SCIENCE / RELIGION

All posts in the SCIENCE / RELIGION category

The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds: 2014

Published July 1, 2014 by Tony

– Highly Cited Researchers –

 

Through “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds: 2014, the Thomson Reuters IP & Science, in collaboration with Shanghai J. Tong university and Academic Ranking of World Universities,  shows those who are the best and brightest scientific minds of our time.
It’s an analysis report of the top researches around the globe who earned their distinction by publishing the highest number of articles that rank among those most frequently cited by fellow researches.
The 2014 list of the hottest researches was identified by tabulating citations that were recorded during the calendar year 2013 for papers published between 2011 and 2013.
These scientists will receive a recognition, a kind of brand and a logo that they can put on their websites.
Among the 3200 most cited researchers in the world, coming from 21 different fields of research, 55 are Italian.  Among the most influential scientists, Italians amounted to 2%, and in some field are really leader. In particular – as usual – they are so for what concerns the medical sciences, an area in which we record as many as 15 appearances. This is followed by other fields of research in which notoriously Italy stands out, such as technological research, astrophysics, pharmacology, agricultural science. 5 out of 55 are women.
A slight disappointment, however, comes from particle physics, a field of research in which Italians have a high school degree and an established tradition – just think of the constant presence of Italian researchers at CERN in Geneva. This is because from the rankings have been expunged those publications produced by many hands, which include some of the most important studies of which are parts of Italian researchers.

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PESSIMISM

Published January 6, 2014 by Tony

– A new search about –

 And I myself who believed to have a short life because anxious and tending to be a pessimist!
Pessimistic and anxious rejoice now!
A group of German researchers saw that pessimism may lead to longer and healthier life!
Older people who have low expectations for a satisfying future may be more likely to live longer, healthier lives than those who see brighter days ahead, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.
Our findings revealed that being overly optimistic in predicting a better future was associated with a greater risk of disability and death within the following decade,” said lead author Frieder R. Lang, PhD, of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany.
Pessimism about the future may encourage people to live more carefully, taking health and safety precautions.”
The study was published online in the journal Psychology and Aging.

To stay on topic, a search of the North Dakota State University has determined that “rethink the good old past days can help to overcome loneliness and anxiety.” It is a kind of “psychological comfort” which is a way to manage and control stressful situations.

Costa Concordia after the disaster

Published July 7, 2013 by Tony

– Concordia Salvaging –

The cruise ship “Costa Concordia” is lying half-submerged on the rocks of Giglio’s isle and has remained so since January 13, 2013, when the tragedy struck, with 4229 people on board, of which 30 died and 2 still missing.
The common goal, now, is to remove the boat and keep the sea clean protecting the environment. For this reason, together with technicians and engineers also collaborate researchers of University in Rome and agencies for environmental protection. From the tanks have already been removed more than 2,000 tons of diesel fuel without polluting the sea. Recovery works, divided into 4 phases and which will be lasting six months, have already begun. With the first phase by August, poles and cables will be stuck in the seabed and other poles in the cliff, in order to create a sort of “cradle” made with sandbags and a steel platform. The ship’s keel will be reinforced with steel plates and at the submerged side will be attacked some big and empty boxes. With the second phase, the boxes on the left side will be filled with water, to try to rotate and straighten the ship by pulling the cables. In the third phase, others bins will mount on the right side. Thru the final stage all the bins will be filled with air, to let the ship float and tow it.
The large piece of rock of 140 tons, still stuck in the keel, will be removed in pieces and put in its original place as a monument in memory of the tragedy.

CIRCUMCISION

Published June 30, 2013 by Tony

CUT or UNCUT?

In Africa, where HIV cases are very numerous and for years the contagion takes its toll without stopping, years ago a study among subjects circumcised and uncircumcised pointed out that circumcision led to a lower risk of infection.
The news went around the world and since then many doctors of any nationality, without posing the question, sided in favor of circumcision recommending it to all, as a method of HIV prevention and other urinary infections. Among them, the American Academy of pediatric that from long recommends all families the circumcision for all males newborn.
Fortunately, a lot of pediatricians and urologists, as Italians, have a different view and practice circumcision for therapeutic purposes only and exclusively for the correction of Phimosis, a common children pathology characterized by an abnormal narrowing of the foreskin, and only as a last-resort when the conventional medical therapies are not successful.
I say “fortunately” and there’ll explain why.
Apart from the fact that not all of us live in Africa or in countries where HIV is so widespread, to defend themselves effectively by this disease, there are also other better methods. Most HIV infections in Africa are transmitted by contaminated injections and surgical procedures. In  the studies, the effects of other variables that would influence HIV infection were not considered, and critical data were omitted. For example, the HIV status of the female partners of the men was not determined. It was not known which infections were heterosexually transmitted, the effect of circumcision on the rate of heterosexually transmitted HIV could not actually be determined. There are at least 17 observational studies that have not found any benefit from male circumcision in reducing HIV transmission. Among developed countries, the United States has the highest circumcision rate and the highest rate of heterosexually transmitted HIV. Other countries have lower rates of HIV infection than the United States and do not practice circumcision.
In addition, we must consider that the Postectomia surgery is not without risks, and although the incidence is low (0.1 to 35%) there may be complications such as pain, difficulty urinating, local edema, bleeding, flaws, fistula and complications to the penis.

Beyond HIV, circumcision was already widespread in some countries for religious reasons, but this is another story also questionable.
Our Lord has created us as we are and there was no reason to include some organ that was a simple plus. From an evolutionary and physician perspective, every organ in the human body has its specific task and nothing is to be considered as superfluous, beyond what the different cultures and religions suggest or require.
Therefore, the foreskin of the penis was not put there by accident and has its own importance.
One of the major side effects that many
circumcised people complain, it is the reduction of overall sensitivity, due to the loss of erogenous tissue. There is a less manageability of the penis, masturbation difficulties, numbness of the glans (which remaining exposed, it is no longer protected from rubbing on clothing), and of the frenulum (for many the most important for the purposes of pleasure), resulting in difficulty orgasmic. Refractory periods (recovery time) become longer and it’s necessary a stronger stimulation of the tissues, which “stressed” can make painful and frustrating the sexual intercourse and masturbation.

In all countries where circumcision is uncommon (like Europe, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Jamaica, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela), there was not an increase of HIV cases that can be attributed to lack of circumcision. American researchers tend to avoid studying or acknowledging the sexual and psychological harm associated with circumcision. This pro-circumcision bias in American medicine reflects the pro-circumcision bias in American culture. The United States is the only country in the world that in most cases circumcises some of its male infants for non-religious reasons.

circumcision

Here are ten compelling arguments against circumcision:

Argument #1
The foreskin is natural, necessary and important.
Far from an unnecessary extra flap of skin, the foreskin is actually a highly sensitive and functional organ that serves several important purposes. First, the glans or head of the penis is meant to be an internal organ and the foreskin covers and protects it from harm in much the same way as the eyelid protects the eye. In circumcised males, the glans becomes hardened or keratinized by constant exposure and irritation, which reduces sensitivity. The foreskin itself is a highly sensitive erogenous zone and has more nerve receptors and a greater variety of nerve receptors than any other part of the penis.

Argument #2
Most medical experts do not recommend neonatal circumcision.
There is no medical justification for routine infant circumcision. The purported correlations between an intact foreskin and various diseases and problems that circumcisers have used for years to convince parents to let them cut their newborns have been gradually disproved or shown to be insignificant.
A detailed breakdown of the connections— or lack thereof—between circumcision and conditions such as penile and prostate cancer, urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS, phimosis, balanitis xerotica obliterans (BXO) and even cervical cancer in female partners, is beyond the scope of this article, but parents should be aware that the American Academy of Pediatrics states that, “The existing scientific evidence is not sufficient to recommend routine circumcision,” and the Canadian Paediatric Society confirmed their stance in 1996 that, “Circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed.”

Argument #3
The penis is naturally self-cleaning and proper hygiene is easy to teach and perform.
The foreskin protects the glans from contaminants and debris. An intact foreskin can also produce a natural moisturizing substance with antibacterial and antiviral properties called smegma, which helps keep the glans soft and the penis clean and healthy.
When a baby boy is born, the foreskin is actually attached to the glans to shelter the developing glans from harm. Some doctors still suggest that parents should forcibly retract a baby’s foreskin in order to clean it, but there is no need to do so. The foreskin will naturally detach from the glans as the boy ages and eventually he’ll be able to retract it. Pulling back the foreskin in the shower or bath and rinsing it with warm water is all the cleaning an adult requires in this area. Surgical alteration is hardly necessary to keep the penis clean when warm water and soap are readily available.

Argument #4
Circumcision affects sexual function and desensitizes the penis.
Removing a highly sensitive organ like the foreskin will logically reduce sensation in the genital area. In fact, this point was touted in Victorian times as a benefit of the operation. Masturbation was then thought of as a grave sin and a serious health risk, to blame for nearly all diseases. Since circumcised boys would receive less pleasure from sexual stimulation, they would be less likely to engage in the evil of masturbation.
The foreskin facilitates sexual intercourse by allowing the penis to move in and out of the vagina in its own double-layered sheath of movable skin. Circumcised males lack the self- lubricating properties of the foreskin, which creates friction during intercourse that can result in small tears and bleeding in both the man and woman. Artificial lubricants have been developed largely to make up for the function of the foreskin in circumcised men. The long-term effects of these chemical lubricants are not known.

Argument #5
He doesn’t need to be cut to fit in.
Much has been made of the idea that an uncircumcised boy in our modern society could find himself ridiculed by other circumcised boys in locker rooms, causing serious psychological damage. Boys will find any excuse to make fun of each other and if it’s not the appearance of his penis, it will be something else. Providing a child with a combination of education, honesty and confidence is the best defense against this sort of teasing.
The rate of infant circumcision has been falling steadily since the 1980s, so an uncircumcised boy today may actually find himself in the majority. In 1996, the rate of circumcision in Canada was between three and six percent, falling from a high of 46 percent.
Another pro-cutting argument is the desire of the circumcised father to have his son look the same as him, but this is not so much for the benefit of the son as it is for the father. A boy will be capable of understanding the difference and the reason for it and may someday even thank his parents for giving him the choice his father never had.

Argument #6
Circumcision is painful and traumatic for babies.
Many circumcisers try to convince parents that babies are incapable of experiencing pain and even if they do feel it, they won’t remember it. In fact, scientific evidence proves that babies do feel pain and may feel it even more acutely than adults. Yet most circumcisions are performed without general anaesthesia, which is dangerous for children, and frequently without local anaesthesia in the form of shots or creams that cannot completely eliminate the pain anyway.
The pain of circumcision can have serious repercussions on the body of a newborn baby. Babies are known to scream hysterically, stop breathing, lose consciousness, vomit and defecate during the operation. The shock of the surgery can even cause ruptures of the heart, lungs and stomach.
The effects of this trauma can continue after the surgery is completed. Some babies experience severely disrupted sleep patterns, breastfeeding complications and interruptions of the infant- mother attachment process after circumcision.

Argument #7
There are serious potential complications to circumcision.
The rates of complications and accidents related to circumcision is nearly impossible to determine since hospitals are not required to report these incidents, but it is estimated to range from two to 10 percent, while at least one out of every 500 circumcisions results in a serious surgical accident.
The risks of circumcision include bleeding, infection, necrosis (the penis dies and falls off), gangrene, BXO, urinary tract infection, urinary retention, meatal ulceration or stenosis (the urinary opening is damaged, scarred or contracted), urethral fistula (an abnormal tube-like passage in the urethra), hypospadias or epispadias (when the urinary opening appears along the top or bottom of the penis rather than at the tip of the glans) and lymphedema (a swelling of the skin caused by a build-up of lymph fluid).
Botched circumcisions can result in buried penis (the penis retreats inside the body), adhesions, excessive skin loss, curvature of the penis, cysts, skin tags, pitting of the glans, scarring, impotence, amputation of the glans or the entire penis and even death.

Argument #8
We don’t mutilate the genitals of our baby girls.
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is practiced in many cultures around the world. The World Health Organization estimates that as many as two million girls each year are subjected to some sort of genital cutting, which may include amputation of the clitoris, the hood of the clitoris and/or the labia, as well as stitching closed the vaginal opening afterward. Three quarters of these cases occur in the countries of Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan.
This kind of genital surgery is seen in the West as barbaric, tribal and torturous. Since the 1990s when FGM was first revealed to the North American public at large, major efforts have gone into eradicating the practice around the world. Yet we still expose our boys to similarly painful, traumatic and unnecessary surgery in North America as a matter of course.

Argument #9
I do not believe that those who have sex (hetero-or homo-) with a stranger they feel protected just because are circumcised, and should always use a condom. A nonsense. Condoms are better than 99% effective and if circumcision results in lower condom use, the rate of HIV infections will increase.

Argument #10
Religious tradition is a poor excuse to subject your baby to circumcision. The history of circumcision is a long and complicated one. As a symbolic ritual it appeared independently in many different ancient cultures around the world. It has been imbued with a variety of meanings—identifying a priestly class, indicating privilege, initiating boys into manhood and representing a commitment to God.

To conclude, I think that as in all the important choices (sexuality, religion, lifestyle, study, work, career) parents ought not take these decisions on their own and make choices that might not be shared by their children when they become adults, especially for those that are irreversible, such as circumcision.

Margherita Hack death

Published June 29, 2013 by Tony

Today, at 91 years, Margherita Hack, is dead, an Italian scientist considered an icon and a reference to the world of astrophysics. Born in Florence June 12, 1922, Hack was one of the most brilliant minds of the Italian scientific community. She was the first woman to direct an astronomical observatory in Italy, played an important activity of disclosure and gave a considerable contribution to the search for the study of many different types of stars’ spectral classification. The scientist is member of the Accademia dei Lincei, the International Union of Astronomers and Royal Astronomical Society.
A warm farewell to her that on TV has always tried to put in a simple way each topic not easy to understand for the general public.

DSM –

Published May 17, 2013 by Tony

EATING DISORDERS

The eating disorders are on the rise (a sort of DSM), especially among women, and not only among adolescents, because today even forties chase a stereotypical model of beauty, with the illusion of stopping time and find a sexier body.
In Italy, this problem affects 5% of women and becomes a social problem.
Yet, the death of Isabelle Caro, the French fashion model who made scandal for her photos for a campaign against anorexia, should serve as a warning.
In Italy, about 0.8% of the population suffer from anorexia, but a much greater proportion suffer from eating disorders, of which 9 out of 10 are female.
The true Anorexia leads women to get excited for their thinness, to maintain at all costs and become fasting-dependent. The next step is bulimia, a worse condition because it is not about thinness that can lead to death, but thru the bad and constant habit to eat and vomit or purging, even with the use of drugs.
The reflection is not to be done on standards of beauty but rather on the media mechanisms that induce these canons, especially for women at an age close to menopause. Once, at that age women no longer had the duty to express sexual signals, becoming free.
Today, also this freedom is vanishing.

How important the dimensions are

Published April 19, 2013 by Tony

Penis size influence male attractiveness

No doubt that the research of the ideal partner is done on an aesthetic basis, at least at first glance, because subjectively characteristics affect more than others do.
For example, according to woman preferences, in a man the physical prowess strikes more, like the size of the shoulders and musculature in general, besides the beauty of the face.
But for our ancestors, the prehistoric men, were these same princes worth?
Starting from the fact that our ancestors did not use clothes, a team of Australian biologists wondered if at that time, the male genital organ easily visible, fell within the parameters of choice of a potential partner. It’s to say if penis size interacts with body shape and height to influence male attractiveness.
It’s obvious that going around naked, the sexual organ could be evaluated and taken into account, the same way as other physical characteristics of a male subject.
In particular, the team was asking what role the penis size may have had for women in their partner choice. Given that man is the only primate to have a sexual organs bigger than other, this can be taken into consideration as an element that has been subject of evolution, that is to say that the choices that women did in the past, may have influenced the evolution of the partner, so that those who had a bigger penis was favored to the others. To see whether this kind of evolutionary heritage was still active today, the team of researchers at the University of Ottawa, has analyzed the importance that the penis traits gets in determining the level of a man’s attractiveness.
Using different animated images in 3D, full-size, about male bodies of different height, body shape and size of the penis, coming from a study of Italian men, the researchers recorded the preferences of 105 women chosen for the test.
It came out that in addition to prefer broad shoulders and narrow hips, also the size of the penis had been valued by women as a factor of attractiveness, and that in general the higher dimensions are considered more attractive, although up to certain values. Namely, the extreme dimensions (such as height or size of the penis) were no longer considered as attractive. Therefore, the size of the genital organs helps to determine the masculine appeal, and the study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). These results, furthermore, as authors say, lead to believe that in the past the women’s choices have driven the evolution to promote (genetically) bigger penis in humans, till to reach the existent average size.

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