Fish-oil pills for pregnant women may cut asthma risk in children: study

Children whose moms took high doses of fish oil during their last three months of pregnancy were less likely to develop chronic wheezing problems or asthma by the age of 5, finds a study that suggests a possible way to help prevent this growing problem.

Asthma cases have been rising in developed countries, while consumption of omega-3 fatty acids such as those found in fish has decreased. Some earlier studies suggested omega-3 deficiency during pregnancy may affect asthma risk in babies, but they were too small to be definitive.

It’s not known why this may be – one theory is that fish oil lowers inflammation, which can tighten airways.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark did a rigorous test, assigning about 700 women to take 2.4 grams a day of a supplement containing two types of fish oil, or look-alike pills of olive oil, in their third trimester of pregnancy, when babies’ lungs are maturing.

Neither the moms nor the researchers knew who was getting what until after three years and then only the researchers knew until the children reached the age of 5.

Moms recorded how many episodes a child had of lung problems lasting for at least three days. This was called persistent wheezing until a child turned 3, and asthma after that.

Results: Seventeen per cent of kids whose moms took fish oil developed a breathing problem by the age of 5, versus 24 per cent of the comparison group – a reduction in risk of about one-third. There also were fewer cases of bronchitis, pneumonia and other such infections in the fish oil group.

However, almost all of the reduced risk occurred in children whose moms had the lowest blood levels of omega-3 at the start of the study. Fifteen women would need to take fish-oil pills to prevent one case of wheezing or asthma if the whole group was taken into consideration, but only about five women would have to if just this lowest-level group was treated.

That suggests a possible way to tell who might benefit most if supplements are to be considered at all. The results “are highly promising” but merit caution, Dr. Christopher Ramsden of the U.S. National Institutes of Health writes in an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, which published the study on Wednesday.

The fish-oil dose in the study was 15 to 20 times as high as the average amount Americans get from food and before it can be recommended, more study is needed to ensure that doesn’t harm behaviour, thinking abilities or other aspects of health, he writes.

LG is working on a Bluetooth surround sound wearable and it’s bringing it to CES 2017

The combination of neckband and wireless earbuds take the power of 3D sound on the move

3D sound, or surround sound as its more commonly known, as has been going through something of a renaissance in headset market, so it seems only fitting that the tech should get another revivalist interpretation in the form of some new Bluetooth wearables from LG.

Set to be unveiled properly at CES 2017 in January, the LG Tone Studio is a personal wearable speaker featuring four individual speakers – two full range on the top and two vibrating on the bottom – that give a personal surround sound experience when watching a movie, playing a video game or simply streaming music.

  • The Tone Studio features a Hi-Fi DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) that enhances sound quality by recreating audio content as accurately as possible. It also comes with Dual Play, so you can connect two LG Tone Studio wearable speakers and share the sound from a movie, playlist or more.

There’s also the Tone Free, LG’s first wireless stereo product to come with wireless earbuds that charge whenever they are stored inside the neckband, making them easy to charge and carry.

“LG has a rich legacy of innovating in the wearable audio market, and our products have become the standard by which all other earphones are judged,” says Michael Park, vice president of Innovative Personal Devices Business Division at LG Electronics. “We are committed to leading the way in this fast moving market by developing exciting new products which appeal to every music-loving and convenience-seeking individual.”

Tesla v8.1 update pushed to ‘late Jan’, Autopilot 2.0 update could come tomorrow, says Elon Musk

Tesla has been aiming to release a software update to bring its new vehicles with Autopilot 2.0 hardware to feature parity with its last generation Autopilot in “December 2016”. Tesla owners with the new Autopilot hardware are anxious to get the features they were promised and CEO Elon Musk has been emphasizing that the company has been pushing to respect the deadline.

With a day left in December, Musk now says that it could come out tomorrow if Tesla can just fix a bug. Unfortunately, Musk also confirmed that its software update v8.1 will be pushed to “late January”.The update will only be for vehicles delivered since October 2016 with the ‘Enhanced Autopilot’ option.

Musk said on Twitter today that they found a bug “when booting from a subzero cold-soak”:

That’s all good news for new Tesla owners with Autopilot 2.0 and P100D owners, but all other owners will have to wait a little longer to get the anticipated v8.1 update.

Following recent comments made by Tesla CEO Elon Musk about the timing of the upcoming version v8.1 software update for Tesla vehicles, some (including ourselves) mistakenly thought that it would incorporate the updated features of the new ‘Enhanced Autopilot’.

The confusion originated from an owner asking Musk about both v8.1 and the missing Autopilot features at the same time and Musk responding:

It looks like Tesla’s CEO was actually only responding to when Tesla will start pushing updates to bring the new vehicles to parity with the first generation Autopilot.

The update is expected to push UI improvements to the media center, which should affect every owner, and a “big” mobile update is expected around the same time as v8.1.

Musk added that v8.1 will come in “late January” with the Linux kernel upgrade, which was previously planned for December:

According to the release notes of v8.0, it will also feature an update to the Autopilot new off-ramp feature:

“When at a highway exit, it will favor marked lane lines in the direction of vehicle indicator (8.0)* or in the direction suggested by the navigation system if active (8.1). This feature will be available initially in the US and later in all countries where lane markings are open for highway exits.”

Several more improvements are also expected and we will keep an eye out for more information.

Artists may unknowingly paint a picture of cognitive decline

Fractals in brush strokes may say a lot about the artist's state of health

Fractals in brush strokes may say a lot about the artist’s state of health(Credit:agencyby/Depositphotos)

It’s not abnormal for the style of artists to evolve over time, but could very subtle changes represent something bigger than simply maturing tastes? Researchers at the University of Liverpool think they could. They’ve studied brushstrokes in thousands of paintings from famous artists, and found that certain variations in the works over the artists’ careers can point to an ongoing decline in cognitive function.

This seemingly far-fetched idea is based on a technique called fractal analysis. Fractals are self-repeating geometrical patterns that can be seen in the natural world in snowflakes, river networks, tree branches and even hurricanes and lightning bolts. For this reason, they are referred to as the fingerprint of nature, but the researchers believe they can reveal signs of neurodegenerative disorders, too.

What led them to this conclusion was the analysis of a total of 2,092 paintings from seven famous artists. The group included Salvador Dali and Norval Morrisseau, who both suffered from Parkinson’s disease; James Brooks and Willem De Kooning, who both suffered from Alzheimer’s disease; and Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso and Claude Monet, who all aged normally.

By analyzing changes in fractals in the brushstrokes over the course of each artist’s career, the team says a clear pattern emerged whereby the dimensions in those suffering from neurological deterioration differed from those that aged healthily.

“Art has long been embraced by psychologists an effective method of improving the quality of life for those persons living with cognitive disorders,” said Dr. Alex Forsythe, leader of the research team. “We have built on this tradition by unpicking artists ‘handwriting’ through the analysis of their individual connection with the brush and paint. This process offers the potential for the detection of emerging neurological problems.”

Rather than a cut-and-dried way of diagnosing cognitive disorders, the researchers hope that the findings will spark interest in researching new ways to detect neurological disease in its early stages.

An article on the research was published in the journal Neuropsychology.–1177977

T-Mobile US reaches nearly 1 Gbps in latest LTE lab test

Friday 30 December 2016 | 16:48 CET | News

T-Mobile US said it’s achieved nearly 1 Gbps over the LTE network in a lab test in the past week. The operator reached 973 Mbps with a combination of tri-carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO and 256 QAM with an un-released handset, to achieve what it says is the fastest speed possible on a mobile device today.

The news was announced in a blog post by CTO Neville Ray highlighting the operator’s latest network achievements. He said T-Mobile’s 4G network now covers 313 million people, just behind Verizon’s 314 million. The company’s Extended Range LTE, designed to penetrate further beyond base stations and into buildings, also now covers over 250 million people in more than 500 metro areas.

T-Mobile is also claiming the fastest 4G network in the US, based on analysis of Ookla Speedtest data for Q4. A chart posted by the operator shows T-Mobile achieving an average 24.4 Mbps download and 12.1 Mbps upload, compared to 24.3/8.5 Mbps for Verizon, 23.9/7.6 Mbps for AT&T and 15.2/4.8 Mbps for Sprint.

Scientists create a self-healing material in robotics

Chao Wang, a University of California, Riverside Professor, has added a more interesting aspect to Prof. Christoph’s research by adding a self-healing material to robots.
By Sarah Webb | 58 minutes ago

Since Christoph Keplinger, a University of Colorado Professor and researcher did a study on how robots can be made by stretchable, see through and more conductive material, and also how they can be able to self-repair, not much has been achieved in that field until recently.

Chao Wang, a University of California, Riverside Professor, has added a more interesting aspect to Prof. Christoph’s research by adding a self-healing material to robots.

Wang and his research team incorporated stretchable, transparent, and ionic conductors that can power a robot’s artificial limb, with a high-ionic-strength salt containing positive and negative charged molecules. This last edition is the property that will enable robots to be able to self-heal and repair themselves in the event of damage.

Prof. Keplinger lauded the new step forward in robotics. “Imagine a new class of robots that are based on soft, elastic materials, being powered by stretchable electronic circuits and thus much more closely resemble the elegant design of biology. This is the type of robot that will help us out in the household or assist us in care for elderly people.”

The resulting material can stretch to 50 times its original size, restore electrical properties almost immediately, withstand electro-chemical properties and heal within 24 hours. This provides the robot with many unique features that previous research had not yielded until now. The materials primary purpose will be to power artificial muscles in soft robots which are prone to damage and not easy to repair.

The English language’s domination of the globe may be skewing scientific research

People speak over 6,500 languages worldwide. Some are known to only a very few while others are spoken by billions. One is dominating.

Increasingly, the world’s common language is English; speaking, reading and writing it are critical skills for workers in the global economy. For example, this month the automaker Volkswagen announced that its official language is now English, not German. Company bosses have been instructed to exchange in the language, whatever their native tongue. The reason for the change, VW said, was to attract employees.

The linguistic switch makes sense. Britain’s Bentley, France’s Bugatti, Italy’s Ducati and Lamborghini, Czech Republic’s Skoda, Sweden’s Scania Trucks, and Spain’s SEAT, are all under VW’s control. A large Volkswagen Group of America operation also makes cars in the US. The German company is a corporate giant with tentacles extending far beyond its original home in Wolfsburg, Germany.

Companies go where there’s opportunity and that can mean making adjustments. Last year, the car maker Honda announced that it was abandoning its native Japanese for English by 2020.

In science, English also is the lingua franca.

Language Gaps

Until English is truly the only language left on Earth, some researchers say language gaps are creating barriers to the transfer of knowledge that are costing everyone. A study by Cambridge University researchers, published in Plos Biology today, explains that scientific information is currently lost when it’s not transferred to the global community when published in a language other than English, and it’s not being transferred to locals for application when published in English.

“While we recognize the importance of a lingua franca, and the contribution of English to science, the scientific community should not assume that all important information is published in English,” said zoologist and the study’s lead author Tatsuya Amano in a statement. “Language barriers continue to impede the global compilation and application of scientific knowledge.”

To determine the preponderance of English as a research language, Amano’s team surveyed Google Scholar—one of the largest public repositories of scientific documents—in 16 languages, seeking works relating to biodiversity conservation published in 2014.

Of over 75,000 works, about 35% were not in English. Of these, most were in Spanish (12.6%) or Portuguese (10.3%), followed by simplified Chinese (6%), then French (3%). They also found thousands of newly published conservation science documents in other languages, including several hundred each in Italian, German, Japanese, Korean and Swedish.

Random sampling showed that, on average, about half of non-English documents included titles or abstracts in English. In total, 13,000 documents on conservation science published in 2014 were unsearchable using English keywords, the study found.

Skewed Data

Such gaps lead to skewed data. For example, sweeps of current scientific knowledge, or systematic reviews, are biased towards evidence published in English, leading to over-representation of certain results and no representation of others, the researchers believe.

For example, the study noted that important papers reporting pigs infected by avian flu in China initially went unnoticed by the World Health Organization because they were published in Chinese-language journals. Meanwhile, information on areas where English is not the mother tongue is overlooked, which results in unshared knowledge relating to local species, habitats and ecosystems, harming international environmental conservation efforts.

Amano said, “I believe the scientific community needs to start seriously tackling this issue.” He suggest that speakers of a range of languages should be included in discussions when conducting systematic reviews or developing databases at a global scale. His team helped to create an international panel to review non-English language papers for Cambridge University’s conservation science repository.

Another study, published in Plos One on Dec. 15 by climate science researchers in the US, suggests that English alone won’t suffice for success. It found that environmental scientists who wrote narrative abstracts—stories, as opposed to employing a traditional expositive scientific style relying on logical propositions like “if X, then Y”—were more often cited by other scientists, thus influencing research, public opinion, and policy.

In other words, even native English speakers will have to improve their language skills.