Friday, June 29, 2007

Bottled Water



Americans spent more money last year on bottled water than on ipods or movie tickets: $15 Billion. A journey into the economics--and psychology--of an unlikely business boom. And what it says about our culture of indulgence.

Bottled water is the food phenomenon of our times. We--a generation raised on tap water and water fountains--drink a billion bottles of water a week, and we're raising a generation that views tap water with disdain and water fountains with suspicion. We've come to pay good money--two or three or four times the cost of gasoline--for a product we have always gotten, and can still get, for free, from taps in our homes.

When we buy a bottle of water, what we're often buying is the bottle itself, as much as the water. We're buying the convenience--a bottle at the 7-Eleven isn't the same product as tap water, any more than a cup of coffee at Starbucks is the same as a cup of coffee from the Krups machine on your kitchen counter. And we're buying the artful story the water companies tell us about the water: where it comes from, how healthy it is, what it says about us. Surely among the choices we can make, bottled water isn't just good, it's positively virtuous.

Except for this: Bottled water is often simply an indulgence, and despite the stories we tell ourselves, it is not a benign indulgence. We're moving 1 billion bottles of water around a week in ships, trains, and trucks in the United States alone. That's a weekly convoy equivalent to 37,800 18-wheelers delivering water. (Water weighs 81/3 pounds a gallon. It's so heavy you can't fill an 18-wheeler with bottled water--you have to leave empty space.)

Meanwhile, one out of six people in the world has no dependable, safe drinking water. The global economy has contrived to deny the most fundamental element of life to 1 billion people, while delivering to us an array of water "varieties" from around the globe, not one of which we actually need. That tension is only complicated by the fact that if we suddenly decided not to purchase the lake of Poland Spring water in Hollis, Maine, none of that water would find its way to people who really are thirsty.

Good article.

Designer Enzyme Cuts HIV Out of Infected Cells


Scientists have constructed a custom enzyme that reverses the process by which the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) inserts its genetic material into host DNA, suggesting that treatment with similar enzymes could potentially rid infected cells of the virus. In tests on cultured human tissue, the mutated enzyme, Tre recombinase, snipped HIV DNA out of chromosomes.

Curing real infections by this or any other technique, however, would require mastering one of HIV's sneakiest tricks—its ability to hide from the immune system by laying dormant for months or years in host cells.

More.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Autism Reversible?

US scientists created mice that showed symptoms of Fragile X Syndrome - a leading cause of mental retardation and autism in humans.
They then reversed symptoms of the condition by inhibiting the action of an enzyme in the brain.
The study, by Massachusetts Institute of Technology, appears in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
This implies that future treatment may still be effective even after symptoms are already pronounced
The researchers, based at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, targeted an enzyme called PAK which affects the number, size and shape of connection between brain cells.
They found that inhibiting the enzyme stopped mice with Fragile X Syndrome behaving in erratic ways.
Prior to treatment they showed signs of hyperactivity, purposeless and repetitive movements.

More.

Drying Your Hands With the Dyson Airblade



I can tell you with much confidence--bathrooms would be a better place if every store owner decided to install one of these bad boys. They slick the water off your hands in a way even a squeegee would be jealous of.

But don't just take my word for it. Check out the video.

More.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sports News: CBSSports.com