What do Alzheimer’s disease, intestinal infarcts, supercentenarians, and some rare neurological diseases have in common?

by Kris Verburgh


Proteins are an important factor in aging. When we understand the role of proteins in the aging process, we can also figure out how we can slow it down—via our diet, among other things. Proteins consist of thousands of atoms. Proteins have different, specific shapes. It is the specific shape that determines the type of protein. The body contains more than 20,000 different kinds of proteins. Since proteins are clusters of atoms, and since atoms are minuscule in size, proteins are also very small. The average diameter of a protein is about 10 nanometers (a nanometer is one millionth of a millimeter).

Proteins have two functions: First, they are the building blocks of our cells. A cell contains millions of proteins that provide shape and structure to our cells. Just as wooden beams form the framework for a house, long rods of proteins form the specific shape of the cell. White blood cells can capture bacteria with their long, protruding arms because the arms contain a hinging framework of proteins that moves the arm of the white blood cell toward the bacteria. The cells that form our bronchia have long protrusions that wave back and forth to sweep up dust and mucus from the bronchia. The framework of these long protrusions is made up of proteins.

Second, proteins are also the workhorses of our cells. They perform almost all tasks in and around our cells: They break down substances such as drugs, alcohol, or food; they build up substances such as fats or hormones; they allow substances such as glucose or sodium to pass into and out of the cells; and they store or package other substances, like iron or vitamin B12. There is virtually nothing about our body that proteins are not involved in. Specific proteins in the cells of your stomach produce and secrete stomach acid. Other proteins located in the wall of nerve cells in your buttocks and back register pressure, which allows you to feel the chair in which you are sitting right now. Certain proteins in the cells of your eye register light, which allows you to read this book. Long protein strands in your muscles can shorten and contract them, so that you can turn over this page, but also dance, laugh, or walk. Proteins are the engines of life. The DNA in our cells contains the instructions for building proteins. Without proteins there is no life.

There is one more thing you need to know; namely, that proteins are made up of strands of amino acids. There are twenty types of amino acids in the human body (that can form proteins). Amino acids are small atom clusters that are always built according to a fixed plan. Amino acids are threaded like a pearl necklace to form a protein. This long strand of amino acids folds itself into a specific shape, such as a ball, a rod, or a hollow cylinder, forming a specific protein. This folding is possible because the atoms of which the strand is made are positively or negatively charged and can attract or repel one another.

The relationship between atoms, amino acids, and proteins can be pictured as follows. Just as there are various types of Lego blocks with different colors and sizes, there are also different atoms, for example hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, and so forth. Just as Lego blocks can build small basic structures, such as walls, windows, or roofs, atoms can build the twenty different amino acids. And just as these small basic Lego structures can build houses, amino acids can build proteins. A protein can consist of a few dozen of amino acids (a small house) or up to many thousands (a gigantic palace). Readers who want to learn more about proteins and amino acids can find more details at the end of the book, in the section “Additional Reading.”

Proteins, and therefore amino acids, are found primarily in meat. Meat consists mainly of muscle cells, which are full of proteins. Fish, eggs, and cheese also contain a lot of proteins; and the proteins we eat do not only come from animals —plants contain proteins as well. Rich sources of vegetable proteins are nuts, legumes, tofu, and certain vegetables, such as broccoli. As we will discuss later, vegetable proteins are healthier than animal proteins.

Copyright © 2015, 2018 by Kris Verburgh

Illustrations copyright © 2015 by CMRB, unless otherwise indicated Translation copyright © 2018 by The Experiment, LLC

How do avatars and simulation work?

by Scott Zimmer, JD

Principal terms

– Animation variables (avars): defined variables used in computer animation to control the movement of an animated figure or object.

– Keyframing: a part of the computer animation process that shows, usually in the form of a drawing, the position and appearance of an object at the beginning of a sequence and at the end.

– Modeling: reproducing real-world objects, people, or other elements via computer simulation.

– Render farm: a cluster of powerful computers that combine their efforts to render graphics for animation applications.

– Virtual reality: the use of technology to create a simulated world into which a user may be immersed through visual and auditory input.



Avatars and simulation are elements of virtual reality (VR), which attempts to create immersive worlds for computer users to enter. Simulation is the method by which the real world is imitated or approximated by the images and sounds of a computer. An avatar is the personal manifestation of a particular person. Simulation and VR are used for many applications, from entertainment to business.

Virtual Worlds

Computer simulation and virtual reality (VR) have existed since the early 1960s. While simulation has been used in manufacturing since the 1980s, avatars and virtual worlds have yet to be widely embraced outside gaming and entertainment. VR uses computerized sounds, images, and even vibrations to model some or all of the sensory input that human beings constantly receive from their surroundings every day. Users can de ne the rules of how a VR world works in ways that are not possible in everyday life. In the real world, people cannot y, drink re, or punch through walls. In VR, however, all of these things are possible, because the rules are defined by human coders, and they can be changed or even deleted. This is why users’ avatars can appear in these virtual worlds as almost anything one can imagine—a loaf of bread, a sports car, or a penguin, for example. Many users of virtual worlds are drawn to them because of this type of freedom.

Because a VR simulation does not occur in physical space, people can “meet” regardless of how far apart they are in the real world. Thus, in a company that uses a simulated world for conducting its meetings, staff from Hong Kong and New York can both occupy the same VR room via their avatars. Such virtual meeting spaces allow users to convey nonverbal cues as well as speech. This allows for a greater degree of authenticity than in telephone conferencing.

Mechanics of Animation

The animation of avatars in computer simulations often requires more computing power than a single workstation can provide. Studios that produce animated films use render farms to create the smooth and sophisticated effects audiences expect.

Before the rendering stage, a great deal of effort goes into designing how an animated character or avatar will look, how it will move, and how its textures will behave during that movement. For example, a fur-covered avatar that moves swiftly outdoors in the wind should have a furry or hairy texture, with fibers that appear to blow in the wind. All of this must be designed and coordinated by computer animators. Typically, one of the first steps is keyframing, in which animators decide what the starting and ending positions and appearance of the animated object will be. Then they de- sign the movements between the beginning and end by assigning animation variables (avars) to different points on the object. This stage is called “in-betweening,” or “tweening.” Once avars are assigned, a computer algorithm can automatically change the avar values in coordination with one another. Alternatively, an animator can change “in-between” graphics by hand. When the program is run, the visual representation of the changing avars will appear as an animation.

In general, the more avars specified, the more detailed and realistic that animation will be in its movements. In an animated lm, the main characters often have hundreds of avars associated with them. For instance, the 1995 lm Toy Story used 712 avars for the cowboy Woody. This ensures that the characters’ actions are lifelike, since the audience will focus attention on them most of the time. Coding standards for normal expressions and motions have been developed based on muscle movements. The MPEG-4 international standard includes 86 face parameters and 196 body parameters for animating human and humanoid movements. These parameters are encoded into an animation le and can affect the bit rate (data encoded per second) or size of the le.

Educational Applications

Simulation has long been a useful method of training in various occupations. Pilots are trained in flight simulators, and driving simulators are used to prepare for licensing exams. Newer applications have included training teachers for the classroom and improving counseling in the military. VR holds the promise of making such vocational simulations much more realistic. As more computing power is added, simulated environments can include stimuli that better approximate the many distractions and de- tailed surroundings of the typical driving or flying situation, for instance.

Vr in 3-d

Most instances of VR that people have experienced so far have been two-dimensional (2-D), occurring on a computer or movie screen. While entertaining, such experiences do not really capture the concept of VR. Three-dimensional (3-D) VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift may one day facilitate more lifelike business meetings and product planning. They may also offer richer vocational simulations for military and emergency personnel, among others.


Chan, Melanie. Virtual Reality: Representations in Contemporary Media. New York: Bloomsbury, 2014. Print.

Gee, James Paul. Unified Discourse Analysis: Language, Reality, Virtual Worlds, and Video Games. New York: Routledge, 2015. Print.

Griffiths, Devin C. Virtual Ascendance: Video Games and the Remaking of Reality. Lanham: Rowman, 2013. Print.

Hart, Archibald D., and Sylvia Hart Frejd. The Digital Invasion: How Technology Is Shaping You and Your Relationships. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013. Print.

Kizza, Joseph Migga. Ethical and Social Issues in the Information Age. 5th ed. London: Springer, 2013. Print.

Lien, Tracey. “Virtual Reality Isn’t Just for Video Games.” Los Angeles Times. Tribune, 8 Jan. 2015. Web. 23 Mar. 2016.

Parisi, Tony. Learning Virtual Reality: Developing Immersive Experiences and Applications for Desktop, Web, and Mobile. Sebastopol: O’Reilly, 2015. Print.


5 Reasons Why You Really Should Wear Gardening Gloves

Gardening is a great way to relax, be one with nature and get your hands dirty. But lurking in that pleasant environment are some nasty bacteria and fungi, with the potential to cause you serious harm. So we need to be vigilant with gardening gloves and other protective wear.
Soils contain all sorts of bacteria and fungi, most of which are beneficial and do helpful things like breaking down organic matter. But just as there are pathogenic bacteria that live on your body amid the useful ones, some microorganisms in soil can cause serious damage when given the opportunity to enter the body. This commonly happens through cuts, scrapes or splinters.
Plants, animal manure, and compost are also sources of bacteria and fungi that can cause infections.

1. Tetanus

Traditionally, the most common and well-known infection is tetanus, caused by Clostridium tetani, which lives in soil and manure. Infections occur through contamination of cuts and scrapes caused by things in contact with the soil, such as garden tools or rose thorns.
Fortunately, most people have been vaccinated against tetanus, which means even if you are infected, your body is able to fight back against the bacteria to prevent it becoming serious. Symptoms include weakness, stiffness and cramps, with the toxins released leading to muscular paralysis and difficulty chewing and swallowing – hence the common term for tetanus of lockjaw.

2. Sepsis

Bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter jejuni, and Listeria monocytogenes are often present in gardens as a result of using cow, horse, chicken or other animal manure. Bacterial infections can lead to sepsis, where the bacteria enter the blood and rapidly grow, causing the body to respond with an inflammatory response that causes septic shock, organ failure, and, if not treated quickly enough, death.
A high-profile case recently occurred in England, where a 43-year-old solicitor and mother of two died five days after scratching her hand while gardening. This hits close to home, as a number of years ago my mother spent ten days in intensive care recovering from severe sepsis, believed to be caused by a splinter from the garden.

3. Legionellosis

Standing pools of water may hold Legionella pneumophila, the bacteria causing Legionnaires’ disease, more commonly known to be associated with outbreaks from contaminated air conditioning systems in buildings.
Related bacteria, Legionella longbeachae, are found in soil and compost. In 2016 there were 29 confirmed cases of legionellosis in New Zealand, including a Wellington man who picked up the bug from handling potting mix.
Another ten cases were reported in Wellington in 2017, again associated with potting soil. In New Zealand and Australia, Legionella longbeachae from potting mix accounts for approximately half of reported cases of Legionnaires’ disease. There were around 400 total cases of Legionellosis in Australia in 2014.
The bacteria is usually inhaled, so wearing a dust mask when handling potting soil and dampening the soil to prevent dust are recommended.

4. Melioidosis

An additional concern for residents of northern Australia is an infection called melioidosis. These bacteria (Burkholderia pseudomallei) live in the soil but end up on the surface and in puddles after rain, entering the body through cuts or grazes, and sometimes through inhalation or drinking groundwater.
Infection causes a range of symptoms, such as cough and difficulty breathing, fever or sporadic fever, confusion, headache, and weight loss, with up to 21 days before these develop.
In 2012, there were over 50 cases in the Northern Territory leading to three deaths, with another case receiving publicity in 2015. Preventative measures include wearing waterproof boots when walking in mud or puddles, gloves when handling muddy items, and, if you have a weakened immune system, avoiding being outdoors during heavy rain.

5. Rose gardener’s disease

A relatively rare infection is sporotrichosis, “rose gardener’s disease”, caused by a fungus (Sporothrix) that lives in soil and plant matter such as rose bushes and hay. Again, infections through skin cuts are most common, but inhalation can also occur.Skin infection leads to a small bump up to 12 weeks later, which grows bigger and may develop into an open sore. An outbreak of ten cases was reported in the Northern Territory in 2014.
Aspergillus, usually Aspergillus fumigatus, and Cryptococcus neoformans are other fungi that can cause lung infections when inhaled, usually in people with weakened immune systems. Gardening activities such as turning over moist compost can release spores into the air.
Of course, there are plenty of other dangers in the garden that shouldn’t be ignored, ranging from poisonous spiders, snakes and stinging insects, to hazardous pesticides and fungicides, poisonous plants, and physical injuries from strains, over-exertion, sunburn, allergies, or sharp gardening tools.

So enjoy your time in the garden, but wear gloves and shoes, and a dust mask if handling potting soil or compost. And be aware if you do get a cut or scrape then end up with signs of infection, don’t delay seeing your doctor, and make sure you let them know what you’ve been doing.

This article was originally Here