Thursday, 26 September 2013

Are We Winning The Battle Against HIV?

Although HIV is still at large on the loose, its infection rates have reduced around the world according to figures released by the United Nations AIDS agency. The report shows that the annual number of new HIV infections in children has more than halved since 2001, from 550,000 to 260,000.
New infections overall have tumbled by a third over the same period. Death rates are falling too, from a peak of 2.3 million in 2005 to 1.6 million last year.
It is believed that many of the reductions are related to increases in the availability of antiretroviral therapy. Of everyone eligible for treatment globally, 61 per cent are now receiving ART – almost 10 million people in total.
Other key factors that may have helped reduce infection rates include scaled-up programmes to prevent mothers with HIV passing the virus to their babies, and the increase of male circumcision programmes in Africa.

Recent changes to eligibility rules mean an additional 10 million can now receive ART, raising hopes of further success.

Source: NewScientist

Friday, 13 September 2013

Picture of the Day: World’s Ugliest Animal

Give it up for the ugliest animal in the world – the blobfish.

The blobfish (Psychrolutes marcidus), a species that lives at great depths and is rarely seen has been voted the world's ugliest animal.

The Ugly Animal Preservation Society hoped to raise awareness about endangered animals by electing a new, aesthetically-challenged mascot. With 200 species becoming extinct every day, the aesthetically challenged animals needed more help because of their unappealing appearance. 

More than 3000 ballots were cast in an online competition out of which the blobfish earned 795 votes.

The blobfish lives off the coast of south-eastern Australia and Tasmania. Fishers often accidentally capture it in their nets, diminishing the size of the blobfish population.  Scientists now fear the blobfish could become an endangered species.
The kakapo, the axolotl, the Titicaca water frog and the proboscis monkey were also in contention for the world's ugliest animal.

In my opinion, the best or should I say the ugliest animal won!

Sunday, 8 September 2013

People Who Lie Take Longer to Respond While Texting

Have you ever been in that awkward situation where you’re busy exchanging a flurry of
messages on one of the social media platform and suddenly you dropped a question and the conversation seems to slow down because the person on the other end is taking longer than normal to respond to your last message? There could be a number of reasons for such a thing to happen.

A new research however is suggesting we should be suspicious when such an incident occurs. Why?  The reason is because when people lie in digital messages – texting, social media or instant messaging – they take longer to respond according to a Brigham Young University study. Besides taking longer to respond, they also make more edits and write shorter responses than usual.

According to one of the researchers, digital conversations are a fertile ground for deception because people can easily conceal their identity and their messages may appear credible. In addition, humans are not very good at detecting lies and it's even harder to tell when someone is lying through a digital message because you can't hear a voice or see an expression.
With the many financial, security and personal safety implications of digital deception, the researchers set up an experimental instrument that tracked possible cues of online lying. They created a computer program that carried out online conversations with participants – similar to the experience consumers have with online customer service questions.

More than 100 students from two large universities, had conversations with the computer, which asked them 30 questions each. The participants were told to lie in about half of their responses. The researchers found responses filled with lies took 10 percent longer to create and were edited more than truthful messages.
The researchers hope to identify signs given off by people that are not easily tracked by individuals. The findings appeared online in the academic information systems journal ACM Transactions on Management Information Systems.

The authors of the study however warned that we shouldn't automatically assume someone is lying if they take longer to respond, but the study does provide some general patterns. The researchers are furthering this line of research by using a variety of other sensors to track human behavior and see how it connects with deception.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Consumption of Soft Drinks Contributes to Behavioral Problems in Children

Soft drinks are consumed by individuals of all ages, including very young children. Although soft drink consumption is associated with aggression, depression, and suicidal thoughts in adolescents, the relationship had not been evaluated in younger children.

A new study published in The Journal of Pediatrics finds that aggression, attention problems, and withdrawal behavior are all associated with soft drink consumption in young children.

The researchers assessed approximately 3,000 5-year-old children enrolled in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study in the U.S. Mothers reported their child's soft drink consumption and completed the Child Behavior Checklist based on their child's behavior during the previous two months. The researchers found that 43% of the children consumed at least 1 serving of soft drinks per day, and 4% consumed 4 or more.

In order to evaluate the relationship between the sugared drinks and behavior problems, the researchers adjusted for several factors that can influence behavior, including their mothers’ depression, children’s diets, intimate partner violence and paternal incarceration. Even after this adjustment, the scientists found a significant relationship between more soda consumption and aggressive behaviors that included destroying other people’s belongings, getting into fights and physically attacking others. Children who drank 4 or more soft drinks per day also had increased attention problems and withdrawal behavior compared with those who did not consume soft drinks.

The researchers noted that a child's aggressive behavior score increased with every increase in soft drinks servings per day. Although this study cannot identify the exact nature of the association between soft drink consumption and problem behaviors, limiting or eliminating a child's soft drink consumption may reduce behavioral problems.

Why Some People Remember Their Dreams and Others Rarely Do?

Dreams have always held a strange fascination but scientists have so far unraveled many of the mysteries surrounding it.
It is a known fact that everyone dreams during sleep, but not everyone recalls the exciting, dangerous and at times scary things they did when they wake up and scientists aren't sure why some people remember more than others.

However, a new study suggests that there are distinct differences in brain function between people who remember their dreams and those who don't.

The research also suggests that people who are better at remembering their dreams wake up more often during the night, and respond more strongly to the sound of their own name--both when they're asleep and when they're awake.
To find out, researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) to record the electrical activity in the brains of 36 people while the participants listened to background tunes, and occasionally heard their own first name. The brain measurements were taken during wakefulness and sleep. Half of the subjects were low recallers, meaning they only remember a dream once or twice a month, and half were high recallers, meaning they remember their dreams almost every day.

When asleep, both groups showed similar changes in brain activity in response to hearing their names, which were played quietly enough not to wake them.
However, when awake, high recallers showed a more sustained decrease in a brain wave called the alpha wave when they heard their names, compared with the low recallers.

These findings indicate that there are differences in brain functioning between people who remember their dreams and those who don't. But one isn't necessarily better than the other. One of the researchers claim it is not a good or bad functioning, it’s just a different way of processing information and that those different ways seem to facilitate--or de-facilitate--dream production or memory.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Is Nigeria’s Space Programme Useless?

A Nigerian engineer at work on one of the country's satellites developed in a British laboratory

Nigeria was in the news recently after British politicians criticized their government for subsidizing Nigeria’s space programme, a nation where 70 percent of people live below the poverty line despite being an oil-rich country.  
Nigeria’s first astronauts are being trained to join Russian, Chinese or American missions within the next two years under the country’s space programme. It is believed to have already received £300m of the £1.14bn in foreign aid earmarked for it over the five years of the coalition government in the UK.
Nigeria's National Space Research & Development Agency (NASRDA) launched its first orbiter, NigeriaSat-1, in 2003. The roughly $13 million cost was paid for by the Nigerian government, but it was built by Surrey Space Technology (SST) in the UK and launched from a Russian spaceport.
The spacecraft was equipped with high-resolution optical and infrared cameras.
NewScientist magazine published an article, How Nigeria has been using its satellites, and in it explained some the usefulness of Nigeria’s satellites. According to the article, Nigeria’s satellites support food production in the region and disaster relief around the world – including helping with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the US.
NigeriaSat-1 lasted until 2012, four years longer than expected. It was succeeded by NigeriaSat-2 and NigeriaSat-X, which both launched in 2011 carrying similar instruments. These satellites were also made at SST, with Nigerian engineers helping to build the latter. Apart from its environmental mission, it is believed that the satellites' high-resolution images of the country will help Nigeria review electoral boundaries ahead of its general elections in 2015.
The NigeriaSats are also part of the international Disaster Monitoring Constellation, coordinated by SST. This network of satellites includes Chinese, Spanish and UK spacecraft that can provide rapid images from space when environmental disasters strike.
In 2005 NigeriaSat-1 was the first satellite to send back pictures of the east coast of the US following Hurricane Katrina. And the orbiter contributed images to aid workers following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Nigeria provides disaster-related imagery for free, but the country generates income from the satellites by selling other image data.
NASRDA also commissioned a Chinese-built communications satellite, NigComSat-1, that launched from China in 2007. The satellite lost power a year later and was replaced in 2011 by NigComSat-1R, which is currently providing broadcast and internet services in Nigeria.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Picture of the Day: Trees With Ears

Ever heard the saying that the walls have ears? Perhaps the correct thing to say should be “the trees have ears” according to these pictures. The ‘ear’ shown in the picture is the fungus Auricularia auricula-judae. It is also known as Jelly Ear, Wood Ear, Jew’s Ear and other common names. The species was first described in 1753.

The fruiting body is distinguished by its noticeably ear-like shape and brown coloration; it grows upon wood, especially elder. Its specific epithet (auricula-judae) is derived from the belief that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an elder tree; the common name "Judas's ear" eventually became "Jew's ear", while today "jelly ear" and other names are sometimes used. The fungus can be found throughout the year in temperate regions worldwide, where it grows upon both dead and living wood.

In the West, A. auricula-judae was used in folk medicine as recently as the 19th century for complaints including sore throats, sore eyes and jaundice. Today, the fungus is a popular ingredient in many Chinese dishes, such as hot and sour soup, and also used in Chinese medicine. It is also used in Ghana, as a blood tonic. Modern research into possible medical applications has variously concluded that A. auricula-judae has antitumor, hypoglycemic, anticoagulant and cholesterol-lowering properties.



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