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The Medicine Edge

Controlling Your Computer with Your Eyes

July 14th 2012

Hand on Mouse

Millions of people suffering from Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injuries or amputees could soon interact with their computers and surroundings using just their eyes, thanks to a new device that costs less than £40.

Composed from off-the-shelf materials, the new device can work out exactly where a person is looking by tracking their eye movements, allowing them to control a cursor on a screen just like a normal computer mouse.

The technology comprises an eye-tracking device and "smart" software that have been presented in IOP Publishing's Journal of Neural Engineering. Researchers from Imperial College London demonstrated its functionality by getting a group of people to play the classic computer game Pong without any kind of handset. In addition users were able to browse the web and write emails "hands-off".

The GT3D device is made up of two fast video game console cameras, costing less than £20 each, that are attached, outside of the line of vision, to a pair of glasses that cost just £3. The cameras constantly take pictures of the eye, working out where the pupil is pointing, and from this the researchers can use a set of calibrations to work out exactly where a person is looking on the screen.

Even more impressively, the researchers are also able to use more detailed calibrations to work out the 3D gaze of the subjects – in other words, how far into the distance they were looking. It is believed that this could allow people to control an electronic wheelchair simply by looking where they want to go or control a robotic prosthetic arm. Read more ..


Ethiopia on Edge

Ethiopia Jails Journalists, Activists for 'Terrorism'

July 14th 2012

Meskal Square, Addis Ababa

At least 20 Ethiopians, including journalists and opposition figures, have been sentenced to prison on terrorism charges, after a trial denounced by human rights groups. In sentences handed down Friday, prominent journalist and blogger Eskinder Nega was jailed for 18  years, while Andualem Arage, a member of the Unity for Democracy and Justice party, was given life in prison. Many of the others were sentenced in absentia, but both Eskinder and Andualem are in Ethiopian custody.

Last month, Ethiopia's high court convicted a total of 24 people under the country's broad anti-terrorism law, which rights groups say is being used to jail critics of the government. Ethiopian officials deny that accusation. Human Rights Watch says a total of 34 people have been convicted under the law, including 11 journalists and four opposition supporters.


The Ancient Edge

The Secret Life of Plants in an Ancient Royal Judean Garden

July 14th 2012

Judean garden

Ramat Rachel is an ongoing archeological dig on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem. A 2,500-year-old garden at the site, probably built by local Judeans, holds many secrets about the past waiting to be uncovered. An elaborate network of irrigation channels made it clear that this was a garden, but what was planted in it has been a big mystery.

New research by Tel Aviv University into ancient pollen found embedded in plaster suggests something very exciting for Jewish and natural historians of the region.

Among the imported species of trees and plants determined by pollen analysis to have grown in the garden is the citron tree. According to the researchers, this pollen is evidence for the first cultivation of the citron tree, which is not native to Israel. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

Facebook Avoiding Details on Children Joining Social Site

July 13th 2012

Facebook page

Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Joe Barton (R-Texas) on Friday said Facebook did not respond to their questions in a recent letter about how the company would manage its social networking website if children were allowed to join.

The two lawmakers fired off a letter to Facebook last month after it was reported that the social networking site was considering plans to allow children to register to use it. The letter included a series of questions about how Facebook intends to protect young users’ information.

While Facebook described how it complied with existing online child privacy legislation in its response, the two privacy hawks said it skirted questions about what type of information it would collect from young users and whether it would serve up advertisements targeted toward them.

In a letter sent to the two lawmakers last month, Facebook said the company hasn’t made a final decision about whether it would permit children under 13 to join the site but would discuss its plans with the lawmakers if that changed. Read more ..


The Medical Edge

Winemaking Goes High-Tech at The University of British Columbia

July 12th 2012

Israeli Wines

For centuries, people made wine by stomping grapes with their bare feet. But now, the art of winemaking is going high-tech at The University of British Columbia's Wine Research Centre.

Have you ever gotten a headache or a rash from a single glass of wine? Has one glass of Merlot or Shiraz resulted in a painful hangover? If yes, you may be one of the 30 percent of people who are allergic to compounds that are in some of the world's most popular wines.

A team of researchers at UBC's Wine Research Centre which has received funding from the Government of Canada through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) is working to resolve the allergic reaction some people have to wine. The research team has created a strain of yeast that prevents allergic reactions, producing a wine that is hypoallergenic and can be enjoyed by everyone. The yeast developed at the Wine Research Centre is now being used by some of the most recognizable vintages produced in Canada and the United States. Read more ..


Society on Edge

Stray-Bullet Shootings Frequently Harm Women and Children

July 12th 2012

Cocaine guns and dollars

Most people killed or wounded in stray-bullet shootings were unaware of events leading to the gunfire that caused their injuries, and nearly one-third of the victims were children and nearly half were female, according to a new nationwide study examining an often-overlooked form of gun violence.

Victims of stray-bullet shootings are often unaware of the events leading to the gunfire that caused their injuries
The study by Garen Wintemute, professor of emergency medicine and director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center, examines mortality rates and other epidemiological aspects of stray-bullet shootings over a one-year period.

"Stray-bullet shootings alter the nature of life in many American neighborhoods, creating fear and anxiety and prompting parents to keep children indoors and take other precautions," Wintemute said. Read more ..


Society on Edge

Media Violence and Kids Could Have Applications on School Bullying

July 12th 2012

Bullying

The April suicide of 14-year-old Kenneth Weishuhn Jr. -- a South O'Brien High School (Paulina, Iowa) student who was reportedly teased and bullied by classmates -- had Iowa lawmakers questioning the effectiveness of the state's five-year-old anti-bullying law. School officials can't always identify the bullies until it's too late.

But a new study led by Douglas Gentile, an Iowa State University associate professor of psychology, may provide schools with a new tool to help them profile students who are more likely to commit aggressive acts against other students. The study identifies media violence exposure as one of six risk factors for predicting later aggression in 430 children (ages 7-11, grades 3-5) from five Minnesota schools. In addition to media violence exposure, the remaining risk factors are bias toward hostility, low parental involvement, gender, physical victimization and prior physical fights. Read more ..


Edge of Healthcare

Emotion Detectives: New Ways to Fight Youth Anxiety and Depression

July 11th 2012

Child alone and sad

Emotional problems in childhood are common. Approximately 8 to 22 percent of children suffer from anxiety, often combined with other conditions such as depression. However, most existing therapies are not designed to treat co-existing psychological problems and are therefore not very successful in helping children with complex emotional issues.

To develop a more effective treatment for co-occurring youth anxiety and depression, University of Miami (UM) psychologist Jill Ehrenreich-May and her collaborator Emily L. Bilek analyzed the efficacy and feasibility of a novel intervention created by the researchers, called Emotion Detectives Treatment Protocol (EDTP). Preliminary findings show a significant reduction in the severity of anxiety and depression after treatment, as reported by the children and their parents. Read more ..


The Edge of Healthcare

Air in Expectant Moms' Homes Contains Pesticides

July 10th 2012

Pregnant

Air samples from homes of Hispanic mothers-to-be along the Texas-Mexico border contained multiple pesticides in a majority of the houses, according to a study conducted by the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

All the women were in the third trimester of pregnancy, when the fetal brain undergoes a growth spurt. Several studies have reported that pesticide exposure may adversely affect mental and motor development during infancy and childhood. The new report is in the summer issue of the Texas Public Health Journal sent to members this week.

Two-thirds of the families surveyed said they used pest control methods to kill cockroaches, rodents and other pests. Pregnant women and infants often spend 90 percent of their day indoors. "There is a lack of education in our communities regarding the health hazards of these toxic pest control methods," said lead author Beatriz Tapia, M.D., M.P.H., lecturer at the UT Health Science Center — Regional Academic Health Center campus in Harlingen, located 10 miles from the border. "We should concentrate on trying to educate families about low-cost methods that prevent infestations and use the least toxic pest control methods first."

Integrated pest management (IPM) is a low-cost strategy to replace the use of residential pesticides, Dr. Tapia said. IPM focuses on installing screens and caulking doors and windows to keep out pests, putting away food and placing boric acid, a low-impact alternative, in walls.

"Once we educate our women of childbearing age about how they can safely and in a healthy manner diminish pests in their homes, they will feel empowered that they can make a difference in their family's life," Dr. Tapia said. She is a faculty associate in the university's Department of Family and Community Medicine and serves as environmental medicine training coordinator for the South Texas Environmental Education and Research Center (STEER). She co-coordinates a 30-day Harlingen student elective in environmental and occupational medicine. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

My Hearing is Fine, Speak Up!

July 9th 2012

Man cupping his ear

More than half of factory workers who thought they had excellent or good hearing actually suffered hearing loss and didn't even recognize the problem, a new study shows.

The University of Michigan School of Nursing study found significant differences between measured and perceived hearing loss, and suggests health care providers need better methods of testing and protecting hearing among factory workers.

"This finding shows that even workers who are served by a workplace hearing conservation program and receive annual hearing testing may be unaware of their actual hearing ability," said Marjorie McCullagh, assistant professor in the U-M School of nursing and principal investigator. "Consequently, health care providers would be wise to examine methods to help workers develop more accurate perceptions of their hearing, and test more effective methods to protect it."

Of 2,691 noise exposed automobile factory workers surveyed for the study, 76 percent reported excellent or good hearing. However, after formal hearing tests, researchers found that that 42 percent of those workers actually suffered hearing loss. This indicates that self-reported hearing loss is poorly related to the results of audiometry, or formal hearing testing. In other words, many factory workers might have hearing loss and not even realize there's a problem, and the U-M findings are consistent with other studies demonstrating a discrepancy between measured and perceived hearing loss. Read more ..


The Digital Edge

New Facebook App to Detect Pedophiles and Criminals

July 8th 2012

Facebook page

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) undergraduate students have developed a new privacy solution for Facebook. The Social Privacy Protector (SPP) can help parents adjust their children's profiles in one click, prevent criminals from garnering valuable personal information and keep teens safe from pedophiles.

The SPP "app" has multiple levels of protection, but the most important component reviews a user's friends list in seconds to identify which have few or no mutual links and might be "fake" profiles. The app analyzes each friend and scores the "connectedness" to every friend. It flags the lowest scores as suspicious and asks whether the friend should be restricted from personal user information, but doesn't defriend them.

"An important feature of our app is the ability for parents to better protect their kids' privacy with just one click instead of having to navigate the more complicated Facebook privacy settings," Michael Fire, a Ph.D. candidate in BGU's Department of Information Systems Engineering explains. Read more ..


The Health Edge

Patients Trust Doctors but Consult Internet

July 6th 2012

exam

Patients look up their illnesses online to become better informed and prepared to play an active role in their care — not because they mistrust their doctors, a new University of California, Davis, study suggests. The study surveyed more than 500 people who were members of online support groups and had scheduled appointments with a physician.

“We found that mistrust was not a significant predictor of people going online for health information prior to their visit,” said Xinyi Hu, who co-authored the study as part of her master's thesis in communication. “This was somewhat surprising and suggests that doctors need not be defensive when their patients come to their appointments armed with information taken from the Internet.”   

With faculty co-authors at UC Davis and the University of Southern California, Hu examined how the study subjects made use of support groups, other Internet resources, and offline sources of information, including traditional media and social relations, before their medical appointments. Read more ..


The Climate Edge

UK's Potential Food Crisis

July 5th 2012

supermarket produce

The Sustainable Consumption Institute research claims food which families now take for granted, such as meat and fresh vegetables, could become too expensive for many if global temperatures rise in line with the current trends and reach 4°C within the lifetime of many people.

Even if families continue to take steps to lower their carbon emissions from energy use, global farming emissions will continue to rise because of our growing appetite for energy-intensive foods and a rising demand to meet just basic living standards across the world.

Only by reducing consumption of energy, food, goods and services can we have a good chance of minimising the harmful effects of global warming, the report warns.

Should the temperature rise above 2°C, consumers could find their shopping habits are radically altered. Most meats would soar in price, meaning families could have to adapt to a meat-free diets, the possibility of failing crops and staple food sources such as rice and wheat potentially being be devastated. Read more ..


The Medical Edge

Zebrafish Reveal Promising Mechanism for Healing Spinal Cord Injury

July 4th 2012

Zebra Fish

Yona Goldshmit, Ph.D., is a former physical therapist who worked in rehabilitation centers with spinal cord injury patients for many years before deciding to switch her focus to the underlying science.

"After a few years in the clinic, I realized that we don't really know what's going on," she said. Now a scientist working with Peter Currie, Ph.D., at Monash University in Australia, Dr. Goldshmit is studying the mechanisms of spinal cord repair in zebrafish, which, unlike humans and other mammals, can regenerate their spinal cord following injury. On June 23 at the 2012 International Zebrafish Development and Genetics Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, she described a protein that may be a key difference between regeneration in fish and mammals.

One of the major barriers to spinal regeneration in mammals is a natural protective mechanism, which incongruously results in an unfortunate side effect. After a spinal injury, nervous system cells called glia are activated and flood the area to seal the wound to protect the brain and spinal cord. In doing so, however, the glia create scar tissue that acts as a physical and chemical barrier, which prevents new nerves from growing through the injury site. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Hotspots of Human-Animal Infectious Diseases and Disease Outbreaks

July 3rd 2012

Nigerian farmers

A new global study mapping human-animal diseases like tuberculosis (TB) and Rift Valley fever finds that an "unlucky" 13 zoonoses are responsible for 2.4 billion cases of human illness and 2.2 million deaths per year. The vast majority occur in low- and middle-income countries.

The report, which was conducted by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the Institute of Zoology (UK) and the Hanoi School of Public Health in Vietnam, maps poverty, livestock-keeping and the diseases humans get from animals, and presents a "top 20" list of geographical hotspots.

"From cyst-causing tapeworms to avian flu, zoonoses present a major threat to human and animal health," said Delia Grace, a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert with ILRI in Kenya and lead author of the study. "Targeting the diseases in the hardest hit countries is crucial to protecting global health as well as to reducing severe levels of poverty and illness among the world's one billion poor livestock keepers." "Exploding global demand for livestock products is likely to fuel the spread of a wide range of human-animal infectious diseases," Grace added. Read more ..


The Mineral Edge

Less than 15% of Silver and Gold in e-Waste is Recovered Worldwide

July 2nd 2012

China and toxic recycling

'Urban mining' deposits are 40 to 50 times richer than mined ore, experts tell 1st GeSI and StEP e-Waste Academy in Africa; New PCs, cell phones, tablets, other e-products now use 320 tons of gold, 7,500 tons of silver per year, and rising

A staggering 320 tons of gold and more than 7,500 tons of silver are now used annually to make PCs, cell phones, tablet computers and other new electronic and electrical products worldwide, adding more than $21 billion in value each year to the rich fortunes in metals eventually available through "urban mining" of e-waste, experts say.

Manufacturing these high-tech products requires more than $16 billion in gold and $5 billion in silver: a total of $21 billion -- equal to the GDP of El Salvador -- locked away annually in e-products. Most of those valuable metals will be squandered, however; just 15% or less is recovered from e-waste today in developed and developing countries alike. Read more ..


The Ancient Edge

Earliest Hunting Bow found in Europe

July 1st 2012

Neolithic bow

Archaeological research carried out at the Neolithic site of La Draga, near Lake Banyoles in Catalonia, has yielded the discovery of an item which is unique in the western Mediterranean and Europe. The item is a bow which appeared in a context dating from the period between 5400-5200 BCE, corresponding to the earliest period of human settlement. It is a unique item given that it is the first bow to be found intact at the site.

Because of its date, it can be considered chronologically the most ancient bow of the Neolithic period found in Europe. The study will permit the analysis of aspects of the technology, survival strategies and social organisation of the first farming communities which settled in the Iberian Peninsula. The bow is 108 cm long and presents a plano-convex section. Worth mentioning is the fact that it is made out of yew wood (Taxus baccata) as were the majority of Neolithic bows in Europe. Read more ..


Society on Edge

'Ambient' Bullying Gives Employees Urge to Quit

June 29th 2012

Bullying

Merely showing up to work in an environment where bullying goes on is enough to make many of us think about quitting, a new study suggests. Canadian researchers have found that nurses not bullied directly, but who worked in an environment where workplace bullying occurred, felt a stronger urge to quit than those actually being bullied. These findings on 'ambient' bullying have significant implications for organizations, as well as contributing a new statistical approach to the field.

To understand whether bullying in the work unit environment can have a negative impact on a worker's desire to remain in their organization, independent of their personal or direct experiences of workplace bullying, organizational behaviour and human resources experts from the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada surveyed 357 nurses in 41 hospital units.

Their analysis of the survey results showed that targets of bullying were more likely to be thinking of leaving. They also showed a statistically significant link between working somewhere where bullying was going on and a wish to leave. Read more ..


The Medical Edge

Unemployed Americans Face Greater Risk of Mortality

June 28th 2012

Unemployed Claimants

Employment policy is also health policy according to a University of British Columbia study that found that workers experienced higher mortality rates if they didn't have access to social protections like employment insurance and unemployment benefits.

Researchers with the Human Early Learning Partnership and the School of Population and Public Health at UBC found that low and medium-skilled workers in the United States are at a greater risk of death if they lose their job than their German counterparts, who have access to more robust employment protections and insurance.

"Employment insurance makes a difference to the health of the most vulnerable populations, low-wage and poorly educated workers," said Chris McLeod, the lead researcher on the paper and a post-doctoral fellow with the Human Early Learning Partnership. "For low-wage and poorly educated workers, it's not just about losing your job but losing your job and being at the bottom of the labour market." Read more ..


Eege of Anthropology

Ancient Hominids were Free-Range Locovores

June 28th 2012

Artist's Reconstruction of Fossil

You are what you eat, and that seems to have been true even 2 million years ago, when a group of pre-human relatives was swinging through the trees and racing across the savannas of South Africa.

A study published in the journal Nature reveals that Australopithecus sediba, an ape-like creature with human features living in a region about 50 miles northwest of today's Johannesburg, exclusively consumed fruits, leaves and other forest-based foods, even though its habitat was near grassy savanna with its rich variety of savory sedges, tasty tubers and even juicy animals. "This astonished us," explains Benjamin Passey, a Johns Hopkins University geochemist on the international team that conducted the study. "Most hominin species appear to have been pretty good at eating what was around them and available, but sediba seems to have been unusual in that, like present-day chimpanzees, it ignored available savanna foods." Watch a video about the discovery here.

These new findings add detail to the emerging picture of our various pre-human relatives, and why some thrived and continued to evolve, while others became extinct.

"We know that if you are a hominin, in order to get to the rest of the world, at some point you must leave the forests, and our ancestors apparently did so," said Passey. "The fates of those that did not leave are well-known: They are extinct or, like the chimpanzee and gorilla today, are in enormous peril. So the closing chapter in the story of hominin evolution is the story of these 'dids' and 'did nots.'" Read more ..


Gays on Edge

Parenthood Affects Gay Couples' Health and HIV Risk, Study Says

June 27th 2012

Holding Hands

Gay parents face many of the same challenges as straight parents when it comes to sex and intimacy after having children, according to a new study of gay fathers. The findings suggest that gay male couples who are raising children may experience lifestyle changes that could reduce their HIV risk.

"When gay couples become parents, they become very focused on the kids, they are tired, there is less time for communication and less desire for sex," said Colleen Hoff, professor of sexuality studies at San Francisco State University. "They go through a lot of the same changes as heterosexual couples who have kids."

Nationwide, approximately one in five gay male couples is raising children. Hoff and colleagues studied whether becoming a parent causes gay dads to change their lifestyle in ways that protect them from risky sexual behavior, or if the stress of parenting leads to increased health risks such as infidelity and unprotected sex with outside partners. The researchers interviewed 48 gay male couples who are raising children together. Read more ..


The Health Edge

After Child Dies, Mom's Risk of Early Death Skyrockets

June 27th 2012

victim

In the first two years following the death of a child, there is a 133% increase in the risk of the mother dying, a new study from the University of Notre Dame shows.

Researchers William Evans, a health and labor economist at Notre Dame, and Javier Espinosa of the Rochester Institute of Technology, studied 69,224 mothers aged 20 to 50 for nine years, tracking the mortality of children even after they had left the household. It is the first study of its kind using a large, nationally representative U.S. data source.

According to the study, this heightened mortality is concentrated within the first two years following the death of a child, regardless of the age of the child at the time of death. There also appeared to be no difference in results based on household income, mother's education, family size, the child's sex or the child's cause of death.

The sample was composed of women who are married (84 percent), white (87 percent) and non-Hispanic (91 percent). Slightly more than half the mothers were between the ages of 20 and 34. Read more ..


The Economic Edge

Denser Development is Good for Single-Family Home Values

June 26th 2012

Flint Michigan

How do denser neighborhoods affect property values? And what's the economic value of walkable neighborhoods?

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington College of Built Environments and a South Korean university shows that, contrary to popular belief, there's a positive association between higher neighborhood density and the value of single-family residential properties.

Researchers modeled the values of single-family homes, multifamily rental buildings, commercial spaces and offices in King County, Wash., which includes Seattle. They used property values as a measure of economic value, analyzing them in relation to neighborhood characteristics that correlate with walking, including access to open space and public transportation, mixed-use zoning and pedestrian infrastructure such as sidewalks. They learned that pedestrian aids, such as sidewalks and shorter street blocks, as well as a mix of retail, commercial and residential properties significantly contributed to increases in multifamily rental property values. Read more ..


Greece on Edge

Soup Kitchens now Daily Fare for Impoverished Greece

June 25th 2012

Homeless in Athens

As Greece approaches five years of recession, the number of its citizens unable to provide food for themselves is increasing. Soup kitchens in Athens used to be the preserve of undocumented immigrants and the homeless, but now more people from the general population use them too.

It's just before lunchtime. Bowls of hot pasta are being made up for more than a hundred children. But this is not a school. It's a facility run by the municipality of Athens to feed those who can no longer afford to feed themselves. More and more Athenians are coming here - especially pensioners, and families with children.

It's run by George Apostolopolos and a team of volunteers. And though money from the city government has been sufficient so far, he's not sure how long that will continue.

"We are afraid about the future because we don't know about the next day - that is the biggest problem we have, it is a little unknown the future, we try to do the best," Apostolopolos said.

Earlier, before the television cameras showed up, the courtyard was full of adults of all ages lining up for food. But filming the event was not allowed. Many people don't want their families to know they are here. Read more ..


The Ancient Edge

Google Project Aims To Preserve Dying Languages

June 24th 2012

Lost Language

Type the term "endangered languages" into Google and click on a few of the links. It won't take long to come upon some cold, hard facts: There are between 6,000 and 7,000 languages in use around the world today, but half of them could be gone by the year 2100 -- victims of globalization and the dominance of languages like English, Chinese, and Spanish.

You'll also find stories of the linguists who are struggling to respond. They face an uphill battle to document and preserve these dying languages -- and the unique cultures they encode -- before silence sets in. That Google search, however, will also likely lead you to the Endangered Languages Project, an initiative launched on June 21 by the U.S.-based Internet giant itself. It's an effort that linguists say shines a much-needed spotlight on a subject that gets little attention from the wider world. Read more ..


The Edge of Food

Global Foods Vie for US Market

June 24th 2012

supermarket produce

Many international food vendors are trying to make an impact in the U.S. market. The National Association for Specialty Foods says the fastest emerging cuisine is Latin, followed by Indian and Eastern European. The recent Summer Fancy Food Show in Washington is the largest of its kind in North America.

Mame Diene remembers the ancient baobab tree in the courtyard of her family home. As a child, she was not allowed to climb it or cut its branches.  Now, she honors these trees of Senegal by selling their powder as a natural dietary supplement.  "It’s wonderful for the heart. You have twice as more anti-oxidants in this fruit than goji berries, six times more than in blueberries,” she said.

It is one of 180,000 items at the Fancy Food Show where food producers sell their trendiest goods to specialty shops and markets.  Countries here sponsor a complete row of booths.  The Korean Pavilion, featured spice noodles and beef. The Indonesian Pavilion -- healthy dried noodles and coconut products. And, the Chilean Pavilion with its own food truck.  Trade commissioner Alejandro Buvinic says Chile has plenty to offer the American market. Read more ..


Australia on Edge

Immigrants Change Australia's Cultural Identity

June 23rd 2012

Australia Mines

A census is revealing how immigration from Asia and the boom in mining are reshaping modern Australia.  The census data indicates the country is becoming increasingly multicultural. According to census data compiled last year by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, nearly 22 million people now reside in Australia.  But behind the population statistics lies a portrait of a growing multicultural society influenced by a rise in immigration and the development of new economic centers.

The census shows how Australia’s mining bonanza is reshaping the way the nation lives. More people are moving to the boom states of Western Australia and Queensland in search of work in the resources industry, which is powered by exports of iron ore and coal, mostly to Asia.

The sector has helped Australians become richer, own more cars and live in larger homes during a period of global financial crises. The data also highlights Asia's growing influence. More migrants are coming from India and China, which is Australia's biggest trading partner.  The census reflects the shift in those economic and social ties. After English, Mandarin Chinese has replaced Italian as the most common language spoken in Australian homes. Read more ..


The Archaeological Edge

Ancient Jugs Hold the Secret to Practical Mathematics in Biblical Times

June 22nd 2012

Spherical jugs ancient Mediterranean

Archaeologists in the eastern Mediterranean region have been unearthing spherical jugs, used by the ancients for storing and trading oil, wine, and other valuable commodities. Because we’re used to the metric system, which defines units of volume based on the cube, modern archaeologists believed that the merchants of antiquity could only approximately assess the capacity of these round jugs, says Prof. Itzhak Benenson of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Geography.

Now an interdisciplinary collaboration between Prof. Benenson and Prof. Israel Finkelstein of TAU’s Department of Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern Cultures has revealed that, far from relying on approximations, merchants would have had precise measurements of their wares—and therefore known exactly what to charge their clients.

The researchers discovered that the ancients devised convenient mathematical systems in order to determine the volume of each jug. They theorize that the original owners and users of the jugs measured their contents through a system that linked units of length to units of volume, possibly by using a string to measure the circumference of the spherical container to determine the precise quantity of liquid within. Read more ..


The Edge of Sport

Paralympian Hopes to Lift Gold for Ghana

June 21st 2012

Wheelchair athletes

The Paralympic Games will be staged in London less than three weeks after the 2012 Summer Olympics end.

Charles Teye is a disabled Ghanaian powerlifter who is headed to London in late August to show off his skills and try to win a medal.

Teye has great hopes of winning a medal in the bench press in the 67.5 kilogram weight class.  He says he was just an infant when he lost both his legs because of an infection.

"In the twinkle of an eye they realized that the whole legs had become black and spotted.  And so they quickly rushed me to the hospital.  I was here for three days and then the legs started flowing water.  It looked like when you pour hot oil on you, you know it swells and it starts flowing water.  And so, in like two to three weeks they realized the legs were coming off," Teye recalled. Charles credits a radio broadcast with helping to develop his interest in powerlifting.  He says he heard an announcement about sports opportunities for disabled athletes. Read more ..


The 2012 Vote

'Identity Politics' Play a Role in US Elections

June 21st 2012

us voters

It is human nature to identify with others who look and act like us, and share our values.  The political process in the United States - and nearly everywhere else on Earth - taps into that self-identification as a means of motivating voters.

While many voters would say they cast their ballots on the basis of where the candidates stand on key issues, some of them are swayed by a candidate’s color…or ethnicity…or other factors.  And that's called "Identity Politics."

"When people vote, they like to vote for people [who are] like them. Someone who has the same race, someone who has the same sex, someone who has the same religion, or someone who has the same political views," says Mark Rom of Georgetown University. Rom and other analysts say that before the 2008 South Carolina primary, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton had some support from African American voters.  Then, her husband, former President Bill Clinton, compared then-Senator Barack Obama’s bid to that of another, earlier black candidate. Read more ..


America’s Leading Edge

Independent Pharmacy Thrives with Personal Service

June 20th 2012

Morgan's Pharmacy DC

One hundred years ago, Morgan Pharmacy opened its doors in Washington. Despite economic ups and downs, the small, family-owned pharmacy has thrived. But how is it staying in business today with a larger drugstore just down the street?

Morgan Pharmacy has an old-fashioned feel, with its display of old prescription bottles and the original shelves from when the store opened in 1912. Pharmacist Barry Deutschman bought the store 20 years ago. “During the time period between then, and the time we stopped carrying tobacco, you can see people would rest their cigarettes on counter here,” he said.

The pharmacy is located in a residential neighborhood of Washington and most people hear about it word of mouth. “Once somebody comes in here who’s never been here they love the place,” said Deutschman. “And they want to come back.”

Sandra Sugar has been coming to Morgan’s for years. “This has nostalgia just coming in here,” she said. Toni Stephens feels a special bond. “The people who work here are helpful and more like family,” he stated. Read more ..


The Health Edge

How Food Packaging Affects Food Purchases

June 20th 2012

supermarket produce

Long before deciding on “paper or plastic” at the checkout, shoppers make a plethora of choices at the grocery store, especially in the produce aisle.

Packaging influences the way fruits and vegetables are chosen by consumers, according to a Michigan State University study.

The study found that shoppers prefer to purchase produce that come in a rigid, bio-based plastic container with a long shelf life and a low price. So much so that consumers will opt for sweet cherries in these kinds of containers rather than the loose ones in a bag.

“Consumers believe the type of packaging material could affect the quality of the food product, and the rigid container may provide better protection compared to the flexible bag,” said Georgios Koutsimanis, MSU packaging researcher. “The preference for bio-based versus petroleum-based plastics shows an increased awareness of the environmental aspects of packaging materials.” Read more ..


Islam on Edge

Tajik Mullahs Warn Of New Threat In Temporary Marriages

June 18th 2012

Tajik wedding

Mosque sermons in Tajikistan tend to focus on issues that affect people's everyday lives. These days, the hot-button topic of many sermons in Dushanbe has been temporary marriages -- a phenomenon that was almost unheard of in Tajik society until recently.

Recently, at a gathering following Friday Prayers on June 8, prominent Dushanbe Imam Eshon Abdul-Basir Saidov warned women against entering into temporary marriages, which religious leaders say have become a trend in Dushanbe over the past two or three years.

Echoing concerns voiced by his fellow imams, Saidov says dozens of Tajik women have fallen victim to "Iranian-style temporary marriage," known as mut'a. Fairly widespread, and legally approved in predominantly Shia Iran, mut'a is a fixed-term marriage in Shi'a Islam which automatically dissolves upon the completion of a term agreed upon by both parties prior to the marriage. Read more ..


Society on Edge

Many Poor, Pregnant Women with HIV not Screened for Depression

June 18th 2012

Pregnant and alone

It seems logical that programs to screen and manage depression in pregnant, HIV-positive Medicaid patients should already be in place, but they aren't.

It's the kind of glaring oversight that Rajesh Balkrishnan, associate professor at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy, said he finds all the time in his research on health disparities. Balkrishnan also has an appointment in the School of Public Health.

"We find that many of these things are such common sense that they should already be in place and being done," said Balkrishnan. "Yet, time and again, we find nothing is being done, though these problems exist."

In a recent paper, Balkrishnan and co-authors found that roughly 28 percent of the low-income, HIV-positive pregnant women reported depression. The numbers could be much higher because the study only captured the women who were being treated for depression. Read more ..


The Way We Are

More to Facial Perception Than Meets The Eye

June 17th 2012

Wimbleton crowd

People make complex judgements about a person from looking at their face that are based on a range of factors beyond simply their race and gender, according to findings of new research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The findings question a long-held belief that people immediately put a person they meet into a limited number of social categories such as: female or male; Asian, Black, Latino or White; and young or old.

Dr Kimberly Quinn at the University of Birmingham found that people 'see' faces in a multiple of ways. This could have wider importance in understanding stereotyping and discrimination because it has implications on whether and how people categorise others.

Categorisation is not done purely on the physical features of the face in front of us, but depends on other information as well, including whether the person is already known and whether the person is believed to share other important identities with us. Read more ..


Russia on Edge

Protests Or Concerts? On Russia Day, Muscovites Get To Choose

June 16th 2012

Russian Protest

With the opposition and the Kremlin vying for their attention, Muscovites were spoilt for choices this year over how to celebrate June 12, Russia's national holiday. 

Opposition forces on June 12 held a march in downtown Moscow, the first mass protest since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin last month for a third presidential term.

Tens of thousands joined the march despite rainy skies and fears of a police crackdown. The rally came one day after the homes of key opposition figures were raided and just over a month after riot police violently disbanded a similar protest in the Russian capital. While the march has proceeded peacefully so far, authorities appeared intent on disrupting it. They summoned opposition leaders for interrogation, forcing them to miss much of the rally, and organized an unprecedented host of events that critics say were designed to draw people away from the protest. Read more ..


After Fukushima

Despite Risks, US Woman Teaches Near Japan Nuclear Meltdown

June 15th 2012

teacher

Few people would voluntarily move to a place where residents routinely scan their groceries with a Geiger counter and automated radiation monitors stand guard outside parks and schools. That place is Minamisoma, Japan, a city 25 kilometers away from the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear reactors which melted down last year.

But for Kate O'Berg, 23-year-old art instructor from Pendleton, Oregon, working in this shaken city has been the realization of a dream. The young American is helping people in her hometown's sister city to rebuild their lives. In one district of Minamisoma, which was just recently removed from the nuclear no-go zone, signs of the earthquake and tsunami are still very apparent.​​​ Horses were the original connection that drew Minamisoma and Pendleton together as sister cities: samurai horsemanship in the coastal Japanese town and a famous rodeo - the Pendleton Round-Up - in northeast Oregon. Read more ..


The Edge of Fashion

African Fashion Finds a Home in Dakar

June 15th 2012

fashion show

Dakar Fashion Week celebrates its 10th year with the biggest lineup yet. The organizers of the international event aim to reach the heights of fashion weeks in Paris and New York, while remaining distinctly African.

High fashion is nothing new in Africa. And Senegalese designer Adama Ndiaye says it has its own special quality.

"We do one piece, one by one. We're not sending it to the factory because we don't have a big factory," Ndiaye said. "It's something we've been doing forever." But the industry, like many on the continent, is developing.

To help it along, Ndiaye started Dakar Fashion Week.  Ten years on, the event is drawing the attention of industry notables from all over Africa and the world. Originally from Cameroon, Marcial Tapolo came from Paris to participate for the second time. "It's like a high-class show that she's trying to do. Very sophisticated, which is rare in Africa, as a fashion show," he said. Despite the international presence, most of the talent is local, in a deliberate effort to showcase Senegalese designers and models. Arame Sarr has been to fashion weeks in New York and Paris, but she says Dakar is special. Read more ..


The Edge of Health

Obesity, Depression Found to be Root Causes of Daytime Sleepiness

June 14th 2012

Click to select Image

Wake up, America, and lose some weight–it's keeping you tired and prone to accidents. Three studies being presented today at sleep 2012 conclude that obesity and depression are the two main culprits making us excessively sleepy while awake.

Researchers at Penn State examined a random population sample of 1,741 adults and determined that obesity and emotional stress are the main causes of the current "epidemic" of sleepiness and fatigue plaguing the country. Insufficient sleep and obstructive sleep apnea also play a role; both have been linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, depression, diabetes, obesity and accidents.

"The 'epidemic' of sleepiness parallels an 'epidemic' of obesity and psychosocial stress," said Alexandros Vgontzas, MD, the principal investigator for the three studies. "Weight loss, depression and sleep disorders should be our priorities in terms of preventing the medical complications and public safety hazards associated with this excessive sleepiness." Read more ..


The Edge of Learning

Early Learning About Spatial Relationships Boosts Understanding of Numbers

June 13th 2012

boy and math

Children who are skilled in understanding how shapes fit together to make recognizable objects also have an advantage when it comes to learning the number line and solving math problems, research at the University of Chicago shows.

The work is further evidence of the value of providing young children with early opportunities in spatial learning, which contributes to their ability to mentally manipulate objects and understand spatial relationships, which are important in a wide range of tasks, including reading maps and graphs and understanding diagrams showing how to put things together. Those skills also have been shown to be important in Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields.

Scholars at UChicago have shown, for instance, that working with puzzles and learning to identify shapes are connected to improved spatial understanding and better achievement, particularly in geometry. A new paper, however, is the first to connect robust spatial learning with better comprehension of other aspects of mathematics, such as arithmetic.

"We found that children's spatial skills at the beginning of first and second grades predicted improvements in linear number line knowledge over the course of the school year," said Elizabeth Gunderson, a UChicago postdoctoral scholar.

In addition to finding the importance of spatial learning to improving understanding of the number line, the team also showed that better understanding of the number line boosted mathematics performance on a calculation task.

"These results suggest that improving children's spatial thinking at a young age may not only help foster skills specific to spatial reasoning but also improve symbolic numerical representations," said co-author Susan Levine, a leading authority on spatial and mathematical learning. "This is important since spatial learning is malleable and can be positively influenced by early spatial experiences," added Levine, the Stella M. Rowley Professor in Psychology at UChicago. Read more ..



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