Cancer as a modern invention

A study of hundreds of Egyptian mummies and other ancient evidence has found virtually no cases of cancer, which first seems to turn up at the advent of the modern world.   Here are some of the conclusions from researchers:

Cancer is a man-made disease fuelled by the excesses of modern life, a study of ancient remains has found.

Tumours were rare until recent times when pollution and poor diet became issues, the review of mummies, fossils and classical literature found.

A greater understanding of its origins could lead to treatments for the disease, which claims more than 150,000 lives a year in the UK.

Scientists found no signs of cancer in their extensive study of mummies apart from one isolated case

Despite slivers of tissue from hundreds of Egyptian mummies being rehydrated, just one case of cancer has been confirmed. This is even though tumours should be better preserved by mummification than healthy tissues.

Fossil evidence is also sparse, with just a few dozen – mostly disputed – examples, Nature Reviews Cancer journal reports.

Even the study of thousands of Neanderthal bones has provided only one example of a possible cancer.

And references to cancer-like problems in ancient Egyptian texts are more likely to have been caused by leprosy or varicose veins.

Researcher Michael Zimmerman, a visiting professor at Manchester University, said: ‘The virtual absence of malignancies in mummies must be interpreted as indicating their rarity in antiquity. This indicates that cancer-causing factors are limited to societies affected by modern industrialisation.’

The ancient Greeks were probably the first to define cancer as a specific disease and to distinguish between benign and malignant tumours.

But researchers said it was unclear if this signalled a real rise in the disease, or just a greater medical knowledge.

The 17th century provides the first descriptions of surgery for breast and other cancers, while the first reports of distinctive tumours occurred in the past 200 years or so.

They include scrotal cancer in chimney sweeps in 1775 and nasal cancer in snuff users in 1761.

Co-researcher Professor Rosalie David said: ‘There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer.

‘So it has to be down to pollution and changes to diet and lifestyle.

‘The important thing about our study is that it gives a historical perspective to this disease.

via Cancer ‘is purely man-made’ say scientists after finding almost no trace of disease in Egyptian mummies | Mail Online.

Dead Sea Scrolls will go online

Ancient and modern communication technology come together, as the world’s oldest copies of the Hebrew Bible along with other texts from just before the time of Christ go online, where they will be more readable than ever:

The Dead Sea Scrolls, among the world’s most important, mysterious and tightly restricted archaeological treasures, are about to get Googled.

The technology giant and Israel announced Tuesday that they are teaming up to give researchers and the public the first comprehensive and searchable database of the scrolls – a 2,000-year-old collection of Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek documents that shed light on Judaism during biblical times and the origins of Christianity. For years, experts have complained that access to the scrolls has been too limited.

Once the images are up, anyone will be able to peruse exact copies of the original scrolls as well as an English translation of the text on their computer – for free. Officials said the collection, expected to be available within months, will feature sections that have been made more legible thanks to high-tech infrared technology. . . .

Scholars already can access the text of the scrolls in 39 volumes along with photographs of the originals, but critics say the books are expensive and cumbersome. Shor said the new pictures – photographed using cutting-edge technology – are clearer than the originals.

The refined images were shot with a high-tech infrared camera NASA uses for space imaging. It helped uncover sections of the scrolls that have faded over the centuries and became indecipherable.

If the images uploaded prove to be of better quality than the original, scholars may rely on these instead of traveling to Jerusalem to see the scrolls themselves, said Rachel Elior, a professor of Jewish thought at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.. . .

For the last 18 years, segments of the scrolls have been publicly displayed in museums around the world. At a recent exhibit in St. Paul, Minn., 15 fragments were shown.

Shor said a typical 3-month exhibit in the U.S. draws 250,000 people, illustrating just how much the scrolls have fascinated people.

“From the minute all of this will go online, there will be no need to expose the scroll anymore,” Shor said. “Anyone in his office or on his couch will be able to click and see any scroll fragment or manuscript that they like.”

via Google to bring Dead Sea Scrolls online.

Money pollution in the Gulf

The Gulf coast way of life survived the oil spill.  But will it survive all of that money BP has thrown at them?

On a truly normal evening, Acy Cooper Jr. would be out shrimping. Instead, one recent night, he was staying home, as he has done more often these days.

“Why? It don’t pay me to do that when they’re going to pay my claim anyway,” said Cooper, vice president of the state’s shrimpers association.

Today, it is BP’s money, not its oil, that is most visibly altering the Gulf Coast. The company has been trying – on federal orders – to protect not just the water but the way of life there. But BP’s waterfall of cash has changed people’s lives profoundly.

The oil company has already paid out $965 million and set aside $20 billion in a separate compensation fund. The money has been welcomed as a lifeline. But it has made the coast feel like an open-air economic experiment: Some hardworking fishermen think it’s in their best interest to be idle, losing market share they will need next year. And those who haven’t been paid are looking for legal and illegal ways to work the system. . . .

So far, BP has paid $569 million to locals who participated in the Vessels of Opportunity program, helping to spot, sop up and burn the oil.

It also gave out about $396 million to compensate fishermen, hotel owners and others who lost money during the spill, before handing the process over to Feinberg in August.

For those who played their cards right, BP’s money brought a summer of quiet windfall. Ted Melancon, a shrimper from Cut Off, La., worked for BP for 130 days.

“They sure helped us out, you know, they stepped up to the plate and helped us out. . . . It would have been a bad year,” said Melancon (pronounced “meh-lan-sahn”). He said he hasn’t counted his full take, but he made enough to buy new nets and new cable for his shrimp boat, as well as a new Ford F-150 pickup.

“Which I didn’t really need, but I had to buy. Because, you know, tax write-offs,” he said, meaning that the truck and other items could be written off as business expenses. On top of that, he’s expecting to get another BP payout, compensation for the shrimping he couldn’t do this summer while large areas of the gulf were closed.

“I’m done for the season,” Melancon said. “It don’t pay to go back to work.”

via Adrift in oil, then money.

Vindicating middle management

As we saw in the mortgage foreclosure fiasco, paperwork is necessary.  And, according to some research in India, so are the processes, policies, and record-keeping associated with “bureaucratic” business management:

Imagine a world without middle managers. If you’ve done time in a cubicle, you might picture a paradise where workers are unshackled by pointless bureaucracy, meaningless paperwork and incompetent bosses. A place where stuff actually gets done.

Despite a proliferation of management gurus, management consultants and management schools, it remains murky to many of us what managers actually do and why we need them in the first place. A new World Bank-Stanford study titled “Does Management Matter?” provides an answer. Working in collaboration with the consulting firm Accenture, the researchers randomly selected a set of textile factories in India to receive a complimentary five-month management makeover and compared the profitability and efficiency of these revamped factories with a control group of factories that continued doing business as usual. It turns out that management does matter: The consultants boosted productivity by about 10 percent by improving quality, managing inventory and speeding up production.

via In defense of middle management.

Crystal Cathedral goes bankrupt

One of the first and most prominent megachurches, the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, has gone bankrupt.  The 10,000 member congregation listed assets of $50 million and debts of $100 million.  The church was built by Robert Schuller, who preached a gospel of “positive thinking.”  He said that the Reformation was  mistaken in  its emphasis on sin, which gave people a negative self-image.  He wanted Christianity to be more positive, and he taught people that they could achieve their dreams and change their reality by having positive thoughts and faith in themselves.

Rev. Schuller retired from ministry a few years ago.  His daughter, Sheila Schuller Coleman, is currently the pastor of the church.

via Crystal Cathedral Ministries Seeks Bankruptcy, Blames Recession.

The most arrogant words ever?

Another unpacking of presidential rhetoric, this time by Michael Gerson:

“Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now,” he recently told a group of Democratic donors in Massachusetts, “and facts and science and argument [do] not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we’re hard-wired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country is scared.”

Let’s unpack these remarks.

Obama clearly believes that his brand of politics represents “facts and science and argument.” His opponents, in disturbing contrast, are using the more fearful, primitive portion of their brains. Obama views himself as the neocortical leader — the defender, not just of the stimulus package and health-care reform but also of cognitive reasoning. His critics rely on their lizard brains — the location of reptilian ritual and aggression. Some, presumably Democrats, rise above their evolutionary hard-wiring in times of social stress; others, sadly, do not.

Though there is plenty of competition, these are some of the most arrogant words ever uttered by an American president.

The neocortical presidency destroys the possibility of political dialogue. What could Obama possibly learn from voters who are embittered, confused and dominated by subconscious evolutionary fears? They have nothing to teach, nothing to offer to the superior mind. Instead of engaging in debate, Obama resorts to reductionism, explaining his opponents away.

It is ironic that the great defender of “science” should be in the thrall of pseudoscience. Human beings under stress are not hard-wired for stupidity, which would be a distinct evolutionary disadvantage. The calculation of risk and a preference for proven practices are the conservative contributions to the survival of the species. Whatever neuroscience may explain about political behavior, it does not mean that the fears of massive debt and intrusive government are irrational.

via Michael Gerson – Obama the snob.

I don’t know if you can answer this question with your lizard brain, but do you think this is the most arrogant statement ever, or can you think of other candidates?


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