RT @cells_nnm: Stem Cell Research: 2009, The Year Big Pharma Bought The Idea Of Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy http://ff.im/dJiYYSun, 03/01/2010 - 6:42pm | by Dr. Gunn
A couple of months ago we had a discussion on this blog about the relative importances of diet versus exercise in achieving weight loss. Yesterday in my pile of monthly journals I received my copy of Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise (MSSE), the official monthly journal of the American College of Sports Medicine. MSSE is an interesting journal -- it is a combination of clinical research, basic science, and applied studies often involving human participants. If you are a lay person with any interest in exercise or exercise prescription, this is a very accessible journal in terms of the ability to interpret the content, and some of the articles are freely available. Including the one that caught my attention this month...
But, I digress. In this month's MSSE is an article presenting a subset of data from the large, clinical Comprehensive Assessment of Long-term Effects of Reducing Intake of Energy (CALERIE) study. In this component of the study, Eric Ravussin's group looked at the effect of caloric restriction or caloric restriction plus exercise on weight loss and markers of cardiovascular fitness. In brief, they enrolled 36 sedentary, overweight individuals (body mass index 25-30 kg/m^2. Calculate yours here) and assigned them to one of three groups - a control group (CO) where individuals did not change food intake or fitness, a calorie restricted (CR) group in which the participants cut their intake by 25%, or a calorie restricted plus exercise (CR+EX) group in which the participants cut their intake by 12.5% and exercised sufficient to create a deficit of an additional 12.5%. What's important to note for the rest of our discussion is that over the 24 week period, the CR and CR+EX groups had exactly the same calorie deficits.
Before we talk about the results, I think it is important to point out how challenging this studies are to conduct. For weeks 7-24 of this study participants went to the study center 5x/week to exercise. They attended weekly group meetings to ensure compliance and for weeks 1-12 and 22-24 the study center provided the participants with all of their meals. That is a huge undertaking.
Figure 1: It really does take an army of dedicated people to conduct studies like this.
So, what does this mean? If your only goal is only weight loss, it doesn't matter which approach you choose. As long as you end up with fewer calories at the end of the day, you'll lose weight. However, if you want to be healthier at the end of it all, you need to exercise. There are a couple of additional things about this study I found interesting.
First, Ravussin's group was careful to enroll medication free participants without a history of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure. While I think this makes Ravussin's data more useful in the long run, we can't use these data to necessarily predict how people with metabolic syndrome, heart disease, or diabetes would respond and it is important to study these groups under similar conditions in order to make comparisons. That's not a fault of this well-executed study. It's merely a statement that we need to compare these data to data from groups with these comorbidities.The other thing I found striking was this figure:
Figure 4 from the article: Weight loss over a 24 week period.
Look at the difference between the CR and CR+EX groups in terms of rate of weight loss. While there is certainly no difference between the groups at week 24, look at weeks 2-8. These data suggest that, if you are in there CR+EX group, it could take up to 8 weeks to lose 2% of your body weight. That means, if you begin weighing 200 lbs, it could take 8 weeks to lose 4 lbs. If you diet alone, you could lose 8 lbs in about the same amount of time, yet these individuals had exactly the same daily caloric load. That tells me one of two things is happening here -- 1)The people in the CR+EX group were big cheaters and snuck off for a snack after their workouts or 2) Body mass changes are different early in a diet and exercise program compared to a diet only program (for example, the CR+EX built muscle mass that the CR goupr didn't). It would have been interesting to see the change in total fat mass data over this period. I think that with individuals engaging in an exercise program for the first time, this early period is pretty critical and individuals who feel they are not seeing results may quit prematurely. The end conclusion, however, is that, if you're willing to stick with the program, the benefits of diet modification and exercise far outweigh the benefits of diet modification alone.
Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Bioephemera
A few days ago, the New York Times ran an article about the problem of manure handling on large farms. . From the title "Down on the Farm, an Endless Cycle of Waste," which completely misses the point that manure is not "waste" to the end, the article failed to ask any of the really pertinent questions raised by really large scale industrial agriculture and its chronic problems with manure handling.
In function it is something like a Zamboni, but one that has crossed over to the dark side. This is no hockey rink, and it's not loose ice being scraped up. It's cow manure.
Lots of cow manure. A typical lactating Holstein produces about 150 pounds of waste -- by weight, about two-thirds wet feces, one-third urine -- each day. Mr. Volleman has 3,000 lactating Holsteins and another 1,000 that are temporarily "dry." Do the math: his Wildcat Dairy produces about 200 million pounds of manure every year.
Proper handling of this material is one of the most important tasks faced by a dairy operator, or by a cattle feedlot owner, hog producer or other farmer with large numbers of livestock. Manure has to be handled in an environmentally acceptable way and at an acceptable cost. In most cases, that means using it, fresh or composted, as fertilizer. "It's a great resource, if used properly," said Saqib Mukhtar, an associate professor of biological and agricultural engineering at Texas A & M University and an expert on what is politely called manure management.
But as the increasing incidence of environmental and health problems linked to agriculture makes clear, when manure is mismanaged the nutrients in it can foul streams, lakes and aquifers; the pathogens in it can contaminate food products; and the gases it produces, including ammonia, methane and bad-smelling volatile compounds, can upset neighbors and pollute the atmosphere.
Even with best practices, manure can cause environmental headaches. So researchers are working on ways to improve its handling, to modify the nutrients in it and to develop alternative uses.
I'm so glad we have researchers working day and night to figure out how to manage 200 million lbs of cow manure, to make it less toxic, and to deal with the environmental "headaches" that even the "best practices" can cause. If it were me, not being a researcher, I would tend to think that those research dollars could be spent elsewhere, maybe on breeding a cow with antennae or something really cool, because I know the magic trick to making manure not an a massive environmental hazard that is risky even with the "best practices." After extensive research (and I'd really like some company to pay me some money for this, since I obviously worked hard at figuring it out, and am clearly a genius), I've figured out how to reduce the manure handling hazard, and convert it from "waste" to something extremely wonderful and useful (although I can't make it smell like lavender."
Don't have 4,000 cow dairies. Don't put more cows in one place that make since given the land's capacity to absorb the manure. Don't set up a system that needs a manure lagoon and a shit-scraping zamboni running 24 hours a day. Don't have so many cows that manure functions as "waste" because it isn't - it is fertilizer. But it is only a fertilizer if you can return it to local land - as the article points out, it doesn't make sense to truck manures long distances - and that means a smaller number of cows in more dairies.
But the Times article doesn't consider this. The assumption is that the manure lagoons and the practices that surround that kind of quantity of manure are inevitable:
With nitrogen, the problem is usually not that there is too much, but that much of it is eventually lost from the manure in the form of gaseous ammonia. The bacteria in feces contain an enzyme, urease, that breaks down urea in urine into carbon dioxide and ammonia. As with phosphorous, diet can affect the amount of nitrogen retained in the manure. As corn-based ethanol production has increased in the United States, many dairies and feedlots now give their animals a large amount of so-called distillers' grains, the waste corn after fermentation, which are plentiful and cheap. A recent study of feedlots in the Texas Panhandle, by scientists with the United States Department of Agriculture, showed that feeding a diet high in distillers' grains produced significantly higher ammonia emissions from the manure.
Emissions problems can also be reduced by changing how the manure is applied. Tilling the soil immediately after application of dried manure can help reduce odors, Dr. Mukhtar said. And if manure is directly injected into the soil in slurry form, Dr. Burns said, the ammonia can better bind with the soil. Currently in Iowa, a major hog-producing state, about 80 percent of hog manure is injected.
When it comes to the liquid end of things, there are delicate balances to be maintained as well.
Regulations vary by state, but in Texas, manure lagoons have to be big enough to handle a severe rainstorm of the type that occurs, on average, only once every quarter-century. The danger is that an overflow from a lagoon, with its high concentration of organic matter and nutrients, could eventually reach a creek or some other body of water and kill fish.
Ok, in Texas, you have to be big enough to handl the 25 year storm. But wait a minute. What happens when the 50 year storm happens? Or the 100 year storm? Or for that matter, what happens when climate change ups the rate of those storms?
Even without those storms, we have ample research to suggest that manure lagoons are not the hottest idea on the planet. For example, not all areas that have lagoons should have them - when groundwater runs near them, you get contamination anyway There have been more than 200 significant manure spills and leaks from lagoons in just the last four years, many with substantial environmental costs, including one in New York in 2005 about an hour from me that killed 375,000 fish in the Black River and contaminated local water tables.
The truth is that this much animal manure cannot be handled safely over the long term - all of our best attempts to regulate and control have not stopped CAFO animal manures from contaminating water tables, rivers, lakes and streams. Moreover, if you imagine that we don't have all the fossil fuels we could ever want, or that we shouldn't burn them these agricultural models are a complete disaster. Putting 4 or 5 or 6 thousand cows in one place means that the farm will always be profoundly dependent on energy intensive equipment like the manure-zamboni. They will always be overwhelmed by the fact that their land can't absorb all the manure. A single shortage or extended outage is a disaster.
And we can't afford to waste our manures. The article above cheerfully reports you can reduce odor by tilling the manure in - but of course, besides being resource intensive, this means that carbon held by the soil is being released, rather than contained. We need to reduce tillage, not increase it, or begin it on pastures and hayfields, which are environmentally positive in large part because they are not being tilled. Besides producing a shitload (forgive me) of methane, they are also upping carbon release this way.
We also can't afford to waste our manures because we need the fertilizers. We have already seen wild fluctuations in fertilizer costs in the last few years, resulting in farmers struggling to afford to buy enough. Potash prices rose dramatically in 2008-2009, while the cost of artificial nitrogen and rock phosphates have also fluctuated. Farmers can't afford to ignore local resources. But, as the article points out, it doesn't make sense to truck manure more than 10 miles.
But again, that's the magic of my solution. Instead of 1 4,000 cow dairy, let's say you have 40 100 cow dairies. Guess what? They can't all exist on exactly the same land - so you spread that manure out. Most farms that raise their cows on pasture can pretty much handle the manure produced by 100 cows, assuming they have agricultural neighbors to share with. Better yet, what about 100 40 cow dairies? Your average farm that can support 40 cows can completely handle their manure. No lagoons, just composting piles and spreading on fields - and a lot fewer piles, because, of course, if the cows actually go outside and eat grass, they are spreading their own manure.
In my own region of the country, thousands of dairy farms have gone out of business. Did those farmers just hate their work and voluntarily give up the ghost? Nope - I know these guys and they are my neighbors. My town had twice as many dairies 10 years ago, and twice as many as that 20 years ago. It has been a long and painful process of agonizing attrition, farmers hanging on just one more year, trying to make it work as they are undercut by people with 4,000 cows and with an agricultural system that would rather invest money in research to make the poop less toxic than simply recognize that none of us are served by the consolidation of dairy farming. It would haven't taken a massive shift in subsidies and practices to keep those guys in business, and I know 10 who would go back in a heartbeat, if they could be promised something other than another disaster. These are guys who love their cows, who know their 60 cows, who wanted nothing more than to keep getting up at 4 in the morning for the rest of their lives so that you could drink a glass of milk.
Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Bioephemera
See original: It isn't Waste if You Do It Right [Casaubon's Book]
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) now invites your input on the *management* of policies to deliver public access to the published results of taxpayer-funded research, to be submitted to the online discussion no later than January 7, 2010.
Paste this comic into your blog or website…
Paste this comic into a forum…
See original: meanwhile, in iran…
A temporary ban on the shooting of some species of wildfowl is announced in Scotland due to freezing conditions.
See original: Freeze leads to wildfowl hunt ban
In 2005, more than two-thirds of the American scientific workforce was composed of white males. But by 2050, white males will make up less than one-fourth of the population. If the pipeline fails to produce qualified nonwhite scientists, we will, in effect, be competing against the rest of the world with one hand tied behind our backs.
Let me repeat: By 2050, white males will make up less than one-fourth of the [U.S] population.
There are many science educators around the world who are trying to cultivate into the STEMM disciplines young people who are not of the default demographic.
However, wanting to do so and actually doing it is far more challenging than one might think. Even a scientist as accomplished and educator as experienced as Epstein was challenged. Brandeis already had a program for select minority students, "that utilized team-building and peer support as mechanisms to help students survive and thrive academically":
The program, run by The Posse Foundation, works with universities to select and coach "posses" of 10 inner-city students who then attend, in a group, some of the country's top universities. The program is remarkably successful, producing a graduation rate over 90%. But even the Posse Foundation fell short in the sciences. Fewer than 10% of its students graduated in science, even though nearly half started off intending to do so.
Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Bioephemera
There are many and varied theories about what went wrong at Copenhagen and what needs to happen now. It is interesting to note that the problems that states might have in dealing with climate change were anticipated 35 years ago by the Australian philosopher John Passmore.
In his 1974 book on environmental ethics, “Man’s Responsibility for [...]
See original: Copenhagen problems were anticipated 35 years ago
It seems to us the battle between the secular and the religious is settling down into a predictable form of trench warfare. From the secular side (that's where my trench is located) comes this recitation of the now accepted responses to the now expected arguments of the religious against us atheists (hat tip reader LT). Many of these arguments involved some rather deep issues that are treated in a fairly superficial way. For example, Carl Sagan's remark that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I'm not even sure what that means but I see no reason why it should be true. Or claims that are founded on somewhat passè philosophies about truth and ordinary language. I don't say this to denigrate the secular responses given in this clip. In most cases they would also be my responses. But I do recognize that the shells lobbed in this kind of warfare aren't exactly state of the art.
Having felt compelled to say that, enjoy Wise Monkey on atheism:
Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Bioephemera
هذا الكرة الصغيرة تقدم دليلا على أن الكون في توسع أبدي ودائم. بحجمها الضئيل الذي لا يتجاوز عُشرا من الميليمتر، تتحرك الكرية نحو لوحة ملساء كاستجابة لـتقلبات الطاقة المتواجدة في فضاء خاو. تسمى هذه الظاهرة بـتأثير كازيمير (Casimir) نسبة إلى مكتشفها الذي حاول منذ نصف قرن فهم سبب بطء حركة بعض الموائع (fluids) كصلصة المايونيز مثلا. اليوم، تتراكم الأدلة على أن جل الكثافة الطاقوية للكون توجد في شكل مجهول يسمى الطاقة المظلمة، وهي طاقة نجهل حتى الآن شكلها أو أصلها، لكن يفترض أن لها صلة بتقلبات الفراغ المتكررة (vacuum fluctuations) تشبه تأثير كازيمير، لكن الفضاء هو الذي يولَدها بطريقة ما. يبدو أن هذه الطاقة المظلمة المنتشرة والغامضة لها قوة تنافر جاذبي يؤثر على كل المواد، ما يرجح أنه سيؤدي إلى توسع لانهائي للكون. تضع كثير من الأبحاث نصب عينيها فك رموز تقلبات الفراغ والغاية لا تتوقف عند فهم أفضل للكون فحسب، بل كذلك منع قطع الآلات الميكانيكية الدقيقة من الالتصاق.
See original: تأثير كازيمير: قوة في الفضاء الخاو
A Force from Empty Space: The Casimir Effect Credit & Copyright: Umar MohideenU. California at Riverside
This tiny ball provides evidence that the
universe will expand forever.
This vast and mysterious
appears to gravitationally repel all matter and hence will likely
cause the universe to expand forever.
Understanding vacuum fluctuations is on the forefront of research not only to
better understand our universe but also for
stopping micro-mechanical machine parts from sticking together
APOD editor will review astronomy images of 2009,
hosted by the Amateur Astronomers Association of New York on Friday,
January 8 at the American Museum of Natural History, NYC.
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See original: 2010 January 3
RT @draga00: Ten Psychology Studies from 2009 Worth Knowing About http://bit.ly/5aHPWQ by @NeuronarrativeSun, 03/01/2010 - 10:42am | by sandygautam
14th International Conference on Knowledge-Based and Intelligent
Information & Engineering Systems
Cardiff, Wales, UK
September 8-10, 2010
Invited Session Title:
Knowledge-Based Automated Software Engineering
Invited Session Chairs:
Ivan Stanev Director Development and Methodology Sirma ITT JSC Bulgaria
Katalina Grigorova Professor University of Ruse Bulgaria
See original: Knowledge-based automated software engineering