Category Archives: Human Science

Why Mosquitoes Love You

Barb Darrow of GigaOm summarizes a Smithsonian Magazine report on mosquitoes.

*Mosquitoes have favorite blood types. They’re more likely to dine out (on you) if you’re Type O than if you’re type A. Type B folks lay somewhere in the middle.

*85 percent of people secrete a chemical through their skin that telegraphs which blood type they have and mosquitoes prefer secretors to nonsecretors even if they have a non-preferred blood type.

*Mosquitoes love heavy breathers — they’re carbon dioxide-seeking creatures so if you’re big or if you’ve just exercised you’re one great poo-poo platter to them.So there you have it. Oh one more thing, if you don’t want to draw mosquitoes, skip that cocktail.

*Clothes color matters — People dressed in black, navy blue, dark red stand out to mosquitoes which use vision as well as smell to find meals.

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Tech Tools For the Blind And Deaf

“Desire2Learn’s blind workers help make better accessibility tools for classrooms,” reports Christina Farr of VentureBeat.

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A Wearable Alert to Head Injuries in Sports

The New York Times

Anne Eisenberg reports in the New York Times

A crop of new lightweight devices that athletes can wear on the field may help people on sidelines keep better track of hits to players’ heads during games and practice sessions. The devices, packed with sensors and microprocessors, register a blow to a player’s skull and immediately signal the news by blinking brightly, or by sending a wireless alert.

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Of Mice And Men And Chance: Cognititve Development And Fate

In the biological conception of nature and nurture, we tend to think that the dueling forces of genetics and environment shape and predict one’s personality. In a new study involving 40 genetically identical mice–all exposed to the same precisely controlled and measured environment–researchers are revealing the hidden importance of random chance on brain growth.

Writing on the New Yorker’s Elements blog, Gary Marcus explains the findings of the experiment:

Kempermann’s new mouse study shows that chance plays a role in cognitive development. For reasons as yet unknown, possibly having to do with intrauterine environments or randomness in the process by which individual genes are switched on, some mice became more active, others more passive; those that explored to a greater degree subsequently grew more neurons in their hippocampus. In an environment that rewards exploration, the more active mice would presumably thrive; with a simple follow-up it should be possible to prove that luck can mediate success in a carefully controlled environment.

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Who Made That Digital Camouflage?

The New York Times


Writing in the New York Times, Pagan Kennedy offers a brief history of “digital camouflage” in the US military.

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War And Sports Shape Better Artificial Limbs

Last year I posted about the technological advancements of prosthetic limbs. Patients have been electing to remove more of their healthy flesh so that they can be fitted with more athletic and functional extremities. James Dao continues the story.

Rehabilitation programs that revolve around sports and athleticism help amputees emotionally recover from lost arms and legs. Even when wounded soldiers or civilians were not athletic before the injury, playing sports after sustaining one offers immense confidence and physical resilience. The reporter also discusses the scientific leap that has greatly improved the quality of prosthetics. “Computerized knees and ankles” Dao writes, “adjust to terrain and activity.” “Lighter and more malleable materials have allowed amputees to wear synthetic legs longer — and even run marathons.”

The author mentions two caveats to these developments. Quoting a physical therapist and an anthropological who studies military rehab programs, Dao reminds us that “traumatic stress disorder or anxieties about employment” cannot be treated with athletic programs alone. He also teaches us that the cost burden for soldiers is covered by the military, which offers extensive treatment and a variety of artificial limbs for various physical activity (skying, climbing, swimming.) For civilians however, their options are much more limited. “Buying an advanced device can cost more than $30,000; customizing them for various sports costs thousands more,” Dao reports.

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Neuroimaging Further Reveals The Cost Of War

brain scan traumatic brain injury

Wired.com

Writing on wired.com, Spencer Ackerman reveals the staggering number of traumatic brain injuries our soldiers have endured, and the imaging technology that helps doctors diagnose them.

Here are indications of the lingering costs of 11 years of warfare. Nearly 130,000 U.S. troops have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and vastly more have experienced brain injuries. Over 1,700 have undergone life-changing limb amputations. Over 50,000 have been wounded in action. As of Wednesday, 6,656 U.S. troops and Defense Department civilians have died.

That updated data…comes from a new Congressional Research Service report into military casualty statistics that can sometimes be difficult to find — and even more difficult for American society to fully appreciate. It almost certainly understates the extent of the costs of war.

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Take My Leg To Save My Stride

Courtesy NYTimes

Prosthetic limbs have come a long way. Newer bionic models facilitate natural human movement and help amputees regain their active lifestyles. As the New York Times reports, the advancement of artificial limbs has led many amputees to elect to lose more of their healthy flesh so that they can be fitted with newer models.

Instead of doing everything possible to preserve and live with whatever is left of their limbs, some are opting to amputate more extensively to regain something more akin to normal function.

Citing the research of a prosthetics start up, iWalk, the article states:

The goal is to build artificial limbs that resemble human arms in dexterity, strength, size and weight — and that veterans one day may control with their brains. The scientists plan to insert a small array of electrodes into the cortex, the brain’s top layer, or into peripheral nerves.

Controlling an artificial limb with thought instead of lifting a metal extension with existing muscle seems both futuristically bizarre and wonderfully intuitive.

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