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Mr. Clean Is Sick

first_imgDo you get sick too easily?  Did you grow up with allergies?  One reason might be your home environment is too clean, says a story on PhysOrg.    The “hygiene hypothesis” asserts that our immune system over-reacts to lack of stimulation by turning on itself – producing autoimmune diseases and allergies.  It “blames increased allergies on cleaner homes, increased air pollution and changes in diet.  Obesity and lack of exercise may also play a role.”    One researcher at University of Iowa is treating patients with multiple sclerosis and colitis with parasitic worms.  He claims incidents of these autoimmune diseases increased when parasitic worms were eliminated from our environment.  He thinks they have a “profound symbiotic effect on developing and maintaining the immune system.”Not sure we are ready to go that far and add parasitic worms to the diet – that idea needs much more proof!  The principle in this article could, however, help us think differently about some organisms with bad reputations.  Remember the milk maidens in Robert Jenner’s day who developed immunity to smallpox by working around cows?  Humans apparently need exposure to certain organisms to develop and maintain the immune system.  Certain tribes in Africa seem to get along quite well living in harmony with their livestock outdoors in environments that would freak out an American city dweller.    Maybe we should stop thinking of parasites as good vs evil, and view them instead as accelerators and brakes.  Everything in the living world is in motion.  There are constant pushes and pulls.  This is true in the genetic world, where promoters and repressors steer the expression of genes in a complex dance.  Our immune systems are not going to sit idly by when everything is sterile.  Needing stimulation and direction, they will practice on the body’s own cells, like bored firefighters setting the fire station on fire.  What’s needed in this view is balance, not isolation.    Our bodies are already covered inside and out with bacteria and other organisms, so encounters with more of them is only a matter of degree.  The microorganisms, fungi and worms in a new environment may act as alarms to keep our bodies ready.  Perhaps they even inject information needed for the body to adapt to the new environment.  They only become problematic when they swamp the body’s ability to react – perhaps because the immune response was not adequately exercised during development.  Allergies, in this view, are an over-reaction to things that should have been encountered in childhood.    These are mere suggestions that need more rigorous investigation.  The hygiene hypothesis cannot explain everything.  Plagues often ravage tribes close to nature as much as they do city dwellers.  Some parasites are nasty in any environment.  Maybe some of them had a useful function once but mutated into pathogens.  Whatever the balance point, cleanliness is still virtuous.  Didn’t we learn that from Joseph Lister?  (See last month’s Scientist of the Month).  All good suggestions need moderation.  Continue to shower and wash your hands.    The idea humans need exposure to organisms in natural environments makes sense, though.  Would some hospital patients recover faster in gardens open to fresh air?  Would incidence of allergies drop with more exposure to nature in childhood?  Is working the earth in gardening and farming good for health?  These seem like proper subjects for controlled experimentation and long-term population studies.  Meanwhile, it’s a good bet to increase your outdoor exposure.  Jog outdoors when you can instead of going to the gym.  Take your kids camping; go on hikes and visit a variety of outdoor environments.  This is unquestionably a better strategy for long-term health than parking them in front of the TV or video games with a bag of junk food.  This is a one principle both creationists and evolutionists should be able to agree on.(Visited 39 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

Steve Ballmer Kicks Off CES 2011 [Updated]

first_imgTags:#CES 2011#conferences#web 9 phones with 6 mobile operators in 30 countriesMore than 5,500 apps available in the marketplace100 new apps are added every 24 hoursMore than 20,000 developers are registered with MicrosoftWindows Phone 7 users will also be excited to hear that they will be getting cut and paste capabilities in the upcoming months, and WP7 phones will be available on Sprint and Verizon some time during the first half of 2011.Windows 7 Stats and….As for Windows 7, Microsoft says that Windows 7 PCs are the fastest selling of any PC in history, selling at a rate of 7 per second. More than 20 percent of all PCs connected to the Internet, said Ballmer, now run Windows 7.The Real Big Story – SoCThe big story, however, turns out to be the one revealed earlier today. The “system on a chip” (SoC) technology will allow manufacturers to use ARM architecture to create full motherboards that could fit in the palm of your hand and are powerful enough to fun full Windows 7 environments. Microsoft showed off a number of netbooks, laptops and even a tablet or two that are said to be faster, more powerful and more power efficient than any of their predecessors.We would like to say goodbye to batteries that last only a couple hours at a time and it looks like that may come in the near future. A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… Related Posts Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… This year at the Consumer Electronics Show, one word on everybody’s lips is “tablet”. After Apple’s record breaking year with the iPad, tablet makers are looking for ways to make inroads on the already dominant device and tonight, everyone will be looking to Microsoft to see what they have in store for 2011. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will kick off this convention of consumer gadgets galore with a keynote speech tonight at 6:30 PST and we’ll be blogging the event, with an ear out for news on the tablet front. Of course, if Microsoft is the only one without tablets on the brain, we’ll bring that to you as well. In past years, the company has unveiled the XBox, Windows Vista and Ford Sync, so we’re expecing something good. Already, the company has unveiled a “system on a chip” (SoC) that promise even smaller, thinner and more power-efficient devices.Stay tuned. Update: While the tablet was not the focus of tonight’s presentation by Microsoft, new hardware based on the SoC chip mentioned above certainly was. Before that, however, the majority of the presentation focused on showcasing some stats on Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7, Windows 7 and a few upcoming features with Microsoft Kinect, the controller-less gaming system that lets users move in front of the screen to play.Kinect Gets Hulu, Netflix & MoreComing this Spring, Kinect users will be able to control Netflix, Hulu and Zune using the hands-free system. In addition to that, ESPN will partner with Microsoft to bring social sports watching to the Kinect.WP7 Coming to Sprint & Verizon…and Gets Cut & PasteAs for the Windows Phone 7, Microsoft announced that it would be getting increased interaction with XBox Live and a whole slew of new games. Beyond that, much was a recap, but Ballmer did offer a few stats: mike melanson Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketlast_img read more

Government Earmarks $11.5 Million for Building Research

first_imgThe Department of Energy will spend $11.5 million on 16 research projects aimed at improving the energy performance of building envelopes and HVAC systems in U.S. homes. The Building America Industry Partnerships will underwrite research in three broad categories: advanced residential envelope and HVAC systems, fault analysis for residential HVAC systems, and how building industry standards affect energy performance. The announcement came from the Building Technologies Office (BTO), which is part of the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.RELATED ARTICLESAeroseal Rolls Out Air-Sealing Technology for HousesHow to Build a ‘Perfect Wall’Energy and Building Programs Brace for Trump BudgetHanley Award Goes to Energy Star’s Sam Rashkin The average American household spends more than $2,000 a year on energy bills, with U.S. homes accounting for 20% of total energy consumption and 37% of all electricity use, the BTO said. In all, spending on residential energy is $240 billion a year. “While building materials and HVAC equipment efficiency have improved over recent decades,” the office said, “a number of challenges continue to result in significant energy losses.” Air sealing houses with an aerosol One of the technologies on the grant list is the use of an aerosol sealant to plug up air leaks in a building envelope. The promising technique called AeroBarrier was commercialized by Aeroseal, which used research from the University of California, Davis to market a system for sealing air ducts. AeroBarrier was first tested on a single-family house in 2012. The technology was licensed to Aeroseal in 2015. (For a detailed slide presentation on the process, click here.) AeroBarrier is designed to simplify what is now the painstaking and relatively expensive process of sealing leaks in the building shell with caulk, gaskets, and specialized tapes. Instead, technicians pressurize the house with a blower door and release an aerosol mist through tripod-mounted spray nozzles. Forced out of the house through gaps in exterior walls, floors and ceilings, the atomized latex material seals the exterior within a matter of hours. At least to a point, the longer the system runs, the tighter the house gets. According to the company, the process is capable of sealing a house well enough to pass the Passivhaus airtightness standard of 0.6 air changes per hour at 50 pascals of pressure (ach50). As part of the grants just announced, the Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) in Minneapolis will study the use of the technology on existing homes. Dave Bohac, the center’s director of research, said in a telephone call that some of the details of the two-year study are still being worked out. With UC Davis as a partner, researchers will test the process on 22 apartment units and 13 single-family houses — 35 residential units in all — with roughly half in California and the other half in the Midwest. The houses have yet to be selected. The study will supplement another Building America project in which the process was tested on new construction. In that research, houses in Minnesota were air sealed before the drywall had been installed. Bohac said the AeroBarrier process reduced air leaks by an average of 75% to 80%, with  average post-process airtightness of 0.7 ach50. Forty percent of the houses were tested at 0.6 ach50 or below. The houses were mostly production homes. The new round of study will help determine whether that kind of success can be translated to existing houses. The most logical time to apply the sealant is when the building is being renovated — no furnishings to worry about, no people, and possibly some open walls. In a test project a few years ago, Bohac said, an early 1900s masonry building was the guinea pig. The building was being divided into smaller units for income-eligible housing and had a leaky envelope testing at 13.4 ach50. The average after sealing was 4.1 ach50, with one unit getting down to 1.4 ach50, an 88% improvement over pre-treatment numbers. Whether AeroBarrier will be useful to seal houses that are complete — unoccupied but not undergoing any renovation — is another question. Cleaning up the sealant is one issue. The sealant doesn’t seem to stick to vertical surfaces, but it will collect on horizontal surfaces, and because it’s sticky it doesn’t sweep off easily. With cleanup in mind, Bohac suggested that a logical time to seal an older house is when it’s already undergoing lead abatement. Another possibility is isolating a single room in the house that’s undergoing renovation and misting just that space. How durable is the seal? The sealant gradually collects at cracks and holes in the building shell, and within a few hours airtightness improves dramatically. UC Davis has been conducting accelerated durability testing in the lab on ducts that have been sealed with Aeroseal, essentially same process, and so far the results are promising, Bohac said. Researchers are finding that duct seals are more durable (showed a slower increase in leaks over time) than ducts sealed conventionally with mastic and tape. Preliminary results on accelerated testing of AeroBarrier seals also show very little increase in leakage. “It’s worked really well for ducts,” he said. “It seems reasonable that it would work well for building envelopes, too.” He continued: “What we’ve been seeing on new construction, it’s not so much the big leaks that are causing the problems, but the narrower leaks that are just kind of ubiquitous — say, the leak between sheathing and the top plate or the bottom plate. There are just hundreds of feet of that kind of gap. Normally, it would be incredibly labor-intensive to seal that kind of leak, but the nice thing is you don’t even have to go around and find them. This approach just finds  them itself.” Another topic of interest will be the potential energy savings. Preliminary number crunching suggestions that an 80% reduction in air leaks could result in a 20% reduction in heating and cooling costs. The solid panel ‘Perfect Wall’ building Another grant recipient is the University of Minnesota, which will look at ways to speed up adoption of a solid panel wall system. The “Perfect Wall” building system yields a “studless” house that is more energy-efficient, tighter, and of higher quality than conventionally built houses, developers said. The idea is that a single contractor uses structural engineered panels to construct a rigid, structural shell before adding insulation, air-control, and cladding on the exterior. The shell consists of two layers of cross-laminated engineered wood sealed with a peel-and-stick membrane in advance of two layers of rigid insulation, a vented rainscreen and cladding. From start to finish, the construction process should take about two weeks. Layers of the studless ‘Perfect Wall’ system developed at the University of Minnesota. Image credit: University of Minnesota The university, in partnership with two affordable housing developers, has built a half-dozen of the houses since 2016 with several more planned this year. Energy modeling predicted a 40% energy savings over Minnesota code-compliant houses, and 30% energy savings over Energy Star Version 3 houses. (Actual performance data is coming in now.) Airtightness of the first Habitat for Humanity house was 0.26 ach50, according to a summary of the project. This new round of Building America funding, about $700,000, will pay for structural testing at the Home Innovations Research Laboratory over the next 2 1/2 years, said Patrick Huelman, associate extension professor and the Cold Climate Housing coordinator at the university. “The primary purpose of the new grant is to nail down the structural behavior of the two-ply panel,” he said by telephone. “It’s just to get all the engineering in place.” Outperforming conventional construction Exterior walls are built with two layers of 1 1/8-inch-thick OSB manufactured by Huber Engineered Woods using essentially the same formula as the company’s well known Advantech sheathing. The first 8-foot by 24-foot panels, each weighing about 750 pounds, are craned into place at the corners of the building. Panels run vertically from the foundation to the roof trusses. Once those are in place, the next course of panels is set horizontally on the inside of the walls and glued and screwed to the corner pieces. Floor trusses set on top edge of the first horizontal course make up the floor system for the second floor. Development of the system dates back to the 1990s, involving not only the university but some outside partners, including a company called Monopath, Huelman said. The idea was to bring down the cost of the structural portion of the house and put more money into water, vapor, and thermal control layers on the outside. “That dollar savings gets invested in the control layers, and when we get all said and done we have a more robust, better wall at approximately the same cost as traditional or conventional construction,” he said. “That was the goal. We aren’t quite there yet.” Huelman has no doubts the houses perform as intended, with one recent example scoring a 39 on the HERS Index (meaning it is 61% more efficient than a comparison code-compliant house). “We’ve knocked that one out of the park,” he said. “It’s just that we have not been able to get enough cost savings in the framing materials and the framing labor to get us back to even.” Completing structural testing and finishing engineering studies could help make the technology appealing to a wider audience and settle any potential misgivings about using relatively thin wall panels to support all the structural loads of a house. Other projects on the funding list The Department of Energy also is funding these projects: Residing: Researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology will field test a technique for residing existing homes with graphite-infused rigid insulation combined with a liquid flashing and sealing product, according to the DOE. The project is aimed particularly at houses in Climate Zones 3, 4, and 5. GBA requested details about the project, but a spokeswoman for the institute said no other information about the grant would be made available until the formal start date of the project in late April or early May. The DOE also was unable to provide any further details. Heating and cooling: Steven Winter Associates Inc. will conduct research to develop a new integrated heating, dehumidification, and air conditioning system for high-performance houses. The prototype will provide 1 ton of space conditioning for energy-efficient multifamily dwellings and low-load single-family homes.last_img read more

Cong. hatching conspiracy against Badal, says Akali Dal

first_imgThe Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on Friday accused the ruling Congress of hatching a conspiracy along with the radical groups to belittle the contribution of former Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal towards the ‘Sikh panth’ and the State.Akali leaders, including Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, Balwinder Singh Bhundur, Tota Singh and Sewa Singh Sekhwan, in a joint statement said the Congress was leading a malicious campaign against Mr. Badal in an attempt to divide the community.The leaders said the Ranjit Singh Commission report, rejected by the SAD, had failed to indict Mr. Badal.“We will expose the Congress, which along with radical groups and the Aam Aadmi Party was trying to divide the ‘Sikh panth’, by staging State-wide protests on September 1. Besides, the party will also hold ‘Pol Khol’ rally at Abohar on September 9,” they said.The leaders added that the Congress government itself had exposed the falseness of the Ranjit Commission report, which had recommended that the probe should be handed over to the CBI. “By deciding to hand over the cases to the State police, the Congress government has admitted about the ‘hollowness’ of the report.”last_img read more