A Bottle That Purifies Enough Water for a Year

This is a really great invention — a hand held water bottle that can purify a year’s worth of water. It removes not only parasites and bacteria, but also viruses. It was just announced recently at a defense industry tradeshow and was a big hit among military commanders who need a better way to get water to their troops. Beyond that it could be a lifesaver in disaster areas and in developing countries where finding clean water is a daily struggle.

New Aspartame Concerns — Study Finds Link to Cancer At Lower Levels

Suspicions of a link between Aspartame (the commonly used artificial sweetener) and various forms of cancer have received another boost from a new Italian study. The study found that even at relatively low levels of consumption, rats exposed to Aspartame had a significantly increased risk of several types of cancer. The implications of this are important for everyone, but especially children, because their lifetime consumption of Aspartame is expected to be much higher than those who started consuming it as adults. More details here.

Very Funny Instructional Video — How To Poke Pole the Monkeyfaced Eel

My cousin, Jeremy (the reincarnation of Ernest Hemmingway, I am certain), lives out by Muir Beach, San Francisco. Today he and some manly-man friends are going fishing for "monkey faced eel." YUCK. But ok, anyway, they’re the ones who have to eat the stuff. Now I’m not a fan of eel (can you tell?), and I’m also not a fan of fishing — I think it’s cruel (which is an admittedly hypocritical view, since I still eat fish and I suppose they have to come from somewhere. Oh well, too bad we don’t have Soylent Green to eat yet.). But in any case, Jeremy, or "JD" as we all like to call him, is a serious flyfisherman and generally a hunter (not a gatherer) type — so I guess the prospect of being washed out to sea on the rocks is a small price to pay for the chance of snagging a slimy sea snake, bludgeoning it to death or suffocating it, and then boiling it into some kind of savory eel-stew concoction or something. Jeremy has never actually hunted for monkeyfaced eel and all he knows about the subject he learned from the video below. That’s gonna be entertaining. But it’s probably going to be even more dramatic given that his innocent wife, Natasha — who doesn’t like to eat anything "cute" (fortunately, monkefaced eel are definitely NOT cute)– will be standing onshore anxiously watching him risk his life to bring a kill back to cave-clan. Anyway the point of this is that he just sent me an instructional video on How to Poke Pole the Monkeyfaced Eel (click the link for the video of that title on the page this goes to) and it is hilarious. The guy in the video is deadpan serious but completely zany. And the editing is great. You’ve gotta watch this.

All Seafood Gone by 2050 — Overfishing and Overpopulation

New research suggests that all the world’s ocean seafood stocks will be gone by 2050…

WASHINGTON (AP) – Clambakes, crabcakes, swordfish steaks and even
humble fish sticks could be little more than a fond memory in a few
decades. If current trends of overfishing and pollution continue, the
populations of just about all seafood face collapse by 2048, a team of
ecologists and economists warns in a report in Friday’s issue of the
journal Science.

"Whether we looked at tide pools or studies over the entire world’s
ocean, we saw the same picture emerging. In losing species we lose the
productivity and stability of entire ecosystems," said the lead author
Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

"I was shocked and disturbed by how consistent these trends are – beyond anything we suspected," Worm said.

While the study focused on the oceans, concerns have been expressed by
ecologists about threats to fish in the Great Lakes and other lakes,
rivers and freshwaters, too.

Worm and an international team spent four years analyzing 32 controlled
experiments, other studies from 48 marine protected areas and global
catch data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s database
of all fish and invertebrates worldwide from 1950 to 2003.

The scientists also looked at a 1,000-year time series for 12 coastal
regions, drawing on data from archives, fishery records, sediment cores
and archaeological data.

"At this point 29 percent of fish and seafood species have collapsed –
that is, their catch has declined by 90 percent. It is a very clear
trend, and it is accelerating," Worm said. "If the long-term trend
continues, all fish and seafood species are projected to collapse
within my lifetime – by 2048."

Steak in Red Wine Reduction

I just improvised tonight and made
something pretty yummy that you might want to try sometime.

Take a cut of really good

Make a marinade with a half bottle of
red wine, chili spices (chili, cumin, oregano, onion powder, mesquite), copious amounts of rosemary, garlic flakes or cut garlic slices, a little bit of cayenne, and a little
salt. I used a bottle of Cabernet Franc from the fridge that I opened a week ago and didn’t finish; not drinkable anymore but a perfect marinade base.

Puncture the steak many times on both sides, using a fork to make a lot of holes to
help soak up the marinade deeper into the steak.

Marinade the steak for half an hour to an hour, or longer if you have time.

Put a little olive oil in frying pan and dump a bunch of rosemary, garlic, chili spices (cumin, pepper, oregano, mesquite flavor if you have any), and a pinch of cayenne, into the oil. Then heat the spices and oil for a few minutes to get the pan hot.

Next put the steak into the pan and grill, with the pan partially
covered, for 2 minutes on each side.

Next, pour all of the remaining marinade into the pan with the steak. It should be about a half a centimeter deep in the pan.

Keep cooking, partially covered to keep the moisture in, on 3/4 of full heat.

The marinade boils off while the steak cooks, until it creates a really thick and delicious red wine reduction, full of rosemary and other spices. 

Once almost all the water in the marinade has boiled off and the reduction gets really thick, slide the steak around in the reduction sauce to soak it all up, and use a spatula to gather the reduction and coat the steak with it until the steak is coated with the reduction and spices. The outside of the meat should appear very dark plum colored due to the wine reduction coating and sticking to the surface of the steak. There also should also be lots of rosemary and garlic pieces embedded in the reduction.

Keep cooking the steak until slightly blackened in the red wine reduction, but still medium rare on the inside.

Eat while still hot.

Mmm. Delicious. The red wine permeates deeply into the steak and the seared reduction coating gives the outside a delicious punch of flavor that really pops out. You’ll also notice that the steak is extremely moist and full of red wine and rosemary and mesquite nuances because it was cooked in the marinade.

Next SF Web Innovators Party: April 13 at Adobe (Macromedia) SF Office

Hi everyone, the next SF Web Innovators Network (SFWIN) meetup is happening at the SF office of Adobe (formerly Macromedia), on April 13, 2006.

We had over 140 people at our last event and a number of companies did demos as well. If you are in the SF Bay Area and in the Internet or software biz, please come and bring your friends.

Everyone has to RSVP to get in, no exceptions (Adobe has strict building security rules). Please click here to sign up and get the details.

Hope to see you there!

Moderate Drinking Turns out to Not be So Healthy After All

A new study has found a fatal flaw in past studies that claimed moderated drinking is good for your health. It seems the past studies compared moderate drinkers to abstainers, and found the moderate drinkers were more healthy. Unfortunately what they neglected to consider was the fact that many of their abstainers were abstaining because they had other health problems or were frail and elderly and on medications that interacted with alchohol. In other words, all these studies proved was that moderate drinkers were more healthy than people who were already seriously ill. There may still be some hope for the party people in the audience though. Although past studies were flawed, other studies have shown beneficial effects of moderate drinking on some health conditions.

Widely Used Food Packaging Material Related to Surge in Prostate Cancers

More evidence that many synthetic food and beverage packaging materials are unsafe:

A CHEMICAL used to make food wrapping and line tin cans could be the
cause of surging prostate cancer rates in men, says a study.

Bisphenol A is widely used in the food industry to make
polycarbonate drinks bottles and the resins used to line tin cans, even
though it is known to leach into food and has long been suspected of
disrupting human sex hormones.

new research suggests the small but constant level of bisphenol A
entering people’s diet has a particular impact on pregnant women,
disastrously altering the development of unborn baby sons.

The chemical causes microscopic changes in the developing
prostate gland but these are not apparent at birth. Instead, they show
up years later when they lead to a range of prostate diseases, such as
enlargement and cancer. The changes can also cause malformation of the
urethra, the channel for urine.

In Britain, rates of the cancer have surged to about 27,000
new diagnoses and 10,000 deaths a year. It is now almost as big a
killer as breast cancer in women.

Aspartame Even More Toxic When Mixed with Food Coloring

More news about aspartame ("Nutrasweet"), which is being found to be far more toxic than anyone imagined…  (from: this article)

Combining food additives may be harmful, say researchers

  · Aspartame and artificial colourings investigated
  · Mice nerve cells stopped growing in experiments

Felicity Lawrence, consumer affairs correspondent

  Wednesday December  21, 2005
  The Guardian

research on common food additives, including the controversial
sweetener aspartame and food colourings, suggests they may interact to
interfere with the development of the nervous system.

Researchers at
the University of Liverpool examined the toxic effects on nerve cells
in the laboratory of using a combination of four common food additives
– aspartame, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and the artificial colourings
brilliant blue and quinoline yellow. The findings of their two-year
study were published last week in the journal Toxicological Sciences.

Liverpool team reported that when mouse nerve cells were exposed to MSG
and brilliant blue or aspartame and quinoline yellow in laboratory
conditions, combined in concentrations that theoretically reflect the
compound that enters the bloodstream after a typical children’s snack
and drink, the additives stopped the nerve cells growing and interfered
with proper signalling systems.

The mixtures of the additives had a much more potent effect on nerve cells than each additive on its own.

Aspartame (Nutrasweet) Proved to Cause Cancer at Human Levels of Ingestion

A recent study has found that human-level dosages of aspartame (the artificial sweetener formerly known as Nutrasweet and now cleverly disguised by new, obscure trade-names) causes stastitically significant increases in the occurrance of multiple forms of cancer. In other words, don’t drink diet colas that include aspartame, don’t chew sugar-free gum, and when you see "sugar-free" on food, beware. If you need a totally natural and safe alternative to aspartame, try Stevia — it’s from a rainforest berry and is about 1000 times sweeter than sugar (so just 2 drops will sweeten a whole cup of coffee). You can get Stevia drops in any Whole Foods or health food store.

US Army Food… Just Add Urine

The US Army has developed a new way to enable soldiers to carry less water. They have created rehydratable food rations that come in a wrapping that is actually a sophisticated semi-permeable membrane. So to rehydrate the food, soldiers can simply pee on it, or even pour dirty water on it if that’s all that is around. The membrane filters out 99% of the bad stuff so that only clean water gets into the food. Sounds appetizing.

The Devastating Effects of Shrimp

Shrimp fishing and shrimp farming are devastating the oceans. This brief report lists some of the surprising statistics related to this problem. For example, did you know that the ratio of discarded (wasted) fish to kept shrimp in a typical catch is often as high as ten to one? And what happens to all that discarded fish? It gets dumped, dead, back into the ocean. This is equivalent to clearcutting of forests, only it’s worse because it is happening in international waters and is totally unregulated. It’s the Tragedy of the Commons at work once again. It also turns out that shrimp farming is displacing huge numbers of local jobs, ruining local economies. This is worth knowing about — and maybe not eating much shrimp is a good idea too.

Transgenic Tombstone Project Hits Snags

Yikes this one freaks me out — A project to splice the DNA of dead people to apple trees as a way to preserve people’s “essence” after death. Fortunately, it has hit some snags. I would not want to bite into an apple and find out that I was actually eating grandma!!!! This project really gives new meaning to the story of the apple in the Garden of Eden. I don’t think we should be making such apples — let alone eating them. And I’m not sure I like the idea of inserting even so-called “junk DNA” (which recently has been found to be less likely to be “junk” — it may in fact code for important steps in development) into food, let alone into the environment in general.

Parasites are Good for You??? Bioengineered Parasites as Medicine?

New research and experiments indicate that deliberately ingesting certain types of parasitic worms may be the cure for colitis, hay fever, asthma and a host of other auto-immune diseases. Gross!!! But seriously, the theory is that since humans co-evolved with gut-worms they may in fact be necessary to our health. This is an interesting idea actually — there are number of “bad” micro-organisms that modern medicine has eliminated — but what if some of them are actually necessary for our health because we’ve evolved alongside them for so long that they are part of how we work? This is not so suprising. Human organisms are assemblages of many complex sub-systems some of which are unique organisms in their own right — we are superorganisms — for example, we cannot digest our food effectively without the help of e-coli bacteria and the mitochondira in our own cells seem to contain their own unique DNA. Gut-worms, disgusting as they may be, could be in fact good for our health. This reminds me of something that several hard-core backpackers in Asia told me when I was in the far reaches of India and Nepal: it turns out some of them found out that having a tapeworm prevented them from getting amoebas and other parasites because the tapeworm ate the other baddies they ingested. Tapeworms are pretty good parasites — that is they can reside in a host for a long time without killing them, although their are certain risks from long-term tape-worm infections (such as brain, eye and other tissue diseases). This makes me think about the potential for a future medical advance: bioengineered parasites. Suppose we could evolve or build a form of gut-worm that could not reproduce. You could ingest the eggs and they would hatch in the intestinal tract and the resulting worms would live for a week or two. Then they would die without reproducing first. It would be sort of like taking a course of antibiotics, only a lot grosser!

Potentially HUGE Discovery: Molecule from Milk and Red Meat Found in Tumors

This is really big. Scientists have discovered that a molecule that is not normally found in humans — but IS found in tumors — comes from milk and red meat. They also found that the human body reacts to this molecule with an immune response. In other words, drinking milk and eating red meat can cause an immune response in humans AND seems to result in this molecule showing up in tumors. Now the question is, does the molecule cause tumors, or is this just a coincidence? Very very big discovery!