A Brain Museum in Connecticut Features A Steak Signed By Pavlov

Many people enjoy signing their names on things to leave their mark. Nearly 100 years ago, Ivan Pavlov autographed a piece of steak using an electrical knife. That chunk of beef and other unusual items can be seen, basking in formaldehyde, at the Yale School of Medicine.

An Odd Autograph

The Russian physiologist and Nobel prize winner, known for his study of dogs and the concept of the conditioned reflex, signed the piece of meat after observing the father of neurosurgery, Harvey Cushing, perform an operation in the 1920s.

Cushing was demonstrating the use of a new instrument, a Bovie knife, which he used to cauterize and cut brain tissue to reduce bleeding (a major cause of death at that time).

“At the end of the operation, he invited Pavlov to try it out for himself because that’s what guys do. They share toys,” Terry Dagradi, photographer & Cushing Center curator told Ripley’s. “You got a new instrument or a new shop tool and you’ve got to share it.”

Pavlov played with the electrical knife for a little bit, used it to sign the steak, and then gave it back to the surgeon.

“Of course, Cushing as a collector put it in a jar,” Dagradi explained.

Cushing’s obsession with preservation and documentation is why people can still see Pavlov’s steak today.

Cushing’s Collection

Cushing started collecting brains, tumors, and other items related to his work in 1902. The Cushing Center at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., contains thousands of neurological case studies and over 15,000 photographic negatives from the late 1800s to 1936.

Retaining the specimens and tumors helped Cushing understand disease and the structure of the brain. He often asked patients to donate their brains so he could learn more about them and the pathology that affected them.

Spring Cerebrum Cleaning

Eventually, the brains in the pathology department were taking up too much space and were nearly thrown out. Fortunately, someone decided to store them in a subbasement at the Yale Medical School where they remained for several years.

In the early 1990s, medical students rediscovered them and it became a rite of passage to take a look at them. The specimens were eventually brought out into the open for people to look at in what became the Cushing Center.

“One of the things that’s quite beautiful about the collection is the glass jars that the specimens are in,” Dagradi noted. “They were probably mostly made in the ‘20s and so they’re very high-quality lead crystal. Today I think what they use for these kind of specimen collections are Tupperware, believe it or not.”

Visitors are fascinated by the jars, which contain different colored solutions.

“We often get asked why the jars are all these different shades of gold and brown and sometimes a little green, and it’s because of the way the specimens are still interacting with the solution,” Dagradi noted. “That might have to do with the type of tumors or the interactions of the specimens themselves.”

How long are the brains and tumors expected to stay intact in their little bottles of formaldehyde?

“Some of these brains are already 100 years old. He started preserving tumors and brains around 1902. I’m hoping with us watching them and now that they’re in a much safer environment for preservation, indefinitely,” she explained.

Another remarkable thing in the collection are the eerie photographs of Cushing’s patients.

“Often they’re pretty stark portraits or closeups of scars or that sort of thing. But they also have a sort of poignancy and connection to the fact that the specimens, the brains, used to be in people—the people he tried so hard to save. They are also just a beautiful sort of accidental archive that really enriches the collection itself,” Dagradi pointed out.

A Skewered Skull

One thing the center features that’s not related to Cushing is a 3D model of the skull of one of the first patients to survive a traumatic brain injury: Phineas Gage. He was a railroad construction foreman who survived after an iron rod went through his skull in 1848.

“It went through his left frontal lobe. This gentle, well-mannered, logical young foreman turned into a rowdy, swearing, bawdy drunk. He’s sort of ground zero of traumatic brain injury science,” Dagradi said.

The model and an accompanying book is used as an educational tool for New Haven school children that teaches them the connection between neurosurgery and science.

Cushing was also a collector of rare books, many of which are rotated for visitors to see. The current exhibition is on Alchemy. Previous themes have included anatomy and mathematics.  Cushing collected tomes by Nicolaus Copernicus, Issac Newton and Galileo as well as beautiful Persian books.

The Cushing Center is open to public most days from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Weekly tours are also available.



Scientists Fascinated By Diamond-Filled Hypatia Stone

Researchers found what is known as the Hypatia stone in Egypt in 2013. They determined that the small pebble is extraterrestrial in origin. What’s fascinating is that the stone contains micro-mineral compounds that aren’t known to occur anywhere on Earth, in other meteorites, or anywhere in the solar system, reports Science Alert.

The stone was named after scientist Hypatia of Alexandria. Some think the diamond-filled pebble might be part of a comet nucleus, while others believe it could have formed from a cold molecular cloud.

According to researchers from the University of Johannesburg, the stone’s lack of silicate matter makes it unique among the interplanetary material that has made its way to Earth. In addition, it contains minerals that appear to predate the sun.

Prof. Jan Kramers, lead researcher of the study, “Extra-terrestrial Hypatia stone rattles solar system status quo,” has compared the internal structure of the stone to that of a fruitcake that breaks apart after falling onto the floor into some flour:

“We can think of the badly mixed dough of a fruitcake representing the bulk of the Hypatia pebble, what we called two mixed ‘matrices’ in geology terms. The glace cherries and nuts in the cake represent the mineral grains found in Hypatia ‘inclusions’. And the flour dusting the cracks of the fallen cake represent the ‘secondary materials’ we found in the fractures in Hypatia, which are from Earth.”

The Hypatia stone is just one tiny piece from the original “fruitcake,” which is believed to be several meters in size. The stone has a lot of carbon and small amounts of silicon, which is different from non-metallic meteorites called chondrites that are similar to Earth.

Kramers noted: “Even more unusual, the matrix contains a high amount of very specific carbon compounds, called polyaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAH, a major component of interstellar dust, which existed even before our solar system was formed. Interstellar dust is also found in comets and meteorites that have not been heated up for a prolonged period in their history.”

What’s also intriguing is the PAH in the pebble transformed into tiny diamonds, likely upon impact with Earth. The diamonds enabled the stone to survive to its present form.

The researchers also discovered aluminum in the mineral grains of Hypatia. Researcher Georgy Belyanin explained: “This occurrence is extremely rare on Earth and the rest of our solar system, as far as is known in science. We also found silver iodine phosphide and moissanite (silicon carbide) grains, again in highly unexpected forms. The grains are the first documented to be found in situ (as is) without having to first dissolve the surrounding rock with acid. There are also grains of a compound consisting of mainly nickel and phosphorus, with very little iron; a mineral composition never observed before on Earth or in meteorites.”

While Hypatia’s compounds likely predate the sun, researchers believe the pebble itself was formed after the sun.

Kramers noted:

“Hypatia was formed in a cold environment, probably at temperatures below that of liquid nitrogen on Earth (-196 Celsius). In our solar system, it would have been way further out than the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, where most meteorites come from.

“Comets come mainly from the Kuiper Belt, beyond the orbit of Neptune and about 40 times as far away from the sun as we are. Some come from the Oort Cloud, even further out.

“We know very little about the chemical compositions of space objects out there. So our next question will dig further into where Hypatia came from.”

It’s So Cold In Russia, Eyelashes Are Freezing

The coldest place on earth is experiencing near-record low temperatures that are making life brutal for many residents. Earlier this week, people in the Russian region of Yakutia endured temperature drops of minus 67 degrees Celsius (minus 88.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in certain spots.

The region is known for its severe and extreme climate, so the nearly 1 million people who live there are used to harsh weather conditions. As such, the cold temperatures didn’t even make local media headlines.

Located about 3,300 miles east of Moscow, Yakutia was so cold that school was cancelled. This is a rarity because it’s common for kids to attend classes when temps are minus 40 degrees. However, temperatures reached such dangerous levels that police mandated parents keep their children home, reported Time.

Two men froze to death after their car broke down and they attempted to seek shelter and help at a nearby farm. Three of their companions survived because they had on warmer clothing.

The town of Oymyakon is one of the earth’s coldest inhabited places, and a television station showed the mercury falling so low it couldn’t measure the accurate temperature on the thermometer (which only goes to minus 50). The town experienced an all-time low in 2013 with minus 71 degrees Celsius (minus 98 Fahrenheit).

Photos from the area have been making the rounds in the news and social media. Some brave Chinese students were pictured taking a dip in a thermal spring, while photos of women with frozen eyelashes also dominated news feeds.

In winter, Yakutians subside on primarily a meat-based diet, including items such as raw fish, reindeer meat, horse liver, and ice cubes of horse blood. Most homes use outhouses because the ground is too frozen to accommodate pipes. Those who work outside do so in 20-minute shifts. Homes and businesses use central heating and have backup power generators in order to stay warm.


“Dian Fossey: Secrets in The Mist” Explores the Mysterious Death of the Renowned Gorilla Researcher

Dian Fossey in the wild with Mountain Gorillas. (photo credit: ROBERT I.M. CAMPBELL)

Dian Fossey produced unparalleled research about mountain gorillas during the 18 years she spent studying them in the mountain forests of Rwanda. It’s been 32 years since her brutal murder, and National Geographic is detailing the life and legacy of the legendary primatologist in a three-part miniseries airing in December.

“Dian Fossey: Secrets in The Mist” includes Fossey’s observations and writings and demonstrates how her love for gorillas prompted her to devote her life to their preservation. Her drive to protect them likely caused her untimely death in 1985. Yet, there are still so many questions about her murder.

“Secrets in The Mist” delves into Fossey’s death and the conviction of Wayne McGuire, a doctoral student who worked with Fossey in Rwanda. Following her murder, Maguire returned to the United States where there was no extradition agreement between the two countries. He was found guilty in absentia by Rwanda courts.

Dian Fossey takes two gorillas into the forest for observation. (photo credit: ROBERT I.M. CAMPBELL)

McGuire has long maintained his innocence, and many with intimate knowledge of Fossey’s fate are skeptical about his role in the crime. McGuire gives a rare interview to National Geographic, prompting even more questions about his role in her murder. Producers were also given access to objects from the scene of the crime as well as Fossey’s personal affects.

Ironically, Fossey, who was 52 when she passed away, mused about life and death in the final entry of her journal. She wrote: “When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.”

Sigourney Weaver, who portrayed Fossey in the 1988 Academy Award-nominated film “Gorillas in the Mist,” collaborated on the miniseries. Director, producer, and writer James Marsh (“Man on a Wire,” “Theory of Everything”) is executive producer.

“Dian Fossey: Secrets in the Mist” airs Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 9/8 central on National Geographic.

SpaceX’s Elon Musk Outlines Ambitious Plan to Colonize Mars by 2024

Billionaire and inventor Elon Musk announced on Friday that he’s determined to send cargo ships to Mars by 2022 and a colony of people to the planet by 2024. A smaller version of the interplanetary transport system, which Musk has dubbed BFR (Big F- -king Rocket), would be used to boost travel on Earth and help pay for the Mars mission.

SpaceX has already started working on the project, and the company expects to start building the first ship in the next six to nine months. Musk is “fairly confident” that the ship will be complete and ready to launch in approximately five years.

He hopes to send two cargo ships to Mars by 2022 with the goal of locating a water source. Rockets would drop off equipment and life-support systems on the planet to enable future colonizers to live there. In 2024, four ships would bring people and supplies to Mars for habitation. The BFR will hold about 100 passengers and include 40 cabins as well as communal spaces. The voyage is expected to take three to six months, but that’s open to debate.

Musk also revealed plans for developing rockets that will transport people between Earth’s largest cities in just minutes. For example, a trip from New York City to Shanghai would take less than 40 minutes. The flight currently takes passengers 15 hours. This system, in turn, would help pay for future missions to Mars.

Musk told audience members at a global space conference in Adelaide, Australia: “The most important thing… is that I think we have figured out how to pay for (BFR), which is to have a smaller vehicle, it’s still pretty big, but one that can… do everything that’s needed in the greater Earth orbit activity.”

He explained how it would feel to travel from city to city by rocket: “Once you are out of the atmosphere, it would be as smooth as silk, no turbulence, nothing.”

It would also take a fraction of the time it takes to travel by plane. He noted: “There’s no weather… and you can get to most long-distance places in less than half-an-hour. If we are building this thing to go to the Moon and Mars, then why not go to other places on Earth as well.”

Musk plans on funding the missions by using the BFR for several functions, including launching satellites and servicing the International Space Station for NASA. That will allow SpaceX to focus on one spacecraft to perform various tasks instead of several.

He did not disclose how much money would be spent on developing the rocket or the price of the tickets to ride it. Last year, Musk described a rocket system that would cost $200,000 per ticket.

SpaceX has successfully launched 13 missions this year so far, more than any of its rivals. Musk’s plans to colonize Mars are ambitious, and many are skeptical that he will be able to follow through with the timeline he’s proposed.

7 terrible exercises for people over 40

Even if you’ve been active and a frequent exerciser most of your adult life, your workout should reflect your age as well as your experience. If you’re in your 40s, you shouldn’t be doing the exact same routines you did in your 20s.

Nagging injuries can prevent you from executing proper form, and your body is more susceptible to problems associated with age. Here is a look at seven exercises people over 40 should avoid.

1. Crunches

Ab-targeted exercises alone won’t shave off belly fat. A well-rounded workout combined with a healthy diet will help you lose weight overall. Even if you do 1,000 crunches a day, you can’t get rid of that spare tire without working your entire body. Ab exercises are good for toning muscles that are already trim and lacking fat.

When you’re middle aged, crunches, situps and other ab exercises can cause spinal problems. In extreme cases, you can sustain a spinal fracture. Crunches can also strain your neck and cause poor posture. Unless you keep your back 100 percent straight when doing crunches, you can injure yourself.

As a substitute, try planks instead.

2. Intense cardio

Women in particular love cardio, but it can be strenuous on a middle-aged person who is not used to extreme exercise. If your body is working too hard under stress, it produces the hormone cortisol, which will actually make you gain weight. That’s the exact opposite of what you want to achieve!

Cardio includes jumping jacks. While they are an excellent full-body exercise, they can also be tough on your ligaments. High knees are also strenuous for the joints, tendons and ligaments. They can hurt the knees and hip flexors.

In moderation, cardio is great for your cardiovascular system. But if you’re over 40 and frequently engage in intense cardio routines, it can be difficult on your muscles. So, skip the 60-minute boot camp class and opt for a shorter, high-intensity workout instead.

3. Squats

Squats are one of the most basic and effective exercises for the legs and glutes. However, older bodies are more susceptible to injury, particularly if weights are involved. If done incorrectly, squats can cause lower back and knee injuries due to muscle strains, tears and pulls.

In addition, squats may add muscle to your hips, making them appear wider. Many people will mistake the added bulk for fat gain when it’s actually muscle gain. It’s one area that people usually want to slim down, not emphasize. And because your body’s metabolism slows down after age 40, this is one spot you probably want to keep trim.

Good alternatives to squats are lunges and step-ups.

4. Leg extensions

Leg extensions can be taxing on your knees, particularly as you age. And if heavy weights are involved, it can cause big problems.

Your knees are not built to fully extend while pushing out a heavy set of weights. Knee and ankle injuries are a common problem associated with the use of a leg extension machine. Even younger people should avoid the equipment because it could cause knee problems in the future.

Try dumbbell lunges instead.

5. Deadlifts

If done improperly, deadlifts can be damaging to your back. At the very least, you’ll complain of lower back pain for a few days. At worst, you can suffer a spinal injury. In addition, if you drop the weights while doing a deadlift, you can severely injure your foot.

When you age, it becomes more difficult to maintain proper form because you may have other injuries and try to compensate for the problem. Bent-over rows are a good substitute for deadlifts as long as you use proper form.

6. Triceps dips

One area that people often target is their triceps. Nobody likes their arms to jiggle. However, if you don’t position your arms properly when doing this floor exercise, it can be painful and cause injury. Your upper arms and rotator cuffs include tiny muscles that can be easily damaged.

As an alternative, try triceps pushups or single-arm triceps kickbacks.

7. Behind the neck lat pulldowns

This is a slightly awkward exercise when just using a little amount of weight, so when you start piling on the pounds it puts increasing pressure on your shoulders and rotator cuffs. Some people who perform this exercise sustain shoulder strains and tears.

Close-grip pulldowns in front of the body are a good substitute.

Cut your chances of cancer and heart disease by biking to work

The League of American Bicyclists notes that 40 percent of all trips in the United States are less than two miles, and cycling is a fun and easy way to run errands and go to the office. Bicycle commuting in the United States is on the rise. In bicycle-friendly communities, commuting rates increased 105 percent from 2000 to 2013, much larger than the national average of 62 percent.

Bike to Work Day is May 19, and a new study shows why you should opt for two wheels instead of four when commuting around town. Research by the University of Glasgow published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) reveals that cycle commuting is associated with a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer and any cause of death.

In general, individuals worldwide are exercising less, in part because fewer people are walking and cycling to work.

The five-year study examined more than 250,000 U.K.-based commuters, with the average age of 52, and found that those who ride their bikes to work have a 45 percent lower chance of developing cancer and a 46 percent lower chance of getting heart disease. During the study, 37 people died; however, 63 would have died had they opted to use a car or public transportation to commute, according to researchers.

Walking to work also has its benefits, but they’re not as big as cycling. Walkers have a 27 percent lower risk of developing CVD and a 36 percent lower risk of dying from the disease. But there was no correlation between walking to work and a decrease in cancer risk.

One of the study’s authors, Dr. Carlos Celis-Morales from the University of Glasgow, told the Telegraph: “This may be because walkers commuted shorter distances than cyclists, typically six miles per week, compared with 30 miles per week, and walking is generally a lower intensity of exercise than cycling.”

According to the World Health Organization, 30 to 50 percent of cancers could be prevented by several factors, which includes regular exercise such as cycling. In 2015, 8.8 million people died of cancer.

Why cycling is so beneficial

There are many reasons why cycling is so good for your health. According to Harvard Medical School, it’s easy on your joints because you put your weight on the bones in the pelvis instead of on your legs. Bicycling is also an aerobic exercise, which benefits the heart, brain and blood vessels.

Cycling is also great for muscles. Pedaling works the buttocks, thighs, hamstrings and calves as well as the flexor muscles in the hips. In addition, the abdomen works to keep you balanced and stay upright while the arms and shoulders help steer.

People who use bicycles are better equipped for walking, standing and stair climbing, and they have better balance and endurance. The act of pushing pedals also increases bone density.

Tips for safe cycling

For those interested in bicycle commuting, several factors should be taken into account. First, be careful if you have heart disease, arthritis, thinning bones or a recent fracture. Talk to a doctor before getting on two wheels.

Also, make sure your bicycle is in good working condition and that the seat is the correct height so you don’t fall off. Wear a helmet, try to use bike paths instead of the street when possible, and carry plenty of water to stay hydrated.

The League of American Bicyclists established Bike to Work Day in 1956, and communities across the United States organize big events to coincide with the May 19 event. In Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia alone, more than 85 pit stop events will be held throughout the day. Free commuter convoys will also be scheduled for those who want to bike to work with others.

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