Could dark streaks in Venus' clouds be
signs of alien life?
- The question of
life on Venus , of all places, is intriguing enough that a team of U.S.
and Russian scientists working on a proposal for a new mission to the
second planet — named Venera-D — are considering including the search
for life in its mission goals.
If all goes as planned, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) could one day
be cruising the thick, sulfuric-acid clouds of Venus to help determine
whether dark streaks that appear to absorb ultraviolet radiation could
be evidence of microbial life.
Venus has long been a focus of Russian planetary science, which has the
proud legacy of the record-breaking Venera space probes that landed on
the Venusian surface in the late 1970s and early 1980s. [Mysterious
Venus: 10 Weird Facts]
With many questions remaining unanswered, the joint mission of Roscosmos
and NASA, if approved, would see an orbiter launch toward Venus in 2025
with the aim to make remote-sensing observations of the planet and its
atmosphere; deploy a lander on the surface; and search for future
Among several possible additions to the mission are a small sub-orbiter
to study Venus' magnetosphere, and either a balloon or an UAV taking
measurements of the atmosphere over a long duration.
Should the UAV be approved, its main goal would be to take
meteorological measurements to determine why the atmosphere rotates so
fast relative to the surface, a phenomenon known as super-rotation .
This fast rotation was discovered in the 1960s by astronomers tracking
the motion of the dark streaks in the atmosphere. Puzzlingly,
astronomers do not know the origin and composition of these dark
streaks, nor do they understand why the streaks haven't mixed with the
rest of the atmosphere and why they are absorbing ultraviolet light.
"These are questions that haven't been fully explored yet, and I'm
shouting as loud as I can, saying that we need to explore them," said
Sanjay Limaye, an atmospheric scientist from the University of
Wisconsin, Madison and a former chair of NASA's Venus Exploration
Analysis Group (VEXAG).
According to Limaye, the nature of the UV absorber is completely
unknown. It could be particulate matter mixed into the clouds, or a
substance that has been dissolved by the droplets of sulfuric acid, or
it may be crystalline in nature, like ice. Iron chloride has been
proposed, but there is no confirmed mechanism that could loft particles
of iron chloride 31 to 37 miles (50 to 60 kilometers) above the surface,
particularly as winds near the surface only blow weakly through the
dense lower atmosphere.
Life in the clouds?
A more exciting explanation for the dark streaks is that they are
evidence of microbial life . "It's a possibility we can't overlook,"
said Limaye, who is a member of the Venera-D science definition team.
Finding life at high altitude in the atmosphere of a planet would make
sense. After all, microbes have been found at similar heights in Earth's
atmosphere. The challenge for life on Venus is the planet's extreme
temperature. The surface, at 864 degrees Fahrenheit, is hot enough to
melt lead, and the surface pressure of 92 bar is the equivalent of being
almost 0.6 miles under water.
However, in a region beginning around 31 miles in altitude and extending
7.5 miles outward is a sweet spot where the temperature ranges between
86 degrees F and 158 degrees F, and the pressure is similar to that on
Earth's surface. Life could potentially survive in this zone where the
dark-streaking UV absorber is found.
Intriguingly, the sulfuric acid droplets within the clouds aren't
necessarily a show-stopper to life. Earlier Venera missions detected
elongated particles in the lower cloud layer that are about 1 micron
long, about the width of a small bacterium. These particles could be
coated in ring-shaped polymers of eight sulfur atoms, called S8
molecules, which are known to exist in Venus' clouds and which are
impervious to the corrosive effects of sulfuric acid, researchers said.
[5 Bold Claims of Alien Life]
Furthermore, S8 absorbs ultraviolet light, re-radiating it in visible
wavelengths. If the particles are microbes, they could have coated
themselves in S8, making them resistant to the corrosive effects of
sulfuric acid. It has even been postulated that the S8 exists as a
result of microbial activity. Is this then the key to life on Venus?
"I cannot say that there is microbial life in Venus' clouds ," Limaye
said. "But that doesn't mean it's not there, either. The only way to
learn is to go there and sample the atmosphere."
The original Russian plan for Venera-D featured balloons patrolling the
atmosphere, but balloons are not very maneuverable and would not
necessarily be able to reach the regions with the dark streaks. A
solar-powered UAV would stand a far better chance, according to Limaye.
"The idea is that, with a large enough wingspan, you can generate enough
power and actually fly through the atmosphere of Venus, with electric
propellers, for a very long time," Limaye said.
Descending hypersonically into the atmosphere after detaching from the
orbiter, the UAV would be filled with hydrogen or helium gas, keeping it
buoyant at a nominal floating altitude of 31 miles, allowing it to glide
through the clouds while moving through the night-time hemisphere. Upon
daylight, the solar-powered propellers would kick in and raise the
craft's altitude to around 37 miles.
Over the course of three to four days, the craft could move around the
planet along the upper atmosphere's "super-rotation," the strange
phenomenon where the atmosphere seems to be uncoupled from the solid
planet and rotates much faster. The UAV would therefore be able to
explore the clouds at different altitudes, moving from air mass to air
mass, from regions with UV absorbers to regions devoid of them, sampling
and measuring the composition of the atmosphere.
The aerospace company Northrop Grumman has already independently
developed a concept for a Venusian UAV, called VAMP (Venus Atmospheric
Maneuverable Platform), which would have a giant 180-foot wingspan and
be designed to operate in the atmosphere for at least a year.
The ‘D' in Venera-D's name stands for "dolgozhivushaya," which in
Russian means "long-lived." This originally referred to the hopes of
keeping a lander operational on the Venusian surface for days or weeks,
although the oppressive conditions on the surface mean that
realistically the most that any lander could survive is mere hours.
Instead, the UAV, continually circling around Venus, would take the
mantle of being long-lived.
The final report describing the science goals of the Venera-D mission
will be submitted to Roscosmos and NASA by the end of January 2017, at
which point the two space agencies will have to decide whether they will
collaborate on the mission. An answer is not expected until late 2017 at
The global experiment of marijuana
- In 2016, more
countries legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal or recreational
purposes. Marijuana, or cannabis, is "the most widely cultivated,
produced, trafficked and consumed drug worldwide," according to the
World Drug Report, but its legality has long been a topic of debate
In the US, Maine recently confirmed legalized recreational marijuana
use, joining seven other states and the District of Columbia. Medical
marijuana is now legal in more than half of US states.
This mirrors a global trend. Canada
approved both legalization and regulation of the drug in 2016, joining
Uruguay as the only other country to do so. Ireland, Australia, Jamaica
and Germany approved measures for its medicinal use this year. Decisions
are still pending in South Africa. Australia granted permission for
businesses to apply for licenses to manufacture or cultivate marijuana
products for medicinal purposes and to conduct related research.
They join more than 20 countries
worldwide trialing legislation regarding access to marijuana and
exploring possible benefits. But as with the drug itself, the laws vary,
as does the potency of control, and the world is waiting to learn what
will work best.
"We need a lot more data to inform the policies that are happening,"
said Ryan Vandrey, associate professor of behavioral pharmacology at
Johns Hopkins University in the United States. He has no stance on
whether marijuana is "good or bad," he said, but wishes policies around
the drug had the data typically required when approving a new therapy.
"There are a number of things that can happen when these policies
change," he said, adding that social and cultural norms will ultimately
define the real-life effect of these changes. "You can have vastly
different impacts from the same change in policy," he said.
Hard to knock medicinal benefits
Portugal is a pioneer when it comes to drug reform laws, as the nation
decriminalized the possession of all drugs -- not just cannabis -- for
personal use in 2001. As a result, the country holds the greatest body
of evidence about the impact such a change can have on policy.
"We were a social laboratory," said Joăo
Castel-Branco Goulăo, director-general of the General-Directorate for
Intervention on Addictive Behaviors and Dependencies in Lisbon. But
filtering out the specific impact in terms of cannabis is difficult.
"Experiments are now taking place in other parts of the world," he said.
"We were a social laboratory," said Joăo
Castel-Branco Goulăo, director-general of the General-Directorate for
Intervention on Addictive Behaviours and Dependencies in Lisbon. But
filtering out the specific impact in terms of cannabis is difficult.
"Experiments are now taking place in other parts of the world," he said.
"I have no problems with medicinal
marijuana," Goulăo said. "There are conditions I believe can benefit
from cannabis use."
The benefits are attributed to two main
components of cannabis: the psychoactive component THC or the plant's
extract, CBD oil. The latter is linked to improving anxiety as well as
epileptic seizures, proving to be life-saving for children with a severe
form of epilepsy.
"CBD can stop the fits. It's quite remarkable," said Dr. Mike Barnes,
professor of neurological rehabilitation at the University of Newcastle
in the UK.
Barnes recently wrote a report highlighting the medicinal value of
marijuana for the All Party Parliamentary Group for Drug Policy Reform
in the UK. The drug is categorized as schedule I, defined as having no
"Clearly, that is wrong," said Barnes, whose research investigates the
benefits to patients with brain injuries and multiple sclerosis. "It
ought to be legalized for medicinal use," he said -- a thought most
experts echo, as long as it's adequately informed and regulated.
"If they're going to do it, do it right," said Vandrey, who wants laws
to ensure that the best evidence is analyzed and that manufacture,
potency and labeling are also regulated, as with any drug.
"It's not medicine if you're just buying it from a street dealer," he
said. "We don't have any other medicines where concentration differs
every time we buy it. ... It needs to be treated as a medicine."
Vandrey cites Canada and Uruguay as countries setting this example.
Their new laws provide government-controlled sources of marijuana for
anyone, not just those who need it for medical use.
These two countries "are the only ones that have nationally approved
cannabis," he said. "They provide a government-sourced product."
The jury is out on recreational use
All three experts believe the argument to legalize marijuana for
recreational use isn't as straightforward as the case for medicinal use.
They believe the intermittent step of medicinal legalization provides
insight into how the drug will penetrate the population when access is
"This gets into the realm of social law,"
said Barnes, who thinks marijuana should be made available medicinally
first. "I would support allowing people to grow it in their backyard,
like in the US, but then you don't get the control."
Multiple countries have decriminalized personal possession of marijuana,
including the Netherlands, Mexico, Czech Republic, Costa Rica and
Portugal, in an attempt to address societal problems associated with its
use, according to Barnes.
The research emerging is still young and
eagerly awaited, but Goulăo has already seen changes among the
Portuguese population: namely, a drop in stigma associated with drug
"This is the most positive outcome," he said, highlighting that having
an open dialogue about drugs, including marijuana, in family, school and
workplace settings means people more readily seek help if they become
Evidence also shows that removing penalties for drug use hasn't led to
an increase in drug use in Portugal, as many voices in the opposition
would argue. Instead, it reinforces the fact that criminal drug laws do
little to deter people from using them, according to a report by the
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Despite these benefits, Goulăo believes that leaping straight into full
legalization, rather than decriminalization, is not a wise move.
"They are jumping a step," he said,
referring to countries such as Uruguay, Canada and some US states. They
should instead "decriminalize and watch carefully," he said. "I think we
still don't have evidence that (legalization) is positive."
Vandrey believes that the field as a whole is "too young to see evidence
of the benefits," adding that the world now needs to wait and learn from
the wide range of experiments currently underway in different countries.
But he agrees with Goulăo that leaping forward may not be the right
"People need to recognize the risks and
benefits of cannabis for any purpose," he said, highlighting that
although the majority of people may not experience side effects, others
will find it harmful, such as those with any family history of psychosis
or schizophrenia, or adolescents whose brain development may be impaired
if they consume the drug too early in life.
"There's huge variability to how people will respond to it," Vandrey
said. But information coming in might make clear the best way to
regulate the drug in coming years.
"It's going to take five to 10 years to really understand the impact
these changes in law will have," he said, again stressing the key role
cultures will play in defining this.
Goulăo added, "It's not going to be easy to change the paradigm in some
But one thing is clear: The wheels are in motion, and the marijuana
movement is firmly underway.
"It's going to be very interesting to see what happens," Vandrey said.
US Air Force wants to plasma bomb the sky
using tiny satellites
- Can you hear me now?
The US Air Force is working on plans to improve radio communication over
long distances by detonating plasma bombs in the upper atmosphere using
a fleet of micro satellites.
Since the early days of radio, we’ve known that reception is sometimes
better at night. Radio stations that cannot be picked up by day may be
heard clearly at night, transmitting from hundreds of kilometers away.
This is down to changes in the ionosphere, a layer of charged particles
in the atmosphere that starts around 60 kilometers up. The curvature of
Earth stops most ground-based radio signals travelling more than 70
kilometres without a boost.
But by bouncing between the ionosphere and the ground they can zigzag
for much greater distances. At night the density of the ionosphere’s
charged particles is higher, making it more reflective.
This is not the first time we’ve tinkered with the ionosphere to try to
improve radio communication and enhance the range of over-the-horizon
radar. HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program in
Alaska, stimulates the ionosphere with radiation from an array of
ground-based antennas to produce radio-reflecting plasma.
Now the USAF wants to do this more efficiently, with tiny cubesats, for
example, carrying large volumes of ionized gas directly into the
As well as increasing the range of radio signals, the USAF says it wants
to smooth out the effects of solar winds, which can knock out GPS, and
also investigate the possibility of blocking communication from enemy
There are at least two major challenges. One is building a plasma
generator small enough to fit on a cubesat – roughly 10 centimeters
cubed. Then there’s the problem of controlling exactly how the plasma
will disperse once it is released.
The USAF has awarded three contracts to teams who are sketching out ways
to tackle the approach. The best proposal will be selected for a second
phase in which plasma generators will be tested in vacuum chambers and
exploratory space flights.
General Sciences in Souderton, Pennsylvania, is working with researchers
at Drexel University in Philadelphia on a method that involves using a
chemical reaction to heat a piece of metal beyond its boiling point. The
vaporized metal will react with atmospheric oxygen to produce plasma.
Another team, Enig Associates of Bethesda, Maryland, and researchers at
the University of Maryland, are working on a more explosive solution.
Their idea is to rapidly heat a piece of metal by detonating a small
bomb and converting energy from the blast into electrical energy.
Different shaped plasma clouds can be generated by changing the form of
the initial explosion.
However, it’s not clear whether the USAF will succeed. “These are really
early-stage projects, representing the boundaries of plasma research
into ionosphere modification,” says John Kline, who leads the Plasma
Engineering group at Research Support Instruments in Hopewell, New
Jersey. He thinks one of the biggest stumbling blocks will be packing
enough power to generate plasma onto small satellites. “It may be an
David Last, former president of the UK’s Royal Institute of Navigation,
is sceptical about USAF’s ambitions to counteract the effects of solar
wind. When solar storms disrupt GPS signals, the entire side of Earth
facing the sun is affected, he says. Ironing out those disturbances
would require an extremely large and speedy intervention. “You don’t
calm a stormy sea by filling in the gaps,” says Last.
How the Internet is increasingly taking
over human memory
- Our increasing reliance
on the Internet and the ease of access to the vast resource available
online is affecting our thought processes for problem solving, recall
and learning. In a new article published in the journal Memory,
researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz and University
of Illinois, Urbana Champaign have found that 'cognitive offloading', or
the tendency to rely on things like the Internet as an aide-mémoire,
increases after each use. We might think that memory is something that
happens in the head but increasingly it is becoming something that
happens with the help of agents outside the head. Benjamin Storm, Sean
Stone & Aaron Benjamin conducted experiments to determine our likelihood
to reach for a computer or smartphone to answer questions. Participants
were first divided into two groups to answer some challenging trivia
questions -- one group used just their memory, the other used Google.
Participants were then given the option of answering subsequent easier
questions by the method of their choice.
The results revealed that participants who previously used the Internet
to gain information were significantly more likely to revert to Google
for subsequent questions than those who relied on memory. Participants
also spent less time consulting their own memory before reaching for the
Internet; they were not only more likely to do it again, they were
likely to do it much more quickly. Remarkably 30% of participants who
previously consulted the Internet failed to even attempt to answer a
single simple question from memory.
Lead author Dr Benjamin Storm commented, "Memory is changing. Our
research shows that as we use the Internet to support and extend our
memory we become more reliant on it. Whereas before we might have tried
to recall something on our own, now we don't bother. As more information
becomes available via smartphones and other devices, we become
progressively more reliant on it in our daily lives."
This research suggests that using a certain method for fact finding has
a marked influence on the probability of future repeat behavior. Time
will tell if this pattern will have any further reaching impacts on
human memory than has our reliance on other information sources.
Certainly the Internet is more comprehensive, dependable and on the
whole faster than the imperfections of human memory, borne out by the
more accurate answers from participants in the internet condition during
this research. With a world of information a Google search away on a
smartphone, the need to remember trivial facts, figures, and numbers is
inevitably becoming less necessary to function in everyday life.
Gigantic aurora lights up Jupiter’s
North Pole, gets caught on camera
- They say the bigger,
the better and this is especially true when it comes to northern lights.
NASA’s Hubble Telescope managed to capture gigantic aurora at Jupiter’s
north pole some days before Juno spacecraft arrives at the solar
system’s biggest planet.
The video on NASA’s Facebook page was
created by joining many far-ultraviolet images of Jupiter taken at
different time by Hubble.
“These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever
seen. It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a firework party for the
imminent arrival of Juno,” Jonathan Nichols from the University of
Leicester said in a statement.
Jupiter has already attracted scientists’ attention with its nature
wonders such as its colorful storms, the most famous being the Great Red
Spot, but turns out it has more mysteries and beauty in store.
Created when high-energy particles emerge
in the atmosphere, this aurora reminds of Earth’s lightning ball or a
thunder-cloud slowly rotating over Jupiter, mesmerizing and absolutely
These auroras are the most active and
brightest ever detected by the Hubble Telescope, having the intensity
thousand times higher than those observed on Earth.
This is explained by the fact that northern lights on Jupiter are
created not only with the help of the Sun that sends solar wind to the
planet, but also with Jupiter’s volcanic moon, Io, that also delivers
charged particles to the atmosphere.
Apart from that, Jupiter’s magnetosphere is nearly 20,000 times stronger
than the Earth’s which also adds up to the extreme intensity of the
local northern lights.
Meanwhile Juno is getting closer to the biggest planet, planning to
arrive on July 4. Juno is going to measure the properties of the solar
wind and will combine its observations with those made by Hubble.
The findings scientist hope to obtain are to help understand how the sun
and other sources of charged particles influence auroras.
Juno launched in 2011 also aims to find out if there is a solid core
lying beneath the thick atmosphere and is the first one to travel
through Jupiter’s dangerous radiation belts.
Google turning its lucrative web search
over to AI machines
When Google-parent Alphabet Inc. reported
eye-popping earnings last week its executives couldn’t stop talking
up the company’s investments in machine learning and artificial
For any other company that would be a wonky distraction from
its core business. At Google, the two are intertwined. Artificial
intelligence sits at the extreme end of machine learning, which sees
people create software that can learn about the world. Google has been
one of the biggest corporate sponsors of AI, and has invested heavily in
it for videos, speech, translation and, recently, search.
For the past few months, a “very large fraction” of the
millions of queries a second that people type into the company’s search
engine have been interpreted by an artificial intelligence system,
nicknamed RankBrain, said Greg Corrado, a senior research scientist with
the company, outlining for the first time the emerging role of AI in
RankBrain uses artificial intelligence to embed vast amounts
of written language into mathematical entities -- called vectors -- that
the computer can understand. If RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t
familiar with, the machine can make a guess as to what words or phrases
might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making
it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries.
The system helps Mountain View, California-based Google deal
with the 15 percent of queries a day it gets which its systems have
never seen before, he said. For example, it’s adept at dealing with
ambiguous queries, like, “What’s the title of the consumer at the
highest level of a food chain?” And RankBrain’s usage of AI means it
works differently than the other technologies in the search engine.
“The other signals, they’re all based on discoveries and
insights that people in information retrieval have had, but there’s no
learning,” Corrado said.
Keeping an edge in search is critical to Google, and making
its systems smarter and better able to deal with ambiguous queries is
one of the ways it can keep a grip on time-starved users, who are now
mostly searching using their mobile devices. “If you say Google people
think of search,” Corrado said.
RankBrain is one of the “hundreds” of signals that go into an
algorithm that determines what results appear on a Google search page
and where they are ranked, Corrado said. In the few months it has been
deployed, RankBrain has become the third-most important signal
contributing to the result of a search query, he said.
“I was surprised,” Corrado said. “I would describe this as
having gone better than we would have expected.”
The addition of RankBrain to search is part of a
half-decade-long push by Google into AI, as the company seeks to embed
the technology into every aspect of its business. “Machine learning is a
core transformative way by which we are rethinking everything we are
doing,” said Google’s Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai on the
company’s earnings call last week.
Smarter Than Your
So far, RankBrain is living up to its AI hype. Google search
engineers, who spend their days crafting the algorithms that underpin
the search software, were asked to eyeball some pages and guess which
they thought Google’s search engine technology would rank on top. While
the humans guessed correctly 70 percent of the time, RankBrain had an 80
percent success rate.
Typical Google users agree. In experiments, the company found
that turning off this feature “would be as damaging to users as
forgetting to serve half the pages on Wikipedia,” Corrado said.
Getting here wasn’t easy. The rollout of RankBrain represents
a yearlong effort by a team that started with about five Google
engineers, including search specialist Yonghui Wu, and deep-learning
expert Thomas Strohmann. It took a long time to make sure the system was
ranking things correctly.
The effort expanded to dozens of people after Amit Singhal,
the company’s senior vice president of search, gave the green light for
it to be rolled out across all of Google search in early 2015.
“It’s very carefully monitored,” Corrado said, nothing that
Google periodically updates the system by feeding it a load of new data
to help it better reason with new concepts.
Google’s decision to deploy AI into search shows that
companies are starting to entrust their most valuable businesses to
systems controlled in part by machine intelligence. Facebook Inc. uses
AI techniques to filter the newsfeed that comprises the personalized
homepage of the social network and Microsoft Corp. is using artificial
intelligence to increase the capabilities of its Bing search engine.
Microsoft declined to be more specific about whether it’s using a
similar approach to Google.
“Search is the cornerstone of Google,” Corrado said. “Machine
learning isn’t just a magic syrup that you pour onto a problem and it
makes it better. It took a lot of thought and care in order to build
something that we really thought was worth doing.”
‘Impossible’ rocket drive works and could
get to Moon in four hours
travel could be a step closer after scientists confirmed that an
electromagnetic propulsion drive, which is fast enough to get to the
Moon in four hours, actually works.
The EM Drive was developed by the British inventor Roger Shawyer nearly
15 years ago but was ridiculed at the time as being scientifically
It produces thrust by using solar power to generate multiple microwaves
that move back and forth in an enclosed chamber. This means that until
something fails or wears down, theoretically the engine could keep
running forever without the need for rocket fuel.
The drive, which has been likened to Star Trek’s Impulse Drive, has left
scientists scratching their heads because it defies one of the
fundamental concepts of physics – the conservation of momentum – which
states that if something is propelled forward, something must be pushed
in the opposite direction. So the forces inside the chamber should
cancel each other out.
However in recent years NASA has
confirmed that they believe it works and this week Martin Tajmar, a
professor and chair for Space Systems at Dresden University of
Technology in Germany also showed that it produces thrust.
The drive is capable of producing thrust several thousand times greater
than a standard photon rocket and could get to Mars within 70 days or
Pluto within 18 months. A trip to Alpha Centauri, which would take tens
of thousands of years to reach right now, could be reached in just 100
"Our test campaign cannot confirm or refute the claims of the EM Drive
but intends to independently assess possible side-effects in the
measurements methods used so far," said Prof Tajmar in anew
"Nevertheless, we do observe thrust close to the actual predictions
after eliminating many possible error sources that should warrant
further investigation into the phenomena."
"Our measurements reveal thrusts as
expected from previous claims after carefully studying thermal and
"If true, this could certainly revolutionize space travel."
Low chance of obese people recovering
normal body weight
- The chance of an obese
person attaining normal body weight is 1 in 210 for men and 1 in 124 for
women, increasing to 1 in 1,290 for men and 1 in 677 for women with
severe obesity, according to a study of UK health records led by King's
College London. The findings, published in the American Journal of
Public Health, suggest that current weight management programmes focused
on dieting and exercise are not effective in tackling obesity at
The research, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR),
tracked the weight of 278,982 participants (129,194 men and 149,788)
women using electronic health records from 2004 to 2014. The study
looked at the probability of obese patients attaining normal weight or a
5% reduction in body weight; patients who received bariatric surgery
were excluded from the study. A minimum of three body mass index (BMI)
records per patient was used to estimate weight changes.
The annual chance of obese patients achieving five per cent weight loss
was 1 in 12 for men and 1 in 10 for women. For those people who achieved
five per cent weight loss, 53 per cent regained this weight within two
years and 78 percent had regained the weight within five years.
Overall, only 1,283 men and 2,245 women with a BMI of 30-35 reached
their normal body weight, equivalent to an annual probability of 1 in
210 for men and 1 in 124 for women; for those with a BMI above 40, the
odds increased to 1 in 1,290 for men and 1 in 677 for women with severe
Weight cycling, with both increases and decreases in body weight, was
also observed in more than a third of patients. The study concludes that
current obesity treatments are failing to achieve sustained weight loss
for the majority of obese patients.
Dr Alison Fildes, first author from the Division of Health and Social
Care Research at King's College London (and now based at UCL), said:
'Losing 5 to 10 per cent of your body weight has been shown to have
meaningful health benefits and is often recommended as a weight loss
target. These findings highlight how difficult it is for people with
obesity to achieve and maintain even small amounts of weight loss.'
'The main treatment options offered to obese patients in the UK are
weight management programmes accessed via their GP. This evidence
suggests the current system is not working for the vast majority of
'Once an adult becomes obese, it is very unlikely that they will return
to a healthy body weight. New approaches are urgently needed to deal
with this issue. Obesity treatments should focus on preventing
overweight and obese patients gaining further weight, while also helping
those that do lose weight to keep it off. More importantly, priority
needs to be placed on preventing weight gain in the first place.'
Professor Martin Gulliford, senior author from the Division of Health
and Social Care Research at King's College London, said: 'Current
strategies to tackle obesity, which mainly focus on cutting calories and
boosting physical activity, are failing to help the majority of obese
patients to shed weight and maintain that weight loss. The greatest
opportunity for stemming the current obesity epidemic is in
wider-reaching public health policies to prevent obesity in the
Link between intelligence and longevity
is mostly genetic
- The tendency of more
intelligent people to live longer has been shown, for the first time, to
be mainly down to their genes.
The tendency of more intelligent people
to live longer has been shown, for the first time, to be mainly down to
their genes by new research published in the International Journal of
By analyzing data from twins, researchers found that 95 per cent of the
link between intelligence and lifespan is genetic.
They found that, within twin pairs, the brighter twin tends to live
longer than the less bright twin and this was much more pronounced in
fraternal (non identical) twins than in identical twins.
Studies that compare genetically identical twins with fraternal twins --
who only share half of their twin's DNA -- help distinguish the effects
of genes from the effects of shared environmental factors such as
housing, schooling and childhood nutrition.
Rosalind Arden, a research associate at the London School of Economics
and Political Science (LSE), said: "We know that children who score
higher in IQ-type tests are prone to living longer. Also, people at the
top of an employment hierarchy, such as senior civil servants, tend to
be long-lived. But, in both cases, we have not understood why.
"Our research shows that the link between intelligence and longer life
is mostly genetic. So, to the extent that being smarter plays a role in
doing a top job, the association between top jobs and longer life spans
is more a result of genes than having a big desk.
"However, it's important to emphasize that the association between
intelligence and lifespan is small. So you can't, for example, deduce
your child's likely lifespan from how he or she does in their exams this
The researchers looked at three different twin studies from Sweden, the
United States and Denmark where both intelligence and age of death was
recorded, and where at least one twin in each pair had died. Only twins
of the same sex were included in the analysis.
On the reasons for the findings, Rosalind Arden said: "It could be that
people whose genes make them brighter also have genes for a healthy
body. Or intelligence and lifespan may both be sensitive to overall
mutations, with people with fewer genetic mutations being more
intelligent and living longer. We need to continue to test these ideas
to understand what processes are in play."
This is the first study to test for a genetic association between
intelligence and lifespan.
Kids do a lot better when schools ban
- Schools that ban
students from carrying phones see a clear improvement in their test
scores, according to a study by the London School of Economics.
"We found the impact of banning phones for these students equivalent to
an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by
five days," researchers Richard Murphy and Louis-Philippe Beland said.
The authors looked at how phone policies at 91 schools in England have
changed since 2001, and compared that data with results achieved in
national exams taken at the age of 16. The study covered 130,000 pupils.
It found that following a ban on phone use, the schools' test scores
improved by 6.4%. The impact on underachieving students was much more
significant — their average test scores rose by 14%.
"The results suggest that low-achieving students are more likely to be
distracted by the presence of mobile phones, while high achievers can
focus in the classroom regardless of the mobile phone policy," the
Murphy and Beland said their study doesn't mean phones and other
technology can't be used to boost learning.
"There are, however, potential drawbacks to new technologies," they
said, citing the temptation to text, play games or chat on social media.
The use of mobile phones in schools is an explosive topic, with parents
wanting to be able to reach their children and teachers complaining
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio lifted a decade long ban on cell
phones in schools in March, leaving it up to each school to set their
own rules on phone use.
But Murphy and Beland said the decision may backfire.
"Schools could significantly reduce the education achievement gap by
prohibiting mobile phone use in schools, and so by allowing phones in
schools, New York may unintentionally increase the inequalities of
How does the music-identifying app Shazam
work its magic?
- Shazam is the closest a cell
phone can come to magic. Say you're in a restaurant, a song comes on,
and you can't quite place the tune. In the past, your options were
limited; you could try asking your spouse or the waiter for a clue, but
that approach risked revealing your ignorance. (That's " Sex Machine,"
dumb ass.) Shazam — which launched in the United Kingdom in 2002 as a
call-in service and became widely known in the United States last year
when it hit the iPhone — solves the dilemma in a few clicks. Press a
button on your phone, and in seconds you'll get the artist and song
title. Other than playing video games, it's the most useful thing you
can do on your phone.
Last week, Shazam announced that more than 50 million people worldwide
have used the service — up from 35 million at the start of the year. The
company also said that it's received an undisclosed investment from the
fabled Silicon Valley venture-capital firm KPCB. Shazam's success seems
justified — it's the one app you can show to iPhone skeptics to get them
to reconsider their position (though Shazam is also available on
Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and pretty much any other phone).
Yet for all the acclaim it garners, Shazam's inner workings are pretty
mysterious. How does it actually ID your song? How does the company make
money? (Here's one hint: iPhone users should expect to see a pay version
soon.) And what are the long-term prospects for a firm whose sole
purpose is satisfying an acute, very occasional need?
First, a short explanation of how Shazam works. The company has a
library of more than 8 million songs, and it has devised a technique to
break down each track into a simple numeric signature — a code that is
unique to each track. "The main thing here is creating a 'fingerprint'
of each performance," says Andrew Fisher, Shazam's CEO. When you hold
your phone up to a song you'd like to ID, Shazam turns your clip into a
signature using the same method. Then it's just a matter of
pattern-matching — Shazam searches its library for the code it created
from your clip; when it finds that bit, it knows it's found your song.
OK, but how does Shazam make these fingerprints? As Avery Wang, Shazam's
chief scientist and one of its co-founders, explained to Scientific
American in 2003, the company's approach was long considered
computationally impractical — there was thought to be too much
information in a song to compile a simple signature. But as he wrestled
with the problem, Wang had a brilliant idea: What if he ignored nearly
everything in a song and focused instead on just a few relatively
"intense" moments? Thus Shazam creates a spectrogram for each song in
its database — a graph that plots three dimensions of music: frequency
vs. amplitude vs. time. The algorithm then picks out just those points
that represent the peaks of the graph — notes that contain "higher
energy content" than all the other notes around it, as Wang explained in
an academic paper he published to describe how Shazam works. In
practice, this seems to work out to about three data points per second
You'd think that ignoring nearly all of the information in a song would
lead to inaccurate matches, but Shazam's fingerprinting technique is
remarkably immune to disturbances—it can match songs in noisy
environments over bad cell connections. Fisher says that the company has
also recently found a way to match music that has been imperceptibly
sped up as club DJs sometimes do to match a specific tempo or as radio
DJs do to fit in a song before an ad break. And it can tell the
difference between different versions of the same song. I just tried it
on three different versions of "Landslide" — the original by Fleetwood
Mac and covers by the Smashing Pumpkins and the Dixie Chicks — and it
nailed each one.
Fisher declined to tell me Shazam's overall hit-and-miss rate. All he
would say is that the service is good enough to keep people coming back
for more — the average user looks for songs eight times a month. The
most common reason Shazam fails to identify a song is that it doesn't
have enough data. The system needs at least five seconds of music to
make a match, and sometimes people turn it on just as the song is
ending. There are also frequently errors when people look up live
performances — if you hold up your phone to your TV during the musical
segment on Saturday Night Live, Shazam will most probably fail to ID the
song. If you do get a match from SNL, you're probably watching that
episode with Ashlee Simpson — Shazam is a great way to catch lip-syncers
in the act. Fisher says that Shazam is technically capable of working on
live performances, but they've turned off that ability for what he terms
"business reasons." "Right now people trust the brand — trying to match
live songs wouldn't get very high accuracy," he says. If you've got a
tune stuck in your head, try using Midomi, a rival of Shazam's that can
ID songs based on your humming or singing.
Shazam's iPhone version has been a blockbuster, but it still represents
just 20 percent of the service's customer base, which spans more than
150 countries and pretty much every mobile carrier in the world. The
iPhone version also marked a departure for the company — it was the
first version that Shazam offered for free. Fisher says this proved to
be a good idea; it brought Shazam instant renown, and the company now
has enough of a customer base that it can make decent money through
in-app ads and by getting a cut of each song purchase people make
through the app. But staying fully free forever isn't sustainable,
Fisher says. The company recently unveiled a Windows Mobile version of
its app that operates under a "freemium" pricing model—users who
download the free version can search for five songs a month, while a
premium version that goes for a one-time fee of $5 will allow unlimited
song searches. Fisher says that the $5 version for the iPhone and most
other platforms, will launch by the end of the year.
The company is also planning to add a lot more services to its apps — a
recommendations engine, a way to let you share your musical tastes with
your friends, and charts that show the songs that people are searching
for. Every Monday, Shazam sends out its charts to record labels, and
execs have been known to sign artists based on the data. This has led to
a new way for artists to break into the mainstream: getting featured in
TV ads. In 2005, for instance, Volkswagen ran an ad in Europe for the
Golf GTI that featured a remixed version of "Singin' in the Rain" by
Mint Royale. The song inspired a lot of searching on Shazam — and
prompted the band's label to release the track, which then shot to the
top of the European charts. "We probably see that at least once a month
around the world," Fisher says. In other words, Shazam doesn't only help
an audience find music. Sometimes it helps music find an audience.
Planetary dashboard shows acceleration in
human activity since 1950
- Human activity, predominantly
the global economic system, is now the prime driver of change in the
Earth System (the sum of our planet's interacting physical, chemical,
biological and human processes), according to a set of 24 global
indicators, or "planetary dashboard," published in the journal
Anthropocene Review (19 January 2015).
The research charts the "Great Acceleration" in human activity from the
start of the industrial revolution in 1750 to 2010, and the subsequent
changes in the Earth System — greenhouse gas levels, ocean
acidification, deforestation and biodiversity deterioration.
"It is difficult to overestimate the scale and speed of change. In a
single lifetime humanity has become a planetary-scale geological force,"
says lead author Professor Will Steffen, who led the joint project
between the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and the
Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Twelve indicators depict human activity, for example, economic growth
(GDP), population, foreign direct investment, energy consumption,
telecommunications, transportation and water use. Twelve indicators show
changes in major environmental components of the Earth System, for
example, the carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle and biodiversity. This new
"planetary dashboard" highlights how the trajectories of Earth and human
development are now tightly bound. The findings will be presented at the
World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, 21-24 January.
"When we first aggregated these datasets, we expected to see major
changes but what surprised us was the timing. Almost all graphs show the
same pattern. The most dramatic shifts have occurred since 1950. We can
say that around 1950 was the start of the Great Acceleration," said
Professor Steffen, a researcher at the Australian National University
and the Stockholm Resilience Centre.
"After 1950 you can see that major Earth System changes became directly
linked to changes largely related to the global economic system. This is
a new phenomenon and indicates that humanity has a new responsibility at
a global level for the planet," he added.
Co-author IGBP Deputy Director, Dr Wendy Broadgate said, "The Great
Acceleration indicators allow us to distinguish the signal from the
noise. Earth is in a quantifiably different state than before. Several
significant Earth System processes are now driven by human consumption
Another co-author, Dr Lisa Deutsch, Senior Lecturer at the Stockholm
Resilience Centre notes that: "Of all the socio-economic trends only
construction of new large dams seems to show any sign of the bending of
the curves — or a slowing of the Great Acceleration. Only one Earth
System trend indicates a curve that may be the result of intentional
human intervention — the success story of ozone depletion. The levelling off of marine fisheries capture since the 1980s is
unfortunately not due to marine stewardship, but to overfishing."
The findings provide strong evidence that in recent decades key
components of the Earth System have moved beyond the natural variability
exhibited in the last 12,000 years, a period geologists call the
Holocene. The Holocene, Latin for "entirely recent," began at the end of
the last ice age and provided the stability for agriculture to develop,
leading eventually to townships and cities to flourish.
The Great Acceleration trends support the proposal that Earth has
entered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, coined by researchers
Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer in 2000. Since then, the onset of the
Anthropocene has been keenly contested by geologists, Earth System
scientists and others, even though the term has not yet been formalised
by the International Commission on Stratigraphy. Some say the dawn of
agriculture 10,000 years ago — the Neolithic Age — is a likely
candidate. Others say the industrial revolution, around the late 1700s.
The new paper argues that, "Of all the candidates for a start date for
the Anthropocene, the beginning of the Great Acceleration is by far the
most convincing from an Earth System science perspective. It is only
beyond the mid-20th century that there is clear evidence for fundamental
shifts in the state and functioning of the Earth System that are beyond
the range of variability of the Holocene, and driven by human activities
and not by natural variability."
Furthermore, choosing the beginning of the Great Acceleration leads to a
possible specific start date: when the first atomic bomb was detonated
in the New Mexico desert on Monday 16 July 1945.
"Radioactive isotopes from this detonation were emitted to the
atmosphere and spread worldwide entering the sedimentary record to
provide a unique signal of the start of the Great Acceleration, a signal
that is unequivocally attributable to human activities," the paper
The research explores the underlying drivers of the Great Acceleration:
The bulk of economic activity, and so too, for now, the lion's share of
consumption, remain largely within the OECD countries, which in 2010
accounted for about 74% of global GDP but only 18% of the global
population. This points to the profound scale of global inequality,
which distorts the distribution of the benefits of the Great
Acceleration and confounds international efforts, for example climate
agreements, to deal with its impacts on the Earth System. However, the
paper shows that recently, global production, traditionally based within
OECD countries, has shifted towards BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia,
India, China and South Africa. Moreover, the mushrooming middle classes
in BRICS nations are driving greater consumption here too.
About one half of the global population now lives in urban areas and
about third of the global population has completed the transition from
agrarian to industrial societies. This shift is evident in several
indicators. Most of the post-2000 rise in fertilizer consumption, paper
production and motor vehicles has occurred in the non-OECD world.
Coinciding with the publication of the Great Acceleration indicators,
researchers also led by Professor Steffen have published a new
assessment of the concept of "planetary boundaries" in the journal
Science. The international team of 18 scientists identified two core
planetary boundaries: climate change and "biosphere integrity." Altering
either could "drive the Earth System into a new state." The planetary
boundaries concept, first published in 2009, identifies nine global
priorities relating to human-induced changes to the environment. The new
research confirms many of the boundaries and provides updated analysis
and quantification for several of them including phosphorus and nitrogen
cycles, land use and biodiversity.
The Universal “Anger Face” — how it
- The next time you get
really mad, take a look in the mirror. See the lowered brow, the thinned
lips and the flared nostrils? That's what social scientists call the
"anger face," and it appears to be part of our basic biology as humans.
Now, researchers at UC Santa Barbara and at Griffith University in
Australia have identified the functional advantages that caused the
specific appearance of the anger face to evolve. Their findings appear
in the current online edition of the journal Evolution and Human
"The expression is cross-culturally universal, and even congenitally
blind children make this same face without ever having seen one," said
lead author Aaron Sell, a lecturer at the School of Criminology at
Griffith University in Australia. Sell was formerly a postdoctoral
scholar at UCSB's Center for Evolutionary Psychology.
The anger expression employs seven distinct muscle groups that contract
in a highly stereotyped manner. The researchers sought to understand why
evolution chose those particular muscle contractions to signal the
emotional state of anger.
The current research is part of a larger set of studies that examine the
evolutionary function of anger. "Our earlier research showed that anger
evolved to motivate effective bargaining behavior during conflicts of
interest," said Sell.
The greater the harm an individual can inflict, noted Leda Cosmides, the
more bargaining power he or she wields. Cosmides, professor of
psychology at UCSB, is a co-author on the study along with John Tooby,
UCSB professor of anthropology. Cosmides and Tooby are co-directors of
the campus's Center for Evolutionary Psychology.
"This general bargaining-through-menace principle applies to humans as
well," said Tooby. "In earlier work we were able to confirm the
predictions that stronger men anger more easily, fight more often, feel
entitled to more unequal treatment, resolve conflicts more in their own
favor and are even more in favor of military solutions than are
physically weak men."
Starting from the hypothesis that anger is a bargaining emotion, the
researchers reasoned that the first step is communicating to the other
party that the anger-triggering event is not acceptable, and the
conflict will not end until an implicit agreement is reached. This, they
say, is why the emotion of anger has a facial expression associated with
it. "But the anger face not only signals the onset of a conflict," said
Sell. "Any distinctive facial display could do that. We hypothesized
that the anger face evolved its specific form because it delivers
something more for the expresser: Each element is designed to help
intimidate others by making the angry individual appear more capable of
delivering harm if not appeased."
For our ancestors, Cosmides noted, greater upper body strength led to a
greater ability to inflict harm; so the hypothesis was that the anger
face should make a person appear stronger.
Using computer-generated faces, the researchers demonstrated that each
of the individual components of the anger face made those
computer-generated people appear physically stronger. For example, the
most common feature of the anger face is the lowered brow. Researchers
took a computerized image of an average human face and then digitally
morphed it in two ways: One photo showed a lowered brow, and the other a
raised brow. "With just this one difference, neither face appeared
'angry,' " said Sell. "But when these two faces were shown to subjects,
they reported the lowered brow face as looking like it belonged to a
physically stronger man."
The experiment was repeated one-by-one with each of the other major
components of the classic anger face — raised cheekbones (as in a
snarl), lips thinned and pushed out, the mouth raised (as in defiance),
the nose flared and the chin pushed out and up. As predicted, the
presence by itself of any one of these muscle contractions led observers
to judge that the person making the face was physically stronger.
"Our previous research showed that humans are exceptionally good at
assessing fighting ability just by looking at someone's face," said
Sell. "Since people who are judged to be stronger tend to get their way
more often, other things being equal, the researchers concluded that the
explanation for evolution of the form of the human anger face is
surprisingly simple — it is a threat display."
These threat displays — like those of other animals — consist of
exaggerations of cues of fighting ability, Sell continued. "So a man
will puff up his chest, stand tall and morph his face to make himself
"The function of the anger face is intimidation," added Cosmides, "just
like a frog will puff itself up or a baboon will display its canines."
As Tooby explained, "This makes sense of why evolution selected this
particular facial display to co-occur with the onset of anger. Anger is
triggered by the refusal to accept the situation, and the face
immediately organizes itself to advertise to the other party the costs
of not making the situation more acceptable. What is most pleasing about
these results is that no feature of the anger face appears to be
arbitrary; they all deliver the same message."
According to Sell, the researchers know this to be true because each of
the seven components has the same effect. "In the final analysis, you
can think of the anger face as a constellation of features, each of
which makes you appear physically more formidable."
Fifth force of nature? Light particle may be key
to understanding dark matter in universe
Recent findings indicating the possible
discovery of a previously unknown subatomic particle may be evidence of
a fifth fundamental force of nature, according to a paper published in
the journal Physical Review Letters by theoretical physicists at the
University of California, Irvine.
"If true, it's revolutionary," said Jonathan Feng, professor of physics
& astronomy. "For decades, we've known of four fundamental forces:
gravitation, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces.
If confirmed by further experiments, this discovery of a possible fifth
force would completely change our understanding of the universe, with
consequences for the unification of forces and dark matter."
The UCI researchers came upon a mid-2015 study by experimental nuclear
physicists at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences who were searching for
"dark photons," particles that would signify unseen dark matter, which
physicists say makes up about 85 percent of the universe's mass. The
Hungarians' work uncovered a radioactive decay anomaly that points to
the existence of a light particle just 30 times heavier than an
"The experimentalists weren't able to claim that it was a new force,"
Feng said. "They simply saw an excess of events that indicated a new
particle, but it was not clear to them whether it was a matter particle
or a force-carrying particle."
The UCI group studied the Hungarian researchers' data as well as all
other previous experiments in this area and showed that the evidence
strongly disfavors both matter particles and dark photons. They proposed
a new theory, however, that synthesizes all existing data and determined
that the discovery could indicate a fifth fundamental force. Their
initial analysis was published in late April on the public arXiv online
server, and a follow-up paper amplifying the conclusions of the first
work was released Friday on the same website.
The UCI work demonstrates that instead of being a dark photon, the
particle may be a "protophobic X boson." While the normal electric force
acts on electrons and protons, this newfound boson interacts only with
electrons and neutrons -- and at an extremely limited range. Analysis
co-author Timothy Tait, professor of physics & astronomy, said, "There's
no other boson that we've observed that has this same characteristic.
Sometimes we also just call it the 'X boson,' where 'X' means unknown."
Feng noted that further experiments are crucial. "The particle is not
very heavy, and laboratories have had the energies required to make it
since the '50s and '60s," he said. "But the reason it's been hard to
find is that its interactions are very feeble. That said, because the
new particle is so light, there are many experimental groups working in
small labs around the world that can follow up the initial claims, now
that they know where to look."
Like many scientific breakthroughs, this one opens entirely new fields
One direction that intrigues Feng is the possibility that this potential
fifth force might be joined to the electromagnetic and strong and weak
nuclear forces as "manifestations of one grander, more fundamental
Citing physicists' understanding of the standard model, Feng speculated
that there may also be a separate dark sector with its own matter and
forces. "It's possible that these two sectors talk to each other and
interact with one another through somewhat veiled but fundamental
interactions," he said. "This dark sector force may manifest itself as
this protophobic force we're seeing as a result of the Hungarian
experiment. In a broader sense, it fits in with our original research to
understand the nature of dark matter."
What did we get stuck in our rectums last
It’s the holiday season, and you know what that
means: time to plumb the depths of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission’s database of emergency room visits. We’re looking for the
weirdest, least explicable, and most awkward objects that America has
shoved inside its various holes. God bless us, everyone.
As always, objects sorted by orifice, working
- SAFETY RAZOR
- MECHANICAL PENCIL LEAD—“HER FRIEND
ACCIDENTALLY DROPPED IT IN THERE”
- FINGER RING
- PIECE OF FOAM FOOTBALL
- “PUT TISSUE PAPER IN EAR TO KEEP HAIRSPRAY
FROM GETTING IN EAR”
- TOY CELL PHONE
- “WAS DOING A MAGIC TRICK AND STUCK A TOY
EYEBALL IN EAR”
- PIECE OF STRING
- “PATIENT CLAIMS SOMEONE HID A PIECE OF CRAYON
IN HIS EAR TODAY IN SCHOOL”
- PIECE OF SOAP
- RUBBER BAND
- “LADYBUG FLEW IN EAR WHEN RIDING BIKE. NO
MENTION OF HELMET”
- FISH HOOK
- “SOMEONE THREW A BB AND IT LANDED IN
- TOY STICKY HAND
- PLASTIC RASPBERRY FROM A FLORAL ARRANGEMENT
- “HAD LEAD FROM A PENCIL IN BOTH EARS AND A
PIECE OF BLUE PAPER IN LEFT EAR”
- ROSARY BEAD
- KNITTING NEEDLE
- “PATIENT STATES ROACH WAS IN EAR, STABBED IT
WITH PIN, SUSTAINED PERFORATION OF TYMPANIC MEMBRANE”
- PIECE OF CHOPSTICK
- “12 YEAR OLD MALE STATES THAT LAST EVENING,
HE STUCK A PLASTIC BB INTO HIS EAR. ‘JUST BECAUSE.’”
- PIECE OF BLUETOOTH EARPIECE
- A SMALL RED BATTLESHIP PIECE FROM THE GAME
- TIN FOIL
- ORANGE POM-POM
- CANDLE WAX
- “WAS PLAYING WITH A BALLOON & IT ACCIDENTALLY
POPPED & A SMALL PIECE WENT INTO HIS NOSTRIL”
- HAIR TIE
- DOLL’S SHOE
- HALLOWEEN DECORATION
- “WHILE ATTEMPTING TO DO MAGIC TRICK STUCK A
PENNY UP NOSTRIL”
- PILLOW STUFFING
- TOY CAR WHEEL
- “WAS FOUND IN BATHROOM STUFFING TOILET PAPER
- MOLDING CLAY
- STRAWBERRY-SMELLING STICKER
- WET PIECE OF CARDBOARD
- “WAS EATING BEEF JERKY, WHEN HE OPENED THE
PACKAGE OF SILICA AND SPRINKLED IT ON THE BEEF JERKY”
- GOLD TOOTH
- “A METAL DECORATION FROM HER PANTS”
- PERFUME BOTTLE CAP
- CANDY WRAPPER
- “PATIENT WAS DANCING AROUND THE HOUSE WHEN
PATIENT SWALLOWED A QUARTER”
- “SWALLOWED A QUARTER WHILE BRUSHING TEETH”
- PIECE OF A CD
- PLASTIC EYES ON STUFFED TURTLE
- KEY CHAIN
- BALLOON OF MARIJUANA
- “ATE A HOT DOG WRAPPED IN BACON WITH
TOOTHPICK INSERTED IN IT, SWALLOWED TOOTHPICK”
- PIECE OF PLASTIC FROM VACUUM-SEALED BEETS
- TOILET PAPER HOLDER
- 2 AA BATTERIES, 2 LOCKS WITH KEYS,
- “DRINKING FROM A SODA CAN SWALLOWED A BEE BEE
STUNG PATIENT IN THROAT”
- HALF A PENCIL
- PENCIL ERASER
- PEN CAP
- COAT HANGER
- “PUT A PLASTIC STRAW IN HIS PENIS WHILE HE
WAS HIGH ON CRYSTAL METH”
- PLASTIC TUBING
- MAKEUP BRUSH
- FOLDED UP PAPER CUP AND STICKERS
- CELL PHONE
- HUSBAND’S PENIS RING
- PERFUME BOTTLE
- TWO TAMPONS
- TOY PLASTIC SPOON
- MAKEUP SPONGE
- GOLF BALL—“WANTED TO DO PELVIC FLOOR
- A JINGLE BELL
- PIECE OF PLASTIC REINDEER
- WET WASHCLOTH
- VIAL OF FENTANYL
- TOY TEAPOT
- “THINKS HE HAS TOOTHBRUSH CASE IN RECTUM,
DOESN’T KNOW HOW B/C HE WAS DRUNK”
- TOY BABY BOTTLE
- GLASS BOTTLE
- “THOUGHT SOMEONE WAS AFTER HIM SO HE PUT
PLASTIC BAG/PILL BOTTLES UP RECTUM”
- “CRAYONS AND COINS”
- HANDLE OF TOILET PLUNGER
- TOILET BRUSH
- “7 YEAR OLD MALE WATCHING A SOUTH PARK VIDEO INVOLVING
ALIENS RECTAL PROBING PEOPLE AT HOME, DECIDED TO TRY IT, PUT PLASTIC
TOY SCREW IN RECTUM”
- SALT SHAKER
- SMALL TOY
- LARGE TOY
- PLASTIC “SQUINKY” TOY
- “CONSTIPATION—DILDO STUCK IN RECTUM”
- WATER GUN
- BATHTUB DRAIN PLUG
- BOBBY PIN
- LARGE ELASTIC STRING
- “ENTERTAINING GUESTS BY INSERTING THE WOODEN
LEG OF A CHAIR INTO HIS RECTUM”
- MARKER IN A GLOVE
- “HAS 2 GOLF BALLS UP RECTUM AND WANTS TO HAVE
- FLASHLIGHT AEROSOL CAN
- SHAMPOO BOTTLE
- CAN OF HAIR MOUSSE
- HOMEMADE DILDO
- TOY SHARK
- “WAS AT A ‘FISTING PARTY’ AND HAS A SPIKEY
RUBBER BALL THAT LIGHTS UP STUCK IN RECTUM.”
Ten ways that you're using condoms wrong
It’s been a while since that awkward moment in health class when
you learned how to put a condom on a banana. Whether you were actually
paying attention or too preoccupied chatting with your friends (and
avoiding saying the word “penis” at all costs), it’s possible you may
have missed a thing or two about the proper way to wrap it up.
you're an adult, you may think you’ve mastered these simple sheaths. But
believe it or not, the CDC estimates there’s a typical use failure rate
of 18 percent. The takeaway: even as an adult, you're not immune to
teenage-status condom errors. However, when used correctly, condoms are
98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, and they’re your best line
of defense against STDs. To help you avoid joining that 18 percent, stop
making these common mistakes.
9 Types of Condoms You Should Know About
health teacher wasn’t lying to you, “There’s plenty of sperm in
pre-ejaculation,” says Lauren Streicher, MD, Associate Clinical
Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Northwestern University, and
author of Sex Rx: Hormones, Health and Your Best Sex Ever. “So
even if he doesn’t ejaculate, you’re still at risk of both pregnancy and
a sexually transmitted infection.” In other words: quit procrastinating.
As soon as you’re ready to get going, grab a condom.
Forgetting to check for damages
percent of women and 75 percent of men failed to check condoms before
use in an Indiana University review of studies. We get it—in the heat of
the moment, you aren’t thinking about much more than getting that condom
on as quickly as possible. But before you assume that rubber is ready
for action, take a beat to make sure the wrapper doesn’t look worn out
and the condom isn’t sticky, brittle, discolored, or damaged. Also, if
it expired back your college days, it’s time to trade up to a fresh box.
may seem pretty self-explanatory, there are plenty of ways to mess up
the simple act of putting on a condom. So here’s a quick throwback to
the banana lesson: After unwrapping the condom and checking that it’s
not inside out, place the rolled tip on top of the penis. Then unroll it
to completely cover the shaft. If you only bother going halfway
down, you’ll be exposed to way more skin, putting you at risk of
contracting (or transmitting) an STD. Also, while putting it on, pinch
out excess air inside the condom and make sure you leave half an inch
of space at the tip where semen can collect, reminds Dr. Streicher.
condom is great at preventing pregnancy and STDs, then two condoms
should be even better, right? Definitely not. More is not merrier
in this case. Layering two condoms can dramatically increase the chance
of slipping off, especially if you’re using a lubricated type, explains
Dr. Streicher. “If the first condom rolls off, then it usually takes the
second one with it.”
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it off too soon
waiting too long to put the condom on is problematic, so is taking it
off too early. Yet, researchers from Indiana University found between
13.6 percent and 44.7 percent of individuals removed the condom before
intercourse was over. Of course, pulling off protection puts you at risk
of both STDs and pregnancy. So instead of giving up on a condom before
you’ve reached the final act, consider trying out different kinds to
figure out which one works best for you and your partner.
the wrong size
aren’t a one-size-fits-all deal, and let’s face it, not every man
is an XL (sorry, fellas). “There’s always that guy who buys the
extra-gigantic condom, when he’s not,” says Dr. Streicher. When it comes
to staying safe, it’s important to be realistic about size. If the
condom is too small, it could break. If it’s too large, it could slip
off during sex. The most important thing is not to focus on stroking
your guy’s ego, but rather finding a condom that actually fits properly.
Forgetting about oral
get pregnant from oral sex, but you can still get an STD, says Dr.
Streicher, which means you’ve still got to wrap it up. And here’s a
trick they probably didn’t teach you in health class: women can use
condoms when receiving oral as well. “Since no one ever uses dental
dams, instead, take a condom and cut the tip off,” instructs Dr.
Streicher. “This will give you a square to put over your vulva for
protection.” If you decide to try out this tip (no pun intended), make
sure you use an un-lubricated condom; otherwise the barrier will fly
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the wrong lube
of which, lube can be a great addition to your condom experience. Not
only can it make sex more enjoyable, but it also helps prevent the latex
from tearing or ripping. However, if you choose the wrong lubricant, it
could spell disaster. “Not all lubricants are condom-compatible,” says
Dr. Streicher. “Any oil-based product can cause break-down of condoms.
You always want to stick with water-based or silicone-based, or a
mixture of both.”
were told in high school health class not to store condoms in your
wallet. Well, that wasn’t just a myth to scare you into celibacy. All
the bending and friction can cause tiny holes, rendering the
rubber totally useless, and if you keep your wallet in your pocket, your
body heat can also degrade the sheath. Instead, make sure you keep
condoms in a cool, dry place away from sunlight or heat.
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using one at all
already know you need to be using condoms, but the advice is worth
repeating: “Any time there’s skin-to-skin contact, you should really use
a condom,” says Dr. Streicher. Educate yourself on the nine types of
condoms, and stock up.