Google launched an open standard instant messaging system on Tuesday, which the company claims will unify the factionalised world of online chat.
“We are going to try to be the first in the world to connect everyone to everyone,” says Georges Harik, director of Googlettes – the Silicon Valley company’s new products division.
The new messaging and internet phone service, called Google Talk, is designed to break down the walls between different instant messaging systems. Normally, these services these only let users chat with others on the same network.
After unifying all instant messaging under its single umbrella, Google then hopes to proceed to speech and thought. Soon the mere thought of that hot blond in accounting will bring unobtrusive ads related to “hot”, “blondes”, and “accounting” beamed straight into your head.
Men taking female hormones often start to experience chronic pain, says Anna Maria Aloisi, a physiologist from the University of Siena in Italy. In a study of 54 men taking oestrogen and anti-androgens as treatment to become women, 30% reported developing pains, primarily chronic headaches, during their treatment.
“We found that oestrogen in high amounts induced pain in these men,” says Aloisi, who presented her work at the 11th World Congress on Pain in Sydney, Australia, this week.
This is not entirely surprising as proximity to high amounts of estrogen also causes pain in men.
Dr. Gershon, who coined the term “second brain” in 1996, is one of a number of researchers who are studying brain-gut connections in the relatively new field of neurogastroenterology. New understandings of the way the second brain works, and the interactions between the two, are helping to treat disorders like constipation, ulcers and Hirschprung’s disease.
Two brains may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but they make literal and evolutionary sense.
“What brains do is control behavior,” Dr. Wood said. “The brain in your gut has stored within its neural networks a variety of behavioral programs, like a library. The digestive state determines which program your gut calls up from its library and runs.”
When someone skips lunch, the gut is more or less silent. Eat a pastrami sandwich, and contractions all along the small intestines mix the food with enzymes and move it toward the lining for absorption to begin. If the pastrami is rotten, reverse contractions will force it – and everything else in the gut – into the stomach and back out through the esophagus at high speed.
In each situation, the gut must assess conditions, decide on a course of action and initiate a reflex.
“The gut monitors pressure,” Dr. Gershon said. “It monitors the progress of digestion. It detects nutrients, and it measures acid and salts. It’s a little chemical lab.”
The enteric system does all this on its own, with little help from the central nervous system.
I would like to posit the existence of a third brain. This one also lives near the pelvis, and I think the guys out there know which one I am talking about. Rather than dealing with my woes, it tends to create several of them for my other two brains to deal with, usually on Sunday morning. Such problems include digesting the entire pizza I ate at 4 and remembering what the name of the girl in my bed is.
“A key question is when this chirality came into play,” says Uwe Meierhenrich, a chemist at the University of Nice-Sophia Antipolis in France. One theory is that proteins made of both types of amino acids existed on the early Earth but “somehow only the proteins of left-handed amino acids survived”, says Meierhenrich.
Meierhenrich and colleagues have a different theory. “We say the molecular building blocks of life were already created in interstellar conditions,” he told New Scientist.
The team believes a special type of “handed” space radiation destroyed more right-handed amino acids on the icy dust from which the solar system formed. This dust, along with the comets it condensed into, then crashed into Earth and other planets, providing them with an overabundance of left-handed amino acids that went on to form proteins.
Yeah, suck on that, right-handers. The meteorites from outer space that created us all said that we would all have left-handed amino acids. Who’s the sinister one now?!
What do swamps and flatulent cows have in common? They’re big sources of methane, of course. But while cows seem to let off as much of the potent greenhouse gas as they produce, swamps hold on to most of it. Now researchers say they’ve solved this methane mystery.
Methane turns out to be a major food item for sphagnum moss, accounting for as much as 15% of the plant’s carbon, the team reports 25 August in Nature. Experiments with radioactive methane revealed that bacteria living in the moss rapidly converted the gas into carbon dioxide which was then sucked up by the moss. Stroud argues that the moss-bacteria symbiosis may be as important for global nutrient cycles as the nitrogen fixation of legumes and their root nodule microbes (ScienceNOW, 5 September 2003). “This is elegant and exciting work,” says Jeffrey White, a climate scientist at Indiana University in Bloomington. White says the study shows that protecting peat bogs from environmental degradation is crucial because they could release enough green house gas to profoundly disrupt climate, not to mention put the cows to shame.
The Administration is currently contemplating whether a regime of restrictive sanctions or actual swamp invasion will be necessary to ensure that the Moss do not use their Weapons of Mass Climate Disruption (WMCD). The Moss’s repeated attempts to acquire these weapons clearly violates previous treaties and deserves attention from the UN Security Council. Not cool, Moss. Really not cool.
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