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Posted by On July 19, 2018

Baby snake 'frozen in time' gives insight into lost world

Science & Environment Science & Environment Baby snake 'frozen in time' gives insight into lost world

Baby snakeImage copyright Ming BAI/Chinese Academy of Sciences
Image caption The fossil gives an insight into how snakes became such successful creatures

The fossil of a baby snake has been discovered entombed inside amber.

The creature has been frozen in time for 99 million years.

The snake lived in what is now Myanmar, during the age of the dinosaurs.

Scientists say the snake fossil is "unbelievably rare".

"This is the very first baby snake fossil that we have ever found," Prof Michael Caldwell of the University of Alberta in Canada told BBC News.

Image copyright Cheung Chung Tat
Image caption What the dawn snake of Myanmar may have looked like

The baby snake lived in the forests of Myanmar during the Cretaceous period. It has been given the name, Xiaophis Myanmarensis, or dawn snake of Myanmar.

A s econd amber fossil was discovered, which appears to contain part of the shed skin of another much larger snake. It is unclear whether this is a member of the same species.

Image copyright Yi LIU
Image caption The skin of a second specimen was found

How did the snake become frozen in time?

The animal became stuck in tree sap, a sticky substance that can preserve skin, scales, fur, feathers or even whole creatures.

"It's the super-glue of the fossil record," said Prof Caldwell.

"Amber is totally unique - whatever it touches is frozen in time inside of the plastic-like resin."

Earliest fossils

  • Snakes: The oldest known sn ake fossils date from between 140 million and 167 million years ago, and come from the UK - Durlston Bay in Dorset to be exact. Eophis underwoodi was small - possibly a youngster, and lived in a marshy or swampy environment.
  • Lizard: A small lizard discovered in rocks from the Italian Alps was confirmed this year as the earliest example of its kind. Megachirella wachtleri lived in the Triassic Period, about 240 million years ago. The find suggested that the group lizards belong to had evolved earlier than previously thought
  • Dinosaur: The earliest known dinosaur fossil dates to around the same time as the earliest lizard. Nyasasaurus was two to three metres in length and found in the Manda geological formation in Tanzania, East Africa but it's only known from a few bones, so little is understood about it, or its life history. The group it belonged to went on to dominate the Earth for 165 million years.
  • Horse: The earliest mammal that resembles a horse is Eohippus, which was found at North American sites such as the Wind River Basin in Wyoming. It lived around 52 million years ago and was only about the size of a fox. However, true horses only appear around 20 million years ago, by which time they had evolved to be the size of small ponies.
  • Human: It depends what you mean by human. But if we take that to apply to species under the biological grouping known as Homo, the oldest example is a jawbone fragment from the Afar Region of Ethiopia and dating to between 2.80 and 2.75 million years ago.

What does the new discovery tell us about these iconic creatures?

The snake's body can be seen inside the chunk of amber, made up of 97 vertebrae plus attached ribs. Intriguingly, the snake's head is missing.

The creature's bones were analysed inside a synchrotron, an extremely powerful sourc e of X-rays, and compared with those of living snakes.

Anatomical features suggest development of the backbone of snakes appears to have changed little in nearly 100 million years.

Scientists say the snake may have survived for tens of millions of years in a primitive state, before going extinct.

Image copyright Ming BAI, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Image caption The snake is similar in size to living species, such as the Asian Pipe Snake

What do we know about where it lived?

Fragments of plants and insects found inside the amber confirm that the snake lived in forests.

This has not been shown before for this time period, as the few other fossil snakes discovered come from rocks associated with rivers or the sea.

Dr Ricardo Pérez-de la Fuente of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, who is not connected with the research team, said the find gives "invaluable developmental and evolutionary data on ancient snakes".

Image copyright Lida XING, China University of Geosciences Beijing
Image caption The chunk of amber that contains the baby snake

What is so special about amber fossils?

Myanmar is seen as a treasure trove of exciting fossil discoveries from the Cretaceous period, between 145 and 66 million years ago.

Recent finds include the tail of a feathered dinosaur, an ancient arachnid and a haul of prehistoric frogs.

The new discovery is reported in the journal Science Advances.

Follow Helen on Twitter.

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Source: Goog le News US Science | Netizen 24 United States


Posted by On July 19, 2018

ADHD study links teens' symptoms with digital media use

NEW YORK â€" The more teens check social media and stream video, the more likely they might develop symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a new study suggests.

The study, published in the medical journal JAMA on Tuesday, sheds light on how more research is needed to determine whether symptoms of the disorder, commonly called ADHD, are possibly caused by digital media use.

“If we can determine if there is a potential causal link that is consistent across studies, then we can design interventions to curb media exposure. Even simple educational information to let teachers, parents, and pediatric health professionals know that there could be an increased risk when they talk with their teens about digital media use might be helpful,” said Adam Leventhal, a licensed clinical psychologist and a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, and lead author of the study.

ADHD symptoms include inattention, hyperactivity, restlessness or impulsivity that is more severe, frequent or debilitating than normal.

The disorder, which is more common in boys than girls, affects about 5% of all children in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The prevalence of ADHD has been estimated at 5% worldwide, as well.

Treatment options include behavior therapy, medication and school accommodations.

“ADHD’s been linked with substance use disorders during adulthood and even involvement in the criminal justice system, and the symptoms are distressing for the pers on affected,” Leventhal said. “If we can identify any potential risk factor that is implicated in this disorder then that’s important, especially ones that are modifiable like digital media use.”

‘The association … was persistent’

The new study involved 2,587 students in 10 high schools across Los Angeles County, California. The students, who had no significant symptoms of ADHD at the study’s start, were 15 to 16 years old.

The students participated in the study over a two-year period, beginning in fall 2014, with follow-up data collection in spring 2015, fall 2015, spring 2016, and fall 2016.

At each of those time points, the students completed a form that measured ADHD symptoms, including nine inattention symptoms and nine hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms.

At the start of the study, the students completed surveys in which they reported how frequently they engaged in 14 digital media activities, such as social networking, texti ng, playing digital games, online shopping, video chatting, reading online content or streaming videos or music.

In each survey response, the students indicated whether their recent digital media use was high-frequency, meaning many times per day, or at other frequency levels, such as zero times a week, once or twice a week or once or twice a day.

After analyzing the self-reported symptoms and digital media survey responses, the researchers found that each additional high-frequency engagement in a digital media activity was associated with higher odds of having ADHD symptoms at each follow-up point.

The researchers found that, on average, 9.5% of the students who reported engaging in seven high-frequency digital media activities reported ADHD symptoms, and 10.5% of those who reported engaging in all 14 high-frequency digital media activities reported ADHD symptoms.

By comparison, only 4.6% of the students who reported not engaging in any of the digital me dia activities also reported ADHD symptoms throughout the study.

“Those percentages â€" like the 4.6% â€" reflect the average rates across the four different follow-ups,” Leventhal said. “So one of the things we noticed in the study was that the association between digital media and prevalence of ADHD symptoms was persistent across the entire follow-up period.”

The researchers described the association between higher frequency of digital media use and subsequent ADHD symptoms as “statistically significant but modest.”

The study had some limitations, including that only a specific age of students was included in the study and the students were based only in the Los Angeles area. More research is needed to determine whether similar findings would emerge among a more geographically diverse group of teenagers across a wider age range.

Also, the study only showed an association between modern digital media use and subsequent ADHD symptoms. More res earch is needed to determine whether that relationship is causal or reflects reverse causation. For instance, genetics or environmental influences may increase both ADHD symptoms and digital media access or use. Income and media use among parents also can influence media use among children.

The study also was based on self-reports of digital media use and ADHD symptoms.

“We didn’t have clinicians involved in our study to actually provide a diagnosis,” Leventhal said, but not everyone would call that a limitation.

‘The results must be understood as tentative’

Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a pediatrician and director of the Center for Childhood Health, Behavior, and Development at the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, called the study “the best to date” showing the association between digital media use and ADHD symptoms.

He said that looking at symptoms instead of diagnoses was one strength of the research.

“Even without a c linical diagnosis of ADHD, diminished attentional capacity is associated with poorer function both in childhood and in subsequent adulthood,” said Christakis, who was not involved in the research.

“We know that having a shorter attention span, regardless of whether or not you have a diagnosis of ADHD, is bad,” he said.

A shorter attention span, or distractibility, is a “cardinal feature of ADHD,” Christakis said.

With constant digital media use, “you can create a habit of mind where your brain is constantly seeking something more interesting, something more stimulating, because it’s always available â€" and that leads to distractibility,” he said. “The biggest problem children with ADHD have is, they’re easily distracted.”

The study was interesting, but there are three reasons to remain cautious, Andy Przybylski, an associate professor and director of research at the University of Oxford’s Oxford Internet Institute, said in a writt en statement released by the independent Science Media Centre on Tuesday.

“First, though the analyses are done well they demonstrate a very small correlation between digital media use and non-clinical measure of the ADHD symptoms. This means the study is a proof of concept that tells us we need very large samples when we design future studies because the possible effects are extremely small,” said Przybylski, who was not involved in the study.

“Second, the study doesn’t measure either digital media use or ADHD directly. For both the study relies on survey responses provided by the student in question. It is not clear if teachers or parents would rate the children similarly or if the self-reported measure of digital screen use is correlated with either actual behaviour or higher quality survey items,” he said. “Finally, because this was an exploratory study, instead of a registered or confirmatory study, the results must be understood as tentative.”

The digital media guidelines doctors recommend

Dr. Jenny Radesky, a developmental behavioral pediatrician and assistant professor at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, wrote an editorial accompanying the new study.

“With more timely digital media research, parents may feel more confident in the evidence underlying recommendations for how to manage the onslaught of media in their households,” Radesky wrote.

The results “affirm the 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines to prioritize activities that promote adolescent executive functioning and well-being, including sleep, physical activity, distraction-free homework, and positive interactions with family and friends,” wrote Radesky, who was a lead author of the academy’s guidelines for young children, along with Christakis.

For children 6 and older, the academy recommends placing consistent limits on the time spent using media, designating media-free times together such as at dinner or traveling, and having ongoing communication about online privacy and safety, among other suggestions.

Radesky wrote in her editorial that “although not directly addressed by this study, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for parent involvement in their adolescent’s media use â€" including discussions about prosocial uses of media, digital citizenship, misinformation, and persuasion awareness â€" are relevant to the cognitive and emotional reactions to digital media of adolescents.”

Source: Google News US Health | Netizen 24 United States


Posted by On July 19, 2018

Look up at the moon every nightâ€"not just during the lunar eclipse

The blood moon matters most to those who look up every night.
The blood moon matters most to those who look up every night.
Life as Laboratory 1 hour ago

On July 27, a blood moon will glow an eerie red ahead of the longest lunar eclipse that Earth will experience in the 21st century. For one hour and 43 minutes, the moon will disappear from the sky, entirely obscured by the shadow that our planet casts upon it.

Unfortunately, not all Earthlings will get to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime extended celestial event. It will only be visible from parts of Africa, Europe, and North and South America if skies are clear.

But there’s good news: All of us can enjoy the moon every night, and it’s always awesome, whether it’s a sliver or full and bright. The thrill of an unusual natural event like a lunar eclipse only highlights the fact that we ignore the everyday wonders that surround us all the time. We spend our days and nights staring at screens, and don’t gaze up at the sky nearly enough. That means we’re missing out on great riches that are available to everyone, but appreciated by only a few.

Stealing the moon

A 200-year-old Zen Buddhist parable perfectly illustrates the importance of gazing up at the heavens on a regular basis.

According to traditional lore, the Japanese Zen master and poet Ryokan Taigu, who lived from 1758 to 1831, was a happy hermit. He trained in a monastery for 10 years, then rejected conventional religion. He went on to live a simple life, meditating, writing poetry, occasionally drinking sake with rural farmers, and sharing his modest meals with the birds and beasts.

He didn’t have much to steal. But one night, a thief came to Ryokan’s spare mountain hut looking for treasure. The criminal found nothing of value and was disappointed, which saddened the Zen master. It’s said that the poet pressed his clothesâ€"or his blanket, depending on which account you readâ€"upon the thief, saying, “You’ve come such a long way to see me, please accept this gift.”

The stunned thief took the poet’s clothing. But he didn’t take anything that mattered to the Zen master, who reportedly spent the rest of the evening naked, gazing at the moon in the skyâ€"a jewel that no one could steal, yet everyone can enjoy. Ryokan was still a bit sad, as he hadn’t been able to give the thief this most valuable of treasures. In his diary, the Zen master penned a now-famous poem about the experience:

The thief, l eft it behindâ€"The moon at the window.

The story is told by Zen teachers to remind students that most people are attached to things that don’t really matter, while missing the marvels that abound in the natural world. Ryokan would have happily shared his greatest treasure with the thief, if only the visiting criminal could have seen it.

Personal lunar eclipse

The moon in Buddhism is a symbol of enlightenment. Each of us could be illuminated, as bright as a full moon on a clear night, but our wisest, best nature is often obscured by clouds, writes author and professor of Buddhist studies at Lehigh University, Kenneth Kraft, in the Huffington Post.

Attachment and distractions prevent us from realizing that we already have what we need. According to Zen philosophers, existence is sufficient and there’s no need to grasp for power, money, or exciting experiences. The need to be thrilled and to seek more experiencesâ€"perhap s even the excitement of a lunar eclipseâ€"is what causes our suffering, according to Kraft.

Yet we can always capture the treasure, the moon of illumination hidden behind our personal clouds. “Even amid delusion, there is awakening. Even amid awakening, there is delusion,” he writes.

Nantenbo full moon.

Kraft points to a simple, circular, single-stroke ink image of the full moon by the early 19th century Japanese Zen painter Nantenbo to demonstrate the endless possibilities presented by common shapes and everyday things, whether the typical moon in the sky or a bowl in your kitchen cabinet. “A circle is whole yet empty, without beginning or end. So is the universe, in the Buddhist view,” the professor explains.

When we get in touch with the wholeness and possibilities of simple thin gs, we become rich. And this wealth is available to anyone, even the poorest mountain hermit. That’s why Natenbo’s painting is accompanied by this inscription:

If you want the moon, here it is. Catch!

Pointing at the moon

The moon as metaphor appears often in Buddhism. It symbolizes truth. And the Lankavatra Sutra, compiled around the 4th century, contains a lunar warning from the Buddha to disciples not to get confused about his teachings. “As the ignorant grasp the finger-tip and not the moon, so those who cling to the letter, know not my truth.”

This is a reminder to look to nature to understand reality. To be illuminated, we don’t need teachings or even teachers, though they may guide us.

“A finger pointing at the moon is not the moon. The finger is needed to know where to look for the moon, but if you mistake the finger for the moon itself, you will never know the real moon,” explains V ietnamese Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh in Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha.

Blood moons are dramatic and exciting. There’s nothing wrong with looking out for one. But the attention we pay to these extraordinary celestial events is a bit like the finger pointing at the moon. If we only look up at the sky and admire the moon when something unusual happensâ€"like a shift in color caused by a total lunar eclipseâ€"then we’re missing out on the real treasure, just like the thief in Ryokan’s parable. A lunar eclipse only really matters to those who look up at the moonlit sky every night.

Read full story home our picks popular latest obsessions search Source: Google News US Science | Netizen 24 United States


Posted by On July 19, 2018

A Spike In Liver Disease Deaths Among Young Adults Fueled By Alcohol

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Young people who drink heavily may be at risk of fatal liver disease. South_agency/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption South_agency/Getty Images

Young people who drink heavily may be at risk of fatal liver disease.

South_agency/Getty Images

Dr. Elliot Tapper has treated a lot of patients, but this one stood out.

"His whole body was yellow," Tapper remembers. "He could hardly move. It was difficult for him to breathe, and he wasn't eating anything."

The patient was suffering from chronic liver disease. After years of alcohol use, his liver had stopped filtering his blood. Bilirubin, a yellowish waste compound, was building up in his body and changing his skin color.

Disturbing to Tapper, the man was only in his mid-30s â€" much younger than most liver disease patients.

Tapper, a liver specialist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School, tried to get the patient to stop drinking.

"We had long, tearful conversations," Tapper says, "but he continued to struggle with alcohol addiction." Since then, the young man's condition has continued to deteriorate and Tapper is not optimistic about his chances of survival.

It's patient stories like this one that led Tapper to research liver disease in young people. According to a study published Wednesday in BMJ by Tapper and a colleague, fatal liver disease has risen, and young people have been hit the hardest.

The study examined the number of deaths resulting from cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, as well as liver cancer. Data came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and covered the period from 1999 to 2016.

The analysis revealed that deaths from liver-related illnesses have increased dramatically, and mortality in young people rose the fastest. Although these illnesses can be caused by several things including obesity and hepatitis C infection, the rise among young Americans was caused by alcohol consumption. The number of 25- to 34-year-olds who died annually from alcohol-related liver disease nearly tripled between 1999 and 2016, from 259 in 1999 to 767 in 2016, an average annual increase of around 10 percent.

"What's happening wit h young people is dismaying to say the least," says Tapper.

Certain ethnic groups, like whites and Native Americans, also saw large increases in liver-related deaths in all age groups, while Asian-Americans saw decreases.

The rise in alcohol-related deaths overlaps with rising rates of binge drinking from 2002 to 2012 observed across much of the U.S.

The authors noted a sharp spike in mortality starting in 2009. The reason for the spike is unclear, but Dr. Neehar Parikh, a liver specialist at the University of Michigan Medical School and Tapper's co-author, has a theory.

"It correlates with the global financial crisis," Parikh says. "We hypothesize that there may be a loss of opportunity, and the psychological burden that comes with that may have driven some of those patients to abusive drinking."

The increase among younger Americans is particularly troubling, because it kills people in the prime of their lif e.

"Each young patient that dies is a tragedy," says Parikh. "It's years of life lost."

The study is the latest to confirm that liver-related illnesses are becoming increasingly prevalent. A report published Tuesday by the CDC shows that the age-adjusted death rate from liver cancer has increased 43 percent since 2000. And a recent study of veterans found that cirrhosis cases nearly doubled between 2001 and 2013.

But Dr. Vijay Shah, who heads the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the Mayo Clinic and was not involved with this research, says that the study's emphasis on young Americans is new.

"Alcohol-related liver cirrhosis used to be considered a disease that would happen after 30 years of heavy alcohol consumption," Shah says. "But this study is showing that these problems are actually occurring in individuals in their 20s and 30s."

"T here has been a shift in the kind of patient we're seeing," agrees Dr. Sumeet Asrani, a liver specialist practicing in Dallas who did not contribute to the study. "It fits with what we see in practice. We're seeing younger and younger patients with alcoholic liver disease."

Despite the recent increase, cirrhosis remains a relatively minor cause of death for young Americans, accounting for only 1.4 percent of total deaths in the 25-34 age range. But it's much more significant for young Native Americans, accounting for 6.3 percent of deaths.

Tapper thinks the problem is only going to get worse. Some conditions that cause liver trouble, like hepatitis C, have been falling. But other risk factors, including obesity, are on the rise. Alcohol consumption and obesity could interact to worsen liver disease, Tapper says.

Tapper says he thinks that policy could play a role in addressing the problem. For instance, strategic taxation of a lcoholic beverages could deter consumption, just as raising the taxes on cigarettes has been shown to reduce smoking. He cites the example of Scotland, which recently set minimum prices for units of alcohol to deter binge drinking. He also points to public health interventions, such as counseling, that help people quit drinking.

The good news is that liver disease is often reversible. Many patients can recover if they stop drinking soon enough.

"I've had patients who came to me in a wheelchair," Tapper says. "Three months later, they're shoveling snow and their lab tests are normal. It's always because they made that choice to stop drinking."

Paul Chisholm is an intern with NPR's Science desk.

Source: Google News US Health | Netizen 24 United States