Friday, April 11, 2008

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Most of the college students who got the mumps in a big outbreak in 2006 had received the recommended two vaccine shots, according to a study that raises questions about whether a new vaccine or another booster shot is needed.

The outbreak was the biggest in the U.S. since shortly before states began requiring a second shot for youngsters in 1990.

Nearly 6,600 people became sick with the mumps, mostly in eight Midwest states, and the hardest-hit group was college students ages 18 to 24. Of those in that group who knew whether they had been vaccinated, 84% had had two mumps shots, according to the study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments.

That "two-dose vaccine failure" startled public health experts, who hadn't expected immunity to wane so soon -- if at all.

The mumps virus involved was a relatively new strain in the U.S., not the one targeted by the vaccine, although there's evidence from outbreaks elsewhere the shots work well against the new strain.

The researchers, reporting in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine, note the virus likely came from travelers or students from the United Kingdom, where mumps shots are voluntary and there was a much larger mumps outbreak of the same strain. Many countries don't vaccinate against mumps, so future cases brought from overseas are likely.

"If there's another outbreak, we would evaluate the potential benefit of a third dose to control the outbreak," said researcher Dr. Jane Seward, deputy director of the CDC's viral diseases division.

Mumps is spread by respiratory secretions and saliva among people in close contact, making college students particularly susceptible. Students' sharing of drinks and utensils, and sexual activity, probably increased their exposure.

Mumps causes fever and swollen salivary glands in the cheeks. Before the vaccine, complications such as deafness, viral meningitis and testicle inflammation, which can cause sterility, were common and there were a couple million U.S. cases a year.

The only U.S. vaccine, made by Whitehouse Station, N.J.-based Merck & Co., hasn't been changed since its introduction in 1967 and there are no plans to change it, said Barbara Kuter, Merck's executive director of pediatric affairs.

Over 500 million doses have been sold since the 1970s, when it was put in the combination measles-mumps-rubella shot.

Dr. John Bradley, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on infectious diseases, said his group is talking about possible changes to the vaccine recommendations schedule with CDC and other health agencies. Now two shots are recommended, one at 12 to 15 months and the other at age 4 to 6.

It might not be cost effective to give everyone a third shot, but it should be considered for college students, said Dr. Stephen Marcella, an epidemiologist at University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey's School of Public Health.

Dr. William Schaffner, head of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said what's need is a longer-lasting shot.

"It's clear that over time, immunity wanes somewhat," he said. "We need a better vaccine."

Dr. Seward said other CDC studies on the 2006 outbreak found two mumps shots protected about 85% of people from the new strain -- not quite enough to prevent spread even with the nearly 90% vaccination rate at the time.

The outbreak was in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

In the wake of the Wesley Snipes verdict, government officials are stepping up their crackdown on people who claim that there's no law requiring Americans to pay federal income taxes.

U.S. Justice Department officials announced a new initiative on Tuesday that will include expanded cooperation among government agencies to detect and prosecute wrongdoers who claim that paying taxes somehow is voluntary or that only foreign-source income can be taxed, or similar theories. Such claims have been routinely thrown out by the courts.
The government also filed civil injunction complaints in three federal courts in an effort to shut down alleged tax-fraud schemes.

Nobody knows precisely how many people subscribe to such theories or won't file returns. But Justice Department officials are increasingly concerned because the Internet has made it much easier for promoters of tax-defiance programs to spread their message and sell products -- and to move clients' money offshore.

"The explosion of the Internet in the last decade has greatly facilitated tax-defier activity and turned what was once a paper-based local or regional enterprise into a click-and-download national operation," said Nathan J. Hochman, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department's tax division.

Prosecutors are stepping up efforts to publicize the dangers of being a tax defier in the aftermath of the recent trial of Mr. Snipes, an actor. Mr. Snipes was convicted on three misdemeanor counts for willful failure to file and is scheduled to be sentenced this month. But he was found not guilty on far more serious charges of federal tax fraud and conspiracy.

Mr. Snipes could be sent to jail for up to three years. Two other men who advised him were convicted of tax fraud and conspiracy. Some analysts theorized that he avoided conviction on the more-severe charges largely because jurors blamed his antitax advisers for feeding him terrible advice.

The problem extends far beyond a few high-profile cases. One company targeted by the government, Pinnacle Quest International, based in Florida, allegedly sold tax-fraud and other schemes through vendors at conferences around the world -- and in one case at a 400-person conference on a cruise ship, according to a government complaint released Tuesday. The complaint says that Pinnacle has 830 salespeople and thousands of customers, and had gross sales from 2002 through 2006 of about $54 million. During that period, Pinnacle's leaders allegedly got commissions from sales of Pinnacle products of about$8.8 million, the government said. The complaint said that Pinnacle vendors represent a "Who's Who of notorious tax defiers."

The complaint further alleges one promoter on the cruise ship was Sherry Peel Jackson, a former IRS agent. The government says Ms. Jackson earned $138,000 in commissions on sales of Pinnacle products from 2002 to 2006. She recently was sentenced to four years in prison for tax crimes. The government is also targeting what are known as "warehouse banks," which typically involve pooling money from many customers into a single bank account and paying customers' bills from the account in an effort to conceal taxable income. In a recent case, a federal court in Seattle permanently closed a nationwide warehouse-bank scheme that the government said was used to help customers evade federal taxes. The Justice Department said the scheme, known as Olympic Business Systems, was operated by Robert C. Arant. In promoting Olympic Business Systems, Mr. Arant "repeatedly" and "falsely" promised customers that they could "legally hide their income, assets, expenditures and identities from the IRS through the warehouse bank," the judge said. The court ordered Mr. Arant to turn over to the Justice Department a complete list of Olympic's customers. The court's permanent injunction follows a preliminary injunction approved last year. Efforts to contact Pinnacle Quest officials and Robert Arant for comment weren't successful. These steps are part of the government's growing emphasis on tax-law enforcement and reflect intense pressure from Congress. Lawmakers have been urging the Internal Revenue Service to take more action to reduce the nation's$290 billion-a-year "tax gap," the difference between what the agency actually collects and what it thinks it should be collecting.

Officials frequently point out that the real significance of the tax gap is that millions of law-abiding Americans wind up having to pay much more in federal income taxes than they otherwise would have to pay.

Law-enforcement authorities long have been concerned about what used to be called "tax protesters." But Justice's Mr. Hochman said he prefers the term "defiers" to make it clear it's not someone who is merely speaking out against some tax policy or law. Instead, a defier is someone who takes "specific and concrete action to violate the law" -- such as refusing to file returns or pay what he or she owes.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration has urged turning up the heat on nonfilers. The administration's proposal: If someone willfully fails to file returns in any three years within a five-year consecutive period, that person would be subject to a new criminal penalty if the total tax liability is at least $50,000. That would be labeled as a felony. And, if convicted, the person could face a fine of as much as$250,000, imprisonment for as much as five years -- or both. The president has also asked Congress to give the IRS a bigger budget, especially for tougher law-enforcement measures.

In 2006, Congress increased the maximum penalty for making frivolous arguments to $5,000 from$500 previously. Tax Court judges have imposed fines of as much as $25,000 for making tax-defier arguments. In one case just a few days ago, a Tax Court judge imposed a$10,000 penalty against a couple for making "frivolous and groundless" arguments after having been warned repeatedly.

At Tuesday's meeting with reporters, Mr. Hochman said the new initiative will "strengthen and expand coordination" among the department's tax division, the IRS and U.S. Attorneys' offices to "ensure that both criminal and civil enforcement tools are fully considered and utilized." Enforcement will be viewed from a national, rather than regional or local perspective, he said. The department also will expand efforts to obtain injunctions from courts to shut down tax-evasion structures more quickly.

Mr. Hochman said the tax division has obtained more than 300 civil injunctions since 2001 against tax promoters and preparers -- and that more than one-third of these "directly involved tax-defier activity." He estimated the government has collected more than $600 million in tax as a result of its efforts. The government's new initiative is "a much-needed plan," says JJ MacNab, a Bethesda, Md., insurance analyst who is working on a book on the subject. "The antitax movement sells their products and schemes on a national level, thanks to the Internet. Any response by the government should therefore be national in scope." Whenever a colleague leaves the company, tax accountant Jill Harris thinks some good could come of it: Either the deserving person will go on to something better or the resigning shirker may be replaced by someone who will do more work. Mostly, however, bad things result from departures: Either your own workload grows immediately or you feel jealous that you're stuck here while some lightweight is trading up. . http://louis-j-sheehan.net/ http://louis-j-sheehan.net/page1.aspx So what are the best ways to say goodbye to employees leaving for other opportunities? And what are the worst ways to conduct farewells? Join the discussion. Still, Ms. Harris tries to make a nice going-away party, performing songs she has written for the nearly departed, such as the one she wrote for Louise to the tune of "Tonight" from "West Side Story," which ended: "But soon, you'll leave us with our issues / We'll cry into our tissues. . http://louis-j-sheehan.net/ http://louis-j-sheehan.net/page1.aspxAnd never get it right / So moon shine bright, because without Louise we'll be here ... all night." Adds Ms. Harris: "You're spending more time with these people than your spouse, kids or anyone else you really care about, you might as well have some fun." Arrivals at a new job tend to have the same feeling. Everyone is welcoming. http://louis-j-sheehan.net/ http://louis-j-sheehan.net/page1.aspx The place is a maze. And as sure as the forms you have to fill out, some new colleague will issue a warning about the person showing you around: "Watch out for that guy, he's trouble." Departures from a company are far more revealing. You learn how easy it is for bosses to muff the trick of praising people's value while avoiding the message that valuable people don't last long. You learn the upside-down economics of the workplace: that companies are willing to pay more to acquire talent than to keep it or, looking at it another way, that your own company pays and promotes you less than its rival would. And you learn to ask yourself, "What am I still doing here?" That leads many companies to pretend someone who left the company almost never existed. Eric Johnson, who once worked for a software division of a printing company, noted that early on, there were many ceremonial farewells. By the end of his stint, departures were kept "as quiet as possible, with the attitude that if we don't speak about it, maybe no one will notice," he says. Arguably worse is when a manager who fights to keep a person from leaving one day, claims it's no big loss the next. That happened to a colleague of Walt Guarino, a brand and market-research strategist. His company kept making counteroffers that his colleague declined. Once he left, one of the managers dubbed him a "fool" and "stupid." "She diminished his value overnight," says Mr. Guarino. Such rationalizations, he adds, amount to "sheer madness." Continuing the lie, "anything that gets screwed up always gets attributed to the person who left," notes one attorney at a financial-services company. (She didn't want to provide her name for fear of her own premature going-away party.) At her company, parties depend on whether the reasons for departure are acceptable (a spouse's transfer, sick kids or a career change) or unacceptable (joining a competitor). In the latter case, there's no party, unless you live it up with security while being escorted to the door. Anything short of implying "that it's not paradise on earth at this company," she says, doesn't rate a party. The colleagues left behind know the other company isn't paradise either. They envy the departure, not the company joined. When Rick Miller was leaving a government agency, a high-ranking official spoke as if Mr. Miller had orchestrated a jailbreak. "It's nice to see someone get out," he told Mr. Miller. Preventing exits, says Bruce Fern, president of employee-engagement consultant Performance Connections International, is the only way to avoid the twin messages sent out when a respected employee leaves: First, there is life after this company, and, second, the departing person (especially if it's a manager) must know something the rest of us don't. Gary Hauk, vice president of a university, thinks an official acknowledgement of someone's departure has to be made. It's easy for those employees who will be sorely missed, awkward but necessary for those who won't. "If the organization tries to foster community and collegiality," he says, "there has to be a certain degree of lying." So one might say, "You have challenged us to see things in a new light" even if you're thinking "by the dim light of your dim bulb." Or you might say, "You have helped us develop new strengths" even though what first springs to mind is "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger." Such lying helps should the departed end up returning to base. John Hoholik, an independent consultant, once had three reports defect and return to his company within a year. He let the valued employees back in, but not all companies are smart enough to allow rehires despite the obvious positive message it sends. "It's stupid," says Mr. Fern about shut-out policies. He notes that one in 10 companies doesn't allow employees to return. And in an additional 20%, management criticizes the departed, which remaining employees don't buy, he says. "The one thing the employees will think is, 'What are they going to say about me when I leave?'" If it makes sense to speak of a Cold War culture in the United States—and it’s a concept that would have to accommodate a pretty wide assortment of artifacts, from Partisan Review to the transistor radio—then one of its classic moments was the comic-book inquisition. . http://louis-j-sheehan.net/ http://louis-j-sheehan.net/page1.aspxThe event took place on April 21, 1954, at the Foley Square U.S. Courthouse (now the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse), in New York City, where a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee charged with investigating the causes of juvenile delinquency took on an imminent danger within: the comic-book industry. The hearings were televised. An investigation conducted by senators has been compared to a court run by kangaroos, and the analogy is not unfair, except possibly to the kangaroos. The normal rules of evidence do not apply in congressional hearings: badgering is appreciated; the verdict has frequently been arrived at in advance. Perry Mason, swatting away objections like flies as he sweated the truth out of guilty witnesses, faced more stringent procedural constraints. The Senate committee, chaired by Robert Hendrickson, Republican of New Jersey, was determined to indict the makers of comic books, and the hearing was designed as a spectacle. Its authority was enhanced by the presence of Estes Kefauver, whose hearings on organized crime, in 1950-51, had also been televised, and had made him a national figure. (Kefauver ran for President in the Democratic primaries in 1952 and received 3.1 million votes, about three million more than the eventual nominee, Adlai Stevenson, received. That was then.) The Kefauver committee had looked into comic books, too, the mandate to investigate organized crime being a license to hunt anywhere in the lower cultural realms, but it could make nothing stick, and the industry had survived and prospered. By 1952, as David Hajdu reports in his vivid and engaging book “The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux;$26), more than twenty publishers were putting out close to six hundred and fifty titles a month. Eighty to a hundred million comic books were sold every week; according to contemporary reports, the average issue was passed along to six or more readers. The math of the pass-alongs is a little dubious, but it seems plausible to say, as Hajdu does, that in the early nineteen-fifties comic books reached more people than magazines, radio, or television did. Most of those people were children.

By 1952, a third of all comic books were horror comics, with stories designed to frighten, and titles like “Chamber of Chills,” “Tomb of Terror,” “The Tormented,” and “Tales from the Crypt.” Most of the rest were devoted to crime, which was an old comic-book genre, or romance, a relatively new one. There were also, of course, successful but less sensational series—“Donald Duck,” “The Lone Ranger,” “Archie.” It’s not clear, from Hajdu’s book, what proportion of the total sales those titles accounted for. But they got caught up in the investigation, too. For some anti-comics activists, there was no such thing as a good comic book.

Unlike, for example, the movie business, which took its own production code quite seriously, the comic-book business operated below regulatory radar. The Association of Comics Magazine Publishers, founded in 1948 in response to complaints by some religious and parents’ organizations, was toothless; its editorial guidelines were ignored. And not surprisingly, for the natural tendency of the comic book is toward the outré. Exaggeration—studlier heroes, bloodier killings, pointier breasts—is in the nature of the medium. It’s what comic-book art is good at. . http://louis-j-sheehan.net/
http://louis-j-sheehan.net/page1.aspxAnd, as Hajdu establishes by interviews with many old-time comic-book employees, the chance to work in a permissive and lucrative enterprise drew talent into the field. Imagination was rewarded, nothing was censored, kids lived for the product, and most grownups found comic books to be beneath contempt, and therefore beneath notice.

Not every grownup, though. Those Hendrickson hearings lasted three days, but the goal was accomplished in the opening afternoon by the testimony of two witnesses. The first was Fredric Wertham. Wertham was a German-born psychiatrist (the name was shortened from Wertheimer) who had come to the United States in 1922 to teach at Johns Hopkins, where he eventually became chief resident in charge of psychiatry. Criminal behavior was his specialty. In 1934, he moved to New York City to serve as the head of the Court of General Sessions psychiatric clinic, which examined every convicted felon in the city. He worked at Bellevue, and then at Queens Hospital Center as director of psychiatric services. In 1946, he opened a clinic in Harlem, the Lafargue Clinic, which charged twenty-five cents if the patient could afford it—the first effectively free psychiatric facility in the United States for people of color. In 1947, he started the Quaker Emergency Service Readjustment Center, devoted in part to the treatment of sex offenders. He was a prolific writer on subjects of social importance. One of these was comic books.

Wertham began his campaign against comic books in 1948, after observing patients in his various clinics. He had assurance and an imperious manner, good if you are a crusader, and his writings and speeches attracted the attention of citizens’ groups and public officials, who consulted him, and comic-book publishers, who reportedly hired private investigators to look into his past. Wertham’s major work on the comics, “Seduction of the Innocent,” was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection; it was excerpted in Ladies’ Home Journal and published on April 19, 1954, two days before Wertham testified before the Hendrickson committee. His appearance was preceded by a slide show, in the morning session, of especially gruesome comic-book stories, and the hearing room was decorated with twenty-four posters labelled “Representative Comic Book Covers / Crime, Horror & Weird Variety.” It seems likely that Wertham, who was an adviser to the committee, had helped to pick out the images. He was the hearings’ star witness.

“It is my opinion,” Wertham told the senators and the cameras, “without any reasonable doubt and without any reservation, that comic books are an important contributing factor in many cases of juvenile delinquency.” The child most likely to be influenced by comic books, he said, is the normal child; morbid children are less affected, “because they are wrapped up in their own fantasies.” Comic books taught children racism and sadism—“Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic book industry,” he said. In his book, he said that “Batman” comics were homoerotic and that “Wonder Woman” was about sadomasochism. He was even critical of “Superman” comics: “They arouse in children fantasies of sadistic joy in seeing other people punished over and over again while you yourself remain immune,” he testified. “We have called it the Superman complex.”

Wertham was followed at the witness table by William Gaines. Gaines was a comic-book publisher by accident. The accident involved a motorboat on Lake Placid, and had killed his father, Max, who was the founder of EC Comics. The name stood for Educational Comics, and its proudest product was “Picture Stories from the Bible.” EC Comics also put out “Picture Stories from American History,” “Tiny Tot Comics,” “Animal Fables,” and “Dandy Comics”—nothing that would have attracted the attention of a psychiatrist. William had had no interest in his father’s business. He was studying to become a high-school chemistry teacher when Max died, in 1947, and at first he left the operation of the company he had inherited to others. But he soon became involved, and, along with his editors at EC (renamed Entertaining Comics), Al Feldstein and Harvey Kurtzman, he began producing cleverly drawn, literate, artistically self-conscious, and unapologetic pulp: “The Crypt of Terror” and “The Vault of Horror” (horror comics), “Frontline Combat” and “Two-Fisted Tales” (war comics), “Shock SuspenStories” (topical tales with O. Henry twists, the sort of thing Rod Serling would later do on “The Twilight Zone”), “Weird Science” and “Weird Fantasy” (science fiction). Gaines was a living symbol of the industry as Wertham had described it—and he had volunteered to testify. He sensed the seriousness of the threat that Wertham and the Senate committee posed, and he seems to have genuinely believed in the integrity of his product. But his testimony (partly because the effects of the Dexedrine he had been taking when he was preparing his statement wore off halfway through it) was a catastrophe. . http://louis-j-sheehan.net/
http://louis-j-sheehan.net/page1.aspxMany people, then and after, thought that Gaines destroyed the industry.

Gaines was not a stupid man, but, as Hajdu points out, he was in the position many liberals find themselves in when they set out to defend the freedom of artistic expression: he claimed that comic books that treated social issues in a progressive spirit were good for children, and that comic books that were filled with pictures of torture and murder had no effect on them. If art can be seriously good for you, though, it follows that it can be seriously bad for you, and that is the point at which censorship enters the picture. The committee was not interested in debating the merits of comics that treated social issues in a progressive spirit; it was interested in the claim that horror and crime comics were merely anodyne entertainment, and they twisted Gaines like a pretzel. “Let me get the limits as far as what you put into your magazine,” the committee’s junior counsel, Herbert Beaser, asked him. “Is the sole test of what you would put into your magazine whether it sells? Is there any limit you can think of that you would not put in a magazine because you thought a child should not see or read about it?”
GAINES: No, I wouldn’t say that there is any limit for the reason you outlined. My only limits are bounds of good taste, what I consider good taste.
BEASER: Then you think a child cannot in any way, in any way, shape, or manner, be hurt by anything that a child reads or sees?
GAINES: I don’t believe so.
BEASER: There would be no limit actually to what you put in the magazines?
GAINES: Only within the bounds of good taste.
BEASER: Your own good taste and saleability?
GAINES: Yes.

Kefauver spoke up. He pointed to one of the covers, from an issue of “Crime SuspenStories,” on display in the hearing room.

KEFAUVER: Here is your May 22 issue. This seems to be a man with a bloody axe holding a woman’s head up which has been severed from her body. Do you think that is in good taste?
GAINES: Yes, sir, I do, for the cover of a horror comic. A cover in bad taste, for example, might be defined as holding the head a little higher so that the neck could be seen dripping blood from it, and moving the body over a little further so that the neck of the body could be seen to be bloody.
KEFAUVER: You have blood coming out of her mouth.
GAINES: A little.

As Gaines must have realized too late, it was absurd to defend comic-book art by a standard of good taste. Disrespect for good taste was one of the chief attractions comic books had for pre-adolescents. Grossness is a hot commodity in the ten-to-fourteen demographic. Gaines, Feldstein, and Kurtzman were justifiably proud of their ability to reach that market with a superior gross-out product. That’s what Gaines, in his post-amphetamine fog, meant by “good taste.” It’s not what most people mean.

The hearings went on for another two days, and some experts questioned Wertham’s methods and conclusions, but the industry was badly wounded. According to a Gallup poll taken in November, 1954, seventy per cent of Americans believed that comic books were a cause of juvenile crime. From the fall of 1954 through the summer of 1955, laws restricting the sale of comic books were passed in more than a dozen states, and there were also public comic-book burnings. The Comics Magazine Association of America was formed, and it imposed a code of standards of almost incredible restrictiveness—“an unprecedented (and never surpassed) monument of self-imposed repression and prudery,” as Hajdu characterizes it. . http://louis-j-sheehan.net/
http://louis-j-sheehan.net/page1.aspxFive censors working full time vetted new comics. Even Betty and Veronica were ordered to wear less tight-fitting blouses, in accordance with the requirement that “females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.” The code also stipulated that “all scenes of horror, excessive bloodshed, gory or gruesome crimes, depravity, lust, sadism, masochism shall not be permitted,” and “the treatment of love-romance stories shall emphasize the value of the home and the sanctity of marriage.” The code put most comic titles out of business. It ushered in the era of “Baby Huey” and “Casper the Friendly Ghost.”

The last EC comic appeared in November, 1955; Gaines had a fight with the censorship board over the inclusion of a black character (an astronaut) in one of the stories. Between 1954 and 1956, Hajdu says, the industry went from publishing almost six hundred and fifty titles a year to around two hundred and fifty, and more than eight hundred artists, writers, and other comic-book makers left the field. (Hajdu lists their names.) When comic books came back, in the nineteen-sixties, they were in the superhero genre—“Spider-Man,” “Batman,” “The Incredible Hulk.” Still, Gaines, Feldstein, and Kurtzman survived: they created Mad, possibly the first work of mass culture whose raison d’être was to satirize mass culture. Mad was a comic book that made fun of comic books, and in 1955 Gaines turned it into a magazine, thereby evading the restrictions of the comic-book code. Mad, Gaines’s friend Lyle Stuart said, was “a big ‘fuck you’ at the powers that almost did him in.”

Where, in a concept of Cold War culture, does the panic over comic books fit? As Hajdu points out, Communism was never a real issue in the controversy. Since comic books were attacked in the Daily Worker (as weapons of American cultural imperialism), Gaines at one point suggested that criticism of comic books was anti-American, another argument that did not go far with the senators. “The controversy over comic books was neither a subset of the Red Scare nor a direct parallel to it,” as Hajdu rightly says. McCarthyism was a populist attack on the élites; the campaign against comics, on the other hand, was “a kind of anti-anti-elitism, a campaign by protectors of rarefied ideals of literacy, sophistication, and virtue to rein in the practitioners of a wild, homegrown form of vernacular American expression.” Hajdu suggests that the lost war over comic books might be seen as a rehearsal for the glorious war to come over rock and roll, an evolutionary step in the formation of the youth culture that emerged in the nineteen-sixties. “Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry added the soundtrack to a scene created in comic books,” as he puts it. EC Comics died for our sins.

This seems fair enough. Looking backward, you can trace the lineaments of the “adversarial” commercial culture that the postwar generation embraced as its own in the mock sex and gore of the comic books. It’s true that respect for the comic book as an art form can be a little overdone. George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat” has a kind of artistic genius; “The Vault of Horror” is just dumb. It’s supposed to be dumb: it’s for eleven-year-olds. But there was something a little subversive, some affront to domestic pieties, in the crime and horror comics, just as there was in the Hollywood movies that came to be called film noir, a genre that flourished in exactly the same period—from the early nineteen-forties to Robert Aldrich’s “Kiss Me Deadly,” in 1955. And the prosecutorial hysteria that characterized the campaign against the comics, the fear that an entire generation was being desensitized, did become a familiar feature of the reception of new commercial culture for kids.

We’re likely to think, in fact, that Wertham and Kefauver were primitive, “hot” exponents of the powers of cultural reaction, and to find their outrage and alarm over comic books psychologically simplistic and politically opportunistic. But this is winner’s bias. Other people’s culture wars always look ridiculous. That’s partly because we frame cultural controversies as battles between the old and the new, and, given that the old is someone else’s status quo and we have no stake in it, we naturally favor the new. So one way to look at the comic-book inquisition is to see it as an effort to repress an edgy, provocative, satirical popular form and to dictate to people what books they should and should not read. In this view, a big, powerful, established social entity (consisting of psychiatrists and government officials) is squashing a bunch of little, powerless entities (consisting of individual comic-book artists and readers).

But the psychiatrists and the officials almost certainly perceived things the other way around. For youth culture is commercial culture. If an industry is moving a hundred million units a week, then someone is making money. At the time of the Hendrickson hearings, comic books were a hundred-million-dollar-a-year business. (The movies, with a much higher sticker price, grossed $1.3 billion.) . http://louis-j-sheehan.net/ http://louis-j-sheehan.net/page1.aspxThe Book-of-the-Month Club pulled “Seduction of the Innocent” for fear of a libel suit from comic-book publishers. In the nineteen-forties and fifties, intellectuals of a certain sort were obsessed with the problem of culture manufactured for the masses. They associated it (and here is a Cold War connection, a link between Partisan Review and the transistor radio) with totalitarian propaganda. William Gaines and Al Feldstein were no doubt interesting, complicated, talented people who believed in what they did, but they were businessmen manufacturing entertainment for children. “Seduction of the Innocent” is a monomaniacal book, and its claims about the causal relation between comic books and juvenile delinquency are only notionally scientific. But it struck a chord, and not just with opportunistic politicians. “All parents should be grateful to Dr. Fredric Wertham for having written ‘Seduction of the Innocent,’ ” began the review in the Times. And it concluded, “Dr. Wertham’s cases, his careful observations and his sober reflections about the American child in a world of comic violence and unfunny filth, testify to a most commendable use of the professional mind in the service of the public.” The reviewer was the sociologist C. Wright Mills, no apologist for the Cold War status quo. Shortly after the hearings, in June, 1954, Robert Warshow, whose essays on popular culture were unusual in the period for their nuance and appreciation, wrote a famous essay for Commentary on horror comics (it’s odd that Hajdu doesn’t mention it), in which he worries about their effect on his eleven-year-old son, Paul, a member of the EC Fan-Addict Club. Warshow did not much admire Wertham’s book, but he accepted its verdict. “I myself would not like to live surrounded by the kind of culture Dr. Wertham could thoroughly approve of,” he wrote, “and what I would not like for myself I would hardly desire for Paul. The children must take their chances like the rest of us. But when Dr. Wertham is dealing with the worst of the comic books he is on strong ground; some kind of regulation seems necessary.” And that is all Wertham recommended. He was against the code. He did not want to censor comic books, only to restrict their sale so that kids could not buy them without a parent present. He wanted to give them the equivalent of an R rating. Bart Beaty’s “Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture” ($22, paper; University Press of Mississippi) makes a strong case for the revisionist position. As Beaty points out, Wertham was not a philistine; he was a progressive intellectual. His Harlem clinic was named for Paul Lafargue, Marx’s son-in-law. He collected modern art, helped produce an anthology of modernist writers, and opposed censorship. . http://louis-j-sheehan.net/
http://louis-j-sheehan.net/page1.aspxHe believed that people’s behavior was partly determined by their environment, in this respect dissenting from orthodox Freudianism, and some of his work, on the psychological effects of segregation on African-Americans, was used in the Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education.

Wertham thought that representations make a difference—that how people see themselves and others reflected in the media affects the way they think and behave. As Beaty says, racist (particularly concerning Asians) and sexist images and remarks can be found on almost every page of crime and horror comics. What especially strikes a reader today is the fantastic proliferation of images of violence against women, almost always depicted in highly sexualized forms. If one believes that pervasive negative images of black people are harmful, why would one not believe the same thing about images of men beating, torturing, and killing women?

Beaty is unimpressed by the claim that the horror comics were somehow part of a popular-culture avant-garde, and he thinks Gaines’s attempt to portray himself and his company as subversive artists oppressed by the establishment has fooled many people. “Ultimately,” he writes, “Fredric Wertham aligned himself with the most defenseless portion of postwar American society, children. His critics have aligned themselves with an industry that targeted racist, sexist, and imperialist propaganda at minors. . http://louis-j-sheehan.net/
http://louis-j-sheehan.net/page1.aspxHe was one man, operating out of a free clinic in Harlem, facing a multimillion dollar per year industry organization that hired private detectives to tail him and intimidate his staff.”

An argument can be made that the comic books were dying before Wertham and the Senate subcommittee on juvenile delinquency ever got to them. Beaty mentions the breakup, in 1955, of the American News Company, the chief distributor of comic books, which might have had a bigger effect on the drop-off in titles than the code did. More dramatic, as both Beaty and Hajdu point out, was the spread of television. At the beginning of 1950, there were four million television sets in the United States; three years later, there were more than twenty-five million. Fifty per cent of American homes had one. There was a new place for children to be seduced.

Television was the Cold War intellectuals’ nightmare, a machine for bringing kitsch and commercialism directly into the home. But it was also the way out of Wertham’s trap. By exposing people to an endless stream of advertising, television taught them to take nothing at face value, to read everything ironically. We read the horror comics today and smile complacently at the sheer over-the-top campiness of the effects. In fact, that is the only way we can read them. We have lost our innocence

Before the Cassini spacecraft began observing Saturn's largest moon, Titan, researchers had suggested that a vast ocean of methane and ethane covered the hydrocarbon-shrouded body. But the craft's penetrating radar, along with a probe that descended to the moon's surface in 2005, revealed a different portrait. Icy Titan appears to contain small hydrocarbon lakes, not oceans. Now, Cassini researchers have evidence that Titan may have a global ocean after all—100 kilometers below the surface and consisting of water and ammonia.

Ralph Lorenz, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., and his colleagues base their findings on Cassini radar observations recorded from 2005 to 2007. During that time, hydrocarbon mountains and other prominent features on Titan shifted position by up to 30 km, the team reports in the March 21 Science. http://louis-j-sheehan.net/
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That displacement wasn't in sync with the moon's expected rotation because winds in Titan's dense atmosphere rocked the crust back and forth, the researchers propose. But they say the winds could do that only if the moon has an underground ocean, decoupling the icy crust from the core.

If so, Titan would be the fourth known solar system object—after three of Jupiter's moons—with an internal ocean. "Large reservoirs of water, a condition for life to form and develop," would therefore be common in the solar system, note Christophe Sotin of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and Gabriel Tobie of the University of Nantes in France in an accompanying commentary.

To test their hypothesis, researchers will look for seasonal changes in the shift in coming years.

Even in a struggling economy, the job market is booming for genetically engineered bacteria.

These microscopic machines are being put to work making everything from pharmaceuticals to fuels, raising the question of how to track the invisible critters if they ever got loose—or worse, if engineered pathogens were ever released as an act of bioterrorism.

Scientists have developed a software tool that finds characteristic "fingerprints" in the microbes' DNA that can distinguish altered bacteria from natural ones.

Typically, scientists deliver foreign genes to bacteria on plasmids, small rings of DNA that bacteria naturally swap back and forth. Researchers have designed many kinds of artificial plasmids for various uses, but because new designs are usually based on older ones, artificial plasmids typically share many of the same segments of DNA.

Jonathan Allen and his colleagues at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., reasoned that they might be able to use these shared segments to identify artificial microbes.

"The biggest question in our minds was how hard it would be to distinguish these [artificial plasmids] from just natural plasmids," says Allen, a computational biologist in the pathogen bioinformatics group.

The new software tool automates the process of finding the optimal set of genetic fingerprints. The team input the genetic code for 3,799 known artificial plasmids into the software, which compared the sequences and found hundreds of matching stretches, each with about 20 "letters" of genetic code. http://louis-j-sheehan.info/page1.aspx
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The program then computed the smallest set of these shared snippets that can accurately distinguish artificial plasmids from natural ones.

Applying the test to another group of artificial plasmids identified 98 percent of them with no false positives, the team reports in the March Genome Biology.

Fossil finds in Spain have yielded the earliest known skeletal evidence of human ancestors in Europe, according to a new report. A fossil jaw and tooth from the same individual, found during excavations of a cave called Sima del Elefante in northern Spain's Atapuerca Mountains, date to between 1.2 million and 1.1 million years old, say anthropologist Eudald Carbonell of Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, Spain, and his colleagues.

Researchers who retrieved this fossil jaw from a Spanish cave conclude that human ancestors reached Western Europe more than 1 million years ago.

The investigators assign the new discoveries to the species Homo antecessor. A decade ago, they identified 800,000-year-old fossils from another Atapuerca site as H. antecessor. In the Spanish scientists' view, H. antecessor was an evolutionary precursor of European Neandertals and modern humans.

Many scientists remain skeptical of that proposal and classify the Spanish fossils as the oldest examples of Homo heidelbergensis, a roughly 600,000-year-old species first found in Germany a century ago.

However this debate plays out, the Sima del Elefante fossils "provide the oldest direct evidence, to our knowledge, for a human presence in Europe," Carbonell says.

Anthropologist Bernard Wood of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., agrees that the find provides the first solid evidence that human ancestors reached Europe more than 1 million years ago. "Before this report, the evidence for an early occupation of Europe had substantial and important caveats," he says.

The newly unearthed specimens were found in sediment that also contained stone tools, stone flakes produced during toolmaking, and numerous animal bones bearing butchery marks.

Carbonell's team describes its work at Sima del Elefante in the March 27 Nature.

Several lines of evidence provided an age estimate for the Spanish fossils. Reversals in Earth's magnetic field recorded in fossil-bearing sediments bracketed the fossils' age at between 1.78 million and 780,000 years old. The decay rate of certain radioactive isotopes in rock buried near the fossils—along with analyses of the types of now-extinct animals strewn among the finds—narrowed the age estimate down to 1.2 million to 1.1 million years old.

The new finds strengthen earlier, contested evidence from other European sites—mainly consisting of stone implements, not fossils—that suggests human ancestors occupied the region at least 1 million years ago, Carbonell says. A broad anthropological consensus holds that large groups of human ancestors lived in Western Europe by 500,000 years ago.

The Atapuerca investigators suggest that Western Europe was settled between 2 million and 1 million years ago by a Homo species that trekked out of Africa, perhaps into central Asia, and then moved westward. That species then evolved into H. antecessor, in their view.

One possible ancestor of the ancient Atapuerca population has been found at the Dmanisi site in the central Asian nation of Georgia. Excavations there have yielded 1.77-million-year-old remains that may come from an early, highly mobile form of Homo erectus. The Sima del Elefante fossils show no obvious anatomical links to the Dmanisi remains, Wood says. http://louis-j-sheehan-esquire.us/page1.aspx
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Still, an evolutionary connection between Dmanisi and Atapuerca is plausible, he says.

It's unknown whether enough human ancestors entered Western Europe before 1 million years ago to establish a permanent presence in the region so that they could evolve into later European Homo species.

A genetic quirk could help cheating athletes beat drug tests and could unfairly taint fair players.

The genetic variation affects an enzyme that processes testosterone. Testosterone is naturally made in the body by both men and women, although it is primarily known as a male sex hormone. In order to distinguish between naturally present hormone and synthetic testosterone from steroid use, drug tests measure a ratio of two chemicals found in urine.

One chemical, epitestosterone glucuronide (EG), is made at a constant level in the body, regardless of testosterone levels. The other chemical, testosterone glucuronide (TG), is a testosterone by-product.

Testers measure the ratio of TG to EG. Any amount of TG greater than four times the level of EG is considered a red flag for doping.

An enzyme called UGT2B17 adds a chemical to testosterone to prepare it for secretion in the urine. A group of scientists in Sweden found that some people completely lack the gene that produces UGT2B17, and this difference could affect results of doping tests.

About 15 percent of 145 healthy male volunteers lacked the enzyme entirely. Just over half the volunteers (52 percent) had one copy of the gene, and one-third of the men had two copies.

Some of the men were selected to get a single shot of testosterone. The researchers monitored production of TG in the men's urine for 15 days after the injection.

About 40 percent of the people who lacked the enzyme never secreted enough TG to raise warning flags in the standard test, even after getting a hormone shot, the team reports online in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

"There is a risk that many such individuals have escaped detection," says Anders Rane of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and one of the authors of the study.

On the other hand, 14 percent of people with two copies of the gene made so much TG that the current test would flag them as cheaters even before they got testosterone shots.

"Have there been any false positives or false negatives among the winners of various games? We don't know, but in all probability it could have happened," Rane says.

About two-thirds of the East Asians in the study lacked the enzyme compared with fewer than 10 percent of the Swedish people tested. Different ethnic groups may use different enzymes to process testosterone, says Glenn Cunningham, a clinical endocrinologist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

There is no apparent athletic advantage or disadvantage associated with lacking the enzyme, Rane says. He suggests combining genetic testing with periodic urine testing that tracks individual athletes over time.

"I think that they've made a strong case for doing the genetic testing in addition to" current testing methods, Cunningham says.

Because of the expense of genetic testing, "this is not something that is feasible to do for large numbers of people," he says. Such tests will likely be used in elite amateur and professional sports, but "I just don't know if it will be available for college and high school athletes."

A new vaccine lowers blood pressure in hypertensive people, a study shows. http://louis-j-sheehan.org/
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The finding breaks ground in a field dominated by drug therapy.

Surges in blood pressure make physical exertion possible, but chronically elevated pressure spells trouble. Scientists have entertained the idea of immunizing people against high blood pressure for decades, but it hasn't been easy. The only other vaccine to reach the testing stage in people failed to reduce blood pressure.

A vaccine may augment or offer an alternative to blood pressure medications, known to cause side effects.

Several compounds orchestrate blood pressure changes, including a small protein called angiotensin. When cleaved by an enzyme, angiotensin signals blood vessels to constrict, increasing pressure.

Researchers created the new vaccine by binding angiotensin to a harmless fragment of a virus. The protein "is then recognized by the immune system as a virus," says study coauthor Martin Bachmann, an immunologist at Cytos Biotechnology in Schlieren, Switzerland. The immune system makes antibodies against angiotensin and pulls it out of circulation.

Bachmann and his colleagues gave 48 people with mild-to-moderate high blood pressure three injections of the vaccine over 12 weeks. Some received higher doses than others. Another 24 volunteers received sham injections. All patients used devices that monitored their blood pressure regularly day and night.

Two weeks after the last shot, those getting a higher dose of vaccine averaged systolic (top number) blood pressure that was 9 points less than those getting the placebo shots, the researchers report in the March 8 Lancet. The diastolic (bottom number) reading dropped only 4 points, a difference that could reflect chance.

However, compared with the sham-injection group, participants getting the higher vaccine dose had reductions of 25 points for the systolic reading and 13 points for the diastolic during early morning, when their risk of stroke is highest.

The antibodies circulate in the body for 17 weeks, less time than most vaccines.

The biggest problem doctors face in treating hypertension is patients' failure to take their pills, says Sheila Gardiner, a cardiovascular physiologist at the University of Nottingham, England. The vaccine approach might offer convenience, she says. "It's definitely better than taking pills day after day."

And though the blood pressure decrease may seem small, Gardiner says, even 5 points in the diastolic reading decreases the risk of heart failure and stroke by one-third.

It remains unclear whether the vaccine could engender a reaction against one's own tissues, says Ola Samuelsson, a nephrologist at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Göteborg, Sweden. He expects pharmaceutical companies to conduct long-term tests that might answer that question.

The vaccine doesn't appear to be 100 percent effective, he says, and that's just as well. Some angiotensin in circulation would allow blood pressure to crank up in case of trauma.

Pregnant women know the drill. Don't drink. Don't smoke. Don't eat too much fish. http://louis1j1sheehan1esquire.us/
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Take vitamins. Mothers have long shouldered the responsibility, and the blame, for their children's health. Fathers don't usually face the same scrutiny.

How a man lives, where he works, or how old he is when his children are conceived doesn't affect their long-term health, scientists used to think. But growing evidence suggests that a father's age and his exposure to chemicals can leave a medical legacy that lasts generations.

Animal studies demonstrate that drugs, alcohol, radiation, pesticides, solvents, and other chemicals can lead to effects that are handed from father to son. Human studies are less clear, but some show that fathers play a role in fetal development and the health of their children.

Teenage dads face increased risk that their babies will be born prematurely, have low birth weight, or die at birth or shortly afterward, a new study in Human Reproduction shows.

Babies of firefighters, painters, woodworkers, janitors, and men exposed to solvents and other chemicals in the workplace are more likely to be miscarried, stillborn, or to develop cancer later in life, according to a review in the February Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology.

Fathers who smoke or are exposed at work to chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons put their children at risk of developing brain tumors.

And, older fathers are more likely to have children with autism, schizophrenia, and Down syndrome and to have daughters who go on to develop breast cancer.

Though some of these observations are decades old, attitudes lag even further behind, says Cynthia Daniels, a political scientist at Rutgers University–New Brunswick in New Jersey. Dads aren't held accountable if something goes wrong during fetal development.

Since men make new sperm every 74 days, people used to reason, the genetic slate is wiped clean every couple of months. And even if a man makes defective sperm, the "all-or-nothing" view of reproduction holds that damaged sperm don't fertilize eggs. No harm. No foul.

So no one bothers to remind men to protect themselves against environmental toxins. http://louis-j-sheehan.com/
There are no images of "crack dads" and "crack babies" in the media like those of women who harm developing fetuses with drug and alcohol use, Daniels said in February at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science held in Boston.

When someone does study fathers-to-be, the focus is usually on fertility, not on the consequences for children's health, she says.

Yet even fertility messages meet resistance from many men.

Harry Fisch, director of the Male Reproductive Center and a urologist at Columbia University Medical Center, found that out when he suggested that men, like women, have ticking biological clocks.

Men can produce sperm throughout life, but that doesn't mean their cells are forever young.

"Every cell in the body ages," says Fisch. "Every cell. The older you get, the more chance of an abnormality. The same thing goes for sperm."

Men younger than 20 and older than 30 make more abnormal sperm than men in their 20s. These damaged sperm could create an unhealthy embryo or pass on damage that could lead to birth defects or illness in offspring.

"Men do not want to hear this," Fisch says. "When my book came out, I got e-mails. I got faxes saying, 'How dare you say this? How can you say this? We know that there are men in their 70s having healthy children.'"

Despite these anecdotal accounts of elderly dads, studies demonstrate that older men are at increased risk of passing on genetic abnormalities. It's a matter of math.

Women are born with all the eggs they will produce in their lifetime. The cells that give rise to eggs divide 24 times, all before birth. But the cells that produce sperm continue to divide throughout a man's lifetime. Each year after puberty, a man's sperm-producing cells replicate about 23 times. Every time the cells divide is another chance for error.

As a result, the sperm produced by a 40-year-old man have gone through about 610 rounds of replication. That's 610 chances of introducing a mutation in the DNA, or improperly divvying up genetic material.

Parents over age 40 are six times more likely to have children with Down syndrome than 25-year-old parents, Fisch and colleagues showed in a 2003 study in the Journal of Urology. An extra copy of chromosome 21 causes Down syndrome. This extra chromosome is just as likely to come from dad as mom in the older couples.

Older dads also have a higher risk of fathering children with rare mutations that cause dwarfism or a premature aging disease called Hutchinson-Gilford progeria syndrome.

But sometimes aging fathers pass along traits that can't be traced to only a single mutation. Fathers 40 and older have an increased chance that their children will develop complex disorders such as autism or schizophrenia. There is growing evidence that those disorders are caused by defects in many genes and the way genes are turned off and on.

Scientists don't yet understand the changes that age induces in sperm-making germ cells, and environmental exposure presents an even bigger mystery. People come in contact with a plethora of chemicals every day. http://louis-j-sheehan.com/page1.aspx
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But it is no easy task to sort out exactly which ones, or which combinations, cause heritable problems. The effects chemicals and radiation may have on offspring don't always follow predictable patterns either.

And when researchers do find a clear link between a father's lifestyle and his children's health, it's not always clear what the data mean.

"What we can say is that we identified a group of fathers with adverse outcomes for their fetuses, but we don't have an idea of the mechanism," says Shi Wu Wen of the University of Ottawa in Canada and one of the lead authors of the study showing that babies of teenage fathers have a greater risk of birth problems.

Wen and his colleagues examined birth records for more than 2.6 million babies born between 1995 and 2000 to married, first-time, 20-something mothers in the United States. Looking at the husbands' ages, the team found that babies of teenage fathers, but not middle-age men, had an elevated risk of still birth, low birth weight, and other birth problems. The study was published online Feb. 6 in Human Reproduction.

Some animal studies showing paternal effects emerged years ago but were roundly dismissed, says Gladys Friedler, professor emeritus at Boston University.

As men age, they stand a greater chance of fathering children who will develop schizophrenia by age 34. Paternal age is only one of many factors linked to schizophrenia.

Four decades ago, Friedler was studying tolerance to narcotics, one of the first steps of addiction. To find out if a mother rat could pass tolerance on to her offspring along with antibodies and other immune factors, as some scientists theorized, Friedler exposed female rats to morphine before pregnancy. Babies of exposed mothers were born much smaller than average. And those babies also went on to give birth to tiny babies, even though the offspring had never encountered the drug.

Friedler also gave male rats morphine before they bred. "To my total disbelief and bewilderment, paternal exposure also affected progeny," Friedler said at the AAAS meeting.

Her adviser dismissed the result. Morphine doesn't cause mutations, so the idea that males could hand down a trait without passing along a mutation seemed preposterous. The whole thing smacked of Lamarckism, the long-rejected idea that environmental influences can change an animal or plant's structure and offspring can inherit that change.

But in recent decades, scientists have discovered that chemical modifications to DNA and proteins can change the way genes are packaged and regulated without changing the genes themselves. Such modifications are known as epigenetic changes.

"What was Lamarckian is now epigenetic," Friedler says.

Epigenetic modifications act as a molecular scrapbook, preserving memories of events in parents' lives and handing them down to the next generation and beyond.

"There's a chromosomal memory," says Anne Ferguson-Smith, a developmental geneticist at Cambridge University in England. "The chromosomes remember whether they came from the mother or the father."

That memory is established in the form of a chemical mark called methylation. Methylation usually turns a gene off. At least 100 genes in humans are turned off only on the chromosome contributed by the mother or only on the chromosome that came from the father. Such genes are called imprinted genes because of the indelible impression parents leave on their offspring's DNA.

Several imprinted genes help build the placenta or encode growth factors that need to be tightly controlled so an embryo will develop correctly. "There's a contribution from both parents that is essential," Ferguson-Smith says. http://louis-j-sheehan.biz
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"One can't do without the other. They must work together to have a healthy offspring."

Imprints and other methylation marks are not encoded in the DNA. Instead the epigenetic modifications decorate chromosomes like ornaments on a Christmas tree. But these ornaments are heirlooms of a different type. It's as if a seedling grows straight from the ground already gussied up with tinsel and lights in the same places its parents were decorated. If a chemical or aging alters the epigenetic pattern on a man's chromosomes, his heirs could bequeath mismarked DNA to their children, too. Some mistakes may be as benign as exchanging a red bulb for a blue one. Other alterations, akin to placing the star on the lowest branch instead of the treetop, are likely to have more profound consequences.

Male mice exposed to cocaine, for example, pass memory problems on to their pups, a 2006 study in Neurotoxicology and Teratology shows. The male mice inhaled cocaine in long daily sessions akin to crack binges. When they mated with females never given coke, they had pups that had trouble learning and remembering where to find food in simple mazes. The problem was especially severe for female offspring. The researchers couldn't find any obvious DNA damage in coke-smoking males' sperm, but did find altered levels of two enzymes involved in the methylation of DNA in sperm-producing tissue in the father mice. The result suggests that epigenetic changes may be responsible for the offspring's behavior problems.

Matthew Anway doesn't know whether the rats in his lab at the University of Idaho in Moscow have methylation problems. Some studies suggest they do, but Anway doesn't yet have definitive proof.

He can prove that male rats exposed to a fungicide in the womb can pass tumors and diseases of the prostate and kidney down for at least three generations. The rats could provide the first model for how prostate disease is inherited, he says.

Male babies born to mothers that had been injected with fungicide had prostate problems that mimic those seen during human aging. The second-generation rats also had more tumors, kidney defects, and higher rates of abscesses, cysts, and other infections than unexposed control rats. Germ cells in the testes of exposed rats also died more quickly than those in the control rats.

Subsequent generations of male rats also had the prostate and testes defects, and both male and female offspring developed kidney problems and tumors.

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The exposed rats bequeathed their fungicide legacy to their sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons even though none of the later generations were exposed to the chemical.

Exposed animals decrease production of enzymes that methylate DNA, Anway says. But he hasn't yet found consistent changes in the methylation patterns in exposed rats.

It's not clear whether Anway's results have any implication for human health. The rats were exposed to extremely high doses of fungicide through the completely unnatural route of injection.

What's important is that the male shares experiences with descendants for years to come. Further research could give new insights, Anway says, into how alterations in early development could lead to adult disease in humans.

Fluorine gas, super-corrosive vapor that dissolves even glass, given off in quantities by Iceland's subglacial volcano, sickens sheep and humans in its vicinity, reports Dr. H. Vigneron (La-Nature .) Lesions of the membranes of the nose and mouth are caused by the gases, he states.

Acting like a giant calorimeter, or device for measuring the heat given off by a fire, Vatnajokull, the crater under the ice, supplies geologists with a rather accurate measure of the energy of a volcanic eruption. From the amount of ice melted away from the Icelandic glacier, they can tell quite closely the amount of heat give out by the volcano. To date, this eruption has melted several cubic miles of ice. Now, it is becoming quiescent, but another eruption is expected in about 1945-50, judging from the past behavior of the crater.

Submicroscopic particles of proteins that cause the virus diseases of plants and animals are again the subject of discussion: are they alive or not?

For a long time they were considered to be “living molecules." Then they were assigned to the non-living realm, especially as the result of researches in the last couple of years at the Rockefeller Institute laboratories at Princeton, N.J.

Now, Drs. T.E. Rawlins and William N. Takahashi of the University of California indicate several points in which these elusive filter-passing substances persist in acting as though they were alive.
One suggestion that they may be living is found in the way they refract or bend light. A similar refraction is produced by living substance in the heads of sperms or male sex cells—which are undoubtedly living objects.

Another point is raised over the chemical nature of the viruses. They are now commonly considered to be enzymes, yet they consist of nucleoproteins. http://louis-j-sheehan.us/Blog/blog.aspx
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Nucleoproteins are proteins found characteristically in the nuclei of living cells, and not in ordinary enzymes.

Drs. Rawlins and Takahashi also call attention to the enormous molecular weights of the virus proteins. These are figured in the millions, very much higher than the molecular weights of known enzymes. They suggest therefore that instead of being single molecules the virus particles may be aggregates of molecules—another hint that they may be alive after all.

Drs. Rawlins and Takahashi avoid categorical declarations. They state:

"It is obvious that much of the above speculation is based on meager evidence; it is presented with the hope that it may stimulate further research in this field rather than that it may enable the reader to reach a conclusion regarding the nature of viruses."

Diamond is cool—even at room temperature. The stiff crystalline structure that makes diamond nature's hardest material can shield an atom from heat vibrations—not forever, but a lot longer than in other materials.

Diamond's unique properties may make it a match for developers of tomorrow's quantum computers. Physicists are testing the crystal's ability to store information in single atoms, insulate information from outside disturbances, and transmit information as light rather than through electrical currents.

Physicists have now learned to use that ultimate cocoon quality to store and manipulate information in single atoms at room temperature—feats that in other materials require getting to the neighborhood of absolute zero. Because its atoms can store the notoriously peculiar quantum information, diamond has become a candidate material for use in future quantum computers. Such devices would rely on quantum weirdness to perform certain tasks that would take an ordinary computer till the end of time.

Diamond, specifically artificial diamond, could also find more imminent applications, such as communicating data with unbreakable encryption or even advancing the understanding of quantum theory itself. Powering these applications would require just tiny artificial-diamond chips along with inexpensive tools such as simple lasers.

"The beauty of diamond is that it brings all of this physics to a desktop," says David Awschalom of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB).

Diamonds can be sharp cutters, but from the point of view of ordinary electronics, they are pretty dull, at least in their purest form. Diamond's crystal lattice of carbon atoms doesn't conduct electricity and has virtually no magnetism. http://louis-j-sheehan.de/
There's no such thing as a 100 percent-pure crystal, though, and diamond's impurities are in fact Marilyn Monroe beauty marks that make it attractive for physics. "It's the dirt that gives rise to the unusual properties," Awschalom said during a recent talk in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Nitrogen is the most common impurity in diamond, where it can replace a carbon atom in the crystal. The most useful nitrogen impurities are those that happen to be next to a vacancy—a gap in the crystal where a carbon would otherwise be. Two of the nitrogen's electrons stretch their orbits into the vacancy and form a moleculelike structure, even though one of the molecule's atoms is missing. This virtual molecule, called a nitrogen-vacancy (NV) center, possesses spin, the quantum form of magnetism.

Spins are like microscopic bar magnets and can encode and store information by pointing in different directions. A single unit of information, called a bit, can be, say, a 1 if the spin points up or a 0 if it points down.

Spins can also be simultaneously up and down, and in such cases are said to be in special "quantum states." Quantum states contain quantum bits of information, or qubits. A quantum computer could perform calculations using the multiple states of qubits, which is essentially like doing several calculations at the same time. That might enable it, for example, to search databases or to find prime factors of whole numbers at speeds unattainable with ordinary computers.

But quantum states are notoriously delicate, and even a small disturbance can result in the complete loss of the information stored in a qubit. Researchers have so far managed to store and manipulate only a handful of qubits in superbly well-controlled systems, such as single ions suspended in an electromagnetic trap or superconducting materials cooled to very low temperatures. In a paper to be published in Science, Awschalom and his collaborators describe how they achieved a similar level of control over NV centers in diamond.

In addition to having a spin, NV centers have a unique way of standing out in the limelight. They have a signature response to light, meaning that they will fluoresce with blue or green light when the rest of the material doesn't. Typically, they are also few and far between—spaced by micrometers—so that they can be spotted individually using an optical microscope and a sensitive light detector.

Jörg Wrachtrup, now at the University of Stuttgart in Germany, and his collaborators first imaged single NV centers in diamond in 1997. The researchers first tried at cold temperatures, where NV centers were supposedly easier to isolate. http://louis2j2sheehan.us/Blog/Blogger.aspx

That didn't work. But when the researchers let temperatures go up, they were startled to see the NV centers' light begin to stand out from a noisy background of scattered light.

In their recent experiments, Awschalom and his team explored for the first time the full extent to which they could manipulate the states of NV centers. The researchers zeroed in on a single NV center. They used a laser pulse to kick the NV center's electrons down to a known, lowest-energy state, readying it to record a qubit. They then tickled its spin gently using microwave radiation. The spin took different mathematical combinations of three simultaneous directions, thereby simultaneously encoding different information, explains Awschalom's colleague Adrian Feiguin, part of the Microsoft Corp. research team at UCSB. With a second laser pulse, the researchers also made the NV center fluoresce, so they could measure its state at different times, essentially reading out the information.

At the same time, the NV center also felt the presence of other spins nearby, just like several bar magnets will exert magnetic forces on each other when they're close together. The other impurities were mostly "dark" nitrogen atoms, meaning that they were not fluorescing because they were not paired with vacancies. In principle, all spins in a small region of a solid can influence one another, and the team needed to test how such a web of interactions would affect the information stored in their NV center qubit.

The team expected that in some cases the NV center would quickly lose its quantum weirdness, and go from its multiple states to a well-defined single state, like any macroscopic object. What the researchers found was that the states of the spins surrounding the NV center in a sense determined the richness of the qubit. Tuning the spins with a magnet enabled the spin to encode more or less information. But in all cases, the qubit worked, keeping the information safe.

According to David DiVincenzo of IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., Awschalom and colleagues "demonstrate a very high degree of control" over the quantum states of NV centers, comparable to what's been done with ion traps, the state of the art in quantum information.

But the experiment also has broader implications, says Mikhail Lukin of Harvard University. It shows that "diamond qubits can now be used as a test bed for probing fundamental physics." To physicists, interacting spins are almost an emblem of complexity. Simulations can predict how a few dozen spins will flip each other back and forth, and theories describe the statistical behavior of huge numbers of atoms in macroscopic chunks of a magnetic material. http://louis2j2sheehan.us/page.aspx
http://louis6j6sheehan6esquire.blogspot.com/But experimentally, no one has been able to see what happens to a single iron atom in, say, the magnet inside a loudspeaker while music plays. Diamond provides a rare opportunity to see how a single spin interacts with its neighbors, Awschalom says.

Complete control over the states of a qubit is one step toward making diamond viable for quantum computing, physicists say. That path will be long, but encouraging steps have already been made.

At just 300 nanometers thick, this is the world's smallest diamond ring. Steven Prawer and his colleagues at the University of Melbourne in Australia are creating structures such as this one to guide light pulses inside future diamond-based computers.
B. Fairchild and P. Olivero/Univ. of Melbourne

Among the most significant was the realization that diamond can keep quantum states undisturbed at room temperature. For example, the spin states of NV centers can last up to a millisecond, Awschalom says, which in the quantum world is an eternity. In one millisecond, a quantum computer would be able to perform thousands of calculations, each involving multiple states at once.

Earlier this decade, a team led by Thomas Kennedy of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., was the first to manipulate a single NV center within diamond, alerting the quantum-computing community to diamond's potential.

In more recent years, teams led by Awschalom and Wrachtrup performed the first quantum logic operations between two diamond qubits. Logic operations—calculations on bits—are the building blocks of any information processing. In a typical logic operation, a bit can be flipped (from 0 to 1 or vice versa) if a second bit is set to 1, or be left alone if the second bit is set to 0. The two teams performed this simple operation on an NV center using a nearby nitrogen impurity as the second bit. http://louis2j2sheehan.us/page1.aspx
More precisely, they did a more complex version of the operation, involving the quantum states of the two qubits. In the process, the two qubits became a single unit of information by taking up a shared quantum state, which physicists call an entangled state.

Last year, Lukin and his collaborators showed how a single NV center could essentially write information into the nuclei of nearby carbon atoms. While the most common isotope of carbon, carbon-12, has virtually no magnetism, about 1 percent of the carbon in nature is carbon-13. That isotope's extra neutron endows its nucleus with a spin. A carbon-13 atom's magnetism is much weaker than that of a nitrogen atom. But Lukin and his team used purified-diamond crystals that had low concentrations of nitrogen, so that the carbon-13 spins would stand out. That way, the researchers could use the NV centers to control the quantum states of several carbon-13 atoms at once, the quantum equivalent of storing information in ordinary RAM.

At a meeting of the American Physical Society in New Orleans in March, Lukin said that carbon-13 nuclei might keep information safe for much longer than even NV centers do, perhaps even for several seconds.

Entangling a few qubits is a good step, but a practical quantum computer will need to have dozens or even hundreds of them. With diamond, no one has been able to do that yet; the current record for any type of entangled qubits is eight trapped ions.

A goal more nearly within reach is to entangle two diamond qubits at a distance. Remote entanglement is a crucial requirement for quantum networking, in which a sender and a receiver would share a secret encryption key using sequences of entangled qubits. Any eavesdropper trying to steal the key would destroy the entanglement, and that would let the two legitimate parties know that their communication channel was tapped.

Entangling two diamond qubits is easy in principle, says Lukin. When an NV center emits a photon by fluorescence, and that photon happens to hit another NV center, the two qubits will become entangled. Trouble is, fluorescence photons tend to fly off in random directions. The trick is to somehow guide the photon from one qubit to the other. Lukin, Awschalom, and others are trying various approaches, which they say should soon enable them to entangle pairs of NV centers.

Lukin's approach, described in the Nov. 15, 2007 Nature, is to turn the photon into a signal traveling on the surface of a metallic nanowire. That would be enough to entangle qubits within the same chip. Awschalom's team is working on a different technique, described in the Nov. 12, 2007 Applied Physics Letters, in which the qubit is kept inside a tiny cavity. Essentially a hall of mirrors, the cavity traps fluorescence photons of a specific wavelength. By exchanging these photons, two qubits inside the same cavity would then become the optical equivalent of strings vibrating in resonance. http://louis1j1sheehan.us/
Louis J. Sheehan Esquire
Or, an optical fiber could collect photons from the cavity and take them to another destination, possibly far away.

Meanwhile, other kinds of impurities will bring more options to the menu. Several labs, including Steven Prawer's at the University of Melbourne in Australia, are creating designer impurities by shooting atoms or molecules into diamond crystals one at a time. At the recent AAAS meeting, Prawer said that nickel-vacancy centers are especially promising for quantum satellite communication, since they fluoresce with infrared photons that can get through even a cloudy sky.

Atoms sit at the extreme edge of nanotechnology, being themselves much smaller than a nanometer. "That's about as nano as you're going to get," as Awschalom puts it. Computing will probably get to atomic scales eventually, but it's hard to predict in what form—be it diamond, ion traps, or other candidates. "It's dangerous to say which technology is more promising," Awschalom says.

Diamond's advantage is that it could do logic, storage, and communications on the same chip. But perhaps different technologies will find different applications, Awschalom says.

Kennedy, who has since switched to another candidate technology called quantum dots, agrees. "You have a healthy competition," he says. "And it's likely to remain that way for a while."

Women with M.B.A.s are twice as likely to get divorced or separated as their male counterparts. The picture isn't much rosier for women with law or medical degrees.

That is the finding in a soon-to-be-published study by Washington & Lee University School of Law Prof. Robin Fretwell Wilson. http://louis4j4sheehan4esquire.blogspot.com/
Using a National Science Foundation survey of more than 100,000 professionals, Prof. Wilson analyzed data on newly minted professionals in business, law and medicine. Her conclusion: For women, a professional degree is often hazardous to marital health.

"It's like the Virginia Slims ad -- we've come so far -- but, man, we haven't come so far," says Prof. Wilson, herself a divorcée. "In a lot of ways women aren't getting the same deal as men." Unlike men, she says, "women can't have it all because there is a social stigma to having or being a stay-at-home spouse."

Much has been written about the growing "opt-out revolution" in which female professionals, buffeted by crosscurrents at work and at home, are exiting the workplace in droves. And the topic of female success and marital status has been explored by others. In 2001, for instance, economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett collected data on high-achieving women, defined as being both high-earners and "super-credentialed" -- with graduate degrees, for example -- and found that the more women earned, the more likely they were to be single and without children.

What Prof. Wilson's study highlights is the large number of professionals -- particularly women -- who remain in the workplace but "opt out" of having families.

Women with M.B.A.s described themselves as divorced or separated more often than women with only bachelor's degrees (12% of female M.B.A.s compared with 11% of women with only bachelor's degrees) and more than twice as often as men with M.B.A.s (5% of whom reported being divorced or separated), according to Prof. Wilson's study. http://louis-j-sheehan.net/page1.aspx
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The study will be published next week by the Witherspoon Institute as a chapter in a book to which Prof. Wilson contributed, "Rethinking Business Management."

According to Prof. Wilson's study, women with law or medical degrees divorce less often than those with only bachelor's degrees, but are still more likely to divorce or separate than their male counterparts (10% of women with law degrees and 9% of women with medical degrees, compared with 7% of male lawyers and 5.1% of male doctors).

Prof. Wilson also found that female professionals abstain from marriage at double and sometimes nearly triple the rate of men.

Ms. Hewlett believes more is at play than just a prevailing image that high-earning women are a threat to men. Suggesting that highly successful women are attracted to similarly successful men, she put forward the idea that such women "can't summon up the TLC and support that high-earning men need."

Her advice? Well-educated, highly compensated women should be targeting particularly loving and supportive men.

A few years ago, my sister called to tell me my mother had just been diagnosed with leukemia. http://louis-j-sheehan.info/
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After we hung up and I prepared to call my mom, I realized I had absolutely no idea what to say to her. It took me four hours to make the call.

I learned a lasting lesson that day: There isn't anything correct to say to someone reeling from the shock of a cancer diagnosis. But in helping my mom through her illness, I also discovered that some ways of showing support are better than others. And while there's no right approach, there may indeed be wrong things to say or do.
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Cancer survivors explain how support from friends and family was critical to fighting the disease.

Even as the medical community has gotten better at detecting and treating cancer early -- allowing many patients to live longer -- people are understandably overwhelmed by the devastating news of a diagnosis. So family and friends grapple with how to best offer comfort.

Not every cancer patient wants the same type of support. Some want to talk about their illness and accept help willingly. Others struggle to preserve their independence and behave, at least outwardly, as if nothing is wrong.

So how do you know how best to offer assistance to someone struggling with a serious illness? I posed this question to oncologists, psychologists and patients.

"Loved ones don't know what to do, and they don't want to make a terrible error," says Marisa Weiss, an oncologist and founder of Breastcancer.org, a nonprofit organization. "This fear keeps people from doing anything."
SUPPORTING ROLES

More help for patients and caregivers:
• www.breastcancer.org has message boards for patients and families.
• www.lotsahelpinghands.com emphasizes patients' practical needs.
• www.talkingaboutcancer.com deals with the emotional impact of cancer.
• www.carepages.com allows families to set up sites to share information about the person who is sick.

While that's the worst mistake you can make, experts say, there are a number of other slip-ups. Well-meaning friends and family members often ask inappropriate questions, such as the patient's prognosis. http://louis-j-sheehan-esquire.us/
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They offer theories on why their loved one got sick, give unsolicited advice or insist that "everything is going to be just fine."

When Lori Hope was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002, she says many people asked her if she had been a smoker. Some told her of people they knew who had died of cancer. One friend asked why she was going on vacation since she would probably worry the whole time. "People tend to rush in without thinking," she says.

In response, Ms. Hope wrote a book, "Help Me Live: 20 Things People with Cancer Want You to Know." Her advice: Admit you don't know what to say. Apologize in advance for doing or saying anything upsetting. Then be sure to tell your friend you will be there for her.

"Bumbling is OK," says Susan Brace, a psychologist in Evergreen, Colo., whose specialty is treating terminally ill patients. "You're in a situation you've never been in before, so you make up the rules as you go along."

In general, experts say, you should take your lead from the person who is sick. If she wants to talk about her illness, then listen. Don't be afraid of emotions. "Being there, listening and being supportive is a powerful role," Dr. Weiss says. "If the person feels comfortable crying in front of you, be honored, because you fulfilled a really important need."

What do you say to a loved one suffering from a potentially terminal illness? Beyond words, what can you do to show you care? Discuss

It's critical not to treat your friend just as a patient. So remember to ask about other aspects of her life, such as her children. Ask her permission before you share news of her illness with others. http://louis1j1sheehan1esquire.us/page1.aspx
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Don't recommend books or treatments without first inquiring if she'd like to hear about them.

You should also ask exactly what type of help your loved one needs. You can offer to pick up groceries, provide transportation or return phone calls. And don't be deterred if your offer of help is declined. People who are diagnosed with a major illness often don't know what they will need at first. In addition, accepting help can be frightening for people accustomed to being independent. Keep offering help.

And if your friend, co-worker or family member isn't returning calls, don't take it personally. She may not have the energy or time to call you back. Stay in touch anyway.

As cancer awareness has grown in recent years, so have the resources to help people offer support to patients. Web sites for the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) and the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov) offer information for caregivers, family and friends. There are books, too: "Help Me Live," by Ms. Hope; "What Can I Do to Help," by Deborah Hutton; "Cancer Etiquette," by Rosanne Kalick; "The Etiquette of Illness," by Susan P. Halpern.

In short, there is help for people who want to help their friends and loved ones. "You should be there for your friends," says Howard Leventhal, professor of psychology at Rutgers University and director of the Center for the Study of Health Beliefs and Behavior. "And being there doesn't require much more than enduring their pain and trying to be useful."

Medical-device makers, venture capitalists and surgeons are racing to turn a once-controversial weight-loss procedure into the next big thing in elective surgery.

Once dismissed by some surgeons as a gimmick, gastric banding -- in which a silicone band is wrapped around the upper stomach to restrict food intake -- is now the focus of a fierce competition pitting consumer-products giant Johnson & Johnson against Botox maker Allergan Inc. Venture-capital-backed outpatient centers are popping up to implant the bands. Growing ranks of surgeons are touting the procedure at free public seminars. http://louis1j1sheehan1esquire.us/page1.aspx
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All see a vast market in a country where diet and exercise programs have failed to slow an obesity epidemic.

• What's New: Once dismissed as a gimmick, gastric banding is now seen by some in the medical industry as the next big thing in elective surgery.
• The Players: Industry giants Johnson & Johnson and Allergan, as well as venture-capital firms that are backing outpatient centers.
• Patient Concerns: The silicone device can shift after surgery, causing it to lose effectiveness. And patients may eventually need another surgery to replace or remove it.

Like any major surgery, gastric banding carries risks of infection and even death. The silicone device can shift after surgery, causing it to lose effectiveness. No one knows how long it will last inside the body, so patients may eventually need another surgery to replace or remove it. And some surgeons say the weight loss achieved through banding isn't as much as other weight-loss procedures. "There's no question that advertising and the commercialization of the band is what's driving it," says J.K. Champion, a bariatric surgeon in Atlanta. Bariatric is a medical term derived from the Greek word "baros" meaning "weight."

Weight-loss surgery remains rare, despite the fact that about a third of adult Americans are obese -- and despite evidence that the procedures improve overall health. Only an estimated 1% of the nation's 15 million morbidly obese people, typically those who are 100 pounds or more overweight, have undergone surgery. That may be partly due to the fact that the most popular weight-loss surgery to date has been gastric bypass, a more invasive procedure. Louis J Sheehan

A number of recent studies suggest that gastric banding is safer than gastric bypass, and some data suggest comparable, if slower, weight-loss results. Improvements in surgical techniques and follow-up care have helped gastric banding become the dominant weight-loss operation in Europe and Australia. Credit Suisse analyst Marc Goodman predicts that gastric banding will account for half of all weight-loss surgeries by 2010, up from about 30% today.

Treatment for Diabetes

And banding is emerging as a treatment for diabetes: It effectively cured the disease in 73% of treated adults who were lighter than people who typically undergo weight-loss surgery, according to an Australian study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in January. Diabetes remission closely tracks weight loss.

Some parts of the country are already bombarded with gastric-banding ads. In one television spot airing in Texas for True Results, a Dallas-based chain of six outpatient centers, a young woman says, "I'm going to be around much longer for my family," after losing 178 pounds. Unlike the band makers, physicians and clinics can make advertising claims that aren't subject to the strict rules imposed by the Food and Drug Administration.
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"We see patients come into our office at the Cleveland Clinic who have heard about the band," says Philip Schauer, director of the Ohio-based Cleveland Clinic's bariatric and metabolic institute. He adds that the ads exert a powerful influence. "You don't see commercials for gastric bypass," he says.

In gastric bypass, the surgeon reroutes the gastrointestinal system. But gastric bands don't alter the body's basic plumbing. Tiny incisions are made in the abdomen, and a camera is passed through one of them so the surgeon can view the operation site on a video monitor. A band made of silicone is fastened around the upper stomach to create a small pouch that limits food intake.

After the band is installed, doctors make periodic adjustments depending on the patient's weight loss, food cravings and physical reactions to the band. Patients typically need four to six adjustments in the first year, and two or three in each of the next couple of years. If the band is removed, the patient may revert to old eating habits.

Not all surgeons have jumped on the bandwagon. Some believe gastric bypass is better for the super obese, who may be more than 200 pounds overweight. "We're finding patients have different demands," says Dr. Schauer.

What's more, the duration of weight loss for either procedure is still unknown. The possible complications of banding include slippage of the device or erosion into the stomach. Many health insurers are still reluctant to cover the procedures -- leaving patients to pay, or borrow, the $15,000 to$40,000 to finance the surgery.

But some patients are storming ahead anyway. http://louis3j3sheehan3esquire.blogspot.com/
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"It's the best thing I've ever done for myself," says Patricia Zeolla, a 59-year-old teacher in New York City, who learned of the procedure via a Web site.

Concluding that gastric bypass is too "scary," Ms. Zeolla opted for gastric banding instead at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital; her insurer, initially resistant, eventually agreed to foot the bill after her surgeon intervened. In one year, Ms. Zeolla whittled her weight down to 166 pounds from 286 pounds.

The first adjustable gastric bands were implanted in Europe and Australia in the early 1990s. The procedure had many early detractors. A high rate of surgical complications made surgeons wary. Inamed Corp., the company pitching the Lap-Band, was better known for its breast implants and had a poor reputation with bariatric surgeons eager to distance themselves from cosmetic surgeons.

"There was a mind-set that gastric bypass was better," says Paul O'Brien, an author of the recent Australian diabetes study and director of the Centre for Obesity Research and Education at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Dr. O'Brien did his first Lap-Band surgery in 1994 in Australia. Since then, he and his colleagues have studied thousands of patients.

Gastric banding exploded after 2006, when Inamed was acquired by Allergan, best known for the antiwrinkle drug Botox. Allergan bought Inamed for its portfolio of cosmetic medical devices, but "we quickly realized the real jewel was Lap-Band," David E.I. Pyott, chief executive officer, said recently at Allergan's offices in Irvine, Calif.

In November 2006, Allergan began advertising the Lap-Band directly to consumers, an unusual tactic for a surgical device. The company aired a television commercial featuring a distressed woman trying to "tame" a roaring lion pulling her to the refrigerator.

The campaign was an immediate success: Within a week, visits to Allergan's Lap-Band Web site had increased nearly fivefold. Sales of Lap-Band and other obesity-intervention devices soared 50% last year to $270 million, making them Allergan's fastest-growing product line. Enter Johnson & Johnson. Last September, J&J's Ethicon Endo-Surgical unit received FDA marketing approval to sell its band, dubbed Realize. In recent months, J&J has been bringing obesity surgeons to weekend training sessions to teach them how to implant the device. Bariatric surgeons such as Alan Wittgrove of La Jolla, Calif., who once pooh-poohed banding, say that J&J's efforts are validating banding as an option. Quiet Launch In January, J&J quietly launched a snazzy Web site that has surgeons buzzing. The site, www.realizemysuccess.net, provides patients with a suite of customizable online tools. After receiving a personal code, a patient can create an image of himself or herself by answering a series of questions, then adjust the images to see how they would look 25 or 35 or 50 pounds lighter. Patients can send daily alerts to their cellphones at set times to remind themselves to avoid the office candy dish. Patients can even see what they might look like in a new wardrobe, for instance, just as shoppers can when visiting retailer Lands' End's site. The site also helps surgeons track patients' weight-loss progress. Surgeons receive alerts if a patient doesn't come in for follow-up care, or begins gaining weight. J&J says it spent nearly two years developing the site, which draws on ideas from other consumer businesses. The site's customizable options are intended to keep patients on track, since studies show that long-term success at weight loss is driven by what happens to change behavior after surgery, says Tom O'Brien, Ethicon's director of marketing. J&J adds that a media launch touting its Realize band is on the drawing board. Despite Allergan's head start, Credit Suisse's Mr. Goodman expects J&J to grab a chunk of the market almost immediately. Although both companies charge roughly the same amount -- about$3,000 -- for their bands, J&J has a small army of specialized salespeople selling other bariatric surgery supplies and instruments.

Allergan isn't backing down. Adapting strategies that built Botox into an iconic brand, Allergan is rolling out a new multimillion-dollar Lap-Band campaign. "If I lost the weight...I could stop taking so many medications," says one heavyset woman in a television spot that started airing in March. Shown on ABC, CBS and cable stations, the spot targets female audiences of daytime soap operas. Allergan has also revamped its Lap-Band Web site with a support program for patients before and after surgery.

In a bid to neutralize its disadvantages in the surgical market, Allergan recently signed a co-marketing pact with Covidien Ltd., J&J's largest competitor in the bariatric-surgery field. Covidien's sales force will scout out general surgeons interested in the banding business.

"We threw [J&J] a curveball with Covidien," Allergan's Mr. Pyott boasts. The arrangement also puts a third large company behind the push toward gastric banding, raising its profile, he adds. Mr. Pyott says he is focused on growing the overall market for banding, rather than defending Allergan's share vis-à-vis J&J.

Gastric banding is also being promoted by a growing number of outpatient banding centers. Backed by venture capitalists, the clinics buy specially designed waiting-room furniture, operating tables and scales to accommodate large people. Facilities are located a few steps from parking spaces to make access easier for outsized patients. The centers spend liberally on marketing to lure cash-paying customers. Banding typically costs $17,000, versus$25,000 for gastric-bypass surgery, though surgeons sometimes charge much more.

The American Institute of Gastric Banding, which operates the True Results clinics, says it has performed more than 11,000 surgeries since 2001. In Texas, "we basically took the Lasik playbook and ran it for banding," says founder Peter Gottlieb, referring to the popular eyesight-correction surgery. Closely held oBand Surgery Centers Inc., with surgery centers in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Orange, Calif., has a billboard on a busy boulevard in Los Angeles and is running commercials on the "Dr. Phil" and "Oprah Winfrey" television shows.

Then there is the growing number of surgeons who are joining the fray. Unlike gastric bypass, gastric banding is a relatively simple procedure, making it easy for surgeons to pick up.

Now, scores of surgeons across the country are touting weight-loss surgery at free seminars. Patients find them on Web sites sponsored by Allergan and J&J, as well as the Web sites of individual surgeons, hospitals and outpatient centers. The sites invite users to punch in a zip code to find seminars in their geographic area. JourneyLite, a network managed by closely held Bariatric Partners Inc., recently directed prospective patients to such a meeting in Ventura, Calif.

About 50 people, mostly middle-aged women, gathered in a nondescript room in the office suite of a local bariatric surgeon. Dressed in blue surgical scrubs, Helmuth Billy chatted for three hours about everything from the benefits of losing weight to the calories in a Starbuck's caramel macchiato coffee. The "personal cost of obesity" adds up to $15,568 a year, including medications and food, according to a slide Dr. Billy showed, which was provided by Allergan. The total turned out to be close to what the surgeon charges for surgery, including follow-up visits. One of his patients, a dark-haired woman in her 50s, stood up. "My name is Sandi and I weighed 424 pounds in May 2004, before losing 250 pounds," said Sandi Henderson, who adds that she swims every morning and has tossed out her old medications. "I put my food-addiction money toward shopping and exercise," she laughed. Since her insurance specifically excluded bariatric surgery, Ms. Henderson says she used some of her retirement savings to pay for the procedure. The band makers are hoping to change insurers' minds. While Inamed had employed only five people in its reimbursement department, Allergan has 100 people in that job today, and "we are monitoring how we're moving the needle," says Mr. Pyott. This year, the team is targeting major employers who make their own decisions about coverage. Insurers are slowly loosening their purse strings. The federal agency that oversees the Medicare program instituted coverage for bariatric surgery in early 2006. That was followed by a favorable assessment on gastric banding last year from the BlueCross BlueShield Association, whose member health plans look to it for guidance. In September, the federal Tricare program, which provides coverage for 9.2 million active and retired U.S. military personnel, as well as their families, said it would cover gastric banding, retroactive to February 2007. Allergan is also working to expand Lap-Band applications to younger and lighter patients. It is sponsoring human tests in teens between the ages of 14 and 17 as well as adults who aren't as heavy as most bariatric surgery candidates. To make the band adjustments easier, the company is developing a remote-control system that would allow surgeons to loosen or tighten the devices telemetrically. Canis Major dwarf galaxy is located in the same part of the sky as the constellation of Canis Major. The galaxy contains a relatively high percentage of red giant stars, and is thought to contain an estimated one billion stars in all. The Canis Major dwarf galaxy is classified as an irregular galaxy and is now thought to be the closest neighbouring galaxy to our location in the Milky Way, being located about 25,000 light-years away from our Solar System and 42,000 light-years from the Galactic Center. It has a roughly elliptical shape and is thought to contain as many stars as the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy, the previous contender for closest galaxy to our location in the Milky Way. The galaxy was first discovered in November 2003 by an international team of French, Italian, British and Australian astronomers. Although closer to the Earth than the centre of the galaxy itself, the Canis Major Dwarf galaxy was difficult to detect as it is located behind the plane of the Milky Way, where concentrations of stars, gas and dust are densest. This, along with its small size, explains why it was not discovered sooner. The team of astronomers that discovered it were collaborating on analysis of data from the Two-Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS), a comprehensive survey of the sky in infrared light, which is not blocked by gas and dust as severely as visible light. Because of this technique, scientists were able to detect a very significant over-density of class M giant stars in a part of the sky occupied by the Canis Major constellation, along with several other related structures composed of this type of star, two of which form broad, faint arcs. Astronomers believe that the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy is in the process of being pulled apart by the gravitational field of the more massive Milky Way galaxy. The main body of the galaxy is extremely degraded. Tidal disruption causes a long filament of stars to trail behind it as it orbits the Milky Way, forming a complex ringlike structure sometimes referred to as the Monoceros Ring which wraps around our galaxy three times. The stream of stars was first discovered in the early 21st century by astronomers conducting the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. It was in the course of investigating this ring of stars, and a closely spaced group of globular clusters similar to those associated with the Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy, that the Canis Major dwarf galaxy was discovered. Globular clusters thought to be associated with the Canis Major Dwarf galaxy include NGC 1851, NGC 1904, NGC 2298 and NGC 2808, all of which are likely to be a remnant of the galaxy's globular cluster system before its accretion, or swallowing, into the Milky Way. NGC 1261 is another nearby cluster, but its velocity is different enough from that of the others to make its relation to the system unclear. http://louisjsheehanesquire.blogsavy.com/ http://louis1j1sheehan.blog.ca/ The Canis Major Dwarf galaxy may also have associated open clusters, including Dol 25 and H18, and possibly AM-2. It is thought that the open clusters may have formed due to the dwarf galaxy's gravity perturbing material in the galactic disk and stimulating star formation. The discovery of the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy and subsequent analysis of the stars associated with it has provided some support for the current theory that galaxies may grow in size by swallowing their smaller neighbors. Martin et al. believe that the preponderance of evidence points to the accretion of a small satellite galaxy of the Milky Way which was orbiting roughly in the plane of the galactic disk. A new study by Yazan Momany using 2MASS data casts doubts on the nature of the dwarf galaxy. The data suggests that the trail of stars is actually part of the warped galactic disc. This conclusion, however, is still being challenged and the true nature of the overdensity in Canis Major remains unknown. NGC 5128 is a lenticular galaxy about 14 million light-years away in the constellation Centaurus. It is one of the closest radio galaxies to Earth, so its active galactic nucleus has been extensively studied by professional astronomers. The galaxy is also the fifth brightest in the sky, making it an ideal amateur astronomy target, although the galaxy is only visible from low northern latitudes and the southern hemisphere. A relativistic jet which extracts energy from the vicinity of what is believed to be a supermassive black hole at the center of the galaxy is responsible for emissions in the X-ray and radio wavelengths. http://louisjsheehanesquire.blogsavy.com/2008/03/22/try/ http://louisjsheehanesquire.blogsavy.com/ By taking radio observations of the jet separated by a decade, astronomers have determined that the inner parts of the jet are moving at about one half of the speed of light. X-rays are produced farther out as the jet collides with surrounding gases resulting in the creation of highly energetic particles. As observed in other starburst galaxies, a collision is responsible for the intense burst of star formation. Using the Spitzer Space Telescope scientists confirm that Centaurus A is going through a galaxy collision by devouring a spiral galaxy. Centaurus A may be described as having a peculiar morphology. As seen from Earth, the galaxy looks like a lenticular or elliptical galaxy with a superimposed dust lane. The peculiarity of this galaxy was first identified in 1847 by John Herschel, and the galaxy was included in the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies (published in 1966) as one of the best examples of a "disturbed" galaxy with dust absorption]. The galaxy's strange morphology is generally recognized as the result of a merger between two smaller galaxies. The bulge of this galaxy is comprised mainly of evolved red stars. The dusty disk, however, has been the site of more recent star formation; over 100 star formation regions have been identified in the disk. One supernova has been detected in Centaurus A[9]. The supernova, named SN 1986G, was discovered within the dark dust lane of Centaurus A by R. Evans in 1986[10]. The supernovae was later identified as a type IA supernova[11]. A type Ia supernova forms when a white dwarf's mass supersedes the maximum mass where it can support itself gravitationally, as may happen when a white dwarf in a binary star system strips gas away from the other star in the system. The white dwarf then collapses, the collapse triggers runaway fusion processes throughout the star, and the star explodes. SN 1986G was used to demonstrate that the spectra of type Ia supernovae are not all identical and that type Ia supernovae may differ in the way that they change in brightness over time[. Centaurus A is at the center of one of two subgroups within the Centaurus A/M83 Group, a nearby group of galaxies. Messier 83 (the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy) is at the center of the other subgroup. http://louis1j1sheehan.blog.ca/ http://blog.360.yahoo.com/blog-jmbPCHg9dLPh1gHoZxLG.GpS http://louis0j0sheehan.livejournal.com/15433.htmlThese two groups are sometimes identified as one group and sometimes identified as two groups. However, the galaxies around Centaurus A and the galaxies around M83 are physically close to each other, and both subgroups appear not to be moving relative to each other. Centaurus A is located approximately 4° north of Omega Centauri (a globular cluster visible with the naked eye). Because the galaxy has a high surface brightness and relatively large angular size, it is an ideal target for amateur astronomy observations. The bright central bulge and dark dust lane are visible even in finderscopes and large binoculars, and additional structure may be seen in larger telescopes. M104/NGC 4594 is an unbarred spiral galaxy in the constellation Virgo. It has a bright nucleus, an unusually large central bulge, and a prominent dust lane in its inclined disk. The dark dust lane and the bulge give this galaxy the appearance of a sombrero. The galaxy has an apparent magnitude of 9.0, making it a galaxy that can easily be seen with amateur telescopes. The large bulge, the central supermassive black hole, and the dust lane all attract the attention of professional astronomers. The Sombrero Galaxy was discovered in May 1781 by Pierre Méchain, who described the object in a May 1783 letter to J. Bernoulli that was later published in the Berliner Astronomisches Jahrbuch. Charles Messier made a hand-written note about this and five other objects (now collectively recognized as M104 - M109) to his personal list of objects now known as the Messier Catalogue, but it was not "officially" included until 1921. William Herschel independently discovered the object in 1784 and additionally noted the presence of a "dark stratum" in the galaxy's disk, what is now called a dust lane. Later astronomers were able to connect Méchain's and Herschel's observations. In 1921, Camille Flammarion found Messier's personal list of the Messier objects including the hand-written notes about the Sombrero Galaxy. http://louisjsheehan.blogstream.com/ http://www.soulcast.com/post/show/117748/move This was identified with object 4594 in the New General Catalogue, and Flammarion declared that it should be included in the Messier Catalogue. Since this time, the Sombrero Galaxy has been known as M104. In the 1910s, Vesto Slipher discovered that the spectra of several galaxies, including the Sombrero Galaxy, are redshifted. The average velocity calculated from these redshifts was 400 km/s. The redshift for the Sombrero Galaxy itself was calculated to be 1100 km/s. Slipher's spectra were among the first observations of the expansion of the universe, one of the key pieces of evidence for the Big Bang Theory. Slipher also detected rotation within the spectra of the Sombrero Galaxy. http://louisjsheehan.blogstream.com/ http://www.soulcast.com/post/show/117748/move His observations of galaxy rotation are among the first ever performed. As noted above, this galaxy's most striking feature is the dust lane that crosses in front of the bulge of the galaxy. This dust lane is actually a symmetric ring that encloses the bulge of the galaxy.[8] Most of the cold atomic hydrogen gas[9] and the dust[8] lies within this ring. The ring might also contain most of the Sombrero Galaxy's cold molecular gas,[8] although this is an inference based on observations with low resolution and weak detections.[10][11] Additional observations are needed to confirm that the Sombrero galaxy's molecular gas is constrained to the ring. Based on infrared spectroscopy, the dust ring is the primary site of star formation within this galaxy.[8] The nucleus of the Sombrero galaxy is classified as a low ionization nuclear emission region. These are nuclear regions where ionized gas is present, but the ions are only weakly ionized (i.e. the atoms are missing relatively few electrons). The source of energy for ionizing the gas in LINERs has been debated extensively. Some LINER nuclei may be powered by hot, young stars found in star formation regions, whereas other LINER nuclei may be powered by active galactic nuclei (highly energetic regions that contain supermassive black holes). Infrared spectroscopy observations have demonstrated that the nucleus of the Sombrero Galaxy is probably devoid of any significant star formation activity. However, a supermassive black hole has been identified in the nucleus (as discussed in the subsection below), so this active galactic nucleus is probably the energy source that weakly ionizes the gas in the Sombrero Galaxy. In the 1990s, a research group led by John Kormendy demonstrated that a supermassive black hole is present within the Sombrero Galaxy. Using spectroscopy data from both the CFHT and the Hubble Space Telescope, the group showed that the speed of rotation of the stars within the center of the galaxy could not be maintained unless a mass 1 billion times the mass of the Sun, or 109M☉, is present in the center. This is among the most massive black holes measured in any nearby galaxies. At radio and X-ray wavelengths, the nucleus is a strong source of synchrotron emission. Synchrotron emission is produced when high velocity electrons oscillate as they pass through regions with strong magnetic fields. This emission is actually quite common for active galactic nuclei. Although radio synchrotron emission may vary over time for some active galactic nuclei, the luminosity of the radio emission from the Sombrero Galaxy only varies 10-20%. In 2006, two groups published measurements of the submillimeter radiation from the nucleus of the Sombrero Galaxy at a wavelength of 850 micrometres. http://louis-j-sheehan.net/ http://louis-j-sheehan.net/page1.aspx This submillimeter emission was found not to originate from the thermal emission from dust (which is commonly seen at infrared and submillimeter wavelengths), synchrotron emission (which is commonly seen at radio wavelengths), bremsstrahlung emission from hot gas (which is uncommonly seen at millimeter wavelengths), or molecular gas (which commonly produces submillimeter spectral lines). http://louis-j-sheehan.info/page1.aspx The source of the submillimeter emission remains unidentified. The Sombrero Galaxy has a relatively large number of globular clusters. Observational studies of globular clusters in the Sombrero Galaxy have produced estimates of the population in the range of 1200 to 2000. The ratio of the number of globular clusters to the total luminosity of the galaxy is high compared to the Milky Way and similar galaxies with small bulges, but the ratio is comparable to other galaxies with large bulges. These results have been repeatedly used to demonstrate that the number of globular clusters in galaxies is thought to be related to the size of the galaxies' bulges. The surface density of the globular clusters generally follows the light profile of the bulge except for near the center of the galaxy. At least two methods have been used to measure the distance to the Sombrero Galaxy. The first method relies on comparing the measured fluxes from planetary nebulae in the Sombrero Galaxy to the known luminosities of planetary nebulae in the Milky Way. This method gave the distance to the Sombrero Galaxy as 29.0 ± 2.0 Mly (8.9 ± 0.6 Mpc). The other method used is the surface brightness fluctuations method. This method uses the grainy appearance of the galaxy's bulge to estimate the distance to it. Nearby galaxy bulges will appear very grainy, while more distant bulges will appear smooth. Early measurements using this technique gave distances of 30.6 ± 1.3 Mly (9.4 ± 0.4 Mpc).Later, after some refinement of the technique, a distance of 32 ± 3 Mly (9.8 ± 0.8 Mpc) was measured.[26] This was even further refined in 2003 to be 29.6 ± 2.5 Mly (9.1 ± 0.8 Mpc). The average distance measured through these two techniques is 29.3 Mly (9.0 Mpc) with an uncertainty of 1.6 Mly (0.5 Mpc).[a] The Sombrero Galaxy lies within a complex, filament-like cloud of galaxies that extends to the south of the Virgo Cluster.However, it is unclear as to whether the Sombrero Galaxy is part of a formal galaxy group. Hierarchical methods for identifying groups, which determine group membership by considering whether individual galaxies belong to a larger aggregate of galaxies, typically produce results showing that the Sombrero Galaxy is part of a group that includes NGC 4487, NGC 4504, NGC 4802, UGCA 289, and possibly a few other galaxies. However, results that rely on the percolation method (i.e. the "friends-of-friends" method), which links individual galaxies together to determine group membership, indicate that either the Sombrero Galaxy is not in a group or that it may only be part of a galaxy pair with UGCA 287. The Sombrero Galaxy is located 11.5° west of Spica and 5.5° northeast of Eta Corvi.Although the galaxy is visible with 7x35 binoculars or a 4 inch amateur telescope an 8 inch telescope is needed to distinguish the bulge from the disk,and a 10 or 12 inch telescope is needed to see the dark dust lane. The M51 Group is located to the southeast of the M101 Group and the NGC 5866 Group. The distances to these three groups (as determined from the distances to the individual member galaxies) are similar, which suggests that the M51 Group, the M101 Group, and the NGC 5866 Group are actually part of a large, loose, elongated structure. However, most group identification methods (including those used by the references cited above) identify these three groups as separate entities. Blue stragglers (BSS) are stars in open or globular clusters that are hotter and bluer than other cluster stars having the same luminosity. Thus, they are separate from other stars on the cluster's Hertzsprung-Russell diagram. Blue straggler stars appear to violate standard theories of stellar evolution, in which all stars born at the same time should lie on a clearly defined curve in the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram, with their positions on that curve determined solely by their initial mass. http://louis-j-sheehan.info/ http://louis-j-sheehan-esquire.us/page1.aspx Since blue stragglers often lie well off this curve, they may undergo abnormal stellar evolution. The cause of this is not yet clearly known, but the leading hypothesis is that they are current or former binary stars that are in the process of merging or have already done so. The merger of two stars would create a single star with larger mass, making it hotter and more luminous than stars of a similar age. If this theory is correct, then blue stragglers would no longer cause a problem for stellar evolution theory; the resulting star would have more hydrogen in its core making it behave like a much younger star. There is evidence in favor of this view, notably that blue straggler stars appear to be much more common in dense regions of clusters, especially in the cores of globular clusters. Since there are more stars per unit volume, collisions and close-encounters are far more likely in clusters than among field stars. One way to test this hypothesis is to study the pulsations of variable blue straggler stars. The asteroseismological properties of merged stars may be measurably different from those of normal pulsating variables of similar mass and luminosity. However, the measurement of pulsations is very difficult, given the scarcity of variable blue stragglers, the small photometric amplitudes of their pulsations, and the crowded fields these stars are often found in. Blue stragglers rapidly rotate at a rate of 75 times that of the Sun's rotation. They appear to be two to three times the mass of the other cluster stars present. The most recent research reveals that nearby stars to blue stragglers have significantly less carbon and oxygen than their neighbors. This suggested that one star becomes hotter and bluer by pulling material from an orbiting star. The star that has had material stolen from it has deep regions exposed that show areas where the star’s original carbon had fused into heavier elements. It will later die. When it comes to "energy independence," American politics has discovered a new spirit of bipartisanship. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain all call for it, in one form or another -- in the name of fighting global terrorism, global warming or merely global price spikes at the pump. http://louis-j-sheehan-esquire.us/ http://louis-j-sheehan.org/ And of course the phrase is a cliché outside the world of politics, too, showing up in earnest op-eds and green-shaded pronouncements. Well, Robert Bryce is having none of it. In "Gusher of Lies," Mr. Bryce declares that "energy independence is hogwash." There is not a chance in the world, he says, that we're going to kick our "oil addiction." Our economy runs on oil and will continue to do so for a long time to come. There are no "Manhattan Projects" on the horizon. Not even the big bad oil companies are "energy independent" anymore. Mr. Bryce notes that oil companies now own only 10% of the world's oil reserves. Everything else is claimed by national governments. And trends don't favor an American version of energy independence anyway. As U.S. onshore production has slowly played out, the western Gulf of Mexico has been punctured like a pincushion. And yet the eastern Gulf (i.e., Florida) and the East and West coasts won't let drilling rigs anywhere near their waters. And don't even mention the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, still untouchable. No, the gushers are elsewhere these days. America's oil production peaked in 1970; non-OPEC oil production peaked about five years ago. Oil power is shifting even more toward the Persian Gulf. Jubail (a port in Saudi Arabia) and Dubai (in the United Arab Emirates) are fast becoming industrial and financial centers on a scale to defy the Western imagination. Halliburton moved its top executives to Dubai in 2007, and little wonder. What about the imperatives that are so often evoked on behalf of "energy independence"? On global warming, Mr. Bryce is an agnostic, but he notes that, with China adding the equivalent of France to its electrical grid every year -- 90% of it in coal -- talk about reducing global carbon emissions is just prattle. As for the geopolitical aspect of energy independence -- starving bad regimes into reform -- Mr. Bryce believes it to be wishful thinking. We're never going to isolate Iran, he argues. The Iranians are building pipelines to Pakistan and India and signing multibillion-dollar natural-gas deals with China. http://louis1j1sheehan1esquire.us/page1.aspx "The one being isolated on the energy front isn't Iran," he argues; "it's the U.S." If by some miracle oil prices were to plunge dramatically (the result of energy independence and a drop in demand), "there's no evidence -- none -- to support the assertion," Mr. Bryce claims, "that an oil price crash will lead to reform" in troublesome Islamic countries. Instead we should be thinking of energy "interdependence" in a world where we, quite properly, export what we have in abundance and import what we can't produce for ourselves. The search for "alternative" fuels is, in Mr. Bryce's view, a costly byway. He saves particular scorn for ethanol, "the largest scam in our nation's history," assembling 50 pages of evidence to show that, if anything, the energy-intensive effort to distill ethanol out of the nation's corn crop diminishes our energy supply. Yet ethanol production has become entangled with that other impossible-to-repeal boondoggle, agricultural subsidies. For all his confidence and expertise, Mr. Bryce can be a little weak in some areas. He rightly notes that both American and Canadian natural-gas production has peaked, but then he talks casually about importing vast quantities from Russia and Iran. Bringing this gas across the oceans, however, will involve liquefying it, adding a huge price premium -- if we ever get the receiving terminals built in the first place. Even with "energy interdependence," natural gas is going to be much more expensive in the future. On nuclear energy, Mr. Bryce is even weaker. At one point he refers to uranium as a "fossil fuel"; and he doesn't seem to grasp nuclear's greater-by-orders-of-magnitude energy potential. Mr. Bryce's ultimate counsel -- that we should forget about what Arab countries are doing with their petrodollars and learn to get along -- is also hard to accept. It ignores all those stories about the third cousins of oil sheiks showing up in al Qaeda training camps with suitcases full of cash. But it's hard to ignore Mr. Bryce's main point -- that politicians and pundits are woefully uninformed about energy. http://louis1j1sheehan1esquire.us/ http://louis-j-sheehan.org/page1.aspx When you hear a presidential candidate or a TV talking head calling for energy independence, or claiming that we can reduce carbon emissions by 60% or 70%, or pointing to windmills, ethanol and solar panels as the energy future of the American economy, you can be fairly certain that they are wasting their own energy on false promises and futile schemes. Brown dwarfs, a term coined by Jill Tarter in 1975, were originally called black dwarfs, a classification for dark substellar objects floating freely in space which were too low in mass to sustain stable hydrogen fusion (the term black dwarf currently refers to a white dwarf that has cooled down so that it no longer emits heat or light). Alternative names have been proposed, including Planetar and Substar. Early theories concerning the nature of the lowest mass stars and the hydrogen burning limit suggested that objects with a mass less than 0.07 solar masses for Population I objects or objects with a mass less than 0.09 solar masses for Population II objects would never go through normal stellar evolution and would become a completely degenerate star (Kumar 1963). The role of deuterium-burning down to 0.012 solar masses and the impact of dust formation in the cool outer atmospheres of brown dwarfs was understood by the late eighties. They would however be hard to find in the sky, as they would emit almost no light. Their strongest emissions would be in the infrared (IR) spectrum, and ground-based IR detectors were too imprecise at that time to readily identify any brown dwarfs. Since those earlier times, numerous searches involving various methods have been conducted to find these objects. Some of those methods included multi-color imaging surveys around field stars, imaging surveys for faint companions to main sequence dwarfs and white dwarfs, surveys of young star clusters and radial velocity monitoring for close companions. For many years, efforts to discover brown dwarfs were frustrating and searches to find them seemed fruitless. In 1988, however, University of California at Los Angeles professors Eric Becklin and Ben Zuckerman identified a faint companion to GD 165 in an infrared search of white dwarfs. The spectrum of GD 165B was very red and enigmatic, showing none of the features expected of a low-mass red dwarf star. It became clear that GD 165B would need to be classified as a much cooler object than the latest M dwarfs then known. GD 165B remained unique for almost a decade until the advent of the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS) when Davy Kirkpatrick, out of the California Institute of Technology, and others discovered many objects with similar colors and spectral features. Today, GD 165B is recognized as the prototype of a class of objects now called "L dwarfs". While the discovery of the coolest dwarf was highly significant at the time, it was debated whether GD 165B would be classified as a brown dwarf or simply a very low mass star, since observationally, it is very difficult to distinguish between the two. Interestingly, soon after the discovery of GD 165B other brown dwarf candidates were reported. Most failed to live up to their candidacy however, and with further checks for substellar nature, such as the lithium test, many turned out to be stellar objects and not true brown dwarfs. When young (up to a gigayear old), brown dwarfs can have temperatures and luminosities similar to some stars, so other distinguishing characteristics are necessary, such as the presence of lithium. Stars will burn lithium in a little over 100 Myr, at most, while most brown dwarfs will never acquire high enough core temperatures to do so. http://louis-j-sheehan.com/ http://louis-j-sheehan.com/page1.aspx Thus, the detection of lithium in the atmosphere of a candidate object ensures its status as a brown dwarf. In 1995 the study of brown dwarfs changed dramatically with the discovery of three incontrovertible substellar objects, some of which were identified by the presence of the 6708 Li line. The most notable of these objects was Gliese 229B which was found to have a temperature and luminosity well below the stellar range. Remarkably, its near-infrared spectrum clearly exhibited a methane absorption band at 2 micrometres, a feature that had previously only been observed in gas giant atmospheres and the atmosphere of Saturn's moon, Titan. Methane absorption is not expected at the temperatures of main-sequence stars. This discovery helped to establish yet another spectral class even cooler than L dwarfs known as "T dwarfs" for which Gl 229B is the prototype. Since 1995, when the first brown dwarf was confirmed, hundreds have been identified. Brown dwarfs close to Earth include Epsilon Indi Ba and Bb, a pair of dwarfs gravitationally bound to a sunlike star, around 12 light-years from the Sun. The standard mechanism for star birth is through the gravitational collapse of a cold interstellar cloud of gas and dust. As the cloud contracts it heats up. The release of gravitational potential energy is the source of this heat. Early in the process the contracting gas quickly radiates away much of the energy, allowing the collapse to continue. Eventually, the central region becomes sufficiently dense to trap radiation. Consequently, the central temperature and density of the collapsed cloud increases dramatically with time, slowing the contraction, until the conditions are hot and dense enough for thermonuclear reactions to occur in the core of the protostar. For most stars, gas and radiation pressure generated by the thermonuclear fusion reactions within the core of the star will support it against any further gravitational contraction. Hydrostatic equilibrium is reached and the star will spend most of its lifetime fusing hydrogen into helium as a main-sequence star. If, however, the mass of the protostar is less than about 0.08 solar mass, normal hydrogen thermonuclear fusion reactions will not ignite in the core. Gravitational contraction does not heat the small protostar very effectively, and before the temperature in the core can increase enough to trigger fusion, the density reaches the point where electrons become closely packed enough to create quantum electron degeneracy pressure. According to the brown dwarf interior models, typical conditions in the core for density, temperature and pressure are expected to be the following: \rho_c \sim 10 - 10^3 g/cm^3 T_c \lesssim 3 \times 10^6 K P_c \sim 10^5 Mbar Further gravitational contraction is prevented and the result is a "failed star", or brown dwarf that simply cools off by radiating away its internal thermal energy. Lithium: Lithium is generally present in brown dwarfs and not in low-mass stars. http://louis-j-sheehan.biz/page1.aspx http://louis-j-sheehan.biz http://louis7j7sheehan7esquire.blogspot.com/ http://louis-j-sheehan.biz/ http://louis-j-sheehan.us/Blog/blog.aspx Stars, which achieve the high temperature necessary for fusing hydrogen, rapidly deplete their lithium. This occurs by a collision of Lithium-7 and a proton producing two Helium-4 nuclei. The temperature necessary for this reaction is just below the temperature necessary for hydrogen fusion. Convection in low-mass stars ensures that lithium in the whole volume of the star is depleted. Therefore, the presence of the lithium line in a candidate brown dwarf's spectrum is a strong indicator that it is indeed substellar. The use of lithium to distinguish candidate brown dwarfs from low-mass stars is commonly referred to as the lithium test, and was pioneered by Rafael Rebolo and colleagues. * However, lithium is also seen in very young stars, which have not yet had a chance to burn it off. Heavier stars like our sun can retain lithium in their outer atmospheres, which never get hot enough for lithium depletion, but those are distinguishable from brown dwarfs by their size. * Contrariwise, brown dwarfs at the high end of their mass range can be hot enough to deplete their lithium when they are young. Dwarfs of mass greater than 65 MJ can burn off their lithium by the time they are half a billion years old[Kulkarni], thus this test is not perfect. Methane: Unlike stars, older brown dwarfs are sometimes cool enough that over very long periods of time their atmospheres can gather observable quantities of methane. Dwarfs confirmed in this fashion include Gliese 229B. Luminosity: Main sequence stars cool, but eventually reach a minimum luminosity which they can sustain through steady fusion. This varies from star to star, but is generally at least 0.01% the luminosity of our Sun. Brown dwarfs cool and darken steadily over their lifetimes: sufficiently old brown dwarfs will be too faint to be detectable. A remarkable property of brown dwarfs is that they are all roughly the same radius, more or less the radius of Jupiter. At the high end of their mass range (60-90 Jupiter masses), the volume of a brown dwarf is governed primarily by electron degeneracy pressure[2], as it is in white dwarfs; at the low end of the range (1-10 Jupiter masses), their volume is governed primarily by Coulomb pressure, as it is in planets. http://louis-j-sheehan.us/ http://louis-j-sheehan.de/ Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire http://louis2j1sheehan2esquire.blogspot.com/ http://louis2j2sheehan2esquire.blogspot.com/ Louis J Sheehan http://louis5j5sheehan5esquire.blogspot.com/ The net result is that the radii of brown dwarfs vary by only 10-15% over the range of possible masses. This can make distinguishing them from planets difficult. In addition, many brown dwarfs undergo no fusion; those at the low end of the mass range (under 13 Jupiter masses) are never hot enough to fuse even deuterium, and even those at the high end of the mass range (over 60 Jupiter masses) cool quickly enough that they no longer undergo fusion after some time on the order of 10 million years. However, there are other ways to distinguish dwarfs from planets: Density is a clear giveaway. Brown dwarfs are all about the same radius; so anything that size with over 10 Jupiter masses is unlikely to be a planet. X-ray and infrared spectra are telltale signs. Some brown dwarfs emit X-rays; and all "warm" dwarfs continue to glow tellingly in the red and infrared spectra until they cool to planet like temperatures (under 1000 K). Some astronomers believe that there is in fact no actual black-and-white line separating light brown dwarfs from heavy planets, and that rather there is a continuum. For example, Jupiter and Saturn are both made out of primarily hydrogen and helium, like the Sun. Saturn is nearly as large as Jupiter, despite having only 30% the mass. Three of the giants in our solar system (Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune) emit more heat than they receive from the Sun. And all four giant planets have their own "planetary systems" -- their moons. In addition, it has been found that both planets and brown dwarfs can have eccentric orbits. Currently, the International Astronomical Union considers objects with masses above the limiting mass for thermonuclear fusion of deuterium (currently calculated to be 13 Jupiter masses for objects of solar metallicity) to be a brown dwarf, whereas those objects under that mass (and orbiting stars or stellar remnants) are considered planets. The defining characteristic of spectral class M, the coolest type in the long-standing classical stellar sequence, is an optical spectrum dominated by absorption bands of titanium oxide (TiO) and vanadium oxide (VO) molecules. However, GD 165B, the cool companion to the white dwarf GD 165 had none of the hallmark TiO features of M dwarfs. The subsequent identification of many field counterparts to GD 165B ultimately led Kirkpatrick and others to the definition of a new spectral class, the L dwarfs, defined in the red optical region not by weakening metal-oxide bands (TiO, VO), but strong metal hydride bands (FeH, CrH, MgH, CaH) and prominent alkali lines (Na I, K I, Cs I, Rb I). As of April 2005, over 400 L dwarfs have been identified (see link in references section below), most by wide-field surveys: the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS), the Deep Near Infrared Survey of the Southern Sky (DENIS), and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS). As GD 165B is the prototype of the L dwarfs, Gliese 229B is the prototype of a second new spectral class, the T dwarfs. Whereas near-infrared (NIR) spectra of L dwarfs show strong absorption bands of H2O and carbon monoxide (CO), the NIR spectrum of Gliese 229B is dominated by absorption bands from methane (CH4), features that were only found in the giant planets of the solar system and Titan. CH4, H2O, and molecular hydrogen (H2) collision-induced absorption (CIA) give Gliese 229B blue near-infrared colors. Its steeply sloped red optical spectrum also lacks the FeH and CrH bands that characterize L dwarfs and instead is influenced by exceptionally broad absorption features from the alkali metals Na and K. These differences led Kirkpatrick to propose the T spectral class for objects exhibiting H- and K-band CH4 absorption. As of April 2005, 58 T dwarfs are now known. NIR classification schemes for T dwarfs have recently been developed by Adam Burgasser and Tom Geballe. Theory suggests that L dwarfs are a mixture of very low-mass stars and sub-stellar objects (brown dwarfs), whereas the T dwarf class is composed entirely of brown dwarfs. The majority of flux emitted by L and T dwarfs is in the 1 to 2.5 micrometre near-infrared range. Low and decreasing temperatures through the late M, L, and T dwarf sequence result in a rich near-infrared spectrum containing a wide variety of features, from relatively narrow lines of neutral atomic species to broad molecular bands, all of which have different dependencies on temperature, gravity, and metallicity. http://louis2j2sheehan.us/Blog/Blogger.aspx http://louis2j2sheehan.us/page.aspx http://louis2j2sheehan.us/page1.aspx http://louis1j1sheehan.us/ Louis J. Sheehan Esquire http://louis4j4sheehan4esquire.blogspot.com/ http://louis3j3sheehan3esquire.blogspot.com/ Furthermore, these low temperature conditions favor condensation out of the gas state and the formation of grains. Typical atmospheres of known brown dwarfs range in temperature from 2200 down to 750 K (Burrows et al. 2001). Compared to stars, which warm themselves with steady internal fusion, brown dwarfs cool quickly over time; more massive dwarfs cool more slowly than less massive ones. Coronagraphs have recently been used to detect faint objects orbiting bright visible stars, including Gliese 229B. Sensitive telescopes equipped with charge-coupled devices (CCDs) have been used to search distant star clusters for faint objects, including Teide 1. Wide-field searches have identified individual faint objects, such as Kelu-1 (30 ly away) Recent observations of known brown dwarf candidates have revealed a pattern of brightening and dimming of infrared emissions that suggests relatively cool, opaque cloud patterns obscuring a hot interior that is stirred by extreme winds. The weather on such bodies is thought to be extremely violent, comparable to but far exceeding Jupiter's famous storms. X-ray flares detected from brown dwarfs since late 1999 suggest changing magnetic fields within them, similar to those in very low-mass stars. A brown dwarf Cha 110913-773444 located 500 light years away in the constellation Chamaeleon may be in the process of forming a mini solar system. Astronomers from Pennsylvania State University have detected what they believe to be a disk of gas and dust similar to the one hypothesized to have formed our own solar system. Cha 110913-773444 is the smallest brown dwarf found to date (8 Jupiter masses) and if it formed a solar system it would be the smallest known object to have one. Their findings were published in the Dec. 10 issue of the Astrophysical Journal Modern life is loud. The jolting buzz of an alarm clock awakens the ears to a daily din of trucks idling, sirens blaring, televisions droning, computers pinging and phones ringing — not to mention refrigerators humming and air-conditioners thrumming. But for the 12 million Americans who suffer from severe tinnitus, the phantom tones inside their head are louder than anything else. Skip to next paragraph Often caused by prolonged or sudden exposure to loud noises, tinnitus (pronounced tin-NIGHT-us or TIN-nit-us) is becoming an increasingly common complaint, particularly among soldiers returning from combat, users of portable music players, and aging baby boomers reared on rock ’n’ roll. (Other causes include stress, some kinds of chemotherapy, head and neck trauma, sinus infections, and multiple sclerosis.) Although there is no cure, researchers say they have never had a better understanding of the cascade of physiological and psychological mechanisms responsible for tinnitus. As a result, new treatments under investigation — some of them already on the market — show promise in helping patients manage the ringing, pinging and hissing that otherwise drives them to distraction. The most promising therapies, experts say, are based on discoveries made in the last five years about the brain activity of people with tinnitus. http://ljsheehan.blogspot.com/ http://louis1j1sheehan1esquire1.blogspot.com/ http://louis3j3sheehan.blogspot.com/ http://louis6j6sheehan6esquire.blogspot.com/ http://louis1j1sheehan1esquire2.blogspot.com/ With brain-scanning equipment like functional magnetic resonance imaging, researchers in the United States and Europe have independently discovered that the brain areas responsible for interpreting sound and producing fearful emotions are exceptionally active in people who complain of tinnitus. “We’ve discovered that tinnitus is not so much ringing in the ears as ringing in the brain,” said Thomas J. Brozoski, a tinnitus researcher at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Springfield. Indeed, tinnitus can be intense in people with hearing loss and even those whose auditory nerves have been completely severed. In the absence of normal auditory stimulation, the brain is like a driver trying to tune in to a radio station that is out of range. It turns up the volume trying but gets only annoying static. Richard Salvi, director of the Center for Hearing and Deafness at the State University of New York at Buffalo, said the static could be “neural noise” — the sound of nerves firing. Or, he said, it could be a leftover sound memory. Adam Edwards, a 34-year-old co-owner of a wheel repair shop in Dallas, said he developed tinnitus four years ago after target shooting with a pistol. “I had all the risk factors,” he said. “I grew up hunting, I played drums in a band, I went to loud concerts, I have a loud work environment — everything but living next to a missile launch site.” His tinnitus, which he described as a “computer beeping” sound, was so intense and persistent that he needed sedatives to sleep at night. Mr. Edwards says he has gotten relief from a device developed by an Australian audiologist, which became widely available in the United States last year. Manufactured by Neuromonics Inc. of Bethlehem, Pa., it looks like an MP3 player and delivers sound spanning the full auditory spectrum, digitally embedded in soothing music. Similar to white noise, the broadband sound, tailored to each patient’s hearing ability, masks the tinnitus. (The music is intended to ease the anxiety that often accompanies the disorder.) Patients wear the$5,000 device, which is usually not covered by health insurance, for a minimum of two hours a day for six months. Since completing the treatment regimen last year, Mr. Edwards said his tinnitus had “become sort of like Muzak at a department store — you hear it if you think about it, but otherwise you don’t really notice.”

A small, company-financed study in the journal Ear & Hearing in April 2007 indicated that the Neuromonics method was 90 percent successful at reducing tinnitus. A larger study is under way to determine its long-term effectiveness.

Anne Howell, an audiologist at the Callier Center for Communication Disorders at the University of Texas at Dallas, said the Neuromonics device was a big improvement over older sound therapies that required wearing something that looked like a hearing aid all the time and took 18 to 24 months.

“The length of time was discouraging for many patients,” she said. “And a lot of them told me that wearing something that looks like a hearing aid would cause a problem in their professional life.”

Other treatments showing promise include surgically implanted electrodes and noninvasive magnetic stimulation, both intended to disrupt and possibly reset the faulty brain signals responsible for tinnitus. http://ljsheehan.blogspot.com/
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Using functional M.R.I. to guide them, neurosurgeons in Belgium have performed the implant procedure on several patients in the last year and say it has suppressed tinnitus entirely.

But the treatment is controversial. “It’s a radical option and not proven yet,” said Jennifer R. Melcher, an assistant professor of otology and laryngology at Harvard Medical School.

The magnetic therapy, similar to treatments used for depression and chronic pain, involves holding a magnet in the shape of a figure eight over the skull. Clinicians use functional M.R.I. to aim the magnetic pulses so they reach regions of the brain responsible for interpreting sound. Patients receive a pulse every second for about 20 minutes. “It works for some people but not for others,” said Anthony Cacace, professor of communication science and nerve disorders at Wayne State University in Detroit. Since tinnitus has so many causes, Dr. Cacace said, the challenge now is to find out which “subsets of patients benefit from this treatment.”

Researchers in Brazil have published a study indicating that a treatment called cranial-sacral trigger point therapy can relieve tinnitus in some head and neck trauma cases by releasing muscles that constrict hearing and neural pathways.

And drugs intended to treat alcoholism, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and depression that alter levels of various neurotransmitters in the brain like serotonin, dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid have quieted tinnitus in some published animal and human studies.

“We’ve never been so hopeful,” said Dr. Salvi, of SUNY Buffalo, “of finding treatments for a disorder that haunts people and follows them everywhere they go.”

Archimedes said he could move the Earth if given a place to stand.

That galley slave would have known that the rowing stations in the middle of the ship were best, although he might not have known why. That took scholars to figure out. “Think of the oar as a lever,” Prof. Mark Schiefsky of the Harvard classics department said. “Think of the oarlock as a fulcrum, and think of the sea as the weight.”

The longer the lever arm on the rower’s side of the fulcrum, the easier to move the weight. In the middle of the ship, as the rowers knew, the distance from hands to oarlock was longest.

This explanation is given in Problem 4 of the classical Greek treatise “Mechanical Problems,” from the third century B.C., the first known text on the science of mechanics and the first to explain how a lever works. It preceded, by at least a generation, Archimedes’ “On the Equilibrium of Plane Figures,” which presented the first formal proof of the law of the lever.

Dr. Schiefsky teaches Greek and Latin as his day job and reads Thucydides and Sophocles in ancient Greek for fun. http://louis8j8sheehan8esquire.blogspot.com/
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He also majored in astronomy as an undergraduate, and about nine years ago, feeling science-deprived, he joined a multinational research endeavor called the Archimedes Project, based at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.

The Archimedes team studies the history of mechanics, how people thought about simple machines like the lever, the wheel and axle, the balance, the pulley, the wedge and the screw and how they turned their thoughts into theories and principles.

The textual record begins with “Mechanical Problems,” moves to Rome and then through the medieval Islamic world to the Renaissance. It ends, finally, with Newton, who described many of the basic laws of mechanics in the 18th century.

There are a surprising number of old, and extremely old, scientific texts that have survived the ravages of time in one form or another. The Archimedes Web site lists far more than 100, including Euclid’s geometry, Hero of Alexandria’s Roman-era technical manual on crossbows and catapults, medieval treatises on algebra and mechanics by Jordanus de Nemore and Galileo’s 17th-century defense of a heliocentric solar system.

The nice thing for Dr. Schiefsky is that hardly anyone reads the stuff. Scientists generally are not into ancient Greek or Latin, let alone Arabic, and most of Dr. Schiefsky’s colleagues work on literature, philosophy, philology or archaeology. In fact, Dr. Schiefsky suggests “about 100 people” worldwide work on both science and the classics.

By following the historical record, the Archimedes researchers have discovered that the evolution of physics — or, at least, mechanics — is based on an interplay between practice and theory. The practical use comes first, theory second. Artisans build machines and use them but do not think about why they work. Theorists explain the machines and then derive principles that can be used to construct more complex machines.

The Archimedes researchers say that by studying this dialectic they can better understand what people knew about the natural world at a given time and how that knowledge may have affected their lives.

“What do you do when you want to weigh a 100-pound piece of meat and you don’t have a 100-pound counterweight?” Dr. Schiefsky asked. “You use an unequal-armed balance, with a small weight on the long arm and the meat on the short arm.”

The uneven balance, known as a steelyard, is a kind of lever, and Dr. Schiefsky notes that it has a cameo in Aristophanes’ “Peace,” a comic fantasy about ending the Peloponnesian War. When a furious arms dealer cannot figure out what to do with a surplus war trumpet, Trygaeus, the central character, suggests pouring lead in the bell to make a steelyard.

Referring to the mouthpiece, Trygaeus says, “Attach at this end a scale-pan hung on cords, and you’ll have the very thing to weigh out figs to your servants out in the country.”

Natural-gas producers are swarming into Pennsylvania to chase what many are betting could be the next big thing: a thick wedge of gas-bearing rock called the Marcellus Shale.

The recent surge in interest was triggered by disclosures in the fall from producer Range Resources Corp. of Fort Worth, Texas, that it had drilled a well there producing more than three million cubic feet of natural gas a day, proving that Marcellus Shale wells can be profitable. http://louisajasheehan.blogspot.com/

Since then, Range has reported wells that produce even more gas.

• Rising Interest: Natural-gas producers are swarming to the state to drill in a potentially hot production area.
• Difficult Area: Lack of equipment and manpower has impeded some efforts.
• The Risk: The area hasn't yet shown that producers will find major gas deposits.

The result is a land rush unmatched anywhere else in North America as companies try to snap up drilling acreage on a giant swath of rock stretching from West Virginia across Pennsylvania to the northeast corner of the state, 90 miles from New York City.

Range Resources plans to spend $426 million in Appalachia this year. Other out-of-state companies, such as EOG Resources Inc., Chesapeake Energy Corp. and Anadarko Petroleum Corp., have either begun drilling or are planning to drill wells targeting the Marcellus Shale. Wall Street has recently awakened to the potential earnings power of these Pennsylvania wells, but analysts contend they still could be undervalued. "Even though these stocks have done well, to say the market has fully captured the potential is laughable," says Subash Chandra, an energy analyst with Jefferies & Co. Range Resources' shares were at$64.31 apiece as of 4 p.m. New York Stock Exchange composite trading, up from $34.01 a year earlier. A relatively clean-burning fuel, natural gas is in growing demand. About half of U.S. homes use natural gas, and it generates about a fifth of the nation's electricity. Meanwhile, natural-gas prices have gone above$6 per million British thermal units for the past three years, triple their historical average. Prices recently topped $10 per million BTUs before falling back and ended Tuesday at$9.72 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Estimates of the Marcellus Shale's supplies vary widely. In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated there may be 1.9 trillion cubic feet. Earlier this year, Terry Engelder, a Pennsylvania State University geosciences professor, made what he called a conservative estimate of 168 trillion cubic feet. http://louisbjbsheehan.blogspot.com/
http://louis2j2sheehan2esquire.blogspot.com/His estimate has yet to be confirmed. By comparison, the U.S. consumed 23.05 trillion cubic feet last year, according to the Energy Information Administration, or about 63.2 billion cubic feet a day.

Still, there have been relatively few completed Marcellus Shale wells, and it isn't clear whether the rock will produce prolific wells across the state or only in certain pockets. Companies could be spending a lot of money leasing acres and drilling wells in counties where there won't be enough gas for the wells to offer a reasonable return.

Information about the potential of the Marcellus gas field has emerged slowly because of Pennsylvania rules that allow companies to keep well-production data and drilling logs confidential for five years, compared with about 60 days in Texas. While Range has told Wall Street analysts about its wells, it hasn't disclosed where the wells are.

"Why would we educate anybody else?" says Ray Walker, Range's head of Appalachian shale production. The best way to protect shareholders, he says, "is to keep information close at hand." In the fall, after Range personnel caught someone snooping around their wellhead reading the production meter, Mr. Walker padlocked covers on well-production meters.

The technique for drilling into shale rock to harvest natural gas was pioneered outside Fort Worth about six years ago. Since then, the Texas Barnett Shale has gone from obscurity to the most prolific domestic gas field in the continental U.S. That one field produces about 3.5 billion cubic feet a day, or about eight times more than all of Pennsylvania in 2006, which is the latest data available.

Gas producers hope they can do the same for the Marcellus, but development in Pennsylvania has been slowed by a lack of equipment. Drilling rigs capable of penetrating deep into the complex rock formations needed to be imported from Texas, Wyoming and other active energy regions. Experienced crews capable of fracturing the dense shale in order to coax out the gas also had to be brought in.

Now, oil-field services firms are slowly expanding operations in the region, raising another obstacle. Jefferies analyst Mr. Chandra says development of the shale could be slowed by a culture clash generated by hard-charging Texas and Oklahoma energy companies "doing business in a way that hasn't been done before" in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania has had an oil and gas industry for more than a century, but it's been dominated by small companies that tend to drill low-cost, low-risk wells that produce a fraction of the gas that companies believe they can coax from a Marcellus Shale well. But these small, local companies long ago locked up most of the drillable acreage.

To gain access, out-of-state companies are opening up their checkbooks to sign deals with local companies sitting on large swathes of acreage. http://louisdjdsheehan.blogspot.com/
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"We've never seen this kind of money around here," says Terry Jacobs, president of family-owned Penneco Oil Co. He cut a deal last year to allow Range to drill wells on leases he holds.

It isn't uncommon to find drilling crews filled with Texans and Oklahomans. On a recent morning, Jared Griffith, a third-generation Texas oil hand, sat with his crew inside an oil-field office trailer. Almost all were Texans. "I never thought I'd be north of the Mason-Dixon line," says Mr. Griffith, an operations manager for Frac Tech Services Ltd., a drilling-services firm based in Cisco, Texas.

Leasing prices for land still available for drilling has skyrocketed along with the out-of-state influx. Near Williamsport, Pa., a drilling lease that fetched $5 an acre in 2003 now can fetch$2,000 an acre, local residents say. Those kind of prices are "unheard of in our part of the world," says Rich Weber, president of Atlas Energy Resources LLC, based in Moon Township, Pa.

Range's Mr. Walker has worked to smooth over relations with local landowners. The company contributed $35,000 so Hickory, Pa., could buy a bronze statue of a farmer to commemorate the region's agricultural history. At last year's local Washington County Youth Livestock Show, Range bought the champion steer for$12,285. "I thought it was cheap," Mr. Walker says.

Now available in the family planning sections of Rite Aid stores throughout the midstate: A DNA-based paternity test kit.

Though it's not admissible in court, the kit's maker hopes it can offer peace of mind.

But some authorities said paternity is more complex than mere biology, and the results could leave families struggling for answers.

DNA tests have been sold online and through mail order for years, but the Identigene DNA Paternity Test Kit might be the first available over a drugstore counter.

Rite Aid, based in East Pennsboro Twp., and Identigene, of Salt Lake City, Utah, began test-marketing the kits in California, Washington and Oregon in November.

"We thought that if each store could sell at least one unit per month with minimal ads and do consistently well for two to three months, we would consider that successful for the new product launch," said Doug Fogg, Identigene's chief operating officer. Some stores sold more than one a month, he said.

Rite Aid decided to sell the kits in its 3,463 stores in 30 states because "it's our goal to be the first to market innovative health care products, and it makes this technology available in an affordable manner," said Cheryl Slavinsky, a Rite Aid spokeswoman.

The kits, which sell for $19.99, contain cotton swabs to collect cheek cells from the alleged father, child and mother. http://louiscjcsheehan.blogspot.com/ The buyer then returns the individually marked DNA samples to Identigene, which charges$120 to determine if man and child are related.

Such "self-collection" or "private" DNA tests are not admissible in Pennsylvania courts, said Stacy Witalec, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Public Welfare, which administers county domestic relations.

Legally admissible tests, which Identigene also can provide, require a certified third party to collect DNA samples and verify the participants' identify, Fogg said.

Rite Aid does not train its pharmacists to answer customers' questions about home-test kits, including paternity, pregnancy, diabetes and drug tests, Slavinsky said.

"There is a detailed instruction booklet with the Identigene kit with frequently asked questions that are pretty clear," Slavinsky said. "And there is also a toll-free number where the Identigene DNA test consultants are available."

Buyers who don't get help interpreting the findings is a concern for Michael J. Green, a bioethics teacher and researcher at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

"It's hard to tell what the consequences of these sorts of things are going to be, and it's important for people to understand that what it takes to be a family is not merely genetic," Green said. "It's social as well as genetic. Somebody is a father because they take care of and raise and nurture and care for a person, not just because they happen to share the same genetic material."

For the DNA Paternity Test, Identigene requires consent from all participants or a child's parent or guardian, Fogg said, although the company cannot always weed out forged signatures.

Without informed consent, Green worried whether "people will have full understanding of the implications of such things."

"Children, especially if they're young, are unable to give consent, and chances are, if you're talking about this sort of testing, there may be some contention or disharmony in the family unit," he said.

Fogg said that pregnancy tests also created a stir when they become available over the counter.

"Similar to an early pregnancy test, this is a test that essentially gives confirmation to something that people already know anyway," he said.

Dauphin County's domestic relations office has not dealt with anyone who tried to use a private test to prove a paternity case, spokeswoman Diane McNaughton said. http://louisgjgsheehan.blogspot.com/
County judges order paternity tests based on the child's interest, and a subcontractor performs the tests, she said.

"While court officials acknowledge that this kit is probably the wave of the future, important safeguards must be in place," she said. "The Rite Aid kits may lead to more challenges of paternity, but the county will continue to rely on reputable DNA testers and determine, through a petition and/or a hearing, whether the test is in the best interests of the child."

Purity of Essence

TF 121

The Phoenicians, especially those from the city of Tyre, are most famously credited with discovering how to manufacture a dye extracted from of the sea mollusk or murex. This secretion made clothing purple or reddish-purple. It was a very expensive and unusually durable dye in the Mediterranean region, sold from at least the 14th century B.C. Recent scholars point to evidence that Minoans discovered the dye in the 18th century B.C. The highest quality purple dye soon became the color of only the wealthiest, like kings. It was also used on ceremonial garments.

In antiquity, as is still true today, different statuses are associated with specific colors. At a funeral in the West, mourners expect the widow to wear black or some other dark, somber hue.

A virginal bride in the U.S. is expected to wear white and if someone obviously not a virgin wears a white gown, it occasionally leads to snickering. In Greek artwork about the Trojan War, a certain type of conical cap, which we call a Phrygian cap, identifies its wearer as Trojan. In Republican Rome, freed slaves had red Phrygian caps. Also in Republican Rome, after a great military victory, a general's troops might proclaim the leader imperator, and so help him on his way to the granting of a triumph. The cloak that identified the imperator was purple.

During the period of the Roman Empire, the title imperator came to be used for the one-man ruler or princeps. We call him emperor. Assuming the purple meant putting on the purple cloak of the imperator. This signalled the fact that the person so doing had become emperor.

Here's another passage about assuming the purple, from an abridgment of Eutropius Roman History. Book IX

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In his youth he performed many gallant acts in Gaul and Illyricum, killing Ingenuus, who had assumed the purple, at Mursa, and Regalianus

Constantinene, emperors wore diadems in imitation of the Persian kings. Today we speak of the crowning of kings. The crowning of a king is very much like the emperor assuming the purple.

A few weeks ago, I received a dreaded phone call at 8:30 a.m. telling me he wasn't going to make it. The "he" in this case was my car, and the bearer of bad news was my mechanic. My 1994 Saab bit the dust when its timing belt broke, and after discussions about the cost of the repair versus the value of the car, I accepted the fact that I'd need to start looking at buying another vehicle.

I headed online to start researching (I was looking for a used car) but was overwhelmed by an avalanche of information. http://louisjjjsheehan.blogspot.com/
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Everyone seemed to have something to say about cars, whether in blogs, community forums, editorial reviews, Kelley Blue Book values, Carfax reports or local dealer sites. As I discussed my findings with friends and family, more people than not were surprised to hear about the variety of research and price comparisons available online.

This week's column is an overview of sites that may help you or someone you know browse for a new or used car on the Web. I used sites ranging from trusted resources like ConsumerReports.org to search engine tools like Yahoo Autos. This column can't possibly mention every car-searching resource on the Web; rather, it's just a taste of what's available.

Edmunds.com and ConsumerReports.org both feature informative data on a number of new and used vehicles. Edmunds is a free site specifically geared toward cars, including an online magazine for enthusiasts called Inside Line and a Web forum for discussions about automobiles called CarSpace. I used various tools on Edmunds.com, including one that estimates the true cost to own a specific car over time. I especially enjoyed reading an article titled "Confessions of a Car Salesman," which proved uncanny in predicting a range of tricks and techniques the salespeople used when I first visited a car dealership.

Edmunds offers a four-step pricing system, which includes getting quotes from dealers, and a payment calculator, which estimates monthly payments. Edmunds teams up with AutoTrader.com to help perform searches for certified pre-owned or used cars online.

Consumer Reports covers products as well as cars but keeps much of its most useful data behind a Web-site subscription, which costs $26 annually or$5.95 monthly (magazine subscribers can pay a discounted price of $19 a year). You need this subscription to access CR's respected ratings and certain sections of its Web forums. These ratings were helpful to me, as they assessed numerous aspects of specific car models, including trouble spots by year, performance, safety and fuel economy. CR also offers valuable lists such as "All Recommended Cars," "Best and Worst Used Cars" and "Reliable Used Cars by Price." A car-buying calculator is an asset to this site that helps you decide whether it would be smarter to buy or lease a vehicle. Google, Yahoo and AOL all present special search-results pages when you search for a specific car for sale, using drop-down menus and various ways to sort results. Google Base for automobiles, found by selecting "Vehicles" from www.google.com/base, is a list of data submitted to Google. http://louisjjjsheehan.blogspot.com/ http://louiskjksheehan.blogspot.com/ http://louis1j1sheehan1esquire1.blogspot.com/ http://louis1j1sheehan1esquire2.blogspot.com/ Drop-down menus help broaden or narrow results by sorting the data according to certain attributes, such as make or price. Vehicle-search results can be viewed in one of three formats: List View, Table View or Map View -- an illustration of each car's location in relationship to a Zip Code. I found Table View most useful because it organized data in smart, spreadsheet-like displays so I could quickly skim through columns listing price, color, amenities and mileage. But not all car searches within Google Base returned the same drop-down-menu options for sorting. In a few instances, I couldn't sort my search results by model year. Google Base does show the date on which each car was listed. Yahoo Autos, found at www.autos.yahoo.com, teamed up with Cars.com to offer richer content, including a Car Finder feature that helps people narrow down what type of new car they might like according to price, driving style and fuel (type and economy). Yahoo even tries to answer car questions with its Yahoo Answers Q&A tool, which lets people submit questions. I found user reviews on this site, as well as expert reviews provided by NewCarTestDrive.com, an auto-review site. The used-car section in Yahoo Autos reminded me of Google with its drop-down menus and results that displayed in list or map views. List view shows plenty of information in one glance, including an image of the car for sale and the number of additional available photos. From this list, users can link directly to view or order Carfax reports or email the dealer, saving time wasted on excess mouse clicks and browsing. AOL Autos, found at http://autos.aol.com, does a nice job of integrating Web 2.0 features such as pop-up menus that appear within a page rather than in an entirely new Web page. Vehicle-search results are found by entering a few criteria for a new or used car, and used-car results can be further narrowed by adding or subtracting desired specifics listed on the far left of the screen. Some specs include model type, engine, year or extras like heated seats or a sunroof. This site can also condense numerous used-car listings into one graph that illustrates car prices in relationship to mileage or year. Selecting any point on the graph reveals a short description of a vehicle's location, price and mileage. For new cars, AOL Autos offers lengthy expert reviews from NewCarTestDrive.com, as well as user reviews. Both Yahoo Autos and AOL Autos walk users through steps to get price quotes from dealers for new cars. Carfax.com provides car-history reports using vehicle-identification numbers, or VINs. For a$30 fee, used-car buyers can use Carfax.com for 30 days. This report shows a vehicle's history such as if it was a rental or not, how many different owners it had, how long each owner possessed the vehicle and where it came from.

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Tips pop up within these reports, including one that warned me about "curbstoning," a term that describes an individual without a dealer's license looking to sell a number of cars by posing as a private seller.

As can be expected, many newspaper Web sites offer automobile sections that display digitized classified ads, so be sure to check your local paper's Web site.

At the end of the day, test-driving a car will be a true test as to whether or not you like it -- no matter how much research you've done online. But knowing your stuff before you visit a dealership can save money and time.

The U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, hearing arguments over a Washington, D.C., ban on handguns, appeared ready to affirm a constitutional right for individual gun ownership.

But it was less clear how and to what extent the high court might invalidate the D.C. law, which is the strictest set of gun regulations in the country.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's key swing vote, stated his position on the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution early in the arguments, giving gun rights supporters on the high court a likely majority on a divided court.

"In my view it supplements it, saying there is a general right to bear arms," Justice Kennedy said, explaining he believes the Second Amendment covers both the right of states to form militias and the rights of individuals to own guns.

The Supreme Court hasn't ruled directly on the Second Amendment in almost 70 years. It also over time has offered little guidance on the extent to which the amendment covers individual gun ownership for self-defense, hunting and recreational shooting. In taking up the D.C. handgun ban, the court said it would decide whether a federal appeals court properly concluded the city's laws violated the Second Amendment because it bars individuals from owning handguns.

The court allotted extra time beyond the usual hour it gives for oral arguments in appeals. http://louis-j-sheehan.myblogvoice.com/louis-j-sheehan-1023071-205297.htm
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Walter Dellinger, a veteran advocate before the court, appeared in support of D.C. and argued the Second Amendment refers to military needs and doesn't extend to rights for individuals. "The second clause -- to keep and bear arms -- is referred to in a military context," Mr. Dellinger said.

A pro-gun advocate holds up a sign outside the Supreme Court, as the court heard arguments in an attempt to overturn D.C.'s firearms ban.

Early in his presentation, Mr. Dellinger encountered critical questioning from conservatives on the court. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia in particular challenged Mr. Dellinger's reading of the Second Amendment.

U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, arguing on the side of challengers to the D.C. laws, said they violate the Constitution. "The Second Amendment as it is written guarantees an individual right," Mr. Clement said. He urged the Supreme Court to find a broad right for individual gun ownership that he said may even extend to machine guns, because those guns are routinely issued to military personnel.

Alan Gura, an Alexandria, Va., attorney representing the law's challengers, urged the justices to reject the entire set of D.C. gun regulations. "We have here a ban on all guns for all people in all homes at all times," Mr. Gura said. "That is too broad and too sweeping under any review."

Moderate and liberal members of the court made it clear they didn't see a broad individual gun ownership right. Justice John Paul Stevens several times turned to the political context in which the Second Amendment was written, noting that language in Pennsylvania and Vermont constitutions that covered self-defense rights were rejected during development of the Second Amendment.

It wasn't clear, however, whether the case would split 5-4 with Justice Kennedy voting on the conservative side. Justice Stephen Breyer asked several hypothetical questions that assumed an individual right but focused closely on whether the D.C. gun ban is reasonable given the level of criminal violence the city has faced.

The Supreme Court could affirm a lower court ruling that declared the D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional and it could outline guidelines for what is allowed and not allowed in the law.

The D.C. law, on the books since 1976, bans handgun registration, bars concealed weapons possession and require shotguns and rifles to be registered and then kept unloaded and disassembled or locked.

The law was challenged by six D.C. residents who said they wanted to legally possess handguns in their homes for self-protection. A U.S. District Court threw out the challenge, but a panel of the Washington-based U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived one of the claims and ruled a special police officer, the now-retired Dick Heller, was wrongly denied a handgun permit.

The D.C. Circuit added the city can't ban handguns in the home or require that residents keep their guns dismantled or equipped with a trigger lock.

A decision in the case, D.C. v. Heller, is expected by July.

In its only ruling of the day, the Supreme Court upheld Washington's open primary election system. By a 7-2 vote, the court said the state may use a primary system that allows the top two vote-getters to advance to the general election, even if they are from the same party.

Tuesday's decision is the second of two this year on the rights of political parties. http://members.greenpeace.org/blog/purposeforporpoise
Washington never held a primary under the new system because of legal challenges.

Athletes who take human growth hormone may not be getting the boost they expected.

While growth hormone adds some muscle, it doesn't appear to improve strength or exercise capacity, according to a review of studies that tested the hormone in mostly athletic young men.

"It doesn't look like it helps, and there's a hint of evidence it may worsen athletic performance," said Hau Liu, of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif., who was lead author of the review.

Growth hormone, or HGH, is among the performance enhancers baseball stars Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte were accused of taking in Sen. George Mitchell's report. Mr. Clemens denies using the hormone, while Mr. Pettitte admits using it.

The new research has some limitations and sheds no light on long-term use of HGH. The scientists note their analysis included few studies that measured performance. The tests also probably don't reflect the dose and frequency practiced by athletes illegally using the hormone.

Dr. Liu and his colleagues at Stanford University sought to find out if growth hormone could improve performance. They looked for the best published tests, those comparing participants who got the hormone to those who didn't get the treatment.
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They analyzed 27 studies involving 440 participants. The results were released yesterday by the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers found that those who got the hormone put on about five pounds more of muscle and lost about two pounds more of fat, although the fat loss wasn't statistically different. The researchers said some of the extra body mass could be fluid buildup.

There was no difference found in strength or exercise stamina between the two groups, but there were only two strength studies and eight that measured exercise.