everydayramny:

Six Reasons To Teach Nonfiction

everydayramny:

Six Reasons To Teach Nonfiction

sciencenote:

Happy Women Day .…. let’s celebrate it in a scientific  way !!
i’ve been so inspired by this great scientist by her contrbution to the understanding of cells aging  and telomerase  that’s why i find it a suitable  accasion to let you know more about her !!
Blackburn was born in Hobart, on the island of Tasmania (in Australia), on November 26, 1948. Her parents, Drs. Harold and Marcia (Jack) Blackburn, were physicians, and their only child quickly developed a love of science.
In all, Elizabeth Blackburn is a scientist, a teacher, a wife, and a mother. She met her husband, John Sedat, in England. Their mutual interest in molecular biology brought them together as students at Cambridge. They were married in 1975, after Blackburn moved to the United States. Sedat is a scientist in his own right, and is a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF. The couple has one son, Benjamin, born in 1986. Blackburn takes motherhood very seriously, and publicly attests to the importance of time spent with her family. In her on-line article, “Balancing Family and Career: One Way That Worked,” she spoke out on several topics, including the importance of devoting the appropriate time to parenting.
Dr. Elizabeth H. Blackburn is renowned for her discovery of the genetic enzyme “telomerase.” Blackburn isolated and precisely described telomeres in 1978, thus enhancing the understanding of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) on the part of molecular biologists around the world. The subsequent discovery of telomerase in 1985 brought new insight into the complex functions of gene cells and the mysteries of their replication. Importantly, the discovery has given new hope to cancer researchers and opened new vistas for the science of gerontology.
Blackburn’s discovery of telomerase brings new promise of the eradication of fungal infections such as those in “immunocompromized” patients, and hopes that new cures will be found for many cancers. Further research on telomerase one day might even provide a means to significantly slow the aging process that afflicts every human being.
her  < labwork > : 
Work in the Blackburn laboratory concerns the synthesis and function of telomeres, the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes. Telomeric DNA consists of tandem repeats of very simple sequences, one strand of which is synthesized by the ribonucleoprotein enzyme telomerase. Telomerase specifies the sequence of telomeric DNA by using a short sequence within the telomerase RNA moiety as the template for DNA synthesis. Thus, telomeric DNA is unusual in being an essential chromosomal element synthesized by copying an RNA sequence; that is, by a highly specialized, unique reverse transcriptase type of mechanism.
Human beings can have a long life expectancy, but accumulating evidence suggests that insufficient telomere maintenance may limit  the extent of healthy life, including increasing the risks and incidences of common chronic diseases that become prevalent as humans age. We are investigating the mechanisms underlying the impact of limited telomere maintenance on human organismic processes. For this research we combine collaborative clinical studies with cell and molecular studies in the lab. 

sciencenote:

Happy Women Day .…. let’s celebrate it in a scientific  way !!

i’ve been so inspired by this great scientist by her contrbution to the understanding of cells aging  and telomerase  that’s why i find it a suitable  accasion to let you know more about her !!

Blackburn was born in Hobart, on the island of Tasmania (in Australia), on November 26, 1948. Her parents, Drs. Harold and Marcia (Jack) Blackburn, were physicians, and their only child quickly developed a love of science.

In all, Elizabeth Blackburn is a scientist, a teacher, a wife, and a mother. She met her husband, John Sedat, in England. Their mutual interest in molecular biology brought them together as students at Cambridge. They were married in 1975, after Blackburn moved to the United States. Sedat is a scientist in his own right, and is a professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF. The couple has one son, Benjamin, born in 1986. Blackburn takes motherhood very seriously, and publicly attests to the importance of time spent with her family. In her on-line article, “Balancing Family and Career: One Way That Worked,” she spoke out on several topics, including the importance of devoting the appropriate time to parenting.

Dr. Elizabeth H. Blackburn is renowned for her discovery of the genetic enzyme “telomerase.” Blackburn isolated and precisely described telomeres in 1978, thus enhancing the understanding of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) on the part of molecular biologists around the world. The subsequent discovery of telomerase in 1985 brought new insight into the complex functions of gene cells and the mysteries of their replication. Importantly, the discovery has given new hope to cancer researchers and opened new vistas for the science of gerontology.

Blackburn’s discovery of telomerase brings new promise of the eradication of fungal infections such as those in “immunocompromized” patients, and hopes that new cures will be found for many cancers. Further research on telomerase one day might even provide a means to significantly slow the aging process that afflicts every human being.

her  < labwork > : 

Work in the Blackburn laboratory concerns the synthesis and function of telomeres, the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes. Telomeric DNA consists of tandem repeats of very simple sequences, one strand of which is synthesized by the ribonucleoprotein enzyme telomerase. Telomerase specifies the sequence of telomeric DNA by using a short sequence within the telomerase RNA moiety as the template for DNA synthesis. Thus, telomeric DNA is unusual in being an essential chromosomal element synthesized by copying an RNA sequence; that is, by a highly specialized, unique reverse transcriptase type of mechanism.

Human beings can have a long life expectancy, but accumulating evidence suggests that insufficient telomere maintenance may limit  the extent of healthy life, including increasing the risks and incidences of common chronic diseases that become prevalent as humans age. We are investigating the mechanisms underlying the impact of limited telomere maintenance on human organismic processes. For this research we combine collaborative clinical studies with cell and molecular studies in the lab. 

chico-holic:

Amputation Saw. (c. 1600s)

Some surgeons prefered to show their wealth by using beautifully engraved saws although the crevices of the detailwork made very good breeding grounds for germs.

Artificial leech (c. 1800s)

The artificial leech was used when real alive ones became less…

medicalschool:

Human sperm (spermatozoa), the male sex cells

medicalschool:

Human sperm (spermatozoa), the male sex cells

mothernaturenetwork:

Earth braces for biggest space solar storm in 5 years
The space weather storm is hurtling toward Earth, threatening to disrupt power grids, GPS systems, satellites and airline flights. The brunt of the storm is expected to strike early Thursday and last through Friday, possibly garbling some of Earthlings’ most prized gadgets but also giving viewers in parts of Central Asia a prime look at the aurora borealis when darkness falls.

mothernaturenetwork:

Earth braces for biggest space solar storm in 5 years

The space weather storm is hurtling toward Earth, threatening to disrupt power grids, GPS systems, satellites and airline flights. The brunt of the storm is expected to strike early Thursday and last through Friday, possibly garbling some of Earthlings’ most prized gadgets but also giving viewers in parts of Central Asia a prime look at the aurora borealis when darkness falls.

wired:

[via imwithkanye]:

“The Women of The Future,” according to 1902 French trading cards | io9
In 1902, a French trading card manufacturer released this curious batch of playing cards depicting women and their futuristic careers as soldiers, lawyers, journalists, and cigarette-chomping students. But because these cards were designed to titillate, many of these outfits aren’t entirely practical — note the firefighter and general’s lack of sleeves above. In fact, much of the military regalia pictured wouldn’t be handy whatsoever in the battlefield.

Funny how the French thought apron-like fashion would be the wave of the future… for women, at least.
Also, sweet tattoo on the right! 

wired:

[via imwithkanye]:

“The Women of The Future,” according to 1902 French trading cards | io9

In 1902, a French trading card manufacturer released this curious batch of playing cards depicting women and their futuristic careers as soldiers, lawyers, journalists, and cigarette-chomping students. But because these cards were designed to titillate, many of these outfits aren’t entirely practical — note the firefighter and general’s lack of sleeves above. In fact, much of the military regalia pictured wouldn’t be handy whatsoever in the battlefield.

Funny how the French thought apron-like fashion would be the wave of the future… for women, at least.

Also, sweet tattoo on the right! 

rhamphotheca:

Study Finds That Golden Silk Spider Silk Conducts Heat As Well As Metal
by PhysOrg staff
So he ordered eight spiders – Nephila clavipes, golden silk orbweavers – and put them to work eating crickets and spinning webs in the cages he set up in an Iowa State University greenhouse.
Wang, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Iowa State, studies thermal conductivity, the ability of materials to conduct heat. He’s been looking for organic materials that can effectively transfer heat. It’s something diamonds, copper and aluminum are very good at; most materials from living things aren’t very good at all.
But spider silk has some interesting properties: it’s very strong, very stretchy, only 4 microns thick (human hair is about 60 microns) and, according to some speculation, could be a good conductor of heat. But nobody had actually tested spider silk for its thermal conductivity. And so Wang, with partial support from the Army Research Office and the National Science Foundation, decided to try some lab experiments…
(read more: PhysOrg)     (photo: Coveredinsevindust | Wikipedia)
____________________________
Provided by Iowa State University (news : web)

rhamphotheca:

Study Finds That Golden Silk Spider Silk Conducts Heat As Well As Metal

by PhysOrg staff

So he ordered eight  – Nephila clavipes, golden silk orbweavers – and put them to work eating crickets and spinning webs in the cages he set up in an Iowa State University greenhouse.

Wang, an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Iowa State, studies , the ability of materials to conduct . He’s been looking for organic materials that can effectively transfer heat. It’s something diamonds, copper and aluminum are very good at; most materials from living things aren’t very good at all.

But  has some interesting properties: it’s very strong, very stretchy, only 4 microns thick (human hair is about 60 microns) and, according to some speculation, could be a good conductor of heat. But nobody had actually tested spider silk for its thermal conductivity. And so Wang, with partial support from the Army Research Office and the National Science Foundation, decided to try some lab experiments…

(read more: PhysOrg)     (photo: Coveredinsevindust | Wikipedia)

____________________________

Provided by Iowa State University (news : web)

biomedicalephemera:

Etchings of Skulls, for Reference in Art
Including the adult seen in profile, from the front, and bisected; and the new-born child.
Notable differences in the frontal bone (forehead), maxilla, mandible, and orbits are enumerated within the text, as well as proportional size changes with growth.
Essays on the Anatomy of Expression in Painting. Charles Bell, 1806.

biomedicalephemera:

Etchings of Skulls, for Reference in Art

Including the adult seen in profile, from the front, and bisected; and the new-born child.

Notable differences in the frontal bone (forehead), maxilla, mandible, and orbits are enumerated within the text, as well as proportional size changes with growth.

Essays on the Anatomy of Expression in Painting. Charles Bell, 1806.

insane-in-the-meninges:

Hemorrhaging in the basal ganglia region.

insane-in-the-meninges:

Hemorrhaging in the basal ganglia region.

expose-the-light:

Top Ten Myths About the Brain
When it comes to this complex, mysterious, fascinating organ, what do—and don’t—we know?
By Laura Helmuth
1. We use only 10 percent of our brains. This one sounds so compelling—a precise number, repeated in pop culture for a century,  implying that we have huge reserves of untapped mental powers. But the  supposedly unused 90 percent of the brain is not some vestigial  appendix. Brains are expensive—it takes a lot of energy to build brains  during fetal and childhood development and maintain them in adults.  Evolutionarily, it would make no sense to carry around surplus brain  tissue. Experiments using PET or fMRI scans show that much of the brain  is engaged even during simple tasks, and injury to even a small bit of  brain can have profound consequences for language, sensory perception,  movement or emotion.
2. “Flashbulb memories” are precise, detailed and persistent. We  all have memories that feel as vivid and accurate as a snapshot,  usually of some shocking, dramatic event—the assassination of President  Kennedy, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, the attacks of  September 11, 2001.  People remember exactly where they were, what they  were doing, who they were with, what they saw or heard. But several  clever experiments have tested people’s memory immediately after a  tragedy and again several months or years later. 
3.  It’s all downhill after 40 (or 50 or 60 or 70). It’s  true, some cognitive skills do decline as you get older. Children are  better at learning new languages than adults—and never play a game of  concentration against a 10-year-old unless you’re prepared to be  humiliated. Young adults are faster than older adults to judge whether  two objects are the same or different; they can more easily memorize a  list of random words, and they are faster to count backward by sevens.
But plenty of mental skills improve with age.  Vocabulary, for instance—older people know more words and understand  subtle linguistic distinctions. Given a biographical sketch of a  stranger, they’re better judges of character. They score higher on tests  of social wisdom, such as how to settle a conflict. And people get  better and better over time at regulating their own emotions and finding  meaning in their lives.
4. We have five senses. Sure, sight, smell,  hearing, taste and touch are the big ones. But we have many other ways  of sensing the world and our place in it. Proprioception is a sense of  how our bodies are positioned. Nociception is a sense of pain. We also  have a sense of balance—the inner ear is to this sense as the eye is to  vision—as well as a sense of body temperature, acceleration and the  passage of time.
5.  Brains are like computers. We speak of the  brain’s processing speed, its storage capacity, its parallel circuits,  inputs and outputs. The metaphor fails at pretty much every level: the  brain doesn’t have a set memory capacity that is waiting to be filled  up; it doesn’t perform computations in the way a computer does; and even  basic visual perception isn’t a passive receiving of inputs because we  actively interpret, anticipate and pay attention to different elements  of the visual world.
6.  The brain is hard-wired. This is one of the  most enduring legacies of the old “brains are electrical circuits”  metaphor.
But one of the biggest discoveries in neuroscience in the past few decades is that the brain is remarkably plastic.  In blind people, parts of the brain that normally process sight are  instead devoted to hearing. Someone practicing a new skill, like  learning to play the violin, “rewires” parts of the brain that are  responsible for fine motor control. People with brain injuries can  recruit other parts of the brain to compensate for the lost tissue.
7. A conk on the head can cause amnesia. Next to  babies switched at birth, this is a favorite trope of soap operas:  Someone is in a tragic accident and wakes up in the hospital unable to  recognize loved ones or remember his or her own name or history. (The  only cure for this form of amnesia, of course, is another conk on the  head.)
8.  We know what will make us happy. In some cases we haven’t a clue.  We routinely overestimate how happy something will make us, whether  it’s a birthday, free pizza, a new car, a victory for our favorite  sports team or political candidate, winning the lottery or raising  children. Money does make people happier, but only to a point—poor  people are less happy than the middle class, but the middle class are  just as happy as the rich. We overestimate the pleasures of solitude and  leisure and underestimate how much happiness we get from social  relationships.
9. We see the world as it is. We are not passive  recipients of external information that enters our brain through our  sensory organs. Instead, we actively search for patterns (like a  Dalmatian dog that suddenly appears in a field of black and white dots),  turn ambiguous scenes into ones that fit our expectations (it’s a vase;  it’s a face) and completely miss details we aren’t expecting. In one  famous psychology experiment, about half of all viewers told to count  the number of times a group of people pass a basketball do not notice that a guy in a gorilla suit is hulking around among the ball-throwers.
10. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus. Some  of the sloppiest, shoddiest, most biased, least reproducible, worst  designed and most overinterpreted research in the history of science purports to provide biological explanations for differences between men and women.  Eminent neuroscientists once claimed that head size, spinal ganglia or  brain stem structures were responsible for women’s inability to think  creatively, vote logically or practice medicine. Today the theories are a  bit more sophisticated: men supposedly have more specialized brain  hemispheres, women more elaborate emotion circuits. Though there are  some differences (minor and uncorrelated with any particular ability)  between male and female brains, the main problem with looking for  correlations with behavior is that sex differences in cognition are  massively exaggerated.

expose-the-light:

Top Ten Myths About the Brain

When it comes to this complex, mysterious, fascinating organ, what do—and don’t—we know?

By Laura Helmuth

1. We use only 10 percent of our brains.
This one sounds so compelling—a precise number, repeated in pop culture for a century, implying that we have huge reserves of untapped mental powers. But the supposedly unused 90 percent of the brain is not some vestigial appendix. Brains are expensive—it takes a lot of energy to build brains during fetal and childhood development and maintain them in adults. Evolutionarily, it would make no sense to carry around surplus brain tissue. Experiments using PET or fMRI scans show that much of the brain is engaged even during simple tasks, and injury to even a small bit of brain can have profound consequences for language, sensory perception, movement or emotion.

2. “Flashbulb memories” are precise, detailed and persistent.
We all have memories that feel as vivid and accurate as a snapshot, usually of some shocking, dramatic event—the assassination of President Kennedy, the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, the attacks of September 11, 2001. People remember exactly where they were, what they were doing, who they were with, what they saw or heard. But several clever experiments have tested people’s memory immediately after a tragedy and again several months or years later. 

3. It’s all downhill after 40 (or 50 or 60 or 70).
It’s true, some cognitive skills do decline as you get older. Children are better at learning new languages than adults—and never play a game of concentration against a 10-year-old unless you’re prepared to be humiliated. Young adults are faster than older adults to judge whether two objects are the same or different; they can more easily memorize a list of random words, and they are faster to count backward by sevens.

But plenty of mental skills improve with age. Vocabulary, for instance—older people know more words and understand subtle linguistic distinctions. Given a biographical sketch of a stranger, they’re better judges of character. They score higher on tests of social wisdom, such as how to settle a conflict. And people get better and better over time at regulating their own emotions and finding meaning in their lives.

4. We have five senses.
Sure, sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch are the big ones. But we have many other ways of sensing the world and our place in it. Proprioception is a sense of how our bodies are positioned. Nociception is a sense of pain. We also have a sense of balance—the inner ear is to this sense as the eye is to vision—as well as a sense of body temperature, acceleration and the passage of time.

5. Brains are like computers.
We speak of the brain’s processing speed, its storage capacity, its parallel circuits, inputs and outputs. The metaphor fails at pretty much every level: the brain doesn’t have a set memory capacity that is waiting to be filled up; it doesn’t perform computations in the way a computer does; and even basic visual perception isn’t a passive receiving of inputs because we actively interpret, anticipate and pay attention to different elements of the visual world.

6. The brain is hard-wired.
This is one of the most enduring legacies of the old “brains are electrical circuits” metaphor.

But one of the biggest discoveries in neuroscience in the past few decades is that the brain is remarkably plastic. In blind people, parts of the brain that normally process sight are instead devoted to hearing. Someone practicing a new skill, like learning to play the violin, “rewires” parts of the brain that are responsible for fine motor control. People with brain injuries can recruit other parts of the brain to compensate for the lost tissue.

7. A conk on the head can cause amnesia.
Next to babies switched at birth, this is a favorite trope of soap operas: Someone is in a tragic accident and wakes up in the hospital unable to recognize loved ones or remember his or her own name or history. (The only cure for this form of amnesia, of course, is another conk on the head.)

8. We know what will make us happy.
In some cases we haven’t a clue. We routinely overestimate how happy something will make us, whether it’s a birthday, free pizza, a new car, a victory for our favorite sports team or political candidate, winning the lottery or raising children. Money does make people happier, but only to a point—poor people are less happy than the middle class, but the middle class are just as happy as the rich. We overestimate the pleasures of solitude and leisure and underestimate how much happiness we get from social relationships.

9. We see the world as it is.
We are not passive recipients of external information that enters our brain through our sensory organs. Instead, we actively search for patterns (like a Dalmatian dog that suddenly appears in a field of black and white dots), turn ambiguous scenes into ones that fit our expectations (it’s a vase; it’s a face) and completely miss details we aren’t expecting. In one famous psychology experiment, about half of all viewers told to count the number of times a group of people pass a basketball do not notice that a guy in a gorilla suit is hulking around among the ball-throwers.

10. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus.
Some of the sloppiest, shoddiest, most biased, least reproducible, worst designed and most overinterpreted research in the history of science purports to provide biological explanations for differences between men and women. Eminent neuroscientists once claimed that head size, spinal ganglia or brain stem structures were responsible for women’s inability to think creatively, vote logically or practice medicine. Today the theories are a bit more sophisticated: men supposedly have more specialized brain hemispheres, women more elaborate emotion circuits. Though there are some differences (minor and uncorrelated with any particular ability) between male and female brains, the main problem with looking for correlations with behavior is that sex differences in cognition are massively exaggerated.

inothernews:

CRACK CHILLS   NASA’s Operation IceBridge team has  mapped a crack in Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier in a way that  allows glaciologists and the rest of us to fly through the icy canyon.  The above image is a still frame captured from a three-dimensional, virtual flight through about 18 miles of the new rift, though the crack itself is longer.  Previous “calving” events — in which icebergs break free — last occurred on the Pine Island Glacier in 2007 and 2001.   (Photo: IceBridge / NASA via Earth Observatory)

inothernews:

CRACK CHILLS   NASA’s Operation IceBridge team has mapped a crack in Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier in a way that allows glaciologists and the rest of us to fly through the icy canyon.  The above image is a still frame captured from a three-dimensional, virtual flight through about 18 miles of the new rift, though the crack itself is longer.  Previous “calving” events — in which icebergs break free — last occurred on the Pine Island Glacier in 2007 and 2001.   (Photo: IceBridge / NASA via Earth Observatory)

bluedogeyes:

Puncturing the Acupuncture Myth (via Science-Based Medicine)
“Alternative” medicine is by definition medicine that has not been scientifically proven and has not been accepted into mainstream scientific medicine. The question I keep hearing is, “But what about acupuncture? It’s been proven to work, it’s supported by lots of good research, more and more doctors are using it, and insurance companies even pay for it.”
To start with, this ancient Chinese treatment is not so ancient and may not even be Chinese! From studying the earliest documents, Chinese scholar Paul Unschuld suspects the idea may have originated with the Greek Hippocrates of Cos and later spread to China. There’s certainly no evidence that it’s 3000 years old. The earliest Chinese medical texts, from the 3rd century BC, don’t mention it. The earliest reference to “needling” is from 90 BC, but it refers to bloodletting and lancing abscesses with large needles or lancets. There is nothing in those documents to suggest anything like today’s acupuncture. We have the archaeological evidence of needles from that era – they are large; the technology for manufacturing thin steel needles appropriate for acupuncture didn’t exist until 400 years ago.

The earliest accounts of Chinese medicine reached the West in the 13th century: they didn’t mention acupuncture at all. The first Westerner to write about acupuncture, Wilhelm Ten Rhijn, in 1680, didn’t describe acupuncture as we know it today: he didn’t mention specific points or “qi;” he spoke of large gold needles that were implanted deep into the skull or “womb” and left in place for 30 respirations.
Acupuncture was tried off and on in Europe after that. It was first tried in America in 1826 as a possible means of resuscitating drowning victims. They couldn’t get it to work and “gave up in disgust.” I imagine sticking needles in soggy dead bodies was pretty disgusting.
Through the early 20th century, no Western account of acupuncture referred to acupuncture points: needles were simply inserted near the point of pain. Qi was originally vapor arising from food, and meridians were channels or vessels. A Frenchman, Georges Soulie de Morant, was the first to use the term “meridian” and to equate qi with energy – in 1939. Auricular (ear) acupuncture was invented by a Frenchman in 1957.
The Chinese government tried to ban acupuncture several times between 1822 and WWII, when the Chinese Nationalist government tried to suppress it. Mao revived it in the “barefoot doctor” campaign in the 1960s as a cheap way of providing care to the masses; he did not use it himself and he did not believe it worked. It was Mao’s government that coined the term “traditional Chinese medicine” or TCM, to include acupuncture, herbal medicine, moxibustion, and other traditional practices.

(Mao’s Barefoot Doctors Propaganda poster)
…
As acupuncture increased in popularity in the West, it declined in the East. In 1995, visiting American physicians were told only 15-20% of Chinese chose TCM, and it was usually used along with Western treatments after diagnosis by a Western-trained physician. Apparently some patients choose TCM because it is all they can afford: despite being a Communist country, China does not have universal health coverage.
…
Does acupuncture work? Which acupuncture, and what do you mean by work? There are various different Chinese systems, plus Japanese, Thai, Korean and Indian modalities, most of which have been invented over the last few decades. Whole body or limited to the scalp, hand, ear, foot, or cheek and chin. Deep or superficial. With electrified needles. With lasers. With dermal pad electrodes and no skin penetration.
Acupuncture works, but placebos work too. Acupuncture has been shown to “work” to relieve pain, nausea, and other subjective symptoms, but it has never been shown to alter the natural history or course of any disease. It’s mostly used for pain today, but early Chinese practitioners maintained that it was not for the treatment of manifest disease, was so subtle that it should only be employed at the very beginning of a disease process, and was only likely to work if the patient believed it would work. Now there’s a bit of ancient wisdom!
Studies have shown that acupuncture releases natural opioid pain relievers in the brain: endorphins. Veterinarians have pointed out that loading a horse into a trailer or throwing a stick for a dog also releases endorphins. Probably hitting yourself on the thumb with a hammer would release endorphins too, and it would take your mind off your headache.
Psychologists can list plenty of other things that could explain the apparent response to acupuncture. Diverting attention from original symptoms to the sensation of needling, expectation, suggestion, mutual consensus and compliance demand, causality error, classic conditioning, reciprocal conditioning, operant conditioning, operator conditioning, reinforcement, group consensus, economic and emotional investment, social and political disaffection, social rewards for believing, variable course of disease, regression to the mean – there are many ways human psychology can fool us into thinking ineffective treatments are effective. Then there’s the fact that all placebos are not equal – an elaborate system involving lying down, relaxing, and spending time with a caring authority can be expected to produce a much greater placebo effect than simply taking a sugar pill.

There are plenty of studies showing that acupuncture works for subjective symptoms like pain and nausea. But there are several things that throw serious doubt on their findings. The results are inconsistent, with some studies finding an effect and others not. The higher quality studies are less likely to find an effect. Most of the studies are done by believers in acupuncture. Many subjects would not volunteer for an acupuncture trial unless they had a bias towards believing it might work.
…
The biggest problem with acupuncture studies is finding an adequate placebo control. You’re sticking needles in people. People notice that. Double blinding is impossible: you might be able to fool patients into thinking you’ve used a needle when you haven’t, but there’s no way to blind the person doing the needling. Two kinds of controls have been used: comparing acupuncture points to non-points, and using an ingenious needle in a sheath that appears to have penetrated the skin when it hasn’t.
In George Ulett’s research, he found that applying an electrical current to the skin of the wrist – a kind of TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) treatment – worked just as well as inserting needles, and one point on the wrist worked for symptoms anywhere in the body.
Guess what? It doesn’t matter where you put the needle. It doesn’t matter whether you use a needle at all. In the best controlled studies, only one thing mattered: whether the patients believed they were getting acupuncture. If they believed they got the real thing, they got better pain relief – whether they actually got acupuncture or not! If they got acupuncture but believed they didn’t, it was less likely to work. If they didn’t get it but believed they did, it was more likely to work.
Acupuncturists can rationalize with great ingenuity. In a recent study using sham acupuncture as a control, both the sham placebo acupuncture and the true acupuncture worked equally well and were better than no treatment. The obvious conclusion was that acupuncture was no better than placebo. Their conclusion was that acupuncture worked and the placebo acupuncture worked too!
One researcher decided it’s not meaningful to use placebo controls in acupuncture research because any stimulation of the skin might be effective – which seems to me to pretty much destroy the whole rationale for acupuncture, but he didn’t seem to notice that. If that’s true, why not just caress or massage our patients instead of lying about imaginary qi and meridians?
Considering the inconsistent research results, the implausibility of qi and meridians, and the many questions that remain, all the current evidence is compatible with this hypothesis: acupuncture is nothing more than a recipe for an elaborate placebo seasoned with a soupcon of counter-irritant. That is what R. Barker Bausell concluded in his book Snake Oil Science. The world’s first professor of complementary medicine, Dr. Edzard Ernst, is more accepting of low-prior-plausibility evidence than some of us; but even he used the words “tentative” and “might” when he recently wrote, “While there is tentative evidence that acupuncture might be effective for some forms of pain relief and nausea, it fails to deliver any medical benefit in any other situations and its underlying concepts are meaningless.”

bluedogeyes:

Puncturing the Acupuncture Myth (via Science-Based Medicine)

“Alternative” medicine is by definition medicine that has not been scientifically proven and has not been accepted into mainstream scientific medicine. The question I keep hearing is, “But what about acupuncture? It’s been proven to work, it’s supported by lots of good research, more and more doctors are using it, and insurance companies even pay for it.”

To start with, this ancient Chinese treatment is not so ancient and may not even be Chinese! From studying the earliest documents, Chinese scholar Paul Unschuld suspects the idea may have originated with the Greek Hippocrates of Cos and later spread to China. There’s certainly no evidence that it’s 3000 years old. The earliest Chinese medical texts, from the 3rd century BC, don’t mention it. The earliest reference to “needling” is from 90 BC, but it refers to bloodletting and lancing abscesses with large needles or lancets. There is nothing in those documents to suggest anything like today’s acupuncture. We have the archaeological evidence of needles from that era – they are large; the technology for manufacturing thin steel needles appropriate for acupuncture didn’t exist until 400 years ago.

The earliest accounts of Chinese medicine reached the West in the 13th century: they didn’t mention acupuncture at all. The first Westerner to write about acupuncture, Wilhelm Ten Rhijn, in 1680, didn’t describe acupuncture as we know it today: he didn’t mention specific points or “qi;” he spoke of large gold needles that were implanted deep into the skull or “womb” and left in place for 30 respirations.

Acupuncture was tried off and on in Europe after that. It was first tried in America in 1826 as a possible means of resuscitating drowning victims. They couldn’t get it to work and “gave up in disgust.” I imagine sticking needles in soggy dead bodies was pretty disgusting.

Through the early 20th century, no Western account of acupuncture referred to acupuncture points: needles were simply inserted near the point of pain. Qi was originally vapor arising from food, and meridians were channels or vessels. A Frenchman, Georges Soulie de Morant, was the first to use the term “meridian” and to equate qi with energy – in 1939. Auricular (ear) acupuncture was invented by a Frenchman in 1957.

The Chinese government tried to ban acupuncture several times between 1822 and WWII, when the Chinese Nationalist government tried to suppress it. Mao revived it in the “barefoot doctor” campaign in the 1960s as a cheap way of providing care to the masses; he did not use it himself and he did not believe it worked. It was Mao’s government that coined the term “traditional Chinese medicine” or TCM, to include acupuncture, herbal medicine, moxibustion, and other traditional practices.

(Mao’s Barefoot Doctors Propaganda poster)

As acupuncture increased in popularity in the West, it declined in the East. In 1995, visiting American physicians were told only 15-20% of Chinese chose TCM, and it was usually used along with Western treatments after diagnosis by a Western-trained physician. Apparently some patients choose TCM because it is all they can afford: despite being a Communist country, China does not have universal health coverage.

Does acupuncture work? Which acupuncture, and what do you mean by work? There are various different Chinese systems, plus Japanese, Thai, Korean and Indian modalities, most of which have been invented over the last few decades. Whole body or limited to the scalp, hand, ear, foot, or cheek and chin. Deep or superficial. With electrified needles. With lasers. With dermal pad electrodes and no skin penetration.

Acupuncture works, but placebos work too. Acupuncture has been shown to “work” to relieve pain, nausea, and other subjective symptoms, but it has never been shown to alter the natural history or course of any disease. It’s mostly used for pain today, but early Chinese practitioners maintained that it was not for the treatment of manifest disease, was so subtle that it should only be employed at the very beginning of a disease process, and was only likely to work if the patient believed it would work. Now there’s a bit of ancient wisdom!

Studies have shown that acupuncture releases natural opioid pain relievers in the brain: endorphins. Veterinarians have pointed out that loading a horse into a trailer or throwing a stick for a dog also releases endorphins. Probably hitting yourself on the thumb with a hammer would release endorphins too, and it would take your mind off your headache.

Psychologists can list plenty of other things that could explain the apparent response to acupuncture. Diverting attention from original symptoms to the sensation of needling, expectation, suggestion, mutual consensus and compliance demand, causality error, classic conditioning, reciprocal conditioning, operant conditioning, operator conditioning, reinforcement, group consensus, economic and emotional investment, social and political disaffection, social rewards for believing, variable course of disease, regression to the mean – there are many ways human psychology can fool us into thinking ineffective treatments are effective. Then there’s the fact that all placebos are not equal – an elaborate system involving lying down, relaxing, and spending time with a caring authority can be expected to produce a much greater placebo effect than simply taking a sugar pill.

There are plenty of studies showing that acupuncture works for subjective symptoms like pain and nausea. But there are several things that throw serious doubt on their findings. The results are inconsistent, with some studies finding an effect and others not. The higher quality studies are less likely to find an effect. Most of the studies are done by believers in acupuncture. Many subjects would not volunteer for an acupuncture trial unless they had a bias towards believing it might work.

The biggest problem with acupuncture studies is finding an adequate placebo control. You’re sticking needles in people. People notice that. Double blinding is impossible: you might be able to fool patients into thinking you’ve used a needle when you haven’t, but there’s no way to blind the person doing the needling. Two kinds of controls have been used: comparing acupuncture points to non-points, and using an ingenious needle in a sheath that appears to have penetrated the skin when it hasn’t.

In George Ulett’s research, he found that applying an electrical current to the skin of the wrist – a kind of TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) treatment – worked just as well as inserting needles, and one point on the wrist worked for symptoms anywhere in the body.

Guess what? It doesn’t matter where you put the needle. It doesn’t matter whether you use a needle at all. In the best controlled studies, only one thing mattered: whether the patients believed they were getting acupuncture. If they believed they got the real thing, they got better pain relief – whether they actually got acupuncture or not! If they got acupuncture but believed they didn’t, it was less likely to work. If they didn’t get it but believed they did, it was more likely to work.

Acupuncturists can rationalize with great ingenuity. In a recent study using sham acupuncture as a control, both the sham placebo acupuncture and the true acupuncture worked equally well and were better than no treatment. The obvious conclusion was that acupuncture was no better than placebo. Their conclusion was that acupuncture worked and the placebo acupuncture worked too!

One researcher decided it’s not meaningful to use placebo controls in acupuncture research because any stimulation of the skin might be effective – which seems to me to pretty much destroy the whole rationale for acupuncture, but he didn’t seem to notice that. If that’s true, why not just caress or massage our patients instead of lying about imaginary qi and meridians?

Considering the inconsistent research results, the implausibility of qi and meridians, and the many questions that remain, all the current evidence is compatible with this hypothesis: acupuncture is nothing more than a recipe for an elaborate placebo seasoned with a soupcon of counter-irritant. That is what R. Barker Bausell concluded in his book Snake Oil Science. The world’s first professor of complementary medicine, Dr. Edzard Ernst, is more accepting of low-prior-plausibility evidence than some of us; but even he used the words “tentative” and “might” when he recently wrote, “While there is tentative evidence that acupuncture might be effective for some forms of pain relief and nausea, it fails to deliver any medical benefit in any other situations and its underlying concepts are meaningless.”


alchymista:

This is the diamond weevil, or Chrysolopus spectabilis. This week, an article in Royal Society journal has shown the true iridescence of the insect’s beautiful wings, as these Dutch and German researchers found that each pit (shown of the top right) is lined with scales (bottom right) with a structure similar to a diamond. This team utilized electron micrographs (middle right) to confirm their previously proposed “photonic crystal” structure (bottom left).  (via)