Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for September 14th, 2011

Computerized anxiety therapy found helpful in small trial

Posted by Anonymous on September 14, 2011

An emerging therapy known as cognitive bias modification, in which software helps subjects divert attention away from anxiety and interpret situations more calmly, helped improve anxiety symptoms in a pilot-scale randomized controlled trial.

small clinical trial suggests that cognitive bias modification (CBM), a potential anxiety therapy that is delivered entirely on a computer, may be about as effective as in-person therapy or drugs for treating social anxiety disorder. The Brown University-led research also found that participants believed the therapy to be credible and acceptable.

Participants in the pilot study, published in advance online in the journal Depression and Anxiety, improved their scores on a standardized measure of anxiety and on a public speaking task after completing two simple exercises twice a week for four weeks.

The hope for CBM is that it can provide a new option for anxiety sufferers who cannot find or pay for a qualified therapist, who are afraid to try cognitive behavior therapies where they directly confront their fears, or who can’t or don’t want to try medications. Still, the idea of computer-based therapy has been controversial, acknowledged Courtney Beard, the new study’s lead author and assistant professor (research) of psychiatry and human behavior in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

“A lot of people are skeptical, particularly people like me who are clinicians and know how hard it is to help people with anxiety and how much effort and time it takes in therapy,” Beard said. “It just doesn’t seem possible that a computer program could produce similar effects. But I’m more of a scientist than a clinician so I want to see data.”

Beard’s study is the first randomized clinical trial, albeit with a small sample size of 20 people who received the therapy and 12 placebo controls, to combine two techniques of CBM to treat social anxiety disorder: one that seeks to enhance subjects’ control over what they pay attention to and another that trains them to interpret situations less anxiously.

… The interpretation technique encourages anxiety sufferers to assign benign interpretations to social situations. Subjects were asked to say whether a word they saw on the screen was related to the sentence that followed. Those receiving the therapy, for instance, would see either “embarrassing” or “funny” before seeing the sentence “People laugh after something you said.” The subjects would be told they were correct if they chose the relatively benign word or incorrect if they chose the anxious interpretation. Placebo subjects, meanwhile, saw words that had nothing to do with the situation’s social nature. …

via Computerized anxiety therapy found helpful in small trial | Brown University News and Events.

Posted in Mind | Leave a Comment »

Mississippi man who said he was abducted by aliens dies

Posted by Anonymous on September 14, 2011

Charles Hickson, the Mississippi man who claimed he was abducted and probed by aliens while he was fishing with a friend in 1973 and never backed off the story despite the ridicule he endured, has died.

Hickson, 80, died last Friday of a heart attack, his family said on Tuesday.

Hickson, then 42, was fishing with 19-year-old Calvin Parker Jr. on a pier near Pascagoula, Mississippi in October 1973 when they said a cigar-shaped UFO with flashing blue lights suddenly appeared above them.

A door opened up, the two men later told authorities, and they were pulled into the craft by aliens, who paralyzed them, examined them on a table and then let them go.

Although Hickson was reluctant to share the story — he said all he and Parker wanted to do “was go fishing” and he feared people would “laugh me out of Jackson County” — he and Parker eventually went to local police and reported the incident.

“They weren’t lying,” the chief investigator for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department told reporters at the time. “Whatever it was, it was real to them.”

As word of their claims leaked out, Hickson and Parker became minor celebrities, celebrated by believers in extraterrestrial life but derided by skeptics.

In 1974, after wire services picked up the story, Hickson appeared on a number of national TV programs, including The Dick Cavett Show.

In 1983, Hickson wrote a book about the incident called “UFO Contact at Pascagoula” with William Mendez. …

via Mississippi man who said he was abducted by aliens dies – Yahoo! News.

Posted in Aliens, Strange | Leave a Comment »

Protoceratops Dinosaur found with its own tracks

Posted by Anonymous on September 14, 2011

Photograph of the Protoceratops fossil and a sketch of its footprint (Image: Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki et al)A fossil housed for half a century in a Polish museum has turned out to be the first dinosaur skeleton preserved in its own tracks, say scientists.

A recent examination of the 80-million-year-old specimen revealed a single footprint preserved in the rocks encasing the fossilised bones.

Polish and Mongolian fossil hunters first unearthed it in 1965 in Mongolia.

Scientists now report the results of its re-examination in the journal Cretaceous Research.

The dinosaur is a Protoceratops, and since this is one of the most common dinosaurs found in the rich fossil beds of the Gobi Desert, it was not deemed to be very significant. But the scientists say it is the first example of a dinosaur being preserved with its own footprints.

Polish palaeontologists Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki and Tomasz Singer spotted the footprint while they were preparing the fossil for display at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw.

His colleague, University of Colorado at Denver geologist Martin Lockley, told BBC Nature that this really was “a first”.

“Generally, we find it very hard even to match dinosaurs with their footprints at the species level,” he explained. …

via BBC Nature – Protoceratops Dinosaur found with its own tracks.

Posted in Archaeology | Leave a Comment »

Huge Gladiator School Found Buried in Austria

Posted by Anonymous on September 14, 2011



Digital reconstruction of the newfound Roman gladiator school outside Vienna. – Illustration courtesy LBI ArchPro

Archaeologists working outside Vienna, Austria, have discovered the remains of a huge school for ancient Roman gladiators—a complex so extensive that it rivals the training grounds outside Rome’s Colosseum.

The newly located facility includes features never before seen at a Roman gladiators’ school, or ludus, such as traces of a wooden training dummy. And outside the gates, the researchers discovered what they call the first known gladiators’ cemetery on the grounds of a ludus.

The complex “is absolutely huge,” said Franz Humer, scientific director of Carnuntum Archaeological Park, where the gladiator school was discovered—and where much of the ancient city has been reconstructed, a la Colonial Williamsburg.

The discovery, near the River Danube, is “one of the most interesting things I can imagine here in my career,” Humer added.

The newfound school “is important,” added the University of Buffalo’s Stephen Dyson, an expert on the history and archaeology of the Roman Empire.

“It’s the only one of this size and scale to be found anywhere in the Roman provinces,” said Dyson, who wasn’t involved in the discovery.

And though the Carnuntum ludus may not change historians’ fundamental image of gladiators, “it’s an important addition to our evidence.”

The school was probably built at the same time as the adjacent 13,000-person amphitheater, which was erected around A.D. 150, during the reign of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius …

via Huge Gladiator School Found Buried in Austria.

Posted in Archaeology | 1 Comment »

Secret Government Experiments Come to Light

Posted by Anonymous on September 14, 2011

The government may not want you to know that it set off nuclear bombs willy-nilly in the atmosphere or tested LSD on unwitting subjects, but at least the Science Channel does!

In case you believed that elaborate government conspiracies were merely the driving force behind X-Files episodes, the Science Channel is setting the record straight. As a compendium to their latest show, “Dark Matters,” which explores the darker side of science, the Science Channel has published introductions and full transcripts from government hearings on some of the most unbelievable — yet true — conspiracies, including the highly-controversial MKULTRA project.

According to the 1977 transcript of the hearing before Congress, MKULTRA projects on behavioral modification, drug acquisition and testing took place over the better part of a decade, from 1953 through 1964.

Perhaps best known for administering the psychedelic drug LSD to unwitting participants, MKULTRA actually was composed of 149 (known) projects, across 86 universities and institutions, that dabbled in everything from harmless hypnosis to horrific human testing.

No one was spared. The CIA was an equal-opportunity abuser. The report details it as an “extensive testing and experimentation” program that included covert drug tests on unwitting citizens “at all social levels, high and low, native Americans and foreign.”

The gory details will probably forever remain unknown. In 1973, all the MKULTRA files were supposed to have been destroyed. But, in a Hollywood-science-fiction-movie twist of fate, seven boxes of financial files were categorized differently, and so overlooked. Shortly thereafter, they were discovered during a routine Freedom of Information Act request and turned over to the public. A few hardworking senators in various congressional committees and subcommittees set out to compile what they could. If you’ve got the time, the curiosity or the wherewithal to never trust your government ever again, then it’s worth the full 173-page read — or at least a quick scan. …

via Secret Government Experiments Come to Light : Discovery News.


Posted in Mind, Technology, War | 2 Comments »

Woolly mammoth’s secrets points toward new artificial blood for humans

Posted by Anonymous on September 14, 2011

The blood from woolly mammoths—those extinct elephant-like creatures that roamed the Earth in pre-historic times—is helping scientists develop new blood products for modern medical procedures that involve reducing patients’ body temperature. The report appears in ACS’ journal Biochemistry.

Chien Ho and colleagues note that woolly mammoth ancestors initially evolved in warm climates, where African and Asian elephants live now, but migrated to the cold regions of Eurasia 1.2 million – 2.0 million years ago in the Pleistocene ice age. They adapted to their new environment by growing thick, “woolly” fur and smaller ears, which helped conserve heat, and possibly by changing their DNA. In previous research, Ho and colleagues discovered that a blood protein (hemoglobin) that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body in the woolly mammoth has mutations in its DNA that make it different from that of its cousin, the Asian elephant. The scientists turned to the mutations that helped woolly mammoths survive freezing temperatures, and carefully analyzed hemoglobin from the ancient animal.

They didn’t have a woolly mammoth blood sample, so they made the hemoglobin protein in the laboratory by using fragmented DNA sequences from three mammoths that died in Siberia between 25,000 and 43,000 years ago. Compared to hemoglobin from Asian elephants and humans, the woolly mammoth protein was much less sensitive to temperature changes, which means it can still easily unload oxygen to tissues that need it in the cold, whereas the other hemoglobins can’t. This is likely due to at least two of the mutations in the woolly mammoth hemoglobin gene. These insights could lead to the design of new artificial blood products for use in hypothermia induced during heart and brain surgeries.

via Woolly mammoth’s secrets for shrugging off cold points toward new artificial blood for humans.

Posted in Archaeology, Biology | Leave a Comment »

Tourists stranded after booking hotel on wrong side of the world

Posted by Anonymous on September 14, 2011

Tourists stranded after booking hotel on wrong side of the world Michael and Sunette Adendorff thought something was wrong with their hire car’s GPS as they drove around in circles in the Wellington suburb, looking for the £90-a-night Majestic Hotel on Royal Parade.

When they pulled into the local chemist’s shop to ask directions, they were shocked to discover that Eastbourne (population 4,600), New Zealand, does not even have a hotel.

Shop assistant Linda Burke said: “They just walked in and asked me where Royal Parade was, with the Majestic Hotel.

“I said: Oh no, there’s no hotel here.

“I looked at it and said: That’s in the UK, that’s in England.

“He checked on the internet and said he did think it was funny they charged him in pounds.”

… “I booked into the right hotel, just in the wrong country,” Mr Adendorff told the Dominion Post newspaper. …

via Tourists stranded after booking hotel on wrong side of the world – Telegraph.

The world is shrinking. I recall years ago that it became important for your band to have a name that was unique in the world, or at least that you were the first to claim the “.com” name on the Internet.

Posted in Strange | Leave a Comment »

Jelly batteries: Safer, cheaper, smaller, more powerful

Posted by Anonymous on September 14, 2011

Lithium jelly battery (Credit: I.Ward/U of Leeds)A new polymer jelly could be the next big step forward for lithium batteries.

The jelly replaces the volatile and hazardous liquid electrolyte currently used in most lithium batteries.

Researchers from the University of Leeds hope their development leads to smaller, cheaper and safer gadgets.

Once on the market, the lithium jelly batteries could allow lighter laptop computers, and more efficient electric cars. …

The newly developed jelly batteries should prevent “thermal runaway”, during which batteries can reach hundreds of degrees and catch fire.

The Leeds-based researchers are promising that their jelly batteries are as safe as polymer batteries, perform like liquid-filled batteries, but are 10 to 20% the price of either.

The secret to their success lies in blending a rubber-like polymer with a conductive, liquid electrolyte into a thin, flexible film of gel that sits between the battery electrodes.

“The polymer gel looks like a solid film, but it actually contains about 70% liquid electrolyte,” explained the study’s lead author, Professor Ian Ward from the University of Leeds.

“The remarkable thing is that we can make the separation between the solid and liquid phase at the point that it hits the electrodes. …

via BBC News – Jelly batteries: Safer, cheaper, smaller, more powerful.

Posted in Technology | 1 Comment »

Nasa unveils Space Launch System vision

Posted by Anonymous on September 14, 2011

nasa, new rocket, nasa rocket, space launch system

The design for a huge rocket to take humans to asteroids and Mars has been unveiled by the US space agency Nasa.

The Space Launch System (SLS), as it is currently known, will be the most powerful launcher ever built – more powerful even than the Saturn V rockets that put men on the Moon.

On top of the SLS, Nasa plans to put its Orion astronaut capsule, which is already in development.

The agency says the first launch should occur towards the end of 2017.

This will be an uncrewed test flight, and it is estimated the project will have cost $18bn (£11.4bn) by that stage.

“The next chapter of America’s space exploration story is being written today,” said Nasa’s top official, General Charles Bolden.

“President Obama has challenged us to be bold and dream big, and that’s exactly what we do.

“While I was proud to fly in the space shuttle, tomorrow’s explorers will dream of one day walking on Mars.” …

via BBC News – Nasa unveils Space Launch System vision.

Posted in Space | Leave a Comment »

Hitchhiking snails fly from ocean to ocean

Posted by Anonymous on September 14, 2011

Perhaps horn snails stick to the legs or feathers of passing shorebirds.

Beth King – Smithsonian scientists and colleagues report that snails successfully crossed Central America, long considered an impenetrable barrier to marine organisms, twice in the past million years—both times probably by flying across Mexico, stuck to the legs or riding on the bellies of shorebirds and introducing new genes that contribute to the marine biodiversity on each coast.

“Just as people use airplanes to fly overseas, marine snails may use birds to fly over land,” said Mark Torchin, staff scientist at the Smithsonian. “It just happens much less frequently. There’s also a big difference between one or two individuals ending up in a new place, and a really successful invasion, in which several animals survive, reproduce and establish new populations.”

The discovery of the hitchhiking snails, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society: B, has broad implications. “Not only snails, but many intertidal organisms may be able to ‘fly’ with birds,” said first author of the study, Osamu Miura, assistant professor at Japan’s Kochi University and former postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama.

Chance events that occur only once in a great while may be extremely important in the history of life. In 1940, George Gaylord Simpson, who studied natural history as recorded in fossils, coined the term “sweepstakes dispersal” to describe the unlikely events in which animals cross over a barrier resulting in major consequences for the diversity of life on Earth. Simpson was thinking about land-based animals that might “get lucky” and cross between continents or islands by floating on rafts of debris. Sometimes such events result in devastating biological invasions—introducing new diseases, wiping out resident species or causing economic damage to food crops. …

via Hitchhiking snails fly from ocean to ocean.

Posted in Biology | Leave a Comment »


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