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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Alzheimer’s Cure?

A friend who knows that my husband has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, sent me a link
to a website that had information on incorporating coconut oil in his diet to improve his condition.  I was just ‘blown away’ by what I read and viewed on video clips about this miraculous ‘cure’. If the coconut oil is started before the dementia is advanced, it can usually reverse the process and restore the person’s memory, energy and personality.
Like most people, for a long time I avoided anything to do with coconuts because there was so much talk some years ago about how it raised cholesterol levels and caused heard disease. That happened to be a case of a little knowledge being a bad thing. With more detailed research we now know that there are two kinds of ‘cholesterol’ – bad LDL and good HDL – and that coconut oil increases the level of the good HDL to the extent it tends to clear out the bad plaque blockages in your arteries.
It has been known for some time that Alzheimer’s disease is associated with the amyloid protein in the brain but the way it operates to cause Alzheimer’s was a mystery. Now studies show that the real cause is that the brain becomes resistant to the absorption of blood sugar. That means the brain cells die of starvation unless they have a source of a type of compound called ‘ketones’ that the brain cells can use as ‘food’ instead.  Ketones are scarce in the blood stream because to make them, the liver needs ‘medium chain triglerides’ [MCT] that are found in coconut oil. Unfortunately, the oil can provide only relatively low levels of ketones and, since the beneficial effect of ketones is directly related to the amount available in the blood, much better sources are been studied by Dr. Richard Veech. Hopefully a ketone ester will eventually be available in capsule form, and it would be a much easier way to ingest it for those who find it difficult to eat enough coconut oil.
In doing the research before writing this post, I found a lot of other good news about coconut oil and ketones. They can also greatly benefit those with other neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease, ALS [Lou Gehrig’s disease], epilepsy, dementia, schizophrenia, autism, etc.  It also helps those with sluggish metabolism because of hypothyroid problems and that results in weight loss of excess fat.
I found out that for those who are candidates for Alzheimer’s disease, the process of brain cell starvation actually starts 10-20 years before there are actual symptoms so its use especially as a cooking oil is a good plan especially if there is a history of demensia in your family.  A word of warning, check the label and be sure to get non hydrogenated, virgin coconut oil.   Rie

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Moon Phases

In Canada we still celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday on the 24th of May and, since it is adjusted to fall on the closest Monday to give us a long weekend, it is a public holiday tomorrow. Traditionally, this  is the day we plant our seedlings in the garden because it is so rare that we get a frost this late in May.  However, I checked using Google just the same to see the phase of the moon because I, like most people, believed that the nights with full moon are coldest and most likely to be frosty. To my surprise, I found that my firmly held conviction has no basis in fact and that the moon actually has no power to effect the weather at all!  It turns out to be one of those human quirks we have, where we clearly remember the times something that’s predicted does happen and easily forget the times it doesn’t.  It’s called ‘conformational bias’.

Like most people, until recently I couldn’t have explained why the moon waxes and wanes through monthly cycles until I found a video of a classroom demonstration and a diagram like the one on the right. To make sense of the diagram, you have to take into consideration that: 
1.We are looking down on one of the poles of the Earth in the centre as it is turning on its axis so in one 24 hour period we experience both day and night.  
2. The sunshine, coming in from the right hand side in the picture, shines only on one side of the moon all the time because the moon doesn't turn on it’s axis and 
3. the moon circles around the earth in roughly a month [29.53 days]. 
The diagram shows 8 positions of the moon represented by the circle of smaller moons all with just one face lit by sun.   
To understand why the moon is full once a month, start on the left hand side of the diagram and you see the larger outside picture of the moon is totally lit by the sun coming in from the right. The dotted line from Earth pointing to the full moon shows its position when it is directly overhead once a month. Now, going counter clockwise around the circle, the next dotted line with the small bracket at the end shows our view of the moon in that new position [the picture of the larger moon outside the circle is what we see].  Following the dotted lines around, when we come to the one pointing directly to the right, we can’t see any moon at all in that position because the sunlit side is away from us. The Earth is also shown sunlit on the right but remember it is turning on its axis and night will soon come – but still with no moon in sight. Three or 4 days later the dotted line gives our view where we see only a partly lit crescent moon and so on.
If you’re still having trouble visualize all the motions of the sun shining on the moon,  the moon moving around the earth and the earth rotating, it should be easier to envision if you click on this video.
As astronomers say when they sign off - Clear Skies!    Rie

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Troglodyte Dwellings

I first heard the term ‘troglodyte’ used when we toured Tunisia in 2006 and read about troglodyte houses that had been discovered in the Sahara Desert. When I looked it up I found one of the definitions for ‘troglodyte’ was a member of a race that lived in caves or holes. [It’s also not a flattering name for an out-of-date person, sometimes including someone who is computer illiterate!]
Most troglodyte homes in Tunisia were discovered in a place called Matmata. It was not generally known until fairly recently that there were regular settlements in that area of the Sahara Desert that was thought to be just the territory of wandering nomadic desert tribes of Berbers. It turns out most Berbers built their dwellings by digging large pits about 15 or 20 feet deep and then carving out rooms in the walls. To enter, you have to walk down a narrow passageway that can be blocked off for safety sake in case of an attack by pillagers or any unwanted enemy. The open courtyard of a pit house is comfortably cool since hot air rises and the ground temperature is much cooler at that level than at the surface, which made living in the very hot desert amazingly comfortable. Some families are so large they occupy two or three smaller pits joined by trenches or passageways.  
The terrain and houses are so unique around Matmata that it was chosen as the base for making two episodes of the movie ‘Star Wars’ and also ‘The Raiders of the Lost Ark’ movie.  Click on the video and it takes you on a tour of one of the larger pit houses that was used in Star Wars movies. 
Open pit houses obviously can only work because there is very little rainfall in the desert but there were many other homes we saw that were dug into the side of a hill. Often there was an opening with no door and if the inhabitants were home, they appeared to be quite used to curious tourists like us visiting.

The most amazing 'troglodyte' complexes we have ever visited were in the Cappadocia area of Turkey where solidified volcanic ash makes for relatively easy digging. Over the centuries, perhaps since the Bronze Age, dozens of underground cities that can be as many as 8 stories down have been dug in the region. The reason for the extrordinaty effort it must have taken create these huge complexes was likely so inhabitants could block off entrances to survive the many invasions of their country especially after the fall of the Roman Empire. As seen in the picture above, they have large vent holes that are open from above ground wells and end conveniently in the underground water table.  Interconnecting passageways formed a huge network to many other subterranean cities and at one time the whole complex could hold tens of thousands of people with animals and provisions.
With global warming already making summers unbearably hot for some, especially in poorer undeveloped parts of the world, it is entirely possible future generations will have to resort to some form of troglodyte dwellings where they can escape from the heat. I have had a comfortable room built in the basement of our house to escape to. I find even during our Canadian summers we can get a few unbearably-hot-for-me days.  Rie  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Adrenalin Kick

‘Honesty is the best policy’ Anon
Polygraphs or ‘lie detectors’ of one sort of another have been around since the turn of the 20th century and are used in many countries as an aid to groups such as law enforcement agencies and employment organizations. To eliminate the problem posed by our doctor friend, only yes or no answers are demanded of the person being tested.
The test is based on the theory that when a person lies, they involuntarily release certain hormones like adrenaline from an area deep in their brain. These hormones cause the famous ‘fight or flight’ reaction that makes their heart beat faster, increases their blood pressure and breathing rate and causes them to sweat. Getting all hooked up to take the test, I think would tend to make anyone anxious and for that reason, the examiner usually poses innocuous test questions and the results are checked over with a person to be tested to create a relaxed atmosphere.  To further reassure them, the person taking the test is also made familiar ahead of time with all the questions to be asked.

I was surprised when I looked up polygraph testing on the Internet to find a number of prominent sites that can teach you how to cheat the machine and pass the tests even if you are guilty.  Since they are now no longer believed to be infallible, in most places lie detector test results are not permissible as evidence in courts. This is most unfortunate since innocent people are sometimes jailed and criminals freed because of the ease with which lies can be told in court.

Fortunately, it is possible that modern science could be coming to the rescue. As with the important forensic successes now possible using reliable DNA identification tests, 21st century neuroscientist are working toward an infallible lie detection test. Apparently two companies are doing research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machines to do brain imaging to detect deception under controlled laboratory conditions.  The new ability that this machine provides to analyse what is happening inside someone’s head when they are actually telling a lie, presents serious ethical questions that will have to be sorted out in the courts before they could be used. Let us hope that in the future the threat of using these new methods will be enough to deter witnesses from lying when on the stand in court.   Rie