Is The Fish Kick the Fastest Swim Stroke Yet?

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

The fish kick may be the fastest swimming stroke yet:

Until recently, competitive swimming has focused almost entirely on what happens at the surface of the water. In early 19th-century England—which many consider to be the birthplace of the modern sport—swimmers raced using the breaststroke. A few decades later, Europeans learned a faster stroke when two Native Americans visiting London demonstrated a way of swimming they had learned growing up: the front crawl. One observer wrote, “they lash the water violently with their arms, like the sails of a windmill, and beat downwards with their feet, blowing with force, and forming grotesque antics.” The Brits eventually got over their shock. The backstroke came next, followed in the early 20th century by the butterfly stroke, which overcame the drag of the underwater recovery required by the breaststroke. The butterfly became the second fastest stroke after the front crawl.

All swimming at the surface shares the same speed restriction. “You’re always limited by your hull speed,” says Ryan Atkison, a sport biomechanist at the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario. It’s a nautical principle that also applies to swimmers. The theory goes that a swimmer on the surface cannot go faster than the bow wave that he or she creates. The bow wave increases with swim speed until, in theory, it stretches along the whole length of the swimmer’s body. Atkison says that the maximum speed is one body-length per second, which is about 1.9 to 2.6 meters per second for a swimmer about 2 meters (6 feet, 5 inches) tall.

“You can’t go any faster than that unless you climb up over top of that wave,” says Atkison. “Some animals can, like dolphins can porpoise and jump over top of that bow wave, but humans can’t physically climb out of that trough,” he says. “The only real way to get faster is to be better under water, where we don’t really have those upper limits on speed.”

Coaches began to take advantage of this fact in the 1980s, when Harvard University coach Joe Bernal realized that some of his swimmers were faster if they stayed underwater and dolphin kicked. This is essentially identical to the fish kick, except that the swimmer is flat on his stomach, rather than turned on his side. Some especially strong underwater swimmers stayed submerged almost the entire length of the pool, since there was no rule against it. That all changed in 1998, when FINA, the world governing body of competitive swimming, ruled that swimmers performing the backstroke had to surface after 15 meters.

Hyman came of age as a world-class swimmer during the underwater revolution. “I was 13 when I started staying under water longer than is typical,” she says, explaining she could go 30 meters without breathing. “I found I could be faster under water than at the surface.” Most swimmers were using the dolphin kick to propel themselves underwater, but Hyman’s coach, Bob Gillet, wanted to experiment. In 1995 he came across a study in Scientific American about how tuna were able to swim at almost 50 mph, where dolphins top out around 25 mph. The study found that the flick of a fish tail generated more efficient thrust than that of a marine mammal tail. Gillet wondered whether the dolphin kick might be more powerful on its side, so the undulations were horizontal, like those of a fish.

One cool December day in Phoenix in 1995, Gillet put it to the test. Hyman showed up for practice at Gillet’s outdoor pool, and he asked her to try it. “In the most respectful way, I called him a mad scientist,” she says. Her first attempts were awkward, and she ended up three lanes over from where she started. But she got better, and soon she was cutting through the water like an eel. She was going faster than she did with the dolphin kick. Faster than she had ever swum before. This gave Gillet another idea.

They went to the local country club pool, where the lighting was brighter and Gillet could walk out to the edge of a diving board to capture video. They took a long, thin rubber tube, fastened it to Hyman’s wrist, ran it down the length of one side of her body, and fastened the other end to her ankle. Then they filled the tube with store-bought food dye, and Hyman corked the tube with her thumb. She jumped into the pool, released her thumb, and took off as Gillet filmed. What they saw in the footage afterward astonished them. The dye swirled out to reveal huge vortices after each of her horizontal kicks. Gillet suspected that these miniature whirlpools, reaching 4 feet in diameter, propelled her forward. He also thought it was possible that when Hyman did the dolphin kick facedown, the bottom of the pool and the surface of the water interfered with these vortices and slowed her down.

That thought would have eventually disappeared

Sunday, July 19th, 2015

Dr. Ben Goldacre (@bengoldacre) explains what he likes about Twitter:

What I love about Twitter is that you can follow a thousand people who are all working in different and interesting fields and just every now and then, trail your fingers into this river of information as it passes by. Also, as it is so low threshold, you gain access to the passing thoughts of very clever people which you never previously would have had. In the past, if Richard Horton, Editor of The Lancet, was waiting in the check-in queue at Heathrow and was reading a global health story in a newspaper which he thinks is wrong, that thought would have eventually disappeared. But now, he can pull out his phone and tweet that the news story is incorrect as the The Lancet published an article on that subject some months back.

So being able to sift through those tailored feeds of serendipity is absolutely amazing and I think it is also really interesting for showing you who is truly clued up on their subject matter. I have a deep-rooted prejudice which is that if people can talk fluently in everyday language about their job, it strongly suggests that they have fully incorporated their work into their character. They feel it in their belly. There are people with whom you talk about technical stuff and it almost feels like they can only talk about it in a very formal way with their best work face on — as if the information they are talking about has not penetrated within. Twitter cuts through that and is a way of finding people who are insightful and passionate about what they do, like junior doctors one year out of medical school who take you aback when you realise they know more than people whose job it is to know about a particular field, such as 15 year-old Rhys Morgan. He has Crohn’s disease and went onto Crohn’s disease discussion forums and discussed evidence, whilst noting down people making false claims about evidence for proprietary treatments. He ended up giving better critical appraisal of the evidence that was presented than plenty of medical students. This was all simply because he read How to Read a Paper by Trish Greenhalgh and some of my writings, so he has learnt about how critical appraisal works and what trials look like along with the strengths and weaknesses of different kinds of evidence. Thanks to Twitter, I have been able to read about people like Rhys in action and to see ideas and principles really come alive and be discussed and for that, it is wonderful.

Yuggoth

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

In a letter dated Thursday, Sept. 6, 1928, Henry W. Akeley explains to Albert N. Wilmarth of Miskatonic University some once-again-timely facts about the Outer Beings:

Their main immediate abode is a still undiscovered and almost lightless planet at the very edge of our solar system — beyond Neptune, and the ninth in distance from the sun. It is, as we have inferred, the object mystically hinted at as “Yuggoth” in certain ancient and forbidden writings; and it will soon be the scene of a strange focusing of thought upon our world in an effort to facilitate mental rapport. I would not be surprised if astronomers become sufficiently sensitive to these thought-currents to discover Yuggoth when the Outer Ones wish them to do so. But Yuggoth, of course, is only the stepping- stone. The main body of the beings inhabits strangely organized abysses wholly beyond the utmost reach of any human imagination. The space-time globule which we recognize as the totality of all cosmic entity is only an atom in the genuine infinity which is theirs. And as much of this infinity as any human brain can hold is eventually to be opened up to me, as it has been to not more than fifty other men since the human race has existed.

LED Grow Lights in Space

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

A recent study demonstrated that targeted LEDs could provide efficient lighting for plants grown in space:

Research led by Cary Mitchell, professor of horticulture, and then-master’s student Lucie Poulet found that leaf lettuce thrived under a 95-to-5 ratio of red and blue light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, placed close to the plant canopy. The targeted LED lighting used about 90 percent less electrical power per growing area than traditional lighting and an additional 50 percent less energy than full-coverage LED lighting.

The study suggests that this model could be a valuable component of controlled-environment agriculture and vertical farming systems in space and on Earth, Mitchell said.

I’m reminded of William Gibson‘s aphorism that “the street finds its own uses for things.” LED grow lights have been used here on Earth for not-so-noble purposes for some time, I’d assume.

Hormetic Alcohol

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Alcohol appears to be hormetic:

The review of Pohorecky (1977) provides strong psychological, behavioral and biochemical evidence for alcohol (ethanol) affecting the experimental behavior of animals and humans in a biphasic dose–dependent manner, with low-doses being excitory and high-doses depressant. For non-human mammalian biological end points (including, amongst others, the liver, kidney, heart, spleen, endocrine, embryonic development and birth weight), Calabrese and Baldwin’s (2003c) assessment of the toxicological and pharmacological literature demonstrated ethanol-induced biphasic dose responses over a wide range. In most cases, the low-dose hormetic responses were judged to be statistically significant and reliable. They observed striking similarities across studies in both hormetic dose-ranges and hormetic dose–response magnitudes, with the maximum hormetic response approaching two-fold but was usually 25–40% greater than the control value. Furthermore, the maximum hormetic response was generally within a factor of 2–4 of the estimated NOAEL. They argued against a common explanatory mechanism, and for a diverse plethora of underlying mechanisms. They also stated that regardless of actual response mechanisms, the similarity of dose–response characteristics likely reflected an important overall regulatory strategy built into the framework of a homeostatic control system. Calabrese and Baldwin (2003c) further noted that these collective findings closely resembled the biphasic hormetic responses to a wide range of toxic chemical agents that they had previously reported (Calabrese and Baldwin, 1997).

While there are a considerable number of published investigations suggesting that chronic alcoholics have an increased susceptibility to infectious diseases (in particular pneumonia), Hallengren and Forsgren (1978) have presented evidence that at low to moderate blood alcohol concentrations there is an increased adherence, phagocytosis and chemotaxis of human polypmorphonuclear leucocytes. The magnitude of the detected response is consistent with that seen for hormetic responses, with the hormetic concentration range being about four-fold. It would appear that these results have important ramifications for biomedical researchers and clinicians.

Human health benefits of regular light-to-moderate alcohol consumption vis-à-vis abstinence include decreased risks of dementia, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease and death (Standridge et al., 2004). Both case–control and cohort epidemiological studies have consistently shown that light-to-moderate drinkers are at lower risk of cardiovascular disease and death than nondrinkers, although heavier alcohol consumption can negatively affect the neurologic, gastrointestinal, hematologic, immune, psychiatric and musculoskeletal organ systems. The hormetic biphasic effects of alcohol consumption on total human mortality is a well studied and documented phenomenon with the basic J-shape of the dose–response curve confirmed in the vast majority of studies and being remarkably stable and independent of assessment measure (Gaziano and Buring, 1998; Rehm, 2000). For example, Gronbaek (2004) cited 19 separate epidemiological studies conducted over the last three decades that describe the impact of alcohol on total mortality as J-shaped, with a beneficial effect of regular light-to-moderate intake (10–40 g per day, or one to three alcoholic beverages), and a detrimental effect of both lower and higher intake. These studies have been reported by a large number of different research teams, with the effects observed in populations of different genders, races and nationalities. The total mortality risk reduction at light-to-moderate levels is likely due to lower risk of fatal cardiovascular disease without dramatic increases in other causes of death. Rehm (2000) notes that the J-shape results mainly from the beneficial effect of moderate alcohol consumption on ischemic cardiovascular conditions coupled with the detrimental effects of drinking on other health conditions. While the risk curves of detrimental effects may vary between linear, exponential or threshold effects, they always seem to be monotonic: the more consumption, the higher the disease-specific mortality risk. Rehm further notes that this means that the J-shaped curve should not be expected and cannot be found in populations with no or few coronary heart disease (CHD) deaths, for example, in some developing countries or in younger age groups.

Epidemiological studies indicate that all types of alcoholic beverages are associated with increased cancer risk at higher drinking levels, suggesting that ethanol itself causes the detrimental effect rather than any particular type of beverage. A great deal of recent research has focused on the possible benefits of specific alcoholic beverages. Some have postulated that wine’s polyphenolic antioxidants including resveratrol and proanthocyanidin reduce risk of cardiovascular disease. Resveratrol has been shown to exert its effects on cells by inducing a stress response mediated by the sirtuin protein family (Tissenbaum and Guarente, 2001; Howitz et al., 2003). At this point in time the totality of evidence suggests that the major beneficial component of alcoholic beverages on cardiovascular mortality is in fact ethanol per se rather than some other component (Rimm et al., 1996). Gronbaek (2004) states that it is likely that any apparent additional beneficial effect of wine on health in addition to the effect of ethanol itself is a consequence of confounding.

Several plausible mechanisms for the cardioprotective effect of light-to-moderate alcohol intake have been suggested (Korthuis, 2004; Standridge et al., 2004). One is its role in increasing plasma HDL cholesterol concentrations and in reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol concentrations. Such changes have been suggested to account for approximately half of alcohol’s protective effect against CHD. (Commonly referred to as the good cholesterol, HDL binds with cholesterol and brings it back to the liver for elimination or reprocessing, thereby lowering total cholesterol levels in body tissues and its build-up on arterial walls, and in a sense reversing the atherosclerotic process.) Free radical scavenging and inhibition of LDL oxidation by free radicals have also been proposed as mechanisms; as well as reduction/inhibition of platelet adhesion and aggregation, clotting factor concentrations, vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation and migration, and inflammation involving monocytes and T lymphocytes. Of particular interest in light of previous reference to hsps heat shock proteins are animal studies showing that oxidative stress from low dose alcohol consumption induces several heat shock and antioxidant proteins, which may serve as cardioprotective proteins in hearts subsequently exposed to ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury (Sato et al., 2004). Also of interest is the surprising finding that alcoholics had significantly less DNA damage than controls and demonstrated higher capacity for DNA repair, possibly because excessive ethanol rather than damaging DNA (it is not genotoxic) induces antioxidant and repair enzymes (Pool-Zobel et al., 2004).

(Hat tip to Mangan.)

Dull Minds and Criminal Acts

Sunday, July 5th, 2015

Dull minds and criminal acts go together, Finnish researchers have confirmed:

Finland is the sort of place where they do things thoroughly, things like testing the intelligence of a total population cohort of Finnish males born in 1987 and following up the results. Gold dust.

Joseph A. Schwartz, Jukka Savolainen, Mikko Aaltonen, Marko Merikukka, Reija Paananen, Mika Gisslerd. Intelligence and criminal behavior in a total birth cohort: An examination of functional form, dimensions of intelligence, and the nature of offending. Intelligence, Vol 51, July–August 2015, Pages 109–118.

They found that lower levels of intelligence are associated with greater levels of offending, that the IQ-offending association is mostly linear, with some curvilinear aspects at highest and lowest levels, and that the pattern is consistent across multiple measures of intelligence and offending. In some ways this is exactly as predicted and already observed, since the available literature shows that individuals with lower IQ are more likely to engage in criminal behaviour.  Criminal offending was measured with nine different indicators from official records and intelligence was measured using three subscales (verbal, mathematical, and spatial reasoning) as well as a composite measure. The results show consistent evidence of mostly linear patterns, with some indication of curvilinear associations at the very lowest and the very highest ranges of intellectual ability.

However, the advantage of these data is that they deal with an entire birth cohort, so there are no distorting effects caused by the loss of a few miscreants who might account for lots of crimes. The population is restricted to males n = 21,513 because only males in Finland do military service and sit the intelligence tests. Offending is judged from real documentary data, not from fallible self report, even more fallible when painful memories are involved. Lastly, they have verbal, mathematic and spatial IQ measures, so can investigate whether verbal intelligence has a particular effect, as some have argued.

Crimes vs. Intelligence

Note that violent crime is an order of magnitude higher in the bottom 20% of the population by ability than the top 20% of population by ability.

Is Special Education Racist?

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

Is special education racist? With the New York Times asking, you’d have to assume, yes:

More than six million children in the United States receive special-education services for their disabilities. Of those age 6 and older, nearly 20 percent are black.

Critics claim that this high number — blacks are 1.4 times more likely to be placed in special education than other races and ethnicities combined — shows that black children are put into special education because schools are racially biased.

But our new research suggests just the opposite. The real problem is that black children are underrepresented in special-education classes when compared with white children with similar levels of academic achievement, behavior and family economic resources.

The belief that black children are overrepresented in special education is driving some misguided attempts at policy changes.

I was not expecting that:

In a study published today, we report that the under-diagnosis of black children occurs across five disability conditions for which special services are commonly provided — learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, intellectual disabilities, health impairments and emotional disturbances. From the beginning of kindergarten to the end of eighth grade, black children are less, not more, likely than white children with similar levels of academic performance and behaviors to be identified as having each of these disabilities.

In fact, our study statistically controlled for many possible factors that might explain these disparities. Examples included differences in children’s academic achievement, behavior, gender and age, birth weight, the mother’s marital status and the family’s income and education levels. In contrast, many previous studies reporting overrepresentation have not adjusted for these factors. Instead, these prior studies have relied on school- or district-level data that did not adequately control for differences in risk factor exposure between black and white children.

Since nobody remembers anything, Steve Sailer notes that racial differences in special ed were what led Arthur Jensen of Berkeley to the Dark Side a half century ago:

Jensen’s interest in this topic began when one of his graduate students noted that the white special education students he was working with appeared to be more genuinely “retarded” than the students from minority groups who had been placed in special education. In fact, it seemed to Jensen’s student that whereas the white children functioned at a low level both inside and outside the classroom, the minority children sometimes appeared “quite indistinguishable in every way from children of normal intelligence, except in their scholastic performance and in their performance on a variety of standard IQ tests (Jensen, 1974, p. 222).”

What’s true remains true

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

What’s true remains true, JayMan reminds us, even if the truth is unpopular — or supports a dangerous idea.

Double-Muscled Hogs

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

The same myostatin mutation responsible for double-muscled Belgian Blue cattle — and some freakishly muscular humans &mdahs; has been introduced into pigs:

To introduce this mutation in pigs, Kim used a gene-editing technology called a TALEN, which consists of a DNA-cutting enzyme attached to a DNA-binding protein. The protein guides the cutting enzyme to a specific gene inside cells, in this case in MSTN, which it then cuts. The cell’s natural repair system stitches the DNA back together, but some base pairs are often deleted or added in the process, rendering the gene dysfunctional.

The team edited pig fetal cells. After selecting one edited cell in which TALEN had knocked out both copies of the MSTN gene, Kim’s collaborator Xi-jun Yin, an animal-cloning researcher at Yanbian University in Yanji, China, transferred it to an egg cell, and created 32 cloned piglets.

Double-Muscled Hogs

Yin says that preliminary investigations, show that the pigs provide many of the double-muscled cow’s benefits — such as leaner meat and a higher yield of meat per animal. However, they also share some of its problems. Birthing difficulties result from the piglets’ large size, for instance. And only 13 of the 32 lived to 8 months old. Of these, two are still alive, says Yin, and only one is considered healthy.

Rather than trying to create meat from such pigs, Kim and Yin plan to use them to supply sperm that would be sold to farmers for breeding with normal pigs. The resulting offspring, with one disrupted MSTN gene and one normal one, would be healthier, albeit less muscly, they say; the team is now doing the same experiment with another, newer gene-editing technology called CRISPR/Cas9. Last September, researchers reported using a different method of gene editing to develop new breeds of double-muscled cows and double-muscled sheep (C. Proudfoot et al. Transg. Res. 24, 147–153; 2015).

Politics and Self-Control

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

There is a link between political ideology and the ability to exert self-control:

In a series of three studies with more than 300 participants, the authors found that people who identify as conservative perform better on tests of self-control than those who identify as liberal regardless of race, socioeconomic status and gender.

They also report that participants’ performance on the tests was influenced by how much they believed in the idea of free will, which the researchers define as the belief that a person is largely responsible for his or her own outcomes.

For example, conservatives who are more likely to embrace the idea of free will overwhelmingly agreed with statements like “Strength of mind can always overcome the body’s desires” and “People can overcome any obstacles if they truly want to.”

“Conservatives tend to believe they had a greater control over their outcomes, and that was predicting how they did on the test,” said Joshua Clarkson, a consumer psychologist at the University of Cincinnati and the lead author of the paper.

To screen for self-control, Clarkson and his colleagues relied on the Stroop test that asks participants to look at a list of color words such as “red” or “blue” that are printed in mismatching color fonts. (Picture the word “orange” printed in green letters.) Volunteers were asked to read the words, ignoring the color of the font, which can be challenging.

Inverse Weathervanes

Friday, June 26th, 2015

Sociology is useful, Razib Khan pointed out, because it has negative predictive value — which is odd, Gregory Cochran notes:

There are a lot more possible wrong theories than right ones — which means that identifying the right theories is difficult. Identifying anti-correct theories, exact negatives of the truth, should be just as difficult. Perverse, too, of course, but who’s counting?

Considering that sociologists typically deny the very existence of some of the most important causal factors on human behavior (like genetics), you’d think their theories would make about as much sense as Galenic medicine or Freudian psychology — not even wrong. Their theories should not make antisense — more like random nonsense.

Probably they manage this by denying experience. Experience can show that a method works centuries before anyone has a correct theory of why it works. There are things that your grandmother (and her grandmother) knew — (the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, blood is thicker than water) — and without those grannies, sociologists wouldn’t know what to disbelieve.

Fixation Error

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

In a crisis, the brain’s perceptual field narrows and shortens:

We become seized by a tremendous compulsion to fix on the problem we think we can solve, and quickly lose awareness of almost everything else. It’s an affliction to which even the most skilled and experienced professionals are prone.

Imagine a stalled car, stuck on a level crossing as a distant train bears down on it. Panic rising, the driver starts and restarts the engine rather than getting out of the car and running. The three doctors bent over Elaine Bromiley’s throat were intent on finding a way to intubate, just as the three pilots in the cockpit of United 173 were determined to establish the status of the landing gear. In neither case did these seasoned professionals look up and register the oncoming train: in the case of Elaine, her oxygen levels, and in the case of United 173, its fuel levels.

When people are fixating, their perception of time becomes highly erratic; minutes stretch and elongate. One of the most striking aspects of the transcript of United 173’s last minutes is the way the captain seems to be under the impression that he has plenty of time, right up until the moment the engines cut out. It’s not that he didn’t have the correct information; it’s that his brain was running to a different clock. Similarly, it’s not that the doctors weren’t aware that Elaine Bromiley’s oxygen supply was a problem; it’s that their sense of how long she had been without it was distorted. When Harmer interviewed him, the anaesthetic consultant confessed that he had no idea how much time had passed.

Imagine, for a moment, being one of those doctors. You have a patient who has stopped breathing. The clock is ticking. The standard procedure isn’t working, but you have employed it dozens of times before and you know it works. Each of the senior colleagues around you is experiencing the same difficulty, which reassures you. You cling to the belief that, between the three of you, you will solve the problem, if it is soluble at all. You vaguely register nurses coming into the room and saying things but you don’t really hear what they say. Perhaps it occurs to you to step back from the patient and demand a rethink, but you don’t want your peers to see you as panicky or naive. So you focus on the one thing you can control: the procedure. You repeat it over and over, hoping for a different result. It is madness, but it is comprehensible madness.

Not Seeking Visionary Experiences

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

Psychedelic researcher Dr. James Fadiman is now looking at microdosing:

Microdosing refers to taking extremely small doses of psychedelics, so small that the affects usually associated with such drugs are not evident or are “sub-perceptual,” while going about one’s daily activities.

[...]

He explained that, beginning in 2010, he had been doing a study of microdosing. Since research with LSD remains banned, he couldn’t do it in a lab, but had instead relied on a network of volunteers who administered their own doses and reported back with the results. The subjects kept logs of their doses and daily routines, and sent them via email to Fadiman. The results were quite interesting, he said.

“Micro-dosing turns out to be a totally different world,” he explained. “As someone said, the rocks don’t glow, even a little bit. But what many people are reporting is, at the end of the day, they say, ‘That was a really good day.’ You know, that kind of day when things kind of work. You’re doing a task you normally couldn’t stand for two hours, but you do it for three or four. You eat properly. Maybe you do one more set of reps. Just a good day. That seems to be what we’re discovering.”

Study participants functioned normally in their work and relationships, Fadiman said, but with increased focus, emotional clarity, and creativity. One physician reported that microdosing put him “in touch with a deep place of ease and beauty.” A singer reported being better able to hear and channel music.

In his book, a user named “Madeline” offered this report: “Microdosing of 10 to 20 micrograms (of LSD) allow me to increase my focus, open my heart, and achieve breakthrough results while remaining integrated within my routine. My wit, response time, and visual and mental acuity seem greater than normal on it.”

These results are not yet peer-reviewed, but they are suggestive.

“I just got a report from someone who did this for six weeks,” Fadiman said. “And his question to me was, ‘Is there any reason to stop?’”

It isn’t just Fadiman acolytes who are singing the praises of microdosing. One 65-year-old Sonoma County, California, small businesswoman who had never heard of the man told AlterNet she microdosed because it made her feel better and more effective.

“I started doing it in 1980, when I lived in San Francisco and one of my roommates had some mushrooms in the fridge,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous. “I just took a tiny sliver and found that it made me alert and energized all day. I wasn’t high or anything; it was more like having a coffee buzz that lasted all day long.”

This woman gave up on microdosing when her roommate’s supply of ‘shrooms ran out, but she has taken it up again recently.

“I’m very busy these days and I’m 65, so I get tired, and maybe just a little bit surly sometimes,” she admitted. “So when a friend brought over some chocolate mushrooms, I decided to try it again. It makes my days so much better! My mood improves, my energy level is up, and I feel like my synapses are really popping. I get things done, and I don’t notice any side-effects whatsoever.”

She’s not seeking visionary experiences, just a way to get through the day, she said.

In an in-depth post on the High Existence blog, Martijn Schirp examined the phenomenon in some detail, as well as describing his own adventure in microdosing:

“On a beautiful morning in Amsterdam, I grabbed my vial of LSD, diluted down with half high grade vodka and half distilled water, and told my friend to trust me and open his mouth. While semi-carefully measuring the droplets for his microdose, I told him to whirl it around in his mouth for a few minutes before swallowing the neuro-chemical concoction. I quickly followed suit,” Schirp wrote. “We had one of the best walking conversations of our lives.”

James Oroc, author of Tryptamine Palace: 5-MeO-DMT and the Sonoran Desert Toad, exposed another realm where microdosing is gaining popularity. In a Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies monograph titled “Psychedelics and Extreme Sports,” Oroc extolled the virtues of microdosing for athletes. Taking low-dose psychedelics improved “cognitive functioning, emotional balance, and physical stamina,” he wrote.

“Virtually all athletes who learn to use LSD?at psycholytic [micro] dosages believe that the use of these compounds improves both their stamina and their abilities,” Oroc continued. “According to the combined reports of 40 years of use by the extreme sports underground, LSD can increase your reflex time to lightning speed, improve your balance to the point of perfection, increase your concentration until you experience ‘tunnel vision,’ and make you impervious to weakness or pain. LSD’s effects in these regards amongst the extreme-sport community are in fact legendary, universal, and without dispute.”

Even the father of LSD, Albert Hofman seems to have been a fan. In his book, Fadiman notes that Hofmann microdosed himself well into old age and quoted him as saying LSD “would have gone on to be used as Ritalin if it hadn’t been so harshly scheduled.”

Psychonauts, take note. Microdosing isn’t going to take you to another astral plane, but it may help you get through the day.

The idea that LSD would improve athletic performance sounds crazy, but Doc Ellis did pitch a no-hitter on a not-so-microdose.

Analysis of Skeletal Remains

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Race is not skin deep. In fact, you can often identify the race of a human skeleton, especially if you have access to the skull:

There are several features that can be used to determine the race of an individual. In terms of the skull, a great place to start is the maxillary bone. The left and right maxillary bones form the roof of the mouth, contain the upper 16 teeth in the adult (the upper 10 teeth in the child), and form the outline of the nasal cavity (the nasal cavity itself involves several other bones: ethmoid, inferior nasal conchae, lacrimal, nasal, sphenoid, and vomer).

The arch of the maxilla can be found in three basic shapes: hyperbolic, parabolic, and rounded. Each of the the following three races have their own shape: (1) African = hyperbolic, (2) European = parabolic, and (3) Asian = rounded.

The incisors, as well, differ in their basic shape. The incisors (click HERE to refresh your memory) fall into two basic categories, based on the shape of the lingual (tongue) surface of the tooth. These two categories are: (1) shovel-shaped, and (2) spatulate, or spatula-shaped. As there is more than one race with spatulate incisors, other indicators are necessary to positively identify race, although this single feature can be used to eliminate one of the possibilities. Each of the the following three races have their own shape: (1) African = spatulate , (2) European = spatulate , and (3) Asian = shovel-shaped.

In addition to determining gender, there are characteristics of the skull that can be used to determine the race of an individual. Many of these features are quite subtle, and require detailed examination of the skull. A couple of features, however, are more easily seen. For example, in people of African ancestry, the nasal opening is more flared. Another example is that of the zygomatic arch (or cheek bone), which is angled more forward in people of Asian ancestry, thus giving the person a slightly more flattened face.

Cranial features are not perfect indicators of ancestry:

Forensic anthropologists using multiple features claim at best 85% accuracy in their assessment of racial ancestry. When we know less about the context of a skull, we will be less and less accurate.

Here are some traits that vary between skulls with different race backgrounds. Most of them are on the face or palate.

  • Shape of the eye orbits, viewed from the front. Africans tend to a more rectangular shape, East Asians more circular, Europeans tend to have an “aviator glasses” shape.
  • Nasal sill: Europeans tend to have a pronounced angulation dividing the nasal floor from the anterior surface of the maxilla; Africans tend to lack a sharp angulation, Asians tend to be intermediate.
  • Nasal bridge: Africans tend to have an arching, “Quonset hut”‘ shape, Europeans tend to have high nasal bones with a peaked angle, Asians tend to have low nasal bones with a slight angulation.
  • Nasal aperture: Africans tend to have wide nasal apertures, Europeans narrow.
  • Subnasal prognathism: Africans tend to have maxillae that project more anteriorly (prognathic) below the nose, Europeans tend to be less projecting.
  • Zygomatic form: Asians tend to have anteriorly projecting cheekbones. The border of the frontal process (lateral to the orbit) faces forward. In Europeans and Africans, these face more laterally and the zygomatic recedes more posteriorly.

Facial Feminization

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Facial feminization surgery involves extensive work:

Advancing the Scalp. A high forehead is an instant clue to maleness. Creating a lower hairline and recontouring the brow are procedures that must be done together, says Deschamps-Braly. In a 19-year-old male, the distance from hairline to the center of the eyebrow is 2.6 inches; it’s just two inches in a woman. Lowering the hairline with scalp advancement requires an ear to ear incision across the top of the head. The scalp is then pulled forward and reattached lower down. If the hair in the front section of scalp is thinning, a strip of it is trimmed away. Hair-follicle implants can be done later. Before the scalp is sutured into place at the lover level, the brow is raised lifting the eyebrows to a more feminine position.

Forehead feminization. The skulls of men and women are vastly different. “The foreheads of genetic males slope back—while a female brow is more vertical. Genetic males have a heavy bony ridge protruding above the eye sockets making the sockets deeper than a woman’s,” explains Deschamps-Braly. “We use a saw and remove the ridge carefully, often exposing the sinus cavity which we refill with some of the extra bone.” Males also have bony hoods over their eye sockets. To feminize the eyes, these need to be removed with a 40,000 rpm mechanical burr. A small percentage of facial feminization patients need their brows augmented above the brow ridge with the same synthetic resin used in making dentures. All this bone work can be done through the same long incision created for the brow advancement. “Without feminization, your forehead will always be a giveaway to your birth gender,” wrote Ousterhaut.

Filling temple depressions. Some men also have shallow depressions in the bone beside their eyes. If they’re noticeable, fat can be injected through small entry points in the temple hair.

Rhinoplasty. Jenner had previously had surgery on her nose, which is a common element in the facial feminization process. Male noses are larger and longer, with bulkier tips than a woman’s. They point straight ahead or down, while the ideal female nose is thinner, shorter and sometimes scoops up.The angle at the radix (where the nose meets the forehead) is sharper in males and slopes gently in females. These characteristics can be achieved with surgery.

Changing the shape of the chin. A man’s chin is 17 percent longer than a woman’s and wider as well. A woman’s chin tends to be tapered or oval. Feminization requires taking, on average, a three-eighths-inch horizontal slice out of the chin bone (think of it as removing one book near the bottom of a stack). The bottom piece has to be anchored with plates and screws. If the chin protrudes or is receding, the lowest section can be pushed back or advanced. If the chin needs narrowing, a vertical wedge of bone can be removed at the tip below the tooth roots.

Lower-jaw tapering. The male jaw looks square from the front, but it has a wide, V-shaped bend between the ear and the chin. In contrast, a female jaw has a soft curve from the ear to the chin. The angular male jaw can be rounded by cutting the sharpness from the bend with a right-angle saw and smoothing the edge with a mechanical burr. This is a job for someone very experienced, because running through the jaw are blood vessels and nerves that relay sensation from the lower lip, front teeth, and chin.

Diminishing the Adam’s apple. The Adam’s apple is thyroid cartilage that sits on top of the trachea—the breathing tube—and anchors the vocal cords. Both men and women have one, but a man’s is more prominent. It can be reduced through a small incision under the chin that heals almost invisibly. In 5 percent of cases, male-to-female transgender patients (like Jenner) have it reduced before feminization surgery; Jenner underwent a tracheal reduction in January of 2014.

Raising the cheeks. While rounded cheeks are considered attractive in both men and women, Deschamps-Braly cautions against using cheek implants during the feminization surgery. “I do a cheek lift instead of implants. The cheek looks better. Implants are rarely necessary.”

Shortening lip height. Men typically have a longer upper lip area, averaging 21 millimeters in height compared to 15 millimeters for women. And it gets longer with age. This can be shortened with a short incision right under the nostrils. Lips can then be filled with dermal fat or hyaluronic acid.

Vocal pitch. This is one male trait that isn’t easy to change. Operating on vocal cords to make the voice less husky is risky. It could become deeper and chronically hoarse. “There have been great successes,” says Deschamps-Braly, “but the area is a no-man’s land and complications can’t be corrected.” For this reason, many male-to-female transgender patients skip the surgery and instead hire voice coaches to help them.