
Cell phone use is another big distraction for drivers. Astonishingly, for every ten people with a cell phone, eight will admit to using them while driving on a semi-regular basis. This is despite the statistics that show one third of accidents in the United States are caused by cell phone use; that's about the same chance of an accident as if you are legally drunk.
And don't be fooled: there is little or no difference between holding a cell phone while driving and using a hands-free device. This shows that it is not having a hand off the wheel that is distracting but the conversation itself. In fact, some studies have shown that while on a cell phone, you are
paying about 75-80% of your attention to the conversation and the rest
on the road... a little scary don't you think?
Anyway, the only notable difference I found was that, hands-free devices are legal to
use in many states while driving and using a cell phone is not. So, if what you are concerned about is not getting a ticket, hands-free is the way to go.
All that said, studies show that talking on a cell phone (or doing any other of the mentioned tasks) is a lot more distracting than talking to a passenger. When you have someone in the car with you, they are experiencing the road with you. The advantage there is that they will stop talking to you when conditions become more dangerous and also provide a second set of eyes. They might see something that the you do not. This concept is known as shared attention and obviously does not exists while on a cell phone. While conversations can be a bit of a distraction, they aren't even close to being as distracting as a cell phone.
The bottom line is that we believe that we multi-task well. I've heard a variety of people say things like, "Other people can't talk on a cell phone and drive but I can." We tend to overestimate our talents. But the truth is, none (or a very select few) of us can do two or more things at the same time efficiently. You can only focus on one major task at a time and driving never seems to be that major task and people are killed. So, next time you take a call or need to send a text, pull over. There's a shoulder for a reason. And if your passenger, or passengers, are being a distraction ask them to keep quiet. Turn your radio down to a reasonable level and try to only adjust it at stop lights. It's those little things that will save your lif.
Someone says to me, "Let's go on that roller coaster" and I am on the verge of having a panic attack from the time I get in line, to the time I'm off the ride. I put on skis and I go so slow down the mountain that it's comical and frustrating to my friends. I went para-sailing and screamed the entire time. Needless to say, I didn't see all that much. Heights, going fast, being out of control... all things that I hate.
I cannot understand why anyone would jump out of a perfectly good airplane or why people would jump off a bridge attached to a cable. And unless you waved a whole bunch of money in front of my face, you'd have to push me out of the plane or off the bridge. I'd be like a cat who doesn't want to go in their cage; you'd have to pry my hands off the ledge or from the door.
That being said, I can at least face some of my fears so I'll claim being just a little bit brave. Still, bravery hasn't gotten me over any of the fear. I'm terrified the whole time I participate in the things my friends talk me into and I don't like it one bit.
The point this... some people love these things. They like to feel afraid. Some people don't. Why? What makes different people respond to the same situation differently? Well I went on a quest to figure it out.
When we are scared, there are two options. Run or defend yourself. This is known as the fight-or-flight response and is instinctual. During this response, the hypothalamus becomes active. This area of the brain helps keep balance between calm and stress in the body. This activation triggers the adrenal glands which secrete the neurotransmitter and hormone epinephrine. Epinephrine, more commonly known as adrenaline, activates the sympathetic nervous system. Your sympathetic nervous system is responsible for regulatory functions in the body such as your heart rate, muscle contraction, blood vessel and air passages and pupil dilation.
In this heightened state, your ability to feel pain decreases and strength and awareness increase to aid in your survival. This is made possible by the increased blood and oxygen flow to your muscles and the increase in the conversion rate of glycogen to glucose, giving the body more fuel.
This strength you gain can appear superhuman. People have lifted cars off children and even fought polar bears and won. So why not use this strength all the time? Well, when the sympathetic nervous system is active, your parasympathetic nervous system is suppressed. Since the parasympathetic nervous system controls much of the immune system, high levels of stress for long periods of time can leave a person at risk for disease and infection. So when someone says, "Calm down you'll give yourself a heart attack!", you shouldn't just write it off as an exaggeration. It is actually possible. The good news is that once the stress is eliminated, your immune system gets a quick boost to make up for it's earlier supression.
Alright so what causes the addiction to this fight-or-flight response? It's the feeling a person gets during and after "rush" of adrenaline in the body. It can make a person feel euphoric and endorphins are released. This feeling is what people chase when they jump out of airplanes or off bridges. It's what attracts people to extreme sports and causes them to participate in high risk behaviors. Further, the risk level of behavior often has to increase as a person becomes tolerant of a behavior and the fight-or-flight response is no longer triggered. So an extreme adrenaline addiction can be dangerous not only in the effects that stress has on the body but also just the situations you have to put yourself in in order to get the feeling.
Why are some people addicted to it and not others? That's up for debate. Some people believe it's simply context for a person. Do they see the dangerous side or the fun side first? Others make the claim that it's maturity. As we get older, have more responsibilities, danger seems less appealing. People who are naturally anxious and those who hate feeling out of control, are less likely to enjoy adrenaline. But defining this is like defining why some people who drink wind up as alcoholics and some people don't. Genetics, environmental factors, personality... there probably isn't just one reason.
As I've said I like all things space so
when someone asked me what it really would be like to be sucked out
into space, I was curious as well. I think everyone has seen a
science fiction film where this happens. But how realistic are those
Hollywood wants to make things look
good. Something like being sucked out into space scares people
because space is the ultimate unknown. There's no air, it's cold and
is probably the most harsh environment a human being would have to
face. You might be surprised to know that it actually isn't as bad as
our imaginations make it out to be. And it certainly isn't as
Alright, so imagine that you are on a
space ship, or shuttle or some other vehicle in space and the hull is
breached or the airlock is released and you happen to be in the same
room. Since you are some poor no-named crew member you get sucked out
into space. What is the first thing you do?
Probably scream. Which might not be a
bad idea. Logic might say that you should hold your breath but that
would actually be a bad idea. Holding your breath may just damage
your lungs. This effect is similar to what can happen if a scuba
diver holds his/her breath during ascend. You risk an air embolism.
This is a fancy way of saying air bubbles are released into the blood
stream. If a large enough air bubble can block the blood flow to the
lungs causes respiratory distress. Another possible outcome is that
your lungs could tear or collapse. The fancy word for this is
If your lungs aren't damaged, you still
have quite a few other things to worry about and very little time to
worry about them. With such low pressure on the outside of the body,
hypoxia will occur. This means that the blood looses oxygen. Because
when exposed to space this will happen very rapidly, you'll only have
10 to 15 seconds of consciousness. Part of me thinks that is a
blessing in disguise. Would you really want more than that amount of
time to think about the fact that you are floating through space
without a space suit? But it's not just the oxygen levels in your
blood that drop. Carbon dioxide levels will decrease as well. This
condition is known as hypocapnia and can cause various nervous system
Once ambient pressure is eliminated
(that's the pressure of the air on your body), your bodily fluids
will start to turn to water vapor. In other words, your blood boils.
Of course put that way, it sounds a lot worse than it is. This may
cause some frost to appear in the mouth or around the eyes which is
probably where the idea of the body freezing came from.
There are some other minor problems as
well. If you happen to be in the direct line of some UV-rays from a
star... well you may get a really bad sunburn. Your eardrums may
burst due to the pressure build up in the body. It will leave you
deaf but won't kill you. There may be some swelling of the skin and
other tissues but if you are luckily enough to get rescued, it will
likely be reversed.
It varies, but generally you have about
90 to 120 seconds to be saved. If you are lucky and get back inside
within that time frame, you may live without any permanent damage.
After that, your official cause of death will either be heart failure
or asphyxia (medical term for suffocate). Of the two, heart failure
is the most likely because you'll probably die before asphyxia kicks
in. Heart failure is caused by the pressure build up in the veins
when the blood evaporated. Eventually the heart will give out, unable
So as much as it pains me to say
science fiction has failed us, it has. You won't explode, or burn and
you won't instantly freeze if you find yourself out in space without
a space suit. It's not even a death sentence as there are people who
have survived being exposed to a vacuum. Just hope that you have some
friends near by to get you back inside...
I found a quiz (click image below) to determine how long you
could survive in space based on things like weight, age, fitness and
knowledge of how to survive. I'm not sure how accurate it is; my
guess is not very. My time is not really all that impressive so I
think I'll just stay on planet Earth to be on the safe side.
So how long can you survive? Take the quiz and post your results!
I've only ever had on surgery in my life and it was minor; nothing to write home about. It took quite a while to completely recover but it may be because I'm not very good with pain. But I've also seen the aftermath of major surgery and it makes me feel like there must a better way and the person who sent this week's question obviously feels the same way.
The reality is, surgery for many years was quite barbaric. Doctors used to use the same knives that they used in the kitchen without washing them and the same saws that were used to cut wood were used to cut off limbs. We have of course come a long way since then. Doctors have learned how to cut with more precision and greater care. Tests before surgery can help map out the location of problems minimizing incisions and we know the benefits of having a sterile room to perform surgeries. And now, the medical field has taken another leap forward with the use of robots in the operating room.
There are two major components to robotic surgery. The robot itself and the computer program that controls it. The amount of automation (or reliance on the computer program) varies based on the type of robotic surgery.
Supervisory-controlled systems require the robot to be programmed before performing surgery. Since all patients are different, there can never be one program. Extensive planning on the part of the surgeon is crucial and the patient must go through a variety of tests (X-Rays, MRIs, PET-scans, etc) to develop the program that is unique to him/her. There is no room for error as the computer is not able to stray from the program on it's own. But, there is a fall back plan. The surgeon is able to intervene and take control of the robot if something goes wrong.
The da Vinci surgical system is probably the most well known. It has three to four arms to hold various instruments. One arm always holds the camera. The others hold tools that are used during the surgery. The number of incisions made is equal to the number of arms the system has. Then, stainless-steel rods are inserted into the incisions by the robotic arm which holds the various instruments. On a computer screen, the surgeon can see 3-D images from the camera and using controls that look a lot like those of a video game, they are able to instruct the robot's hands. The fields of gynecology and urology have been using the da Vinci system for many surgeries that could also be done laparoscopically (surgery that requires very small incisions and uses smaller versions of traditional tools).
One down side is that using the da Vinci system costs about a third more than traditional surgeries. The additional cost is contributed to, among other things, the cost of the technology and the increase in surgery time. On the flip side, it will decrease the number of people needed to perform surgery, reduce the amount of time patients need to spend in the hospital and there is less care needed after the surgery. Whether this will offset the increased cost of the surgery is still up for debate. Some critics say that laparoscopic surgery is less expensive and nearly as minimally invasive. Also, robotics surgery has not reduced the number of people who suffer from complications (about five percent of people for both procedures).
Those who developed the da Vinci system would say it is not meant to replace laparoscopic surgery but in some cases it is preferable. Some examples are, surgery on a woman who is morbidly obese, the removable of an exceptionally large uterus or if the surgeon needs to go deep into the pelvis.
The last type of robotic surgery is called shared-control and there is one major difference from the other two methods. The robot is actually controlled directly by the surgeon not through a computer. The robot's value here is providing active constraint. Before surgery begins, the doctors defines safe, close, boundary and forbidden areas on the patient. During the surgery, if the surgeon gets outside the safe zones, the robot will push back in various degrees depending on which area type it is approaching.
It is hoped that researchers will soon be able to develop a single-point incision using robots. It will reduce scarring and decrease recovery time. These systems also reduces stress on the surgeon that can lead to mistakes in the operating room. Normally a surgeon would be on his feet for surgeries that last hours and he/she can start to become fatigued and lose their ability to keep a steady hand. The robot takes away this danger.
Traditional surgeries will still be important to teach young surgeons even if they are using robotic surgery on a daily basis. There maybe a case where a robot is not able to be used or may not be available.
As robotic sugery becomes more commonplace, more surgeons will need to learn how to use the systems. New surgeons from the video game generation pick up this surgery method more quickly and easily than older surgeons for obvious reasons.
Researchers are working every day to effectively utilize this technology. One exciting idea is the possibility of tele-medicine or long-distance operations. A surgeon who is extremely skilled at one type of surgery would no longer need to travel to the patient. Instead they could control the robot remotely. This saves time which could be the difference between life and death for the patient. Such surgery has already been successfully performed but there is a delay in the time commands reach the robot. This issue will solve itself as the Internet gets faster.
All surgery comes with some degree of risk and it is so important that patients are informed and communicate with their doctor. Each patient should be evaluated individually and the method used should be decision between the patient and their doctor. But some day in the future, patients may just be having that conversation with a robot.
We have all been there. You log in to check your email and you have fifty messages. Wow! Aren't you popular? Well, maybe. But it's more likely that over half of those email are junk emails that you won't read. These junk emails are referred to as spam. The accepted origin of the term is based on a 1970's Monty Python skit. If you have never seen the skit, look it up on youtube and it'll all make sense.
Spam comes in many forms. Charity emails asking for money, chain messages with threats that you'll have bad luck if you don't forward it to ten of your closest friends, scams asking for personal information, emails that look like your bank account... It never ends. And some of these emails can contain viruses that will destroy your computer.
People try everything to stop getting these messages. Create a new email address and only giving it out to select people. Block emails from people you know are sending you spam. Turn your spam filter all the way. Yet still you have half a dozen spam emails left!
So who started all this mess? The first documented spam email was sent in 1978 from a DEC marking rep named Gary Thuerk in attempts to inform recipients of DEC's Arpanet support. This opened the door for floods of spam to take over user's inboxes world wide for years to come.
Thank you Gary Thuerk. In his defense, it wasn't malicious. He was just looking for a new way to advertise.
As early as 1994, people have been trying to discover ways of dealing with this global problem. Most terms of service policies, (defined by internet providers) have rules against spam. Congress has even passed the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marking Act of 2003, in effort to stop the spammers from sending unwanted messages. However, the act does not make spam illegal; it places the regulations on mass emails.
- Headers must be truthful and content made clear.
- Origin of message cannot be falsified.
- Messages must not be sent through open relay.
- Email addresses of recipients cannot be harvested.
- Users can unsubscribe to a mailing list and their request must be honored within 10 days;
Religious, political and national security messages are exempt from this law. Also if the user has a prior relationship with a company in anyway the company need only to give the user an unsubscribe option (all other rules do not apply). So all of those emails you keep getting from Best Buy because you ordered a video game three years ago, is not technically spam. Just update your email preferences in your account and they'll stop.
Spam saves companies around the world millions of dollars a year in postage. Yet to internet users, spam has become not only an annoyance, but an expense to those around the globe using dial-up connections. Bandwidth and storage space are wasted everyday by the distribution of spam emails.
We do have some methods of fighting back against spam. Some of the earliest spam filters used language analysis. It would search emails for words and phrases commonly used in spam emails. This works okay in some cases but only dents the problem. Some spam filters may look to see if an email was sent in bulk however this is often hard to detect.
Blacklisting is another method. Sites and email addresses that are known to send out spam can be added to a list that is then shared with other users online. The exact opposite of this is whitelisting. This is when a user rejects all users that are not on the list. Blacklisting has obvious holes; a spammer might not be on the list. Whitelisting however seems like the perfect solution... but it's not. Someone could use a common domain name to bypass the list. Plus, do you really want to have to keep such a list update? And if the list was out of date you might miss something important. Greylisting is a third option in this category that will reject all messages but tell the sender to try again later. If they do, it's more likely that it's a person than a spammer.
Other filters use various statistical analysis methods to make a judgements about whether an email is spam or not considering the words, order of words, frequency of words and percentage of the text is the same as known spam emails.
Whatever method you chose, you are still faced with one problem and that is emails that are incorrectly labeled as spam. It might get so bad that you are searching your spam inbox for your emails. And if that's what you are doing... well there really isn't might difference is there?
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