Don’t go into the light!

We all know how to stay healthy right? Exercise, eat right, avoid people you suspect of carrying the bubonic plague. But one major factor of good health is often overlooked: sleep. And today I’m not going to be talking to you about how long you should sleep, I promise. (Even though you should probably be getting around 7-9 hours of sleep.) Today I’d like to talk to you about darkness.

Now here’s the part where some of you might start thinking I’m crazy. Maybe old Johnny has finally lost his marbles. Maybe working with all that leaded solder has finally pushed him off the deep end. WELL I’M NOT CRAZY! And for the record I always wash my hands after soldering; I’m very cautious about lead poisoning. I’m serious, Darkness! It’s important.

It all comes down to something called the endogenous circadian rhythm. It’s that thing in our body that tells us when we should be sleepy, hungry, and other stuff like that. There’s a lot of chemistry in our bodies that is related to chemicals like melatonin that’s how this all works but I’m not going to discuss that here. (Check out this video if you want to learn more about it though.) What I want to talk about is how this ‘body clock’ gets set. And unless you skipped my introduction, you can probably guess that it has to do with light. Well it does! In the ancient times before electricity our circadian rhythms are regulated almost exclusively by the sun. When the sun rises our bodies know it’s morning and when it sets they know it’s night. You introduce things like electric lighting that keep the world bright well past sundown and our bodies get confused. Without the natural cue of darkness to jumpstart our body’s ‘nighttime mode’ it suddenly becomes much harder to fall asleep, get proper sleep, and even wake up in the morning. I honestly haven’t even scratched the surface when it comes to how important circadian rhythms are so if you are so inclined, check out the article I just read here. What I will talk about is how you can start making your circadian rhythm work for you. Now with this you have some options…

1. Avoid all electric lighting especially at night. To successfully accomplish this I recommend following in the footsteps of Henry David Thoreau.

Okay, that might not be the most realistic solution for most of us that enjoy the finer comforts in life like TV, electric lights, and running water. So for the less determined I suggest…

2. Dimming your lights at sunset or at least an hour before you go to bed, and investing in some blackout curtains if your neighborhood has outdoor lighting at night. Also, don’t use things like laptops and cellphones at night unless you have a blue light reducing app like f.lux installed.

This will do a lot of good in helping your circadian rhythms work properly. And I’m serious about the blue light thing, that’s actually what makes our bodies think it’s day time. Coincidentally I’m writing this after sunset with f.lux setup on my laptop.

Unfortunately I know some of you might be late night people like myself. Believe me I would love to get up at sunrise and sleep at 10 but some of us just don’t work that way. So for those of you like me at least…

3. Download the blue light reducing app, try to only do calm low activity things at night, and keep the bright lights to a minimum late at night. Even if you’re not sleeping at 10, this will help you get a better night sleep.

So that’s all I have for you today loyal readers. And I am both sad and excited to announce that this has been my last required blogpost for English 101. Sadly the sporadic health blogposts will, in all likelihood, cease. But feat not! I plan on revamping this website will many projects that I will work on this summer. More post about things like my forge and probably some cooking posts as well. So, I am not here to say goodbye. Rather, to invite you all to join me in this momentous transition for johnnydelgado.com. I hope you’ll stick around.

Sincerest Regards and Deepest Thanks,

Johnny Delgado

P.S. I’m sorry this was so much longer than usual, but I wanted to end this chapter with a bang.

Will this be how Johnny Delgado achieves immortality?

telomeres

Hello again readers! My first semester at college is coming to a close, I’ve been studying for my finals, and you’ve been enjoying my blogposts. It’s in the midst of this unique time of endings that I’ve had something important on my mind: immortality. More specifically, how will I, Johnny Delgado, end up living forever? Will it be because of a strange otherworldly contract made with a faustian type character? Will I be downloaded into a computer to eternally spam my decedents with e mails and keep this blog up and running? Or will medical science find away to just nip this whole death thing in the bud? At the moment I don’t know which method I’ll end up using, but an article that I came across today might help along option three.

Telomere-what-we-lose-with-age

A company called Bioviva USA Inc. has recently developed a method for extending the length of the telomeres in our chromosomes. Now I know I may have just gotten super technical if you’re not a biology buff, but don’t worry. Just think of our DNA as a shoelace and telomeres are the little plastic bits on the end (which are called aglets). As DNA replicates parts wear down over time. Because telomeres exist almost as caps at the ends where replication occurs, they wear down instead of other parts of DNA. As a person ages their telomeres gradually get smaller. For a better explanation of the importance of telomeres, please watch this video.

Liz-ParrishElizabeth Parrish, the CEO of Bioviva, has just undergone her company’s process of telomere lengthening and allegedly “reversed 20 years of normal telomere shortening” (another article). Now I say allegedly because this is one test on one individual (that owns the company) that has yet to be confirmed independently. Even if Bioviva is telling the truth, this one case study has no statistical significance. We’ll have to wait for government approval for clinical trials (because this treatment was preformed in Colombia for legal reasons), and then wait for the results of those trials before we can draw conclusions from this research. I’m not saying that nothing has happened, I just like to preach a healthy level of skepticism. This could either work exactly as Bioviva says, or this could be completely false. Most likely, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

“But what does this mean for Johnny Delgado?” as I am sure you’re all asking. Well, even if this company has figured out telomere lengthening that doesn’t mean immortality. There are so many other causes for aging and death that we do and don’t know about, but seeing research like this makes me happy. Just knowing that there are companies working to solve problems like this is a comfort to the fear of (possibly not) inevitable mortality. So no, I haven’t achieved immortality yet. And no, Bioviva can’t provide me with that just yet. But it’s these small steps that are necessary for big changes in much more than just health.

Thank you for reading.

Sincerely, (the currently mortal) Johnny Delgado.

Who wants to hear me talk about my podcast? Again.

I know I won’t stop talking about my NPR podcast, but I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently. It was the last piece of writing I completed, and I have to revise it within the next two weeks. So in thinking about revisions to that piece, I thought I’d share my most significant revision with all of you.

Those of you who read my last blogpost on this revision project might recall that I mentioned how hard it was for me to remove the electronics jargon from my podcast. I love electronics. Now I’m not talking about using computers; I build circuits and I love it. This is the main reason that I chose to discuss an electronic sensor in scholarly article translation. Now the good part of writing about something you’re passionate about is that it’s usually easier and more fun to get your ideas down on paper. But for me, this interest in the topic made it very hard to remove the technical electronics language that drew me to this paper in the first place. I removed almost everything about the technical electronics in my podcast and I still plan on cutting out more for my revision. I condensed the intricacies of layering many tiny conductive and insulating layers that are each arranged in a very specific way to take three different measurements into a simple sandwich metaphor. Even though it is a vast oversimplification I think the metaphor put it in terms most people can understand. Overall it was an improvement especially for the NPR format and I plan on simplifying the jargon even more in the final revision.

Dear Readers,

Wow, the year’s almost over. With the close of another semester I’ve been thinking about my final project for English 101. For this assignment, we each have to revise two of our older pieces for a final portfolio. So, I have decided to revise my first and last papers: my Rhetorical Analysis, and my Scholarly Article Translation.

The Rhetorical Analysis was the first major piece I wrote this year and I’d like to see just how much my writing skills have improved in about 4 months. I’d like to focus on making my intro less bland, my thesis more specific, and the overall paper flow better. I also had a great time writing it (I have a nerdy love for rhetorical analysis if we’re being honest here) and think it’ll be a fun piece to revisit and maybe analyze further.

Now on the topic of things that were fun to make, I loved turning my Scholarly Article Translation into an NPR podcast. Just the fact that I got to write (and speak) in such a different voice than what I’m used to was a blast. But that being said, I’m confident that I can make an even better NPR podcast. I think I should try and reword some of the technical language that I couldn’t get rid of for my original submission. (What? I’m an electronics guy. I like talking about skin resistance and piezoelectric sensors, just ask my parents.) I also think that I could do a better job with giving background information in the first chunk of dialogue and maybe give the piece a smoother ending. (I think it ended kind of abruptly when I either ran out of things to say or reached my word limit.)

And now the only other thing I need to mention in this blogpost is my plan moving forward. So dear readers, “what’s in store for Johnny Delgado?” you may ask. I plan on enjoying a relaxing and project filled summer, then continuing college, and maybe eventually become a medical doctor. I’m not really sure about the details, but I think that too much specific planning just leaders to headaches. Wait, now that I think about it, “What is your plan moving forward?” might refer to my English portfolio…

And Now, the only thing left to talk about is is my plan moving forward. Well, I’m probably going to setup a meeting to discuss potential revision ideas I have once I make said list. Then maybe some reverse outlining without looking at my paper directly so I get a fresh perspective. Throw in some nice walks and diligent relaxing which is a vital part of my writing process. And then all that’s left is the actual writing, which is the easiest part. Well, there’s also editing and revising after that, but that’s a given. Oh, and the submitting, don’t want to forget that. Then I’ll be done and I’ll probably get some food with friends in celebration. And that’ll be it, the end.

Sincerely,

Johnny Delgado

 

P.S. Don’t fret loyal readers, I plan on continuing this blog well beyond English 101. But do expect to see some changes. Less English, more projects and food. Well, it’ll still be written in English, but I won’t be writing English class assignments.

I Built A Forge!

This is my first attempt at building a forge. I hope to learn blacksmithing and I assume having a forge is a necessity.

The design process is something I call “go to the hardware store and make something I think might work.” Luckily everything seemed to go well and it worked! I actually ended up accidentally melting the steel rod I was heating up so I guess that means my leaf-blower-bellow works.

I’m happy with how this turned out and am very excited to try my hand at blacksmithing when I get back home. I actually plan on making a YouTube videos about this forge’s design next month so keep your eyes out for that.

Here are some pictures of the forge at various stages of completion.

New Writing Challange: A Surprise Announcement

Hello loyal readers! This week I am pleased to announce the latest writing challenge that I will be taking on. Translating A Scientific Paper. It is my hope, dear readers, that I can condense and translate this incredibly long and complicated journal article so that you may read it with ease and free of jargon. The article is from the ever popular Nature, and deals with a longtime passion of mine: electronics.

Now I know what you must be thinking; “Johnny don’t you normally write about health and rhetorical devices?” And to that I say “yes”, but this article is about an electronic stamp-sized stress monitor. It excellently combines my interests in health and electronics (and while not rhetorical, it most certainly is a device). I am very excited to share my translation of this piece with you in three forms with varying complexity levels: a press release, an abstract, and (the one I’m actually slightly worried about) a tweet. It will be nice to dig up my electronics knowledge and use it for something other than building projects.

And finally, I want you all to know that for my press release I hope to translate this piece into the style of a popular science news website that I am a big fan of. I enjoy the way their articles are written and often use that site to get my daily dose of science news. The name of this website is omitted for the sake of my younger readers, but those of you old enough to go on disneychannel.com without your parents’ permission can find the website I am referring to HERE.

Great, now even scientific journals are making me feel bad about the way I eat.

Hello again dear readers. This week I took a look at two pieces cut from the same cloth: a scientific journal article, and a health news article about that scientific paper. The topic discussed was the health of Victorian diets compared to what modern Americans and Europeans eat. The general conclusion was that the Victorian diet was much healthier primarily because it contained much more fruits and vegetables (which don’t technically exist scientifically speaking), but that’s not what I’m here to discuss. What I want to talk about is the way both of these pieces are written.

At first glance, you’ll notice that the news article is much shorter than the scientific paper. It also uses more common and succinct language, while the scientific paper is filled with technical details and uses some specific terminology (read: jargon) that probably require a mild science background (I definitely didn’t know what phytonutrients were). The news article cites a few very general facts about Victorians to help convince people that they’re not just making information up, while the scientific paper has a veritable laundry list of historical citations. It references everything from starvation rates to necessary calorie intake just to prove that people in that time weren’t malnourished. The journal article is certainly more robust.

Now, I’m not trying to turn everyone off to the scientific article (in fact, chances are if you’re reading this you’re my English professor, in which case I hope you’ve already read both papers), but I am saying that it is much more ‘meaty’ than the news article. That’s not to say that the two are entirely different. Both papers attempt to refute myths about widespread Victorian malnourishment, both use factual information to try and convince their readers of the points they make (*cough* logos), and both attempt to prove that the Victorian diet is significantly healthier than what is considered a modern day western diet. They use many of the same techniques to make these points, but the major difference is the ‘barrier to entry’ so to speak. I think scientific papers are written very much under the assumption that they will be read exclusively by those with a background, or at least significant interest, in the topic (and their English students). And the news articles are more of a succinct way to share information with the general public, in this case, maybe those who are looking to try a new diet. As long as the news articles don’t become too sensationalist, I think the two forms of writing complement each other nicely and can allow anyone to get the level of information they desire (provided they have access to the journal, but that’s a completely separate issue).

 

Kicking Cancer’s Antigens

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Cancer sucks. It comes in many forms, turns a body against itself, and our current treatment methods (namely chemo and radiation therapy) consist of trying to poison all the cells in the area of the cancer: too much poison and you internal systems can’t function, too little and the cancer doesn’t die. It’s a loose loose situation. One of the reasons we have to treat cancer so differently than other health problems, like disease and infection, is that our healthy cells have a very hard time fighting the cancer cells. This is mainly due to the fact that cancer evolves so quickly and in so many different ways. By the time our white blood cells identify what a cancerous tumor ‘looks like’ there are already numerous other parts of the tumor that ‘look’ completely different. Our immune system just can’t keep up. But what if there were a way for our own cells to identify and fight every part of a tumor, no matter how much it evolved?

Enter Professor Charlie Swanton and Dr. Sergio Quezada from the Francis Crick Institute and University College London respectively. They and their team previously discovered a method of identifying early faults in a tumor’s DNA that they thought would persist to later stages of that tumor. They have finally proven that this occurs in tumors and discovered “immune cells inside tumors that can recognize these early shared features” (Groundbreaking Immunotherapy Discovery Could Lead To New Cancer Treatments). The researchers hope to artificially multiply more of these cells and inject them back into the patient’s body. In theory, these cells would then be able to identify and destroy the entire tumor.

This is an extremely significant discovery and, even though there are various practical limitations at the moment, could lead the way to revolutionizing how we treat cancer. Instead of poisoning your body, this method would essentially just provide reinforcements of more of your own cells to combat the cancer.

The article itself was written in iflscience by Kristy Hamilton. It is a news story intended to present the findings of a research paper to the general population (or at least the gen. pop. that’s interested in science). Hamilton uses common language to explain the very complex biological processes at work but the writing is never dumbed down. She uses a lot of analogies to better explain herself, such as comparing the various evolutionary branches of the cancer cells to a tree with many different branches sprouting off.

I believe the article is very legitimate. It comes from a reputable source for science related news, and the article quotes the original researchers multiple times.

Dharma Discussion and Darjeeling

jian_sou_shifuSo last week I was sitting in English class wondering what event I could blog about. Then, as she was going through a list of health related events at Emory, my English professor offhandedly mentioned that we could write a blog post about attending a guided meditation session with the Emory Buddhist Club. I had been interested in attending one of their weekly sessions for a while, and they just so happened to be meeting that evening right after my English class ended. The timing worked out perfectly so I decided to go.

Now, the description for the event that I saw was little more than ‘guided meditation with tea at the end.’ I assumed people showed up to meditate for an hour and then drank tea. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the session consisted of a 45 minute lecture and discussion on Buddhism and meditation, followed by 15 minutes of guided compassion meditation. And yes, there was complimentary tea at the end.

For the most part we listened to the (for lack of a more accurate word) lecturer speak about Buddhism and what various aspects of the dharma (loosely translated as teachings in this context) meant. We also discussed things such as the positive effects of meditation on the body like reduced stress levels.

I was surprised about how informative this event was. I have a moderate amount of experience with Buddhism myself (mainly Tibetan), and a solid background in the history of Buddhism from a comparative religious class I took in high school. Yet I still walked away from this discussion/lecture having learned many new things about Buddhism and various Buddhist philosophies. I also learned that most of my Buddhism knowledge was technical and historical, but the Emory Buddhist Club taught me about many of the same things I already knew about from a religious perspective. It also made me realize that learning about a religion on a technical level is very different from seeing individuals discuss and practice it.

Please don’t in any way think that this is an attempt to indoctrinate anyone. I am not a Buddhist myself, I just enjoy learning about various religions. Most of the people who attended were not Buddhists and at no point did anyone try to convert me. It really is an open environment.

If this sounds like your kind of place then I highly recommend that you check out one of the weekly sessions. Everyone I spoke to was very welcoming, and these sessions are open to anyone of any or no faith. And if you end up not enjoying it, at least you got some free tea out of it.

Image From: http://www.buddhistclub.org/

Two Perspectives. One Topic.

My first source talks about some of the legal problems that mass data collection presents. Things like using data from wearable technology in court cases to help prove someone’s innocence or guilt. It talks about how this situation raises issues from personal privacy (Who owns your data and can a court demand to see that data?) t0 accuracy issues (If you’ve been tapping your foot in your room a tracker may think you’ve been walking all day which could cause your alibi to be refuted.). This article cites a very recent court case where data from wearable technology was used, and speculates about potential (usually legal) consequences of this new technology in the future.

My second source is an academic paper that deals with privacy in the digital age. It talks about what is referred to as ‘the internet of things’ and how it along with wearable technology could impact our security and privacy. This paper talks about very similar issues to my first source but with a more broad focus on security and privacy instead of just impacts in the judicial system. This source is also a scientific paper which gives it much more academic credibility than the first source.

I think both of these sources will complement each other giving opinions of both a regular person and a scientist on the same topic: impacts wearable technology will have on our security in the future.


 

References

Mearian, L. (2014, December 8). Data from wearable devices could soon land you in jail. Computerworld.

Thierer, A. D. (2015, February 18). The internet of things and wearable technology: Addressing privacy and security concerns without derailing innovation. Richmond Journal of Law & Technology, 21.