Wednesday, December 24, 2008

News Bytes

Blind, Yet Seeing: The Brain's Subconscious Visual Sense New York Times, Dec. 22, 2008 An international team of brain researchers have reported experiments with a patient with destroyed visual lobes who shows "blindsight" -- unconscious perception of obstacles. "The man in the new study, an African living in Switzerland at the time, suffered the two strokes in his 50s, weeks apart, and was profoundly blind by any of the usual measures. Unlike people suffering from eye injuries, or congenital blindness in which the visual system develops abnormally, his brain was otherwise healthy, as were his eyes, so he had the necessary tools to process subconscious vision. What he lacked were the circuits that cobble together a clear, conscious picture." Read full article. Invention: Vision amplifier New Scientist Tech, Dec. 22, 2008 Jeffrey Olsen at the University of Colorado Hospital has invented a better solution for people with impaired vision due to damaged retinas, by using quantum dots to amplify the light that reaches the retina, using the eye's still functioning light-sensitive cells. Quantum dots (nanoscale semiconductor material) fluoresce when hit by photons and would have the effect of making any received retinal image brighter, with the advantages that they require no external power source, are much smaller than silicon chips, and can be coated with a bioactive material that causes them to become lodged in only specific tissues in the retina. Click to read more. New Tooth Cavity Protection Nanoparticles Make Surface Too Slippery For Bacteria To Adhere ScienceDaily (Dec. 22, 2008) Clarkson University Center for Advanced Materials Processing Professor Igor Sokolov and graduate student Ravi M. Gaikwad have discovered a new method of protecting teeth from cavities by ultrafine polishing with silica nanoparticles. Click for article. So is fish safe to eat or not? 23.dec.08 The New York Times The federal government has been trying to persuade pregnant and breast-feeding women to limit their intake of fish because of mercury contamination. Now some federal scientists are arguing that these women should actually increase their fish consumption. The behind-the-scenes disagreement is fierce and raises serious questions for consumers. The current official advice from the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency is that pregnant and nursing women and young children can safely eat up to 12 ounces. Click to read more. UK: Let us bend the rules, say organic farmers 22.dec.08 Times Online - Valerie Elliott Organic farmers have asked the Government for permission to take a “holiday” from strict organic standards in an attempt to survive the recession. The drastic move by organizations including the Soil Association follows a dip in sales of organic produce and fears for the future of Britain's 5,000 organic farmers. Sales of organic food slumped 10 per cent in the 12 weeks up to the end of November, according to the latest figures from the consumer researchers TNS. Overall food sales over the same period were up 6 per cent. Click to read rest of article.

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