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Clouds rise behind Mount Everest, the world's highest peak at 8,848 metres. (GOPAL CHITRAKAR/Reuters)
Clouds rise behind Mount Everest, the world's highest peak at 8,848 metres. (GOPAL CHITRAKAR/Reuters)

Mount Everest - disease lab? Add to ...

Climbing Everest and aging

“Mount Everest is often the site of impressive physical feats, as climbers brave brutal conditions to scale the tallest peak in the world,” says a Discover magazine blog. “But the extreme altitude takes quite a toll on the body, causing hypoxia, muscle loss, sleep apnea and other ill effects. Many of the same symptoms are more commonly found in elderly patients suffering from heart conditions or other chronic ailments – meaning Everest provides a natural laboratory for researchers to gain a better understanding of these diseases. Scientists from the Mayo Clinic are making their way from Minnesota to Everest base camp, where they’ll set up an ersatz lab to monitor the vital signs of nine climbers making the ascent … Among the questions the scientists will investigate are whether muscle loss, common in heart disease patients and the elderly, is related to lack of oxygen, especially during sleep, and why fluid gathers in the lungs of both some high-altitude climbers and some heart failure patients.”

Climate improving for witches?

“A spell of cold weather may have sparked the infamous Salem witch trials in 1692, as witches were thought capable of controlling weather, U.S. researchers say,” reports United Press International. “Witch hunts have coincided with cold periods throughout history, possibly because people sought out scapegoats to blame for crop failures and general economic hardship during such times, LiveScience.com reported. The most active period of witchcraft trials in Europe coincided with a 400-year span of lower-than-average temperature scientists have dubbed the ‘little ice age,’ University of Chicago economics professor Emily Oster said.”

His and hers faces

“A couple in Chengdu [China]have consulted a cosmetic hospital for plastic surgery because they want to look more alike,” Chengdu Evening News reported in February. “Cheng Cheng shares her boyfriend’s thick brows and big eyes, but they have different face types. So they have asked a cosmetic surgeon for a face-lift to make her face as thin as her lover. The doctor said [they were]the third couple that day who asked for matching plastic surgery.”

A car for the over-65s

British scientists “have built an ‘emotionally intelligent’ electric car that aims to keep people over 65 on the roads for longer,” says The Independent. “Fitted with a range of devices from eye-tracking goggles to biometric technology that monitors heart rates and cardiovascular health, the modified Peugeot iOn will monitor drivers’ concentration, stress levels and driving habits. It is hoped the findings will pave the way for new technology that will instill confidence in drivers over 65 and keep them safely on the road for longer. … The group [at Newcastle University]will also research new satellite navigation technology that is more suitable for over-65s. Instead of the traditional direction-led audio navigation, this could include directions given through visual cues such as an upcoming post box, pub or petrol station.”

Snackpoint Charlie?

“It was described as the tensest spot in the cold war, a crossing between East and West Berlin that was once the scene of a confrontation between American and Soviet tanks. The incident came close to triggering a third world war,” says The Guardian. “Now, more than two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the confrontation at Checkpoint Charlie has turned into a more prosaic one between commercial and historical interest groups who are fighting to control the site. … The newest addition to what some have dubbed ‘Snackpoint Charlie’ is Freedom Park, a group of aluminum fast-food hutches serving everything from ‘organic power food’ to ‘checkpoint curry sausage.’ It sprang up over Easter and its operators promote it as a place in which to contemplate history. A growing number of voices are complaining about such scenes, arguing that commercial interests at Berlin’s most popular tourist attraction, drawing up to four million a year, have been given precedence over respect for history.”

The insensitive Internet

“[T]e ghostly forces of the Internet can wreak especial havoc for people who have recently gone through a breakup or divorce,” writes Henry Alford in The New York Times. “Your Gmail account might ask you if you want to include your ex as a recipient of the e-mail you’re sending. Facebook – even if your ex has deleted his account and then started a new one – might keep asking you if you want to friend him. Anna McCarthy … author of The Citizen Machine: Governing by Television in 1950s America, said, ‘It can be galling to look at the ‘customers also bought’ feature on Amazon.com and see that your book has been paired with a book by the person who stole your ex.’”

Thought du jour

“A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.” – May Sarton (1912-95), American author

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