Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"Mental" a Naughty Word in Britain

The wicked Jeremy Clarkson again:

"The BBC has apologised to brain injury sufferers after Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson referred to crash victim Richard Hammond as "a mental".

Clarkson made the quip when presenter Hammond returned to the show last month. Hammond is still recovering from a 280mph car smash in September which left him fighting for his life. "Are you a mental?" Clarkson asked on the BBC2 programme.


Fish to the rescue -- again

Fish seems to be as popular as McDonalds is unpopular. In the study below, fish oil supplements were shown to alter brain chemistry and behaviour also improved but connecting the two is mere theory. In the absence of a double-blind trial, the behaviour improvement was most likely a "Hawthorne" effect.. Prof. Puri is a fatty acids evangelist with a huge number of academic publications extolling their benefits but I could not find the study mentioned below in the maze of his publication list so I presume that it is as yet unpublished.

Fatty acids can help children in exams and improve their behaviour in class and at home, a study suggests. Overweight children who took fatty acid dietary supplements showed dramatic improvements in concentration, reading, memory and mental agility. The advances that their brains made in three months would normally take three years, researchers found. One teenage boy who was hooked on watching television and hated books before the experiment became an avid reader after and dismissed programmes as too boring to bother with.

Researchers said that the results, while based on a small sample, supported recent findings that fatty acids boost brain development and suggest that fast food may stunt mental growth, because processed foods do not contain these acids.

Improvement were made in every area of academic activity but the most surprising change, said researchers, was in levels of Nacetylaspartate, or NAA, a biochemical indicator of brain development. According to brain scans carried out at St George's Hospital, southwest London, the levels of NAA rose far more than expected in the three boys and one girl taking a supplement containing the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. "The results were astonishing," said Professor Basant Puri, who led the study. "In three months you might expect to see a small NAA increase. But we saw as much growth as you would normally see in three years. It was as if these were the brains of children three years older. It means you have more connections and greater density of nerve cells, in the same way that a tree grows more branches. "For all the children there was a marked change, but in the three boys there was a massive, massive increase in NAA. I was quite startled by what I saw."

The children taking part in the research were classified as overweight. Zach, aged 8, weighed 8st (51kg), George and Rachael, both aged 11, weighed 11st, and Gareth, who was 13, weighed 12st. At the start of the pilot study, the children were given a supplement called VegEPA. They took two capsules a day and were encouraged to cut down on fatty snacks and fizzy drinks and be more active. After three months the children's reading abilities were a year ahead, their handwriting was neater and more accurate and they paid more attention in class.

"Gareth's parents told me how he had suddenly found TV boring, as he wanted to read. Three months earlier he was saying he couldn't understand people who loved books," said Professor Puri, of the Division of Clinical Sciences at Imperial College, London. "The concentration of all the children improved enormously and they seemed a lot calmer and happier. Even before I started testing them their parents were saying how much better they were."

The children were asked to change their diet but there was no evidence that they did to any great extent and Professor Puri believes that the changes were caused by the supplement, which is derived from oily fish and evening primrose oil. It contains an essential fatty acid called EPA, but significantly, another type of fatty acid, DHA, is absent. Previous studies by Professor Puri have shown this formula can improve brain function in adults. His study features in a Five TV documentary, Mind the Fat: Does Fast Equal Food Slow Kids?, to be broadcast on Thursday.

Professor Kishore Bhakoo, of the the Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial, said: "The thing that amazed me was how much change in biochemistry you could see in three months . . . You'd expect some variation, but they were all going in the same direction." He said that the results had implications for the "junk food" debate: "Processed food doesn't contain these substances."


Wales: Most spiking cases 'just drunk'

Most patients who believe they have had their drinks spiked test negative for drugs, research at Wrexham Maelor Hospital has found. The study aimed to assess the scale of drink-spiking in the area and identify problems at specific clubs and pubs. But the year-long investigation of hospital patients found fewer than one in five showed any trace of drugs. The research concluded the patients' symptoms were more likely to be the result of excess alcohol.

So-called "date rape" drugs include ketamine, Rohypnol and GHB. During the 12-month study there were 75 alleged cases of drink-spiking. Patient samples were analysed for alcohol and drug levels, and information was recorded about where the alleged spiking had happened. The alleged incidents took place in 23 different locations, although two locations accounted for 31% of the cases. Only 14% of the patients had informed the police. The research, which was published in the Emergency Medicine Journal, found 65% were twice the legal drink-driving limit, and 24% were three times the drink-drive limit.

Dr Peter Saul, a GP in Wrexham, said the report's findings "should not belittle the danger" people faced either from drink-spiking or drinking too much alcohol. He told BBC Radio Wales: "There had always been a suspicion that people would say that their drinks had been spiked when perhaps they had misjudged how much alcohol they were taking. "If you go home and your parents are there, and you are vomiting on the path, and you come in in a terrible state, you get sympathy if you say 'oh, my drink was spiked.' "You don't get sympathy if you say 'we spent too long in the bar'."

Dr Saul said the report did not make it clear if people's drinks had been spiked by alcohol, as opposed to drugs. He said: "It could explain the figures of people with very high alcohol levels." He added: "The message has to be to be careful, not just about having your drink spiked but the total amount of alcohol you have when you are going out for the night."

Professor Jonathan Shepherd is a Cardiff-based surgeon who has pioneered a method for hospital casualty units to compile statistics on the drink-related assaults. He told the same programme: "It really puts to bed a myth that's very widely held that drinks are spiked when in reality they are not." Prof Shepherd's research has included breathalysing up to 900 late-night drinkers in Cardiff city centre. He said: "There is certainly a sizeable minority who are drinking huge amounts of alcohol. "For all of us, it's a cautionary tale - we ought to be deciding beforehand how much are going to drink on a night out."

However, Prof Shepherd acknowledged that drink-spiking was a still a risk, which he said was easier to prevent by drinking from a bottle rather than a large glass. Dr Hywel Hughes, who led the study at the Wrexham Maelor Hospital, said the survey's results should not obscure the risks of drink spiking, as one-in-five people tested showed signs of "drugs of abuse". He said: "The bigger picture is probably the alcohol but spiking does go on, so people do need to take precautions against that."


British Catholic fightback against homosexuality

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, has called on his flock to join a campaign against new gay rights laws. Archbishop Nichols urged Catholics in the city to write to their MPs in protest at the Sexual Orientation Regulations, published last week by the Government.

The Catholic Church has led a campaign against the regulations, which make it illegal to discriminate against gay couples when placing children for adoption. The Church says that this goes against its teaching and that its adoption agencies would be forced to close as a result.

In a letter read out at services yesterday, Archbishop Nichols said that the regulations implied an understanding of the family and of children's needs in which the claims of same-sex couples were placed above the beliefs of all major religions.


Our primitive ancestors not so "noble" after all

It is known that primitive people today are anything but peaceful but the myth that OUR ancestors were peaceful is often pushed. Despite the evidence below, however, Leftists will no doubt continue to cling to their Rousseauian myths

Life for the first people to settle down to farm in Britain was far more violent than previously supposed, research suggests. Far from a peaceful expansion into empty and fertile lands, the transformation from hunter-gatherer to farming society was riven with conflict and change. New techniques have allowed archaeologists to pinpoint ages of Early Neolithic, long-barrow burial mounds more accurately, forcing them to revise virtually every assumption about Britain's first farmers. Early Neolithic society, dating about 3,900BC to 3,300BC, was much more diverse than previously realised, with differences between rites and beliefs noticeable in communities only a few miles from each other.

Long barrows have until now been regarded as burial places that were used for several hundred years as the resting places of chieftains and Neolithic VIPs. New dating on six barrows shows that they were open for only a few decades and were likely to have been used by everyone in the community, making them Neolithic village graveyards.

One barrow, Wayland's Smithy, near the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire, could have been opened and closed in a day to hold the remains of villagers killed in a raid. Three of the 14 bodies were found with the arrowheads that are presumed to have killed them and the other 11 are now thought likely to have died at the same time. The new evidence, with revised dates for five other burial barrows, means that archaeologists will have to spend the next 20 years reassessing their understanding of the period when farmers took over from hunter-gatherers in Britain.

Four of the barrows assessed by the new dating were contemporaneous yet were all shut up in different ways, suggesting much more diverse beliefs during the era of how "ghosts and spirits" should be treated. Previously, the different methods of depositing bodies and closing the barrows were held to be indicative of customs and beliefs changing over time. The new findings suggest that rather than commemorating long-dead tribal chieftains or heroes, the people were keeping alive memories of their friends and families. At Hazleton North in Gloucestershire, offerings of meat were placed in chambers 20 years after burials ceased, suggesting that people were visiting their parents' graves. Archaeologists were able to provide precise dates for the six barrows by using a new technique that combines radiocarbon dating with Bayesian statistics.

Radiocarbon dating, callibrated by dendrochronology, is accurate to about 250 years with Early Neolithic remains but when combined with Bayesian statistical analysis, in which artefacts are assessed by such things as the soil they were found in, dates accurate to a decade can be reached.

Alex Bayliss, a radiocarbon dating expert with English Heritage, said: "Maybe the idea of an egalitarian, peaceful land is not as true as we thought." Of Wayland's Smithy, she said: "Maybe this is the result of an epidemic of collective violence. Maybe there was a cattle raid where most of the women and children fled to hide in the woods and the men stayed to fight and lost the battle." Michael Wysocki, of the University of Central Lancaster, said that the period appeared to have been one "of increasing social tension and upheaval".


Prof. Wunsch is feeling the heat

He is probably under a lot of pressure now so one cannot really blame him for trying to back off. Post below lifted from Global Warming Hyperbole

The following articles pegged the bullshit meter all the way off the scale.

Climate scientist 'duped to deny global warming' - Ben Goldacre and David Adam, yes David Adam, Environmental Corespondent for the Guardian, the same David Adam that blogged his comments on the program without even watching it first! (03/10/07)

Climate change: An inconvenient truth... for C4
This expert in oceanography quoted in last week's debunking of the Gore green theory says he was 'seriously misrepresented' - By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor (03/10/07)

Less than 48 hours after this controversial new documentary challenging some of the assertions that man made CO2 is causing global warming aired on British TV, one of it's participants is claiming that his views were "grossly distorted" by the film. Professor Carl wunsch of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology continued to say that not only was he "totally misled" and "completely misrepresented" but also that the film was "as close to pure propaganda as anything since World War II."

According to Independent, Professor Wunsch said "I am angry because they completely misrepresented me. My views were distorted by the context in which they placed them. I was misled as to what it was going to be about. I was told about six months ago that this was to be a program about how complicated it is to understand what is going on. If they had told me even the title of the program, I would have absolutely refused to be on it. I am the one who has been swindled".

The Professor went on to say that he believes it is "an almost inescapable conclusion" that "if man adds excess CO2 to the atmosphere, the climate will warm".

After viewing these comments by the professor only hours after watching the program, I was shocked. I decided to go back and analyze the scenes in which the good professor appeared, and see if I could possibly imagine a "context" in which the actual words uttered by Professor Wunsch would have had a significantly different meaning. I could not. Maybe you can. I have printed the Professor's words as they appeared in the film, and the time at which they appeared. The film is currently available on Google Video but I don't know how long it will be there.

In this portion of the discussion, Professor Wunsch begins by explaining how the ocean's surface temperature plays a role in the exchange of carbon dioxide. He later comments on the vastness of the oceans, and their extremely slow reaction to any changes in climate as a result of such vastness.

Professor Wunsch:
25:43 The ocean is the major reservoir into which carbon dioxide goes when it comes out of the atmosphere or to from which it is re-emitted to the the atmosphere. If you heat the surface of the ocean, it tends to emit carbon dioxide. Similarly, if you cool the ocean surface, the ocean can dissolve more carbon dioxide.

Professor Wunsch:
26:44 - The ocean has a memory of past events ugh running out as far as 10,000 years. So for example, if somebody says oh I'm seeing changes in the North Atlantic, this must mean that the climate system is changing, it may only mean that something happened in a remote part of the ocean decades or hundreds of years ago who's effects are now beginning to show up in the North Atlantic.

In this portion of the film, the professor is speaking about the complexity of climate models and how their results can be greatly influenced by the input data they are given.

Professor Wunsch:
49:22 - The models are so complicated, you can often adjust them is such a way that they do something very exciting.

Professor Wunsch:
50:46 - Even within the scientific community you see, it's a problem.
If I run a complicated model and I do something to it like ugh melt a lot of ice into the ocean and nothing happens, ugh it's not likely to get printed. But if I run the same model, and I adjust it in such a way that something dramatic happens to the ocean circulation like the heat transport turns off, ugh it will be published. People will say this is very exciting. It will even get picked by the media. So there is a bias, there's is a very powerful bias within the media, and within the science community itself, toward results which are ugh dramatizable. If Earth freezes over, that's a much more interesting story than saying well you know it ugh fluctuates around, sometimes the mass flux goes up by 10%, sometimes it goes down by 20%, but eventually it comes back. Well you know, which would you do a story on? That's what it's about.

I've watched this video several times now and I can't believe the comments made in the film, and those in the above mentioned articles came from the same man. In my opinion, the Professor's words speak for themselves. I don't see how they could mean anything other than what they mean.

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