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Science TECH TECH_Social

Psychologists urge caution with “mindfulness” meditation

“Mindfulness” meditation has gained legions of followers among the public in recent years, and that’s not entirely a good thing, a new psychology study warns. The study, published Tuesday in Perspectives on Psychological Science, cautions that not enough rigorous study has taken place that can prove that it will give its practitioners all its purported health benefits—or that it won’t cause them unintended harms.

Mindfulness focuses on calm observation of one’s own breathing, thoughts, and physical sensations. Mindfulness proponents attribute the practice with not only lowering anxiety and depression but also treating a wide range of emotional and psychological disorders, from substance abuse to attention-deficit disorder and many others, and that it can lengthen life expectancies, ward off cancer, and boost brain function.

Some health benefits and improvements in mood may be attainable through mindfulness, according to the recently published paper, whose 15 authors are affiliated with 15 different institutions and include psychologists, psychiatrists, and mindfulness experts. But they express concern that mindfulness novices who take all the positive claims at face value may start with overly high expectations and give up on mindfulness altogether when it doesn’t meet them.

“Misinformation and poor methodology associated with past studies of mindfulness may lead public consumers to be harmed, misled, and disappointed,” they write.

One of the authors, University of Melbourne research fellow Nicholas Van Dam, commented to Inverse magazine that many consumers and even some corporations, such as Google and Target, have invested large sums of money in mindfulness training. But he said that he has not seen enough research come out establishing that any of it actually works. He also warned that some patients with serious health or behavioral problems might substitute mindfulness for necessary treatments and end up sicker.

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NATURE NONE SCI Science

Medical miracle: Gene therapy gives boy whole new skin

A seven-year-old boy suffering from a genetic disease that caused most of his outer skin layer to peel away has been saved by researchers who grew him a new skin using his own genetically modified stem cells.

An international team of researchers from Germany, Austria, and Italy report the results in the journal Nature.

The boy has a condition known as junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB), a form of a condition also known as butterfly disease. The debilitating disorder is the result of several mutations in proteins affecting the thin layer of skin between the epidermis and dermis.

The defect causes the skin to become very fragile, with resulting blisters and severe peeling that can leave mortal wounds and increase the risk of skin cancer.

“We got this kid transferred in summer 2015 from another tertiary care hospital,” explained Dr. Tobias Rothoeft at the Department of Neonatology and Pediatric Intensive Care of University Children’s Hospital at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany, in a press briefing, as reported by Medical News Today. “He was admitted there because he had developed an infection in which he rapidly lost nearly two-thirds of his body surface area.”

After several treatments failed, the medical team was ready to give up, feeling sure the boy would die. But then, after re-studying the literature, they approached Dr. Michele De Luca, a professor of biochemistry and director of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine “Stefano Ferrari” at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy.

Dr. De Luca has spent his career developing therapies for skin and eye conditions. He assured Dr. Rothoeft that he could grow enough skin to heal the boy. To correct the boy’s genetic defect, De Luca and his team used a virus to insert a normal copy of the faulty gene into the cells.

After three operations and eight months in the intensive care unit the boy went home with 80 percent of body covered in brand-new skin.

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HEALTH NONE

Utah nurse brutally arrested for protecting patient gets monetary settlement

A Utah nurse whose forcible arrest on July 26 for refusing to let a police officer draw blood from an unconscious patient hit social media by firestorm has received a settlement of half a million dollars, according to CNN.

Alex Wubble reached a settlement agreement with Salt Lake City and the University of Utah, which will split the cost evenly between them, according to city spokesman Matthew Rojas.

“I am obviously very grateful, would be the best word for it,” said Wubble at a news conference Tuesday. “Again, this landed in my lap. This is not something I sought out. I didn’t seek out the last four months.”

In the video footage of the incident, Detective Jeff Payne violently grabbed and handcuffed Wubble, then dragged her screaming and crying to a police vehicle after she refused to let officers take a blood sample from a crash victim without a warrant. She was reportedly released minutes later without being charged.

“I’ve done nothing wrong! I’ve done nothing wrong! Why is this happening?” Wubble cried as the officers pushed her out the hospital doors and into a police car.

Wubble was following hospital policy, which states that in order to obtain a blood sample, police need a court order, the patient’s consent, or the patient has to be under arrest. The nurse even handed the officers a printout of the policy at the time, but that did not prevent her violent arrest.

Detective Payne was fired and his watch commander, Lt. James Tracey, was demoted for violating police policies.

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NATURE NONE SCI Science

Rare salamander spotted for the first time in 40 years

Researchers from Guatemala have discovered a lost species of salamander for the first time in 40 years.

The amphibian — known as the Jackson’s Climbing Salamander — was last seen in 1975, leading most scientists to believe that it had gone extinct. However, that changed when a guard at the Finca San Isidro Amphibian Reserve in the Cuchumatanes Mountains spotted the black-and-yellow amphibian and sent a picture to Carlos Vasquez, a curator of herpetology at USAC University in Guatemala.

Vazquez spent nearly 3,000 hours searching for the elusive species since 2005. In that time, he also taught workers what the salamander looked like in case they ever spotted one. Turns out his teaching paid off.

“We had started to fear that the species was gone, and now it’s like it has come back from extinction,” explained Vasquez, according to Live Science. “It’s a beautiful story and marks a promised future for the conservation of this special region.”

The Jackson’s Climbing Salamander is characterized by its bright-yellow body, which has a black streak running from its head down to its tail. It is so rare that the nonprofit group Global Wildlife Conservation put the salamander on its Top 25 “most wanted species” list as part of its Search for Lost Species initiative. That program hopes to locate animals that, despite not having been seen for decades, are not confirmed to be extinct.

This new discovery happened quite quickly, especially considering the salamander has been missing for so long. In fact, the Global Wildlife Conservation had planned an expedition to Guatemala in January — which is now cancelled — to look for the amphibian.

Researchers hope the rediscovery will bring attention to conservation efforts and help scientists understand that, just because an animal has not been seen for some time, it does not mean it is gone for good.

“The rediscovery of this rarest of the rare shows how important habitat preservation is to the persistence of these special animals in these exceptional places, and for me personally it is a moment of sheer joy,” said Paul Elias, an American who discovered the Finca Chiblac salamander and the long-limbed salamander while exploring the jungles of Guatemala in the 1970’s, in a statement.

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HEALTH NATURE NONE SCI Science

Delayed umbilical clamping could save thousands of premature babies

Waiting to clamp an umbilical cord could help save the lives of ten of thousands premature babies, a new study set to be published in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reports.

This finding comes from a team of international researchers who reviewed 18 clinical trials that looked at nearly 3,000 babies born before 37 weeks’ gestation. This revealed that waiting 60 seconds before clamping the umbilical cord after birth reduced the death risk for premature babies by nearly a third.

Delayed clamping used to be standard practice in full-term babies because it had been shown to help them better adapt to life outside of the womb. Now, scientists have evidence that it is beneficial to premature babies as well.

“It meant for every 20 babies born at less than 28 weeks that received delayed cord clamping, one extra baby would survive,” said study co-author Jonathan Morris, a professor at the University of Sydney, according to ABC Online “This is such a significant finding because it’s such a simple intervention.”

Though researchers do not know for sure, they have a few theories as to why this process is so effective. One is that it could give babies more time to adapt to the world. Some also believe it works because there is extra blood in the baby’s system, or that it could bolster the baby’s resistance to infection.

In addition, most premature babies begin breathing on their own by 60 seconds. As a result, the delay may avoid unnecessary interventions, such as breathing tubes.

Whatever the cause, the new research could save thousands of newborns each year. Scientists hope to expand on the findings to further test the process and see if it can be put to use in the field.

“About 15 million babies are born before 37 weeks gestation annually and one million die, said study co-author Roger Soll, a professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, in a statement. “This procedure costs nothing and will make a difference to families worldwide.”

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NONE

Hundreds of people protest acquittal of St. Louis officer in killing of black driver

Hundred of protesters demonstrated in the St. Louis, Missouri, area after a judge acquitted a former police officer, who is white, of murder for shooting and killing a black driver following a car chase.

Jason Stockley, a former St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department officer, was charged with the murder of Anthony Lamar Smith in 2011. He was recorded telling another officer to drive into Smith’s car and saying he was “going to kill this motherf——, don’t you know it,” according to a report by The Washington Post.

Stockley then approached Smith’s car window and fired his gun five times into the vehicle, killing him. According to prosecutors, Stockley also planted a gun in Smith’s car, as forensic tests showed only Stockley’s DNA on the gun.

Judge Timothy Wilson, who decided the case in a bench trial without a jury, wrote that he was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Stockley “did not act in self-defense.”

Missouri’s Republican Gov. Eric Greitens anticipated potential unrest as the verdict loomed and on Thursday put the state’s National Guard on standby.

As of Friday evening, thirteen people had been arrested during post-verdict demonstrations, according to local officials. Four officers suffered minor injuries.

“We know this verdict causes pain for many people,” said Greitens in a statement, as reported by the Post. “We have been in touch with city and county officials, and the state of Missouri will continue to assist them. I’m committed to protecting everyone’s constitutional right to protest peacefully, while also protecting people’s lives, homes, and communities. For anyone who protests, please do so peacefully.”

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NONE TSC_Global Politics

Hezbollah says Israel is provoking a regional war

The heard of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah said Sunday that Israel is stirring up armed conflict in Syria, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip, and that a regional war capable of engulfing all of Israel could be the end result. Addressing his followers, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned that it will not end well for the Israelis if their government persists on this path.

“They do not have a correct picture about what is awaiting them if they go to the idiocy of this war,” Nasrallah said. He added that Jews who have emigrated to Israel should leave the country now “so they are not fuel for any war that the idiotic Netanyahu government takes them to” since “they will have no secure place in occupied Palestine” if war erupts.

His statements are consistent with assertions he made earlier this year about the prospects of a war emerging on Israel’s own turf. He had warned that Islamic fighters from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and other countries would head to Israel to join the fight.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been de facto at war with Hezbollah for the last few years and issued Israeli air strikes against arms and supply convoys carrying weapons from Iran to Hezbollah units in Lebanon and Syria. Hezbollah uses the arms in its fight against the Islamic State, but Netanyahu insists that Iran is really planning to help Hezbollah build missile sites in the two neighboring countries for Hezbollah to use against Israel.

Hezbollah claims credit for stopping the Islamic State and other extremist groups from gaining ground in Syria or Lebanon. Nasrallah reminded his followers of this ongoing fight and urged them to keep up the battle against the Islamic State “in every place.”

 

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NONE SCI Science

Undersea exploration sheds light on eighth continent

A study on Earth’s eighth continent — a large mass known as Zealandia — could give researchers new insight into our planet’s distant past.

The geological formation, which encompasses New Zealand and lies just east of Australia, is a sunken land mass roughly the size of India. While some are not sure if Zealandia — which sits 3,280 feet below the sea — properly qualifies as a continent, there are many scientists who believe it is related to the other seven.

In fact, GNS Science geologist Nick Mortimer and his colleagues already made a compelling case in February as to why Zealandia should be classified as a continent.

“Its isolation from Australia and large area support its definition as a continent — Zealandia,” the researchers wrote earlier this year in GSA Today, according to Tech Times. “Zealandia was formerly part of Gondwana. Today it is 94% submerged, mainly as a result of widespread Late Cretaceous crustal thinning preceding supercontinent breakup and consequent isostatic balance.”

To further explore such claims, scientists at the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) explored the region by drilling down into the seabed and collecting sediment cores that contained life records dating back millions of years. In addition, they also studied information that could help show how the continent slowly evolved over time.

Past studies reveal that Zealandia likely first submerged when it broke off from Antarctica and Australia some 80 million years ago. However, the recent findings showed that the land mass has not always been as deep as it is today. Researchers came to this conclusion by studying the microscopic shells of aquatic organisms and the spores of land plants that came from the supposed continent. This revealed both the climate and geography of Zealandia is drastically different than it was in the past.

The team also found evidence that the formation of the Pacific Ring of Fire some 40 million years ago caused dramatic changes in volcanic activity and ocean depth around the area. It may have buckled Zealandia’s seabed as well.

Further study of those shifts in relation to Zealandia could help scientists better understand how animals and plants spread around the Pacific Ocean. Such trials could also shed light on the evolution of ancient species and reveal how they moved around the region.

“Big geographic changes across northern Zealandia, which is about the same size as India, have implications for understanding questions such as how plants and animals dispersed and evolved in the South Pacific,” said expedition co-chief scientist Rupert Sutherland, a researcher at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, in a statement. “The discovery of past land and shallow seas now provides an explanation. There were pathways for animals and plants to move along.”

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NONE SCI TECH TECH_Technology

New crystallized aluminum is lighter than water

Scientists from Utah State University and Southern Federal University have built a model that shows it is possible to create a form of aluminum that is less dense that water, new research published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry C reports.

Aluminum is one of the more unique metals on Earth. It is conductive, has a low melting point, does not rust, and, most importantly, it is extremely light. However, the team in the new study believes there is a way to make it even lighter.

To show this, researchers used computational design to conceive a new form of crystalline aluminium that has an extremely low density.

“They started with a known crystal lattice, in this case, a diamond, and substituted every carbon atom with an aluminium tetrahedron,” explained study co-author Alexander Boldyrev, a researcher at Utah State University, according to Eureka.

That process eventually allowed the scientists to build a model for a crystalline aluminium known as supertetrahedral aluminium. The substance has a density of just 0.61 grams per cubic centimeter, a fraction of the density of normal aluminum.

That low density means a lump of the new substance could float on top of water. While that property could be useful, there are many more applications for such an ultra-light aluminum. For instance, it could help scientists build cheaper rockets for space travel, and could also lead to more fuel-efficient automotive parts.

However, as the aluminum is only hypothetical at this point, there are still many questions that need to be answered before it can be put into use.

“It’s very early to speculate about how this material could be used,” added Boldyrev, according to Science Alert“There are many unknowns. For one thing, we don’t know anything about its strength.”

Even so, the new model is the first step towards the new material. Researchers next plan to physically produce the substance so they can study it further.

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HOUNDS_Entertainment NONE TV

‘Game of Thrones’ to set record for most burnings

The highly anticipated upcoming seventh season of HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ has a real treat for fire enthusiasts: setting the record for the most people set alight in a film or TV production.

“In one battle science we set more stuntmen on fire than have ever been simultaneously set on fire, ” bragged show runner David Benioff to Entertainment Weekly. “Our stunt coordinator really wanted to get in the Guinness World Book of Records for this.”

Unfortunately for Benioff, the world-record-keeping organization does not — at least not yet — keep track of pyrotechnics in film and TV, EW reports.

Thrones stunt coordinator Rowley Irlam says it is not easy protecting stunt people from getting burned. In an upcoming episode, 20 actors have to don fire resistant protective gear and get slathered with cooling gel before being smothered in flames.

“One sequence has 73 fire burns and that itself is a record,” says Irlam. “No film or TV show has ever done that in a whole show, let alone in one sequence. We also set 20 people on fire at one time, which is also a record.”

The actors must hold their breath for about 30 seconds until all the flames have been extinguished.

“It’s totally different from going underwater in your bathtub and counting the seconds in your head,” Irlam adds. “If somebody bumps you and you breathe in by accident you will breathe in flame.”

The seventh season of Game of Thrones’is scheduled to start on July 16.