Blog Posts by Eric Pfeiffer

  • Could hangovers and alcoholism be cured by a Chinese tea extract?

    Extracts from this tree may cure hangovers and alcoholism itselfA new Chinese tea extract now undergoing tests on rats has shown promise as a remedy for hangovers and may even lead to an eventual cure for alcoholism itself, according to a report in the New Scientist.

    Grown primarily in Japan, Havenia dulcis, also known as the oriental raisin tree, has been a folk remedy for 500 years or so in the treatment of hangover symptoms. Scientists are now working on extracting dihydromyricetin (DHM) from the trees in order to determine whether it can mitigate the effects of alcohol on laboratory rats. If the tests continue to yield successful results, comparable testing on humans should begin soon.

    Researchers are also suggesting that the chemical may have the potential to treat alcohol addiction itself. So far, the laboratory testing has found that not only do the rats recover more quickly from the alcohol they have consumed--but they also show a lessening desire over time to consume alcohol at all.

    "I would give it to problem drinkers who can't resist going to the pub and drinking," says pharmacologist Jing Liang of the University of California, Los Angeles, who led the research team.

    "DHM will reduce the degree of drunkenness for the amount of alcohol drunk and will definitely reduce the hangover symptoms," Liang said. "In time, it will reduce their desire for alcohol."

    In December 2008, the Korea Food & Drug Administration approved using DHM to help the liver recover from the effects of alcohol. The main ingredient in DHM is something called Quercetin, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

    Curiously, other extracts from the tree are used in the production of certain types of wine.

    More from the New Scientist on how DHM has been working with the lab rats:

    After she injected rats' abdomens with a dose of alcohol proportionate to the amount a human would get from downing 15 to 20 beers in 2 hours by a human, they took about 70 minutes, on average, to right themselves. However, when an injection of the same amount of booze included a milligram of DHM per kilogram of rat body weight, the animals recovered their composure within just 5 minutes.

    DHM also stopped rats in a maze from behaving in ways resembling anxiety and hangovers. Rats given heavy doses of alcohol cowered away in corners of the maze, whereas those given the extract with their alcohol behaved normally and were as inquisitive as rats given no alcohol at all, exploring the more open corridors of the maze.

    Finally, DHM appeared to discourage rats from boozing when they had a free choice between drinking a sweetened solution of alcohol or sweetened water. Over a period of three months, rats will normally get addicted to increasing volumes of the hard stuff. Rats given DHM, though, drank no more than about a quarter of the amount that the "boozers" eventually built up to. Moreover, boozy rats that had worked up to the higher levels suddenly dropped down to a moderate intake when given DHM after seven weeks.

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  • Fight over an orange leads to family murder-suicide

    A man in Ohio went on a murderous rampage, killing two sisters-in-law, his son and then finally himself. And it all was over a fight over whether to feed his wife toast or an orange.

    When police arrived on the scene after reports of a shooting, Paul David Gilkey, his two sisters-in-law and son were all already dead.

    "They had given Darlene a meal, toast and I believe a banana, toast and tea prior and when [Paul] already had an orange peeled for her and that seemed to be the issue that spurred [Paul] to his rampage," Hocking County Sheriff Lanny North told local affiliate NBC4.

    Gilkey did not murder his wife, who is bedridden. He also let his stepson Ralph Sowers III, 36, leave the scene unharmed. Police say they believe the family had been caring for Gilkey's wife, who had been ill for some time.

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  • Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight

    The "Doomsday Clock" has been moved one minute closer to midnightThe "Doomsday Clock," a measurement used by scientists to estimate mankind's closeness to catastrophic destruction, was moved one minute closer to midnight. It is now 11:55 on the Doomsday Clock, just five minutes from a theoretical end of the world.

    The clock is adjusted by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, [BAS] who use it to warn the public about the danger of nuclear weapons and other manmade threats to civilization, including climate change. It's the first time the clock has been adjusted in nearly two years. In January, 2010 the clock was actually moved back a minute. In explaining their reasoning for moving the clock forward, the BAS writes in a formal statement:

    "Faced with clear and present dangers of nuclear proliferation and climate change, and the need to find sustainable and safe sources of energy, world leads are failing to change business as usual. Inaction on key issues including climate change, and rising international tensions motivate the movement of the clock.  As we see it, the major challenge at the heart of humanity's survival in the 21stcentury is how to meet energy needs for economic growth in developing and industrial countries without further damaging the climate, exposing people to loss of health and community, and without risking further spread of nuclear weapons, and in fact setting the stage for global reductions."

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  • Video: Dog rescued in Gulf of Mexico had just survived car crash

    Here's a grim epilogue to a YouTube mystery: A dog found swimming in the Gulf of Mexico was in fact escaping from the scene of a tragic accident where his owner was killed by a drunk driver.

    Rory O'Connor was trolling the Gulf Coast in a kayak when he caught an unusual moment on film: a dog appeared out of nowhere, swimming up to his kayak. O'Connor posted the video to his YouTube account, writing:

    The accident scene was about a mile from where I found Barney swimming. Our guess is that he was so freaked out and traumatized that he just wanted to get as far away from there as possible. And when he ran out of land, he took to the water. I feel lucky that I was there fishing, because there was no place for him to go and I don't know if he could have made it much farther. He's banged up, but fine. Our hearts go out to the family who lost their mother.

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  • California boy gets wish to blow up building

    A 7-year-old boy with cancer was granted his wish to push the detonator and implode a massive grain silo in Ohio. WUPW reports that Maxwell Hinton, who is suffering from Neuroblastoma, was granted the request by the Make-a-Wish Foundation.

    "I got cancer, Neuroblastoma, and I went through treatment and they made a wish for me," Hinton said. "I watch MythBusters, and they inspired me to blow a building up."

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  • Do restaurant chefs really spit on food?

    What really happens at NYC restaurants?A waiter at Per Se, one of New York City's to-rated restaurants, reveals secrets and debunks some urban legends surrounding food service culture:

    "Then you have the couple that goes and has sex in the bathroom—that happens quite a lot. You have people who throw up—they throw up a lot. There was one woman—it was a VIP tasting menu, I remember this: She just threw up on the table, in the middle of an extended tasting menu. They cleaned it up, and she 'boot-and-rallied.' She finished the meal."

    The anonymous waiter also reveals that when drinking wine at a restaurant, the cost of a glass is often what the restaurant paid for the bottle. "That's the only way that we make money on it," the waiter tells New York Magazine.

    And thankfully, one of the least appetizing restaurant rumors, chefs spitting in a diner's food, is more imagination than reality, at least according to the source:

    "[T]he cooks work 70 or 80 hours a week and make next to nothing, but they work because they want to cook. And to do that to something, to spit in prep work that someone has spent eight hours of work on—blood, sweat, and tears and all—it's just not done."

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  • National Geographic’s photo of the year winners

    National Geographic has released the winners of this year's worldwide photography competition. Back in November, we showed you some of the more compelling entries in the competition. Here is the photo that won both the Grand Prize and "Nature" categories, taken by Shikhei Goh in Batam, Riau Islands, Indonesia:

    The winner of this year's National Geographic photo competition

    Goh writes of his award-winning picture:

    This photo was taken when I was taking photos of other insects, as I normally did during macro photo hunting. I wasn't actually aware of this dragonfly since I was occupied with other objects. When I was about to take a picture of it, it suddenly rained, but the lighting was just superb. I decided to take the shot regardless of the rain. The result caused me to be overjoyed, and I hope it pleases viewers.

    The other main categories were "People" and "Places." Water is a regular theme in the top-placing photos; nine of the 14 featured pictures used water in the shot. More than 20,000 photos were entered in the competition, with entries coming in from more than 130 countries. Both professional and amateur photographers submitted their work.

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  • Video: Woman survives fall from broken bungee rope

    A 22-year-old Australian woman is recovering after a bungee cord jump went horribly wrong, sending her plummeting into white water rapids while she vacationed in Africa. To add to the trauma, the rapids in question--on the Zambezi River, on the Zimbabwe-Zambia border--are reportedly thick with crocodiles.

    "It felt like I had been slapped all over," Erin Langworthy told Australia's Channel 9 News. "I landed with my legs tied and then had to swim to the Zimbabwe side [of the river] through the rapids."

    Langworthy jumped 111 meters (364 feet) from a bridge above the Zambezi River. Everything was going as planned until the bottom of the jump, when resistance on Langworthy's rope caused it to snap, sending her plummeting into the river below.

    Langworthy was then forced to navigate the tumultuous waters with her feet still tied together from the jump.

    "It was quite scary because a couple of times the rope actually got caught on some rocks or debris," Langworthy said. "I actually had to swim down and yank the bungee cord out of whatever it was caught on to make it to the surface."

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  • White House hosted “Alice in Wonderland” party

    Was having the Mad Hatter over for a party a bad idea?A new book reports that the Obama White House hosted an extravagant "Alice in Wonderland" party in the fall of 2009, designed by director Tim Burton and featuring actor Johnny Depp.

    In "The Obamas," New York Times correspondent Jodi Kantor writes that the White House decided to downplay the expensive Halloween party over fears of a public backlash, since it was taking place during the height of the recession.

    "White House officials were so nervous about how a splashy, Hollywood-esque party would look to jobless Americans — or their representatives in Congress, who would soon vote on health care — that the event was not discussed publicly and Burton's and Depp's contributions went unacknowledged," Kantor writes.

    The party itself was designed by director Tim Burton, who helped transform the East Room and State Dining Room into a "White House Wonderland." More from the book:

    "[Burton's] film version was about to be released, and he had turned the room into the Mad Hatter's tea party, with a long table set with antique-looking linens, enormous stuffed animals in chairs, and tiered serving plates with treats like bone-shaped meringue cookies."

    "Fruit punch was served in blood vials at the bar. Burton's own Mad Hatter, the actor Johnny Depp, presided over the scene in full costume, standing up on a table to welcome everyone in character."

    And though he had nothing to do with "Alice in Wonderland," Star Wars creator George Lucas reportedly sent along an actor playing Chewbacca to attend the party.

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  • Man calls 911 after gluing plastic cups to head

    "Only call this number in case of emergency"A man who "accidentally" glued five plastic cups to his head put in a desperate call to 911 seeking medical attention. But that's just one of the more ridiculous non-emergency calls being highlighted in the Shields region of England.

    The Shields Gazette has posted a list of the more unusual Northeast Ambulance Service (NEAS) calls the region has recently experienced. The glued cups to the head takes the ribbon, but some of the other contenders include:

    - One woman dialled 999 because she had the hiccups

    - A rabbit owner called because her pet had a sore leg

    - A caller phoned in because a contact lens had become stuck in his eye

    It's also worth noting that unlike in America, but perhaps to the delight of Herman Cain, British emergency calls are placed to "999."

    "All 999 calls are treated as an emergency. That means a call-taker has to go through a series of questions to establish the facts of an incident," said a NEAS spokesperson. "Handling requests which are clearly not an emergency means a call-handler is tied up, when they could be dispatching an ambulance to someone genuinely in need."

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