Brain Smear vs. Wind Turbines…

Fast moving rotating objects can register in the brain as a blur. This is what happens when you look at the blades of a rotating window fan. It creates what is known as a “brain or motion smear”. In other words, the blades become invisible. There has been great controversy recently about the use of wind power provided by turbines causing the death of a large number of birds. Birds have excellent peripheral vision but do not see as well when looking straight on. In a recent study performed at the Norwegian Institute for Natural Research it was discovered that painting one of the four blades black reduced the number of bird deaths by 72%. The study was conducted on the Norwegian island of Smola and was published in Ecology and Evolution. There were 8 turbines in the research. Half had one blade painted black. It lasted 7.5 years and there were 1,275 sniffing dogs involved. Their job was to sniff out any birds that may have died. The larger birds of prey seem to have benefited the most. Now what to do about the number one cause of bird demise by cats.

Virtual Reality and Physical Therapy…

After a serious and sometimes debilitating injury, virtual reality can sometimes motivate the patient into seeing what is possible. Over the past several years VR has been used for pain management and for PTSD. Researchers are finding that it may be a helpful tool for physical and occupational therapists. Most patients leave a session, go home and forget exactly what it is or how an exercise should be performed. Virtual Reality can help with not only showing how to do a certain exercise correctly but may also provide a little extra motivation. It is becoming more and more popular with younger practitioners who are well accustomed to gaming. At present it is expensive since most insurance companies will not foot the bill which can be as high as $180 monthly. Not all the programs are fun, some enable patients to practice real life skills such as dishing washing or shopping. However, a well-trained therapist in the use of VR should be on hand to oversee and make sure the patient is not overdoing or hurting themselves. Virtual Reality as a therapy is in its beginning stages. I can tell you from personal experiences with both shoulder and back injuries that I don’t think it can ever replace one to one contact with a practitioner but maybe be useful in addition to.

Sea Slugs that Decapitate Themselves…

The Nara Women’s University of Japan has a vast collection of Sea Slugs. It was noticed that on occasion the body of a sea slug would be lying next to its severed head. What was strange was the severed head was still moving around the tank and still munching on algae. What was determined by the scientists was that sea slugs will decapitate themselves if they feel their body has become infected by a parasite. The head wound took about a day to heal and a new heart about 3 days to grow. However, there was no new growth on the severed body, but it did react to stimuli for months before finally decomposing. Too bad Marie Antoinette wasn’t part sea slug.

Robots working in the O.R.

Replacing a joint has become so matter of fact. Baby boomers especially don’t think twice about replacing a knee, hip etc. if it means extending the amount of time that they are able to stay active. The first joint replacement, according to historians, was in 1890. It was a carved and machined piece of ivory which replaced the knee of a seventeen year-old. It was performed, by a German surgeon named Themistocles Gluck. Over the years, the material used has changed dramatically. Everything from metal, plastic, ceramics to titanium. In the decade, 1990-2000, new technology made plastics more durable. This eliminated wear and tear and eventual replacement of the joint again. Technology has progressed to the point where you enter an operating room and there may be a model of a bone implant superimposed on a 3-D model of the person’s joint. Robotic arms which are directed through a console are guided and controlled by the surgeon. The tiny robotic hands are able to bend and rotate with a greater range of motion. This enables the surgeon to operate by only making small incisions preserving more bone and soft tissue than a conventional open procedure. Less muscle damage translates to faster recovery. Greater accuracy can mean better alignment and balance after knee surgery and minimal leg difference after hip surgery. This also preserves the longevity of the replaced joint. Hopefully we will never replace the surgeon totally.

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