Good and Bad News for Coffee Drinkers

Probably coffee won’t kill you. That’s according to Dr. Greg Marcus, a professor at the University of California-San Francisco who specializes in the treatment of arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, “the fast, sluggish, or off-kilter rhythms that can trigger sudden cardiac arrest.”

That’s the good news for coffee drinkers.

But then again, he “cautions that the heart risks of caffeine may depend on the individual and that more work needs to be done to unpack the role of a patient’s unique genetics and environmental exposures.”

That’s the bad news for coffee drinkers.

What Dr. Marcus is saying, essentially, is that probably coffee won’t kill you, but you never know, it just might kill you.

Is that supposed to be reassuring to coffee drinkers?

Motherly Love — Warthog Style

The last thing a hungry leopard expected, after grabbing a warthog piglet by the neck, was the furious reaction of the mother warthog.

‘When I pushed the shutter of my camera I heard a noise and thought it was the piglets fighting with one other.

‘But it was a leopard who had appeared from nowhere and caught one of the warthog piglets.

‘The leopard was trying to pin her potential kill to the ground and the piglet was screaming and kicking to try and get away from the leopard.

‘The next moment the mother came running back from behind my vehicle at full speed dropping her head and hit the leopard in the ribcage.’

And the end result of the encounter was that the leopard came off third-best.

Some Nasty Tricks Mother Nature Has up Her Sleeve

Once upon a time in Western Africa, some hunters killed and ate a chimpanzee.

There was nothing out of the ordinary about that. The flesh of primates has always been a delicacy in the region.

Trouble was, this chimpanzee was different.

It had the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) lurking in its bloodstream, waiting to pass from primate to human.

Immune, itself, to the effects of the virus, the chimp nonetheless was a carrier, and one or more of the hunters became infected through contact with the blood of the animal.

The rest is history.

Out of such an innocuous event, those hunters in an African forest unwittingly played host to a hitherto unknown submicroscopic particle that would bring about sickness and death across the globe and threaten the very existence of humankind.

Had it not been for the intervention of antiretroviral therapy, the scourge of HIV would have killed many times the number of people it has up until now.

Think about it for a moment. If an affliction like HIV could pop up seemingly out of nowhere, and cause millions of deaths worldwide, what other threats to human existence might be lurking, waiting to pounce?

Let’s take a look at some of the nasty things we know of that nature can, has, and does unleash on humankind and other life forms.

One such is a parasitic fly, aptly dubbed the zombie fly, which goes around infecting bees, turning them into zombies in an insect version of the fictional “zombie apocalypse” syndrome where undead flesh-hungry corpses roam the world infecting whomever they bite, the victims of which themselves turn into zombies a day or so later, exponentially creating more zombies until they outnumber the living.

What the flies do is home in on unsuspecting bees going about their daily forage and inject their larvae into the bees’ abdomen midair. In due course, the larvae hatch into maggots which then feed on the bees from the inside out, causing a slow and excruciatingly painful death.

Before they die, the bees begin to exhibit zombie-like tendencies such as flying at night, which bees almost never do, and behaving erratically until they drop dead. The maggots then turn into flies and the cycle begins all over again.

Some parasites play the game differently, choosing not to kill their hosts, but rather to manipulate their hosts’ behavior in ways beneficial to themselves.

A parasite known as Dicrocoelium dentriticum, for example, begins its cycle inside a snail, which duly excretes the worm to be eaten by an ant. At this point, the worm makes its way to the ant’s brain where it somehow rewires the neurons. This turns the ant into a willing zombie, which, at the worm’s command, climbs to the top of a blade of grass where it waits for a grazing sheep to come along and consume it.

Safely inside the sheep’s stomach the worm lays its eggs, which then leave the sheep via its excrement, a ready-made meal for snails. Finally, to complete the cycle, the eggs exit the snails mixed in their excrement for more unfortunate ants to feed upon.

Then there are those delightful parasitoid wasps which lay their eggs inside spiders. When the eggs hatch, the offspring slowly devour their way out. But not before they modify their hosts’ brain so they spin webs designed to support the cocoons when they pupate.

Apart from HIV, which isn’t actually a parasite, the above nasties target only nonhuman life forms. But there are parasites that will go for anything that’s on offer, humans included.

Toxoplasma gondii (Toxo for short) is such a parasite. And this little moocher loves cats. In fact the survival of its species depends upon cats. That’s because it can only reproduce in a cat’s gut. So Toxo likes to take good care of its feline host by providing it with an easily accessible food supply.

The way Toxo does this is really ingenious.

What the parasite does is take a sojourn into the outside world when the cat defecates. It then gets picked up from the soil by scavenging animals, including its intended target: rats.

Once inside the gut of a rat, Toxo makes its way to the animals brain. The parasite then gets to work modifying the rat’s behavior to make it attracted to the odor of cat’s urine, and also to make it less afraid of cats.

In this way Toxo provides cats with the means to easily catch rats to feed upon, while at the same time providing itself with the means to get back into a cat’s gut.

Trouble is, humans are also exposed to infection by the Toxo parasite, particularly from contact with cat litter boxes; and from the food they eat, such as fresh raw salads, under-cooked meat, and even from drinking water contaminated with cats’ faces.

As in the case of rats, when Toxo parasites gets into a human host they lodge in the brain (and other tissues) and get straight to work making behavioral modifications which can cause schizophrenia and suicidal tendencies.

Parasites are cunning and ruthless and care nothing for their hosts. In those cases where they appear to be serving their hosts’ needs, it’s only because they are actually serving themselves in the long run.

And it’s anyone’s guess what especially nasty parasites might be lurking out there, just waiting for the opportunity to strike.

Thanks to Einstein, Colonizing Space May Be Possible

It stands to reason that planet Earth’s life-sustaining resources are not infinite. The fact is, they are slowly but surely being depleted. Eventually, there won’t be enough resources left to sustain human life.

Long before that point is reached, we’ll have to think about colonizing space. One big barrier to doing so is the colossal distance we’d have to travel to reach the nearest habitable planet. Such a planet could be thousands, even millions of light-years away. And as we all know, nothing can go faster than the speed of light.

So does that mean inevitable, eventual extinction for humankind?

Well maybe not.

Einstein’s theory of relativity could offer a ray of hope. Those of us who have watched Star Trek are familiar with a thing called warp speed. And it may not be science fiction fantasy. Some scientists believe it’s not only possible, but that we will have the technology to make it happen in about a hundred years or so, leaving plenty of time before planet Earth runs out of life-sustaining resources.

But first they have to figure out a way to harness ‘dark energy,’ a repulsive force that can be used by futuristic spacecraft to surf something scientists call a spacetime wave which shrinks the space between our spacecraft and the target planet thus effectively bypassing the speed of light. Once they achieve that, they can go about actually building such a spacecraft.

Sounds cool. For the sake of our descendants, let’s hope they get it right.

Astronaut Who Walked on the Moon Claims UFOs Are Real

I saw a UFO back in 1952. I was seventeen at the time, living with my parents on a twenty-acre smallholding about ten miles out of a town called Fort Victoria in the then Southern Rhodesia (now Masvingo, Zimbabwe).

It was early evening, we had been eating slices of watermelon after dinner, and now we were having our customary watermelon-skin fight (that’s when rowdy family members like ours throw pieces of watermelon skins at each other for laughs). I got carried away and hurled a sizable piece of skin at my stepfather with a lot more force than was advisable. It hit him full in the face. He took exception and tried to grab hold of me with the intention — I had no doubt — of doing me a grievous injury. I ran out of the house and into the night for quite some distance, to wait for his wrath to subside.

I happened to look up and there it was, a huge orange-glowing sphere hovering low in the night sky. For long moments I stood transfixed. Then the object began slowly to descend until it dropped out of sight behind the tree line. I was completely mystified. I knew about “flying saucers,” but the object I’d seen wasn’t at all saucer-like.

The next day, Fort Victoria was abuzz with talk about the mysterious “orange ball in the sky.” Some claimed to have seen it descend beneath the surface of the Umshandigi Dam.

These days, the more I think about the UFO phenomenon, the more I don’t know what to think about the UFO phenomenon. I’m skeptical of claims people make — Betty and Barney Hill, for example — of having had encounters of the third kind with UFOs. At the same time I realize that were I to have a similar experience and were I to tell people about it, they wouldn’t believe me either. And you can’t discount all claims of UFO sightings, particularly when coming from people of the highest integrity.

For instance, during the aerial dogfights in World War II, pilots of British and German planes saw UFOs which appeared to be watching the action. The British nicknamed them “foo-fighters.”

Here’s the thing. The pilots on both sides would have been preoccupied with trying to outwit each other in their deadly aerial duels. Flying machines from another planet would have been the last thing they’d have expected to encounter; it was the sheer intrusiveness of the UFOs that caught their attention. So I’m inclined to think the “foo-fighters” were real enough.

Now I’m trying to decide what to make of an article I just read concerning the claims by Dr Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man to walk on the moon, that “high-ranking military officials witnessed alien ships during weapons tests throughout the 1940s.” And that “aliens came to Earth to stop a nuclear war between America and Russia.”

He says high-ranking military officials witnessed alien ships during weapons tests throughout the 1940s and that other officers told him their test missiles “were frequently shot down by alien spacecraft.”

Dr Mitchell also says the Roswell UFO-crash cover-up was real. In fact, in 2012 Chase Brandon, a former CIA agent and veteran of 35 years, also said the cover-up was real, and, moreover, that he had actually seen proof of it.

Also in 2012, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Richard French told The Huffington Post that there were actually two UFO crashes and that the first UFO was shot down by a U.S. experimental plane with an electronic pulse weapon that disabled the UFO’s controls and caused it to crash.

Like I said, the more I think about the UFO phenomenon, the more I don’t know what to think about the UFO phenomenon.

It’s Sugar, Not Saturated Fat, That’s Bad for You

For almost as long as I can remember, we have been led to believe that saturated fat is the biggest dietary villain of them all. Now, in a complete about-face, we are told that the experts have been wrong all along.

Now they are saying that saturated fat is actually good for you, and sugar is the real villain:

Another food myth bites the dust.

Conflicting Assertions About Alcohol Consumption and Health

According to one article in the Daily Mail, moderate drinking is good for your health.

But then again, according to another article in the Daily Mail, just eight months later, even moderate drinking is bad for your health.

So which article has got it right? I don’t know.

For a number of years, I used to drink beer sometimes — and I hardly ever got sick.

Then, about 25 years ago, I turned teetotal — and I still hardly ever get sick.

Maybe it’s more about horses for courses than anything else.