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Psoriasis Treatment Options | STELARA (ustekinumab)

Posted: September 25, 2016 at 7:18 am

STELARA (ustekinumab) is a prescription medicine that affects your immune system. STELARA can increase your chance of having serious side effects including:

STELARA may lower your ability to fight infections and may increase your risk of infections. While taking STELARA, some people have serious infections, which may require hospitalization, including tuberculosis (TB), and infections caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses.

You should not start taking STELARA if you have any kind of infection unless your doctor says it is okay.

Before starting STELARA, tell your doctor if you think you have an infection or have symptoms of an infection such as:

After starting STELARA, call your doctor right away if you have any symptoms of an infection (see above).

STELARA can make you more likely to get infections or make an infection that you have worse. People who have a genetic problem where the body does not make any of the proteins interleukin 12 (IL12) and interleukin 23 (IL23) are at a higher risk for certain serious infections that can spread throughout the body and cause death. It is not known if people who take STELARA will get any of these infections because of the effects of STELARA on these proteins.

STELARA may decrease the activity of your immune system and increase your risk for certain types of cancer. Tell your doctor if you have ever had any type of cancer. Some people who had risk factors for skin cancer developed certain types of skin cancers while receiving STELARA. Tell your doctor if you have any new skin growths.

RPLS is a rare condition that affects the brain and can cause death. The cause of RPLS is not known. If RPLS is found early and treated, most people recover. Tell your doctor right away if you have any new or worsening medical problems including: headache, seizures, confusion, and vision problems.

Serious allergic reactions can occur. Get medical help right away if you have any symptoms such as: feeling faint, swelling of your face, eyelids, tongue, or throat, trouble breathing, throat or chest tightness, or skin rash.

Tell your doctor about all the medicines you take, including prescription and overthecounter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements. Know the medicines you take. Keep a list of them to show your doctor and pharmacist when you get a new medicine.

When prescribed STELARA:

Common side effects of STELARA include: upper respiratory infections, headache, tiredness, joint pain, and nausea. These are not all of the possible side effects with STELARA. Tell your doctor about any side effect that you experience. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more information.

You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit http://www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1800FDA1088.

Please read the full Prescribing Informationincluding the Medication Guidefor STELARA, and discuss any questions you have with your doctor.

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Psoriasis Treatment Options | STELARA (ustekinumab)

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Ron Paul Liberty Report – Home

Posted: September 22, 2016 at 7:42 pm

Do you really own something if the governmentforces youto make never-ending payments on it?

I think the answer is no.

Youpossesssuch an item, but you dontownit outright. Its an important distinction.

A ridiculous threat to property rights has infected most of the world like a virus. Most people unquestioningly accept it as a normal part of lifelike gravity or the sun setting in the west.

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Government seeks to help the poor, but only succeeds in hurting them even more. The same can be said for when government seeks to provide “paid maternity leave”. Once again, in its attempt to supposedly help women, it can only end up hurting them.

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Are you tired of the exhausting displays of political correctness in America? Can’t you just feel the liberty and ability to think freely being squeezed out of society? Did you ever wonder where it all came from? After all, there is nothing more powerful than ideas. How did we get here, and who has been behind it? Well, below you’ll find an extremely easy to understand presentation that will open your eyes. Make the time to watch it. You won’t regret it:

Today’s Liberty Report is joined by US Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) to discuss the state of the liberty movement both inside and outside of government. What can we do to make a difference? Streamed LIVE Sept 21, 2016

Just over a week after a ceasefire deal was announced by the US and Russia, the deal is a smoldering ruin. A US strike on Syrian forces, US-backed rebel groups that refuse to break with al-Qaeda, and an attack yesterday on a humanitarian aid convoy in Aleppo have obliterated any hopes for an end to the violence. What should the US do next? Streamed LIVE Sept 20, 2016

Has the surveillance state claimed the last bit of our privacy? Our lives are being stored at enormous “data centers” in the US and abroad. Everything we do, every transaction, every website we visit. This has nothing to do with terrorism and everything to do with control. Today’s Liberty Report is joined by former State Department official Peter Van Buren to discuss the surveillance state as so masterfully depicted in the recent Oliver Stone film, Snowden.Published Sept 19, 2016

As Hillary Clinton calls millions of Americans “irredeemable” and “deplorable,” Ron Paul explains why those terms apply to American politics itself. Gang warfare and a sprawling government enforcer wasn’t supposed to be the fate of the “land of the free.” There is a better way to live. Don’t miss today’s Myth-Busters! Publishes Sept 16, 2016

Yesterday US National Security Advisor Susan Rice signed a “memorandum of understanding” committing the US to providing $38 billion in military aid over the next ten years. Philip Giraldi joins today’s Liberty Report to break down the agreement and discuss whether it really does, as Rice claims, benefit US security. Streamed LIVE Sept 15, 2016

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Understanding Human Genetic Variation – NIH Curriculum …

Posted: September 20, 2016 at 7:07 pm

Genetics is the scientific study of inherited variation. Human genetics, then, is the scientific study of inherited human variation.

Why study human genetics? One reason is simply an interest in better understanding ourselves. As a branch of genetics, human genetics concerns itself with what most of us consider to be the most interesting species on earth: Homo sapiens. But our interest in human genetics does not stop at the boundaries of the species, for what we learn about human genetic variation and its sources and transmission inevitably contributes to our understanding of genetics in general, just as the study of variation in other species informs our understanding of our own.

A second reason for studying human genetics is its practical value for human welfare. In this sense, human genetics is more an applied science than a fundamental science. One benefit of studying human genetic variation is the discovery and description of the genetic contribution to many human diseases. This is an increasingly powerful motivation in light of our growing understanding of the contribution that genes make to the development of diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. In fact, society has been willing in the past and continues to be willing to pay significant amounts of money for research in this area, primarily because of its perception that such study has enormous potential to improve human health. This perception, and its realization in the discoveries of the past 20 years, have led to a marked increase in the number of people and organizations involved in human genetics.

This second reason for studying human genetics is related to the first. The desire to develop medical practices that can alleviate the suffering associated with human disease has provided strong support to basic research. Many basic biological phenomena have been discovered and described during the course of investigations into particular disease conditions. A classic example is the knowledge about human sex chromosomes that was gained through the study of patients with sex chromosome abnormalities. A more current example is our rapidly increasing understanding of the mechanisms that regulate cell growth and reproduction, understanding that we have gained primarily through a study of genes that, when mutated, increase the risk of cancer.

Likewise, the results of basic research inform and stimulate research into human disease. For example, the development of recombinant DNA techniques () rapidly transformed the study of human genetics, ultimately allowing scientists to study the detailed structure and functions of individual human genes, as well as to manipulate these genes in a variety of previously unimaginable ways.

Recombinant techniques have transformed the study of human genetics.

A third reason for studying human genetics is that it gives us a powerful tool for understanding and describing human evolution. At one time, data from physical anthropology (including information about skin color, body build, and facial traits) were the only source of information available to scholars interested in tracing human evolutionary history. Today, however, researchers have a wealth of genetic data, including molecular data, to call upon in their work.

Two research approaches were historically important in helping investigators understand the biological basis of heredity. The first of these approaches, transmission genetics, involved crossing organisms and studying the offsprings’ traits to develop hypotheses about the mechanisms of inheritance. This work demonstrated that in some organisms at least, heredity seems to follow a few definite and rather simple rules.

The second approach involved using cytologic techniques to study the machinery and processes of cellular reproduction. This approach laid a solid foundation for the more conceptual understanding of inheritance that developed as a result of transmission genetics. By the early 1900s, cytologists had demonstrated that heredity is the consequence of the genetic continuity of cells by cell division, had identified the gametes as the vehicles that transmit genetic information from one generation to another, and had collected strong evidence for the central role of the nucleus and the chromosomes in heredity.

As important as they were, the techniques of transmission genetics and cytology were not enough to help scientists understand human genetic variation at the level of detail that is now possible. The central advantage that today’s molecular techniques offer is that they allow researchers to study DNA directly. Before the development of these techniques, scientists studying human genetic variation were forced to make inferences about molecular differences from the phenotypes produced by mutant genes. Furthermore, because the genes associated with most single-gene disorders are relatively rare, they could be studied in only a small number of families. Many of the traits associated with these genes also are recessive and so could not be detected in people with heterozygous genotypes. Unlike researchers working with other species, human geneticists are restricted by ethical considerations from performing experimental, “at-will” crosses on human subjects. In addition, human generations are on the order of 20 to 40 years, much too slow to be useful in classic breeding experiments. All of these limitations made identifying and studying genes in humans both tedious and slow.

In the last 50 years, however, beginning with the discovery of the structure of DNA and accelerating significantly with the development of recombinant DNA techniques in the mid-1970s, a growing battery of molecular techniques has made direct study of human DNA a reality. Key among these techniques are restriction analysis and molecular recombination, which allow researchers to cut and rejoin DNA molecules in highly specific and predictable ways; amplification techniques, such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which make it possible to make unlimited copies of any fragment of DNA; hybridization techniques, such as fluorescence in situ hybridization, which allow scientists to compare DNA samples from different sources and to locate specific base sequences within samples; and the automated sequencing techniques that today are allowing workers to sequence the human genome at an unprecedented rate.

On the immediate horizon are even more powerful techniques, techniques that scientists expect will have a formidable impact on the future of both research and clinical genetics. One such technique, DNA chip technology (also called DNA microarray technology), is a revolutionary new tool designed to identify mutations in genes or survey expression of tens of thousands of genes in one experiment.

In one application of this technology, the chip is designed to detect mutations in a particular gene. The DNA microchip consists of a small glass plate encased in plastic. It is manufactured using a process similar to the process used to make computer microchips. On its surface, it contains synthetic single-stranded DNA sequences identical to that of the normal gene and all possible mutations of that gene. To determine whether an individual possesses a mutation in the gene, a scientist first obtains a sample of DNA from the person’s blood, as well as a sample of DNA that does not contain a mutation in that gene. After denaturing, or separating, the DNA samples into single strands and cutting them into smaller, more manageable fragments, the scientist labels the fragments with fluorescent dyes: the person’s DNA with red dye and the normal DNA with green dye. Both sets of labeled DNA are allowed to hybridize, or bind, to the synthetic DNA on the chip. If the person does not have a mutation in the gene, both DNA samples will hybridize equivalently to the chip and the chip will appear uniformly yellow. However, if the person does possess a mutation, the mutant sequence on the chip will hybridize to the patient’s sample, but not to the normal DNA, causing it (the chip) to appear red in that area. The scientist can then examine this area more closely to confirm that a mutation is present.

DNA microarray technology is also allowing scientists to investigate the activity in different cell types of thousands of genes at the same time, an advance that will help researchers determine the complex functional relationships that exist between individual genes. This type of analysis involves placing small snippets of DNA from hundreds or thousands of genes on a single microscope slide, then allowing fluorescently labeled mRNA molecules from a particular cell type to hybridize to them. By measuring the fluorescence of each spot on the slide, scientists can determine how active various genes are in that cell type. Strong fluorescence indicates that many mRNA molecules hybridized to the gene and, therefore, that the gene is very active in that cell type. Conversely, no fluorescence indicates that none of the cell’s mRNA molecules hybridized to the gene and that the gene is inactive in that cell type.

Although these technologies are still relatively new and are being used primarily for research, scientists expect that one day they will have significant clinical applications. For example, DNA chip technology has the potential to significantly reduce the time and expense involved in genetic testing. This technology or others like it may one day help make it possible to define an individual’s risk of developing many types of hereditary cancer as well as other common disorders, such as heart disease and diabetes. Likewise, scientists may one day be able to classify human cancers based on the patterns of gene activity in the tumor cells and then be able to design treatment strategies that are targeted directly to each specific type of cancer.

Homo sapiens is a relatively young species and has not had as much time to accumulate genetic variation as have the vast majority of species on earth, most of which predate humans by enormous expanses of time. Nonetheless, there is considerable genetic variation in our species. The human genome comprises about 3 109 base pairs of DNA, and the extent of human genetic variation is such that no two humans, save identical twins, ever have been or will be genetically identical. Between any two humans, the amount of genetic variationbiochemical individualityis about .1 percent. This means that about one base pair out of every 1,000 will be different between any two individuals. Any two (diploid) people have about 6 106 base pairs that are different, an important reason for the development of automated procedures to analyze genetic variation.

The most common polymorphisms (or genetic differences) in the human genome are single base-pair differences. Scientists call these differences SNPs, for single-nucleotide polymorphisms. When two different haploid genomes are compared, SNPs occur, on average, about every 1,000 bases. Other types of polymorphismsfor example, differences in copy number, insertions, deletions, duplications, and rearrangementsalso occur, but much less frequently.

Notwithstanding the genetic differences between individuals, all humans have a great deal of their genetic information in common. These similarities help define us as a species. Furthermore, genetic variation around the world is distributed in a rather continuous manner; there are no sharp, discontinuous boundaries between human population groups. In fact, research results consistently demonstrate that about 85 percent of all human genetic variation exists within human populations, whereas about only 15 percent of variation exists between populations (). That is, research reveals that Homo sapiens is one continuously variable, interbreeding species. Ongoing investigation of human genetic variation has even led biologists and physical anthropologists to rethink traditional notions of human racial groups. The amount of genetic variation between these traditional classifications actually falls below the level that taxonomists use to designate subspecies, the taxonomic category for other species that corresponds to the designation of race in Homo sapiens. This finding has caused some biologists to call the validity of race as a biological construct into serious question.

Most variation occurs within populations.

Analysis of human genetic variation also confirms that humans share much of their genetic information with the rest of the natural worldan indication of the relatedness of all life by descent with modification from common ancestors. The highly conserved nature of many genetic regions across considerable evolutionary distance is especially obvious in genes related to development. For example, mutations in the patched gene produce developmental abnormalities in Drosophila, and mutations in the patched homolog in humans produce analogous structural deformities in the developing human embryo.

Geneticists have used the reality of evolutionary conservation to detect genetic variations associated with some cancers. For example, mutations in the genes responsible for repair of DNA mismatches that arise during DNA replication are associated with one form of colon cancer. These mismatched repair genes are conserved in evolutionary history all the way back to the bacterium Escherichia coli, where the genes are designated Mutl and Muts. Geneticists suspected that this form of colon cancer was associated with a failure of mismatch repair, and they used the known sequences from the E. coli genes to probe the human genome for homologous sequences. This work led ultimately to the identification of a gene that is associated with increased risk for colon cancer.

Almost all human genetic variation is relatively insignificant biologically; that is, it has no adaptive significance. Some variation (for example, a neutral mutation) alters the amino acid sequence of the resulting protein but produces no detectable change in its function. Other variation (for example, a silent mutation) does not even change the amino acid sequence. Furthermore, only a small percentage of the DNA sequences in the human genome are coding sequences (sequences that are ultimately translated into protein) or regulatory sequences (sequences that can influence the level, timing, and tissue specificity of gene expression). Differences that occur elsewhere in the DNAin the vast majority of the DNA that has no known functionhave no impact.

Some genetic variation, however, can be positive, providing an advantage in changing environments. The classic example from the high school biology curriculum is the mutation for sickle hemoglobin, which in the heterozygous state provides a selective advantage in areas where malaria is endemic.

More recent examples include mutations in the CCR5 gene that appear to provide protection against AIDS. The CCR5 gene encodes a protein on the surface of human immune cells. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, infects immune cells by binding to this protein and another protein on the surface of those cells. Mutations in the CCR5 gene that alter its level of expression or the structure of the resulting protein can decrease HIV infection. Early research on one genetic variant indicates that it may have risen to high frequency in Northern Europe about 700 years ago, at about the time of the European epidemic of bubonic plague. This finding has led some scientists to hypothesize that the CCR5 mutation may have provided protection against infection by Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes plague. The fact that HIV and Y. pestis both infect macrophages supports the argument for selective advantage of this genetic variant.

The sickle cell and AIDS/plague stories remind us that the biological significance of genetic variation depends on the environment in which genes are expressed. It also reminds us that differential selection and evolution would not proceed in the absence of genetic variation within a species.

Some genetic variation, of course, is associated with disease, as classic single-gene disorders such as sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, and Duchenne muscular dystrophy remind us. Increasingly, research also is uncovering genetic variations associated with the more common diseases that are among the major causes of sickness and death in developed countriesdiseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disease (manic-depression). Whereas disorders such as cystic fibrosis or Huntington disease result from the effects of mutation in a single gene and are evident in virtually all environments, the more common diseases result from the interaction of multiple genes and environmental variables. Such diseases therefore are termed polygenic and multifactorial. In fact, the vast majority of human traits, diseases or otherwise, are multifactorial.

The genetic distinctions between relatively rare single-gene disorders and the more common multifactorial diseases are significant. Genetic variations that underlie single-gene disorders generally are relatively recent, and they often have a major, detrimental impact, disrupting homeostasis in significant ways. Such disorders also generally exact their toll early in life, often before the end of childhood. In contrast, the genetic variations that underlie common, multifactorial diseases generally are of older origin and have a smaller, more gradual effect on homeostasis. They also generally have their onset in adulthood. The last two characteristics make the ability to detect genetic variations that predispose/increase risk of common diseases especially valuable because people have time to modify their behavior in ways that can reduce the likelihood that the disease will develop, even against a background of genetic predisposition.

As noted earlier, one of the benefits of understanding human genetic variation is its practical value for understanding and promoting health and for understanding and combating disease. We probably cannot overestimate the importance of this benefit. First, as shows, virtually every human disease has a genetic component. In some diseases, such as Huntington disease, Tay-Sachs disease, and cystic fibrosis, this component is very large. In other diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, the genetic component is more modest. In fact, we do not typically think of these diseases as “genetic diseases,” because we inherit not the certainty of developing a disease, but only a predisposition to developing it.

Virtually all human diseases, except perhaps trauma, have a genetic component.

In still other diseases, the genetic component is very small. The crucial point, however, is that it is there. Even infectious diseases, diseases that we have traditionally placed in a completely different category than genetic disorders, have a real, albeit small, genetic component. For example, as the CCR5 example described earlier illustrates, even AIDS is influenced by a person’s genotype. In fact, some people appear to have genetic resistance to HIV infection as a result of carrying a variant of the CCR5 gene.

Second, each of us is at some genetic risk, and therefore can benefit, at least theoretically, from the progress scientists are making in understanding and learning how to respond to these risks. Scientists estimate that each of us carries between 5 and 50 mutations that carry some risk for disease or disability. Some of us may not experience negative consequences from the mutations we carry, either because we do not live long enough for it to happen or because we may not be exposed to the relevant environmental triggers. The reality, however, is that the potential for negative consequences from our genes exists for each of us.

How is modern genetics helping us address the challenge of human disease? As shows, modern genetic analysis of a human disease begins with mapping and cloning the associated gene or genes. Some of the earliest disease genes to be mapped and cloned were the genes associated with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, retinoblastoma, and cystic fibrosis. More recently, scientists have announced the cloning of genes for breast cancer, diabetes, and Parkinson disease.

Mapping and cloning a gene can lead to strategies that reduce the risk of disease (preventive medicine); guidelines for prescribing drugs based on a person’s genotype (pharmacogenomics); procedures that alter the affected gene (gene therapy); or drugs (more…)

As also shows, mapping and cloning a disease-related gene opens the way for the development of a variety of new health care strategies. At one end of the spectrum are genetic tests intended to identify people at increased risk for the disease and recognize genotypic differences that have implications for effective treatment. At the other end are new drug and gene therapies that specifically target the biochemical mechanisms that underlie the disease symptoms or even replace, manipulate, or supplement nonfunctional genes with functional ones. Indeed, as suggests, we are entering the era of molecular medicine.

Genetic testing is not a new health care strategy. Newborn screening for diseases like PKU has been going on for 30 years in many states. Nevertheless, the remarkable progress scientists are making in mapping and cloning human disease genes brings with it the prospect for the development of more genetic tests in the future. The availability of such tests can have a significant impact on the way the public perceives a particular disease and can also change the pattern of care that people in affected families might seek and receive. For example, the identification of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes and the demonstration that particular variants of these genes are associated with an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer have paved the way for the development of guidelines and protocols for testing individuals with a family history of these diseases. BRCA1, located on the long arm of chromosome 17, was the first to be isolated, and variants of this gene account for about 50 percent of all inherited breast cancer, or about 5 percent of all breast cancer. Variants of BRCA2, located on the long arm of chromosome 13, appear to account for about 30 to 40 percent of all inherited breast cancer. Variants of these genes also increase slightly the risk for men of developing breast, prostate, or possibly other cancers.

Scientists estimate that hundreds of thousands of women in the United States have 1 of hundreds of significant mutations already detected in the BRCA1 gene. For a woman with a family history of breast cancer, the knowledge that she carries one of the variants of BRCA1 or BRCA2 associated with increased risk can be important information. If she does carry one of these variants, she and her physician can consider several changes in her health care, such as increasing the frequency of physical examinations; introducing mammography at an earlier age; and even having prophylactic mastectomy. In the future, drugs may also be available that decrease the risk of developing breast cancer.

The ability to test for the presence in individuals of particular gene variants is also changing the way drugs are prescribed and developed. A rapidly growing field known as pharmacogenomics focuses on crucial genetic differences that cause drugs to work well in some people and less well, or with dangerous adverse reactions, in others. For example, researchers investigating Alzheimer disease have found that the way patients respond to drug treatment can depend on which of three genetic variants of the ApoE (Apolipoprotein E) gene a person carries. Likewise, some of the variability in children’s responses to therapeutic doses of albuterol, a drug used to treat asthma, was recently linked to genotypic differences in the beta-2-adrenergic receptor. Because beta-2-adrenergic receptor agonists (of which albuterol is one) are the most widely used agents in the treatment of asthma, these results may have profound implications for understanding the genetic factors that determine an individual’s response to asthma therapy.

Experts predict that increasingly in the future, physicians will use genetic tests to match drugs to an individual patient’s body chemistry, so that the safest and most effective drugs and dosages can be prescribed. After identifying the genotypes that determine individual responses to particular drugs, pharmaceutical companies also likely will set out to develop new, highly specific drugs and revive older ones whose effects seemed in the past too unpredictable to be of clinical value.

Knowledge of the molecular structure of disease-related genes also is changing the way researchers approach developing new drugs. A striking example followed the discovery in 1989 of the gene associated with cystic fibrosis (CF). Researchers began to study the function of the normal and defective proteins involved in order to understand the biochemical consequences of the gene’s variant forms and to develop new treatment strategies based on that knowledge. The normal protein, called CFTR for cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator, is embedded in the membranes of several cell types in the body, where it serves as a channel, transporting chloride ions out of the cells. In CF patients, depending on the particular mutation the individual carries, the CFTR protein may be reduced or missing from the cell membrane, or may be present but not function properly. In some mutations, synthesis of CFTR protein is interrupted, and the cells produce no CFTR molecules at all.

Although all of the mutations associated with CF impair chloride transport, the consequences for patients with different mutations vary. For example, patients with mutations causing absent or markedly reduced CFTR protein may have more severe disease than patients with mutations in which CFTR is present but has altered function. The different mutations also suggest different treatment strategies. For example, the most common CF-related mutation (called delta F508) leads to the production of protein molecules (called delta F508 CFTR) that are misprocessed and are degraded prematurely before they reach the cell membrane. This finding suggests that drug treatments that would enhance transport of the defective delta F508 protein to the cell membrane or prevent its degradation could yield important benefits for patients with delta F508 CFTR.

Finally, the identification, cloning, and sequencing of a disease-related gene can open the door to the development of strategies for treating the disease using the instructions encoded in the gene itself. Collectively referred to as gene therapy, these strategies typically involve adding a copy of the normal variant of a disease-related gene to a patient’s cells. The most familiar examples of this type of gene therapy are cases in which researchers use a vector to introduce the normal variant of a disease-related gene into a patient’s cells and then return those cells to the patient’s body to provide the function that was missing. This strategy was first used in the early 1990s to introduce the normal allele of the adenosine deaminase (ADA) gene into the body of a little girl who had been born with ADA deficiency. In this disease, an abnormal variant of the ADA gene fails to make adenosine deaminase, a protein that is required for the correct functioning of T-lymphocytes.

Although researchers are continuing to refine this general approach to gene therapy, they also are developing new approaches. For example, scientists hope that one very new strategy, called chimeraplasty, may one day be used to actually correct genetic defects that involve only a single base change. Chimeraplasty uses specially synthesized molecules that base pair with a patient’s DNA and stimulate the cell’s normal DNA repair mechanisms to remove the incorrect base and substitute the correct one. At this point, chimeraplasty is still in early development and the first clinical trials are about to get underway.

Yet another approach to gene therapy involves providing new or altered functions to a cell through the introduction of new genetic information. For example, recent experiments have demonstrated that it is possible, under carefully controlled experimental conditions, to introduce genetic information into cancer cells that will alter their metabolism so that they commit suicide when exposed to a normally innocuous environmental trigger. Researchers are also using similar experiments to investigate the feasibility of introducing genetic changes into cells that will make them immune to infection by HIV. Although this research is currently being done only in nonhuman primates, it may eventually benefit patients infected with HIV.

As indicates, the Human Genome Project (HGP) has significantly accelerated the pace of both the discovery of human genes and the development of new health care strategies based on a knowledge of a gene’s structure and function. The new knowledge and technologies emerging from HGP-related research also are reducing the cost of finding human genes. For example, the search for the gene associated with cystic fibrosis, which ended in 1989, before the inception of the HGP, required more than eight years and $50 million. In contrast, finding a gene associated with a Mendelian disorder now can be accomplished in less than a year at a cost of approximately $100,000.

The last few years of research into human genetic variation also have seen a gradual transition from a primary focus on genes associated with single-gene disorders, which are relatively rare in the human population, to an increasing focus on genes associated with multifactorial diseases. Because these diseases are not rare, we can expect that this work will affect many more people. Understanding the genetic and environmental bases for these multifactorial diseases also will lead to increased testing and the development of new interventions that likely will have an enormous effect on the practice of medicine in the next century.

What are the implications of using our growing knowledge of human genetic variation to improve personal and public health? As noted earlier, the rapid pace of the discovery of genetic factors in disease has improved our ability to predict the risk of disease in asymptomatic individuals. We have learned how to prevent the manifestations of some of these diseases, and we are developing the capacity to treat others.

Yet, much remains unknown about the benefits and risks of building an understanding of human genetic variation at the molecular level. While this information would have the potential to dramatically improve human health, the architects of the HGP realized that it also would raise a number of complex ethical, legal, and social issues. Thus, in 1990 they established the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) program to anticipate and address the ethical, legal, and social issues that arise from human genetic research. This program, perhaps more than any other, has focused public attention, as well as the attention of educators, on the increasing importance of preparing citizens to understand and contribute to the ongoing public dialogue related to advances in genetics.

Ethics is the study of right and wrong, good and bad. It has to do with the actions and character of individuals, families, communities, institutions, and societies. During the last two and one-half millennia, Western philosophy has developed a variety of powerful methods and a reliable set of concepts and technical terms for studying and talking about the ethical life. Generally speaking, we apply the terms “right” and “good” to those actions and qualities that foster the interests of individuals, families, communities, institutions, and society. Here, an “interest” refers to a participant’s share or participation in a situation. The terms “wrong” or “bad” apply to those actions and qualities that impair interests.

Ethical considerations are complex, multifaceted, and raise many questions. Often, there are competing, well-reasoned answers to questions about what is right and wrong, and good and bad, about an individual’s or group’s conduct or actions. Typically, these answers all involve appeals to values. A value is something that has significance or worth in a given situation. One of the exciting events to witness in any discussion in ethics is the varying ways in which the individuals involved assign values to things, persons, and states of affairs. Examples of values that students may appeal to in a discussion about ethics include autonomy, freedom, privacy, sanctity of life, religion, protecting another from harm, promoting another’s good, justice, fairness, relationships, scientific knowledge, and technological progress.

Acknowledging the complex, multifaceted nature of ethical discussions is not to suggest that “anything goes.” Experts generally agree on the following features of ethics. First, ethics is a process of rational inquiry. It involves posing clearly formulated questions and seeking well-reasoned answers to those questions. For example, we can ask questions about an individual’s right to privacy regarding personal genetic information; we also can ask questions about the appropriateness of particular uses of gene therapy. Well-reasoned answers to such questions constitute arguments. Ethical analysis and argument, then, result from successful ethical inquiry.

Second, ethics requires a solid foundation of information and rigorous interpretation of that information. For example, one must have a solid understanding of biology to evaluate the recent decision by the Icelandic government to create a database that will contain extensive genetic and medical information about the country’s citizens. A knowledge of science also is needed to discuss the ethics of genetic screening or of germ-line gene therapy. Ethics is not strictly a theoretical discipline but is concerned in vital ways with practical matters.

Third, discussions of ethical issues often lead to the identification of very different answers to questions about what is right and wrong and good and bad. This is especially true in a society such as our own, which is characterized by a diversity of perspectives and values. Consider, for example, the question of whether adolescents should be tested for late-onset genetic conditions. Genetic testing centers routinely withhold genetic tests for Huntington disease (HD) from asymptomatic patients under the age of 18. The rationale is that the condition expresses itself later in life and, at present, treatment is unavailable. Therefore, there is no immediate, physical health benefit for a minor from a specific diagnosis based on genetic testing. In addition, there is concern about the psychological effects of knowing that later in life one will get a debilitating, life-threatening condition. Teenagers can wait until they are adults to decide what and when they would like to know. In response, some argue that many adolescents and young children do have sufficient autonomy in consent and decision making and may wish to know their future. Others argue that parents should have the right to have their children tested, because parents make many other medical decisions on behalf of their children. This example illustrates how the tools of ethics can bring clarity and rigor to discussions involving values.

One of the goals of this module is to help students see how understanding science can help individuals and society make reasoned decisions about issues related to genetics and health. Activity 5, Making Decisions in the Face of Uncertainty, presents students with a case of a woman who is concerned that she may carry an altered gene that predisposes her to breast and ovarian cancer. The woman is faced with numerous decisions, which students also consider. Thus, the focus of Activity 5 is prudential decision making, which involves the ability to avoid unnecessary risk when it is uncertain whether an event actually will occur. By completing the activity, students understand that uncertainty is often a feature of questions related to genetics and health, because our knowledge of genetics is incomplete and constantly changing. In addition, students see that making decisions about an uncertain future is complex. In simple terms, students have to ask themselves, “How bad is the outcome and how likely is it to occur?” When the issues are weighed, different outcomes are possible, depending on one’s estimate of the incidence of the occurrence and how much burden one attaches to the risk.

Clearly, science as well as ethics play important roles in helping individuals make choices about individual and public health. Science provides evidence that can help us understand and treat human disease, illness, deformity, and dysfunction. And ethics provides a framework for identifying and clarifying values and the choices that flow from these values. But the relationships between scientific information and human choices, and between choices and behaviors, are not straightforward. In other words, human choice allows individuals to choose against sound knowledge, and choice does not require action.

Nevertheless, it is increasingly difficult to deny the claims of science. We are continually presented with great amounts of relevant scientific and medical knowledge that is publicly accessible. As a consequence, we can think about the relationships between knowledge, choice, behavior, and human welfare in the following ways:

One of the goals of this module is to encourage students to think in terms of these relationships, now and as they grow older.

Biological Sciences Curriculum Study. Teaching tools. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company; 1999.

Bonwell CC, Eison JA. Washington, DC: The George Washington University: School of Education and Human Development; Active learning: Creating excitement in the classroom. 1991 (ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 1)

Brody CM. Collaborative or cooperative learning? Complementary practices for instructional reform. The Journal of Staff, Program, & Organizational Development. 1995;12(3):134143.

Harrison GA, Tanner JM, Pilbeam DR, Baker PT. Human biology: An introduction to human evolution, variation, growth, and adaptability. New York: Oxford University Press; 1988.

Knapp MS, Shields PM, Turnbull BJ. Academic challenge in high-poverty classrooms. Phi Delta Kappan. 1995;76(10):770776.

Lander ES. Array of hope. Supplement to nature genetics. 1999 January;21

Moore JA. Science as a way of knowing: The foundations of modern biology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 1993.

National Institutes of Health. Congressional justification. Bethesda, MD: Author; 1996.

National Research Council. National science education standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1996.

Perkins D. Smart schools: Better thinking and learning for every child. New York: The Free Press; 1992.

Project Kaleidoscope. What works: Building natural science communities. Vol. 1. Washington, DC: Stamats Communications, Inc; 1991.

Roblyer MD, Edwards J, Havriluk MA. Integrating educational technology into teaching. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc; 1997.

Saltus R. Tailor-made drugs. The Boston Globe. 1998 April 20

Saunders WL. The constructivist perspective: Implications and teaching strategies for science. School Science and Mathematics. 1992;92(3):136141.

Sizer TR. Horace’s school: Redesigning the American high school. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co; 1992.

Vogel F, Motulsky AG. Human genetics: Problems and approaches. 3rd ed. New York: Springer; 1997.

The following glossary was modified from the glossary on the National Human Genome Research Institute’s Web site, available at http://www.nhgri.nih.gov.

One of the variant forms of a gene at a particular locus, or location, on a chromosome. Different alleles produce variation in inherited characteristics such as hair color or blood type. In an individual, one form of the allele (the dominant one) may be expressed more than another form (the recessive one).

One of 20 different kinds of small molecules that link together in long chains to form proteins. Amino acids are referred to as the “building blocks” of proteins.

Gene on one of the autosomes that, if present, will almost always produce a specific trait or disease. The chance of passing the gene (and therefore the disease) to children is 50-50 in each pregnancy.

Chromosome other than a sex chromosome. Humans have 22 pairs of autosomes.

Two bases that form a “rung of the DNA ladder.” The bases are the “letters” that spell out the genetic code. In DNA, the code letters are A, T, G, and C, which stand for the chemicals adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine, respectively. In base pairing, adenine always pairs with thymine, and guanine always pairs with cytosine.

Defect present at birth, whether caused by mutant genes or by prenatal events that are not genetic.

First breast cancer genes to be identified. Mutated forms of these genes are believed to be responsible for about one-half the cases of inherited breast cancer, especially those that occur in younger women, and also to increase a woman’s risk for ovarian cancer. Both are tumor suppressor genes.

Diseases in which abnormal cells divide and grow unchecked. Cancer can spread from its original site to other parts of the body and can be fatal if not treated adequately.

Gene, located in a chromosome region suspected of being involved in a disease, whose protein product suggests that it could be the disease gene in question.

Mutation that confers immunity to infection by HIV. The mutation alters the structure of a receptor on the surface of macrophages such that HIV cannot enter the cell.

Collection of DNA sequences generated from mRNA sequences. This type of library contains only protein-coding DNA (genes) and does not include any noncoding DNA.

Basic unit of any living organism. It is a small, watery, compartment filled with chemicals and a complete copy of the organism’s genome.

One of the thread like “packages” of genes and other DNA in the nucleus of a cell. Different kinds of organisms have different numbers of chromosomes. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes, 46 in all: 44 autosomes and two sex chromosomes. Each parent contributes one chromosome to each pair, so children get one-half of their chromosomes from their mothers and one-half from their fathers.

Process of making copies of a specific piece of DNA, usually a gene. When geneticists speak of cloning, they do not mean the process of making genetically identical copies of an entire organism.

Three bases in a DNA or RNA sequence that specify a single amino acid.

Hereditary disease whose symptoms usually appear shortly after birth. They include faulty digestion, breathing difficulties and respiratory infections due to mucus accumulation, and excessive loss of salt in sweat. In the past, cystic fibrosis was almost always fatal in childhood, but treatment is now so improved that patients commonly live to their 20s and beyond.

Visual appearance of a chromo some when stained and examined under a microscope. Particularly important are visually distinct regions, called light and dark bands, that give each of the chromosomes a unique appearance. This feature allows a person’s chromosomes to be studied in a clinical test known as a karyotype, which allows scientists to look for chromosomal alterations.

Particular kind of mutation: loss of a piece of DNA from a chromosome. Deletion of a gene or part of a gene can lead to a disease or abnormality.

Chemical inside the nucleus of a cell that carries the genetic instructions for making living organisms.

Number of chromosomes in most cells except the gametes. In humans, the diploid number is 46.

Technology that identifies mutations in genes. It uses small glass plates that contain synthetic single-stranded DNA sequences identical to those of a normal gene.

Process by which the DNA double helix unwinds and makes an exact copy of itself.

Determining the exact order of the base pairs in a segment of DNA.

Gene that almost always results in a specific physical characteristic (for example, a disease) even though the patient’s genome possesses only one copy. With a dominant gene, the chance of passing on the gene (and therefore the disease) to children is 50-50 in each pregnancy.

Structural arrangement of DNA, which looks something like an immensely long ladder twisted into a helix, or coil. The sides of the “ladder” are formed by a backbone of sugar and phosphate molecules, and the “rungs” consist of nucleotide bases joined weakly in the middle by hydrogen bonds.

Particular kind of mutation: production of one or more copies of any piece of DNA, including a gene or even an entire chromosome.

Process in which molecules (such as proteins, DNA, or RNA fragments) can be separated according to size and electrical charge by applying an electric current to them. The current forces the molecules through pores in a thin layer of gel, a firm, jellylike substance. The gel can be made so that its pores are just the right dimensions for separating molecules within a specific range of sizes and shapes. Smaller fragments usually travel further than large ones. The process is sometimes called gel electrophoresis.

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The bizarre world of bitcoin mining finds a new home in …

Posted: September 14, 2016 at 1:09 am

Inside a metal shed in the Tibetan highlands of western China, thousands of microprocessors flank narrow corridors, generating a constant hum and stifling waves of heat.

Outside, the sky is clear and blue, with a mountain peak looming at the top of a narrow wooded valley. A flock of goats ambles idly past a pile of discarded foam packaging. Inside, though, tranquility is transformed into clamor. Red, blue and green lights constantly flash; cooling water trickles down the walls, and large ventilation fans thrum as they struggle to shift the hot air produced by all this concentrated computing power.

This is a bitcoin mine, the engine room of the worlds leading digital currency. The microprocessors here approve and record all the transactions that keep the bitcoin system running. They also compete to solve complex mathematical problems and are rewarded with bitcoins: Thats a way of putting fresh digital currency into circulation and incentivizing more people to set up mining operations.

Bitcoin began as a utopian, libertarian dream, a decentralized currency outside the control of governments, a system that gives its users the anonymity of cash and the instant, global power of email. This was a system built not just for convenience, but also for those who cant bring themselves to trust the global financial system, created by a programmer whose identity remains a mystery.

Across Tibet, China is busy pulling mineral resources out of the ground; there is even a gold mine close by. But here in Kongyu, most of the mining is virtual. It is here because of extremely cheap hydropower, cheap wages and perhaps because Chinese entrepreneurs have a knack for the business.

[Chinas scary lesson to the world: Censoring the Internet works]

For a while, bitcoin was effectively kidnapped by drug dealers, becoming the anonymous payment backbone of the Silk Road, a black market in illegal drugs that flourished on the dark Net until the FBI closed that market down in 2013.

Today it is an industry that is starting to come of age, but whose center of gravity has shifted to China, and away from utopian dreamers toward venture capitalists.

When bitcoin was invented, the people dedicated to it were mostly crypto-punks and libertarians, said Eric Mu, the chief marketing officer with HaoBTC, which operates the bitcoin mine in this township in Chinas western Sichuan province. Now they are more like bankers and lawyers who see opportunities in the industry. And as they join, the industry is changing.

In this case, changing also means moving to China.

Today, mines run by Chinese companies account for about 70percent of the worlds bitcoin processing power, its factories produce the cheapest microprocessors to run these mines, and its exchanges account for about 70percent of the worlds bitcoin trade.

It is increasingly big business. Altogether there around more than 15 million bitcoin in existence: Each is worth $615 at current prices, with a market capitalization of $9.2 billion.

For some, Chinese domination of an industry once controlled by libertarian crypto-punks is a rich irony. For others, it is a more practical threat: Chinese miners, some argued, have been standing in the way of reforms needed to speed up transaction speeds on bitcoins fast-expanding network of users.

But those concerns might be overblown.

Some people in the Western world were painting Chinese miners with too broad a brush, said Emin Gn Sirer, a computer science professor at Cornell University. Its not the case that all Chinese miners are part of the same enterprise or are colluding.

But Sirer identifies one risk with the concentration of mining power here: If the Chinese government wanted, it could in theory crack down on miners and force them to block certain bitcoin accounts.

They would not be able to usurp funds, but they could stop the motion of funds, he said, describing exactly the sort of government control bitcoin was supposed to guard against.

These are concerns that have parallels with the way China is using its digital market power to reshape the Internet and influence the global debate about censorship and surveillance.

But here, in the mountains of Sichuan, it is hard to see much evidence of a Chinese plot to bring bitcoin to heel.

The Chinese government has employed a fairly light touch. Although it banned banks from taking part in bitcoin trading in 2013, it left ordinary people free to buy and trade the crypto-currency, and miners free to operate.

[Internet activists are finding ways around Chinas Great Firewall]

The industry is run by a disparate mix of investors and dreamers and is manned by electricians and IT experts. There are people like Ryan Xu, an infectiously enthusiastic Chinese-born Australian who first became interested in libertarian economics while working as a reactor operator in a nuclear power plant. He now describes himself as both a utopian and a venture capitalist.

We need to foresee the next five or 10 years, he said in a wide-ranging conversation over dinner in the western city of Kangding. All the governments are printing money and diluting peoples wealth. Is that justice or robbery? The financial system also keeps crashing every five or 10 years. I think thats an illness in the monetary system and it needs a cure.

He says he is not sure bitcoin is the answer, but it is at least an experiment that might work.

So why China?

Running microprocessors sucks electricity. Competition is intense, and profit margins are narrow: Xu has moved his mines around the world in search of the cheapest power, from Iceland to Georgia, and then to Washington state, from the coal fields of Chinas northern Inner Mongolia province and now to the mountains of Sichuan.

His latest mine is still under construction, between a hydroelectric power plant and the concrete shell of a disused power transmission station, between Kongyu and the city of Kangding.

As Chinas economy boomed, private companies set up hydroelectric plants in western Sichuan; then, as the economy slowed, they found themselves unable to sell to the national grid, elbowed out of the market by more politically powerful state-owned firms.

It took a lot of money to build the plants, but it doesnt cost that much to maintain them, said HaoBTCs Mu. So it makes sense for them to sell the power to anyone willing to buy, even at a low rate.

Maintenance staffers are cheaper here than in the West. Mu says his company employs 10 people at three mines in the mountains, paying them around 6,000 yuan ($900) a month, a decent salary for this part of the world. HaoBTC runs one other mine in Sichuan and one farther west in Xinjiang, with more than 11,000 machines, earning more than 80 bitcoin a day a daily income stream worth more than $745,000.

[These viral selfie apps with 1 billion downloads are shaping Chinas start-up culture]

But it is not only Chinese entrepreneurs who have taken to bitcoin. Deprived of good investment opportunities at home, and burned by a volatile stock market, a growing number of Chinese people have begun speculating and investing in bitcoin.

Bobby Lee, a former Silicon Valley engineer who founded Chinas first bitcoin exchange, BTCC, attributes it partly to a natural instinct to buy and sell.

If you look at Las Vegas or Macau or casinos worldwide, how come most of the clientele are of Asian descent, or Chinese specifically? he asked. It has to do with some cultural instinct. Chinese people like to gamble.

Yet as bitcoin matures, it is also experiencing some significant growing pains.

Bitcoin is virtual money that cuts out banks and credit card companies, and has gotten more popular recently. Here’s what you need to know about the original cryptocurrency. (Davin Coburn/The Washington Post)

On Aug. 2, the Bitfinex exchange in Hong Kong was forced to admit that hackers had stolen nearly 120,000 bitcoin worth $72million from customers accounts. That news caused the bitcoin price to fall by more than 20 percent and underlined the safety concerns that many ordinary people feel about owning digital money.

At the same time, the system is showing signs of overloading. Bitcoins current technology can process only around three digital transactions a second minuscule compared with the roughly 24,000 transactions per second that Visa can manage.

Delays in processing transactions have grown, as have transaction fees, and the industry has become deeply divided about how to reform the system to solve the problem.

Jeff Garzik, a leading bitcoin developer based in Atlanta, argues that a technological fix is in the pipeline that soon will allow bitcoin to process tens of thousands of transactions a second.

I think that with new technologies coming down the pipeline, it can scale up to everyone buying their coffee with bitcoin in the entire world, he said. It really can be the first really good substitute for physical in-your-hand cash.

Like Sirer, he isnt too worried about the current concentration of mining power in China, partly because the market is so dynamic and the dominant players change every year.

Its much easier to challenge the dominant players in this space because market entry is so easy, he said. If the Chinese miners suddenly power off their rigs, within 24 hours well see the emergence of another competitor.

Here in the mountains, miners while away their free time playing mah-jongg or poker, smoking cigarettes or surfing on their smartphones. Site manager Guo Hua used to run a small camera-repair shop and still likes fiddling around with machines. Marketing manager Mu, who spends only a few weeks of the year here, likes to translate books in his free time or run to the nearest town to buy cigarettes for his colleagues. Sometimes he hikes into the mountains, toward a remote Tibetan village or a looming peak, a welcome change of change of pace from Beijing and its polluted air.

And all the time, the microprocessors keep on running.

Australian entrepreneur Craig Wright has come forward as the mysterious creator behind the virtual currency Bitcoin. Here’s a look at what we know about the creator’s pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s history and Wright’s claims. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Xu Yangjingjing contributed to this report.

Read more:

America wants to believe China cant innovate. Tech tells a different story.

The Internet was supposed to foster democracy. China has different ideas.

Todays coverage from Post correspondents around the world

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Top Officials Want to Split Cyber Command From NSA

Posted: September 10, 2016 at 5:22 am

Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper testifies before a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on “Worldwide threats to America and our allies” in Washington on February 9, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

“There is a pressing need to clarify the distinction between the combat and intelligence collection missionsBecause the two roles are complementary but distinct, the Director of NSA and the Commander of US Cyber Command in the future should not be the same person, the panel concluded.

But Obama decided against doing that.

“Following a thorough interagency review, the administration has decided that keeping the positions of NSA Director and Cyber Command commander together as one, dual-hatted position is the most effective approach to accomplishing both agencies’ missions,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told the Washington Post at the time.

Now, officials have decided that separating the two agencies would be more efficient and better enable cyber command’s mission, officials said.

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Robotics – Wikibooks, open books for an open world

Posted: September 8, 2016 at 6:40 am

Robotics brings together several very different engineering areas and skills. There is metalworking for the body. There is mechanics for mounting the wheels on the axles, connecting them to the motors and keeping the body in balance. You need electronics to power the motors and connect the sensors to the controllers. At last you need the software to understand the sensors and drive the robot around.

This book tries to cover all the key areas of robotics as a hobby. When possible examples from industrial robots will be addressed too.

You’ll notice very few “exact” values in these texts. Instead, vague terms like “small”, “heavy” and “light” will be used. This is because most of the time you’ll have a lot of freedom in picking these values, and all robot projects are unique in available materials.

Note to potential contributors: this section could be used to discuss the basics of robot design/construction.

This section could be used to discuss various means through which robots are constructed.

This section could be used to discuss the control method and control algorithm introduces and analyzes the robot, including the position control, trajectory control, force control, torque control, compliance control, hybrid force / position control, decomposition motion control, variable structure control, adaptive control and hierarchical control, fuzzy control, learning control, neural control and evolutionary control, intelligent control.

This section could be used to discuss components used in robotics or the making of robots.

This section could be used to discuss the things involved with controlling robots via computers.

Sensors that a robot uses generally fall into three different categories:

Sensors aren’t perfect. When you use a sensor on your robot there will be a lot of times where the sensors acts funny. It could miss an obstacle, or see one where none is. Key to successfully using sensors is knowing how they function and what they really measure.

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Happiness – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Posted: at 6:31 am

Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.[1] Happy mental states may also reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being.[2] A variety of biological, psychological, economic, religious and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources. Various research groups, including positive psychology and happiness economics are employing the scientific method to research questions about what “happiness” is, and how it might be attained.

The United Nations declared 20 March the International Day of Happiness to recognise the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals.

Philosophers and religious thinkers often define happiness in terms of living a good life, or flourishing, rather than simply as an emotion. Happiness in this sense was used to translate the Greek Eudaimonia, and is still used in virtue ethics. There has been a transition over time from emphasis on the happiness of virtue to the virtue of happiness.[3] Since the turn of the millennium, the human flourishing approach, advanced particularly by Amartya Sen has attracted increasing interest in psychological, especially prominent in the work of Martin Seligman, Ed Diener and Ruut Veenhoven, and international development and medical research in the work of Paul Anand.[citation needed]

A widely discussed political value expressed in the United States Declaration of Independence of 1776, written by Thomas Jefferson, is the universal right to “the pursuit of happiness.”[4] This suggests a subjective interpretation but one that nonetheless goes beyond emotions alone.[citation needed]

Happiness is a fuzzy concept and can mean many different things to many people. Part of the challenge of a science of happiness is to identify different concepts of happiness, and where applicable, split them into their components. Related concepts are well-being, quality of life and flourishing. At least one author defines happiness as contentment.[5] Some commentators focus on the difference between the hedonistic tradition of seeking pleasant and avoiding unpleasant experiences, and the eudaimonic tradition of living life in a full and deeply satisfying way.[6]

The 2012 World Happiness Report stated that in subjective well-being measures, the primary distinction is between cognitive life evaluations and emotional reports.[7] Happiness is used in both life evaluation, as in How happy are you with your life as a whole?, and in emotional reports, as in How happy are you now?, and people seem able to use happiness as appropriate in these verbal contexts. Using these measures, the World Happiness Report identifies the countries with the highest levels of happiness.[citation needed]

Since the 1960s, happiness research has been conducted in a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including gerontology, social psychology, clinical and medical research and happiness economics. During the past two decades, however, the field of happiness studies has expanded drastically in terms of scientific publications, and has produced many different views on causes of happiness, and on factors that correlate with happiness,[8] but no validated method has been found to substantially improve long-term happiness in a meaningful way for most people.

Sonja Lyubomirsky concludes in her book The How of Happiness that 50 percent of a given human’s happiness level is genetically determined (based on twin studies), 10 percent is affected by life circumstances and situation, and a remaining 40 percent of happiness is subject to self-control.[citation needed]

The results of the 75-year Grant Study of Harvard undergraduates show a high correlation of loving relationship, especially with parents, with later life wellbeing.[9]

In the 2nd Edition of the Handbook of Emotions (2000), evolutionary psychologists Leda Cosmides and John Tooby say that happiness comes from “encountering unexpected positive events”. In the 3rd Edition of the Handbook of Emotions (2008), Michael Lewis says “happiness can be elicited by seeing a significant other”. According to Mark Leary, as reported in a November 1995 issue of Psychology Today, “we are happiest when basking in the acceptance and praise of others”. Sara Algoe and Jonathan Haidt say that “happiness” may be the label for a family of related emotional states, such as joy, amusement, satisfaction, gratification, euphoria, and triumph.[10]

It has been argued that money cannot effectively “buy” much happiness unless it is used in certain ways.[11] “Beyond the point at which people have enough to comfortably feed, clothe, and house themselves, having more money – even a lot more money – makes them only a little bit happier.”[according to whom?] A Harvard Business School study found that “spending money on others actually makes us happier than spending it on ourselves”.[12]

Meditation has been found to lead to high activity in the brain’s left prefrontal cortex, which in turn has been found to correlate with happiness.[13]

Psychologist Martin Seligman asserts that happiness is not solely derived from external, momentary pleasures,[14] and provides the acronym PERMA to summarize Positive Psychology’s correlational findings: humans seem happiest when they have

There have also been some studies of how religion relates to happiness. Causal relationships remain unclear, but more religion is seen in happier people. This correlation may be the result of community membership and not necessarily belief in religion itself. Another component may have to do with ritual.[15]

Abraham Harold Maslow, an American professor of psychology, founded humanistic psychology in the 1930s. A visual aid he created to explain his theory, which he called the hierarchy of needs, is a pyramid depicting the levels of human needs, psychological, and physical. When a human being ascends the steps of the pyramid, he reaches self-actualization. Beyond the routine of needs fulfillment, Maslow envisioned moments of extraordinary experience, known as peak experiences, profound moments of love, understanding, happiness, or rapture, during which a person feels more whole, alive, self-sufficient, and yet a part of the world. This is similar to the flow concept of Mihly Cskszentmihlyi.[citation needed]

Self-determination theory relates intrinsic motivation to three needs: competence, autonomy, and relatedness.

Cross-sectional studies worldwide support a relationship between happiness and fruit and vegetable intake. Those eating fruits and vegetables each day have a higher likelihood of being classified as very happy, suggesting a strong and positive correlation between fruit and vegetable consumption and happiness.[16] Whether it be in South Korea,[17] Iran,[18] Chile,[19] USA,[20] or UK,[21] greater fruit and vegetable consumption had a positive association with greater happiness, independent of factors such as smoking, exercise, body mass index, or socio-economic factors.

Religion and happiness have been studied by a number of researchers, and religion features many elements addressing the components of happiness, as identified by positive psychology. Its association with happiness is facilitated in part by the social connections of organized religion,[22] and by the neuropsychological benefits of prayer[23] and belief.

There are a number of mechanisms through which religion may make a person happier, including social contact and support that result from religious pursuits, the mental activity that comes with optimism and volunteering, learned coping strategies that enhance one’s ability to deal with stress, and psychological factors such as “reason for being.” It may also be that religious people engage in behaviors related to good health, such as less substance abuse, since the use of psychotropic substances is sometimes considered abuse.[24][25][26][27][28][29]

The Handbook of Religion and Health describes a survey by Feigelman (1992) that examined happiness in Americans who have given up religion, in which it was found that there was little relationship between religious disaffiliation and unhappiness.[30] A survey by Kosmin & Lachman (1993), also cited in this handbook, indicates that people with no religious affiliation appear to be at greater risk for depressive symptoms than those affiliated with a religion.[31] A review of studies by 147 independent investigators found, “the correlation between religiousness and depressive symptoms was -.096, indicating that greater religiousness is mildly associated with fewer symptoms.”[32]

The Legatum Prosperity Index reflects the repeated finding of research on the science of happiness that there is a positive link between religious engagement and wellbeing: people who report that God is very important in their lives are on average more satisfied with their lives, after accounting for their income, age and other individual characteristics.[33]

Surveys by Gallup, the National Opinion Research Centre and the Pew Organisation conclude that spiritually committed people are twice as likely to report being “very happy” than the least religiously committed people.[34] An analysis of over 200 social studies contends that “high religiousness predicts a lower risk of depression and drug abuse and fewer suicide attempts, and more reports of satisfaction with sex life and a sense of well-being. However, the links between religion and happiness are always very broad in nature, highly reliant on scripture and small sample number. To that extent there is a much larger connection between religion and suffering (Lincoln 1034).”[32] And a review of 498 studies published in peer-reviewed journals concluded that a large majority of them showed a positive correlation between religious commitment and higher levels of perceived well-being and self-esteem and lower levels of hypertension, depression, and clinical delinquency.[35] A meta-analysis of 34 recent studies published between 1990 and 2001 found that religiosity has a salutary relationship with psychological adjustment, being related to less psychological distress, more life satisfaction, and better self-actualization.[36] Finally, a recent systematic review of 850 research papers on the topic concluded that “the majority of well-conducted studies found that higher levels of religious involvement are positively associated with indicators of psychological well-being (life satisfaction, happiness, positive affect, and higher morale) and with less depression, suicidal thoughts and behaviour, drug/alcohol use/abuse.”[37]

However, there remains strong disagreement among scholars about whether the effects of religious observance, particularly attending church or otherwise belonging to religious groups, is due to the spiritual or the social aspectsi.e. those who attend church or belong to similar religious organizations may well be receiving only the effects of the social connections involved. While these benefits are real enough, they may thus be the same one would gain by joining other, secular groups, clubs, or similar organizations.[38]

Terror management theory maintains that people suffer cognitive dissonance (anxiety) when they are reminded of their inevitable death. Through terror management, individuals are motivated to seek consonant elements symbols which make sense of mortality and death in satisfactory ways (i.e. boosting self-esteem).

Research has found that strong belief in religious or secular meaning systems affords psychological security and hope. It is moderates (e.g. agnostics, slightly religious individuals) who likely suffer the most anxiety from their meaning systems. Religious meaning systems are especially adapted to manage death anxiety because they are unlikely to be disconfirmed (for various reasons), they are all encompassing, and they promise literal immortality.[39][40]

Whether emotional effects are beneficial or adverse seems to vary with the nature of the belief. Belief in a benevolent God is associated with lower incidence of general anxiety, social anxiety, paranoia, obsession, and compulsion whereas belief in a punitive God is associated with greater symptoms. (An alternative explanation is that people seek out beliefs that fit their psychological and emotional states.)[41]

Citizens of the world’s poorest countries are the most likely to be religious, and researchers suggest this is because of religion’s powerful coping abilities.[42][43] Luke Galen also supports terror management theory as a partial explanation of the above findings. Galen describes evidence (including his own research) that the benefits of religion are due to strong convictions and membership in a social group.[44][45][46]

Happiness forms a central theme of Buddhist teachings.[47] For ultimate freedom from suffering, the Noble Eightfold Path leads its practitioner to Nirvana, a state of everlasting peace. Ultimate happiness is only achieved by overcoming craving in all forms. More mundane forms of happiness, such as acquiring wealth and maintaining good friendships, are also recognized as worthy goals for lay people (see sukha). Buddhism also encourages the generation of loving kindness and compassion, the desire for the happiness and welfare of all beings.[48][49][unreliable source?]

Happiness or simcha (Hebrew: ) in Judaism is considered an important element in the service of God.[50] The biblical verse “worship The Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs,” (Psalm 100:2) stresses joy in the service of God.[citation needed] A popular teaching by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, a 19th-century Chassidic Rabbi, is “Mitzvah Gedolah Le’hiyot Besimcha Tamid,” it is a great mitzvah (commandment) to always be in a state of happiness. When a person is happy they are much more capable of serving God and going about their daily activities than when depressed or upset.[51]

The primary meaning of “happiness” in various European languages involves good fortune, chance or happening. The meaning in Greek philosophy, however, refers primarily to ethics. In Catholicism, the ultimate end of human existence consists in felicity, Latin equivalent to the Greek eudaimonia, or “blessed happiness”, described by the 13th-century philosopher-theologian Thomas Aquinas as a Beatific Vision of God’s essence in the next life.[52] Human complexities, like reason and cognition, can produce well-being or happiness, but such form is limited and transitory. In temporal life, the contemplation of God, the infinitely Beautiful, is the supreme delight of the will. Beatitudo, or perfect happiness, as complete well-being, is to be attained not in this life, but the next.[53]

While religion is often formalised and community-oriented, spirituality tends to be individually based and not as formalised. In a 2014 study, 320 children, ages 812, in both public and private schools, were given a Spiritual Well-Being Questionnaire assessing the correlation between spirituality and happiness. Spirituality and not religious practices (praying, attending church services) correlated positively with the child’s happiness; the more spiritual the child was, the happier the child was. Spirituality accounted for about 326% of the variance in happiness.[54]

The Chinese Confucian thinker Mencius, who 2300 years ago sought to give advice to the ruthless political leaders of the warring states period, was convinced that the mind played a mediating role between the “lesser self” (the physiological self) and the “greater self” (the moral self) and that getting the priorities right between these two would lead to sage-hood. He argued that if we did not feel satisfaction or pleasure in nourishing one’s “vital force” with “righteous deeds”, that force would shrivel up (Mencius,6A:15 2A:2). More specifically, he mentions the experience of intoxicating joy if one celebrates the practice of the great virtues, especially through music.[55]

Al-Ghazali (10581111) the Muslim Sufi thinker wrote the Alchemy of Happiness, a manual of spiritual instruction throughout the Muslim world and widely practiced today.[citation needed]

The Hindu thinker Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutras, wrote quite exhaustively on the psychological and ontological roots of bliss.[56]

In the Nicomachean Ethics, written in 350 BCE, Aristotle stated that happiness (also being well and doing well) is the only thing that humans desire for its own sake, unlike riches, honor, health or friendship. He observed that men sought riches, or honor, or health not only for their own sake but also in order to be happy. Note that eudaimonia, the term we translate as “happiness”, is for Aristotle an activity rather than an emotion or a state.[57] Thus understood, the happy life is the good life, that is, a life in which a person fulfills human nature in an excellent way. Specifically, Aristotle argues that the good life is the life of excellent rational activity. He arrives at this claim with the Function Argument. Basically, if it’s right, every living thing has a function, that which it uniquely does. For humans, Aristotle contends, our function is to reason, since it is that alone that we uniquely do. And performing one’s function well, or excellently, is one’s good. Thus, the life of excellent rational activity is the happy life. Aristotle does not leave it that, however. For he argues that there is a second best life for those incapable of excellent rational activity.This second best life is the life of moral virtue.[citation needed]

Many ethicists make arguments for how humans should behave, either individually or collectively, based on the resulting happiness of such behavior. Utilitarians, such as John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham, advocated the greatest happiness principle as a guide for ethical behavior.[citation needed]

Friedrich Nietzsche savagely critiqued the English Utilitarians’ focus on attaining the greatest happiness, stating “Man does not strive for happiness, only the Englishman does.” Nietzsche meant that the making happiness one’s ultimate goal, the aim of one’s existence “makes one contemptible;” Nietzsche instead yearned for a culture that would set higher, more difficult goals than “mere happiness.” Thus Nietzsche introduces the quasi-dystopic figure of the “last man” as a kind of thought experiment against the utilitarians and happiness-seekers; these small, “last men” who seek after only their own pleasure and health, avoiding all danger, exertion, difficulty, challenge, struggle are meant to seem contemptible to Nietzsche’s reader. Nietzsche instead wants us to consider the value of what is difficult, what can only be earned through struggle, difficulty, pain and thus to come to see the affirmative value suffering and unhappiness truly play in creating everything of great worth in life, including all the highest achievements of human culture, not least of all philosophy.[58][59]

According to St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, man’s last end is happiness: “all men agree in desiring the last end, which is happiness.”[60] However, where utilitarians focused on reasoning about consequences as the primary tool for reaching happiness, Aquinas agreed with Aristotle that happiness cannot be reached solely through reasoning about consequences of acts, but also requires a pursuit of good causes for acts, such as habits according to virtue.[61] In turn, which habits and acts that normally lead to happiness is according to Aquinas caused by laws: natural law and divine law. These laws, in turn, were according to Aquinas caused by a first cause, or God.[citation needed]

According to Aquinas, happiness consists in an “operation of the speculative intellect”: “Consequently happiness consists principally in such an operation, viz. in the contemplation of Divine things.” And, “the last end cannot consist in the active life, which pertains to the practical intellect.” So: “Therefore the last and perfect happiness, which we await in the life to come, consists entirely in contemplation. But imperfect happiness, such as can be had here, consists first and principally in contemplation, but secondarily, in an operation of the practical intellect directing human actions and passions.”[62]

Common market health measures such as GDP and GNP have been used as a measure of successful policy. On average richer nations tend to be happier than poorer nations, but this effect seems to diminish with wealth.[63][64] This has been explained by the fact that the dependency is not linear but logarithmic, i.e., the same percentual increase in the GNP produces the same increase in happiness for wealthy countries as for poor countries.[65][66][67][68] Increasingly, academic economists and international economic organisations are arguing for and developing multi-dimensional dashboards which combine subjective and objective indicators to provide a more direct and explicit assessment of human wellbeing. Work by Paul Anand and colleagues helps to highlight the fact that there many different contributors to adult wellbeing, that happiness judgement reflect, in part, the presence of salient constraints, and that fairness, autonomy, community and engagement are key aspects of happiness and wellbeing throughout the life course.

Libertarian think tank Cato Institute claims that economic freedom correlates strongly with happiness[69] preferably within the context of a western mixed economy, with free press and a democracy. According to certain standards, East European countries (ruled by Communist parties) were less happy than Western ones, even less happy than other equally poor countries.[70]

However, much empirical research in the field of happiness economics, such as that by Benjamin Radcliff, professor of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame, supports the contention that (at least in democratic countries) life satisfaction is strongly and positively related to the social democratic model of a generous social safety net, pro-worker labor market regulations, and strong labor unions.[71] Similarly, there is evidence that public policies that reduce poverty and support a strong middle class, such as a higher minimum wage, strongly affects average levels of well-being.[72]

It has been argued that happiness measures could be used not as a replacement for more traditional measures, but as a supplement.[73] According to professor Edward Glaeser, people constantly make choices that decrease their happiness, because they have also more important aims. Therefore, the government should not decrease the alternatives available for the citizen by patronizing them but let the citizen keep a maximal freedom of choice.[74]

It has been argued that happiness at work is one of the driving forces behind positive outcomes at work, rather than just being a resultant product.[75]

Several scales have been used to measure happiness:

The UK began to measure national well being in 2012,[83] following Bhutan which already measured gross national happiness.[citation needed]

A positive relationship has been found between the volume of gray matter in the right precuneus area of the brain and the subject’s subjective happiness score.[84] Interestingly meditation, including mindfulness, based interventions have been found to correlate with a significant gray matter increase within the precuneus.[85][86][87][88][89]

In 2005 a study conducted by Andrew Steptow and Michael Marmot at University College London, found that happiness is related to biological markers that play an important role in health.[90] The researchers aimed to analyze whether there was any association between well-being and three biological markers: heart rate, cortisol levels, and plasma fibrinogen levels. Interestingly, the participants who rated themselves the least happy had cortisol levels that were 48% higher than those who rated themselves as the most happy. The least happy subjects also had a large plasma fibrinogen response to two stress-inducing tasks: the Stroop test, and tracing a star seen in a mirror image. Repeating their studies three years later Steptow and Marmot found that participants who scored high in positive emotion continued to have lower levels of cortisol and fibrinogen, as well as a lower heart rate.[citation needed]

In Happy People Live Longer (2011),[91] Bruno Frey reported that happy people live 14% longer, increasing longevity 7.5 to 10 years and Richard Davidson’s bestseller (2012) The Emotional Life of Your Brain argues that positive emotion and happiness benefit long-term health.[citation needed]

However, in 2015 a study building on earlier research found that happiness has no effect on mortality.[92] “This “basic belief that if you’re happier you’re going to live longer. That’s just not true.”[93] Consistent results are that “apart from good health, happy people were more likely to be older, not smoke, have fewer educational qualifications, do strenuous exercise, live with a partner, do religious or group activities and sleep for eight hours a night.”[93]

Happiness does however seem to have a protective impact on immunity. The tendency to experience positive emotions was associated with greater resistance to colds and flu in interventional studies irrespective of other factors such as smoking, drinking, exercise, and sleep.[94][95]

Despite a large body of positive psychological research into the relationship between happiness and productivity,[96][97][98] happiness at work has traditionally been seen as a potential by-product of positive outcomes at work, rather than a pathway to success in business. However a growing number of scholars, including Boehm and Lyubomirsky, argue that it should be viewed as one of the major sources of positive outcomes in the workplace.[75][99]

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Automation – The Car Company Tycoon Game on Steam

Posted: September 6, 2016 at 8:14 am

PLEASE, do not simply see my “not recommended” and assume I’m saying this is a bad game.

The concept behind this is absolutely amazing, and I want this game to be finished so badly. The way things are set up (so far) are very easy to learn, and work well. The creation system is basically broken down into a series of many choices, with explanations for the impacts of your choices when the option is moused over. The fluidity of the system thus far only makes me more anxious to play the finished product.

Now, to the point. I do not recommend this game to anyone, as it currently exists. I have been burned quite a few times by early access games, and I usually take a stance of not buying them under any circumstances. My excitement for this concept got the better of me, and I just had to know if it was good.

As of the time of this writing, the tycoon/campaign mode has not been implemented. All you can do is create cars/engines etc. It is entertaining for a little while, but not enough to be worth the price. That is why I don’t recommend this. I do recommend that you keep a very close eye on this one, if this concept interests you, and consider buying it when the tycoon mode has been added.

If the devs do this right, this could be an absolutely amazing game. My advice is simply to wait and see how they do with the first major addition to this game.

I will update/change this review as updates are released for the game.

EDIT (23 June 2015): I just hopped on again to test it out since I haven’t touched this one in a while, and I still stand by what I said. The bug fixes and improvements made since my review are very apparent. The whole car making process is very smooth, and still fun. It appears the devs are trying to get the creation process completely done before implementing the campaign/tycoon. I regularly check the announcements, and haven’t heard them mention anything about that mode coming anytime soon. I find this particularly strange, considering they’re in the open beta stage of the game. Why would they consider the game to be in the beta phase when not a single piece of the main game mode has been implemented, or even said to be coming soon? Personally, I think the creation mode is in a good enough state where they could easily get to work on tycoon mode, and throw small bug fixes and content updates here and there. Every time I play this game, I find myself disappointed when I reach the end of the creation process and then have to say “well…I guess that’s it.” and then go play something else. For me, at least, it feels like a waste of time to make a car, and not be able to do anything with it.

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Ascension Catholic Community

Posted: September 2, 2016 at 5:55 am

Duty of human beings toward creation is to lend it a voice

09/01/16 3:25 pm

(Vatican Radio) Praying for creation or praying with creation? that was the question posed by the preacher of the Papal Household, Fr Raniero Cantalamessa at Vespers on Thursday evening.

Against the majestic backdrop of St Peters Basilica and with Pope Francis looking on, Fr Cantalamessa told those present that God did not program creation as if it were a clock or a computer in which every movement is programmed from the beginning, except, he added, maybe for some periodic updates.

09/01/16 2:35 pm

(Vatican Radio) The program for Popes Francis visit to the Italian hilltop town of Assisi was released in the Vatican on Thursday. During his one-day visit the Pope will be taking part in the closing of an interreligious World Day of Prayer for Peace, organized by the Community of SantEgidio. His latest pilgrimage to Assisi marks the 30th anniversary of the First World Day of Prayer for Peace that St. John Paul convened in the birthplace of St. Francis, back in 1986.

Pope Francis presence at the interreligious prayer summit on September 20th will mark his second visit to the birthplace of his namesake in less than two months.

09/01/16 10:59 am

(Vatican Radio) To mark the September 1st day of prayer for creation, Pope Francis has added a new work of mercy for Catholics to perform: caring for our common home, the planet and all its inhabitants.

At a press conference on Thursday morning, Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the new Vatican office for Promoting Integral Human Development, and Bishop Brian Farrell from the Council for Christian Unity, introduced the Popes message for this annual observance, together with Irish author Terence Ward.

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Psychedelic PsychonautWiki

Posted: at 5:53 am

Psychedelics are a class of hallucinogens named so because the term is derived from the Greek words (psyche, “mind”) and (delein, “to manifest”). The term means “mind-manifesting” with the implication being that psychedelics can access and develop unused potentials of the human mind.[1] In modern times, psychedelic drugs used in the context of religious, shamanic, or spiritual settings are often referred to as entheogens.[2]

Psychedelics act on serotonin receptors (also referred to as 5-HT receptors) via the way in which they act as full or partial agonists through their structural similarity to the serotonin molecule. DMT, for example, works by simply fitting into and activating serotonin receptors. It has a higher affinity than serotonin itself for the receptors, therefore preventing serotonin from binding to the receptors by competing with it.

While the method of action behind psychedelics is not fully understood, serotonergic psychedelics are known to show affinities for various 5-HT receptors in different ways and levels and may be classified by their activity at different 5-HT sub-sites, such as 5-HT1A, 5-HT1B, 5-HT2A, etc. Many serotonergic psychedelics (such as the tryptamines) have very strong structural similarities to serotonin itself which partially explains the affinity for certain 5-HT sites. It is almost unanimously agreed that serotonergic psychedelics produce their effects by acting as strong partial agonists at the 5-HT2A receptors, with a few exceptions acting as full agonists (such as 25I-NBOMe).

The effects listed below are based upon the subjective effects index and personal experiences of PsychonautWiki contributors. The listed effects will rarely (if ever) occur all at once, but heavier dosages will increase the chances and are more likely to induce a full range of effects.

In comparison to the other classes of hallucinogen, this effect is very common at moderate to heavy dosages. It can be comprehensively described through its variations as lucid in believability, interactive in style, new experiences in content, autonomous in controllability, geometry-based in style and almost exclusively of a personal, religious, spiritual, science-fiction, fantasy, surreal, nonsensical or transcendental nature in their overall theme.

The classical psychedelics are all classed as serotonergic in nature. This means that they structurally mimic the endogenous neurotransmitter known as serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well-being and mood regulation.[6] The diagram to the right shows the structural similarities and differences between the differing classes of psychedelics and the serotonin neurotransmitter. The three classes (phenethylamines, lysergamides and tryptamines) all contain the same chemical rings (which have been labelled).

The information below describes and explains various concepts regarding the responsible use of psychedelic compounds. These should be read over and considered before one decides whether or not it will be safe to trip.

One of the most important factors to consider as an inexperienced user is one’s current state of mind. Many substances exponentially enhance a person’s current state of mind, emotions and general perspective on the world which is a process that can go in either a positive and euphoric direction or a negative, terrifying and anxiety ridden direction. It is because of this that many substances should not be used by the inexperienced during stressful or negative periods of life and users should be fully aware of the ways in which hallucinogens and other drugs, particularly psychedelics, consistently force a person to face and deal with their personal introspective problems that all human beings deal with.

It has often been recommended that those with severe pre-existing mental conditions (especially individuals with psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia) should not ingest these substances due to the way they strongly increase one’s current state of mind and emotions as well as cause delusions and hallucinations.

Throughout the experience itself the person needs to let go and allow the effects to take charge. One should be taking the metaphorical passenger seat and never trying to control any part of the experience. It is extremely important that people simply relax and take things as they come. The user must understand that the act of tripping is often ineffable and incomprehensible at high enough dosages, meaning that an acceptance of not being able to understand the full scope of what is happening should be present at all times. One should be embracing the fact that their thought processes, although more insightful in places, will be inherently impaired along with motor control, conversational skills and general functioning. The user should be sure to view these effects as normal and not feel self-conscious or insecure about them within the presence of others.

If one is using hallucinogens, a sober, responsible trip sitter is strongly recommended to be present throughout a trip by an inexperienced individual or group with an unfamiliar substance. It is this persons responsibility to assist the individual or group by maintaining a rational and responsible frame of mind. This should be done by simply watching over the trippers and calmly reassuring them if they experience any anxiety or stress, whilst also preventing them from coming to any harm. There is an obvious correlation between the name trip sitter and babysitter; this is because at many times, trip sitting can be like babysitting and it is definitely a responsibility that must be taken just as seriously.

A good trip sitter needs to be sure of a number of things throughout the experience. They should remain (mostly) sober and should be able to empathize with the group members situation through personal experiences with the substance/similar substances or at least a considerable amount of research on their effects. Trip sitters should understand that when a person is tripping, they might not be able to communicate as they usually do. Also, their balance and spatial judgement may be off so assistance in performing physical tasks such as keeping hydrated can greatly reduce anxiety. The trip sitter can contribute to the conversation, but should also remember to leave them to explore the experience without too much external influence.

Once a person is familiar with the experience, it becomes down to them whether or not they feel comfortable enough to trip without a sitter.

An anchor, in the context of hallucinogen usage, can be defined as an activity or physical object which keeps one grounded during heavy suppression and distortion of a person’s sense of time, space, language, ego and short/long-term memory. At higher dosages, this can result in extreme disorientation and confusion. Anchors are often used to counteract this and maintain one’s concept of the current situation as it is within reality. Examples of anchors include:

Hallucinogens have the potential to become overwhelming and push trippers into paranoid/dreadful moods if the tripper is inexperienced or in an inappropriate setting.

If one decides that they want the trip to end, benzodiazepines and other sedatives such as some antipsychotics can be considered as an analogous “eject button” of a downhill-headed or extensively long trip. They are very useful tools in preventing panic attacks, paranoia, and possible traumatic experiences. If these are available, be sure to keep them at hand as they are extremely effective tools for mitigating a hallucinogenic crisis. Independent research should always be done to ensure that a combination of two or more substances is safe before consumption.

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