Tuesday, October 22, 2019

   

Stressed Pregnant Moms Are Less Likely to Have Boys, New Study Finds

Pregnant  women are less likely to have boys if they experience physical and  psychological stress, a new study has revealed. Researchers at the  National Academy of Scientists found that stressed moms-to-be were less  likely to give birth to boys and may also have a higher risk of preterm  birth. The study tracked 187 pregnant women, aged from 18 to 45, to  determine how maternal prenatal stress influenced offspring  neurodevelopment and birth outcomes. Researchers say that on average,  nature typically assures around 105 boys are born for every 100 female  births. However, the study found that four boys were born for every nine  girls when the mother had high blood pressure. Meanwhile, expectant  moms who were psychologically stressed had two boys for every three  girls, and the risk of premature birth also increased. The opposite  results were seen in pregnant women who received support from family and  friends, with the risk of premature delivery disappearing and the  chance of having a male increasing. According to a study from the  Department of Psychology at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, an  estimated 30 percent of pregnant women report psychosocial stress from  job strain or depression and anxiety. Despite the findings, researchers  emphasized that stress during pregnancy is completely normal and  pregnant women who ensure they get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet,  and exercise can minimize the effects of stress. (CNN)

Feds charge 337 with running dark web child porn site

Hundreds  worldwide have been charged with running or using a major child sexual  exploitation site that included videos of adults abusing children as  young as 2 years old, federal authorities. A nine-count indictment says  337 people in 24 U.S. states and 11 countries were arrested and charged.  The dark web, also known as “darknet,” is encrypted online  content that is not indexed by conventional search engines. Authorities  said the site contained 250,000 videos that were downloaded a million  times by users worldwide. The indictment says the site carried numerous  graphic videos depicting adults engaged in sexual acts with children as  young as 2 years old. Viewers could use a search engine to pick videos  by age, including “preteen hardcore” and “pedophile.” At least 23 young victims abused by the site’s users were rescued in the USA, Spain and the United Kingdom. (USA Today)

Paris zoo unveils the “blob”, an organism with no brain but 720 sexes

A Paris zoo showcased a mysterious new organism, dubbed the “blob”,  a yellowish unicellular small living being which looks like a fungus  but acts like an animal. This newest exhibit of the Paris Zoological  Park, which goes on display to the public on Saturday, has no mouth, no  stomach, no eyes, yet it can detect food and digest it. The blob also  has almost 720 sexes, can move without legs or wings and heals itself in  two minutes if cut in half. “The blob is a living being which belongs to one of nature’s mysteries”, said the director of the Paris Museum of Natural History, of which the Zoological Park is part. “It  surprises us because it has no brain but is able to learn (…) and if  you merge two blobs, the one that has learned will transmit its  knowledge to the other,” he added. The blob was named after a 1958  science-fiction horror B-movie, starring a young Steve McQueen, in which  an alien life form – The Blob – consumes everything in its path in a  small Pennsylvania town. (Reuters)

Excessive brain activity linked to a shorter life

One  key to a longer life could be a quieter brain without too much neural  activity, according to a new study that examined postmortem brain tissue  from extremely long-lived people for clues about what made them  different from people who died in their 60s and 70s. “Use it or lose it”  has dominated thinking on how to protect the aging brain, and extensive  research shows there are many benefits to remaining physically and  mentally active as people get older. But the study suggests more isn’t  always better. Excessive activity, at least at the level of brain cells,  could be harmful. Researchers at Harvard Medical School analyzed brain  tissue donated to human brain banks by people ranging in age from their  60s and 70s to centenarians who lived to be 100 or older. They found  people who died before their mid-80s had lower levels in their brains of  a protein called REST that tamps down genes involved in sparking brain  activity, compared to the very oldest people. REST had already been  shown to be protective against Alzheimer’s disease. But they weren’t  sure whether REST somehow protected people from death or was just a sign  of further aging. (Washington Post)

Robot hand teaches itself how to solve a Rubik’s cube

OpenAI,  the artificial intelligence research group that counts Elon Musk among  its founders, has been working on honing the skills of its neural  networks in various ways, but this one-handed robot demonstration is  probably its most impressive feat yet. The bot was tasked with solving a  Rubik’s Cube with one human-style hand. This might not sound all that  impressive, but it becomes a lot more interesting when you learn that  the bot’s creators never actually told it how to accomplish its goal.  The pair of neural networks working in tandem to observe the cube and  control the hand were simply instructed to make all the sides of the  cube match. The AI then trained itself in a computer simulation,  learning how the movements of the hand affect the cube and how gravity  affects the cube as it’s being manipulated. Multiple simulations can be  carried out at the same time and OpenAI says that this method of  training has allowed the AI to gain thousands of years worth of  experience in a very short period of time. Today, the robot can quickly  solve the cube under just about any condition. As the robot became more  skilled at completing the task, the researchers ramped up the difficulty  by adding external factors. The team experimented with a number of  things, such as placing a rubber glove on the hand to hinder its  movement, physically fiddling with the hand as it is trying to work, or  even wrapping rubber bands around the bot’s fingers. All of this helped  the robot become more reliable at solving the puzzle. OpenAI says that  this type of work is crucial in the progress of multi-purpose robots  that will require dexterity on par with a human. Surely this will come  in handy when the robots finally rise up and crush us. (New York Post)

California students get extra shuteye

Some  California students will be getting a bit more dreaming. The state has  mandated that middle schools start at 8am and high schools start a  half-hour later at 8:30am so the kids (at least theoretically) get more  sleep. This first-in-the-nation law is sure to disrupt households in  which school and work schedules are carefully aligned. But it is based  on Academy of Pediatrics guidance that teenagers should get between 8.5  and 9.5 hours of sleep “to function at their best.” (L.A. Times)
 

Drug giants near opioid deal

Three  major drug companies and two manufacturers may have agreed on a  framework for a nearly $50 billion settlement over the opioid crisis.  Amerisource Bergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson Corporation, along with  Johnson & Johnson and Teva would in turn be released from over  2,300 lawsuits if a settlement is reached. The cases allege that drug  companies’ aggressive marketing and poor oversight played a key role in  addiction to prescription painkillers. (The New York Times

World Series 2019

The  Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals are eyeing the title of  World Series champs, with Game 1 starting tonight at 8pm on Fox live  from Minute Maid Park. While the Astros won back in 2017, this is the  Nationals’ first World Series in franchise history. (CBS Sports)

Tuesday Returns With:

  • Caps Locks Day
  • International Stuttering Awareness Day
  • Kof Awareness Day
  • Make A Dog’s Day Day
  • National Color Day
  • National Nut Day
  • Simchat Torah
  • Smart is Cool Day
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