Not too Much Now

Experts said exercising for between 30 and 60 minutes a day is ideal and beyond that would lead to ‘diminishing returns’.

People who run marathons and cycle long distances risk long-term damage to their hearts and are at greater risk of suffering a heart attack in the two years after their race, they were warned.

A review of research on endurance exercise conducted by a team at the respected Mayo Clinic in Rochester, found such exercise as marathons, iron man distance triathlons, and very long distance bicycle races may cause structural changes to the heart and large arteries.

It was also revealed last week that surgeons are seeing an increase in the number of middle-aged fitness fans who are wearing out their knee joints by playing tennis and running into their 40s and 50s.

Published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings it was found that some athletes suffer temporary changes in their heart function which return to normal in the week after their race; however for others, permanent scarring occurs.

Lead author Dr James H. O’Keefe, of Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City, said: “Physically active people are much healthier than their sedentary counterparts.”

“Exercise is one of the most important things you need to do on a daily basis.”

“But what this paper points out is that a lot of people do not understand that the lion’s share of health benefits accrue at a relatively modest level. Extreme exercise is not really conducive to great cardiovascular health. Beyond 30-60 minutes per day, you reach a point of diminishing returns.”

He added: “Physical exercise, though not a drug, possesses many traits of a powerful pharmacologic agent.

“A routine of daily physical activity can be highly effective for prevention and treatment of many diseases, including coronary heart disease, hypertension, heart failure, and obesity.

“However, as with any pharmacologic agent, a safe upper dose limit potentially exists,

Traumatic

beyond which the adverse effects of physical exercise, such as musculoskeletal trauma and cardiovascular stress, may outweigh its benefits.”

As well as scarring of the heart muscle, elite athletes can develop changes in their heart rhythm which can predispose them to sudden cardiac arrest and death if not treated quickly.

Endurance sports have been linked to a five-fold increased risk of atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disturbance which requires careful treatment and can be fatal.

More research is needed to establish the level at which exercise becomes harmful to the heart so exercise programmes can be devised to maximise the health benefits while protecting the heart, Dr O’Keefe said.

Attribution: Rebecca Smith

The Mile High Club

Vintage plane parts destined for the scrap heap have been given a new lease on life and being transformed into beds chairs and desks.

Californian company Motoart spends hours transforming wings, doors and engine cowls into stylish furniture.

Many of the parts require more than 100 hours of cutting, grinding, buffing and polishing before they are ready for purchase.

The company’s bomber seats even come with the original ejector pin and ‘remove before flight’ warning tag.

Their prices range from from $100 for a desk watch to $60,000 for a one-of-a-kind conference table, made from a wing.

Dave Hall, joint owner of Motoart, based next to Los Angeles International Airport, said:

“The mile high beds are very popular with men – and they are almost always bachelors.”

“The bed frames are made from the tail fins of a DC-9 aircraft.”

“They cost between $15,000 and $31,000 but all our prices reflect the rarity of the aeroplane model.”

“We only have 12 of the ejector seats left, so they are priced at $12,000 each.”

Motoart has produced items for A-list celebrities, royalty in the Middle East, and big business clients including Microsoft and Boeing.

Mr Hall said: “A business executive who buys one of our desks certainly has a conversation starter when someone walks into their office.”

Mr Hall 45, set up Motoart in 2001 with Donovan Fell, 64.

The business now employs 17 people and takes in around $40 million a year.

They first got the idea of transforming aircraft parts after selling a set of formerly scrap propellors as art, in the late 1990s.

Mr Hall said “Donovan had his doubts at first, but we cleaned the propellors up and sold them for $10,000 a piece – so we knew we were on to a winner.”

“The scrap parts make up ancient aircraft history. The engineering that went into them is incredible and we only enhance that.”

“Why wouldn’t you want to own a piece of history that looks this good?”

Attribution: Daily Mail

Natural Gas Gets Clubbed

From: RedState

With the shale gas boom in full swing, gas prices are at 10-year lows. We have the realistic prospect of abundant domestic supplies of a clean-burning fuel for the foreseeable future, who doesn’t like natural gas?

Ask the Sierra Club. This week, the venerable environmental organization announced its “Beyond Natural Gas” initiative, to go along with their “Beyond Coal” and “Beyond Oilcampaigns. Of course, they hate nuclear energy too.

“Fossil fuels have no part in America’s energy future – coal, oil, and natural gas are literally poisoning us. The emergence of natural gas as a significant part of our energy mix is particularly frightening because it dangerously postpones investment in clean energy at a time when we should be doubling down on wind, solar and energy efficiency.”
—Robin Mann, Sierra Club President

The Sierra Club has over a half-million members (down from 600,000) and an annual budget of $100 million. They are arguably the most influential environmental lobby in the country. People take them seriously, and politicians listen.

With their opposition to fossil fuels and nukes, the Sierra Club takes 91% of our current energy sources off the table (see EIA chart at the end of the post). And most of the remaining 9% they’re not too crazy about.

Youthful naiveté has an endearing quality. If their proposal were merely impractical, it would be naive. The Sierra Club is not naive. Their plan is physically and economically impossible. They have a willfully foolish, craven and destructive agenda. They are not looking for solutions. They wish an end to our industrialized civilization. They wish us to return to mud huts. There are responsible environmental organizations. It should be an embarrassment that anyone should give the Sierra Club a nickel.

The Sierra Club’s ultimate goal, not surprisingly, is to save the planet from Global Warming. To that end, they wish to curtail 90% of carbon dioxide emissions by 2050thirty-eight years from now.

How will they do it? In Robin Mann’s words: “[W]e should be doubling down on wind, solar and energy efficiency.”

Point #1: Everyone is for energy efficiency, and it happens naturally due to economics and technical advances. But “energy efficiency” is a strategy to use existing fuels more efficiently, not replace them. That means the only technologies on the table are wind and solar. So that leads to …

Point #2: This is not “doubling down”, it’s going “all in“. All in on a sucker’s bet. That’s because wind and solar would have to grow by a factor of 50 times their contribution in 2011. Not “grow by 50%” — 50 times. Even if we suddenly developed the will to do it, there’s not enough money/resources in the known universe to make it possible. And if we did it, what about the Chinese and the rest of the world? And what would be the environmental consequences of making the conversion?


See that little pink bar, way on the right? The Sierra Club loves that. Everything else; not so much. Not at all, in fact. And it’s even worse than that chart makes it appear — this is a graph of domestic sources. In addition to the 78 quads depicted here, we import another 20. And Geothermal has limited growth potential. So that little pink bar needs to grow from a value of 2, to 100.
Or more than 100, because the population is going to grow by 2050. And since wind and solar are not primary transportation sources, we’d need to generate even more to account for efficiency losses.

This radicalism can be understood in the context of a recent reorganization:

Carl Pope, who has led the Sierra Club for much of the last two decades, is planning to leave the organization next year as it struggles to redefine its mission in a tough economy, the organization said Friday. … Mr. Pope, 66, stepped down as executive director last year after 17 years, turning the job over to Michael Brune, 40, who came to the Sierra Club from the Rainforest Action Network and Greenpeace, younger and politically more aggressive groups. Mr. Pope has held the title of chairman since Mr. Brune arrived and will remain a consultant to the club until the end of next year.

Has the Sierra Club jumped the shark? That happened long ago. My friend, with this natural gas pronouncement, the Sierra Club gave the shark a lap dance. And had its love child.

The Wall Street Journal reminds us that not long ago, the Sierra Club and natural gas were BFFs (to the tune of $26 million from Chesapeake Energy, never a shrinking violet when it comes to advancing its own interests):

“The political irony is that not too long ago the Sierra Club and other greens portrayed natural gas as the good fossil fuel. The Sierra Club liked natural gas so much (and vice versa) that from 2007-2010 the group received $26 million in donations from Chesapeake Energy and others in the gas industry, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. Some of that money was for the Beyond Coal campaign. …”

But now that the hydraulic fracturing and shale revolution has sent [wellhead] gas prices down to $2.50 [from $8 or more per million BTU in 2008], the lobby fears natural gas will come to dominate U.S. energy production. At that price, the Sierra Club’s Valhalla of wind, solar and biofuel power may never be competitive. So the green left has decided it must do everything it can to reduce the supply of gas and keep its price as high as possible.

McSoldiers

Shortly before construction began on the Centreville McDonald’s restaurant in early 1997, the unmarked graves of six Civil War soldiers were unearthed on the site.

The astonishing discovery led to an excavation under the direction of forensic anthropologist Doug Owsley of the Smithsonian Institution. Skeletons and historic artifacts from the gravesites were measured, cataloged and removed.

Five years later, a local historian and member of the Northern Virginia Relic Hunters Association — which also participated in the dig — believed he’d unlocked the mystery to the soldiers’ identities. What’s more, he said as many as 10 Civil War soldiers may have actually been buried in that spot.

“They were found in what’s now the drive-through lane for a fast-food place,” said Dalton Rector, who presented his theory at the Centreville fire station to more than 150 people riveted by his every word.

Speaking at the quarterly meeting of the Historic Centreville Society, he said, “I can make a compelling case that they were [Union soldiers] from Massachusetts that died during the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford, halfway between Centreville and Manassas.”

He said a member of his group, Kevin Ambrose, actually discovered one of the graves in 1995, but no one investigated further until Jan. 30, 1997 — day one of the three-day archaeological excavation.

 “Digging human remains is an experience I can’t explain,” said Rector. “My friends and I started debating, right then and there, who they were and where they were from. We thought they were from the early part of the war, so I used March 10, 1862 — the date of the Confederate evacuation of Centreville — as my research cutoff date.”

The research became so fascinating to him that it took up the last five years of his life, and his conclusions — based on forensic evidence, genealogical records and extensive historical data — do seem quite plausible.

“To me, they do,” said newly elected Historic Centreville Society president Spencer Marker. “I was fascinated with what he came up with, and I haven’t heard of anyone else working in this area with these soldiers.”

With the skeletons, also found in the graves, were metal uniform buttons, glass buttons from undergarments, pieces of fabric and even musket balls. And one soldier was still wearing his shoes. Some of the buttons from the state-militia jackets had an “I” on them, signifying “infantry,” and Massachusetts used this type of button for its officers.

The fact that the soldiers had been buried in coffins also provided a clue. “That meant they were buried by their own men,” said Rector. “Therefore, they were in control of Centreville at the time.” He also noted that the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford was fought July 18, 1861 — three days before the Battle of First Manassas, which is considered to be the first battle of the Civil War.

The Smithsonian determined the soldiers’ approximate ages and heights, and Rector took it from there — eventually identifying the men by name, military unit and company. He even learned about their childhoods and family backgrounds.

Companies G and H of the 1st Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment fought in the Battle of Blackburn’s Ford, and Rector obtained a list of those soldiers’ names and ages and discovered how each man died. From 24 names, he painstakingly concluded which ones were in the Centreville graves.

At the time of this battle, he said, “The Confederates were already waiting in Fairfax County for the Union soldiers. Ten were killed in action from the 1st Massachusetts unit and three more were mortally wounded [and died later].”

Company G was the first company on the battlefield, and these soldiers arrived in their jackets. When the 17th Virginia entered, hand-to-hand combat ensued and Company H came in as reinforcements, fighting with their jackets off. These details proved important because the men in graves No. 1, 3 and 6 all had jackets, but the others did not.

After grave 1 was uncovered, the McDonald’s developer cleared away brush from the site to discover the five other graves. A week later, said Rector, a relic hunter found another cluster of buttons — probably from a seventh grave. From his research and the type of buttons, Rector identified this soldier as Ebenezer Field, 27, of Company G.

He noted, as well, that — a week before the dig — Owsley used a steel probe on the site and reportedly stated nine to 10 graves were there. Owsley later denied the remark, but Rector said a relic hunter he’s known for years swore he heard Owsley say it. Rector also determined who these men would be.

The six soldiers’ remains are in boxes in the Smithsonian, and Rector is trying to have DNA testing done to confirm their identities. “I don’t want them buried as unknowns,” he said. “I want them to have the chance to have their identities restored and them returned to their families.”

Afterward, Ron Savage, Historic Centreville Society vice president, said he was pleasantly surprised by how many people attended Rector’s talk and how well received it was. “People sat there mesmerized,” he said. “I was impressed — it was a well-done, professional presentation.”

Savage said residents were truly interested in learning what happened after the dig. “There’s a great thirst for the history in and around Centreville,” he said. “If [Rector’s] hypothesis works out, I think he should put it in a book.”

As for Marker, he hopes to have more such programs in the future, saying, “I think people who

There Be Pirates

Once known as the wickedest city in the world when it was the playground of British buccaneers and explorers in the 17th century, little now remains of Port Royal.

However, a campaign supported by the Jamaican government was launched this week to secure UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) world heritage status for the sunken city to put it firmly back on the map.

Surveys by a team of experts are under way to mark the land and sea boundaries of what is regarded as one of the most important archeological sites in British history as part of the bid to UNESCO.

A seven-mile spit of golden sand arcs around Kingston bay protecting the capital. At the far end lies the small fishing village of Port Royal (of “Pirates of the Caribbean” fame), which was once a bustling city and key British outpost in the 1600s.

The port, which boasted a population of 7,000 and was comparable to Boston during the same period, was a playground for buccaneers like Henry Morgan, who docked in search of rum, women and boat repairs.

England seized Jamaica from the Spanish in 1655 under the orders of Oliver Cromwell with the aim of establishing a trading base in the Spanish New World.

Merchants and pirates flocked to the new settlement and Port Royal soon became synonymous for excess. There was one tavern for every 10 residents and boasted a thriving prostitution trade.

The city became known as “the Sodom of the New World”, with contemporary writer Charles Leslie noting in his history of Jamaica of the buccaneers: “Wine and women drained their wealth to such a degree that… some of them became reduced to beggary. They have been known to spend 2 or 3,000 pieces of eight in one night and one gave a strumpet 500 to see her naked.”

However, on June 7, 1692, an earthquake and tsunami decimated the coastline, submerging two-thirds of the city and killing an estimated 2,000 people.

The port remained a key strategic British naval base, but the debauchery was washed away with the tsunami. Fort Charles, where Lord Nelson was once stationed, sank three and a half feet during the earthquake but remains standing to this day.

Despite the village being littered with remnants of British military installations, many of the historic colonial buildings are dilapidated.

The algae-covered remnants of the city are under water in an archaeological preserve closed to divers without a permit.

But in recent decades, underwater excavations have turned up artifacts including cannonballs, wine glasses, ornate pipes, pewter plates and ceramic plates dredged from the muck just offshore. The partial skeleton of a child was found in 1998.

At a press conference on Tuesday, experts said it is among the top British archaeological sites in the Western Hemisphere and should be protected for future generations.

“There is outstanding potential here. Submerged towns like this just do not exist anywhere else in the Americas,” said Robert Grenier, a Canadian underwater archaeologist who has worked closely with UNESCO.

Donny Hamilton, Texas A&M University nautical archaeologist, said the consulting team has completed the fieldwork for the world heritage assessment and is working on a management plan.

Port Royal could become a sustainable attraction for tourists but first “there’s got to be something above the ground that people are going to want to come and see,” Mr Hamilton said.

Jamaican officials and businessmen have announced various strategies to renovate the ramshackle town over the years, including plans for modern cruise liners and a Disney-style theme park featuring actors dressed as pirates.

Some area businessmen have grown exasperated with the slow pace of development.

Attribution: UK Telegraph

It’s Not My Fault

Scientists say a fault-line running across Alaska could cause tsunamis of the same magnitude as the Japanese disaster of March last year.

Attention has turned to the Alaskan-Aleutian subduction zone, a region where one of the earth’s tectonic plates, carrying the Pacific Ocean, drops beneath the North American plate.

A particular section of the fault near the Semidi Islands has not ruptured since at least 1788, and measurements on this area – which lies four to five kilometers (2-1/2 to 3 miles) under water – reveal the pressure is accumulating rapidly.

If the Pacific Ocean plate slips, as happened in the geographically-similar Tohoku subduction zone off the coast of Japan, a tsunami could occur – and could wreak havoc as far away as Hawaii and California.

According to Discovery.com, scientists are now investigating the underwater fault-line in the hope of estimating the likelihood of danger to the U.S. and to the Hawaiian islands.

The last time a slip between the Alaskan plates occurred, it led to the Good Friday Earthquake, on March 27, 1964, which was the most powerful earthquake in U.S. history – a 9.2 magnitude earthquake and led to 145 deaths.

Tsunamis also occurred in this area in 1947 and 1957, while a magnitude 7.4 earthquake occurred in the area last June, but as its location did not lead to a tsunami, a brief tsunami warning was recalled shortly afterwards.

Many of these deaths happened hundreds of miles away from the epicenter of the earthquake – with 90% caused by tsunamis.

The Japanese quake, which measured 9.0 magnitude, led to a 10-meter-high (33 ft) tsunami and ended up killing an estimated 18,000 people.

Attribution: Eddie Wrenn, Discovery

Full Body Exposure

The enduring image in the public’s mind of the mysterious heads on Easter Island is simply that – heads.

So it comes as quite a shock to see the heads from another angle – and discover that they have full bodies, extending down many, many feet into the ground of the island.

The Easter Island Statue Project (EISP) has been carefully excavating two of 1,000-plus statues on the islands – doing their best to uncover the secrets of the mysterious stones, and the people who built them.

Project director Jo Anne Van Tilburg said: “Our EISP excavations recently exposed the torsos of two 7meter (23 feet) tall statues.”

“Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of visitors to the island have been astonished to see that, indeed, Easter Island statues have bodies!”

“More important, however, we discovered a great deal about the Rapa Nui techniques of ancient engineering.”

Among their discoveries, the team have discovered:

  • The dirt and detritus partially burying the statues was washed down from above and not deliberately placed there to bury, protect, or support the statues
  • The statues were erected in place and stand on stone pavements
  • Post holes were cut into bedrock to support upright tree trunks
  • Rope guides were cut into bedrock around the post holes
  • Posts, ropes, stones, and different types of stone tools were all used to carve and raise the statues upright

The remote island – one of the remotest in the world, tucked away in the South Pacific Ocean – was once home to a Polynesian population, whose history remains mysterious.

They likely sailed to the islands in canoes – a 1,500-mile journey over the open waters, and then, once they landed, they began relentessly carving the stone statues.

This led to their own downfall: By the time Europeans discovered the island in the 1700s, the population had decimated nearly all the trees in the island to help with the statue construction, and the effect on the island’s ecology led to their decline.

The team also discovered that ceremonies were certainly associated with the statues.

On the project website, Van Tilburg said: “We found large quantities of red pigment, some of which may have been used to paint the statues.”

“Finally, and perhaps most poignantly, we found in the pavement under one statue a single stone carved with a crescent symbol said to represent a canoe, or vaka.”

“The backs of both statues are covered with petroglyphs, many of which are also vaka. A direct connection between the vaka symbol and the identity of the artist or group owning the statue is strongly suggested.”
Attribution: Mail Online

Suffer No More

Millions of diabetes sufferers face the daily grind of frequent and painful skin prick tests to monitor their blood sugar levels.

Now researchers have developed an innovative alternative that could reveal the same information in the blink of an eye.

A team from The University of Akron have developed a contact lens that senses glucose which is the blood sugar in tears, the natural fluid that bathes the eye.

If sugar is not being metabolized properly and glucose concentration builds up in the body, the contact lens will detect a problem and change color.

“It works just like pH paper in your high school chemistry lab”, said Dr Jun Hu.

“The sugar molecule literally acts like the proton in a pH test, displacing a color dye embedded in the lens, and the lens changes color.”

Usually when you dissolve sugars in water you can’t see them. Dr Hu has used a molecule, called a probe, that binds well to sugars that they then combined with a dye. When sugar concentrations rise the sugar binds to the probe and knocks the dye loose, causing a color change.

The person wearing the lens wouldn’t notice the change unless they looked in the mirror, so the team are now designing an app that will calculate sugar levels from a camera phone snap of the eye.

Dr Hu said, “This device could be used to detect subtle changes in blood sugar levels for tight management of diabetes. It can also be used to identify patients with pre-diabetic conditions, allowing early diagnosis that is crucial for preventing diabetes from advancing.”

“The convenience of contact lenses could boost patient compliance to blood sugar testing, as it will reduce discomfort, inconvenience, and even cost.”

“In addition, blood sugar also changes rapidly throughout a normal, active day, so a device that can monitor glucose many times in a day will provide diabetic patients with a very powerful tool in combating such a damaging condition.”

The lens is currently at the prototype phase but scientists say they could be commercially available within three years if all goes well.

The next step will be to check that the dye binds completely to the contact lens and does not leach as this could be dangerous to the eye.

Puppy Love

For more than 32,000 years, dogs have been our faithful companions, living, eating and breathing with us as we moved from cave-dwellers to city-builders.

Around this time, we lost our closest cousins – and, many argue, our competitors: Neanderthal man, who had previously occupied present-day Europe for a staggering

Glad we didn’t become this guy!

250,000 years.

Now, an anthropologist is suggesting these two facts may be related – and it was our close friendship with our canine associates that tipped the balance in favor of modern man.

Pat Shipman said that the advantages that domesticating a dog brought for us were so fundamental to our own evolution, that it made us ‘top dog’ out of the competing primate species.

Shipman analyzed the results of excavations of fossilized canine bones from Europe, during the time when humans and Neanderthals overlapped.

The research first established a framework to our early ‘best friend’ relationships, with early humans adding dog teeth to jewelry, showing how they were worshipped, and rarely adorning cave art with images of dogs – implying dogs were treated with a reverence not shown to the animals they hunted.

The advantages dogs gave early man were huge – the animals themselves were likely to be larger than our modern day pooches, at least the size of German Shepherds.

Because of this, they could be used as ‘beasts of burden’, carrying animal carcasses and supplies from place to place, leaving humans to reserve their energies for the hunt.

In return, the animals gained warmth, food and companionship, or, as Shipman puts it, ‘a virtuous circle of cooperation’.

They may also have influenced how we communicate. Humans and dogs are the only animals which have large ‘whites of the eyes’, and will follow the gaze of another person. This has not been found in other species, and it is argued that, as our man-dog relationship evolved, we learned to use these non-verbal cues more often.

As such, dogs became one of the first tools, or technologies, that humanity began to use, and as the relationship developed both ways, it became a lot more deeply ingrained into our psyche.

And, in those early days where every advantage was needed to survive, Neanderthal man might simply have been unable to cope with the new species which rapidly moved across Europe.

In short, Shipman said: ‘Animals were not incidental to our evolution into Homo sapiens – They were essential to it. They are what made us human.’

Attribution: Eddie Wrenn