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Biotech

'Longest Living Human' Says He Is Ready For Death At 145 (telegraph.co.uk) 42

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes an article from The Telegraph: An Indonesian man who claims to be the longest living human in recorded history has described how he "just wants to die". Mbah Gotho, from Sragen in central Java, was born on December 31, 1870, according to the date of birth on his identity card. Now officials at the local record office say they have finally been able to confirm that remarkable date as genuine. If independently confirmed, the findings would make Mr Gotho a staggering 145 years old -- and the longest lived human in recorded history.
"One of Mr Gotho's grandsons said his grandfather has been preparing for his death ever since he was 122," according to the article. Though he lived long enough to meet his great-great grandchildren, he's already outlived four wives, all 10 of his brothers and sisters, and all of his children.
China

China To Crackdown On Unauthorised Radio Broadcasts (www.bgr.in) 44

An anonymous reader writes: Reportedly, in a national campaign aided by more than 30,000 airwave monitors, in over past six months, more than 500 sets of equipment for making unauthorised radio broadcasts were seized in China. The campaign, launched on February 15 by the State Council, resulted in 1,796 cases related to illegal radio stations, after 301,840 hours of monitoring from February to July, according to an online statement by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. The number of incidents was down by 50 per cent from April to August, the China Daily quoted the statement as saying. So-called pirate radios have appeared in most parts of China since 2015 and this "has been a channel for criminals to defraud and promote aphrodisiacs, along with counterfeit and poor-quality medicine," according to the Ministry of Public Security's Criminal Investigation Department. The operating cost of a pirate radio is low, but profit can be high. A pirate radio station that broadcasts advertisements for aphrodisiacs can pocket more than 70,000 yuan ($10,500) a month, with an overhead cost of no more than 10,000 yuan, investigators said in a post on Sina Weibo. It said most spare parts for broadcasting equipment can be bought on the internet.
Bitcoin

Eleven Reasons To Be Excited About The Future of Technology (medium.com) 282

Chris Dixon, an American internet entrepreneur and investor in a range of tech and media companies including Kickstarter and Foursquare has written an essay on Medium highlighting some of the reasons why we should be excited about the future of technology. The reasons he has listed are as follows: 1. Self-Driving Cars: Self-driving cars exist today that are safer than human-driven cars in most driving conditions. Over the next 3-5 years they'll get even safer, and will begin to go mainstream.
2. Clean Energy: Attempts to fight climate change by reducing the demand for energy haven't worked. Fortunately, scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs have been working hard on the supply side to make clean energy convenient and cost-effective.
3. Virtual and Augmented Reality: Computer processors only recently became fast enough to power comfortable and convincing virtual and augmented reality experiences. Companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are investing billions of dollars to make VR and AR more immersive, comfortable, and affordable.
4. Drones and Flying Cars: GPS started out as a military technology but is now used to hail taxis, get mapping directions, and hunt Pokemon. Likewise, drones started out as a military technology, but are increasingly being used for a wide range of consumer and commercial applications.
5. Artificial Intelligence: Artificial intelligence has made rapid advances in the last decade, due to new algorithms and massive increases in data collection and computing power.
6. Pocket Supercomputers for Everyone: By 2020, 80% of adults on earth will have an internet-connected smartphone. An iPhone 6 has about 2 billion transistors, roughly 625 times more transistors than a 1995 Intel Pentium computer. Today's smartphones are what used to be considered supercomputers.
7. Cryptocurrencies and Blockchains: Protocols are the plumbing of the internet. Most of the protocols we use today were developed decades ago by academia and government. Since then, protocol development mostly stopped as energy shifted to developing proprietary systems like social networks and messaging apps. Cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies are changing this by providing a new business model for internet protocols. This year alone, hundreds of millions of dollars were raised for a broad range of innovative blockchain-based protocols.
8. High-Quality Online Education: While college tuition skyrockets, anyone with a smartphone can study almost any topic online, accessing educational content that is mostly free and increasingly high-quality.
9. Better Food through Science: Earth is running out of farmable land and fresh water. This is partly because our food production systems are incredibly inefficient. It takes an astounding 1799 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. Fortunately, a variety of new technologies are being developed to improve our food system.
10. Computerized Medicine: Until recently, computers have only been at the periphery of medicine, used primarily for research and record keeping. Today, the combination of computer science and medicine is leading to a variety of breakthroughs.
11. A New Space Age: Since the beginning of the space age in the 1950s, the vast majority of space funding has come from governments. But that funding has been in decline: for example, NASA's budget dropped from about 4.5% of the federal budget in the 1960s to about 0.5% of the federal budget today.

Medicine

Stem Cell Researchers Can Now Combine Animal and Human Embryos In The US (sciencemag.org) 92

Slashdot reader sciencehabit quotes an article from Science magazine: The National Institutes of Health announced that the agency soon expects to lift a moratorium on funding for controversial experiments that add human stem cells to animal embryos, creating an organism that is part animal, part human. Instead, these so-called chimera studies will undergo an extra layer of ethical review but may ultimately be allowed to proceed.

Although scientists who support such research welcomed the move, some were left trying to parse exactly what the draft policy will mean. It is "a step in the right direction," says Sean Wu, a stem cell researcher at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who co-authored a letter to Science last year opposing the moratorium. But "we still don't know what the outcome will be case by case," he adds. However, some see the proposal as opening up research in some areas that had been potentially off-limits.

Experiments could include using animals to grow human organs for transplants, although according to the article, some scientists "worry that the experiments could produce, say, a supersmart mouse."
Biotech

Google's Alphabet and GSK Forge $715 Million Bioelectronic Firm To Fight Diseases Without Meds (reuters.com) 27

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Google parent Alphabet's life sciences unit are creating a new company focused on fighting diseases by targeting electrical signals in the body, jump-starting a novel field of medicine called bioelectronics. Verily Life Sciences -- known as Google's life sciences unit until last year -- and Britain's biggest drugmaker will together contribute 540 million pounds ($715 million) over seven years to Galvani Bioelectronics, they said on Monday. The new company, owned 55 percent by GSK and 45 percent by Verily, will be based at GSK's Stevenage research center north of London, with a second research hub in South San Francisco. Galvani will develop miniaturized, implantable devices that can modify electrical nerve signals. The aim is to modulate irregular or altered impulses that occur in many illnesses. GSK believes chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and asthma could be treated using these tiny devices, which consist of a electronic collar that wraps around nerves. Kris Famm, GSK's head of bioelectronics research and president of Galvani, said the first bioelectronic medicines using these implants to stimulate nerves could be submitted for regulatory approval by around 2023. GSK first unveiled its ambitions in bioelectronics in a paper in the journal Nature three years ago and believes it is ahead of Big Pharma rivals in developing medicines that use electrical impulses rather than traditional chemicals or proteins.
Medicine

Can Blocking Blue Light Help Bipolar Disorder As Well as Sleep Issues? (sciencealert.com) 230

A new experiment suggests sleeping with amber-tinted glasses can reduce the manic symptoms of bipolar disorder within three days. Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes a report from Science Alert: The benefits of amber-tinted glasses are that they block blue light -- a major component of sunlight and the light beamed at us from our computer and phone screens. In the mornings, it's this blue light that helps reset our body clock each day. But a growing body of evidence is linking too much blue-light exposure in the evenings to problems including insomnia, obesity, depression, and other mental illnesses.
I wonder how many Slashdot readers are already trying to improve their sleep patterns by avoiding exposure to blue light?
Medicine

Can Computerized Brain Training Prevent Dementia? (newyorker.com) 49

"Researchers believe they have found a link between speed-of-processing training and a reduction in cognitive decline among the elderly," reports the New Yorker. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes an article about how this new long-term study actually contradicts much of the previous science. In October of 2014 a group of more than seventy academics published what they called a consensus statement, asserting that playing brain games had been shown to improve little more than the ability to play brain games... no brain game, nor any drug, dietary supplement, or lifestyle intervention, had ever been shown in a large, randomized trial to prevent dementia...until today, when surprising new results were announced at the Alzheimer's Association annual meeting, in Toronto.
Nearly 3,000 participants with an average age of 73.6 participated in the study, with some receiving "speed of processing" training -- and some later receiving four hours of additional training. "The researchers calculated those who completed at least some of these booster sessions were 48% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia after ten years than their peers in the control group." Signatories of the 2014 consensus statement panning brain games are now calling these new results "remarkable" and "spectacular".
Government

New Study Shows Why Big Pharma Hates Medical Marijuana (washingtonpost.com) 416

HughPickens.com writes: Christopher Ingraham writes in the Washington Post that a new study shows that painkiller abuse and overdose are significantly lower in states with medical marijuana laws and that when medical marijuana is available, pain patients are increasingly choosing pot over powerful and deadly prescription narcotics. The researchers "found that, in the 17 states with a medical-marijuana law in place by 2013, prescriptions for painkillers and other classes of drugs fell sharply compared with states that did not have a medical-marijuana law... In medical-marijuana states, the average doctor prescribed 265 fewer doses of antidepressants each year, 486 fewer doses of seizure medication, 541 fewer anti-nausea doses and 562 fewer doses of anti-anxiety medication. But most strikingly, the typical physician in a medical-marijuana state prescribed 1,826 fewer doses of painkillers in a given year."

[P]ainkiller drug companies "have long been at the forefront of opposition to marijuana reform, funding research by anti-pot academics and funneling dollars to groups, such as the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, that oppose marijuana legalization..."

Medicine

A Medical Mystery of the Best Kind: Major Diseases Are In Decline (nytimes.com) 321

Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes an article from the New York Times: Something strange is going on in medicine. Major diseases, like colon cancer, dementia and heart disease, are waning in wealthy countries, and improved diagnosis and treatment cannot fully explain it...it looks as if people in the United States and some other wealthy countries are, unexpectedly, starting to beat back the diseases of aging. The leading killers are still the leading killers -- cancer, heart disease, stroke -- but they are occurring later in life, and people in general are living longer in good health.
The Times cites one researcher's pet theory that the cellular process of aging itself may be gradually changing in humans' favor.
Medicine

After Death, Hundreds of Genes Spring Back to Life 62

Two surprising studies reveal new information about what genes do after death. Slashdot reader gurps_npc writes: You think your body stops after death, but up to two days later certain genes may turn on and start doing stuff for another two days before they give up the ghost. We are all zombies for up to four days after death.
Gizmodo reports that in fact "hundreds" of genes apparently spring back to life. "[P]revious work on human cadavers demonstrated that some genes remain active after death, but we had no idea as to the extent of this strange phenomenon."
Medicine

WHO: Drinking Extremely Hot Coffee, Tea 'Probably' Causes Cancer (usatoday.com) 274

An anonymous reader writes from a report via USA Today: The World Health Organization reports that drinking coffee, tea and other beverages at temperatures hotter than 149 degrees Fahrenheit may lead to cancer of the esophagus. These hot beverages can injure cells in the esophagus and lead to the formation of cancer cells, said Mariana Stern, an associate professor of preventative medicine and urology at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine. But scientists did say that if you drink coffee at cooler temperatures, it is not only safe but it may decrease of the risk of liver cancer by 15%, according to research published in Lancet Oncology. Previously, the International Agency for Research on Cancer ruled coffee was a "possible carcinogenic" in 1991. The research involved Stern and 22 other scientists from 10 countries, who examined about 1,000 studies on more than 20 types of cancer.
Medicine

Repurposing Drugs To Tackle Cancer (theguardian.com) 53

sackvillian writes: Many Slashdotters are aware of the infamous thalidomide birth defect crisis. What might come as a surprise is the incredible success that thalidomide and some analogs have recently found as treatments for cancer, ulcers, lupus, and more. In fact, thanks in part to their success, there's a growing research movement that's attempting to treat cancer with other existing drugs that are commonly used for totally unrelated conditions. Drugs as common as aspirin, which is in the early stages of a clinical trial that will involve over 10,000 cancer patients, are being used. As described in the article written by The Guardian, at least one major international collaboration has taken this approach: The Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO) project. However, as most of the drugs are long since off-patent, researchers are having to be creative in obtaining funding for their work. Last week, Vice President Joe Biden unveiled a public database for clinical data on cancer that aims to help researchers and doctors better tailor new treatments to individuals.
Medicine

Seattle App Summons Help When You Need CPR (geekwire.com) 55

An anonymous reader writes:Sudden cardiac arrest is usually fatal. But Seattle's Fire Department has joined with the city's Medic One Foundation to develop an app which alerts emergency dispatchers and also CPR-trained bystanders when someone needs CPR. The PulsePoint app also shows the location of the nearest defibrillator, and Seattle's mayor says he hopes it will save lives. A Spokane version of the app is already credited with helping to save the life of an infant, and the Medic One Foundation hopes to work with more local fire department to bring the app to the rest of Washington State.
Google

It's Time To Ignore Petty Politics and Focus On 'Transformative' Tech: Eric Schmidt (techcrunch.com) 141

Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman at Alphabet in an interview said that we need to focus more on the possibilities of advances in biology and medicine as well as AI. But he feels people are spending "all our time arguing about political issues that are ultimately not that important." He urges people to stop doing that and work on things that are transformative. He added: "We've gone from an era where we thought about solving problems that were very, very big," he said. "We now define them as problems of special interests. Everyone's guilty. I'm not making a particular political point here." Schmidt seemed excited enough about the possibility of medical breakthroughs that Rose asked him: If he was starting over today, would he be more likely to go into computer science or biology? "Both are having a renaissance," Schmidt said.
Cellphones

Doubts Raised About Cellphone Cancer Study (vox.com) 100

Vox is strongly criticizing coverage of a supposed link between cellphones and cancer suggested by a new study, calling it "a breathtaking example of irresponsible science hype." An anonymous reader writes: A professor and research monitoring administrator at an American medical school reported that to get their results, the researchers "exposed pregnant rats to whole body CDMA- and GSM-modulated radiofrequency radiation, for 9 hours a day, 7 days a week," and the results were seen only with CDMA (but not GSM-modulated) radiofrequency. "[F]alse positives are very likely. The cancer difference was only seen in females, not males. The incidence of brain cancer in the exposed groups was well within the historical range. There's no clear dose response..."
An emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University in Britain also called the study "statistically underpowered..." according to Vox. "Not enough animals were used to allow the researchers to have a good chance of detecting a risk from radiofrequency radiation of the size one might plausibly expect."
Science

Sorry, There's Nothing Magical About Breakfast (nytimes.com) 300

Is breakfast the most important meal of the day? Plenty of people certainly believe that, but according to a new report, that notion is based on "misinterpreted research and biased studies." The New York Times has run a piece authored by Aaron E. Carroll, a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, who looked into numerous studies -- and found flaws in them -- to conclude that breakfast isn't as important after all. (Could be paywalled; alternate source) He writes: The [reports] improperly used causal language to describe their results. They misleadingly cited others' results. And they also improperly used causal language in citing others' results. People believe, and want you to believe, that skipping breakfast is bad. Carroll also points out a conflict in many of such studies: most of them have been funded by the food industry. He concludes: The bottom line is that the evidence for the importance of breakfast is something of a mess. If you're hungry, eat it. But don't feel bad if you'd rather skip it, and don't listen to those who lecture you. Breakfast has no mystical powers.
Power

Scientists Say Nuclear Fuel Pools Pose Safety, Health Risks (nbcnews.com) 166

mdsolar quotes a report from NBC News: Ninety-six aboveground, aquamarine pools around the country that hold the nuclear industry's spent reactor fuel may not be as safe as U.S. regulators and the nuclear industry have publicly asserted, a study released May 20 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine warned. Citing a little-noticed study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the academies said that if an accident or an act of terrorism at a densely-filled pool caused a leak that drains the water away from the rods, a cataclysmic release of long-lasting radiation could force the extended evacuation of nearly 3.5 million people from territory larger than the state of New Jersey. It could also cause thousands of cancer deaths from excess radiation exposure, and as much as $700 billion dollars in costs to the national economy. The report is the second and final study of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant, which was pummeled from a tsunami on March 11, 2011. The authors suggest the U.S. examine the benefits of withdrawing the spent fuel rods from the pools and storing them instead in dry casks aboveground in an effort to avoid possible catastrophes. The idea is nothing new, but it's been opposed by the industry because it could cost as much as $4 billion. The latest report contradicts parts of a study by Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff released two years after the Fukushima incident. The NRC staff in its 2014 study said a major earthquake could be expected to strike an area where spent fuel is stored in a pool once in 10 million years or less, and even then, "spent fuel pools are likely to withstand severe earthquakes without leaking."
Medicine

Theranos Withdraws Two Years of Blood Test Results (cnbc.com) 100

Reader Major Blud writes: Theranos, the company valued at $9 billion that promised to revolutionize the way blood testing is done, has just announced that it has withdrawn all of the test done using its Edison machine performed in 2014 and 2015. The company recently come under fire from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the inaccuracy and unreliability of the machine, and threatened to revoke the company's license as well as ban CEO and founder Elizabeth Holmes, and its president and COO, Sunny Balwani, from blood testing.
Earth

Genetically Modified Crops Are Safe, Report Says (nbcnews.com) 378

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: Genetically modified crops on the market are not only safe, but appear to be good for people and the environment, experts determined in a report released Tuesday. "The committee delved into the relevant literature, heard from 80 diverse speakers, and read more than 700 comments from members of the public to broaden its understanding of issues surrounding GE crops," the report reads. Panel members read more than 900 reports. A lot of concern centered on health effects. The committee determined the following: there is no evidence of large-scale health effects on people from genetically modified foods; there is some evidence that crops genetically engineered to resist bugs have benefited people by reducing cases of insecticide poisoning; genetically engineered crops to benefit human health, such as those altered to produce more vitamin A, can reduce blindness and deaths due to vitamin A deficiency; using insect-resistant or herbicide-resistant crops did not damage plant or insect diversity and in some cases increased the diversity of insects; sometimes the added genes do leak out to nearby plants -- a process called gene flow -- but there is no evidence it has caused harm; in general, farmers who use GM soybean, cotton, and corn make more money but it does depend on how bad pests are and farming practices; GM crops do reduce losses to pests, and if farmers use insect-resistant crops but don't take enough care, sometimes pest insects develop resistance. The National Academics of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have put the evidence up on a website for skeptics of the report. The report also includes a 'Summarized Comments Received from Members of the Public' section for people to look up the facts to answer their concerns.
Canada

Ontario Parents Refusing To Vaccinate Their Children Could Be Forced to Take Science Class (qz.com) 499

Ontario is considering making parents who choose to not vaccinate their children for non-medical reasons take a science class. The health ministry of Canada's most populous province has proposed a bill which would force those parents sit through the education session before applying for a vaccine exemption. In the class, they will be taught about the importance of vaccination for their children. Quartz offers more context: Ontario was the first province in Canada to introduce immunization laws (PDF) in 1982, which required children attending school be vaccinated against certain diseases -- including diphtheria, tetanus, polio, and measles -- unless they have a signed exemption. After routine immunization was introduced, cases of those diseases dramatically reduced. Parents who apply for an exemption (PDF) for non-medical reasons risk having their child pulled from school if there's an outbreak, or the immediate risk of an outbreak, of a designated disease.

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