Could computers replace doctors? Are we entering a new age of exponential growth in artificial intelligence that far outstrips our own? Or are we entering an unprecedented phase of human advancement and an economics of abundance? Three inspirational videos pointing to a future of technological advancement, computer learning and very fast change.
Older people who are active internet users and who regularly indulge in culture may be better able to retain their health literacy, and therefore maintain good health, suggests research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.
The Institute of Medicine defines health literacy as the degree to which a person is able to obtain, understand, and process basic health information so they can make appropriate decisions about their health.
Low levels of health literacy are associated with poorer self-care, higher use of emergency care services, low levels of preventative care, and an overall increased risk of death.
The most important factor governing a decline in health literacy in later years is thought to be dwindling cognitive abilities as a result of ageing, which gradually dulls the brain functions involved in active learning and vocabulary.
The researchers wanted to find out if regular internet use and engaging in civic, leisure, and cultural activities might help to maintain health literacy skills, irrespective of age-related cognitive decline. They therefore assessed the health literacy skills of almost 4,500 adults aged 52 and older, all of whom were taking part in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) between 2004 and 2011.
At the start of the study, around three out of four people (73 per cent) had adequate health literacy. After six years, scores fell by one or more points in around a fifth (19 per cent) of people, regardless of their initial score, while a similar proportion improved by one or more points.
There was a link between age and declining health literacy, and being non-white, having relatively low wealth, few educational qualifications, and difficulties carrying out routine activities of daily living.
Poorer memory and executive function scores at the start of the study were also linked to greater decline over the subsequent six years.
Around 40 per cent said they never used the internet or email, while one-in-three (32 per cent) said they did so regularly. Similar proportions said they engaged in civic (35 per cent) and/or leisure (31 per cent) activities over the six-year period.
Almost four out of 10 (39 per cent) said they had regularly engaged in cultural activities, such as going to the cinema, theatre, galleries, concerts or the opera, during this time.
Across all time points, internet use and engagement in civic, leisure, or cultural activities were lower among those whose health literacy declined.
Despite huge increases in alcoholic liver disease in the last 10 years, particularly in younger people, a new study shows that many students are not concerned about the long-term health impacts of alcohol consumption.
The study found that twice as many college students were likely to reduce their alcohol consumption for cost reasons compared to those who would reduce consumption to prevent negative health impacts. As reported by the Irish Medical News, the study consisted of a survey of first year students at University College Cork.
According to the study, two-fifths (or 39%) of students surveyed admitted to going out with the intention of getting drunk, knowing that it would affect their duties the next day.
The study has prompted the Irish Society of Gastroenterology (ISG) to call for legislation to target alcohol consumption.
The ISG has warned that alcohol related deaths and hospital admissions continue to rise in Ireland, particularly in younger people and deaths related to cirrhosis of the liver have doubled between 1994 and 2008.
Perhaps a public awareness campaign is needed to educate our young people that the health costs of over-zealous alcohol consumption are far more costly in the long run that the initial monetary outlay.
Hope you find this talk by Ethan Nadelmann on ending the war on drugs stimulating.
It’s a controversial topic but I don’t think anyone would argue that our current policies to eliminate dangerous drug use and the violence and black market that it fuels are working positively for anyone, bar criminal organisations. The terrorist organisations Boko Haram, ISIS and the Taliban are thought to be partly funded by illegal drug sales, drug-related violence and addiction in the west destroys countless lives, and drug money continues to fuel horrific violence and inequality in Latin America too. Perhaps it’s time for a major re-think.
Here at Dunphy Medical we’re stocking up on Chlorella, Vitamin C and Omega Oils with added Vitamin D to stay healthy amid winter’s bugs and flus.
Vitamin B is a perennial favourite and Toki is keeping our skin supple and youthful despite any harsh winter winds.
To discover our range of health products click on the Products tab at the top of this website’s homepage or just follow this link https://dunphymedicalcarrigaline.com/products/. All health supplements can be purchased online via PayPal or directly with a cheque or postal order. Purchases will then be delivered to your door by return mail, there’s no need to even leave the house!
I hope you enjoy this video interview with father and son team Robert and Edward Skidelsky about the principles that underpin their fascinating new book How Much Is Enough? The Love of Money and the Case for the Good Life.
Lord Skidelsky, Emeritus professor of political economy and Dr Edward Skidelsky, lecturer in philosophy tackle the questions: What constitutes the good life? What is the true value of money? Why do we work such long hours just to acquire greater wealth? These are some of the questions that many asked themselves when the financial system crashed in 2008. Their perspectives gave me much food for thought! Hope you find it interesting too.
Marc Abrahams founded the Ig Nobel awards which celebrates the world’s most improbable research, in this entertaining and informative Ted Talk Abrahams tells stories of truly weird science — and makes the case that silliness is critical to boosting public interest in science.
Gut bacteria may hold key to schizophrenia published on Irish Medical Times
Researchers in the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre in UCC have put forward a radically novel view of the biology of schizophrenia and more specifically its genetic basis, and their work may have significant implications for the development of new treatment strategies for the disorder.
Schizophrenia usually begins in the late teens or early 20s, and tends to be a life-long condition in the majority of cases. The risk of developing the disorder is approximately one in 100 in the general population. However, if there is a history of schizophrenia in the family the risk rises significantly.
However, very slow progress has been made in determining the complex genetics of schizophrenia.
Prof Ted Dinan and colleagues at the Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre have published a paper on the genetics of schizophrenia in the journal Molecular Psychiatry. They argue that genetic studies over the past few decades have been less than productive in determining the biology of the disorder and in helping develop new treatments.
They re-evaluate the studies to date and put forward a radical alternative perspective.
The research — funded by Science Foundation Ireland — points out that there are more than 100 times as many genes in the bacteria within our intestine as exist in our cells and many of these genes play a fundamental role in brain development and function. In their laboratory, the researchers have found that animals raised in a germ-free environment, who have not been exposed to bacteria, show similar social interaction to that observed in schizophrenia and recent studies indicate that antibiotics may help alleviate some symptoms.
Minocycline, which is used to treat acne in teenagers, has been found to impact on symptoms such as delusions and hallucinations as well as social withdrawal. To date, there has been little effort to explore intestinal bacterial genes in patients with the disorder.
Prof Dinan’s group is currently focusing on this approach with a view to developing new and more effective treatments. They draw a parallel with the gut disorder peptic ulcer disease, which like schizophrenia tends to run in families.
Carbon emissions, such as those from the Mehrum coal-fired power plant in Germany, will have to fall to zero to avoid catastrophic climate change, the IPCC says.Photograph: Julian Stratenschulte/Corbis
Most important assessment of global warming yet warns carbon emissions must be cut sharply and soon, but UN’s IPCC says solutions are available and affordable
Climate change is set to inflict “severe, widespread, and irreversible impacts” on people and the natural world unless carbon emissions are cut sharply and rapidly, according to the most important assessment of global warming yet published.
The stark report states that climate change has already increased the risk of severe heatwaves and other extreme weather and warns of worse to come, including food shortages and violent conflicts. But it also found that ways to avoid dangerous global warming are both available and affordable.
“Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in the message,” said the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, attending what he described as the “historic” report launch. “Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.” He said that quick, decisive action would build a better and sustainable future, while inaction would be costly.
Ban added a message to investors, such as pension fund managers: “Please reduce your investments in the coal- and fossil fuel-based economy and [move] to renewable energy.”
The report, released in Copenhagen on Sunday by the UN’sIntergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is the work of thousands of scientists and was agreed after negotiations by the world’s governments. It is the first IPCC report since 2007 to bring together all aspects of tackling climate change and for the first time states: that it is economically affordable; that carbon emissions will ultimately have to fall to zero; and that global poverty can only be reduced by halting global warming. The report also makes clear that carbon emissions, mainly from burning coal, oil and gas, are currently rising to record levels, not falling.
“We have the means to limit climate change,” said Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC. “The solutions are many and allow for continued economic and human development. All we need is the will to change.”
Lord Nicholas Stern, a professor at the London School of Economics and the author of an influential earlier study, said the new IPCC report was the “most important assessment of climate change ever prepared” and that it made plain that “further delays in tackling climate change would be dangerous and profoundly irrational”.
“The reality of climate change is undeniable, and cannot be simply wished away by politicians who lack the courage to confront the scientific evidence,” he said, adding that the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people were at risk.
Ed Davey, the UK energy and climate change secretary, said: “This is the most comprehensive and robust assessment ever produced. It sends a clear message: we must act on climate change now. John Kerry, the US secretary of state, said: “This is another canary in the coal mine. We can’t prevent a large scale disaster if we don’t heed this kind of hard science.”
Bill McKibben, a high-profile climate campaigner with 350.org, said: “For scientists, conservative by nature, to use ‘serious, pervasive, and irreversible’ to describe the effects of climate falls just short of announcing that climate change will produce a zombie apocalypse plus random beheadings plus Ebola.” Breaking the power of the fossil fuel industry would not be easy, McKibben said. “But, thanks to the IPCC, no one will ever be able to say they weren’t warned.”
Singapore shrouded by a haze as carbon emissions soar. Photograph: Roslan Rahman AFP/Getty Images
The new overarching IPCC report builds on previous reports on thescience, impacts and solutions for climate change. It concludes that global warming is “unequivocal”, that humanity’s role in causing it is “clear” and that many effects will last for hundreds to thousands of years even if the planet’s rising temperature is halted.
In terms of impacts, such as heatwaves and extreme rain storms causing floods, the report concludes that the effects are already being felt: “In recent decades, changes in climate have caused impacts on natural and human systems on all continents and across the oceans.”
Droughts, coastal storm surges from the rising oceans and wildlife extinctions on land and in the seas will all worsen unless emissions are cut, the report states. This will have knock-on effects, according to the IPCC: “Climate change is projected to undermine food security.” The report also found the risk of wars could increase: “Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts by amplifying well-documented drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks.”
Two-thirds of all the emissions permissible if dangerous climate change is to be avoided have already been pumped into the atmosphere, the IPPC found. The lowest cost route to stopping dangerous warming would be for emissions to peak by 2020 – an extremely challenging goal – and then fall to zero later this century.
The report calculates that to prevent dangerous climate change,investment in low-carbon electricity and energy efficiency will have to rise by several hundred billion dollars a year before 2030. But it also found that delaying significant emission cuts to 2030 puts up the cost of reducing carbon dioxide by almost 50%, partly because dirty power stations would have to be closed early. “If you wait, you also have to do more difficult and expensive things,” said Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London and an IPCC working group vice-chair.
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) – the nascent technology which aims to bury CO2 underground – is deemed extremely important by the IPPC. It estimates that the cost of the big emissions cuts required would more than double without CCS. Pachauri said: “With CCS it is entirely possible for fossil fuels to continue to be used on a large scale.”
The focus on CCS is not because the technology has advanced a great deal in recent years, said Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a professor at the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium and vice-chair of the IPCC, but because emissions have continued to increase so quickly. “We have emitted so much more, so we have to clean up more later”, he said.
Linking CCS to the burning of wood and other plant fuels would reduce atmospheric CO2 levels because the carbon they contain is sucked from the air as they grow. But van Ypersele said the IPCC report also states “very honestly and fairly” that there are risks to this approach, such as conflicts with food security.
In contrast to the importance the IPCC gives to CCS, abandoning nuclear power or deploying only limited wind or solar power increases the cost of emission cuts by just 6-7%. The report also states that behavioural changes, such as dietary changes that could involve eating less meat, can have a role in cutting emissions.
As part of setting out how the world’s nations can cut emissions effectively, the IPCC report gives prominence to ethical considerations. “[Carbon emission cuts] and adaptation raise issues of equity, justice, and fairness,” says the report. “The evidence suggests that outcomes seen as equitable can lead to more effective [international] cooperation.”
These issues are central to the global climate change negotiations and their inclusion in the report was welcomed by campaigners, as was the statement that adapting countries and coastlines to cope with global warming cannot by itself avert serious impacts.
“Rich governments must stop making empty promises and come up with the cash so the poorest do not have to foot the bill for the lifestyles of the wealthy,” said Harjeet Singh, from ActionAid.
The statement that carbon emissions must fall to zero was “gamechanging”, according to Kaisa Kosonen, from Greenpeace. “We can still limit warming to 2C, or even 1.5C or less even, [but] we need to phase out emissions,” she said. Unlike CCS, which is yet to be proven commercially, she said renewable energy was falling rapidly in cost.
Sam Smith, from WWF, said: “The big change in this report is that it shows fighting climate change is not going to cripple economies and that it is essential to bringing people out of poverty. What is needed now is concerted political action.” The rapid response of politicians to the recent global financial crisis showed, according to Smith, that “they could act quickly and at scale if they are sufficiently motivated”.
Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organisation, said the much greater certainty expressed in the new IPCC report would give international climate talks a better chance than those which failed in 2009. “Ignorance can no longer be an excuse for no action,” he said.
Observers played down the moves made by some countries with large fossil fuel reserves to weaken the language of the draft IPCC report written by scientists and seen by the Guardian, saying the final report was conservative but strong.
However, the statement that “climate change is expected to lead to increases in ill-health in many regions, including greater likelihood of death” was deleted in the final report, along with criticism that politicians sometimes “engage in short-term thinking and are biased toward the status quo”.