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September 7, 2006, 5:09 AM CT

State Health Department Web Sites

State Health Department Web Sites
Many Web sites are written well above the comprehension level of the average American and are inaccessible to people with disabilities and non-English speakers, concludes a new report by Brown University researchers Darrell M. West and Edward Alan Miller published in the Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved (available online in html and pdf).

"Inaccessible Web sites hurt the underprivileged and make it difficult to justify the investment in technology that has taken place in state governments around the country," the authors state. "Unless these concerns are addressed, public e-health will remain the domain of highly educated and affluent individuals who speak English and do not suffer from physical impairments".

West and Miller examined the accessibility, privacy and security of public Web sites maintained by the 50 state governments in the United States in the last two to five years. Using content analysis, they focused on readability levels, disability access, non-English accessibility and the presence of privacy and security statements.

They determined that text on the majority of sites employs a reading level too difficult to comprehend for most users. Though half of Americans read at an eighth-grade level, only 20 percent of state health department Web sites were written at that level in 2005, the authors found. The analysis concludes that 62 percent of the sites were written at the 12th grade level in the same year.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

September 7, 2006, 4:51 AM CT

Migraine Among Women

Migraine Among Women
Migraines are more common in the United States than diabetes, osteoarthritis or asthma. Of the 28 million people who experience migraines in this country, 18 million are women. Eventhough prevention is very effective in managing this disorder, only 3 percent to 5 percent of women seek preventive treatment.

To better understand this issue and provide guidance for physicians treating female migraine patients, Mayo Clinic in Arizona Women's Health Internal Medicine physicians evaluated all the major studies on the disorder reported in the past five years. They compiled study results into a concise review for clinicians, reported in the August 2006 issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

"Most people with migraines first seek help from their primary care provider instead of a neurologist or a specialist. The purpose of our paper is to provide more information for primary care physicians who typically manage these cases," says Beverly Tozer, M.D., who led the review.

The review emphasized preventive therapies for migraines at different stages of a female's life. As per Dr. Tozer, good evidence suggests that hormonal changes effect migraine development, with migraines being most prevalent during the reproductive years.

"Almost one-fourth of women in their reproductive years experience migraines," Dr. Tozer says. "During these years, women are building both their families and their careers. The predominance of this disorder in women with its associated social, functional and economic consequences makes migraine an important issue in women's health".........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

September 6, 2006, 9:57 PM CT

Dark Matter Proof in doubt

Dark Matter Proof in doubt
When Douglas Clowe of the University of Arizona in Tucson announced on 21 August that his team had "direct proof of dark matter's existence", it seemed the issue had been settled. Now proponents of the so-called modified theories of gravity, who explain the motion of stars and galaxies without resorting to dark matter, have hit back and are suggesting that Clowe's team has jumped the gun.

"One should not draw premature conclusions about the existence of dark matter without a careful analysis of alternative gravity theories," writes John Moffat, of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, who pioneered an alternative theory of gravity known as MOG (

The controversy centres on the pattern of gravitational lensing, or the bending of light, around the Bullet cluster of galaxies, which formed from the collision of two clusters. While most of the Bullet cluster's visible mass lies in a pool of hot gas near the centre, galaxies can also be seen on either side. Clowe's study of lensing indicates that most of the mass is contained in the two lobes, rather than in the pool of gas. The team says this is evidence of dark matter surrounding the galaxies.

Moffat claims that his MOG theory can explain the Bullet cluster without an ounce of dark matter. In MOG, gravity acts as predicted by Newton's inverse square law up to a certain distance from the gravitating mass, after which it gets a little stronger. In the Bullet cluster, the complex arrangement of galaxies and hot gas combines to make gravity strongest in the lobes, so that is where the lensing would be most apparent. Moffat has worked this out for the Bullet cluster using a.........

Posted by: John      Permalink         Source

September 6, 2006, 9:49 PM CT

How safe is drinking water?

How safe is drinking water?
Are disinfection by-products (DBPs) in drinking water harmful to an unborn fetus? According to a study in the recent issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology (available online September 5), a team of researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health headed by David A. Savitz, Ph.D., Director of the Center of Excellence in Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Disease Prevention at MSSM, and formerly Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have determined that drinking water DBPs -- in the range commonly encountered in the US -- do not affect fetal survival. This finding is particularly important because previous research has suggested that exposure to elevated levels of drinking water DBPs might cause pregnancy loss.

The interaction of chlorine with organic material in raw water supplies produces chemical DBPs of health concern, including trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs). Several epidemiological studies have addressed potential reproductive toxicity of DBPs. The strongest support in ealier studies was noted for pregnancy loss, including stillbirth.

Researchers looked at three locations with varying DBP levels and evaluated 2,409 women in early pregnancy to assess tap water DBP concentrations, water use, other risk factors and pregnancy outcome. Tap water concentrations were measured in the distribution system on a weekly or biweekly basis. DBP concentration and ingested amount, bathing/showering and integrated exposure that included ingestion and bathing/showering were considered. Based on 258 pregnancy losses, the finding did not show an increased risk of pregnancy loss in relation to ingested amounts of DBPs.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

September 6, 2006, 7:47 PM CT

Frozen Methane Bubbles

Frozen Methane Bubbles Methane bubbles trapped in lake ice
Credit: Courtesy of Jeff Chanton, FSU Oceanography Departmen
A study co-authored by a Florida State University scientist and published in the Sept. 7 issue of the journal Nature has found that as the permafrost melts in North Siberia due to climate change, carbon sequestered and buried there since the Pleistocene era is bubbling up to the surface of Siberian thaw lakes and into the atmosphere as methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

In turn, that bubbling methane held captive as carbon under the permafrost for more than 40,000 years is accelerating global warming by heating the Earth even more --- exacerbating the entire cycle. The ominous implications of the process grow as the permafrost decomposes further and the resulting lakes continue to expand, according to FSU oceanography Professor Jeff Chanton and study co-authors at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

"This is not good for the quality of human life on Earth," Chanton said.

The researchers devised a novel method of measuring ebullition (bubbling) to more accurately quantify the methane emissions from two Siberian thaw lakes and in so doing, revealed the world's northern wetlands as a much larger source of methane release into the atmosphere than previously believed. The magnitude of their findings has increased estimates of such emissions by 10 to 63 percent.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

September 6, 2006, 4:56 AM CT

Antarctica getting warmer

Antarctica getting warmer
Despite recent indications that Antarctica cooled considerably during the 1990s, new research suggests that the world's iciest continent has been getting gradually warmer for the last 150 years, a trend not identifiable in the short meteorological records and masked at the end of the 20th century by large temperature variations.

Numerous ice cores collected from five areas allowed scientists to reconstruct a temperature record that shows average Antarctic temperatures have risen about two-tenths of a degree Celsius, or about one-third of a degree Fahrenheit, in 150 years. That might not sound like much, but the overall increase includes a recorded temperature decline of nearly 1 degree in the 1990s, said David Schneider, a University of Washington postdoctoral researcher in Earth and space sciences.

"Even if you account for the cooling in the '90s, we still see that two-tenths of a degree increase from the middle of the 1800s to the end of the 20th century," said Schneider, the lead author of a paper detailing the work published Aug. 30 in Geophysical Research Letters.

The main reason that Antarctica appears to have cooled during the 1990s is that a natural phenomenon called the Antarctic Oscillation, or Southern Annular Mode, was largely in its positive phase during that time. The Antarctic Oscillation is so named because atmospheric pressure in far southern latitudes randomly oscillates between positive and negative phases. During the positive phase, a vortex of wind is tightly focused on the polar region and prevents warmer air from mixing with the frigid polar air, which keeps Antarctica colder.........

Posted by: Nora      Permalink         Source

September 5, 2006, 9:15 PM CT

Life Beyond Gasoline

Life Beyond Gasoline Photo / Donna Coveney
John Heywoo
If all nations burned gasoline for transportation at the same rate as the United States, world gasoline consumption would rise nearly ten-fold, with a corresponding hike in the concentration of greenhouse gases.

That's just one reason why it is imperative that nations work to create a more sustainable transportation system, says John Heywood, director of MIT's Sloan Automotive Lab and the Sun Jae Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

"As the countries in the developing world rapidly motorize, the increasing global demand for fuel will pose one of the biggest challenges to controlling the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," Heywood writes in "Fueling Our Transportation Future," an article he wrote for the recent issue of Scientific American.

Heywood is one of three MIT professors who tackle energy in the magazine's September issue, whose cover proclaims the theme "Energy's Future: Beyond Carbon".

While Heywood's article focuses on improving transportation efficiency, MIT Professors John Deutch and Ernest Moniz explore the possibilities of expanding nuclear power to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

All three professors are members of MIT's Energy Research Council, which issued a report in May exploring how MIT can help solve the global energy crisis.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

September 5, 2006, 9:09 PM CT

New Era Of Urban Mapmaking

New Era Of Urban Mapmaking Real Time Rome project
Real Time Rome, a pioneering MIT project that promises to usher in a new era of urban mapmaking, will have its worldwide debut at the Venice Biennale, the prestigious biannual exhibition of contemporary art, from Sept. 10 to Nov. 19.

The project utilizes data gathered, in real time and at an unprecedented scale, from cell phones and other wireless technologies, to better understand the patterns of daily life in Rome, and to illustrate what ubiquitous connectivity in an urban environment looks like.

"In today's world, wireless mobile communications devices are creating new dimensions of interconnectedness between people, places and urban infrastructures," said project director Carlo Ratti, director of the SENSEable City Lab at MIT. "The goal of Real Time Rome is to use this connectivity to map the city in real time, which may ultimately lead to a deeper understanding of how modern cities function".

Real Time Rome features seven large animations, projected on transparent plexiglass screens. One screen shows traffic congestion around the city, while another screen shows the exact movements of all the city's buses and taxis. Another screen is able to track Romans celebrating major events like the World Cup or the city's annual White Nights festival (Notte Bianca, which will happen on Sept. 9, the evening before the Biennale's architecture exhibition opening). Additional screens show how tourists use urban spaces and how cars and pedestrians move about the city.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

September 5, 2006, 9:01 PM CT

The Terrascope Egg Drop

The Terrascope Egg Drop This egg-drop contestant made it only partway down
The Terrascope Egg Drop was everything it was cracked up to be.

About 50 participants teamed up in small groups on Aug. 28 to find a way to protect a raw egg dropped from the roof of the 18-story Green Building, the tallest building on MIT's main campus.

Most teams concentrated on padding the egg for landing and easing its descent.

Parachutes were a popular design element, but proved a hindrance to targeting, as per Debra Gross Aczel of Terrascope. "They were competing with a bit of a wind," she said. "The eggs were sort of drifting".

Terrascope, which sponsored the event, is a learning community for freshmen that focuses on earth sciences and the environment. In keeping with Terrascope's mission, egg drop participants had to build their packaging out of recycled materials scrounged up around MIT.

Each team was given $1,000 in play money to buy recycled bottles, newspapers, paper cups and other materials. Contestants were judged on whether the egg survived, how close it came to the marked target, and how much the team spent. First-, second- and third-prize winners received Starbucks gift certificates.

Eventhough timed to coincide with freshman orientation, the event was open to the entire MIT community.........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

September 5, 2006, 8:01 PM CT

Clash Of Media

Clash Of Media Photo / Donna Coveney
Henry Jenkin
The exploding complexity of the media in today's society has set up a clash between traditional media -- print, broadcast television, the recording industry and the corporate giants that own and sponsor them -- and the constantly mutating world of new media -- the Internet, "game worlds" and ever more powerful mobile devices and software.

As MIT's Henry Jenkins explains in his new book, "Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide" (New York University Press), consumers are no longer content to be spoon-fed music, TV, movies and literature. They want to play with it, interact with it, parody it and analyze it -- with or without the by-your-leave of the primary producers.

The battle for turf between the Goliaths of Time Warner and Fox and the masses of little Davids writing, playing and programming in their bedrooms is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, Jenkins says.

"Convergence represents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content. ('Convergence Culture') is about the work -- and play -- spectators perform in the new media system".

The book explores many case studies in media convergence, which Jenkins, the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities, and founder and director of the Comparative Media Studies (CMS) Program at MIT, defines as "the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behavior of media audiences who will go almost anywhere in search of the kinds of entertainment experiences they want".........

Posted by: Edwin      Permalink         Source

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