Archive for February 16, 2008

Airbrushing Microelectrodes

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The airbrush, that tool behind tattoos and T-shirts, may have an unexpected future … in technology.

A group of engineering students at the University of Florida has come up with a method for using an airbrush to make microelectrodes — tiny conductors used in an increasing range of consumer, research and medical products. The technique is simpler than the standard one, at least for small projects that require production of only a few electrodes.

“The idea was to try to find something cheap and quick, that we could do in our own lab without much expense,” said student Corey Walker.

Walker was one of four UF engineering students who worked on the project. Now a doctoral student in biomedical engineering at the University of California, Irvine, he is the lead author of a paper appearing this month in the online edition of the journal Electroanalysis.

Microelectrodes are highly sensitive, fingernail-sized devices used, for example, in off-the-shelf glucose monitors for diabetics. They are also vital to “lab on a chip” devices under development to identify substances in air, blood or other samples.

The industry standard for manufacturing microelectrodes is screen printing, a technique that, oddly, is also borrowed from the visual arts. But it requires a screen printer, and the students, who were trying to craft a hydrogen sensor, didn’t have one.

So a student who used airbrushes to build model airplanes suggested they try that tool. Trials and tests perfected the approach, with the students eventually using fully airbrushed electrodes to craft a working sensor. The technique works best for small projects because it requires each electrode to be made individually or in small batches.

“A screen-printing machine useful for fabricating microelectrodes might cost $10,000, whereas you can buy an airbrush for less than $200,” said Hugh Fan, an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering who oversaw the project. “So this is a useful technique for small, custom projects.”

Source:  University of Florida

Dang.  That must require steadier hands than what I have.

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Sunspots Today: Zero

nosunspot1.gif Be sure and visit SpaceWeather.Com for all of your sunspot viewing needs.

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God Wants You to Have Sex

This latest challenge isn’t about losing weight, saving money or eating more vegetables.

It’s about having sex. Lots of it. As in every day, if you’re married. Or not at all, if you’re single.

An openly edgy Christian church in Ybor City is launching what they’re calling a 30-Day Sex Challenge to help members improve their relationships and rediscover themselves.

Single folks are to abstain from sex for 30 days, even if they are in a committed relationship. Married folks, on the other hand, are supposed to have sex every day for 30 days.

Leaders at Relevant Church, which meets at the Italian Club on Seventh Avenue, will launch the campaign Sunday, fresh off Valentine’s Day.

Source:  St. Petersburg Times

Now THAT’S a church that men wouldn’t mind getting dragged to on Sunday.

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Vietnam Reports New Bird Flu Patients

Vietnam’s Health Ministry said a seven-year-old child from northern Hai Duong Province has been infected with H5N1, raising the total number of bird flu patients in Vietnam since 2003 to 105, according to local newspaper Young People on Saturday.

The child is under treatment at the Central Pediatrics Hospital in Hanoi capital. Some suspected human cases of bird flu infections are also under treatment at the city-based Tropical Diseases Hospital. Their specimens are being tested for H5N1 by Vietnam’s National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology.

To date, Vietnam has reported a total of 105 human cases of bird flu infections, including 50 fatalities, since the disease started to hit the country in December 2003.

Since Feb. 13, two local people, a 27-year-old man named Hoang Van Doan from northern Ninh Binh Province and a 40-year-old man named Do Van San from northern Hai Duong Province, have died from bird flu, the newspaper said.

On Jan. 18, a 32-year-old ethnic man named Tran Van Dong from northern Tuyen Quang Province died from the disease.

Last December, after detecting no human cases of bird flu infections for nearly four months, the ministry confirmed that a four-year-old boy from northern Son La Province died on Dec. 16, 2007 from bird flu.

All the recently-detected bird flu patients have had close contacts with fowls, like slaughtering dead chickens for meal, before exhibiting bird flu symptoms. During the Lunar New Year Festival in early February, a large number of poultry were transported and slaughtered for meal across Vietnam.

The World Health Organization on Feb. 15 confirmed 103 cases of bird flu infections, including 49 fatalities in Vietnam. It has yet to confirm the two latest cases, including one fatality.

Vietnam currently has four localities having poultry being hit by bird flu: northern Thai Nguyen, central Quang Binh Province, northern Quang Ninh Province and southern Long An Province, the Department of Animal Health under the country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said Friday.

Bird flu outbreaks in Vietnam, starting in December 2003, have killed and led to the forced culling of dozens of millions of fowls in the country.

(Xinhua News Agency February 16, 2008)

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Indonesia’s Bird Flu Death Toll Reaches 140

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A 16-year-old Indonesian boy has died of bird flu, bringing the nation’s death toll from the illness to 104, the Health Ministry said Saturday.

The boy became ill on Feb. 3 with a cough and other respiratory symptoms, according to the Health Ministry’s Web site.

He died a week later in a hospital in the city of Solo, about 280 miles southeast of the capital, Jakarta, said Sumardi, a ministry spokesman. Like he many Indonesians, Sumardi goes by one name.

Tests confirmed the boy had been infected with the dangerous H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus, the ministry’s Web site said.

The victim’s neighbors had sick chickens on their property and the boy apparently slaughtered some of them before he became ill, the ministry said.

Indonesia has regularly recorded human deaths from bird flu since the virus began ravaging poultry stocks across Asia in 2003.

Bird flu remains hard for people to catch, but health experts worry the virus could mutate into a form that passes easily among humans, sparking a pandemic. So far, most human cases have been linked to contact with infected birds.

Scientists have warned that Indonesia, which has millions of backyard chickens and poor medical facilities, is a potential hot spot for a global bird flu pandemic.

More than 225 people have died worldwide from the virus, according to the World Health Organization.

Source:  Associated Press, China Internet Information Center (English)

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US Versus French on “Being Full”

It’s the French paradox redux: Why don’t the French get as fat as Americans, considering all the baguettes, wine, cheese, pate and pastries they eat?
Because they use internal cues — such as no longer feeling hungry — to stop eating, reports a new Cornell study. Americans, on the other hand, tend to use external cues — such as whether their plate is clean, they have run out of their beverage or the TV show they’re watching is over.

“Furthermore, we have found that the heavier a person is — French or American — the more they rely on external cues to tell them to stop eating and the less they rely on whether they felt full,” said senior author Brian Wansink, the John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing and director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab in the Department of Applied Economics and Management, now on leave to serve as executive director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion until January 2009.

The new study, an analysis of questionnaires from 133 Parisians and 145 Chicagoans about how they decide when to stop eating, is being published in the journal Obesity and is being presented this later month at an the Winter Marketing Educators conference.

“Over-relying on external cues to stop eating a meal may prove useful in offering a partial explanation of why body mass index [a calculation based on the relationship of weight to height] varies across people and potentially across cultures,” said co-author Collin Payne, a Cornell postdoctoral researcher. He stressed that further studies should following up with smoking behavior and socio-economic differences as well. “Relying on internal cues for meal cessation, rather than on external cues, may improve eating patterns in the long term.


I don’t know about any of the rest of you, but having somebody lecture me that I’m over-relying on external cues and should instead be relying on internal cues (like the French!) to tell me that I’m “full” is, well, one of those pieces of advice that I file under “gee, thanks, now give me something that I can really use”.

So, uh, how much time do French women have for lunch? I can tell you that high school teachers (in my county) have a total of 25 minutes for lunch which includes walking to and from the cafeteria (which takes 10 minutes from my location), standing in line for food (maybe 5 minutes) and eating (using the shovel-it-in technique) will take perhaps 10 minutes. Lunch is also the time for a pee break which has to be fit somewhere within that 25 minute time frame. Elementary school teachers have even less time for lunch because they have to walk the students to lunch and walk the students back. No time there for waiting on those ol’ feelings of satiety!

Maybe teachers are a bad example. How about medical people? According to my mom (retired nurse), they *often* did not take their half-hour lunch on the 12-hour shift at the hospital she was at, instead relying on grazing from vending machines, due to staffing shortages/high patient census. I don’t think the feeling of satiety even came into play there. Just lots of stress and not enough time for a meal.

Thinking back over the number of jobs I’ve had over my working life (and there were a lot of different types of jobs because I get bored easily), I don’t recall ever having any job/business where I could eat at a leisurely pace, waiting for feelings of satiety to set in so that I could quit eating, knowing that my stomach wouldn’t be growling in distress the rest of the afternoon.

Does that mean that I am unaware of feelings of satiety and only rely on external cues for every meal? Well, no. When I go to a nice restaurant for a leisurely meal on the weekend and order my entree, I often find to my bemusement that I end up taking it home to consume at a later time because after the appetizer and soup or salad, I am completely full and do not want anything else.

I also find that in my evening meal at home, I tend to eat as rapidly as I do in the morning and afternoon during the workday because I have household and farm chores to do, blogs to read, telephone calls to make, and only 3 to 4 hours in the evening to get it done. Again, I just do not have the time to linger over food preparation and consumption. I suppose that is a cultural shortcoming of trying to do everything.

I suppose the Answer to Obesity is to cut the work ethic and be more French like.

The French probably haven’t had people telling them that eggs were evil killers, alcohol would make you fat, cream and other fats would kill them, and margerine was better for them than butter, either.

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