Tips for the Sophisticated Fugitive

Why not take the ill-gotten money and run?

A touch of plastic surgery and a discreet payoff might purchase a sun-tanned life on an Indian Ocean archipelago, a number of which have no extradition treaties with the United States. Even a down-market move, manning an outboard motor for a skiff full of Somali pirates, seems preferable to a life term in a maximum-security federal prison.

Yet as more plutocrats face criminal investigations, few seem to view flight as an option. Perhaps it is a failure of nerve. Or perhaps, in this age of Facebook and “America’s Most Wanted,” the globe suffers a shortage of corners where a rogue might comfortably hide.” via NYTimes.

How Do You Amputate A Phantom Limb?

The Sensory Homunculus

Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad, of NPR’s Radiolab (addictive podcast, by the way) interview neurologist V.S. Ramachandran about his ingenious and effective solution to the vexing and mysterious phenomenon of phantom limb pain. Via NPR.

The illustration to the left is the famous “sensory homunculus” described by Penrose, the representation of the body mapped onto the sensory cortex. This is, of course, the root of the problem of phantom limbs, because although the limb is gone, the representation persists, maing it hard to convince the sensory cortex otherwise. Thank heaven for Ramachandran’s tricky take on neural plasticity.

What a Ride!

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“A bat that was clinging to space shuttle Discovery’s external fuel tank during the countdown to launch the STS-119 mission remained with the spacecraft as it cleared the tower, analysts at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center concluded.

Based on images and video, a wildlife expert who provides support to the center said the small creature was a free tail bat that likely had a broken left wing and some problem with its right shoulder or wrist. The animal likely perished quickly during Discovery’s climb into orbit.” via NASA.

A Little Stress May Be Good for You

“A lot of stress can turn your hair gray, but a little stress can actually delay aging. A protein tied to protecting cells from stress also helps slow aging, a new study finds. The research, published February 20 in Science, identifies a key regulator of a mechanism cells use to prevent protein damage from stress.

Exposure to heat, cold or heavy metals can damage proteins and unravel them from their usual conformations — trauma that can cause cell death. But cells have a damage-limiting mechanism called the heat shock response to combat these and other stresses. As part of the heat shock response, special protein repair molecules patch up the damaged proteins and refold them correctly, preventing death and extending the life of the cell.” via Science News.