The Selfish Gene turns 40

via Prof Sugata Mitra

Richard Dawkins biologist, athiest
Richard Dawkins today: he has regretted the title of his book, since many failed to see ‘selfish’ was being used metaphorically. Photograph: Murdo Macleod for the Observer

In 1976 Richard Dawkins’s study of evolutionary theory became the first popular science bestseller. How do its ideas stand up today?

It’s 40 years since Richard Dawkins suggested, in the opening words of The Selfish Gene, that, were an alien to visit Earth, the question it would pose to judge our intellectual maturity was: “Have they discovered evolution yet?” We had, of course, by the grace of Charles Darwin and a century of evolutionary biologists who had been trying to figure out how natural selection actually worked. In 1976, The Selfish Gene became the first real blockbuster popular science book, a poetic mark in the sand to the public and scientists alike: this idea had to enter our thinking, our research and our culture.

The Selfish Gene - illustrated by Desmond Morris.
The original book cover, illustrated by Desmond Morris.

The idea was this: genes strive for immortality, and individuals, families, and species are merely vehicles in that quest. The behaviour of all living things is in service of their genes hence, metaphorically, they are selfish. Before this, it had been proposed that natural selection was honing the behaviour of living things to promote the continuance through time of the individual creature, or family, or group or species. But in fact, Dawkins said, it was the gene itself that was trying to survive, and it just so happened that the best way for it to survive was in concert with other genes in the impermanent husk of an individual.

Continue reading “The Selfish Gene turns 40”

South Africa testing anti-HIV vaccine

by Katharine Child

Researchers are not expecting the vaccine to offer 100% protection from HIV. A similar trial of the vaccine in Thailand resulted in various degrees of protection.

The only HIV vaccine that currently has the potential to be licensed and used for treatment is being tested in South Africa.

Scientists will know in May if they can test it on 7000 people, said investigator Professor Glenda Gray, president of the SA Medical Research Council.

The vaccine – the only one shown to be reasonably effective against HIV after 30 years of research – is being tested on 100 people in this country. It is designed to activate the immune system to fight the virus.

The results of the test will be known in May. If the vaccine proves to be effective, regulators will give the go-ahead for a large phase-three trial involving about 7000 subjects. If that trial is successful the drug can be licensed and sold.

Researchers are not expecting the vaccine to offer 100% protection from HIV. A similar trial of the vaccine in Thailand resulted in varying degrees of protection.

South African scientists have modified the vaccine to make it more potent and trial participants will get an extra injection in the hope that its effects will last longer, said Professor Gray.

“I wish we had done this vaccine trial in South Africa nine years ago, when it went to Thailand.”

This is just one of a range of HIV trials in South Africa.

Next month researchers will give 1700 women in sub-Saharan Africa a drip containing antibodies against HIV. Scientists want to know if giving antibodies regularly confers protection against HIV.

Only a small percentage of patients create this antibody, which protects against multiple strains of HIV. The trial participants will be given a drip once every two months for nearly two years. South African women have been recruited.

source: Times Live

Robert De Niro screens anti-vaccination documentary at Tribeca Film Festival

Acot Robert De Niro is known as a man who values his privacy.

Rober De Niro crying

But the double Oscar winner opened up about his family in a rare personal statement on Friday – as he defended his decision to screen a controversial anti-vaccination documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival.

‘Grace and I have a child with autism and we believe it is critical that all of the issues surrounding the causes of autism be openly discussed and examined,’ he said, referencing his wife of 18 years Grace Hightower.

De Niro went on: ‘In the 15 years since the Tribeca Film Festival was founded, I have never asked for a film to be screened or gotten involved in the programming.

‘However this is very personal to me and my family and I want there to be a discussion, which is why we will be screening VAXXED.

‘I am not personally endorsing the film, nor am I anti-vaccination; I am only providing the opportunity for a conversation around the issue.’

The actor’s son Elliot, who just turned 18, is thought to be the child the father-of-six is referring to. De Niro founded the Tribeca Film Festical, giving him the opportunity to insist upon adding Vaxxed: From Cover-Up To Catastrophe to its schedule.

source: Daily Mail

Mercury in canned tuna still a concern

New tests reinforce a need for some people to limit consumption.

Canned Tuna MercuryCanned tuna, Americans’ favorite fish, is the most common source of mercury in our diet. New tests of 42 samples from cans and pouches of tuna bought primarily in the New York metropolitan area and online confirm that white (albacore) tuna usually contains far more mercury than light tuna.

Children and women of childbearing age can easily consume more mercury than the Environmental Protection Agency considers advisable simply by eating one serving of canned white tuna or two servings of light tuna per week. A serving is about 2.5 ounces. Expect a 5-ounce can to contain about 4 ounces of tuna plus liquid.

The heavy metal accumulates in tuna and other fish in an especially toxic form, methylmercury, which comes from mercury released by coal-fired power plants and other industrial or natural sources, such as volcanoes.

Fortunately, it’s easy to choose lowermercury fish that are also rich in healthful omega-3 fatty acids. That’s especially important for women who are pregnant or might become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children, because fetuses and youngsters seem to face the most risk from methylmercury’s neurotoxic effects.

Results from our tuna tests, conducted at an outside lab, underscore the longheld concern for those people. We found:

  • Every sample contained measurable levels of mercury, ranging from 0.018 to 0.774 parts per million. The Food and Drug Administration can take legal action to pull products containing 1 ppm or more from the market. (It never has, according to an FDA spokesman.) The EPA compiles fish advisories when state and local governments have found high contaminant levels in certain locally caught fish.
  • Samples of white tuna had 0.217 to 0.774 ppm of mercury and averaged 0.427 ppm. By eating 2.5 ounces of any of the tested samples, a woman of childbearing age would exceed the daily mercury intake that the EPA considers safe.
  • Samples of light tuna had 0.018 to 0.176 ppm and averaged 0.071 ppm. At that average, a woman of childbearing age eating 2.5 ounces would get less than the EPA’s limit, but for about half the tested samples, eating 5 ounces would exceed the limit.

In 2006 we scrutinized the results of the FDA’s tests in 2002 to 2004 of mercury levels in hundreds of samples of canned tuna. The agency’s white-tuna samples averaged 0.353 ppm; light tuna, 0.118 ppm. But we found that as much as 6 percent of the FDA’s light-tuna samples had at least as much mercury as the average in white tuna—in some cases more than twice as much.

Given the uncertainties about the impact of occasional fetal exposure to such high levels, we urged the FDA to warn consumers about occasional spikes in mercury levels in canned light tuna. More than four years later, the FDA still hasn’t issued such a warning. When we asked why, an FDA spokesman indicated that the agency had already taken the spikes into account when formulating its mercury advice.

Bottom line

Canned tuna, especially white, tends to be high in mercury, and younger women and children should limit how much they eat. As a precaution, pregnant women should avoid tuna entirely. Our answers to the questions in Fish Q & A can help you get the nutritional benefits of fish and minimize exposure to mercury.

source: Consumer Reports

16 Health Benefits of Lemons: the Alkaline Powerfood

Fresh LemonsLemons are acidic to the taste, but are alkaline forming in the body. In fact they are one of the most alkaline forming foods; this makes them great for balancing a highly acidic condition in the body.

Lemons are a favorite all over the world and an essential food in kitchens around the world.
Learn how to use them properly in our Spring Cleanse.

We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons.” Alfred E. Newman

16 Health Benefits of Lemons:

1. Lemons are alkalizing for the body: Lemons are acidic to begin with but they are alkaline forming on body fluids helping to restore balance to the body’s pH.

2. Lemons are rich in vitamin C and flavonoids that work against infections like colds and flues.

3. Your liver loves lemons: The lemon is a wonderful stimulant to the liver and is a dissolvent of uric acid and other poisons, liquefies the bile” says Back to Eden Mr. Kloss. Fresh lemon juice added to a large glass of water in the morning is a great liver detoxifier.

4. Cleans your bowels: Lemons increase peristalsis in the bowels helping to create a bowel movement thus eliminating waste and bonus to help with being regularity. Add the juice of one lemon to warm water and drink after you Drink your two to three cups of Water First Thing in the Morning .

5. Scurvy is treated by giving one to two ounces of lemon juice diluted with water every two to four hours. In 1747, a naval James Lind cured scurvy with fresh lemons. To this day, the British Navy requires ships to carry enough lemons so that every sailor can have one ounce of juice a day. This is where the English got their nickname Limeys. Pirates used to eat Lemons to save them from the dreaded scurvy! http://youtu.be/2HYUaLiNPxE

6. The citric acid in lemon juice helps to dissolve gallstones, calcium deposits, and kidney stones.

7. Vitamin C in lemons helps to neutralize free radicals linked to aging and most types of disease.

8. The lemon peel contains the potent phytonutrient tangeretin, which has been proven to be effective for brain disorders like Parkinson’s disease.

9. In India Ayurveda medicine values the lemon as a fruit and for its properties. It is sour, warm, promoter of gastric fire, light, good for vision, pungent and astringent.

10. It destroys intestinal worms.

11. When there is insufficient oxygen and difficulty in breathing such as when mountain climbing lemons are very helpful. The first man, Edmund Hillary to reach the top of Mt. Everest, said that his success on Mt. Everest was greatly due to lemons.

12. Lemons have powerful antibacterial properties; experiments have found the juice of lemons destroy the bacteria of malaria, cholera, diphtheria, typhoid and other deadly diseases.

13. Blood vessels are strengthened by the Vitamin P in lemon thus prevents internal haemorrhage. Also, making it useful in treating high blood pressure.

14. The symptoms of eye disorders, including diabetic retinopathy have been shown in research to improve due to the Rutin, found in lemons.

15. Lemons contain 22 anti-cancer compounds, including naturally occurring limonene; oil which slows or halts the growth of cancer tumors in animals and flavonol glycosides which stop cell division in cancer cells.

16. According to The Reams Biological Ionization Theory (RBTI), the lemon is the ONLY food in the world that is Anionic (it’s electron has a negative charge). All other foods are cationic (it’s outer electron has positive charge.) This makes it extremely useful to health as it is the interaction between anions and cations that ultimately provides all cell energy.

History, Trivia and Interesting Lemon Facts:

  • Fashionable ladies used lemon juice as a way to redden their lips during the European Renaissance.
  • The lemon is a small evergreen tree native to Asia.
  • The lemon originated in the Indus Valley; a lemon-shaped earring from 2500 BC by archaeologists.
  • Lemons have been in cultivation around the Mediterranean from as early as the first century A.D
  • Lemon trees produce fruit all year round. The trees can produce between 500 and 600 pounds of lemons in a year.
  • Once upon a time lemons were presented as gifts to kings because they were so rare.
  • California and Arizona produce 95% of the entire U.S. lemon crop.

Lemon Nutrition:

  • Lemons contain vitamin C, citric acid, flavonoids, B-complex vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and fiber.
  • Lemons contain more potassium than apple or grapes, which is beneficial to the heart.

source: Real Food for Life

A Conversation with Vandana Shiva

Environmental leader, eco-feminist, philosopher, and quantum physicist, Vandana Shiva’s expertise seems to have no limits. She has become a globally respected activist for grassroots and alternative globalization movements, biodiversity, bioethics, intellectual property rights, and sustainable living. Some of her books include Staying Alive (1988), The Violence of the Green Revolution (1992), Monocultures of the Mind (1993), Biopiracy (1997), Water Wars (2002), Earth Democracy (2005), and Soil Not Oil (2008). Shiva’s scholarship and activism has been recognized internationally and she has won numerous awards, including the Right Livelihood Award, considered the Alternative Nobel Prize.

Ian Mauro is a Canada Research Chair in “human dimensions of environmental change” at Mount Allison University, in Sackville, New Brunswick. He is both a researcher and filmmaker, with a PhD in environmental science, and his work focuses on hunter, farmer and fisher knowledge regarding environmental change, specifically issues related to food security and climate change. He first interviewed Dr. Shiva in 2002, as part of his doctoral research on farmer knowledge and biotechnology in the Canadian prairies, which in part resulted in the documentary film Seeds of Change (http://www.seedsofchangefilm.org/). He subsequently went on to make various films, including Qapirangajuq: Inuit Knowledge and Climate Change (http://www.isuma.tv/lo/en/inuit-knowl…), with acclaimed Inuk filmmaker Zacharias Kunuk, as well as the Climate Change in Atlantic Canada project (http://www.climatechangeatlantic.com).

The conversation between Drs. Mauro and Shiva took place on February 26th, 2012 at Mount Allison University, with a full audience of 300+ people. This was Shiva’s only New Brunswick event, on a larger Maritime tour, and she went beyond the surface issues facing our world today and explored, through conversation, the solutions and deep changes required for humans to find a more balanced relationship with the earth and each other.

For more information about Dr. Vandana Shiva, visit the Navdanya website: http://www.navdanya.org/