The Russian Cosmonaut Gun,
Starting in 1986 Russian Cosmonauts began to carry a special gun into space. These guns were not meant to fight off space aliens and any other kind of intergalactic threat, but were meant as an emergency survival weapon. Often Russian missions involved landing in remote areas of Siberia. Pickup and recovery could take a while, especially if they happened to be off course. In addition if they had to abandon a space ship or station and their escape pod may land in the middle of the wilderness on some far off continent. Thus they were issued a special survival guns to fend off predators or hunt for food.
The TP-82 was a simple three barreled break open firearm that sported two calibers. The upper two barrels were smoothbore and chambered for a special 12.5x70mm (40 gauge) shot shell ideal for hunting small game. The bottom third barrel was rifled and chambered for 5.45x39mm rifle cartridge which was good for small game but also could be used for larger animals in a pinch. Included with the gun was a detachable buttstock which also doubled as a sheathed machete.
The TP-82 was issued to Soviet and Russian Cosmonauts from 1982 up to 2006. In 2007 the Russian Space Agency’s store of the rare 12.5x70mm shotshell ammunition expired in terms of shelf life. Since then Russian Cosmonauts are issued regular semi automatic pistols with their emergency gear.
It sounds like science fiction, but it seems that bacteria within us — which outnumber our own cells about 100-fold — may very well be affecting both our cravings and moods to get us to eat what they want, and often are driving us toward obesity.
In an article published this week in the journal BioEssays, researchers from UC San Francisco, Arizona State University and University of New Mexico concluded from a review of the recent scientific literature that microbes influence human eating behavior and dietary choices to favor consumption of the particular nutrients they grow best on, rather than simply passively living off whatever nutrients we choose to send their way.
Bacterial species vary in the nutrients they need. Some prefer fat, and others sugar, for instance. But they not only vie with each other for food and to retain a niche within their ecosystem — our digestive tracts — they also often have different aims than we do when it comes to our own actions, according to senior author Athena Aktipis, PhD, co-founder of the Center for Evolution and Cancer with the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UCSF.
While it is unclear exactly how this occurs, the authors believe this diverse community of microbes, collectively known as the gut microbiome, may influence our decisions by releasing signaling molecules into our gut. Because the gut is linked to the immune system, the endocrine system and the nervous system, those signals could influence our physiologic and behavioral responses.
“Bacteria within the gut are manipulative,” said Carlo Maley, PhD, director of the UCSF Center for Evolution and Cancer and corresponding author on the paper. “There is a diversity of interests represented in the microbiome, some aligned with our own dietary goals, and others not.”
Fortunately, it’s a two-way street. We can influence the compatibility of these microscopic, single-celled houseguests by deliberating altering what we ingest, Maley said, with measurable changes in the microbiome within 24 hours of diet change.
“Our diets have a huge impact on microbial populations in the gut,” Maley said. “It’s a whole ecosystem, and it’s evolving on the time scale of minutes.”
There are even specialized bacteria that digest seaweed, found in humans in Japan, where seaweed is popular in the diet.
Research suggests that gut bacteria may be affecting our eating decisions in part by acting through the vagus nerve, which connects 100 million nerve cells from the digestive tract to the base of the brain.
“Microbes have the capacity to manipulate behavior and mood through altering the neural signals in the vagus nerve, changing taste receptors, producing toxins to make us feel bad, and releasing chemical rewards to make us feel good,” said Aktipis, who is currently in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology.
In mice, certain strains of bacteria increase anxious behavior. In humans, one clinical trial found that drinking a probiotic containing Lactobacillus casei improved mood in those who were feeling the lowest.
Maley, Aktipis and first author Joe Alcock, MD, from the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of New Mexico, proposed further research to test the sway microbes hold over us. For example, would transplantation into the gut of the bacteria requiring a nutrient from seaweed lead the human host to eat more seaweed?
The speed with which the microbiome can change may be encouraging to those who seek to improve health by altering microbial populations. This may be accomplished through food and supplement choices, by ingesting specific bacterial species in the form of probiotics, or by killing targeted species with antibiotics. Optimizing the balance of power among bacterial species in our gut might allow us to lead less obese and healthier lives, according to the authors.
“Because microbiota are easily manipulatable by prebiotics, probiotics, antibiotics, fecal transplants, and dietary changes, altering our microbiota offers a tractable approach to otherwise intractable problems of obesity and unhealthy eating,” the authors wrote.
The authors met and first discussed the ideas in the BioEssays paper at a summer school conference on evolutionary medicine two years ago. Aktipis, who is an evolutionary biologist and a psychologist, was drawn to the opportunity to investigate the complex interaction of the different fitness interests of microbes and their hosts and how those play out in our daily lives. Maley, a computer scientist and evolutionary biologist, had established a career studying how tumor cells arise from normal cells and evolve over time through natural selection within the body as cancer progresses.
In fact, the evolution of tumors and of bacterial communities are linked, points out Aktipis, who said some of the bacteria that normally live within us cause stomach cancer and perhaps other cancers.
“Targeting the microbiome could open up possibilities for preventing a variety of disease from obesity and diabetes to cancers of the gastro-intestinal tract. We are only beginning to scratch the surface of the importance of the microbiome for human health,” she said.
Reading lessons in the nineteenth century included instruction in elocution, or the art of oratory. And it wasn’t something you got to do sitting down - it looks like it was quite a workout!
These gifs came from a series of images in Sanders’ school speaker: a comprehensive course of instruction in the principles of oratory (New York, 1863). It’s part of the Historic Textbook Collection. The illustrations demonstrate standard rhetorical gestures that correspond to various attitudes and emotional states, including a “positive assertion,” an “earnest exhortation,” an “indignant appeal,” and “rapturous delight.” Can you tell which is which?
Scientists from the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York with the help of Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry have completed research which for the first time brings us nearer to understanding how some cells in the brain and nervous system become…
Photographic soap bubble studies by Santiago Betancur Z that look like planetsPhotographer and painter Santiago Betancur Z explores the intersection between science and abstract art in his photographic studies of bubbles, as well as producing life-size figure painting. In his photographs and video recordings, Betancur Z captures imagery of soap bubbles against dark backgrounds, showcasing the random kaleidoscopic color and light effects produced by the delicate spheres, and the chance allusions that occur in their surfaces