Archive for February, 2007

Immune From Cancer?

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Immunization against cancer is a mind boggling step in women’s health care. Much is being said about the most recent “shot.” Mostly by news media with prompts from pharmaceutical companies because although women will benefit, immediate profit will be reaped by manufacturers, big time! Folks who experienced deaths in their families from uterine cancer jumped on the cause. Statistics indicate that the virus resides in large numbers of women. Then apparently the virus invades women’s bodies in other ways besides copulation. How?

Parents object to being forced to inoculate their twelve-year-old daughters. Governmental interference is to be taken seriously. One objection is that parents fear it will encourage more teen sex. Perhaps some youngsters will be enticed to experiment with early sex and no wonder. It is such an exciting but compelling development in growing bodies. Children begin to ask questions almost as soon as they can talk. Parents do not know how to tell the truth. Many of us do not truly understand it ourselves. We resort to fairies, storks, and other fantasies.

One age old problem was solved when women were determined to indulge in their capacity to enjoy sex. Whew! Men were not about to let that happen so mutilation of the vulva (a serious touchy-feely zone at the apex of women’s thighs) began centuries ago and is still practiced in many cultures.

The truth is avoided because humans have not come to grips that animal bodies are genetically primed to reproduce. Oh, we are animals and in humans the erogenous zones are placed all over our bodies to stimulate the mind to act. Sex education is the right of every child. Male or female need to know why their hormones flood their bodies.

Males are more at risk from lack of knowledge because the physical evidence of their arousal is blatant — quite evident for all to see. But in places where groups of men (age 10 to 24) congregate, sex is limited to bragging about real or imagined conquests, maybe even the size of the offending member. Minds have the capacity to prevent the arousal. Concentration is needed and for some it is easier to blame women for the problem. Beautiful eyes, lips, breasts, or legs lead men astray.

Physical attraction happens early in life. Children, of all people, should be informed when very young about the natural tendencies in their bodies. Encourage friends, neighbors, cities, and school boards to fill a gap about the reality society put into never never land way back when the pilgrims shamed the sex act in the original thirteen colonies.

Not My Zebra

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Would it make a difference if zebras did get ulcers? I wondered that when I first heard of Robert M. Sapolski’s book entitled “WHY ZEBRAS DON’T GET ULCERS.” The short term stress of a zebra frantically racing to escape a lion is compared to the stress we humans often impose upon our bodies. Why zebras? The book cover shows zebras circling in the manner of the Matisse painting of the dancers.

A zebra study once interested me when I worked on an Earthwatch team in Kenya assisting biologists on Lake Naivasha.

Still I ask, why zebras? Here I combined my experiences with Sapolski’s admission that he spends summers studying baboons in Kenya. In the shadow of Mount Kenya the number of Grevy zebras appears to be decreasing at an alarming rate. Therefore those animals became the object of studies by enterprising scientists who also wished to spend months in tropical Africa observing, testing, and tabulating the life style of a vanishing breed. And from those studies, behold! comes the fact that zebras do not have ulcers. Zoo keepers assured Sapolski that the greatest stress a zebra undergoes is being transported to the zoo. Sapolski had proof that zebras don’t get ulcers.

OK, the point is that when a zebra stresses itself to outrun the lion the zebra goes off (providing it did outrun the lion) and its heartbeat returns to normal. The problem is solved. Stress is relieved. But humans don’t have the sense to outrun their problems so their stress is continuous and causes all manor of heart, kidney, or stomach distress that turns over time into disease.

More importantly, Sapolski makes reading and understanding science fun. Don’t you believe me? Why else would he mention Jeopardy, O. J. Simpson, The Far Side, bungee jumping, and the Polar Bear Club? Even cartoons! Science is exciting and Sapolski wants to convey that excitement by making the subject interesting and accessible even to those who would rather be caught dead than think they suffered from glucocorticoid excess or circulating catecholamines.

Just the title made me consider my life style. Me, under stress? I grit my teeth, hold my breath, get mad at politicians, and long to strangle “great” salespeople. And on top of that I withhold exercise, water, music and laughter from my every day life. Is it any wonder that I developed a debilitating case of ulcers? Sapolski injects humor to point out in chapters on heart, lung, and other unseen body parts how complicated is this body we take for granted. You must read it to believe it.

WHY ZEBRAS DON’T GET ULCERS

An updated guide to stress, stress-related diseases, and coping

Robert M. Sapolski

ISBN 0-7167-3210-6

W.H. Freeman and Company, 1998

Too Much To Control

Wednesday, February 21st, 2007

Alzheimer’s and dementia are diseases much in the news. Even among my acquaintances there are more cases of older people who no longer remember the present or cannot recognize their own family. After reading scientific articles on brain development and learning how many neurons are involved in putting everyday experiences into actions, I noticed how many ideas — thoughts — are going through my head, past, present and future. I think of what happened today just for an instant then all manner of other thoughts come up.

One thought leads to another. I wish I had done or said something differently. I could go crazy over those thoughts. You know, the game people play rehashing football runs after the game. Or which card could have won the bridge hand. Thoughts and ideas race through my brain and I want to take action and get something done. When I focus I shut all distractions out. Close off my senses and do the job. In a sense I shut off neurons bouncing all over the brain cells and force myself to concentrate on what I am doing and take control.

But what happens when people can no longer physically control those things that have been their habits for a lifetime? Will the brain keep on bombarding them with thoughts, willing them to action they cannot perform? What agony! How much can a human stand? Is there the possibility that they have to close off the memories? Could there be a Hox gene or a protein that shuts off the torment of ideas, wishes, or dreams that cannot possibly come to be? Do they wander off to search?

I expect there can be a better solution than looking for another pill.

Happy Birthday Darwin

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

Wouldn’t it be a great world if we had more good scientists? Or musicians? Or poets? They could be cloned and we would have a super race. Well not really.

A cell from Jonas Salk would grow to look like Jonas Salk but become a scientist that would solve such a world problem as curing polio? Most likely not. He may solve a world problem but not necessarily. You see, the baby that grows from the cell has to live through a lifetime and absolutely could not duplicate the first World War’s environment and economy in New York’s factory district. I will admit that considering the health crisis we have today and his genes, the clone might go into the health field. But all that would take 40 years, providing he had similar opportunities in medical research. Or he may reach greater heights if the clone’s childhood would include the enhanced learning available today. But again if he didn’t have to work to put himself through college, he could indulge in drugs, alcohol, and other pastimes pursued by today’s youth.

Speculation is foolish. And so is cloning of human beings. A coach dreaming of a super sports team would have one fine time raising and training a dozen perfect specimens. Cloning sheep gets animals with consistent wool but what will the market do about it? The best thing to do then is to clone public relations folks — more glitzy salespeople. Oh my goodness, what have I done?

So there you go. Society is not able to solve the problem created by too many people as it is. Charles Darwin didn’t dwell on over population. That wasn’t a problem on February 12, in 1809 when he was born. Natural selection in his view ruled everything. Species came and species went extinct. To assure Homo sapiens survival for a long while I think we need to work more diligently on providing for the babies that are here.

Computer to Rule?

Monday, February 12th, 2007

Natural selection is difficult enough to imagine but to understand the time it took for life to evolve from a single cell in the first primordial soup to the complex set of blood and bones we live with today is nearly an impossible leap. Our baby brain is not up to the challenge. But many computer advocates wonder how long it will be before someone invents a computer smarter than humans. Computer gurus are now modeling the mind. One thing they discovered was that neural circuits in the human brain are not linear as are computer circuits. Not so simple to program. Our neurons jump all over the place to tell the body what to do or how to recognize the world around us. A computer can only act on what is put into it.

Computers can do calculating at the speed of light with whatever data they are supplied. Computer chips are already operating airplanes, automobiles, word processors, satellites, and I know not what else. Will we become so dependent upon them as to lose our sense of self? But a stand alone computer that can think like a person? Think again.

I am going to be prophetic, a veritable Moses, if you will. There will never be a computer as “smart” as a human.

Use MY Brain?

Sunday, February 11th, 2007

I recently paid attention to how much research is being done on the human brain. Probably has been for decades. No wonder because people have a lot of complaints about their heads and since the first “con-man” offered a magic pill, society has embraced the dream of instant relief. And scurry to some one else to solve their problems.

Now some conditions really need modern technology like tumors and injuries. But there may be a simpler solution for everyday people like me. That is simply to stop overloading our stomachs. Too much food washed down with liquids spiked with sugar and caffeine. Never mind which fats, carbohydrates, or proteins,just not sooooo much, not soooooo often. A few minutes of old fashioned relaxation or maybe old fashioned active sex would go a long way to soothing the troubled mind as well.

However brain studies are not helpful in that regard. Someone else, some other technology must step forward to make the big leap from aches in the head to fat in the belly. Studying the human brain requires new technology which I hasten to add is fabulous technology being designed by some very human brains. But there is a more immediate solution to my problems and that is for me to use my own great and wonderful brain to take a look at my own body. Wrinkled and sagging skin is not a pretty picture. Just the vision makes me cringe.

I am not up to that much thinking. I will go online and buy a bottle of that purplish, greenish, reddish stuff that has been proven in clinical studies to help others like me. Surely those actors can’t all be wrong.

Big Time Ego

Friday, February 9th, 2007

When searching for a world map I found a National Geographic rendition of the Pacific ocean floor. I took a closer look at the mountains and islands below the water’s surface. A recent minor earthquake twenty miles away and twenty miles deep reminded me that hundreds of quakes are registered daily. The earth’s skin is under careful surveillance because it is constantly moving, creating havoc in isolated places all over the world. I am aware of the earth and my relation to it.

Maybe.

Have I put it in proper context? The earth is more than a ball of rock circling the sun. A happy and stable place to live to be sure, however, the earth is a moving — in a way, breathing — part of a complete living habitat. Do we, this superior mammal species, who believes we can conquer every problem with technology, stop and look at the action beneath our feet? In the sense of expelling, the earth’s skin does breathe. It emits hot plasma in thin places. The Pacific ocean floor is riddled with volcanic cones that release heat from the molten interior. The ocean floor is pulling apart at the rate of 4 inches a year as it piles up molten rocks to become exotic islands. Edges of land breaks in the earth’s crust are constantly on the move, crushing against continents or diving under others. The pressure is always there. Always pushing. Always moving, until it crunches big time, to be recorded on seismographic instruments in laboratories around the world.

Global warming is a fact. But is the human race completely at fault? Our collective ego believes we could stop the world. While we are destroying the ozone layer (which will ultimately kill us with cancer), I wonder if our technology really is the cause of global warming. Could this warming trend be a normal progression of natural evolution? The molten lava is boiling and pushing to be released. How much does that warm the ocean? What effect does that have on our atmosphere? Especially on the currents that plague our shores with capricious weather from season to season.

Scientists are showing that animal species, humans in particular, are but a small part of the natural world. Extinction is a matter of historical evidence and Homo sapiens will probably evolve out of the picture, but not any time soon. Unless another eruption like Karakatau in 1883 occurs or the tsunami near Sumatra in 2004 throws the earth into another wobble, perhaps one that gravity cannot correct. But with little crustal adjustments taking place in Alaska, Iran, Walla Walla, and hundreds of other places, a major catastrophe is not likely for a few centuries. The dinosaurs luxuriated on earth for 150 million years and they had very small brains! Think what can be done with brains the size of ours!