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Weeds Hold Promise for Miracle Drugs

We’d like weeds if we knew them better, says John Roach for National Geographic News, especially if we realized they may contain wonder drugs.  “It’s often said that plants hidden in the tangle of the Amazonian rain forest may harbor an undiscovered cancer cure,” he writes; “John Richard Stepp thinks the same can be said […]

Active Adolescents Are Leaner, Fitter

The intuitively obvious sometimes holds up to experimentation.  Researchers at Medical College of Georgia found that, indeed, young people who are physically active are less likely to be obese.  Most adolescents need to double their physical activity, the researchers said, preferably an hour or more a day – and it needs to be vigorous.  In […]

Do Neurologists Understand Brain Evolution?

Jane Bradbury wrote a feature piece for PLOS Biology recently,1 entitled, “Molecular Insights into Human Brain Evolution.”  Help us find the insights.  First, she marvels on how “humans sit on top of the pile when it comes to relative brain size.”  Then she marvels at how quickly the human brain apparently evolved compared to apes.  […]

Tissues Build Firebreaks to Avoid Disease

An article in the March 3 issue of Nature1 explains how tissues communicate to fight off infection.  As reported before, cells display samples of the proteins they contain on their outer membranes, a process called presentation.  Killer T cells wander around, like cops, looking at the presentations.  When they recognize alien proteins (antigens), they respond […]

If I Only Had a Brain…

The scarecrow didn’t know what he was asking for.  Look what Steven E. Hyman of Harvard says about the human brain and nervous system in the 8 March 2005 issue of Current Biology:1 The nervous system processes sensory information and controls behavior by performing an enormous number of computations.  These computations occur both within cells […]

Trail + Trail Mix = Health Mix

Peanuts, a staple ingredient in trail mix, are “rich in good chemicals,” reports the BBC News.  They have as many antioxidants as fruits, are high in protein and “good” monounsaturated fat.  So take some along and go on the trail, because, according to Southwestern Medical Center, “Exercise helps reduce symptoms of depression,” and EurekAlert reminds […]

A Proverb a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

Short, pithy statements of wisdom can keep you on the right health track, according to a press release from University of Toronto.  Bernard Choi offers some examples, like “seven days without exercise makes one weak.” King Solomon had some pretty good ones: A joyful heart is good medicine (17:22) A wise man is strong (24:5) […]

Remember to Exercise, and You’ll Remember More

Old dogs can remember old tricks and learn new ones, say researchers from the National Institutes of Health.  According to an article on EurekAlert, the secret is a program of diet, exercise and stimulating environments.     Scientists got snoopy about old beagles, and found their brains could remain in tip-top shape with lifestyle adjustments.  […]

Are Humans Still Evolving?

Science Now asks the question, “are humans still evolving?”  Comparisons of genes and chromosomes between different people groups from Asia, Europe and Africa are challenging the view that there is one human genome.  Some long stretches of DNA are inverted in some groups, and women so affected seem to have more children on average, even […]

Robots Don’t See as Well as You Do

Robot designers are still working on ways to emulate the human eye.  Just when you thought digital cameras were all the rage, we learn from EurekAlert they are miserable substitutes when put into the eye sockets of robots.  Robot-vision export Vladimir Brajovic explains: Often, when we take a picture with a digital or film camera, […]

Why You Breathe Deep to Sniff a Flower

It may sound like a 747 when your uncle blows his nose, but scientists at Imperial College found nose airflow to be more complicated than the aerodynamics of a jumbo jet’s wing, according to a press release by the reporting the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council .  They made a 3D model of the […]

For Better Workouts, Head for the Hills

Science News1 reported on a study by the American Heart Association that shows hiking in the mountains is good for you.  Experiments on people hiking in the Austrian Alps showed that going uphill, the body improves the processing of fats called triglycerides, and walking downhill improves the processing of glucose sugar.  45 volunteers who were […]

Monkeys Have No Ear for Music

Consonance and dissonance have no meaning to monkeys, studies have shown.  Nature Science Update reported on experiments on cotton-top tamarins showing that, unlike humans, they do not find consonant tones more pleasing than dissonant ones. “If you want to look at the evolution of music it’s important to do these types of studies,” says Laurel […]

Haeckel Vindicated?  Parathyroid Glands from Gills?

“Human gland evolved from gills” trumpeted a BBC News science article without apology.*  It gives uncontested press to a team from King’s College that is claiming the human parathyroid glands evolved from gills.  This is claimed on the basis that they have similar functions (calcium regulation) and are located in the neck region.  Fish have […]

Did Language Evolve by Natural Selection?

In the Oct 14 issue of Nature,1 Gary Marcus (Dept. of Psychology, New York University) appears conflicted about how human language arose.  He wants to attribute it to a Darwinian process: If, as François Jacob famously argued, evolution is like a tinkerer who builds something new by using whatever is close at hand, then from […]
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