Who MADE That?


(Originally posted 3/14/17 on Read With The Gringa)


If the dear reader is anything like the gringa, you often take for granted amazing things, never wondering how they came about in the first place. Take lasers, for example. Most of us use lasers every day. There are laser toys for cats, laser printers and lasers used to heal people and to kill people. Although lasers are used for many purposes, they are all, essentially, the same thing: a focused beam of light or electromagnetic radiation. This beam is created by stimulating photon emissions from excited atoms. Next time you check out at the grocery store, just remember that bar code scanner is a very “excited” device!


Many years ago one of the gringa’s loved ones had eye surgery. It was a laser that sliced and diced those very dear orbs. It never occurred to the gringa at the time to even wonder who should be thanked for this amazing technology that saved and improved my mother-in-law’s vision. Well, now I know and I’m going to share this incredible woman’s story.


Dr. Patricia Bath has a lot of “firsts” on her resume. She was the first African American to complete an opthalmology residency. She was also the first female, African American doctor to have a medical patent. She got this for her invention that changed Mama’s eyes forever, the Laserphaco Probe. This device removed cataracts from the eyes of my caveman’s precious mother, enabling her to continue to see her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and do what she loves to do, sew, sew, sew.


What is most amazing about Dr. Bath’s achievements is when she did them. She was born in Harlem, New York in 1942. That means she grew up and received her primary education more than 20 years before the Civil Rights Act was passed in the U.S. In an environment like that, what might have occurred to capture the attention of a little girl from Harlem and inspire her to become a doctor? Dr. Bath credits Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s service to lepers in the Congo along with the powerful influence of loving parents who fueled her own, personal empowerment engine.


What kind of parents does it take to do this incredible service for their child? Were they superhuman? Educators? They were parents, period. Rupert Bath, Dr. Bath’s father, was a well-educated immigrant from Trinidad. He had a “first” to list in his own biography. He became the first black motorman employed by New York City’s subway system. He has an interesting background that includes writing newspaper columns and working as a merchant seaman which gave him the opportunity to travel all over the world. These experiences enabled a father to craft a legacy for his child that lasted a lifetime, the legacy of a broad mind.


Dr. Bath’s mother, Gladys, encouraged her daughter to read, read, read. Books were a priority as well as a gift that soon became a favorite, a chemistry set. Gladys was an American of African slave and Cherokee ancestry and she was determined that her children (Dr. Bath had a brother) would have the best education possible. She scrubbed the floors of affluent New Yorkers to fund her children’s college dreams.

Dr. Bath’s neighborhood was well-known for its poverty. However, for Bath, riches didn’t come in nickels and dimes, but in values, the love of family and the opportunity to grow through learning. And eventually, the medical world would become this little girl’s oyster through determination, belief in herself, and hours upon hours of dedication and hard work.


As a young teenager, she showed such promise at a summer science program that two medical professionals doing cancer research took her under their wings, becoming her mentors. Her own research earned her an invitation to present her research at an international nutrition conference in Washington DC. This earned her a 1960 Merit Award and a bit of celebrity status, her achievement being reported in magazine and newspaper articles.


It wouldn’t be until 1964 that Dr. Bath experienced studying under a black professor for the first time. It was a thrilling experience. She soon received a government fellowship which enabled her to participate in pediatrics medicine research in Yugoslavia. This was her first experience outside the U.S. and sparked a new interest in the medical needs of people throughout the world, especially the underprivileged. True to her principles, in 1968 she became coordinator for the Poor People’s Campaign that marched for economic rights in the nation’ capital. She would eventually shoulder the responsibility of the health and sanitary needs for the thousands who lived in the shantytown known as Resurrection City. 


Eventually, recognizing the vast differences in quality and accessibility of care between the “haves” and “have nots”, Dr. Bath convinced her professors to perform eye surgery on blind patients for free, she volunteering as assistant surgeon. Dr. Bath would continue her growth as a surgeon doing post-graduate work in cornea transplants. 


This would lead to the  1974 “first” previously mentioned, becoming the first female faculty member at UCLA’s Jules Stein Eye Institute. Despite this illustrious achievement, the office she was offered, in the basement with the lab animals, was seen as a slight. Dr. Bath stood up for herself and the institute quickly responded by giving her new office space more appropriate for her prestigious position.


Nearly a decade later, 1983, Dr. Bath achieved another “first”. She became chair of UCLA’s Opthalmology Residency Training Program. As an American woman, she was the first to hold this position.


Through Dr. Bath’s American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness, Americans everywhere can receive basic eye care regardless of how poor they may be. Throughout the world newborns have their eyesight protected with medication provided by the institute that prevents common infections. Malnourished children in every country have access to vitamin A supplements to protect their eyes from damage caused by lack of proper nutrition. Vaccinations for infectious diseases known to cause blindness are also made available to vulnerable populations around the world. 


When Dr. Bath sought to create a device to make cataract removal surgery less invasive and more precise, her colleagues told her it couldn’t be done. But she showed them, didn’t she! Her scope was not just patented in the US, but also in Japan, Canada and five European countries. 


Even after Dr. Bath retired, she was still achieving historical “firsts”. In 1993 she became the first woman to be elected to UCLA Medical Center’s honorary medical staff. And throughout her retirement, her passion to prevent blindness has never ceased. Perhaps it is a fire that will never die, fueled by the amazing experience of restoring sight to a North African woman who had been blind for 30 years. 


Dr. Bath overcame amazing odds and obstacles. Although she was certainly ambitious, the gringa is most impressed with her motives and philosophy which drove her ambitions. She is quoted as saying:

“Eyesight is a basic human right.”

This was the philosophy behind her creation of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness in 1976. Ten years later she revealed to the world the goods on her philosophy, the Laserphaco Probe. Officially patented in 1988, Dr. Bath became the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent. 


No matter what you think may stand in your way, Dr. Bath is proof positive that, with the right motives and inspiration behind your ambition, work hard and you can move mountains and achieve great things. Take to heart the words of encouraging wisdom from Dr. Bath:

“Believe in the power of the truth. Do not allow your mind to be imprisoned by majority thinking. Remember that the limits of science are not the limits of imagination.”

The world needs so many scientists to solve the problems facing the world today. Compassion driven science can change the world for the better, making every day a better day than the one before. The gringa says, “Thank you” to all the Dr. Bath’s in the world. We need more of you!



Sources: Biography

Invention


Image Credit: Biography


Video Credit: LemelsonCenter

Does Bacteria Fart?


(Originally posted 2/28/16 on Read With The Gringa)

Lately the gringa has been captivated by a variety of aromas. Her dear little puppy, Abby-pup, has her own unique fragrances that identify her dog breath, dirty dogginess, wet dogginess and upset tummy gas. Every morning, while the gringa drinks her coffee, her middle-aged armpit sweat glands produce copious amounts of pungent odor. When the caveman arrives home from work he smells like caliche dust after a long day of delivering gravel. The gringa finds this smell kind of sexy, actually. However, there is one caveman smell that the gringa finds terribly offensive. Caveman farts are the things gringa nightmares are made of.

What the heck is a fart? Well, it’s gas. Actually, it’s a combination of gases: nitrogen, hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon dioxide and methane. The oxygen is usually in the air we take in as we swallow food and even snore, which the caveman does on earsplitting levels. The other gases are by-products created by the food as it breaks down in the large intestine. And, eventually, they simply have to escape lest we all blow up like a helium balloon.

You may not realize it but the average person is simply filled with loads of gas. We pass gas about 10-20 times daily, depending on what you eat. In fact, if you could bottle up all of your daily farts, they would probably fill up a quart jar. Now, bits of undigested food don’t just magically change into gas. The gas is actually the creation of bacteria. Inside the large intestine more than 500 varieties of bacteria reside, happily gnawing away at all the undigested bits and bobs that make their way to that netherworld.

But is it the type of bacteria or the type of food that produces the smell? Well, it’s both. The smelliest gas released in a fart is hydrogen sulfide. Beef, poultry, eggs, broccoli, and other foods high in sulfur compounds are the ingredients for really rotten smelling farts. That means that even a vegetarian’s fart smells bad.

Now, bacteria don’t have intestines to actually fart. Basically, they just smell themselves. They simply emanate the appropriate odor for what they’ve been eating. So, in essence, a fart is an explosion of bacterial aromas. Seeing as how there are trillions upon trillions of bacteria throughout your digestive system, it is understandable, then, how such a concentration of smelly creatures can really pack a punch by the time a fart makes it to the outside world.

But don’t be sad or embarrassed that you are farting bacteria produced gas. It helps keep you healthy. Those smelly bacteria are your friend.

Sources: Love Your Gut

Kid’s Health

Unity Point

Image Credit: Style Vitae

Video Credit: TED-Ed

Good Vibrations… The Beach Boys Were RIGHT!


(Originally posted 1/2/17 on Read With The Gringa)

In light of the gringa’s recent posts about how anger changes a brain to make a person more stupid and more prone to anger, and also that the consciousness is separate from our physical bodies, how might vibrations, then, affect a human, for good or for ill? Think about it. If the very thing that is the essence of our being has no physical mass, communicates through electrical impulses and is invisible, what does that sound like? It sounds like some kind of frequency to the gringa. And here’s a definition for frequency:

  • The rate at which a vibration occurs that constitutes a wave, either in a material (as in sound waves), or in an electromagnetic field (as in radio waves and light)…

So, if our consciousness is a frequency, just like the strings on a piano or guitar, tuning determines the intensity (or lack thereof) of the vibration. So, if a person is depressed or stressed out or angry, the vibration of their consciousness would be out-of-tune, so to speak. To be content would mean your consciousness would be vibrating harmoniously with your surroundings. How, then, might music affect your vibration? After all, that is actually what music is, a manipulation of a physical object in order to produce sound waves of varying frequencies. Well, wonder no more because the gringa has uncovered what music can do on the human brain, hence, the human consciousness.

If you suffer with anxiety issues, the news is, indeed, very good for you. In a study performed by UK group, Mindlab International, a marketing firm specializing in the neuroscience of how information influences the brain, 65% of participants experienced a reduction in feelings of anxiety.  The gringa can hear the dear reader now, urging me on with appeals of, “Tell me more, tell me more”!

Subjects in the study were connected to all sorts of neurological sensors (probably an electro-encephalogram (EEG), electro-cardiogram (EKG), blood pressure cuff, etc.) They listened to a variety of music genres as they solved puzzles of varying difficulties. One song in particular reduced anxiety by 65% and also reduced other physiological factors by about 35%.

It is no accident that a song produced those results. In fact, its creator designed it on purpose to do just that. Ha! And so many people think that songwriters and composers are just creative artists pouring their souls out into a composition solely based on the musical appeal to the ear. Au contraire, mon cheri! Many music industry professionals have been formally educated in the field of music which involves all of the attending mathematics and science that is part of its make-up.

This particular song was created by an artist with a vision of a calmer, cooler world. Arrangements of harmonies and rhythms, accompanying bass components, were all devised to elicit responses in the listener of a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure and reducing the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. It is such a relaxation marvel, upon conclusion of the study, Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson who headed up the team of researchers, advises listeners not to listen to it while behind the wheel because it will probably make you sleepy.

Has the gringa got the dear readers sufficiently on the edge of their seats with anticipation? Good. That’s exactly how I want you to feel so you can experience the dramatic effects of “Weightless” by Marconi Union:

Source: themindunleashed.com

YouTube

Image Credit:  www.noanxiety.com

Where Did My Mind Go?


(Originally posted 12/31/16 on Read With The Gringa)

The next time you hear the snarky comment, “It’s all in your mind,” be sure to tell them, “But I’ve LOST my mind!” That’s right. The mind is a crazy place and the truth is that we have all lost our minds. Well, to be more precise, it’s just not in the place you think, your brain. In fact, your mind might not actually be located anywhere in your physical body! Say what?! Yep, the gringa agrees. The mind, or consciousness to be exact, is a mystery without an address.

Medical professionals have traditionally considered the consciousness to be the product of brain activity and chemistry.  They have historically given it an address located at the end of neurons, when it fires off “something”.  But, about 20 years ago, a Psychiatry Professor at UCLA’s School of Medicine turned the medical community on its head (pardon the pun) with the idea that the mind is not confined to the boundaries of the skull.

Dr. Dan Siegel astounded about 40 medical professionals and social scientists at a meeting where he announced his groundbreaking theory. In the end, he won them over. As a result of this brainstorming session of scholarly elites, they came up with a definition of the mind/consciousness:

“emergent self-organizing process, both embodied and relational, that regulates energy and information flow within us and among us.”

The gringa’s first question is, “What the heck do all of those words mean?” So, the best thing to do when a jumble of important words confuses you is to break it down bit by bit. Let’s go:

  • Emergent: Medically speaking (which these guys were),  it means a comprehensive neural network that creates and analyzes complex models of reality in order to create simulations. Basically, what this means is the brain’s ability to visualize. If you can close your eyes and still see the form of the rose in the vase on your table, you have just performed an “emergent” brain exercise. In short, creating memories.
  • Self-organizing: Spontaneously creating order from disorder. We are constantly surrounded by information and stimuli. Our brain automatically processes every single iota of information and organizes it. We don’t even have to exert ourselves. The brain just does what it does. It’s a processor and vast self-filing file cabinet.
  • Embodied: Within, or having, or giving, a physical form to something non-physical. Happiness is “embodied” in a smile, fear in a scream.
  • Relational: The way in which 2 things, or people, are connected.
  • Regulates: Controlling the speed or activity of a function.

Let’s put all of that together. The human consciousness simulates everything that we experience in the physical world as well as emotions. It organizes all this stimuli and creates a visual/audio/experiential recording within our brain, a memory. Once the memory is filed away in the brain, this memory becomes embodied through different body functions but it originated in the consciousness. This memory is then the resource used to determine our responses to stimuli and how we interact with the physical world and other people. Our consciousness’ are us.

What this means is that our brain is the computer. Our body the different systems commanded by the brain. However, the consciousness is the user that is separate from the computer and operating systems. The consciousness is what controls the computer and decides which operating systems are put to use. So, then, what and where is this consciousness?

The What: Our consciousness is not an experiential function. It is not the reaction of the human to an experience. The consciousness is the experience itself. The consciousness is pleasure when eating chocolate. The mind is fear when watching a horror flick. That means that the bodily responses are our mind manifest in the physical world. It may sound confusing but think about this. Is the shoreline the sand or is it the water? It’s both. One does not exist without the other. Is the smile the happiness? No, of course not. It is the emergent emotion embodied in the lips. The mind is the experience but we cannot share the experience with others unless we are able to have the consciousness emerge through the physical.

The relational aspect of the mind/body connection is key to sound mental health. Modern society may be seeing a rash of mental illness because we are so disconnected with regard to relationships.  The reason for this is based in mathematics. In order for the mind to self-organize the influx of information that bombards us every moment of every day, the brain must be able to determine links and correlations between ideas, feelings, and events. Then it is able to integrate everything in a coherent, stable fashion.

If a person is routinely exposed to relationships that are dysfunctional or, perhaps, not even real (isolation from society and immersion into cyberworld) they will not be able to create healthy order out of chaos. Our consciousness learns by example. The order a person creates who has been chronically exposed to relationship dysfunction, or deprived of relationships altogether, will not be “normal”. The connections they make between stimuli and response may be based on link examples that are downright horrendous or even false.

Dr. Siegel has continued to be a pioneer in psychiatry, authoring many books, instructing medical professionals and practicing innovative medicine at the clinics he has established. His focus is on how relationship experiences shape our emotions and behavior, eventually molding us into who we are. In essence, relationships form our consciousness. Our consciousness controls our brain. Our brain drives our body.

The Where: Who knows? Our mind has nothing to do with our physical body. If that’s the case, does it survive the death of our bodies? If the mind is not dependent on the body for survival, but only needs the body to embody in the physical world what is created through the emergent process, what happens to it after death? What are the possibilities?

Dr. Siegel offers no answers yet on that front. So, the gringa is going to have to get hot on the trail of those answers because it is bad enough that I’ve lost my mind in the here and now. I certainly don’t want to lose it after my body expires! Where the heck is my mind?

Sources:  www.drdansiegel.com

Dr. Dan Siegel Video Clips

Image Credit:  huuhaablog.wordpress.com

 

Zippity Doo Dah – It’s A Blood Delivery


What do you think of when you hear the word Rwanda? War? Genocide? Do you wonder if anything good ever happens in Rwanda? Well, the gringa is here to assure you that good things do happen in Rwanda despite its tragic history.

Thanks to drone technology a medical revolution is poised to kick off in this troubled African nation. Testing began at drone headquarters in Kabgayi hospital. If successful, remote Rwandan villagers will soon have access to medical supplies that are desperately needed.

Considering that Rwanda has the highest rate of death for women during childbirth, the gringa’s heart is especially gladdened to think of all of the mothers and babies who will benefit from something many of us take for granted, blood. Most of these mothers die simply because they do not have access to a blood transfusion. It is not uncommon for women to hemorrhage during childbirth. Although this sounds frightening, mothers in labor in developed countries routinely receive blood transfusion treatment. It is a procedure that Rwandan women living in remote villages rarely had access to until now, thanks to drone technology.

You may ask, “What about trucks that can drive the stuff from the hospital to the villagers?” The nickname of Rwanda is “the land of a thousand hills”. The geography, along with the economic trials the nation faces and a rainy season of intense rainfall, all add up to a country where roadways are unreliable. If needed supplies are for a life and death situation, trusting in automobile delivery may spell death for a patient in outlying regions far away from a hospital.

There is also the scarcity of the nation’s blood supply to consider. It is considered a precious commodity. That is why the bulk of the nation’s blood supply is secured at a state-of-the-art facility near the capital city of Kigali. Despite one location, the drones can actually deliver medical supplies virtually anywhere in the country quite rapidly. Maximum delivery time is about half an hour with many places receiving their deliveries in 15 minutes or less.

The drones have been nicknamed “Zips”. They have begun brisk trial delivery runs with drones capable of carrying a cargo of about 3 bags of blood. And these are not your backyard garden variety drones. Although many of the gringa’s dear readers may have a drone on their Christmas wishlist this season, you will probably not be receiving a Zip-quality drone. With a 6 foot wingspan you would have a tough time finding a place to park it around the house.

But a drone of this size is necessary in order to be powerful enough to deliver a payload of more than 3 pounds (1.5 kilos) over 90 miles (150 kilometers) away in only half an hour. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Now you know why they call them Zips. They travel almost 45 miles per hour (70 kph).

So although many of the gringa’s dear readers may be buzzing their neighbors with a bit of high-tech peeping Tom efforts with Christmas drones, Rwandan based geeks will be saving lives with theirs. And who knows, a child playing with a drone today could become a superhero saving lives around the world with drones tomorrow. So drone on young geeks! Take a peek at how drone superheroes in Rwanda do it and become inspired:

Sources:

flyzipline.com

www.gavi.org

Image credit: geoawesomeness.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Power of a Few


Often, when the subject of climate change is discussed, people begin to feel highly motivated to take action. However, it is easy to get discouraged when it is soon realized that the change that is necessary to save our planet meets with heavy resistance from large and powerful corporations who are more concerned with profit margins than securing a viable home for future generations. After all, most of these high-salaried executives, board members and executives will be long dead by the time humankind is suffering the worst devastation of climate change. But the gringa says, “Don’t give up. You’re voice does matter.”

Much like how a drop of water slowly becomes, over time, a stalactite or stalagmite, or a river can, over eons, cut a gorge as impressive as the Grand Canyon,  community action, even if it’s only a handful of people, can also build something lasting and impressive. By keeping continued pressure upon the neck of a company, by consistently bringing your cause to their attention, by employing multiple calls to action such as petitions that accumulate the voices of all concerned citizens in the local community, a small collection of individuals who are persistent can either:

  • A. Wear down the opposition in a war of attrition; or
  • B. Eventually create so much local awareness that a company realizes it is in the company’s best interest to respond to their demands if they want to continue to enjoy profiting from the local community’s patronage; or
  • C. The best outcome, the company comes around to the same perspective, seeing the value not in the almighty dollar alone, but actually sees real value in the issue.

A perfect example of this can be seen in the videos below featuring a small group of young people representing the cause “Value the Meal” which is pushing for accountability by community leaders in their local pediatric medical community. Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Texas specializes in the healthcare of our most vulnerable population, our children. In this place of health and healing is a McDonald’s restaurant which aggressively markets their brand of food which is famous for its low nutrition value.

Linked to chronic health conditions like diabetes and obesity, it is hard to understand why physicians, who are endowed with public trust with regard to health, would be so irresponsible as to seemingly advocate for this kind of food, especially for children who are in recovery and even more vulnerable to a diet that woefully lacks anything that can contribute to strengthening them and improving their healing abilities.

Value the Meal rally at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston.

“Community health over corporate wealth”. Children’s hospitals shouldn’t have junk food brands like McDonald’s with contracted space in their facilities of health and healing.

No McDonald’s junk food poisoning recovering children patients at Texas Children’s Hospital.

They may not seem very powerful with numbers so small. But that is not where there power lies. There power lies in the “rightness” of their position, the persistence of their action, and the growing community support responding  as they continue to witness this same small group of committed activists maintain a voice and presence on one particular issue.

In your own community, whatever your noble cause, gather together whomever you can trust to remain committed and loyal, even if your numbers happen to be small. Because even one drop of water is powerful and you are much greater than a single drop of water.

Poopbots Running Amok In The Muck


Yes, dear reader, you read the gringa’s post title correctly, poopbots. And they are literally running amok in Boston’s subterranean muck. Mario and Luigi are pioneering waste miners delving the stinky depths of Boston’s sewers. They are gathering data from human effluence for epidemiologists so they can uncover even darker secrets of human health and behavior. So what does the future of poop collection and dissection look like?

MIT researchers involved in Senseable City Lab’s project, aptly named Underworlds, are on a mission to help scientists predict outbreaks of dangerous and deadly diseases. They also want to help discover some of the causes of chronic diseases whose origins in human health remain a mystery. And they believe clues to solving these mysteries lie deep in the sewers, secreted in what’s been excreted.

Project leader, Carlo Ratti, uses the example of influenza to explain. Before a widespread outbreak is evident in local hospitals, the virus could have already been detected in the human waste produced by those first afflicted. Once a city makes poop monitoring a regular thing, they can isolate and respond to any outbreak much more rapidly. Hopefully, future widespread epidemics can be prevented.

Mario and Luigi scan for industrial toxins, human biomarkers, and other chemicals related to contagious disease and chronic illnesses such as diabetes. It’s kind of like an urban poop census. The Environmental Protection Agency is completely on board with the idea of an urban poop census. They see this ambitious project as the latest advance in an inexpensive way to monitor public health in a timely manner that is relevant. The gringa believes that EPA agents are probably just glad to say good-bye to the days of scooping poop to fill their sample quotas.

Luigi and Mario are controlled remotely and use a GPS system to navigate. Within fifteen minutes of a flush, a fresh sample can be collected. By gathering samples so soon after a dump event scientists can determine the difference between chemicals a person is exposed to as opposed to chemicals a person ingested. The most common food products found in human waste thus far in the project are rice, wheat and beans. However, the occasional pomegranate seed collection makes for a nice surprise.

If the underworld of human poop analysis by robots interests you, Underworlds has its own website. Interested poop fans can gaze in wonder as data is disseminated to reveal what types of viruses are in the local water supply right alongside any bacteria or chemicals. If all goes well with Mario and Luigi, the state of Massachusetts may expand their poop inspection territory. The gringa suspects this will, indeed, be the case considering that even Kuwaiti poopers have been so impressed they have implemented their own poopbots in partnership with Underworlds.

Although MIT has long been heralded for the many scientists and engineers and mathematical geniuses who have graduated there, now, it will forever be remembered as the institute of poop pioneers. Better a pioneer than just a lowly pile, is what the gringa says!

Sources:

qz.com

underworlds.mit.edu

senseable.mit.edu

 

Image Credit: https://blog.adafruit.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/2368.jpg

 

 

 

Drones, UFOs, and Saving The Planet… They Are ALL Connected


UFO enthusiasts got a thrill recently when news agencies all over the United States were sounding the alarm of a strange light seen hovering, then moving about, near the famous St. Louis Arch. The YouTube video posted below, sourced from streetview citycams, begins by speeding up the video 1000 times so as not to bore the viewer with several minutes of nothingness. Throughout the hi-speed progression lightning can be observed. As viewers watch, they can see the light dim and sometimes disappear because of cloud cover. The video records a strange light approach the Arch from the left side of the screen and do some interesting acrobatics. The gringa has provided a play by play script to refer to as the dear reader views the video.

Video begins 2:19:49 streetcam time (SCT)/0:00 YouTube Time (YTT).

2:25:13 SCT/0:15 YTT First arrow indicates the appearance of the light in the top middle portion of the screen with light becoming visible at 2:25:19 SCT/0:17 YTT and approaches the Arch.

2:26:20 SCT/0:39 YTT Light appears to hover over the Arch, “wink out” a couple of times only to reappear in relatively the same place, indicating it was hovering the entire time.

2:26:41 SCT/0:46 YTT Light winks out.

2:28:06 SCT/0:52 YTT Light reappears as indicated by arrow and seems to be in same position above the Arch which would make it seem that it was hovering the entire time it was not visible.

2:28:54 SCT/0:56 YTT Light appears to be hovering above the Arch.

2:29:36 SCT/1:00 YTT Light winks out.

2:30:01 SCT/1:02 YTT Arrow directs attention to higher point above the Arch, indicating that the light has climbed higher. However, it is not visible.

2:31:00 SCT/1:08 YTT Another arrow indicates the light to be in the upper left corner of the screen but the gringa does not see it appear.

2:31:18 SCT/1:14 YTT The gringa begins to click through each second at the rate of 2 clicks per second so I get to see half of a second in each frame. I see a flash of the light at a higher point above the arch as I begin my second click of 1:15 YTT, going into my first click of 1:16 YTT. There is no arrow used in the video here to direct you to the flash of light. If you are not prepared you will miss it.

2:32:08 SCT/1:22 YTT Arrow again indicates that the light is seemingly flashing in the top left corner of the screen. Then there is a clear winking on and off of a light in the far left top corner of the screen as the light begins a rapid descent, disappearing behind cloud cover, but can clearly be seen descending.

2:32:25 SCT/1:28 YTT The arrow draws the viewer’s attention to the light whose rapid descent has been abruptly arrested and it once again begins to hover.

2:32:39 SCT/1:33 YTT Light brightly blinks out after a short rapid descent. If you begin once again to click through frames, 2 clicks per second/frame, the light can be seen faintly descending, angling off to the left, then hooking sharply right and descending quickly and can be viewed practically all the way to its landing on the ground in the lower left portion of the screen, its final landing at about 2:32:47 SCT/1:36 YTT.

Summary of the mystery light’s activity:

  • About 45 seconds of hovering above the Arch.
  • For about 1 minute the light continues to climb and hover above the Arch.
  • Within about 50 seconds the light manages to travel the distance in the view screen from seeming to hover above the Arch to the upper left corner of the view screen.
  • Within 30 seconds light makes a rapid descent that includes a brief hover before two radical left/right maneuvers, like a zig-zag, and appears to land on the ground.

So what was it? The gringa believes it was a drone, not an extra-terrestrial vehicle. It is pretty obvious by the final descent and apparent landing on the ground that it is a very small vehicle and very much Earthling technology. The gringa doesn’t know all the details on speed and distance relative to the camera and the Arch, but that doesn’t change my mind that it is a drone. And the gringa warns her dear readers to be on the lookout for many more videos and hoaxes to come with drone technology becoming more and more affordable for technology enthusiasts.

Other than making interesting UFO hoax videos, what are some actual practical uses for drones? Well, for one thing, drones may very well help save the world, and the gringa’s not talking about how military personnel are already putting them to use in battle. Using them to target and kill fellow human beings is not the gringa’s idea of saving the world.

Using them as a research tool to monitor dolphin and whale populations is more what the gringa considers saving the world. And that is just what marine biologists are doing in Hawai’i. Ocean Alliance is taking advantage of how drones can monitor wildlife without intrusion by humans. With drones capable of being equipped with high resolution cameras, researchers can get close up views and real time video of what dolphin pods and whale families are doing. Even if weather is bad and ocean conditions rough, the drones can still go out and do their job when a human outing would otherwise get postponed.

Drone technology has allowed researchers to compile a more accurate catalog of whale groups and monitor their health conditions with more detailed analysis. Results from boat-based surveys simply do not compare and marine biologists are excited to go even further with drones.

Now, while some people may be excited at the thought of drones delivering pizza or their mail order of retail goods, the gringa is more excited about drone delivery of medicine to hard to reach vulnerable people around the world.

With successful deliveries to earthquake ravaged Haiti in 2012, Doctors Without Borders were inspired to test drone delivery of  a group of dummy TB test samples in remote villages in Papua New Guinea. The Mayo Clinic recently announced that drone medical delivery is poised to take off and revolutionize healthcare for people around the world where access has continued to be a problem.

So what might be the niche technology career of the future for our youth interested in STEM? Development of drone technology and drone piloting. So, don’t get left behind! Get on board to save the world with a joy-stick, a laptop and a map! That’s all you need today to be a superhero!

Sources:

www.whale.org

www.yahoo.com

www.mayoclinic.org

Image Credit: 1.bp.blogspot.com

What Does Your “SNIP” Say About You?


A team of researchers have been studying 17 “snips” and recently published their findings in Nature Genetics. “Snips” are known as genetic tweaks found in DNA. These scientists delved deep into the genetic material of thousands of humans who participated in the study, all hoping to contribute to the future of medicine by doctors and patients, alike, being able to discover reliable genetic markers that will indicate certain diseases.

One of the lead researchers involved in the project is a Harvard psychiatrist, Professor Roy Perlis, who serves as Associate Director of the Psychiatric Genetics Program for Massachusetts General Hospital. His greatest hopes have been realized in the findings of the research. Discovered were genetic variations that occurred consistently in people who suffered with depression. What is the potential of this discovery in providing relief for depression sufferers and possibly preventing its development in a person who is genetically marked as a potential candidate?

There exists private genomics companies where a client can basically spit in a cup, have their DNA analyzed and learn any number of secrets that may be hiding there, like the potential for developing depression. This type of information, long before the onset of an illness, can transform healthcare as we know it. Rather than show up at a psychiatrist’s office in a full-blown state of debilitating depression, a person can begin preventative measures far in advance, thus improving their chances for a depression-free life of the highest quality.  This could potentially save patients and health insurance providers thousands of dollars per patient throughout that patient’s lifetime (and this could possibly be the motive behind some of the loudest critics).

The findings of the research determined 17 DNA markers linked with Major Depressive Disorder. Some of these variations are also connected with other psychiatric disorders thus connecting depression as a role player in the development of other forms of mental illness. If depression is, say, step one down the road of developing schizophrenia, imagine how many lives can be saved from such suffering if that single step can be avoided altogether.

Because effective treatment of any mental illness depends on patients self-reporting their symptoms and cooperating with treatment measures, mental illness is often under-reported and under-treated as a natural result of the mentally ill not having the capacity to recognize symptoms, or in denial of what they indicate, and often inconsistently participating in the critical component of treatment. By establishing awareness and beginning preventative treatment long before a patient becomes symptomatic, the chances of long-term success are greatly increased because medical professionals are dealing with a psychiatrically healthy  individual from the beginning.

The gringa sees all the critics and naysayers have to say. They are worried about misdiagnosis. They are worried about genomics companies offering unauthorized medical advice. But the gringa is not a Negative Nellie. The gringa is a Positive Polly. I believe that any person who is seeking out the services of a genomics company, willing to pay their own hard-earned money to get an analysis of their DNA in order to better understand their health risks, is a person who is not going to make bad decisions such as exploring medical treatment and advice from non-professionals. I also don’t believe they will be the type of people to be hampered with a misdiagnosis. I believe they will be some of the best informed patients a doctor will ever deal with. So enough with the criticism and embrace an advance in medical science that will most certainly save lives, preserve lives and improve the quality of those lives, as well as the lives of the loved ones surrounding them.

Sources:

www.nature.com

http://chgr.org/index-faculty_perlis.html

www.businessinsider.com

www.theguardian.com

Image Credit: images.boomsbeat.com

 

 

Suicide Forest


Every weekday the gringa looks forward to 4pm.  That’s when my oldest son calls me as he drives home from work. He is a bit of a political revolutionary, young, passionate, ready to change the world. Although he loves to talk politics, current events and debate solutions, the very first thing he asks me is, “How was your day?” I usually tell him boring, just the way I like it since I am a “no drama mama”.

Although he doesn’t read my blog, he always asks me what I’ve been writing about. In a recent conversation, when I told him about my underwater Japanese mystery city post, he said, “You should write about the Suicide Forest.” I had never heard of such a thing so, of course, it totally piqued the gringa’s interest. Although I usually like to keep my stuff focused on science, mysteries and the interestingly inane, a dark, macabre cultural piece has begun a creative itch that simply must be scratched.

In Japan there is Aokigahara which, roughly translated, means “Sea of Trees”. Sounds romantic, right? Well, it is more commonly known as the Suicide Forest and is situated near the northwest base of Mount Fuji, covering almost 14 square miles of raw woodland. Thick with foliage and set against the backdrop of a majestic volcano, it would seem to be the perfect spot for a picturesque photo safari for a tourist until you realize what the locals do here, the hike of no return.

Why is Aokigahara such a select place for suicide? Perhaps it is because the undergrowth is so dense a corpse can go undiscovered and undisturbed. Local officials estimate that roughly 100 persons kill themselves in this forest annually. However, because many go undetected, the suicide victim count could be much higher. Despite instituting prevention methods such as surveillance cameras  and posting encouraging signs throughout the paths that have messages reminding folks how precious their life is to loved ones, Japanese people determined to take their own lives still succeed in their mission.

The favorite method of self-inflicted death is hanging. However, ingesting poison runs a close second and then there’s option number three, a drug overdose.  But why here? Officials point to a popular romantic tragedy written by Japanese author Seicho Matsumoto. His 1960 novel  depicts a failed love story. The heroine ultimately ends her life in the Sea of Trees. She chose the Sea of Trees, according to the story, because, referenced within the tale by the author, she reads the book The Complete Suicide Manual which describes the forest as the “perfect place to die”. This novel has been found with many of the victims.

Every year volunteers gather to roam the thick stands of old trees and deep undergrowth to search for human remains. Officials have ceased to publicize the results of these grisly corpse hunts. Curious people like the gringa can only refer to earlier published reports that clearly indicate an average of 75-100 bodies returned to families for burial annually.

In the West, suicide is stigmatized. This is greatly due to our religious conditioning. Even if a person is not a practicing Jew or Christian, Western culture still considers suicide as anything but honorable. Some consider it self-murder. In fact, that is how it is considered by much of Western law. It is against the law to kill a human being, including yourself. Many religious sects believe a suicide victim’s remains have been desecrated by the act. Such bodies are not allowed to be buried in hallowed church cemeteries. But suicide is considered very differently in Japan.

In the Japan of old, ubasute was considered an honorable solution to ignoble suffering. In other words, desperate times called for desperate measures. If years of famine or drought rolled around, a head of a household would have to consider the effect it was having on his family. How many mouths were there to feed? How much food was there to go around? In order to survive, the least productive family member with no future, basically the old folks, would be led up into the mountains and abandoned to their natural fate of a slow death by exposure. Whether or not ubasute was ever widely practiced is irrelevant. All that matters is that it is a strong feature of Japanese historical myths and legends which has helped to shape their cultural practices and beliefs. Suicide is noble if it preserves the honor, integrity and prosperity of the family.

Although ubasute may be the stuff of legends, noble Samurai suicides are well documented throughout Japan’s feudal history.  It was the honorable way to go out. Seppuku culture views it as a way of taking responsibility of a situation that has gone bad.

Because suicide is considered a virtuous solution and is not stigmatized the way it is in Western culture, Japan ranks the world’s leader in suicide. When the entire world became mired in an economic crisis in 2008, over 2,000 Japanese chose suicide over living a life of financial ruin.

Should you, like the gringa, find the disturbing allure of Aokigahara irresistible and mark it as a place to visit and satisfy your own curiosity, or perhaps meditate in an effort to bring peace to a place that must be saturated with anguish, there are a few things you may want to know before you arrive:

  • Hauntings – It is said that the Sea of Trees is filled with yurei, or, ghosts. And these are not your average ghosts. They are mourning and vengeful. They desire company, your company. Legends go that they attempt to lure you off the beaten path so that you become lost in the wilderness and die like the ubasute victims of old.
  • Camping – Overnight camping is allowed. Be aware that local forest patrols are trained to consider tents as a sign that someone is taking their time about contemplating suicide. Don’t be surprised if a ranger shows up and begins conversing with gentle words of affirmation and encouragement. If he suspects you are engaged in a mental suicide debate, he will probably urge you to pack up and leave.
  • Tape – As you explore the forest on nature hikes, you may see tape looped in the branches of trees and bushes. These are the signs left behind to mark the path of corpse searchers in their attempt to not become lost.
  • Demons – What is attributed to demonic interference by local legend is more likely the result of geology. The area is rich in iron which affects magnetics. GPS systems, ye olde compasses and cellphone are pretty much useless. If you can’t navigate by the stars, for heaven’s sake don’t get off the trail!
  • Be Prepared – Like a good boy scout who is prepared for anything, mentally brace yourself for the very real possibility that you could stumble across a decomposing body, skeletal remains or personal effects of a victim of the forest.
  • More Than Death – Despite the ghastliness of the Sea of Trees being called Suicide Forest, there is still much more to be appreciated. Don’t let a macabre history put you off as a tourist. There is, of course, the fantastic opportunity to be near Mount Fuji. Great photo opportunities also await on the lava plateau, ancient centuries-old trees and the bewitching ice-scape of the Narusawa Ice Cave.

The gringa would love to go there and contemplate respectfully. Although I am a bit of a prankster and once staged a tragic fall down a rocky cliff when the caveman and I hiked about the Smoky Mountains, I’m certain this knowledge of Aokigahara will keep me in a more subdued state of mind.

Source:  www.mentalfloss.com

image: www.jennyjinya.deviantart.com