Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tiny, long-lost primate rediscovered in Indonesia

On a misty mountaintop on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, scientists for the first time in more than eight decades have observed a living pygmy tarsier, one of the planet's smallest and rarest primates.

Over a two-month period, the scientists used nets to trap three furry, mouse-sized pygmy tarsiers -- two males and one female -- on Mt. Rore Katimbo in Lore Lindu National Park in central Sulawesi, the researchers said on Tuesday.

They spotted a fourth one that got away.

The tarsiers, which some scientists believed were extinct, may not have been overly thrilled to be found. One of them chomped Sharon Gursky-Doyen, a Texas A&M University professor of anthropology who took part in the expedition.

"I'm the only person in the world to ever be bitten by a pygmy tarsier," Gursky-Doyen said in a telephone interview.

"My assistant was trying to hold him still while I was attaching a radio collar around its neck. It's very hard to hold them because they can turn their heads around 180 degrees. As I'm trying to close the radio collar, he turned his head and nipped my finger. And I yanked it and I was bleeding.
The collars were being attached so the tarsiers' movements could be tracked.

Tarsiers are unusual primates -- the mammalian group that includes lemurs, monkeys, apes and people. The handful of tarsier species live on various Asian islands.

As their name indicates, pygmy tarsiers are small -- weighing about 2 ounces (50 grammes). They have large eyes and large ears, and they have been described as looking a bit like one of the creatures in the 1984 Hollywood movie "Gremlins."

They are nocturnal insectivores and are unusual among primates in that they have claws rather than finger nails.

They had not been seen alive by scientists since 1921. In 2000, Indonesian scientists who were trapping rats in the Sulawesi highlands accidentally trapped and killed a pygmy tarsier.

"Until that time, everyone really didn't believe that they existed because people had been going out looking for them for decades and nobody had seen them or heard them," Gursky-Doyen said.

Her group observed the first live pygmy tarsier in August at an elevation of about 6,900 feet.

"Everything was covered in moss and the clouds are right at the top of that mountain. It's always very, very foggy, very, very dense. It's cold up there. When you're one degree from the equator, you expect to be hot. You don't expect to be shivering most of the time. That's what we were doing," she said.

Source: Yahoo news

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pregnancy pounds predict kids' weight as teens

Women who gain too much weight during pregnancy may not only have bigger babies, but bigger teenagers as well, a study suggests.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that among nearly 12,000 children and teenagers they studied, those whose mothers gained more than the recommended amount of weight during pregnancy were 42 percent more likely to be obese.

The risk was independent of other factors the researchers examined, including mothers' pre-pregnancy weight, family income and parents' education.

Some past studies have linked excessive weight gain during pregnancy to a higher risk of obesity in childhood. These latest findings add to evidence that the fetal environment may have a "sustained effect" on children's weight regulation, Dr. Emily Oken and colleagues report in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology.

For women, they say, the study underscores the importance of going into pregnancy at a healthy weight, and then gaining only the recommended amount.

In the U.S., the Institute of Medicine (IOM) suggests that normal-weight women gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. Women who were overweight before becoming pregnant are encouraged to gain a little less -- 15 to 25 pounds -- while underweight women should put on 28 to 40 pounds.

The current study included 11,994 children between 9 and 14-years olds whose mothers were part of the Nurses Health Study II, a long-range health study of female nurses from across the U.S. The researchers found that 6.5 percent of the children were obese.

Oken's team found that when mothers exceeded the IOM guidelines for pregnancy weight gain, their children's weight also tended to climb.

Compared with their peers whose mothers followed the IOM guidelines, those whose mothers gained too much weight were 42 percent more likely to be obese by the time they were 9-to-14 years old.

Researchers suspect that excess pregnancy pounds may affect fetal development in a way that makes children more susceptible to excessive weight gain.

Animal research has found that overeating during pregnancy alters the expression of genes involved in fat regulation in offspring, and seems to affect the appetite-control centers of their brains as well.

SOURCE: Obstetrics & Gynecology, November 2008.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

China opens longest sea bridge

The world's longest sea bridge was formally opened yesterday linking Shanghai to the industrial city of Ningbo across Hangzhou Bay in China.

The 22-mile bridge will reduce the driving distance between the eastern side of Shanghai and the port town of Ningbo by 75 miles.

The official opening was shown live on state television and traffic was due to start on the six-lane bridge late last night.

The bridge is a cable-stayed structure built at a cost of 11.8bn yuan (£500m), of which 30% came from private investors. The project was an early example of private contribution to a major public infrastructure project. Construction started in November 2003.

The bridge is designed to last 100 years. It will also help boost economic integration and development in the Yangtze river delta, which covers 39,000 square miles of land comprising Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu, an area with 72.4 million people.

Sun Ningwei, vice-president of the Xinhai Electric Company, based in Cixi, Ningbo, said of the new bridge: "I think it will be easier for our company to recruit high-calibre employees, who always prefer working in small cities like Cixi but living in big cities like Shanghai. They can leave Shanghai for Cixi in the morning and go back in the afternoon. It's only 1.5 hours' drive," she said.

The 20.2-mile Donghai Bridge had been the previous longest sea-crossing structure, linking Shanghai to the Yangshan deep water port.
Ref: Guardian

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Top 10 Brain Foods for Children

Want your child to do better in school? Take a close look at diet. Certain "brain foods" may help boost a child's brain growth -- plus improve brain function, memory, and concentration.

In fact, the brain is a very hungry organ -- the first of the body's organs to absorb nutrients from the food we eat, explains Bethany Thayer, MS, RD, a Detroit nutritionist and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

Growing bodies need many types of nutrients -- but these 10 superfoods will help kids get the most from school.

1. Brain Food: Salmon
Fatty fish like salmon are an excellent source of the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA -- both essential for brain growth and function, says Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, a Los Angeles nutritionist and ADA spokeswoman.

In fact, recent research has also shown that people who get more of these fatty acids in their diet have sharper minds and do better at mental skills tests.

While tuna is also a source of omega-3s, it's not a rich source like salmon, Giancoli tells WebMD.
"Tuna is definitely a good source of lean protein, but because it's so lean it's not very high in omega-3s like canned salmon is," Giancoli tells WebMD. Also, albacore "white" tuna has more mercury than canned light tuna, so the EPA advises eating no more than 6 ounces of albacore tuna weekly.

Eat more salmon: Instead of tuna sandwiches, make salmon salad for sandwiches -- canned salmon mixed with reduced-fat mayo or non-fat plain yogurt, raisins, chopped celery, and carrots (plus a little Dijon mustard if your child likes the taste). Serve on whole-grain bread -- which is also a brain food.

Soup idea: Add canned salmon to creamy broccoli soup -- plus frozen chopped broccoli for extra nutrition and soft texture. Boxed soups make this an easy meal, and are generally low in fat and calories, Giancoli says. Look for organic boxed soups in the health food section.

Make salmon patties -- using 14 oz. canned salmon, 1 lb. frozen chopped spinach (thawed and drained), 1/2 onion (finely chopped), 2 garlic cloves (pressed), 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste. Combine ingredients. Mix well. Form into small balls. Heat olive oil in pan, flatten spinach balls with spatula. Cook over medium heat. Serve over brown rice (instant or frozen).

2. Brain Food: Eggs
Eggs are well-known as a great protein source -- but the egg yolks are also packed with choline, which helps memory development.

Eat more eggs: Send your child off to school with a grab-and-go breakfast egg burrito. Try breakfast for dinner one night a week -- scrambled eggs and toast. Make your own egg McMuffin at home: just put a fried egg on top of a toasted English muffin, topped with a slice of low-fat cheese
3. Brain Food: Peanut Butter
"Peanuts and peanut butter are a good source of vitamin E, a potent antioxidant that protects nervous membranes -- plus thiamin to help the brain and nervous system use glucose for energy," says Giancoli.

Eat more peanut butter: For a twist on an old favorite, make a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Dip apple slices in peanut butter. Or, top off your favorite salad with a handful of peanuts.

4. Brain Food: Whole Grains
The brain needs a constant supply of glucose -- and whole grains provide that in spades. The fiber helps regulate the release of glucose into the body, Giancoli explains. "Whole grains also have B-vitamins, which nourish a healthy nervous system."

Eat more whole grains: It's easy to find more whole grain cereals these days (make sure a whole grain is the first ingredient listed). But also think outside the box -- and try whole wheat couscous for dinner with cranberries, or low-fat popcorn for a fun snack, she suggests.

Whole-grain bread is a must for sandwiches. Switch to whole-grain tortillas and chips for quesadillas, wraps, and snacks.

5. Brain Food: Oats/Oatmeal
Oats are one of the most familiar hot cereals for kids and a very nutritious “grain for the brain,” says Sarah Krieger, MPH, RD, LD/N, a St. Petersburg, Fla. consultant and ADA spokeswoman. "Oats provide excellent energy or fuel for the brain that kids need first thing in the morning."

Loaded with fiber, oats keep a child’s brain fed all morning at school. Oats also are good sources of vitamin E, B-vitamins, potassium and zinc -- which make our bodies and brains function at full capacity.

Eat more oats: Top hot oatmeal with pretty much anything -- applesauce and cinnamon, dried fruit and soy milk, sliced almonds and a drizzle of honey, fresh banana and a dash of nutmeg with skim milk, Krieger suggests.

Cooking? Throw a handful of dry oats into a smoothie to make it thick -- or into pancake, muffin, waffle or a granola bar recipe.

Here’s a simple snack kids can make: 1 cup peanut butter, ½ cup honey, 1 cup dry oats, ½ cup dry milk powder. Mix it up with your hands -- then put a tablespoon between 2 apple or pear slices for a fun and different sandwich!

6. Brain Food: Berries
Strawberries, cherries, blueberries, blackberries. "In general, the more intense the color, the more nutrition in the berries," Krieger says. Berries boast high levels of antioxidants, especially vitamin C, which may help prevent cancer.

Studies have shown improved memory with the extracts of blueberries and strawberries. "But eat the real thing to get a more nutritious package," Krieger says. "The seeds from berries are also a good source of omega-3 fats.."

Eat more berries: Add berries to veggies that may need a flavor boost -- like sliced sweet cherries with broccoli or strawberries with green beans. Toss berries into a green salad. Add chopped berries to a jar of salsa for an excellent flavor surprise.

More berry ideas: Add berries to yogurt, hot or cold cereal, or dips. For a light dessert, top a mound of berries with nonfat whipped topping, Krieger suggests
7. Brain Food: Beans
Beans are special because they have energy from protein and complex carbs -- and fiber -- plus lots of vitamins and minerals, Krieger says. "These are an excellent brain food since they keep a child's energy and thinking level at peak all afternoon if they enjoy them with lunch."

Kidney and pinto beans contain more omega 3 fatty acids than other beans -- specifically ALA, another of the omega-3’s important for brain growth and function, says Krieger.

Eat more beans: Sprinkle beans over salad and top with salsa. Mash vegetarian beans and spread on a tortilla. Mash or fill a pita pocket with beans -- and add shredded lettuce and low-fat cheese. Add beans to spaghetti sauce and salsa. Infants love mashed beans with applesauce!

8. Brain Food: Colorful Veggies
Tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, spinach -- vegetables with rich, deep color are the best sources of antioxidants that keep brain cells strong and healthy, Thayer says.

Eat more veggies: Try sweet potato fries: Cut up in wedges or sticks. Spray them with vegetable oil cooking spray and then bake them in the oven (400 degrees, 20 minutes or until they start to brown).

Make pumpkin muffins: Mix 1 15-ounce can of pumpkin with a box of your favorite cake or muffin mix. Stir the two ingredients together and follow the directions.

Baby carrots and tiny tomatoes fit nicely into lunch bags. Kids love spinach salads with lots of stuff in them -- like strawberries, mandarin oranges, sliced almonds. Another trick: Sneak all sorts of chopped veggies into spaghetti sauce, soups, and stews.

9. Brain Food: Milk & Yogurt
Dairy foods are packed with protein and B-vitamins -- essential for growth of brain tissue, neurotransmitters, and enzymes. "Milk and yogurt also provide a bigger punch with both protein and carbohydrates – the preferred source of energy for the brain," Thayer says.

Recent research suggests that children and teens need 10 times more the recommended dose of vitamin D -- a vitamin that benefits the neuromuscular system and the overall life cycle of human cells.

Eat more dairy: Low-fat milk over cereal -- and calcium- and vitamin D-fortified juices -- are easy ways to get these essential nutrients. Cheese sticks are great snacks.

Low-fat yogurt parfaits are also fun. In a tall glass, layer yogurt with berries (fresh, frozen, or dried) and chopped nuts (almonds or walnuts), Thayer suggests.

10. Brain Food: Lean Beef (or Meat Alternative)
Iron is an essential mineral that helps kids stay energized and concentrate at school. Lean beef is one of the best absorbed sources of iron. In fact, just 1 ounce per day has been shown to help the body absorb iron from other sources. Beef also contains zinc, which helps with memory.

For vegetarians, black bean and soy burgers are great iron-rich meatless options. Beans are an important source of nonheme iron -- a type of iron that needs vitamin C to be absorbed. Eat tomatoes, red bell pepper, orange juice, strawberries, and other "Cs" with beans to get the most iron.

For a burger-less source of iron -- try spinach. It's packed with nonheme iron, too.

Eat more iron: For dinner, grill kebobs with beef chunks and veggies. Or stir-fry a bit of beef with kids' favorite veggies. Grill black bean or soy burgers, then top with salsa or a tomato slice. Or, chow down on a spinach salad (with mandarin oranges and strawberries for vitamin C).

Monday, August 18, 2008

What is the origin of the Olympics?
The Olympic Games, originally created to honor Zeus, was the most important national festival of the ancient Greeks, and a focus of political rivalries between the nation-states. However, all competitions involved individual competitors rather than teams. Winning an Olympic contest was regarded more highly than winning a battle and was proof of an individual arete or personal excellence. The winners were presented with garlands, crowned with olive wreaths, and viewed as national heroes.

Although records of the Olympics date back to 776 BC when the Olympics were reorganized and the official "First Olympiad" was held, Homer's Iliad suggests that they existed as early as the 12th century BC. The games were held every four years in honor of Zeus, in accordance with the four year time periods which the Greeks called olympiads. Emperor Theodosius I of Rome discontinued them in the 4th century AD, and they did not occur again until they were reinstated in Athens in 1896.

Originally, the Olympics was confined to running, but by the 15th Olympiad, additional sports were added the pentathlon (five different events), boxing, wrestling, chariot racing, as well as a variety of foot races of varying lengths, including a long-distance race of about 2.5 miles.

Athletes usually competed nude, proudly displaying their perfect bodies. Women, foreigners, slaves, and dishonored persons were forbidden to compete; women, once they were married, were not even allowed to watch any Olympic events, except for chariot races. However, every four years, women held their own games, called the Heraea after Hera, held at Argos, and beginning as early as the 6th century B.C. and lasting at least six centuries until Roman rule.

How was the Olympics a sacred festival?
Unlike our modern Olympic games, the ancient Greek Olympic games was a religious rather than secular festival, celebrating the gods in general and Zeus in particular. The contests themselves alternated with altar rituals and sacrifices, as well as processions and banquets. Individual competitors trained rigorously not only for personal glory, but also to impress and please a god through demonstrating strength and agility.

Although one legend suggests that Heracles won a race at Olympia and decreed that races should be instituted every four years, the most common legends suggest that Zeus originated the games after he defeated Cronus in battle. Many events occurred at the Olympic stadium near the temple of Zeus in Olympia southwest of Athens. Inside the temple was the 42 foot high gold and ivory statue of Zeus sculpted by Pheidias, considered to be one of seven wonders of the ancient world.

Eventually the games were also held at other sacred spots in the Greek city-states, such as Delphi and Corinth. These games honored the ruling god of the particular locality, most notably Apollo and Poseidon in addition to Zeus. Apollo from the start had an indirect role in the festivities, since the winners were always lauded with garlands of laurel, the tree most sacred to Apollo ever since his beloved Daphne was transformed into a laurel tree.

The noteworthy classics web site, Perseus, from Tufts University, has a mini-site on the ancient Olympics at According to Perseus scholars:

"The Games were held in honor of Zeus, the king of the Greek gods, and a sacrifice of 100 oxen was made to the god on the middle day of the festival. Athletes prayed to the gods for victory, and made gifts of animals, produce, or small cakes, in thanks for their successes.

According to legend, the altar of Zeus stood on a spot struck by a thunderbolt, which had been hurled by the god from his throne high atop Mount Olympus, where the gods assembled. Some coins from Elis had a thunderbolt design on the reverse, in honor of this legend.

Over time, the Games flourished, and Olympia became a central site for the worship of Zeus. Individuals and communities donated buildings, statues, altars and other dedications to the god."