We’re Close To Achieving The Second Ever Global Eradication Of A Human Disease

Via IFLScience: ‘Back in 1980, the World Health Organization officially declared that one of the deadliest diseases in human history, smallpox, had been eradicated. This marked the first time that a disease had been completely eliminated from the planet. Achieving this was certainly no mean feat. It took an enormous collaborative effort, mostly involving global vaccination campaigns, surveillance and prevention measures.

Now, amazingly, humanity is tantalizingly close to eradicating the second ever human disease from the planet, and you might not have even heard of it: Guinea worm disease.

Although it’s rarely lethal, which could be why it has not received the attention that it deserves, Guinea worm disease, or dracunculiasis, is utterly horrific and can be permanently debilitating…’

 

Declinism: is the world actually getting worse?

Declinism: is the world actually getting worse? | Pete Etchells | Science | The Guardian

Via The Guardian: ‘A recent survey suggests that 71% of people think that the world is going to the dogs. Are things actually that bad, or is it a psychological trick of the mind?

Let’s face it, 2015 hasn’t been the most positive of years so far. But is the world really going down the pan? Radio 4’s The Human Zoo kicked off a new series this week, taking a look at “declinism” – the idea that we’re predisposed to view the past favourably, and worry that the future is going to be dire. In a survey run by YouGov for the programme, 71% of respondents said they thought the world was getting worse, and only 5% said that is was getting better. But what’s the reality of the situation?

Declinism is a trick of the mind …

Two lines of psychological research might provide insight into why people might think things are getting worse…’

 

New evidence for anthropic theory

Via phys.org: ‘Fundamental physics constants underlie life-enabling universe: For nearly half a century, theoretical physicists have made a series of discoveries that certain constants in fundamental physics seem extraordinarily fine-tuned to allow for the emergence of a life-enabling universe. Constants that crisscross the Standard Model of Particle Physics guided the formation of hydrogen nuclei during the Big Bang, along with the carbon and oxygen atoms initially fused at the center of massive first-generation stars that exploded as supernovae; these processes in turn set the stage for solar systems and planets capable of supporting carbon-based life dependent on water and oxygen.

The theory that an Anthropic Principle guided the physics and evolution of the universe was initially proposed by Brandon Carter while he was a post-doctoral researcher in astrophysics at the University of Cambridge; this theory was later debated by Cambridge scholar Stephen Hawking and a widening web of physicists around the world.

German scholar Ulf-G Meißner, chair in theoretical nuclear physics at the Helmholtz Institute, University of Bonn, adds to a series of discoveries that support this Anthropic Principle.

In a new study titled “Anthropic considerations in nuclear physics” and published in the Beijing-based journal Science Bulletin (previously titled Chinese Science Bulletin), Professor Meißner provides an overview of the Anthropic Principle (AP) in astrophysics and particle physics and states: “One can indeed perform physics tests of this rather abstract [AP] statement for specific processes like element generation.”

“This can be done with the help of high performance computers that allow us to simulate worlds in which the fundamental parameters underlying nuclear physics take values different from the ones in Nature,” he explains.’

 

Alot of Malarkey: Little Boy Who ‘Came Back from Heaven’ Lied

Via People.com: ‘In 2004, Alex Malarkey, who was then 6 years old, was in a car accident with his father, Kevin. The crash left him paralyzed and in a deep coma. It looked like he wouldn’t make it – until Alex woke up two months later with an incredible tale to tell: He had been to heaven.

His account was turned into a best-selling book, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, and, later, a TV movie. But it was all a lie.

In an open letter to Pulpit and Pen website published earlier this week, Alex wrote succinctly: “I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.”

He explained: “I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention.” ‘

 

Supreme Court to Decide Whether Gays Nationwide Can Marry

Via NYTimes.com: ‘The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide whether all 50 states must allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. The court’s announcement made it likely that it would resolve one of the great civil rights questions of the age before its current term ends in June.

The justices ducked the issue in October, refusing to hear appeals from rulings allowing same-sex marriage in five states. That surprise action delivered a tacit victory for gay rights, immediately expanding the number of states with same-sex marriage to 24 from 19, along with the District of Columbia.

Largely as a consequence of the Supreme Court’s failure to act in October, the number of states allowing same-sex marriage has since grown to 36, and more than 70 percent of Americans live in places where gay couples can marry.

The pace of change on same-sex marriage, in both popular opinion and in the courts, has no parallel in the nation’s history.

Based on the court’s failure to act in October and its last three major gay rights rulings, most observers expect the court to establish a nationwide constitutional right to same-sex marriage. But the court also has a history of caution in this area.’