Icing That Migraine

So a lot of people I know get excruciating migraines in the Washington, D.C. area. 


I don’t know the statistical incident rate here for migraines, but anecdotally it seems significantly higher.


Is it the weather patterns, pollution, toxic chemicals or something else in this geographic area?


While medicine seems to be critical in actually getting rid of the migraine, I do notice that sustained use of ice packs or freezing water on the head also seems to help. 


Cold generally constricts the blood vessels, so I am not sure why this provides migraine relief.


Note: I am not giving medical advise or guidance to anyone, but just sharing my experiences. 


I would be interested to see a medical study done on treating migraines with freezing cold–from my experience, I think it definitely helps.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Plenty Of Food For All

Bread

I remember as a teenager visiting, on occasion, the Catskill Mountain hotels for the holidays and watching not only the enormous amounts that people seemed to order and eat, but also the huge amounts that simply went uneaten and was discarded.

Taste from this dish…don’t like it, throw it out. Try that food…but your not in love with it either, into the trash as well. Like a smorgasbord or food orgy to end all others. 

Honestly, the waste from such hubris is disgusting especially with world hunger unbelievably still topping 925 million people or 1 in 7 worldwide. 

Bloomberg BusinessWeek (21 December 2012) reports that in India alone villagers average only about 2,000 calories a day–when less than 2,400 qualifies for government food aid. And “half of all children younger than three years old in India weight too little for their age; [and] 8 in 10 are anemic” (i.e. do not have enough healthy red blood cells).

Despite the mass poverty and corruption hindering people getting enough healthy food around the world, BBC News (30 November 2012) cites incredible statistics that “the average American family throws away 40% of the food they purchase–which adds up to $165 billion annually.” 

However, not all the food being thrown out is because of people acting like–I’ll just say it–like pigs, but because if not eaten right away, food spoils.

Food spoliage affects the taste, smell, and appearance of food and the pathogens involved can make people sick. So some food–not fresh anymore–really needs to get discarded. 

Now Texas Tech University has invented MicroZap a microwave technology that functions to pasteurize food so it stays fresh longer.

For example, MicroZap can kill mold spores in bread in about 10 seconds. Thus, normal bread which goes moldy after 10 days, can stay fresh instead for 60 days–and at the “same mold content as it had when it came out of the oven.”

MicroZap can also be used on eggs and meat to improve food safety by killing E. Coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. 

An additional benefit to MicroZap is that food manufacturers may not need all the additives and preservatives that get mixed in, as well as the other chemicals used to mask the taste of them. 

 Further uses for MicroZap include the washing and drying of clothes in hospitals, nursing homes, day care centers, and fitness centers to sterilize them and even kill superbug MRSA (in excess of 99.999%).

The application of microwave technology to food safety and to sterilizing laundry is exciting not only from the perspective of reducing illness and infection, but also in terms of cutting waste and reducing hunger and malnutrition. 

If we can cost-effectively deploy this technology to improve safety and reduce waste, and then redistribute food to those in genuine need, we can feed the world with the food we already have at our fingertips–and there can be plenty of bread for everyone. 😉

(Source Photo: Minna Blumenthal) 

The iFirefighter


This the the first fire fighting robot and is built by Howe and Howe called the Thermite. Key features:– Moves steadily on treads instead of wheels– 1 ton of fire fighting power

– Fits through most doorways

– Douses fires with 600 gallons per minutes

– Doesn’t tire like a human firefighter 

– Costs about $96,000 per unit

– Useful in chemical, radiological and other hazardous incidents

While I generally like these fire fighting robots, there are a number of  thoughts that come to mind about these:

– If someone is caught in a burning building or otherwise needs to be rescued, I believe that for now we are still going to be on the lookout  for the real human hero to come through the door and save the day. 

– The next advance will be autonomous firefighting robots (firefighting drones that can identify the fire, encircle it, and put the right suppressants to work to put it out quickly and safely.

– Soon it will be drones, drones everywhere–fighting everything from fires to the enemy and we will no longer be just people, performing alone, but surrounded by our little assistants–perhaps pulling the majority of the weight, leaving higher value activities to us humans.

Existential Threats–Real or Imagined

Should we worry about something that hasn’t happened to us yet?

Wired Magazine (Sept. 2012) has an interesting article called Apocalypse Not.

Its thesis is that “people freak out over end-of-the world scenarios” and they should know better because despite all the fear and predictions of catastrophe, nothing ever really happens.
It categorizes the doomsday cataclysms into 4 types:
1) Chemicals–these come form things like pesticides (like DDT), smoking, and CFCs, and result in air pollution, acid rain, ozone depletion, and climate change.
2) Disease–recent fears of pandemics were associated with bird flu, swine flu, SARS, AIDS, ebola, and mad cow disease.
3) People–we can cause our own hell through population explosion and famine and although it didn’t mention this, I would assume the brutality and wars that can wipe entire races out.
4) Resources–Peak oil theory, metals and minerals, and other resource constraints have been causes of consternation leading us to look for alternative energy sources and even recently consider mining minerals on asteroids.
The article goes so far as to poke fun at those who are concerned about these things even stating that “The one thing we’ll never run out of is imbeciles.”
Wired does acknowledge that while “over the past half-century, none of our threatened eco-pocalypses have played out as predicted. Some came partly true; some were averted by action; [and still] some were wholly chimerical.”
What the author, Matt Ridley, has missed here in his logic are a few main things:
Smaller things add to big things–While each individual issue may not have reached the catastrophic tipping point been yet, these issues can certainly progress and even more so, in the aggregate, pose dangerous situations that we may be unable to contain. So you can choose to live with blinders on for today, but the consequences of our choices are inescapable and may only be around the next bend.
Recognizing the future–just because things like death and final judgement haven’t happened to us yet, doesn’t mean that they aren’t in store for us in the future. This sort of reminds me of this Jewish joke that no one leaves this world alive.
Destructive powers are multiplying–many destructive forces were traditionally local events, but are now becoming existential threats to whole civilizations. For example, how many people globally can we kill with weaponized pathogens and how many times over now are we able to destroy the world with our thermonuclear stockpile.
Learn from the past–Apocalypses and terrible events have already befallen humankind, whether the bubonic plague in the middle ages, the destruction of the ice age, the flood in biblical times, and even more recently the Holocaust and the World Wars in the 20th century.
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of bad things that can happen to people–individuals or many people–and if we are not conscious of the things we are doing, their potential impacts, and generally act smart and ethical, then bad things can and will most-definitely happen.
Wired ends by saying that things like policy, technology, and innovation can solve the day. However, while these can surely help and we must always try our best to have a positive impact, some things are also out of our control–they are in G-d hands.
Finally, while not every event is an existential threat, some surely can be–and whether it’s the impact of an asteroid, the death toll from the next horrible plague, natural disaster, cyberwar, or weapon of mass destruction, or even possibly when aliens finally come knocking at your door, it would be awfully stupid to think that bad things can’t happen.
(Source Photo: here with attribution to tanakawho)