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Tuesday, 25 Nov, 2008

Offbeat

Maya Civilization or When Should We Expect The Apocalypse To Happen

The civilization Maya remains to be the biggest mystery for many scientists. During the conquering of Yucatan, almost all written sources of this civilization were destroyed by the conquistadors. What we have nowadays remained from it are just a few sources that can tell us where did the civilization Maya come from, what was the cause of the prosperous civilization's fall and who gave the Indians Maya the knowledge about the Universe and the future.

The greatest invention of the civilization Maya was the calendar.

The basis of this calendar was the mystical origin date of 13th of August 3113 B.C. The counting of years were starting from it precisely. By the way, we use the mystical date of "Christ's birth" for the counting of our years too.

This calendar, though very old, is surprisingly accurate. According to the contemporary calculations, the year lasts 365.2422 days. The Indians Maya had counted the year to last 365.2420 days - a difference of 0.0002 days. To make such an accurate calendar, according to scientists, Maya should have observed and registered the moves of the planets for about 10.000 years.

Where did aptitudes of such accurate calculations come from in those times? If we believe the Maya Calendar, where time is divided into cycles, the end of our cycle will come on 21st of December 2012. According to the legends of this civilization, every cycle finishes with a practically complete destruction of the civilization living in this cycle.

Scientists have calculated that the "5th Sun" had started on the 13th of August 3113 B.C. Nobody knows why and what event is related to this particular date. In addition, nobody knows where did the Maya take from their original system of counting time and its dividing into cycles. And still, people today believe there was a meaning in that. That's why there are a lot of predictions about it. Predictions about cataclysms that will begin the next Big cycle of the Maya Calendar - "The 6th Creation Epoch" or "The 6th Sun".

Maya considered that, from the moment of the creation of human beings, 4 cycles or "Suns" had passed. Four human races that died during the great cataclysms. Only very few people were left alive to tell what happened.

"The 1st Sun" had lasted 4008 years and was destroyed by earthquakes. "The 2nd Sun" had lasted 4010 years and was destroyed by hurricanes. "The 3rd Sun" had lasted 4081 years and was totally destroyed by a rain of fire, coming from volcanos. "The 4th Sun" (5026 years) was destroyed by a great flood.

Today we live the last years of "The 5th Creation Epoch" or "The 5th Sun". It is also known under the name of "The Sun of Movement". Maya considered that, in the end of this 5126-years-cycle, a certain movement of the Earth will take place, which will bring about the destroyment of our civilization in its turn.

What's more interesting is that, on the 21st of December 2012, there will be a planets' parade.

Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and Earth will arrange into a single line. Actually, parades of this kind had taken place before. On the 21st of August 2012 not only the planets of our Solar System will line up, but also the planets of other solar systems, thus forming a line from the centre of the galaxy. We can compare this process to the moving of a clock's hands to 12 o'clock. This combination will mean the moving of the Universe from a system to another.


Sunday, 23 Nov, 2008

Current Events

The Shnobel Award - Directly From Harvard

As a tradition, before the Nobel week in Harvard, at the beginning of October this year, there also took place the 18th yearly Ceremony of Shnobel Awards.

The Shnobel award is a special award given for "researches that at first make you laugh and which only later make you think", and it has been given beginning with 1991. Of course, this little fun of Harvard cannot be compared to the real Nobel Award, but some traditions are respected by the members of the Shnobel Committee, by the laureates, the honoured guests and the public. The audience plays a very important part here - they are the ones that throw paper planes to the laureates that come on the scene.

There were 10 awards this year - 6 of them in the traditional Nobel categories and 4 additional awards. The Medicine award was not given to a doctor, neither to a physiologist, but to an economist. Dan Arially from the American University "Washington Duke" and the Technology Institute of Massachusetts, together with his friends from USA and Israel, has found out that "a good placebo is always the expensive one". When the patient has to choose between 2 identical and both useless pills, the pill that relieves the pain will be the one that the patient considers to be the most expensive. As a good proof to the conclusions of Arially are the popularity of many expensive variants of Aspirin in a pharmacy, that differ from the other cheaper variants only by their beautiful label.

The award in Physics was given to Dorian Ramer and Douglas Smith from the University of California in San Diego. They have proved mathematically that if one shakes a box with threads inside it for a long time the threads will soon knot by themselves. Ramer and Smith had repeated the same experiment for almost 3.5 thousands of times and observed the 120 different types of knots resulted from all the experiments.

The award in Chemistry was divided between Deborah Anderson from Harvard and Chuang He Hun from the Taibay University in Taiwan. Anderson has showed that "Coca-Cola" can have a contraceptive effect; Hun, on the contrary, has showed that it doesn't. As it turned out, Cola decreases the mobility of the spermatozoa inside it, it especially refers to Diet Coke. Still, using it as a measure of extreme contraception is not recommended, because spermatozoa reach different parts of the woman's body very quickly, while Coke does that in several hours. According to Hun, "Coca-Cola" does not have spermicide properties.

The award for Peace was given to Urs Turnerr from the Federal Ethics Committee in non-human biotechnologies from Switzerland. The Committee claims that plants also have their dignity, a dignity researchers must respect. Can you imagine yourselves how illegal was the peas hybridization made by the modest priest Gregor Mendel in his time?

The award in Economics was given to Jeffrey Miller and Brent Jordan from a University in New Mexico that have come to the conclusion that professional dance girls in strip bars earn a lot more money in their menses days than in normal ones.

The award in Literature was received by David Sims from London, whose "works of art" were called "You are a jerk! A research of fury experiments in different organizations".

Four additional awards this time were especially designed in the Archaeology, Nourishment Science, Cognitology and Biology categories. The Nourishment Science award was won by Massimiliano Zampini and Charles Spencer from Italy and Great Britain respectively, who made the discovery that potato chips taste fresher and better when they are very crisp. For this purpose the scientists have made study participants listen to their chewing and after that compared them to the ideal chewing sounds of fresh chips registered on the computer.

The award in Archaeology was given to Astolfu Gomech Mellu Arauju and Jose Carlos Marcelino from a brasilian University in San Paulo. They have studied the way a certain species of animals in South America made us change our impressions about Homo Sapiens that lived on that territory years ago. These animals had moved to different places all the objects the scientists have buried in those grounds for the experiments.

The award in Cognitology, the science of Knowledge, was won by the Japanese and Hungarian researchers who had studied 8 years ago the cognitive abilities of the mucous mould - a monocellular, but multinuclear organism, which was capable of passing through labirints.

And, finally, the last award, the award in Biology, was given to some French scientists who showed that lice living on cats cannot jump as high as their brothers that live on dogs do. Unfortunately, the scientists could not tell the secrets of their original methods of research since they didn't show up at the ceremony.


Saturday, 22 Nov, 2008

Health & Fitness

Patient Being Cured From AIDS

Doctors say that this success has been reached accidentally - as a side-effect of a fight with another serious disease.

But their words still can't ruin the hopes of thousands HIV-infected people, who practically tear apart the clinic's telephones these days.

Gero Huetter, a doctor of a clinic in Berlin, called "Charite", was treating one of his patients of leukemia, but, as it turned out, he stopped another terrible disease the patient had - AIDS. After the marrow transplant he made, the blood analysis for HIV gave a negative result.

Gero Huetter says, "This marrow cells transplant was made exclusively for the treatment of leukemia, and not for the treatment of HIV-infection. What happened was just a succesful side-effect."

The donor cells transplanted to the patient have a rare genetic mutation, called "Delta-32" invented by specialists.

The unique case in "Charite" is considered to be as an "important small" victory in the long and unsuccesful yet fight with the main "plague of contemporaneousness".

Science has not proved yet that the "miracle donor cells" are a cure to AIDS. Doctors don't exclude the possibility of the virus still existing in the organism, but not being able to manifest.

According to Hutner, the doctors of the clinic affirmed that similar transplants couldn't be considered as a source of treatment for AIDS, because that operation is a very difficult and risky one for the patient. People should not make themselves false illusions.

The name of the patient is not known. All that's known is that he is an American of 42 years old and that he has been living in Berlin for 10 years. At first, he wanted to treat himself from leukemia in USA, but then his friends advised him to seek treatment in Germany.

The press has quickly called this rare medical case as the "Hutner effect", after the name of the doctor in case.

What's important now is that this news isn't forgotten quickly as it frequently happens with sensations of this kind.

Having such information in their hands, the doctors want to go further than that. Investigations are being made every day.


Thursday, 20 Nov, 2008

Health & Fitness

Hunger and narcotic substances

French scientists have come to the conclusion that the state of continuous hunger, characteristic for persons sick with anorexia, has an influence on the human brain just like narcotic substances. Hunger and ecstasy are actually very much alike in their exciting of brain's appetite control and pleasure centres. What results from it is that you can get real dependence not only from narcotic substances, but also from hunger.

Everybody knows what anorexia is. Some time ago, this problem was discussed only secretly, apart from the others to hear it. Today it's a very popular subject, especially after the death of some famous top-models sick with this disease. In Latin the word "anorexia" means the loss of food motivation, that is the loss of appetite and of the feeling of hunger. It's a serious disease, characterized by inadequate food behaviour - voluntary refusal from food. The disturbances arising from it are related to psychic, endocrine and metabolic systems of the organism and very often it leads to death. The treatment becomes impossible on a certain stage of the disease.

A group of scientists from the French National Centre of Scientific Research was studying energy circulation in the human body when their attention was caught by the fact that anorexia, just like the use of narcotic substances, is directly related to the loss of appetite. Any narcologist knows that alcoholics and people who are dependent to narcotic substances don't need food, even when their organism needs to restore the loss of energetic substances. Patients with anorexia also refuse eating, despite their serious deficit of energy. Scientists have concentrated their minds on studying a special centre of the brain, with 5-HT4 serotonin receptors, responsible for the feeling of pleasure. These receptors react upon any exciting factor, be that tasty food, music, alcohol, narcotic substances or sex. This centre is involved in the forming of dependence from chemical happiness.

The experiments made by the French scientists under the supervision of Valerie Compan consisted of the following. During the experiments it was found that mice, whose pleasure centre was excited by the scientists, were suddenly losing appetite. As a result, their bodies were starting to elaborate amphetamines, the level of which increases in human beings and animals only after the usage of psychostimulents and as a consequence of nervous anorexia. This is how scientists have proved that pleasure receptors are responsible for appetite decreasing together with the usage of ecstasy. They also consider that the results they have received can be used in the creation of a medicine that would cure anorexia.

The causes of nervous anorexia have not been completely established yet, that's why it's impossible to predict who's going to be the next victim of diets. It is only known that this disease mostly affects American and European women. Only 1 out of 20 patients with anorexia is a man. A more curious fact is that black people are less exposed to the risk of having anorexia, maybe because they have a more philosophical attitude towards their weight and aspect. Death results from anorexia happen much more often than in other nervous disturbances, even in such a disturbance as schizophrenia. Nowadays, there is no treatment or early diagnosis for anorexia. Maybe the discovery related here will clear the situation in some degree.


Wednesday, 15 Oct, 2008

Health & Fitness

High-volume Music through Earphones Can Lead to the Loss of Hearing

Every tenth owner of a CD or MP3 player is at high risk of losing hearing, as they often listen to high-volume music, scientists say.

This risk, according to specialists, is being developed from regular listening to high-volume music more than an an hour per day during 5 years. It means that approximately 10 million people all over Europe, including children and teenagers, can suffer from their passion of listening to music through earphones. Statistics say that from 50 to 100 million people use audio players everyday. This is a problem more and more spread among young people, that's why the European committee has promised to lead an investigation on it.

Safety warnings indicate that the maximum level of noise in earphones is in the limits of 100 decibels, but, unfortunately, people usually don't respect these norms. A lot of music lovers raise the level of noise to 89 decibels so they can "plug" the noise in means of public transport.

So, in conclusion, we have from 5 to 10 per cent of music listeners in a group of high risk (that makes circa 2.5 to 10 million people). And losing hearing can be irreversible in such cases, as studies show. Perhaps, the effects of listening to music in high-volume and through earphones often cannot be seen or noticed, but they cumulate in time and when one less expects it, the problems appear. Specialists affirm that they will try to find a solution to this problem, but, in the meantime, for the sake of health, a person should refrain oneself from very high-volume levels of music in the earphones and thus, protect the sense of hearing.


Monday, 13 Oct, 2008

Health & Fitness

Knowledge Pills

A lot of experiments nowadays are dedicated to the "enlightening" of our brains. Statistics show that there are approximately 600 medicines meant to treat the disturbances of the nervous system, a good part of which not only treat the disturbances, but also stimulate a normal nervous system.

Some of these medicines are Metilfenidate and Modafinil, already popular in USA. With the help of them people can memorize with a number or an element more than in a normal state (it's known that the majority of people can memorize 7 numbers and the 8th one is rarely memorized), a thing that helps in a lot of situations in our lives, take exams as a good example.

A really surprising fact is that some serious scientists also use them for a better concentration, a better memory and so on.

Another group of pills have quite the contrary effects on people because of such a component as D-cycloserine. They are used to delete information from one's memory, a property used for the treatment of phobias and dependencies.

But all of these wonderful effects of the respective medicines are actually only side-effects. For example, the already mentioned Metilfenidate is called "cocaine for children", as it is used to treat hyperactivity in children. In many countries it stays in the list of narcotic substances, along with cocaine and morphine. More than that, during an experiment at the beginning of our century, a number of persons were administered cocaine and later they were administered Metilfenidate. All of them affirmed not to have felt any difference between them!

As a matter of fact, the instructions to the majority of these "knowledge pills" say that their mechanisms of action on humans had not been totally studied yet, which means that the consequences of their administration can be completely unpredictable.

In many cases, a prolonged usage of these substances led to serious psychological dependences, disturbances of the kidneys and liver, genetical modifications and even convulsions and death. That is to say, there should be a good control in their usage and only when necessary. Nobody will become a genius immediately after the swallowing of "knowledge pills" anyway. Our brain is such a sensible and unknown part of our body that experiments on it should be made only under the supervision of a good specialist and exclusively when really needed.

And, who knows, perhaps in the nearest future we'll be able to buy magic knowledge pills that will supply our brain with all the needed information. It would be a great idea to swallow a pill of this kind in some seconds instead of trying to "swallow" a book in a couple of days...


Friday, 10 Oct, 2008

Health & Fitness

Migraines - Original Solutions

It is well-known nowadays that circa 15 per cent of persons all over the world suffer from regular disturbing headaches, which makes approximately 585 million people. Usually, it is considered that women older than 40 are the ones who suffer the most from these headaches, but it is wrong. Children and men suffer from migraines too, though they pass away when men are 60... with no exceptions(!).

The word "migraine" has its origin from the French variant of the Greek "hemicranias", which means "pain of a half of the head". Doctors cannot explain clearly the causes that lead to this phenomenon yet.

German medical scientists, by having made some interesting observations over 300 patients suffering from migraines and headaches, have got to the conclusion that their main cause was a raised muscular tonus. That is, these people were in a constant tension and didn't know how to relax correctly. So, the main advice the doctors were giving them was to avoid being tense all the time.

Still, the most original solution for the problem of migraines was given by the Irish doctors of Belfast. After a series of long experiments, they have found out that the cause of the headaches was... the involuntary tightening of the teeth during one's sleep. As a result, the human organism starts to produce a specific substance, which causes the constriction of the brain blood vessels and migraine as a consequence.

The intelligent Irish scientists have elaborated a special small plate, meant to be introduced into the mouth before going to sleep and said to prevent the involuntary tightening of the teeth. However, the new device for the prevention of headaches has not been officially acknowledged yet and its structure is still a secret.

All the other serious investigations on this subject nowadays are more related to biochemistry. Take for example another theory, according to which serotonin could have an important role in this process. It is an enzyme that regulates the feeling of satisfaction, concerns, mood, sleep and even appetite in the human brain. Experiments have revealed that people suffering from migraines often suffer from depressions also.

And, after their being administered antidepressants that contain serotonin, their headaches are totally gone too. That's why it is possible that soon scientists will find a universal medicine for migraines, made on the basis of serotonin. Or, maybe, as a side-product, they will get a serotonin-made happiness elixir.

But that will happen some other century for sure.


Tuesday, 23 Sep, 2008

Current Events

Selling Your Soul to The Devil - How Much Is It Worth?

Recently, a lot of strange advertisements, such as: "My soul, my life and my ghost for sale" have appeared on the Internet. Take for example a 24-years-old inhabitant of New Zealand, Walter Scott, who took out for an auction on a certain website, called TradeMe, his own… soul, with the intention of selling it to anyone, even to the devil in case it exists.

"I cannot see it, touch it or feel it", says Walter, "but I can certainly sell it and get a good sum of money for that." Scott is sure that the ware he is selling is in a very good condition, just a little bit worn off because of "6 years of alcohol usage." There were 32,000 volunteers willing to purchase Walter's "precious treasure".

The auction has started with the price of 456 dollars and the price had been doubling every hour. Still, a little time before the closing of the auction, the managers of TradeMe had suddenly stopped the sales. They explained it by the numerous grievances of the religious visitors of the website, who considered the selling of the soul a stupid and outrageous joke. And still, Walter's soul had found its master – it was the manager of "Hell Pizza" Rachel Ellison, who proposed 3800 dollars for it.

"His soul already belongs to Hell, that's why there isn't any place better for it than our pizzeria," she said. And this is far from being the only case of trying to sell one's soul over the Internet.

Last December, an American has tried to sell his soul at an auction to get money for Christmas. He declared that the one to buy it will get his "precious property" in a glass vessel with the respective contract. He explained this by the fact that he had no money for Christmas presents for his relatives and all that he had more valuable in the world was his soul.

In April 2006, the vendor of the "untouched material" has become a native of Shanghai. The auction had to take place on the biggest Chinese online auction Taobao. There were 58 requests. Back then there was a problem with Taobao's representatives: they said that selling such an "unusual ware" was out of the company's rules, thus its selling was prohibited. The main reason, though, was the lack of a guarantee for the delivery of the ware to its buyer. Besides, the management of Taobao has explained that they will allow the selling of the soul only with a written document of permission from… the "upper offices." Who that would be they did not say.


Sunday, 21 Sep, 2008

Current Events

The Best Apocalypse Scenarios

There have been made a lot of apocalyptic suppositions by now, such as: the disappearance of the planet and the destruction of our Universe, traveling by time machine, the so-called "black holes" swallowing people and so on. The top 10 of the best apocalyptic scenarios were recently published on infuture.ru.

Atomic bomb.

History says that before the first atomic bomb, used on 16th of July 1945, there was a rumor spread among the physics of Manhattan, according to which the nuclear reaction could burn out the whole atmosphere.

The 2000th year computer mistake.

The night of 31st of December 1999 was predicted to be a night when the whole humanity would be buried into a total chaos. It was expected that as soon as midnight comes, computers directing everything – beginning with banks and finishing with stations – would decide that instead of the year 2000 the year 1900 has come, thus burying the industrialized world into chaos.

Pandemic.

Another scenario – humanity dying of a certain virus, a scenario used as a rule in a lot of movies describing world catastrophes.

Collision with an asteroid.

Another popular scenario in the movie industry. Specialists all over the world are constantly making the lists of asteroids threatening Earth.

Nuclear destruction.

That is the direct destruction of humanity as a result of a military conflict.

Global warming.

Lately, scientists frighten people with global warming. According to this scenario, in a distant future people will lose all natural resources, there will be starvations, epidemics and endless wars for the few resources left.

Sun.

A scenario of apocalypse for a very distant future. In some billions of years our Sun will become a red colossus and Earth will be destroyed. Some scientists consider that there can exist endless numbers of rational civilizations in our Universe. It is also assumed they can visit Earth one day to conquer it or to make cruel experiments on its inhabitants.

Rising of the machines.

It is said that in the future robots will become smart enough to act by themselves – and that includes destroying the world and killing people.


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