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October 4, 2006, 4:48 AM CT

Vancouver Dispatch

Vancouver Dispatch
For all its natural beauty, Vancouver is famously non-descript in the numerous Hollywood movies that shoot here on the cheap, invariably relegating the city to a stand-in for Anytown, USA (recent examples include the X-Men films, Firewall, The Exorcism of Emily Rose and the remake of The Fog).

While the locals rather like having movie stars in their midst (and you can be sure the local media resent their absence from VIFF), there is something belittling about this enforced anonymity. Gallingly, Hollywood is making jokes about it: "Why would we want to shoot in Vancouver?" someone rails in the pilot for Aaron Sorkin's new show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. "Vancouver doesn't look like anywhere. Vancouver doesn't even look like Vancouver".

Well, Vancouver never looked more like itself than in Everything's Gone Green, based on the first original narrative screenplay by the novelist and multi-media artist Douglas Coupland. Coupland is Vancouver born and bred, and several of his books take place in the immediate vicinity (Life After God, Girlfriend in a Coma and Hey Nostradamus!, for starters); he even wrote a typically gnomic A-Z of his hometown, City of Glass.

Everything's Gone Green might be City of Glass: The Movie for the way it goes out of its way to foreground the location. It even begins with a bike ride around the Seawall. But this is not mere travelogue; Coupland is exploring the way the environment conditions a certain culture, in this case a psyche of west coast capitalism that is at once attractively laid back and morally inert (not to say corrupt).........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


October 3, 2006, 10:11 PM CT

Nanoparticles To Aid Brain Imaging

Nanoparticles To Aid Brain Imaging Sensing calcium as it flows into neurons following firing can potentially track information flow throughout the brain's circuitry.
If you want to see precisely what the 10 billion neurons in a person's brain are doing, a good way to start is to track calcium as it flows into neurons when they fire.

To that end, Alan Jasanoff at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT has developed a new nano-sized calcium-sensing contrast agent that is detectable by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, machines that can be used for detailed noninvasive brain imaging.

The work is published in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of Sept. 25-29.

In an application known as functional MRI (fMRI), MRI machines are already increasingly used to observe brain functions as people--or animals--undertake various activities like reading or learning. But Jasanoff notes that current fMRI technology has limitations.

"Using conventional fMRI to study the brain is like trying to understand how a computer works by feeling which parts of it are hot because of energy dissipation in different components," said Jasanoff, who also holds appointments as an assistant professor in MIT's Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and Biological Engineering Division.

The analogy is apt, because fMRI indirectly measures neural activity by detecting changes in blood flow to brain regions with increased energy requirements. But these hemodynamic changes occur several seconds after the neurons actually fire, too slow to study precise neural activity. Further, the spacing of tiny blood vessels limits the spatial resolution of the technique to volumes containing at least 1,000 neurons, too coarse for discrimination of highly specialized functional areas within a brain region.........

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October 3, 2006, 10:08 PM CT

Robot Wheelchair Gives Patients More Independence

Robot Wheelchair Gives Patients More Independence
Engineers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are developing a robotic system that may offer wheelchair-dependent people independent, powered mobility and the ability, depending on patient status, to move to and from beds, chairs and toilets without assistance.*.

The lifting ability of the system, which is called the "HLPR Chair" (for Home Lift, Position and Rehabilitation), also should significantly reduce caregiver and patient injuries.

The HLPR chair draws on mobile robotic technology developed at NIST for defense and manufacturing applications. It is built on an off-the-shelf forklift with a U-frame base on wheel-like casters and a rectangular vertical frame. The frame is small enough to pass through the typical residential bathroom. The user drives the chair using a joystick and other simple controls.

The HLPR chair's drive, steering motors, batteries and control electronics are positioned to keep its center of gravity-even when carrying a patient-within the wheelbase. This allows a person, weighing up to 300 pounds, to rotate out, from the inner chair frame, over a toilet, chair or bed while supported by torso lifts. The torso lifts lower the patient safely into the new position. The chair frame can even remain in position to continue supporting the patient from potential side, back or front fall.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source


October 3, 2006, 9:29 PM CT

Williams Syndrome, And Love Of Music

Williams Syndrome, And Love Of Music
Children with Williams syndrome, a rare genetic disorder, just love music and will spend hours listening to or making music. Despite averaging an IQ score of 60, a number of possess a great memory for songs, an uncanny sense of rhythm, and the kind of auditory acuity, than can discern differences between different vacuum cleaner brands.

A study by a multi-institutional collaboration of scientists, published in a forthcoming issue of NeuroImage, identified structural abnormalities in a certain brain area of people afflicted with Williams syndrome. This might explain their heightened interest in music and, in some cases, savant-like musical skill.

Professor Ursula Bellugi, director of the Laboratory for Cognitive Neuroscience at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies the central hub of this unique scientific alliance explains, "Understanding the connections between missing genes, the resulting changes in brain structure and function, and ultimately behavior may help us to reveal how the brain works".

The current study is just the latest chapter in a story that's been unfolding for quite some time gaining increasing momentum in recent years. It all started when Bellugi reached out across disciplines and assembled a team of experts under the umbrella of a Program Project from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development to help her trace the influence of individual genes on the development and functioning of the brain.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


October 3, 2006, 5:21 AM CT

Reintroducing Megafauna To North America

Reintroducing Megafauna To North America A massive Ecological History Park of North America with free-roaming elephants, lions and other large animals that went extinct 13,000 years ago in North America.
Credit: Illustration by Carl Buell
Dozens of megafauna (large animals over 100 pounds) such as giant tortoises, horses, elephants, and cheetah went extinct in North America13,000 years ago during the end of the Pleistocene. As is the case today in Africa and Asia, these megafauna likely played keystone ecological roles via predation, herbivory, and other processes. What are the consequences of losing such important components of America's natural heritage?

In the recent issue of The American Naturalist, a group of 12 ecologists and conservationists provide a detailed proposal for the restoration of North America's lost megafauna. Using the same species from different locales or closely related species as analogs, their project "Pleistocene Rewilding" is conceived as carefully managed experiments in an attempt to learn about and partially restore important natural processes to North American ecosystems that were present for millennia until humans played a significant role in their demise 13,000 years ago.

"Over the past 30 years, more and more evidence suggests that if we lose large animals from ecosystems, they often collapse and biodiversity, along with society, are the ultimate losers," says Josh Donlan (Cornell University). "For millions of years, large animals were the norm all over the world we should start thinking about reintroducing these large animals and restoring these important processes back to ecosystems".........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


October 2, 2006, 10:08 PM CT

Why Ultramarine Blue Fades

Why Ultramarine Blue Fades
The 20-year restoration of Michelangelo's frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel has left visitors in awe of the work's original majesty--notably the brilliance of the blue that graces the Last Judgment's sky. Recent investigations into this shade of blue--ultramarine blue--have brought to light the pigment's tendency to fade. Is it possible that the longevity of such a masterpiece as the Last Judgment could be in peril?

Scientists at New York University and Pratt Institute now have the answer to why it fades, which gives the art world direction on how to protect the works of past and future masters.

The natural ultramarine pigment, obtained from the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli, has been one of the most valued pigments by European painters since the late 13th century. Before the 19th century, the only known source of lapis lazuli was in the quarries of Badakhshan (northeastern Afghanistan), a site visited and described by Marco Polo. He wrote: "There is a mountain in that region where the finest azure [lapis lazuli] in the world is found. It appears in veins like silver streaks." Lapis lazuli provided not only a vibrant blue color unmatched by any other pigment available at the time, but it added a divine nature to the artwork in which it was used. Since it was valued more highly than gold, its use typically conveyed the high status of a work's commissioner. Ultramarine was the pigment often reserved to paint the mantel of the Virgin Mary.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


October 2, 2006, 9:52 PM CT

Parents In The Dark About Substance Abuse

Parents In The Dark About Substance Abuse
A team of researchers led by School of Medicine scientists has found that parents often don't know when their children are using alcohol, nicotine or other drugs.

"We found that parents knew their kids were using alcohol, cigarettes or marijuana only about half the time," said Laura Jean Bierut, M.D., associate professor of psychiatry and principal investigator of the study.

In addition, the study, published in the recent issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found that for cocaine or other illicit drugs, the number of parents who know is even lower, with only 28 percent reporting that their adolescent children used these drugs.

"For example, among 12- to 17-year olds, 8.5 percent of the children said that they had tried a drug other than marijuana, but only 3.1 percent of parents reported that their child had used one of these drugs," said Sherri L. Fisher, the study's first author and the project coordinator for the St. Louis site of the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA).

The researchers surveyed 591 children ages 12 to 17, asking them questions about alcohol, tobacco and drug use. They also surveyed one parent per child to ask about whether their child ever had used alcohol or other drugs. A total of 438 parent-child pairs came from families participating in the COGA study, meaning that at least one member of their family had sought treatment for alcoholism. Another 153 pairs were from families recruited from the community. The researchers found that parents who had experienced drug or alcohol problems themselves were no more likely to know that their children were using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


October 1, 2006, 8:20 PM CT

Compulsive Buying In Women And Men

Compulsive Buying In Women And Men
Do you think women are more prone to compulsory buying? Then you are wrong!

Contrary to popular opinion, nearly as a number of men as women experience compulsive buying disorder, a condition marked by binge buying and subsequent financial hardship, as per new research from the Stanford University School of Medicine.

"The widespread opinion that most compulsive buyers are women may be wrong," the scientists wrote in their paper, which would be reported in the recent issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Senior author Lorrin Koran, MD, emeritus professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, said the study is the first large, nationwide effort to assess the prevalence of the disorder. The study observed that more than one in 20 adults in the United States suffers from the condition.

People who have compulsive buying disorder - sometimes called compulsive shopping disorder - are often struck with an irresistible, intrusive and often senseless impulse to buy. It is common for sufferers to go on frequent shopping binges and to accumulate large quantities of unnecessary, unwanted items. Sufferers often rack up thousands of dollars in debt and lie to their loved ones about their purchases. The consequences can be bankruptcy, divorce, embezzlement and even suicide attempts.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


September 28, 2006, 4:48 AM CT

Mel Gibson Talks About Apocalypto

Mel Gibson Talks About Apocalypto
Anything new from Mel Gibson is news. Lately he has been very silent. Read this blog post the movie blog.

We haven't heard much from Mel Gibson over the last little while (for obvious reasons). As far as I'm concerned the guy should be in jail for risking killing people and himself for driving drunk. but oh well. the laws in North America are totally screwed when it comes to stuff like that. But now Mel is out and about again screening his new film Apocalypto, which I'm dying to see by the way.

Love or hate Mel Gibson, you have to admire a guy who puts his own neck and money on the line with his projects. He seems to do films these days that people love telling him won't work and that people will avoid seeing in the theaters. It's neat seeing a guy make his own movie, with his own money and have no one to answer to.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


September 27, 2006, 9:17 PM CT

Controlling Gun Violence

Controlling Gun Violence
Reforms to the sales practices of a licensed gun store-which previous to May 1999, sold more than half of the guns recovered from criminals in Milwaukee-resulted in a 44 percent decrease in the flow of new guns to criminals in the city, as per a new study from scientists with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center for Gun Policy and Research. The study appears in the September/October 2006 issue of The New York Academy of Medicine's Journal of Urban Health.

In May 1999, a highly-publicized government study revealed that a Milwaukee-area gun shop was the nation's leading seller of guns that were later recovered from criminals. Two days after the study was publicized, the dealer announced that his store would no longer sell small, inexpensive handguns, sometimes known as Saturday Night Specials, that are usually used in crime.

In the Hopkins study, scientists tracked the number of guns that police recovered from criminals within one year of retail sale. This uncommonly short sale-to-crime interval is considered an indicator of illegal gun trafficking. The store's change in sales policy was linked to a 96 percent decrease in the number of small, inexpensive handguns that were recovered from criminals in Milwaukee that were recently sold by the store. There was also a 42 percent reduction in other types of guns sold by the gun dealer and soon recovered from a criminal. The reductions in Milwaukee occurred abruptly after the change in the dealer's sales practice and appear to be directly attributable to those reforms-a finding supported by the fact that the study authors saw no change in gun trafficking in three comparison cities in the Midwest.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source


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