May 10, 2013

Fingers Have No Muscles

Each finger consists of three bones called phalanges.  Tendons generally connect muscle to bone, and ligaments generally connect bone to bone. The tendons that control the bones in fingers are attached to seventeen muscles in the palm of the hand and eighteen in the forearm. Some are very small and help control each individual finger.

When rock climbers and others exercise, they are actually strengthening the muscles in hands and forearms, not fingers. The average grip strength for men ages 20 to 75 is 104.3 pounds for the right hand and 93.1 pounds for the left. Women averaged 62.8 pounds and 53.9 pounds respectively.

Several studies have shown that it is easier to handle wet objects when you have wrinkled fingers vs. smooth ones. Wrinkling skin in water is caused by constriction of blood vessels. If you sever the nerve to a specific part of your finger, that part will never again wrinkle when wet.  Now you have a handle on how fingers work.

May 7, 2013

Gene Therapy Virus

In 2012 the European union authorized UniQure to use Glybera gene therapy for commercial use. The medicine sends a virus into your body, containing the correct genetic code. The therapy, developed by UniQure uses a virus to infect muscle cells with a working copy of the gene. Once the virus infects muscle cells, the correct code overwrites the bad DNA.

Glybera is used to treat lipoprotein lipase deficiency. One in a million people have damaged copies of a gene which is essential for breaking down fats. It means fat builds up in the blood leading to abdominal pain and life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas, pancreatitis.

A few years ago, three academic groups showed that AAV2, another adeno-associated virus, can correct a rare form of inherited blindness, by targeting a certain cell type within the retina.

Russia's Caucasus

The area was recently in the news due to the Boston bombers. One interesting tidbit is that the area is responsible for people being called Caucasian.

It all began in the late 1700s when German anthropologist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach divided Homo sapiens into five distinct 'varieties' based on their physical characteristics. There was the Mongolian or yellow variety, the red American variety, the brown Malayan variety, the black Ethiopian variety, and the white Caucasian variety.

Caucasians are some or all of the populations of Europe, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, Western Asia/Middle East, Asia Minor, and Central Asia. The name stems from the Caucasus Mountain Range, where the people who most resembled his definition came from. He did not specifically say they were just white. He described the characteristics as Color white, cheeks rosy, hair brown or chestnut-colored, head subglobular, face oval straight, its parts moderately defined, forehead smooth, nose narrow slightly hooked, and mouth small.

The term 'Caucasian race' was coined by German philosopher Christoph Meiners in 1785. In Meiners' racial classification, there were only two racial divisions, Caucasians and Mongolians.

Currently Caucasian lacks any real scientific meaning, but is commonly used, especially on TV cop shows, as a blanket term, for white/European people. Caucasoid is the new term anthropologists use.

The US court, in Ozawa v. United States declared skin color was irrelevant in determining whether or not a person could be classified as "white" and instead emphasized ancestry. The United States National Library of Medicine discontinued using Caucasian in favor of the geographical term "European", which traditionally only applied to a subset of Caucasoids.

Bottom line - the terms used for race, 'variety', ethnicity, and other characteristics of humans is not currently universally agreed to. I tend to agree with Shakespeare view, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder".

Poor Americans

In American today, those classified as poor*:
99% have electricity, flushing toilets and refrigerator
95% have a television
88% have mobile phones
70% have car and air conditioning
*from TiE Entrepreneurial Summit 2012


This is a figure of speech similar to garden-path sentences in that both feature a sort of linguistic “twist” partway through. Paraprosdokians differ, though, in that the grammar is not usually confusing; rather, the end of the sentence ends up being surprising or disorienting. Henny Youngman’s famous line “Take my wife - please!” is a prime example of a sentence whose final word ramps up the tension of the previous phrase, and provides unexpected humor to the listener.

Comedians use Paraprosdokians all the time as a means of keeping an audience off-guard. A few more examples:
“I've had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it.” (Groucho Marx)
Your argument is sound, lots of sound.
“I haven’t slept for ten days, because that would be too long.” (Mitch Hedberg)
"I don't belong to an organized political party. I'm a Democrat." (Will Rogers)
“If I’m reading this graph correctly, I’d be surprised.” (Stephen Colbert)
“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing . . . after they have tried everything else.” (Winston Churchill)

May 3, 2013

Happy Friday

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”  Marilyn Monroe

I plan to have an absolutely ridiculously fabulous Happy Friday!

How Fingerprints are Formed

By the 17th week of pregnancy, the fingerprints of a fetus are set. The uniqueness of fingerprints has been recognized and studied scientifically for two centuries, but researchers have not been able to explain exactly how they form. A new theoretical computer model describes how the patterns are likely created, beginning in the 10th week of gestation, when a fetus is about 3 inches (80 mm) long.

Researchers at the University of Arizona found that creation of the patterns involves stresses in a sandwiched sheet of skin called the basal layer. In a fetus, the basal layer grows faster than surrounding layers, the outer epidermis and the inner dermis. The basal layer buckles and folds in several directions, forcing complex shapes. Stresses are created at skin boundaries, including fingernails and knuckle creases, as well as around shrinking fingertip pads.

The fingerprint pattern is coded underneath the skin surface, does not change as we age, and the pattern cannot be destroyed by superficial skin injuries.

General characteristics of fingerprints can be inherited, so family members do tend have similar, but still unique fingerprint patterns. Even Siamese twins and identical twins have varying fingerprints.

Fingerprints are impressions made by the ridges on the ends of the fingers and thumbs. These ridges provide friction, or traction, when we grasp objects so that those objects do not slip through our fingers. Fingerprints are on the fingers and palms, but not on any other places of the skin. Scientists also believe that they may enhance our sense of touch.

Koalas have ridges on their fingers which create fingerprints very much like those of human beings.


CANON is a synonym for ORDINANCE, and CANNON is a synonym for ORDNANCE.

Performing the Valsalva Maneuver

It is the act of exhaling forcibly while keeping the respiratory tract closed. You might have performed the Valsalva maneuver the last time you flew; it is easily done by pinching your nose shut, sealing your lips, and trying sharply to blow the air out of your lungs. This process builds pressure in various parts of the body, including the abdomen, which is why you might also engage in a version of the Valsalva maneuver on the toilet. The technique provides relief from the blocking sensation caused by high external air pressures in an aircraft cabin.

The Valsalva maneuver is a diagnostic tool for detecting certain kinds of cardiac abnormalities, as it changes venous and arterial pressure in ways that reliably affect the intensity of various heart murmurs. In some cases, it is also a medical intervention; it often halts episodes of tachycardia (abnormally fast heart rate).

Named after the 18th-century Italian anatomist Antonio Maria Valsalva, who offered the first formal description of the maneuver.