Brain infections may spark Alzheimer’s, new study suggests

‘While still speculative, new hypothesis offers some sensible explanations to the disease… The findings, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, suggest that Alzheimer’s may result from the brain’s effort to fight off infections. While that hypothesis is controversial and highly speculative at this point, it could dramatically alter the way researchers and doctors work to treat and prevent the degenerative disease…’

Source: Ars Technica

Octopuses may indeed be your new overlords

‘Over the past 60 years, the population of cephalopods—octopuses, squids, and cuttlefish—has been steadily growing. This is particularly remarkable because many types of marine life have been dying out as carbon levels in the oceans rise, making the water more acidic. So even as numbers of crabs, sea stars, and coral reefs are shrinking, the tentacled creatures of the deep are thriving.

Writing in Current Biology, a large group of marine biologists describe how they discovered this trend. Looking at the past 61 years of fisheries data from all major oceans, they examined numbers of cephalopods that are bycatch, or accidentally caught along with target fish. Using these numbers as a proxy for cephalopod populations as a whole, they discovered a steady increase over the decades, across all cephalopod species. The question is why.

The researchers say it’s likely a function of a cephalopod’s ability to adapt quickly. “These ecologically and commercially important invertebrates may have benefited from a changing ocean environment,” they write. Most cephalopods have very short lifespans and are able to change their behavior very quickly during their lifespans. Indeed, octopuses are tool-users who can learn quickly, leading to many daring escapes from tanks in labs as well as brilliant forms of camouflage at the bottom of the ocean. All these characteristics add up to a set of species who can change on the fly, as their environments are transformed.

If trends continue, cephalopods may be among the species who are poised to survive a mass extinction in the oceans, leading to a future marine ecosystem ruled by tentacles…’

Source: Ars Technica

A different way to die: the story of a natural burial

‘…Jake had spent his life respecting the Earth, and he didn’t want his final act to harm it. He was also opposed to the death care industry — a $20 billion-a-year business notorious for preying on people at the lowest points in their lives. It’s an industry increasingly controlled by a single entity called Service Corporation International (SCI), a company with 20,000 employees and a market capitalization of $4 billion.

Jake decided on something different: a natural burial. He wanted to go back to the burial traditions humans embraced for thousands of years, before the development of chemical embalming and steel-lined caskets. There would be no formaldehyde, no coffin, just a simple shroud and a hole in ground.”

…Natural burial is perfectly legal in the United States, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Jake’s friends and family couldn’t just dig a hole on his land in Port Angeles and leave him there to rest — although they did think about it, Tristan says. Natural burial requires a cemetery willing to take the body, which can be difficult to find. Because so many cemeteries are owned by SCI, a company that pushes clients to take the full package — embalming, concrete-lined vaults, etc. — there are only a handful of natural cemeteries in all of Washington state…’

Source: Vox

Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person

‘IT’S one of the things we are most afraid might happen to us. We go to great lengths to avoid it. And yet we do it all the same: We marry the wrong person.

Partly, it’s because we have a bewildering array of problems that emerge when we try to get close to others. We seem normal only to those who don’t know us very well. In a wiser, more self-aware society than our own, a standard question on any early dinner date would be: “And how are you crazy?”

Perhaps we have a latent tendency to get furious when someone disagrees with us or can relax only when we are working; perhaps we’re tricky about intimacy after sex or clam up in response to humiliation. Nobody’s perfect. The problem is that before marriage, we rarely delve into our complexities. Whenever casual relationships threaten to reveal our flaws, we blame our partners and call it a day. As for our friends, they don’t care enough to do the hard work of enlightening us. One of the privileges of being on our own is therefore the sincere impression that we are really quite easy to live with.

Our partners are no more self-aware. Naturally, we make a stab at trying to understand them. We visit their families. We look at their photos, we meet their college friends. All this contributes to a sense that we’ve done our homework. We haven’t. Marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating…’

Source: Alain de Botton, The New York Times