Firefighters tried to put out the fire on the smoldering Air India plane that crashed in Mangalore, India, on Saturday. More Photos »
By LYDIA POLGREEN
Published: May 22, 2010
NEW DELHI — An Air India flight from Dubai carrying 166 people crashed into a heavily wooded valley moments after landing at an airport in southern India on Saturday morning, killing almost everyone on board.
The plane overshot the hilltop runway where it was landing in one of India’s trickiest airports, in the city of Mangalore, which sits in the Western Ghats, or hills, on India’s southwestern coast.
Aviation officials said that the pilot of the Boeing 737 missed the landing threshold, a critical portion of the runway at airports where runways are shorter because of hilly terrain, by as much as 2,000 feet. The plane veered off the runway and struck a concrete navigational aid called a localizer, according to Praful Patel, India’s aviation minister.
“The wing fell of and the aircraft plunged into the valley,” Mr. Patel told reporters at a news conference.
Seven people survived the crash, according to the financially troubled airline, which is owned and operated by the Indian government.
(Smoke rising as Central World shopping center is burning in Bangkok)
Video-Four killed, 50 wounded in Bangkok
6 hours ago - Reuters 1:45 | 6708 views
At least four people were killed and dozens were injured after the Thai army completed its military operation in against anti-government protesters in Bangkok.
AP – In this photo released by Christie's Auction House in New York, 'Nude Green Leaves, and Bust,' a 1932 …
By ULA ILNYTZKY, Associated Press Writer Ula Ilnytzky, Associated Press Writer – Wed May 5, 7:20 am ET
NEW YORK – A 1932 Pablo Picasso painting of his mistress has sold for $106.5 million, a world record price for any work of art at auction.
"Nude, Green Leaves and Bust," which had a pre-sale estimate of between $70 million and $90 million, was sold at Christie's auction house on Tuesday evening to an unidentified telephone bidder.
There were nine minutes of bidding involving eight clients in the sale room and on the phone, Christie's said. At $88 million, two bidders remained. The final bid was $95 million, but the buyer's premium took the sale price to $106.5 million.
Conor Jordan, head of impressionist and modern art for Christie's New York, said he was "ecstatic with the results."
"Tonight's spectacular results showed the great confidence in the marketplace and the enthusiasm with which it welcomes top quality works," he said.
The striking work of Picasso's muse and mistress Marie-Therese Walter has been exhibited in the United States only once, in 1961 in Los Angeles to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Picasso's birth. The painting, which measures more than 5 feet by 4 feet, shows a reclining nude figure with an image of Picasso in the background looking over her.
The painting had belonged to the late California art patron Frances Lasker Brody, who bought it in the 1950s. It had been kept in her family since then.
Part of the sale proceeds will benefit the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Calif., where Brody was on the board.
The previous record for a work of art at auction was $104.3 million for "Walking Man I," a sculpture by Alberto Giacometti sold on Feb. 3 at Sotheby's in London. The previous high price for a Picasso work was $104.2 million for "Boy With a Pipe (The Young Apprentice)," attained in 2004 at Sotheby's New York.
On Wednesday, another rarely seen Picasso is slated to sell at Sotheby's auction house. "Woman in a Hat, Bust" is a 1965 work inspired by Jacqueline Roque, the last love of Picasso's life. It is estimated to sell for $8 million to $12 million.
The work hung for 50 years in the Manhattan apartment of Patricia Kennedy Lawford, a sister of former President John F. Kennedy. It's being sold by her estate.
Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Oil rig in Gulf of Mexico explodes
AP - 04/21/2010 | Houston, TX |
An explosion on an offshore drilling platform in Lousiana, followed by a huge fire, sent helicopters out to search for 11 missing workers.
Helicopters, ships and an airplane searched waters off Louisiana's coast Wednesday for at least 11 workers missing after an explosion and fire that left an offshore drilling platform tilting in the Gulf of Mexico.
Most of the 126 people were believed to have escaped safely after the explosion on the rig Deepwater Horizon at about 10 p.m. Tuesday, Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Mike O'Berry said. The rig, about 52 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip, was listing about 10 degrees and still burning Wednesday morning.
"It's burning pretty good and there's no estimate on when the fire will be put out," O'Berry said.
Seven workers were reported critically injured, Coast Guard Lt. Sue Kerver said. Two were taken to a trauma center in Mobile, Ala., where there is a burn unit, but the nature of their injuries was unclear, she said. At least two were taken to a suburban New Orleans hospital.
O'Berry said many workers who escaped the rig were being brought to land on a workboat while authorities searched the Gulf of Mexico for any signs of lifeboats.
"We're hoping everyone's in a life raft," he said.
The rig was drilling but was not in production, according to Greg Panagos, spokesman for its owner, Transocean Ltd., in Houston. The rig was under contract to BP PLC. BP spokesman Darren Beaubo said all BP personnel were safe but he didn't know how many BP workers had been on the rig.
Kerver said the Coast Guard and the Minerals Management Service will work together to investigate possible causes of the accident.
"It's still too early to tell the cause," Panagos said. "Our focus right now is on taking care of the people."
O'Berry said Coast Guard environmental teams were on standby in Morgan City, La., to assess any environmental damage once the fire was out.
According to Transocean's website, the Deepwater Horizon is 396 feet long and 256 feet wide. The rig was built in 2001 by Hyundai Heavy Industries Shipyard in South Korea. The site is known as the Macondo prospect, in 5,000 feet of water.
The rig is designed to operate in water depths up to 8,000 feet and has a maximum drill depth of about 5.5 miles. It can accommodate a crew of up to 130.
Iceland Volcanic Ash Clogs the Skies
Photograph by Brynjar Gaudi, AP
Volcanic ash hangs over Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano Thursday, three days after the volcano's latest eruption. (See pictures of the Iceland volcano's most recent reawakening.)
Clouds of the volcanic ash, which stretched as far as Britain, caused international travel chaos today as flights were grounded to and from Europe. (Read why ash from the Iceland volcano is so dangerous to planes.)
Airspace in the U.K and several other northern European countries was closed as the volcanic ash—deemed a serious hazard to aircraft engines—drifted westward at heights of between 25,000 and 30,000 feet (about 7,600 to 9,100 meters). (Get more details about the unprecedented shutdown on the NatGeo News Watch blog.)
When the volcano first erupted after a 200-year respite, on March 20, (see pictures of the Iceland volcano's initial eruption ) it spewed mainly fire and lava. But the latest eruption spurted out a cloud of steam, smoke, and ash up to 7 miles (11 kilometers) high.
Published April 15, 201
(Map of Iceland)
Watch Video on YouTube at:
A very good song about IT-BHU days with melodious music.
Julien Toyer and Ilona Wissenbach, Reuters
Published: Sunday, May 09, 2010
European Union Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn (L) and Spain's Economy Minister Elena Salgado (R), whose country currently holds the rotating Presidency of EU, address a news ...
BRUSSELS -- European Union finance ministers agreed on an emergency loan package on Monday that with IMF support could reach 750 billion euros (US$1,000-billion) to prevent a sovereign debt crisis spreading through the euro zone.
The European Central Bank also announced steps to contain Greece's debt crisis, saying it would buy euro zone government and private debt and abandoning resistance to full-scale bond purchases.
"The fiscal efforts of the EU member states, the financial assistance by the (European) Commission and by the member states (and) actions taken today by the ECB prove we shall defend the euro whatever it takes," EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn told a news conference after more than 11 hours of talks.
The EU finance ministers announced a package consisting of a special-purpose vehicle via which euro area states would guarantee on a pro rata basis up to 440 billion euros, plus a European instrument worth 60 billion euros.
Clarifying earlier statements, they said the International Monetary Fund was expected to make a contribution of about 250 billion euros.
Economists have estimated that if Portugal, Ireland and Spain eventually required similar three-year bailouts to that received by Greece, the total cost could be 500 billion euros.
"This is not only about Greece but about stability in Europe as a whole," Mr. Rehn said.
The measures dwarf any previous attempts by the 27-country EU or the 16-state single-currency group to calm what Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg described as the "wolfpack" of the financial markets.
The moves were coordinated by the European financial institutions and involved discussion among the Group of Seven finance ministers, showing the global concern that problems that began in Greece could cause havoc on world financial markets.
Greece, with a budget deficit of 13.6-14.1% of gross domestic product in 2009 and debt of more than 115% of GDP, already has secured a 110-billion-euro, three-year loan package from the 16-country euro zone and the IMF.
The size of the deal agreed on Sunday, two days after a summit of euro zone leaders, reflected the growing sense of urgency in the EU and around the world that a sovereign debt crisis could rapidly sweep global markets.
The ministers also called for budget consolidation, sustainable finances, improved economic growth and closer economic coordination. Plans for fiscal consolidation and structural reforms would be accelerated where needed, they said.
© Thomson Reuters 2010.
By Leslie Meredith, TechNewsDaily Senior Writer
13 May 2010 5:42 PM ET
The test versions of Microsoft's upcoming Office 2010 became available today. An integrated desktop with Internet, or "cloud," based version and a mobile version for Windows Mobile-based phones can be downloaded from Microsoft for free.
Download is fast thanks to Microsoft's new Click-to-Run streaming technology, but not all features are available to Beta users and the program will eventually cost at least $100.
Microsoft has addressed some of the fastest growing trends among computer users in Office 2010 including the move to cloud computing, integration of social networking, the rise of video and the ability to use one program across multiple devices in any location.
Office 2010 includes an online version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote, and allows users to access documents stored "in the cloud" through an Internet connection. Users can share documents from the desktop version to the online version and vice versa by connecting to SkyDrive through a Windows Live account, Microsoft’s online services platform that includes instant messaging and email.
Share Office docs from desktop to the cloud
Access Office 2010 docs from Windows Live SkyDrive
Users must have a Windows Live account and must install Office 2010 Beta before using Office 2010 Web Apps. At this time, documents may be viewed in SkyDrive, but cannot be edited.
While the online version is technically free, once the Beta period closes on Oct. 31, 2010, users will have to purchase Office 2010 to continue using Web Apps. Consumer versions will range from $100 to $500 where the software will reside on the owner's computer, but will allow access to the online version.
PowerPoint and Word have been spiffed up with new graphical capabilities. The new PowerPoint includes photo and video editing capabilities, which may eliminate the need for separate programs, and the ability to embed videos within slides. Word includes built-in photo editing as well.
According to Microsoft, 67 percent of Internet users visit social networks, indicating the rise in importance of social connections across both business and social environments. With Outlook Social Connector, social networking accounts are integrated into the email interface. Click on an email from a contact to see recent e-mail conversations, meetings, profiles, status updates and shared attachments.
This feature is not fully functional yet. LinkedIn and MySpace are accessible while Facebook and Windows Live are scheduled for future integration.
Microsoft notes that users must install a piece of software called Outlook Social Connector (OSC) 32-bit Beta as well as Outlook Social Connector included in the Office 2010 Beta to activate the social media features. Also, you cannot install the 32-bit OSC Beta on Outlook 2010 Beta 64-bit.
Microsoft also released the Beta version of Office Mobile 2010 for phones using Windows Mobile operating system today, which extends the use of Office across more devices. The mobile suite includes Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. Documents can be edited and shared directly from the phone. Office Mobile is offered through the Windows Marketplace, Microsoft’s online mobile apps store, as a free upgrade for Windows Mobile 6.5 phones that have an earlier version of Office Mobile installed.
In tests, the new Beta version of Microsoft's updated Office suite was up and running in less than five minutes. If a high-speed connection is unavailable, Microsoft recommends downloading Office Professional 2010 Beta instead. In this case, expect installation to take up to two hours.
If your computer runs Office 2007, it will support Office 2010. Users can have both versions of Office on one machine with the exception of Outlook. Office 2010 will run as the default, so once the Beta is installed, the program will automatically convert prior Office versions to Office 2010. If Outlook 2007 is running, Outlook 2010 will not open.
Today Microsoft only offers Office 2010 for PCs. A Mac version is under development and scheduled for release in 2011.
Microsoft Office 2010 beta download
From The Sunday Times
April 25, 2010
THE aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact.
The suggestions come in a new documentary series in which Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists, will set out his latest thinking on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries.
Alien life, he will suggest, is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.
Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved.
Top of Form
Bottom of Form
“To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational,” he said. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.”
The answer, he suggests, is that most of it will be the equivalent of microbes or simple animals — the sort of life that has dominated Earth for most of its history.
One scene in his documentary for the Discovery Channel shows herds of two-legged herbivores browsing on an alien cliff-face where they are picked off by flying, yellow lizard-like predators. Another shows glowing fluorescent aquatic animals forming vast shoals in the oceans thought to underlie the thick ice coating Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter.
Such scenes are speculative, but Hawking uses them to lead on to a serious point: that a few life forms could be intelligent and pose a threat. Hawking believes that contact with such a species could be devastating for humanity.
He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.”
He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
The completion of the documentary marks a triumph for Hawking, now 68, who is paralysed by motor neurone disease and has very limited powers of communication. The project took him and his producers three years, during which he insisted on rewriting large chunks of the script and checking the filming.
John Smithson, executive producer for Discovery, said: “He wanted to make a programme that was entertaining for a general audience as well as scientific and that’s a tough job, given the complexity of the ideas involved.”
Hawking has suggested the possibility of alien life before but his views have been clarified by a series of scientific breakthroughs, such as the discovery, since 1995, of more than 450 planets orbiting distant stars, showing that planets are a common phenomenon.
So far, all the new planets found have been far larger than Earth, but only because the telescopes used to detect them are not sensitive enough to detect Earth-sized bodies at such distances.
Another breakthrough is the discovery that life on Earth has proven able to colonise its most extreme environments. If life can survive and evolve there, scientists reason, then perhaps nowhere is out of bounds.
Hawking’s belief in aliens places him in good scientific company. In his recent Wonders of the Solar System BBC series, Professor Brian Cox backed the idea, too, suggesting Mars, Europa and Titan, a moon of Saturn, as likely places to look.
Similarly, Lord Rees, the astronomer royal, warned in a lecture earlier this year that aliens might prove to be beyond human understanding.
“I suspect there could be life and intelligence out there in forms we can’t conceive,” he said. “Just as a chimpanzee can’t understand quantum theory, it could be there are aspects of reality that are beyond the capacity of our brains.”
Stephen Hawking's Universe begins on the Discovery Channel on Sunday May 9 at 9pm
By STEPHEN HAWKING
Last updated at 10:08 AM on 3rd May 2010
All you need is a wormhole, the Large Hadron Collider or a rocket that goes really, really fast
'Through the wormhole, the scientist can see himself as he was one minute ago. But what if our scientist uses the wormhole to shoot his earlier self? He's now dead. So who fired the shot?'
Hello. My name is Stephen Hawking. Physicist, cosmologist and something of a dreamer. Although I cannot move and I have to speak through a computer, in my mind I am free. Free to explore the universe and ask the big questions, such as: is time travel possible? Can we open a portal to the past or find a shortcut to the future? Can we ultimately use the laws of nature to become masters of time itself?
Time travel was once considered scientific heresy. I used to avoid talking about it for fear of being labelled a crank. But these days I'm not so cautious. In fact, I'm more like the people who built Stonehenge. I'm obsessed by time. If I had a time machine I'd visit Marilyn Monroe in her prime or drop in on Galileo as he turned his telescope to the heavens. Perhaps I'd even travel to the end of the universe to find out how our whole cosmic story ends.
To see how this might be possible, we need to look at time as physicists do - at the fourth dimension. It's not as hard as it sounds. Every attentive schoolchild knows that all physical objects, even me in my chair, exist in three dimensions. Everything has a width and a height and a length.
But there is another kind of length, a length in time. While a human may survive for 80 years, the stones at Stonehenge, for instance, have stood around for thousands of years. And the solar system will last for billions of years. Everything has a length in time as well as space. Travelling in time means travelling through this fourth dimension.
To see what that means, let's imagine we're doing a bit of normal, everyday car travel. Drive in a straight line and you're travelling in one dimension. Turn right or left and you add the second dimension. Drive up or down a twisty mountain road and that adds height, so that's travelling in all three dimensions. But how on Earth do we travel in time? How do we find a path through the fourth dimension?
Let's indulge in a little science fiction for a moment. Time travel movies often feature a vast, energy-hungry machine. The machine creates a path through the fourth dimension, a tunnel through time. A time traveller, a brave, perhaps foolhardy individual, prepared for who knows what, steps into the time tunnel and emerges who knows when. The concept may be far-fetched, and the reality may be very different from this, but the idea itself is not so crazy.
Physicists have been thinking about tunnels in time too, but we come at it from a different angle. We wonder if portals to the past or the future could ever be possible within the laws of nature. As it turns out, we think they are. What's more, we've even given them a name: wormholes. The truth is that wormholes are all around us, only they're too small to see. Wormholes are very tiny. They occur in nooks and crannies in space and time. You might find it a tough concept, but stay with me.
A wormhole is a theoretical 'tunnel' or shortcut, predicted by Einstein's theory of relativity, that links two places in space-time - visualised above as the contours of a 3-D map, where negative energy pulls space and time into the mouth of a tunnel, emerging in another universe. They remain only hypothetical, as obviously nobody has ever seen one, but have been used in films as conduits for time travel - in Stargate (1994), for example, involving gated tunnels between universes, and in Time Bandits (1981), where their locations are shown on a celestial map
Nothing is flat or solid. If you look closely enough at anything you'll find holes and wrinkles in it. It's a basic physical principle, and it even applies to time. Even something as smooth as a pool ball has tiny crevices, wrinkles and voids. Now it's easy to show that this is true in the first three dimensions. But trust me, it's also true of the fourth dimension. There are tiny crevices, wrinkles and voids in time. Down at the smallest of scales, smaller even than molecules, smaller than atoms, we get to a place called the quantum foam. This is where wormholes exist. Tiny tunnels or shortcuts through space and time constantly form, disappear, and reform within this quantum world. And they actually link two separate places and two different times.
Unfortunately, these real-life time tunnels are just a billion-trillion-trillionths of a centimetre across. Way too small for a human to pass through - but here's where the notion of wormhole time machines is leading. Some scientists think it may be possible to capture a wormhole and enlarge it many trillions of times to make it big enough for a human or even a spaceship to enter.
Given enough power and advanced technology, perhaps a giant wormhole could even be constructed in space. I'm not saying it can be done, but if it could be, it would be a truly remarkable device. One end could be here near Earth, and the other far, far away, near some distant planet.
Theoretically, a time tunnel or wormhole could do even more than take us to other planets. If both ends were in the same place, and separated by time instead of distance, a ship could fly in and come out still near Earth, but in the distant past. Maybe dinosaurs would witness the ship coming in for a landing.
The fastest manned vehicle in history was Apollo 10. It reached 25,000mph. But to travel in time we'll have to go more than 2,000 times faster
Now, I realise that thinking in four dimensions is not easy, and that wormholes are a tricky concept to wrap your head around, but hang in there. I've thought up a simple experiment that could reveal if human time travel through a wormhole is possible now, or even in the future. I like simple experiments, and champagne.
So I've combined two of my favourite things to see if time travel from the future to the past is possible.
Let's imagine I'm throwing a party, a welcome reception for future time travellers. But there's a twist. I'm not letting anyone know about it until after the party has happened. I've drawn up an invitation giving the exact coordinates in time and space. I am hoping copies of it, in one form or another, will be around for many thousands of years. Maybe one day someone living in the future will find the information on the invitation and use a wormhole time machine to come back to my party, proving that time travel will, one day, be possible.
In the meantime, my time traveller guests should be arriving any moment now. Five, four, three, two, one. But as I say this, no one has arrived. What a shame. I was hoping at least a future Miss Universe was going to step through the door. So why didn't the experiment work? One of the reasons might be because of a well-known problem with time travel to the past, the problem of what we call paradoxes.
Paradoxes are fun to think about. The most famous one is usually called the Grandfather paradox. I have a new, simpler version I call the Mad Scientist paradox.
I don't like the way scientists in movies are often described as mad, but in this case, it's true. This chap is determined to create a paradox, even if it costs him his life. Imagine, somehow, he's built a wormhole, a time tunnel that stretches just one minute into the past.
Hawking in a scene from Star Trek with dinner guests from the past, and future: (from left) Albert Einstein, Data and Isaac Newton
Through the wormhole, the scientist can see himself as he was one minute ago. But what if our scientist uses the wormhole to shoot his earlier self? He's now dead. So who fired the shot? It's a paradox. It just doesn't make sense. It's the sort of situation that gives cosmologists nightmares.
This kind of time machine would violate a fundamental rule that governs the entire universe - that causes happen before effects, and never the other way around. I believe things can't make themselves impossible. If they could then there'd be nothing to stop the whole universe from descending into chaos. So I think something will always happen that prevents the paradox. Somehow there must be a reason why our scientist will never find himself in a situation where he could shoot himself. And in this case, I'm sorry to say, the wormhole itself is the problem.
In the end, I think a wormhole like this one can't exist. And the reason for that is feedback. If you've ever been to a rock gig, you'll probably recognise this screeching noise. It's feedback. What causes it is simple. Sound enters the microphone. It's transmitted along the wires, made louder by the amplifier, and comes out at the speakers. But if too much of the sound from the speakers goes back into the mic it goes around and around in a loop getting louder each time. If no one stops it, feedback can destroy the sound system.
The same thing will happen with a wormhole, only with radiation instead of sound. As soon as the wormhole expands, natural radiation will enter it, and end up in a loop. The feedback will become so strong it destroys the wormhole. So although tiny wormholes do exist, and it may be possible to inflate one some day, it won't last long enough to be of use as a time machine. That's the real reason no one could come back in time to my party.
Any kind of time travel to the past through wormholes or any other method is probably impossible, otherwise paradoxes would occur. So sadly, it looks like time travel to the past is never going to happen. A disappointment for dinosaur hunters and a relief for historians.
But the story's not over yet. This doesn't make all time travel impossible. I do believe in time travel. Time travel to the future. Time flows like a river and it seems as if each of us is carried relentlessly along by time's current. But time is like a river in another way. It flows at diff‑erent speeds in diff‑erent places and that is the key to travelling into the future. This idea was first proposed by Albert Einstein over 100 years ago. He realised that there should be places where time slows down, and others where time speeds up. He was absolutely right. And the proof is right above our heads. Up in space.
This is the Global Positioning System, or GPS. A network of satellites is in orbit around Earth. The satellites make satellite navigation possible. But they also reveal that time runs faster in space than it does down on Earth. Inside each spacecraft is a very precise clock. But despite being so accurate, they all gain around a third of a billionth of a second every day. The system has to correct for the drift, otherwise that tiny di‑fference would upset the whole system, causing every GPS device on Earth to go out by about six miles a day. You can just imagine the mayhem that that would cause.
The problem doesn't lie with the clocks. They run fast because time itself runs faster in space than it does down below. And the reason for this extraordinary e‑ffect is the mass of the Earth. Einstein realised that matter drags on time and slows it down like the slow part of a river. The heavier the object, the more it drags on time. And this startling reality is what opens the door to the possibility of time travel to the future.
Right in the centre of the Milky Way, 26,000 light years from us, lies the heaviest object in the galaxy. It is a supermassive black hole containing the mass of four million suns crushed down into a single point by its own gravity. The closer you get to the black hole, the stronger the gravity. Get really close and not even light can escape. A black hole like this one has a dramatic e‑ffect on time, slowing it down far more than anything else in the galaxy. That makes it a natural time machine.
I like to imagine how a spaceship might be able to take advantage of this phenomenon, by orbiting it. If a space agency were controlling the mission from Earth they'd observe that each full orbit took 16 minutes. But for the brave people on board, close to this massive object, time would be slowed down. And here the e‑ffect would be far more extreme than the gravitational pull of Earth. The crew's time would be slowed down by half. For every 16-minute orbit, they'd only experience eight minutes of time.
Inside the Large Hadron Collider
Around and around they'd go, experiencing just half the time of everyone far away from the black hole. The ship and its crew would be travelling through time. Imagine they circled the black hole for five of their years. Ten years would pass elsewhere. When they got home, everyone on Earth would have aged five years more than they had.
So a supermassive black hole is a time machine. But of course, it's not exactly practical. It has advantages over wormholes in that it doesn't provoke paradoxes. Plus it won't destroy itself in a flash of feedback. But it's pretty dangerous. It's a long way away and it doesn't even take us very far into the future. Fortunately there is another way to travel in time. And this represents our last and best hope of building a real time machine.
You just have to travel very, very fast. Much faster even than the speed required to avoid being sucked into a black hole. This is due to another strange fact about the universe. There's a cosmic speed limit, 186,000 miles per second, also known as the speed of light. Nothing can exceed that speed. It's one of the best established principles in science. Believe it or not, travelling at near the speed of light transports you to the future.
To explain why, let's dream up a science-fiction transportation system. Imagine a track that goes right around Earth, a track for a superfast train. We're going to use this imaginary train to get as close as possible to the speed of light and see how it becomes a time machine. On board are passengers with a one-way ticket to the future. The train begins to accelerate, faster and faster. Soon it's circling the Earth over and over again.
To approach the speed of light means circling the Earth pretty fast. Seven times a second. But no matter how much power the train has, it can never quite reach the speed of light, since the laws of physics forbid it. Instead, let's say it gets close, just shy of that ultimate speed. Now something extraordinary happens. Time starts flowing slowly on board relative to the rest of the world, just like near the black hole, only more so. Everything on the train is in slow motion.
This happens to protect the speed limit, and it's not hard to see why. Imagine a child running forwards up the train. Her forward speed is added to the speed of the train, so couldn't she break the speed limit simply by accident? The answer is no. The laws of nature prevent the possibility by slowing down time onboard.
Now she can't run fast enough to break the limit. Time will always slow down just enough to protect the speed limit. And from that fact comes the possibility of travelling many years into the future.
Imagine that the train left the station on January 1, 2050. It circles Earth over and over again for 100 years before finally coming to a halt on New Year's Day, 2150. The passengers will have only lived one week because time is slowed down that much inside the train. When they got out they'd find a very diff‑erent world from the one they'd left. In one week they'd have travelled 100 years into the future. Of course, building a train that could reach such a speed is quite impossible. But we have built something very like the train at the world's largest particle accelerator at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.
Deep underground, in a circular tunnel 16 miles long, is a stream of trillions of tiny particles. When the power is turned on they accelerate from zero to 60,000mph in a fraction of a second. Increase the power and the particles go faster and faster, until they're whizzing around the tunnel 11,000 times a second, which is almost the speed of light. But just like the train, they never quite reach that ultimate speed. They can only get to 99.99 per cent of the limit. When that happens, they too start to travel in time. We know this because of some extremely short-lived particles, called pi-mesons. Ordinarily, they disintegrate after just 25 billionths of a second. But when they are accelerated to near-light speed they last 30 times longer.
It really is that simple. If we want to travel into the future, we just need to go fast. Really fast. And I think the only way we're ever likely to do that is by going into space. The fastest manned vehicle in history was Apollo 10. It reached 25,000mph. But to travel in time we'll have to go more than 2,000 times faster. And to do that we'd need a much bigger ship, a truly enormous machine. The ship would have to be big enough to carry a huge amount of fuel, enough to accelerate it to nearly the speed of light. Getting to just beneath the cosmic speed limit would require six whole years at full power.
The initial acceleration would be gentle because the ship would be so big and heavy. But gradually it would pick up speed and soon would be covering massive distances. In one week it would have reached the outer planets. After two years it would reach half-light speed and be far outside our solar system. Two years later it would be travelling at 90 per cent of the speed of light. Around 30 trillion miles away from Earth, and four years after launch, the ship would begin to travel in time. For every hour of time on the ship, two would pass on Earth. A similar situation to the spaceship that orbited the massive black hole.
After another two years of full thrust the ship would reach its top speed, 99 per cent of the speed of light. At this speed, a single day on board is a whole year of Earth time. Our ship would be truly flying into the future.
The slowing of time has another benefit. It means we could, in theory, travel extraordinary distances within one lifetime. A trip to the edge of the galaxy would take just 80 years. But the real wonder of our journey is that it reveals just how strange the universe is. It's a universe where time runs at different rates in different places. Where tiny wormholes exist all around us. And where, ultimately, we might use our understanding of physics to become true voyagers through the fourth dimension.
From Inayat Jehangir
SRINAGAR, May 6: A doctor hailing from a remote village in Kupwara district in Kashmir valley, who was orphaned by militants eight years ago, has topped the All India Civil Services exam 2009.
(Dr. Shah Faizal)
Shah Faisal, who completed his MBBS degree from Government Medical College Srinagar last year in March, secured first rank in the exams conducted by the Union Public Service Commission.
Faisal's journey to the coveted success has not been a walk in the park and his story will melt even the stone-hearted as he was orphaned by militants at a tender age of 18 years.
"Ghulam Rasool Shah, father of Faisal, was shot dead by militants inside his house at Thandipora in Sogam area of Kupwara district a day before the boy was to sit in the CEE," a family friend of the Shah's told EXCELSIOR.
The militants had knocked at the door of the Shah's on the fateful evening of July 3, 2002, seeking shelter and food. Ghulam Rasool, a teacher by profession, pleaded with the militants to leave as his son was preparing entrance examination but the ultras would not listen.
"An argument ensued between Ghulam Rasool and the militants and the teacher was shot dead," the family friend said. Police registered a case of murder against unknown militants but no headway could be made in the investigations.
Faisal's mother Mubeena, also a teacher by profession, had no words to express her happiness and thanked the Almighty for rewarding the hard work of her son. She says her son was a bright student right from early childhood and would excel in whatever activity he indulged in.
Watch video on YouTube:
J&K doctor tops Civil Services exam
I want to work for peace in Kashmir: IAS topper
Peerzada Ashiq, Hindustan Times
Srinagar, May 07, 2010
First Published: 18:23 IST (7/5/2010)
"Kashmir ka sitara, Faesal hamara (Star of Kashmir, Faesal the great). The slogan reverberated the air when Shah Faesal (27) --- who topped the Union Public Services Examination (UPSC) to become first from Jammu and Kashmir ever --- landed in Srinagar on Friday afternoon.
Rains failed to play spoilsport as enthusiastic crowd in a small cavalcade beat drums and set afire crackers in front of the modest house of Faesal. Even for journalists, reporting the success story, it was a break from routine violence and gore.
"Who are bursting crackers? Who are raising slogans? Who are beating drums? Tell us please," shouted Faesal aunt, who rushed through the festooned path, bare-footed to have a glimpse.
Faesal topping the services examination has broken the myth that Kashmiris are discriminated. "We are caught in self-created confines of perceptions. I have broken those myths and perception. Our participation in the exam is miserable," said Faesal, surrounded by a battery of journalists.
The topper, who hails from a remote village of Sogam in north Kashmir, more than 90 km away from Srinagar, said he will reach out to people in remotest villages of Kashmir to motivate and educate them for administrative services.
"Clearing IAS exams is no more about being hailing from UP and Bihar," he added.
Conscious of being from a conflict zone, Faesal has set his priorities. "I want to contribute in my small way to peace of Kashmir," Faesal told the Hindustan Times.
Faesal was moved by the plight of poor people when he practiced medicine. "I saw patients who had no money to purchase medicines, a large number of them. I want to make difference for them. I though IAS will help be to contribute in a different way…Also want to fight menace of corruption," said Faesal in a blue suit, surrounded by skull-cap and Khan Suit wearing relatives.
He credited his father, killed by militants in 2002, for his success. "Many things what my father taught in my Class 7 helped me in the exams," said Faesal.
Overwhelmed by the responses in Delhi, he said he felt like a Delhiite. "The vice-chancellor of Hamdard University, many IAS officer, ordinary students came to me to say congratulation. It was humbling," said the topper.
Faesal, who had taken up Urdu and Public Administration as subjects for the IAS exams, wants to serve Kashmir "but is ready to be placed anywhere in the country".
The success story already has an imprint. "I too want to prepare for IAS exams," said Amir Bashir (16), a cousin of Faesal.
Governor N N Vohra has invited Faesal and his mother to Raj Bhawan for felicitation.
PTI adds from New Delhi:
A total of 875 candidates, including 680 men and 195 women, have been recommended for appointment to IAS, IFS, IPS and other Central services, the UPSC said in a statement.
A total of 4,09,110 candidates applied for the test while 1,93,091 appeared in the preliminary examination. Of them, 12,026 candidates qualified for the main written test while 2432 candidates were shortlisted for personality test which was conducted in March and April, 2010.
Prakash Rajpurohit, a B Tech holder from IIT, Delhi, came at the second spot while Iva Sahay, MA (Geography) from JNU, secured the third rank. While Rajpurohit made it in the second attempt, Sahay got success in her first attempt.
The top 25 rank holders comprise 15 male candidates and 10 female candidates, the UPSC said.
In terms of subject of studies, the top 25 candidates include 13 from Engineering, nine from Commerce, Management, Humanities, Science and Social Sciences and three from Medical Science background. Of them, 21 took the examination in English medium while four appeared in Hindi.
Six of the top 25 candidates could make to the merit list in their first attempt, while four got success in second attempt and 11 in their third attempt. Fifteen of the top 25 candidates appeared in the test from Delhi.
The 875 successful candidates include 30 physically challenged, 14 orthopaedically challenged, five visually impaired and 11 hearing impaired candidates.
The rank holders include 399 General, 273 OBC, 127 SC and 76 ST candidates.
Appointment to the various services will be made according to the number of vacancies available, the UPSC said.
The Government has reported that the number of vacancies for IPS is 150, followed by IAS (131) and Indian Foreign Service (30). There are 582 vacancies in the Central Services Group A and 96 in Central Services Group B.
UPSC has a facilitation counter from where candidates can obtain any information or clarification regarding their examinations and recruitments.
(District Map of Jammu and Kashmir)
Researchers Imbue Cell With Engineered DNA
By MICHAEL SMITH
MedPage Today Staff Writer
May 21, 2010
In a development that seems likely to stir a firestorm of controversy, researchers said Thursday that they have used genes made in the lab to create a synthetic species of bacteria.
An organism controlled by completely manmade DNA can grow and reproduce.
"We're here to announce the first synthetic cell," said J. Craig Venter, head of the self-named J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md., and leader of one of the teams that decoded the human genome.
He told reporters that the new species -- dubbed Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 -- is similar to one found in nature, except that the chromosome that controls each cell was created from scratch. The research is reported in the May 20 issue of the journal Science.
The new species, Venter said, started with researchers digitizing the genetic code for the new species on computers, then assembling the nucleotides using "four bottles of chemicals" into sections of DNA. The DNA sections were assembled in yeast cells to form a synthetic chromosome, which was then transferred to a related species of bacteria, M. capricolum.
Late in March, the researchers told reporters, the modified cells began replicating and formed a "blue colony" of the new species.
"This is the first self-replicating species that we've had on the planet whose parent is a computer," Venter said.
Indeed, he and his colleagues consistently used computer language to describe the work. The new chromosome is like an operating system, they said, and it reprograms the M. capricolum cells to become M. mycoides.
The result comes after 15 years of research -- and some $40 million -- aimed at finding what Venter has called the minimal genome: the smallest set of genes that can support a living creature. But it could quickly have spinoffs, the researchers said.
Among the possibilities are new tools for vaccine and pharmaceutical development, as well as new biofuels and biochemicals, they said. Venter suggested during the press conference that synthetic algae might be designed to cope with oil spills such as the one currently threatening the Gulf Coast of the United States.
Along with genes needed for life, the researchers added "watermark" DNA sequences to distinguish the synthetic genome from a natural one.
In a development that seems likely to stir a firestorm of controversy, researchers said Thursday that they have used genes made in the lab to create a synthetic species of bacteria.
Describing the new species as "synthetic" may be going too far, according to some experts.
It's "synthetic in the sense that its DNA is synthesized, not in that a new life form has been created," according to Jim Collins, professor of Biomedical Engineering at Boston University and an expert in synthetic biology. "Its genome is a stitched-together copy of the DNA of an organism that exists in nature, with a few small tweaks thrown in."
Collins made that observation in a short commentary on the research, one of eight published in the rival journal Nature and released today.
But bioethicist Art Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in the commentary that the result is "one of the most important scientific achievements in the history of mankind."
He argued that creating the synthetic genome finally rings the death knell for the notion of vitalism, the idea that there is a life force that distinguishes living matter from the inorganic.
Robert Field, professor of Law and Health Management and Policy at Drexel University, said the "ability to create new life forms may be emerging from the world of science fiction."
But such advances come with uncertainty, Field said. "Will everything we create be benign, or is Frankenstein now in the realm of possibility?"
Mark Bedau, professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Reed College in Portland, Ore., also writing in the Nature commentary, called the new species "a normal bacterium with a prosthetic genome."
The importance of the finding, he argued, is that such a prosthetic genome is not limited -- as the watermarks inserted by Venter and colleagues demonstrate -- to what's found in nature.
Because of that, scientists now have "an unprecedented opportunity to learn about life" that brings with it the need for new ways of thinking about precautions and risk analysis.
Indeed, Venter noted that he and colleagues were stalled for several months because one of the pieces of DNA they painstakingly crafted had a type -- a single base-pair deletion -- that means the whole chromosome could not function.
"So accuracy is essential," he said. "There's parts of the genome where it can't tolerate even a single error and there's parts where we can put in large blocks of DNA and it can tolerate all kinds of errors."
Despite that sensitivity in the lab, Venter told a reporter "it's not clear there are any" downsides to the research. Although all technologies are "dual-use," he said he thinks the work is a "linear advance" in the ability to harm and an "exponential advance" in potentially beneficial science.
About J. Craig Venter
Page last updated at 13:58 GMT, Friday, 21 May 2010 14:58 UK
'Artificial life' breakthrough announced by scientists
"Maverick" is a word that seems to follow Craig Venter around.
The biologist and entrepreneur turned the effort to map the human genome into a competitive race and, in so doing, was vilified by the scientific community.
Dr Venter has certainly not gained a reputation for modesty about his achievements. "Is my science of a level consistent with other people who have gotten the Nobel? Yes," he was once quoted as saying.
And he is a very wealthy user of Lear Jets and private yachts.
But his efforts in the field of human genomics have undeniably helped speed up the entire process.
After the publication of the human genome, Dr Venter turned his attention to another grand project: the creation of a synthetic life form.
Scientists at the US-based J Craig Venter Institute have been busily working on the endeavour for more than a decade. They have now published details of the result, an organism called Synthia, in the prestigious journal Science.
Born in 1946, as a boy, Dr Venter did not exemplify good scholarship and at 18 he chose to devote his life to the surfing pleasures of the beaches in Southern California. Three years later, in 1967, he was drafted into the Vietnam conflict.
As an orderly in the naval field hospital at Da Nang, he tended to thousands of soldiers wounded during the Tet offensive.
This inspired two important changes in him: a determination to become a doctor and a conviction that time should never be wasted.
"Life was so cheap in Vietnam. That is where my sense of urgency comes from," he said.
Need for speed
During his medical training he excelled in research rather than practice. By the 1980s, the early days of the revolution in molecular biology, he was working at the government-funded US National Institute of Health and soon realised the importance of decoding genes.
Dr Venter says the synthetic cell could spark an industrial revolution
But the work was messy, tedious and agonisingly slow. So, in 1987, when he read reports of an automated decoding machine, he soon had the first one in his lab. This speeded things up - but not enough.
Then came Dr Venter's real breakthrough. He realised that he did not need to trawl the entire genome to find the active parts, because cells already use those parts naturally.
He switched his attention from the DNA blueprint to the messenger molecules (called RNA) that a cell makes from that blueprint. He was then able to churn out gene sequences at unprecedented rates.
His success shocked some, most notably the co-discoverer of DNA, James Watson, who famously dismissed the relatively crude results obtained as work "any monkey" could do.
The criticism, and the failure to secure further public research funding, prompted Dr Venter to leave the NIH in 1992 and set up a private research institute, The Institute for Genomic Research.
And, in 1995, he again stunned the scientific establishment by unveiling the first, complete genome of a free-living organism, Haemophilus influenzae, a major cause of childhood ear infections and meningitis.
His greatest challenge to the establishment came in May 1998, when he announced the formation of a commercial company, Celera Genomics, to crack the entire human genetic code in just three years. At that point, the public project was three years into a 10-year programme.
Both efforts published their results in 2001. What some saw as Dr Venter's disregard for scientific conventions such as open access to data brought him opprobrium in some circles.
Nevertheless, the financial rewards were enough to leave him in a highly unusual position for a scientist - with enough money and resources to do the science he wanted without having to tap the usual bureaucratic sources for funding and infrastructure.
In 2006, he formed the J Craig Venter Institute which would spearhead the labour to create the world's first synthetic life form. Dr Venter kept the scientific journals and the media abreast of developments, trumpeting several key advances as he edged closer to his goal.
Dr Craig Venter says yeast, chemicals, and computers were used by scientists
But he has pursued other projects in the meantime. Dr Venter has roamed the oceans in his yacht, Sorcerer II, collecting life forms in an unprecedented genetic treasure hunt.
The project aims to sequence genomes from the vast range of microbes living in the sea, to provide scientists with a better understanding of the evolution and function of genes and proteins.
The synthetic life breakthrough, when it was announced, was not without controversy. But Dr Venter will have come to expect that.
"I think they're going to potentially create a new industrial revolution," he said of the synthetic microbes.
"If we can really get cells to do the production that we want, they could help wean us off oil and reverse some of the damage to the environment by capturing carbon dioxide."
Photo gallery of Synthetic Cells
Scientists build first synthetic bacteria (photos)
Researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute claimed the successful construction of the first self-replicating, synthetic bacterial cell.
The synthetic cell is called Mycoplasma mycoides JCVI-syn1.0 and proves that genomes can be designed in the computer, chemically made in the laboratory and transplanted into a recipient cell to produce a new self-replicating cell controlled only by the synthetic genome.
It is hoped that this discovery will lead to the development of many important applications and products including biofuels, vaccines, pharmaceuticals, clean water and food products. Cleaning up oil spills maybe?
Above: Negatively stained transmission electron micrographs of aggregated M. mycoides JCVI-syn1.0.
Credit: Electron micrographs were provided by Tom Deerinck and Mark Ellisman of the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research at the University of California at San Diego.
May 15, 2010, 12.00am IST
That is one way to keep Diabetes at bay. Zeenia F Baria speaks to the experts.
The number of diabetics is increasing at an alarming level all of the globe. And one of the topmost reasons for this increase in numbers is the lifestyle that people have adopted in recent years.
Obesity and Bariatric surgeon, Dr Mufazzal Lakdawala says that Diabetes can be described as a disease in which the body either does not produce enough insulin or does not utilise the produced insulin properly leading to a high blood glucose level. “There are two types of diabetes — Type 1 diabetes, in which there is no generation of insulin in the body and Type 2 diabetes, in which the cells in the body become resistant to insulin.
Diabetes tends to run in families and it is possible to inherit a tendency for the disease. Hereditary causes of diabetes constitute a very small percentage. Most of the times factors that lead to diabetes are a sedentary lifestyle, lack of exercise, obesity, consumption of high calorie foods and stress,” says Dr Lakdawala.
Type 1 diabetes usually tends to affect children and people below the age of 40. Type 2 diabetes tends to affect people above the age of 40 years. In the recent times a change in this trend has been observed. Type 2 diabetes is now often seen to affect a lot of children and youngsters as well. “This is very worrying because the younger, one becomes diabetic, the longer they suffer and more are the chances of developing complications like high blood pressure, heart attacks and kidney failure,” says Endocrinologist Dr. Shehla Sheikh.
“Diabetes usually presents with the classic triad of Polydipsia (excessive thirst), Poluphagia (excessive appetite) and Polyuria (excessive urination). Nausea, vomiting, weight loss, irritability, repeated infections and delayed wound healing can be other symptoms. Long standing, uncontrolled diabetes can affect almost every part of the body and cause damage to the nerves, blood vessels, heart, eyes, kidneys and can also lead to gangrene in some cases.
Prevention of diabetes mainly requires lifestyle modification. Moderate degree of exercise and keeping the excess weight away can keep the disease at bay. Regular consumption of very high calorie foods must be avoided. Children must be detracted from having too much unhealthy junk food.
Healthy eating and exercise form the mainstay of therapy. Type 1 diabetes is the insulin dependent diabetes and hence patients need to be on insulin lifelong. Type 2 diabetes is usually treated with a combination of diet modification, oral medication and insulin.
Conventionally, the text book treatment says that diabetes can only be controlled and cannot be cured. Weight loss surgery is now a proven cure for obese diabetics. Even the newer sleeve gastrectomy has been seen to give very good results in diabetics. Whether the surgery will work in not so obese people is yet to be seen,” says Dr Lakdawala.
According to consultant laparoscopic and obesity surgeon, Dr Shashank Shah, diabetes is not only a disease of the over-weight. One must learn to recognise, prevent and cure the disease that is known to affect almost 171 million people worldwide.
“The most dangerous fact about it is that it’s painless and hence is hard to detect. Even a slight increase in fat content can cause insulin resistance. One should be checked by a physician and a glucose tolerance test is a must. It checks the response of the body to 100 grams of glucose, studied at a gap of every 30 minutes. Insulin levels should be checked against the blood sugar levels. If the insulin levels are more, it means the body has to produce more insulin to turn glucose into energy,” he says.
By Althea Chang
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Sitting at a desk all day can be hazardous to your health. Back pain, eyestrain and sleep problems can all be results of increasingly sedentary yet stressful work environments.
The number of physically demanding jobs has dropped to less than 10% from 20% in the 1950s, according a study published by economic and social policy researchers at the Urban Institute, meaning the number of jobs that require some exertion were cut in half, leaving more Americans susceptible to desk-job-related health problems.
Here are six office-related maladies and how they can be prevented.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Problem: Any motion that is repeated over and over again can cause injury or pain, according to occupational-health-focused Denver Chiropractor Dr. T. Randall Eldridge. But carpal tunnel syndrome isn't just pain or soreness from too much typing. It's the tingling, numbness, itching or even sharp pain caused when a nerve that runs through the forearm is compressed by swollen ligaments and bones in the wrist, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Prevention: Before you're forced to treat carpal tunnel with acupuncture, drugs or even surgery, stretching and other exercises may help release tension in the wrist, the NIH says. And, contrary to what many believe, your wrists shouldn't actually rest on those cushy wrist pads that sit below your keyboard or mouse pad. They should actually be used as a guide for how high your wrists should be, according to occupational therapist to Marji Hajic. Hajic says hands should hover over the wrist rest and it should only be used as a rest in between bouts of typing.
Problem: Sitting for hours on end, particularly if you have bad posture, can be devastating to your body over time if you don't get moving on a regular basis. And back pain is actually a major reason for missed work for adults of all ages, according to the Georgetown University Center on an Aging Society.
But bad posture at your desk goes beyond the obvious slouching. Sitting up straight but curving your back too much can be a cause of lower-back pain as well, notes the NIH.
Prevention: Besides being better aware of your posture as you're sitting at your desk, getting regular exercise including abdominal strengthening activities should relieve some of the pressure on your lower back.
Having too fat a wallet in your back pocket can be a bad thing as well. Sitting on a large wallet can put pressure on the sciatic nerve, which can cause sharp back pain, according to UAB Health System in Birmingham, Ala.
Other Joint Problems
Problem: The human body is meant to move, and staying in one position for too long can make joints feel tight. Sitting at a desk especially shortens and tightens the hip flexors, the muscles than help pull your legs toward your body, according to the Yoga Journal. And tight hip flexors can actually contribute to back pain as well since tight hips force the pelvis to tilt forward, compressing the back, Yoga Journal says.
Prevention: Besides getting up from your desk at regular intervals and walking around a bit, the Mayo Clinic recommends a number of stretches that can help loosen up your hips.
Problem: Office workers who spend hours a day staring at a computer screen might tell you that after a certain amount of time, their vision gets blurry and their eyes generally become more sensitive. Those symptoms (as well as too-watery or too-dry eyes, a headache or a sore neck) could be indications of eyestrain, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Prevention: To prevent eyestrain at your computer, increase your font size so you don't have to squint, suggests Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT - News) (though the font on this informative page might cause readers to do just that). You may also want to rest your eyes frequently by looking away from your computer screen and reducing any glare on your monitor, the Mayo Clinic suggests.
Problem: "The desk, in terms of bacteria, is 400 times more dirty than your toilet," University of Arizona microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba told WebMD (NASDAQ: WBMD - News). "People turn their desks into bacteria cafeterias because they eat at them, but they never clean them. The phone is the dirtiest, the desktop is next, and the mouse and the computer follow."
But bacteria problems at your desk could be more severe than Gerba thinks. Breadcrumbs and other food remnants get can get in between keys on your keyboard, attract rats and lead to unintended exposure to their germs. What's more, many raw and cooked foods need to remain refrigerated, and leaving them out for two hours or more is a food safety no-no.
Prevention: If you frequently eat your lunch at your desk, you may want to make sure you have hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes to wipe down your work surface daily. That can also protect you from germs sprayed into the air by your coughing and sneezing coworkers.
If your office has a communal kitchen sink with a sponge, the American Dietetic Association suggests using paper towels instead, just to stay safe from bacteria.
The association goes as far as recommending that those who eat in the office bring a refrigerator thermometer and a meat thermometer as well.
Problem: Stress can be a problem at work regardless of how physical your day-to-day activities are, but those who do exert themselves on the job can actually use some of their activities to ease their stress. If you're chained to a desk, however, you may be even more likely to have stress-related outbursts.
About one-sixth of workers said anger at work led to property damage, and 2%-3% of workers admit to pushing, slapping or hitting someone at work, according to Reuters.
"With roughly 100 million people in the U.S. work force ... that's as many as 3 million people," Reuters reports.
Additionally, about 22% of U.S. workers say they've been driven to tears because of workplace stress and 9% say that stress has led to physically violent situations, reports RJC Associates, a career development firm.
Prevention: Smaller stressors can be handled with breathing and relaxation techniques at your desk or a break outside of the office, but some conflicts may call for mediation by an unbiased party.
And believe it or not, video games have been suggested as a method for easing workplace stress, according to CareerBuilder.com. With the job market recovering and more companies hiring, however, it's starting to look like new job prospects could be a promising way out of stressful work conditions as well.
Page last updated at 23:58 GMT, Tuesday, 11 May 2010 00:58 UK
Putting in long shifts may put extra strain on the heart, experts believe
People who regularly put in overtime and work 10 or 11-hour days increase their heart disease risk by nearly two-thirds, research suggests.
The findings come from a study of 6,000 British civil servants, published online in the European Heart Journal.
After accounting for known heart risk factors such as smoking, doctors found those who worked three to four hours of overtime a day ran a 60% higher risk.
Experts said the findings highlighted the importance of work-life balance.
Overall, there were 369 cases where people suffered heart disease that caused death, had a heart attack or developed angina.
And the number of hours spent working overtime appeared to be strongly linked in many cases.
The researchers said there could be a number of explanations for this.
People who spend more time at work have less time to exercise, relax and unwind.
Work/life balance plays a vital role in well-being
Dr John Challenor, from the Society of Occupational Medicine
They may also be more stressed, anxious, or have depression.
A career-minded person will also tend to be a "Type A" personality who is highly driven, aggressive or irritable, they say.
"Employees who work overtime may also be likely to work while ill - that is, be reluctant to be absent from work despite illness," they add.
Lead researcher Mianna Virtanen, an epidemiologist at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health in Helsinki and University College London, said: "More research is needed before we can be confident that overtime work would cause coronary heart disease."
Cathy Ross, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the research, said: "This study raises further questions about how our working lives can influence our risk of heart disease.
"Although the researchers showed a link between working more than three hours overtime every day and heart problems, the reasons for the increased risk weren't clear.
"Until researchers understand how our working lives can affect the risk to our heart health, there are simple ways to look after your heart health at work, like taking a brisk walk at lunch, taking the stairs instead of the lift, or by swapping that biscuit for a piece of fruit."
Dr John Challenor, from the Society of Occupational Medicine, said: "In many ways it confirms what we as occupational health doctors already know - that work/life balance plays a vital role in well-being.
"Employers and patients need to be aware of all of the risk factors for coronary heart disease and should consider overtime as one factor that may lead to a number of medical conditions."
Fri Apr 30, 8:08 am ET
If you're reading this article sitting down -- the position we all hold more than any other, for an average of 8.9 hours a day -- stop and take stock of how your body feels. Is there an ache in your lower back? A light numbness in your rear and lower thigh? Are you feeling a little down?
These symptoms are all normal, and they're not good. They may well be caused by doing precisely what you're doing -- sitting. New research in the diverse fields of epidemiology, molecular biology, biomechanics, and physiology is converging toward a startling conclusion: Sitting is a public-health risk. And exercising doesn't offset it. "People need to understand that the qualitative mechanisms of sitting are completely different from walking or exercising," says University of Missouri microbiologist Marc Hamilton. "Sitting too much is not the same as exercising too little. They do completely different things to the body."
In a 2005 article in Science magazine, James A. Levine, an obesity specialist at the Mayo Clinic, pinpointed why, despite similar diets, some people are fat and others aren't. "We found that people with obesity have a natural predisposition to be attracted to the chair, and that's true even after obese people lose weight," he says. "What fascinates me is that humans evolved over 1.5 million years entirely on the ability to walk and move. And literally 150 years ago, 90% of human endeavor was still agricultural. In a tiny speck of time we've become chair-sentenced," Levine says.
Hamilton, like many sitting researchers, doesn't own an office chair. "If you're standing around and puttering, you recruit specialized muscles designed for postural support that never tire," he says. "They're unique in that the nervous system recruits them for low-intensity activity and they're very rich in enzymes." One enzyme, lipoprotein lipase, grabs fat and cholesterol from the blood, burning the fat into energy while shifting the cholesterol from LDL (the bad kind) to HDL (the healthy kind). When you sit, the muscles are relaxed, and enzyme activity drops by 90% to 95%, leaving fat to camp out in the bloodstream. Within a couple hours of sitting, healthy cholesterol plummets by 20%.
The data back him up. Older people who move around have half the mortality rate of their peers. Frequent TV and Web surfers (sitters) have higher rates of hypertension, obesity, high blood triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, and high blood sugar, regardless of weight. Lean people, on average, stand for two hours longer than their counterparts.
The chair you're sitting in now is likely contributing to the problem. "Short of sitting on a spike, you can't do much worse than a standard office chair," says Galen Cranz, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. She explains that the spine wasn't meant to stay for long periods in a seated position. Generally speaking, the slight S shape of the spine serves us well. "If you think about a heavy weight on a C or S, which is going to collapse more easily? The C," she says. But when you sit, the lower lumbar curve collapses, turning the spine's natural S-shape into a C, hampering the abdominal and back musculature that support the body. The body is left to slouch, and the lateral and oblique muscles grow weak and unable to support it.
This, in turn, causes problems with other parts of the body. "When you're standing, you're bearing weight through the hips, knees, and ankles," says Dr. Andrew C, Hecht, co-chief of spinal surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center. "When you're sitting, you're bearing all that weight through the pelvis and spine, and it puts the highest pressure on your back discs. Looking at MRIs, even sitting with perfect posture causes serious pressure on your back."
Much of the perception about what makes for healthy and comfortable sitting has come from the chair industry, which in the 1960s and '70s started to address widespread complaints of back pain from workers. A chief cause of the problem, companies publicized, was a lack of lumbar support. But lumbar support doesn't actually help your spine. "You cannot design your way around this problem," says Cranz. "But the idea of lumbar support has become so embedded in people's conception of comfort, not their actual experience on chairs. We are, in a sense, locked into it."
In the past three decades the U.S. swivel chair has tripled into a more than $3 billion market served by more than 100 companies. Unsurprisingly, America's best-selling chair has made a fetish of lumbar support. The basic Aeron, by Herman Miller, costs around $700, and many office workers swear by them. There are also researchers who doubt them. "The Aeron is far too low," says Dr. A.C. Mandal, a Danish doctor who was among the first to raise flags about sitting 50 years ago. "I visited Herman Miller a few years ago, and they did understand. It should have much more height adjustment, and you should be able to move more. But as long as they sell enormous numbers, they don't want to change it." Don Chadwick, the co-designer of the Aeron, says he wasn't hired to design the ideal product for an eight-hour-workday; he was hired to update Herman Miller's previous best-seller. "We were given a brief and basically told to design the next-generation office chair," he says.
The best sitting alternative is perching -- a half-standing position at barstool height that keeps weight on the legs and leaves the S-curve intact. Chair alternatives include the Swopper, a hybrid stool seat and the funky, high HAG Capisco chair. Standing desks and chaise longues are good options. Ball chairs, which bounce your spine into a C-shape, are not. The biggest obstacle to healthy sitting may be ourselves. Says Jackie Maze, the vice-president for marketing at Keilhauer: "Most customers still want chairs that look like chairs."
Recently Levine talked to Best Buy (NYSE:BBY - News), Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT - News), and Salo accounting about letting him design their offices and keep people walking and working as much as possible. Levine jerry-rigged an old 1- to 2-mph treadmill to stand under a desk and put a handful of them in conference rooms. Those who wanted could have walking desks in their offices, and he partnered with Steelcase to manufacture a $4,500 version of the machine. "Within two weeks, people basically get addicted to walking and working," says Levine. "You just need to give them the chance."
Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University
Varanasi 221005, UP