Huge ball of gas could be cradle of life

Here’s a cloud of stinky gas that’s far too large to blame on the dog: Sagittarius B2, a molecular cloud that’s just 100 light-years from our galaxy’s center. It might just be the closest thing to a burp from the Milky Way.

The cloud is particularly curious because it contains a relatively high concentration of organic molecules. It’s a galactic chemistry lab of sorts, a feature that, if you had a nose that could sniff in space, might make it one of the stinkiest places in the Milky Way, reports New Scientist.

Among the noxious fumes are chemicals like ethylene glycol, the syrupy and toxic mainstay in antifreeze, and acetic acid, with a taste like vinegar. There’s also plenty of ethanol, which probably makes it smell a bit like an alcoholic’s breath. Worst of all, though, is the hydrogen sulfide, which has the unmistakable stink of rotten eggs.

Not all the smells are awful, though. Scientists have also detected ethyl formate, which has a fruity, lemony scent. Perhaps it’s the galaxy’s way of compensating, a sort of cosmic attempt at an air freshener.

You’d definitely want to plug your nose if you were traveling through Sagittarius B2, but scientists have also found amino acetonitrile, a close relative of the simplest amino acid, glycine. The first-ever detection of an interstellar molecule with a branching carbon backbone was also found here. Taken together, this seems to indicate that complex amino acids might be capable of growing in space.

“We have nearly 200 molecules detected in the interstellar medium,” said Arnaud Belloche at the Max Planck Institute in Bonn, Germany. “It’s amazing to see how complex the chemistry in space can go.”

It’s even possible that clouds like Sagittarius B2 could represent “cradles of life” in the galaxy, chemical factories that churn out some of life’s foundational building blocks.

If true, it unfortunately means that life probably didn’t start with a biological equivalent of that “new car” smell. No, apparently it’s more like dirty diapers.

Credit: Bryan Nelson

6 ways a womans body will change when she turns 50

For many, 50 is the new 40. It’s a time of life when we mellow, become more content, have more of life under control. However, when it comes to your health, there are always things to rein in, especially if you’ve acquired some bad habits over time. Read on as our experts direct you to six things you should do during this decade to improve your health.


1. You’ll need a colonoscopy.


Provided you don’t have a family history or personal risk of colorectal cancer (in which case you’ve probably had a colonoscopy already), regular screening beginning at age 50 is recommended to prevent colorectal cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, preventing colorectal cancer (and not just finding polyps and cancer early) is a major reason for getting tested at this age. Talk with your physician about screening options.


2. You may need some vaccines.


While you may think things like the pneumonia vaccine are reserved for the elderly, think again, says Kathryn Boling, MD, a family medicine physician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, who suggests you get this vaccine every five years starting at age 50 if you’re at high risk — meaning you have asthma or diabetes. At 50, be sure to get the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) booster vaccine, which you need every 10 years. If you’ve never had the chickenpox or the chickenpox vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says you can get the vaccine as an adult. And the CDC also recommends getting a flu shot.

3. Women will go through menopause.


During this decade you’ll experience lengths of time without your period or your period will end, Bitner says. Expect to experience symptoms such as vaginal dryness, low libido, consistent hot flashes, night sweats, belly fat weight gain and fatigue. “You may also start to deal with wrinkles, hair loss and pelvic prolapse,” she adds.


4. Your risk for heart disease may increase.


“In the first five years after menopause, the risk factors for cardiovascular disease escalate quickly if you aren’t living a healthy lifestyle and/or on menopause hormone therapy,” says Diana Bitner, MD, a physician at Spectrum Health Medical Group in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Even if you don’t have a family history of heart disease, at 50, ask your physician for a baseline electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), which can help detect heart problems, Bitner says.


5. Expect aches and pains.


“At 50, all the folks who were lucky enough to get good genes from their folks begin to suffer from what others started noticing at 40,” says Barbara Bergin, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Austin, Texas. “I never hear anyone say, ‘Everything went downhill at 60,’ because by then no one is surprised by the sudden onset of pain.” At 50, it’s likely you’ll notice that your knees and back feel tight if you’re been sitting for a while. “Your back and knees may feel painful when you stand up, too,” she says.


6. Your emotional health may suffer.


As your hormone levels fluctuate during menopause, your mood may be affected. It’s not uncommon for women going through menopause to feel depressed and have mood swings from happy highs to teary lows. Plus, getting a poor night’s sleep (or several of them) due to hot flashes would put anyone in a bad mood. Which is why it’s all the more important to find a way to cope. “Forming and/or using existing social networks and talking to friends will help you stay emotionally healthy,” Bitner says. Time to phone a friend.



Turn cremated remains into a vinyl record

Death is a bit of a morbid topic, but let’s face it, we’re all going to die someday and it’s okay to think ahead about how we want our remains handled. Are you going the burial route or the cremation route? If you’re planning on cremation but don’t want your ashes sitting around in an urn on a mantel for decades, check out And Vinyly. The company turns ashes into vinyl records, and these vinyl records will play, if you happen to have an old turntable lying around.

From the And Vinyly homepage, “When the album that is life finally reaches the end, wouldn’t it be nice to keep that record spinning for eternity? We offer you the chance to press your ashes in a vinyl recording your loved ones will cherish for generations. Record a personal message, your last will & testament, your own soundtrack or simply press your ashes to hear your pops & crackles for the minimal approach.”

The British company offers several packages, starting with the basic package that comes with up to 30 discs with 24 minutes of total play time, 12 minutes on each side, for £3,000. At today’s exchange rate, that’s about $4,667.

If you’re looking for something a bit more over the top, then you can purchase one of the many add-ons including music written and produced specifically for you (£500 per track and up), record distribution through vinyl stores around the world (undisclosed price) and the ultimate package, the FUNerals.

For £10,000, the team at And Vinyly will dedicate a team of event organizers to your final sendoff, including speaking to your guests and of course, playing your cremated remains during the party.

Is cremation not in the cards for you? Don’t worry; And Vinyly will take cremated body parts. I’m not joking. If you prefer to be buried, you can cremate a body part and turn those remains into an album. Do you really need all 10 toes to be buried with you? Probably not. The team at And Vinyly has thought of everything!

While this sounds a bit cheeky, it’s a serious business and the website even features a disclaimer that reads, “Please note: Despite the site’s lighthearted tone, all of our services are carried out with the utmost respect & care.”

I have to admit, I love this idea. I grew up with vinyl, and my dad’s record collection was huge. My first record was “Sesame Street Fever” with a John Travolta-esque Grover on the cover.

Credit:Mellisa Ownby

How olives changed the world

If grapes have a rival for a food with the most historical importance to Western civilization, surely it is the olive.

Native to the Mediterranean basin, the olive tree and its fruit, which is technically a drupe, have held a special meaning for almost every culture and religion in the region. Ancient societies revered olives for much more than the tree’s long life and its importance to their agriculture. Many ancient peoples considered it a gift from the gods.

Olives, olive oil and the olive branch have maintained their special, even sacred, symbolic meaning through the centuries. The leafy branch of the tree has been used as a sign of virginity and purity at weddings, a symbol of peace, a sign of power to crown victors of bloody wars and a sign of wisdom.

U.N. flagThe symbolism is as important and present today as ever. Offering a hand of friendship to a foe is known as extending an olive branch. Even the United Nations flag features two stylized olive branches wrapped around a world map — a sign of peace for all people. And olive oil, long considered sacred, continues to be used in many religious ceremonies.

History of olives

The earliest fossil evidence of olives was found at Mongardino, Italy, in leaves that date to the 12th millennium B.C., according to a history compiled by the International Olive Council. Situated in Madrid, Spain, the IOC is the world’s only international intergovernmental organization in the field of olive oil and table olives. Other early records of olives have been found in North African fossils from the Paleolithic Period, when humans first started using stone tools, and in parts of Bronze Age olive trees found in Spain.

Although some believe these locations indicate that the tree is indigenous to the entire Mediterranean basin, the IOC says the olive tree originated in the thick forests of Asia Minor. The only ancient civilizations in the area that were not familiar with the olive tree were the Assyrians and Babylonians.

“Olives have been cultivated in the Mediterranean since at least 2500 B.C.,” said food historian and author Francine Segan of New York. Considerable progress in cultivation of the tree took place in Syria and Palestine, although accounts differ about how the tree reached these regions.

From there it moved to the island of Cyprus, to Egypt, to the Greek Isles in the 16th century B.C. courtesy of the Phoenicians and then, in the 6th century B.C., westward to Sicily and southern Italy. The Romans continued the expansion of the tree throughout the Mediterranean using it as a peaceful weapon to settle people and regions in their conquests.
Segan included a passage about a fondness Cato (234-149 B.C.), the Roman orator and statesman, had for olives in her book “Philosopher’s Kitchen.” Segan explained that Cato wrote a book about small farm management in which he detailed a recipe for chopped olives mixed with herbs and spices to be eaten at the start of a meal.

Here is Cato’s original recipe, as offered by Segan:

Green, black or mixed olive relish to be made thus. Remove stones from green, black or mixed olives, then prepare as follows: Chop them and add oil, vinegar, coriander, cumin, fennel, rue, mint. Cover with oil in an earthen dish, and serve.
Olive farming spread to the New World in 1492 with the Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to America. By 1560, olive groves were being cultivated in Mexico and South America. Today, olive trees are farmed in places as far removed from the Mediterranean as southern Africa, Australia, Japan and China.

History of olive oil

Although there are different kinds of olives, humans learned long ago that they couldn’t pick and eat the majority of them right from the tree as they would an apple. Olives are too bitter for that because they contain a compound called oleuropein. They are also low in sugar. To become palatable as table olives, the fruit typically has to undergo a series of processes to remove the oleuropein. In most cases, the few olives that are exceptions to this rule sweeten on the tree though fermentation.

Ancient olive presses apparently it was the bitter taste of freshly picked olives that led early human civilizations to find another use for olives. That use was to press them to extract the oil and then use the oil for a variety of purposes. Originally, cooking wasn’t one of those purposes. It was these many uses for the oil — lamp fuel, pharmaceutical ointment and as an anointment for religious leaders, royalty, warriors and others — that led the ancients to domesticate the olive tree.

The production of olive oil is believed to have occurred no earlier than 2500 B.C. Olive oil wasn’t used for cooking until about 2,000 years later, in the fifth or fourth century B.C. Once again, the Romans were responsible for significantly increasing olive oil production, which occurred between 200 B.C. and 200 A.D.

Olives in mythology

The olive tree is revered in Greek mythology, which credits the goddess Athena, daughter of supreme god Zeus, for bringing it to the city of Athens.

According to legend — recounted in Segan’s book — whichever god gave the people of Greece the most esteemed gift would earn the right to name their most important city. Poseidon, brother of Zeus and god of the seas but a seeker of earthly kingdoms, gave Attica a waterway through the city that provided fresh drinking water and easy access to the Mediterranean. Athena gave them olive trees.

Although the citizens were grateful to Poseidon, Segan wrote, they preferred Athena’s gift. Not only were the olives long-lasting and delicious on their own, but they also produced a useful oil. In return for the gift of olives, Athena was granted the right to name the city after herself. The Parthenon, a temple that overlooks Athens, was built in Athena’s honor.

Other mythological figures are associated with the olive tree. When Hercules was very young, for example, he killed a lion with a wooden stake from a wild olive tree, thus associating the tree with strength and resistance. He also used a club from an olive tree in one of his twelve labors.

Olives in religion

Some of the world’s most widely followed religions place great significance on olives and olive trees. Even so, the use of olive oil in religious rituals has its origins in pagan ceremonies. Priests in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome used olive oil in their sacrifices and offering to the gods.

Olive oil — along with bread, wine and water — is one of the four most important symbols in Christianity. References to olive oil are almost as old as the religion itself, with God telling Moses that olive oil is a holy anointing oil (Exodus, 30:22-33). This tradition of anointing with oil has continued throughout history by leaders of churches and nations.
The olive tree also came to symbolize peace and God’s reconciliation with man. A dove brought an olive branch back to Noah as a sign that the flood was over. Jesus was praying in the Garden of Olives, or Gethsemani, when he was taken prisoner. In Hebrew, “gethsemani” means “olive press.” Early Christians decorated their tombs with olive branches as a sign of the victory of life over death.

The Quran and hadith mention the olive and the olive tree numerous times. Islam considers the olive a blessed fruit and a health food that is a good source of nutrition. A parable refers to Allah, olive oil and light (Surah al-Noor 24:35). Another reference speaks to olives and nutrition (Surah al-Anaam, 6:141). The hadith refers to the olive tree as “blessed” (Reported by al-Tirmidhi, 1775).

Olive oil and health

Olive oil — along with all the other vegetable oils — is high in fat, which means it is high in calories. It’s also considered to be a healthy food. This sounds like a contradiction, but it isn’t.

That’s because the main fat in olive oil is monounsaturated fatty acids, or MUFAs. MUFAS have been found to lower total cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. As a result, MUFAs may decrease the risk of heart disease in some people. They may also normalize blood clotting. MUFAs may even benefit people with Type 2 diabetes because they affect insulin levels and blood sugar in healthful ways.

As with many good things, olive oil has a “but.” In this case, it’s that olive oil should be used in moderation because even healthful fats are high in calories. It’s also a good idea to use MUFAs instead of, rather than in addition to, other fatty foods such as butter.

Production and consumption of olives

Olive harvestThe world’s top four producers of olives are Spain, Italy, Turkey and Greece, according to the IOC’s executive secretariat. The four main producers of olive oil are Spain (1.27 million tons), Italy (408,100 tons), Greece (284,200 tons) and Turkey (178,800 tons). The four leading producers of table olives are Spain (533,700 tons), Egypt (407,800 tons), Turkey (399,700 tons) and Algeria (178,800 tons). These figures are an average of the past six crops, according the IOC.

One of the trends in olive consumption, the secretariat said, is the rise of olive popularity in the Persian Gulf countries of Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. That, it seems, is fitting. Just as olive farming has moved around the world, the consumption of one of the world’s most important foods has come full circle, back to the part of the world where it originated so many millennia ago.

credit: Tom Oder

Ayurvedic medicine the oldest healthcare system

Ayurvedic medicine was born in India 5,000 years ago and is considered to be the world’s oldest healthcare system. Named for the Sanskrit word ayurveda, meaning the “science of life,” the holistic practice is based on creating harmony between body, mind and spirit and maintaining that balance to prevent illness, treat conditions and contribute to overall good health.

“Ayurvedic medicine looks at you as a whole person. As a practitioner I talk to patients about sleeping, energy, bathroom habits, health, emotional well-being and how it’s all connected to the physical,” says Jessica Blanchard, an ayurvedic practitioner in New Orleans.

Most people see an ayurvedic practitioner when they want help with a specific illness or condition, though a small percentage of people seek general wellness. “You might see patients with a variety of illnesses and conditions such as migraines, hormone imbalance, digestion, allergies and many others,” says Blanchard.

Treatment can include dietary changes or the addition of yoga practice, different postures and breathing exercises, aromatherapy or massage. In the United States, ayurvedic medicine typically focuses on diet, herbs, oils and massage, and takes sleep and stress patterns into consideration.

The ayurvedic lifestyle is early-to-rise and early-to-bed — a pattern in harmony with nature’s rhythms. It advocates setting aside quiet time in the morning for meditation, yoga or massage. A vegetarian type diet with an emphasis on healthful grains and fruits and vegetables is recommended.

The guiding principles

Ayurvedic practice teaches that that each person is a blend of three doshas, or guiding principles, within the body. The principles are vata, pitta and kapha, though usually one or two are prominent. Disease is attributed to an imbalance or an ungrounding in the doshas.

“Essentially we look at everyone as three body types,” says Anisha Durve, an ayurvedic practitioner at the University Hospital’s Integrative Medicine department in Cleveland, Ohio.

Here’s a breakdown of the types:

Vata is the air/wind body type. These people are high-energy, creative, dynamic, flexible, and tend to be dry, cool, light and airy. A vata type may be thin, with cold hands and feet, and dry skin. If imbalanced, vata types manifest anxiety, nervousness, insecurity, insomnia, constipation, arthritis, restlessness and lack of focus. They may be sensitive to sleep issues and digestion problems.

Pitta is the fire/sun body type. These people have strong digestion, sharp intellect, make good debaters, and do well with intellectual pursuits. They are described as hot, fiery, sharp and vibrant. Those who are mostly pitta will be more likely to have medium builds, oily skin and good appetites. When imbalanced, pitta types can erupt in anger, impatience, jealousy and competiveness. Pitta people are prone to inflammatory diseases ranging from heartburn to rashes.

Kapha is the water/earth body type. These folks are stable, grounded, loving, compassionate individuals with a cheerful outlook, good stamina and endurance, and a strong immune system. They’re considered serene and grounded. Predominant kaphas may be overweight, slow, calm and deliberate. When imbalanced, kapha types suffer congestion, swelling and diseases like diabetes, depression, weight gain and lack of motivation. Exercise, dance and travel are helpful.

Determining your dosha

Practitioners also take the pulse to determine which body type you are. There are a lot of qualities to consider about the pulse — its weakness or strength, its location and other factors.

“If you know which body type you are, you can be more proactive about your health and diet, lifestyle and exercise choices and prevention,” says Durve. For instance, if you have a specific condition like migraines, a vatta type would need grounding herbs while a pitta type would need cooling herbs and cooling dietary suggestions to offset the heat building up in the body, explains Durve. Each type requires different treatment.

Adopting an ayurvedic lifestyle is an excellent way to get more balance in your life. For more information on ayurveda or to locate a practitioner near you, see the National Ayurvedic Medical Association website.

credit: Mother Nature Network

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How Finding the Deeper Meaning Can Lead to a More Fulfilled Life

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying: “there’s two ways you can live your life…as if nothing is a miracle or as if everything is a miracle”. The matrix we live in can be challenging. Everywhere around you there’s oodles of reasons why to be invested in the drama – it seems everybody else is doing it! And the world of physicality is so alluring, with its tantalization and temptations, society has really perfected the art of pulling you into some illusionary ‘entertainment’. But what if we resist that? What if instead, we look deeply into every moment and challenge the alluring seduction that would contract us down. What happens if we always look for the deeper purpose, the deeper reason, the deeper meaning? How might we experience life differently?

The home I know is in the higher dimensions. Everything is interconnected. There is total transparency between beings. The deeper purpose is observed, understood, known. There is flow in harmony with other life. Nothing is missing. The driving impulse of the moment is to learn more, to expand more, to express more. Every moment speaks with the syllables of the divine – you follow the path life sings to you, guiding you like a choir of angels.

It’s not at all like that here! Although I’ve also found it can be. You just have to work a little harder at it. It seems life has drawn me down into the density to discover this very facet and to work with others to do the same.

There’s lots to enjoy about being in physical incarnation of course. There’s perhaps no other place in the universe where the density increases the sense of separation like life on earth. By having this density of relativity, means the illusion of life feels really real. Like eating food for example or the joy of love between two apparently separate people. It’s the coming together from the separation into divine union that creates such magic. But it’s so easy to get lost in this illusion too: that chocolate tastes just too good, the allurement of partnership becomes oh so needy. I’m not saying not to enjoy these things, what I’m saying is to practice always looking for the deeper meaning.

The deeper meaning is an intangible essence of life. It is the flow that’s always coaxing you to a deeper understanding, a deeper sense of being. It’s always about finding a more complete expression,
in the simplest of things.

For me it’s about transcending the moment. So take a typical holiday period (like Christmas for example). Society creates the humongous sense of expectation and the idea that to consume is good. The result is either guilt because we’ve had too much or else sense of lack because the material never quite fulfills. So instead, I always work to ‘penetrate’ the experience. What do I mean by this?

1. Penetrate the experience with deep presence

Well imagine you’re eating a tasty chocolate cake (raw and sugar free of course!), then if you really take your time and taste every single morsel with the abundance of presence (what some call ‘mindfulness’), then firstly not only do you enjoy it more, but you need much less to enjoy it. So you’re penetrating the experience with deep presence. This is so important to connecting with the deeper meaning – enjoying it more means you consume less.

2. Soften deeply into the situation

If you find yourself contracting down in some way, then deeply confront the feeling. So let’s say you had an expectation or need of the moment to be a particular way and it’s not turning out like you might have expected. Well rather than changing the circumstances, soften deeply into the situation that the moment is now presenting. Feel any internal contraction and work to expand out of it. It happens by accepting it totally – feeling the ‘heat of the coals’ before you drop them.

3. Look for the deeper meaning

Finally, it’s about then recognizing that the moment always has a deeper meaning, a deeper flow. If you’ve softened the tightness of neediness or expectation, then your soul should now be breaking through. The soul will ‘want’ to be aligning with the flow of other life around you. Look for the synchronicity, the harmonies that invite you to “go this way now”. Then surrender to the pull, to the deeper expression and give yourself entirely to it. It could mean something as simple as driving a different way home today and watching the variance in the signs along the path. What are they saying? If they were inviting a deeper sense of you to emerge, what would that sense be? How could you embody that sense now?

In looking for and finding the deeper meaning in this way, ensures we’re never disappointed because we’re aligning with the very purpose of life itself: which is to always unveil and express a deeper experience of you.

The whole universe ‘wants’ us to do this. So today, why not give it a try?

Dead Woman Comes Back to Life After Hearing Buddhist Chanting

A 95-year-old woman who was pronounced dead in Taiwan revived the next day when a relative played Buddhist sutras next to her body.

Yang Chang Yueh-yun was in hospital in Yunlin for over a week before she “died” from multiple organ failure on Nov. 14, according to Taiwan News.

Her family took her home where funeral directors made preparations for a service, and played Buddhist chants as per the local customs.

The following day, her cousin put earphones on Yang with a different sutra playing. About five minutes later, her family were shocked to see her start clapping and reciting the sutras.

Her son took her back to the hospital to continue treatment where doctors and patients were astonished especially after Yang could even talk to them.