What happens when a bullet hits dynamite - If You Shoot a Bomb, Will It Explode?-

If You Shoot a Bomb, Will It Explode? - What happens when a bullet hits dynamite. - On Wednesday, air marshals in Miami shot and killed a man who was pretending to carry a bomb off a plane. According to an official account, the marshals ordered the man to get on the ground and then opened fire when he reached into his backpack. A government spokesman says the marshals acted properly and that "this was a textbook scenario." If he really had been toting a bomb, could bullets have set it off?

A potentially explosive situation?

It depends on the explosive. Some bomb materials are highly sensitive to impact; if you shoot a gun at a stick of dynamite, for example, there's a good chance you'll set it off. Others are less susceptible to gunfire. The military tries to make its explosives as durable as it can, since you don't want soldiers blowing up from the impact of a single bullet. A block of C4 plastic explosive can withstand a rifle shot without exploding. You can even set one on fire without too much worry.

That doesn't mean a bomb made from C4 (or another insensitive explosive like TNT) is impervious to gunshots. Such a bomb would have a detonator, which is far more vulnerable. The detonator serves as a mini-bomb that produces enough energy to blow up the main explosive. Here's how it works: A power source—usually a few batteries—provides an electrical charge that sets off a tiny explosion in one part of the detonator. This sets off another, somewhat bigger charge, which in turn ignites the payload of C4 or TNT. If a bullet were to strike the detonator, it could easily set off the more-volatile explosives stored inside.

You'd have to be an unbelievable shot to pull that off, though. In general, detonators are very thin—about the diameter of a pencil—and only a few inches long. If the man in Miami had been carrying a bomb, the chances of an air marshal accidentally shooting the detonator would be very small. If the bullet had hit the TNT, it might have passed right through. It's also possible that a stray bullet could disable the bomb. A bullet that happened to strike the batteries could jar them loose and cut off power to the detonator.

Although some terrorists use stolen, military-grade explosives, many rely on improvised bombs that tend to be far more sensitive. The shoe-bomber Richard Reid was trying to blow himself up with a very unstable mixture called triacetone triperoxide, which is brewed from acetone, hydrogen peroxide, and a strong acid. He had trouble lighting the fuse; a gunshot might have done the trick.

As for the man in Miami, we don't even know if the air marshals shot at him with conventional bullets. In the past, marshals have used special ammunition designed for airplane safety. One variety consists of little pouches of Kevlar filled with lead shot. While these could disable (and perhaps kill) a person, the distributed impact they produce would be less likely than a conventional bullet to blow up a bag of explosives. Bomb technicians shoot special types of ammunition at suspicious packages all the time: A slug from a water cannon or a burst of powder from a 12-gauge shotgun can smack the bomb in such a way that it breaks apart without going off. ( slate.com )

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Could a missile strike on Iran cause an accidental nuclear detonation? - How To Demolish an Atomic Bomb

How To Demolish an Atomic Bomb - Could a missile strike on Iran cause an accidental nuclear detonation? - President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu both alluded to military strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities at last week’s AIPAC meeting, and many commentators worry that war is becoming a more realistic possibility. With all that enriched uranium lying around, is there any chance a strike on one of Iran’s nuclear facilities could accidentally trigger a mushroom cloud?

Could blowing up nuclear-bomb-making materials cause an accidental nuclear explosion?
Department of Energy/Photodisc/Thinkstock.

No. A nuclear detonation cannot occur without a substantial amount of highly enriched uranium. (The International Atomic Energy Association says it would take at least 55 pounds of this material to create a weapon, but some experts say a modest nuclear bomb could be made with as little as 6 pounds using the most advanced technology.) Intelligence analysts believe that Iran hasn’t enriched enough uranium to pose an immediate risk, but even if they’re wrong, and Iran does have the capacity to build a bomb, it would still be incredibly unlikely for a missile strike to kick off a nuclear chain reaction. The explosion would scatter the fissile material instead.

The massive release of energy in a nuclear explosion comes from a chain reaction. A uranium atom splits, releasing three neutrons, which in turn strike neighboring uranium atoms and release more neutrons, accelerating the process. But if the uranium sample isn’t stored in a tightly packed, spherical container, escaping neutrons will fly off harmlessly and the reaction will fizzle. Nuclear enrichment facilities don’t store their uranium under these conditions unless they’re actually building a bomb. Based on everything we know, Iran is not at that stage.

But what if Iran had 55 pounds of 90-percent enriched uranium already assembled into a bomb, and a U.S. or Israeli missile strike hits that material dead-on? Even then, the strike isn’t likely to cause more than a minor nuclear detonation. The chain reaction in a nuclear bomb is carefully choreographed, with the most common strategy being to surround the fissile material with conventional explosives and then detonate the weapon with a finely tuned electrical charge. That has the effect of compressing the uranium simultaneously from all sides and preventing any uranium from escaping its container too quickly. All of the conventional explosives surrounding the fissile material must go off within microseconds of each other in order to contain the uranium. In the worse-case scenario, a missile strike on a facility containing nuclear weapons would almost certainly mess with the synchronization of the charges and the compression would be compromised. The nuclear chain reaction would either not occur at all, or it would be cut short.

A missile strike would be messy, though. An explosion could release gaseous uranium near the facility, which would cause kidney problems and possible cancer if inhaled or ingested. The strike might also release toxic fluorine gas. However, since the uranium would not have reacted to any significant extent, and therefore would not have given rise to cesium-137 or other hyper-radioactive particles, the disaster wouldn’t be as catastrophic as the breach of an active nuclear reactor or a true nuclear attack. Radiation sickness would be very unlikely.

Bonus Explainer: Can you set off a conventional bomb by shooting at it with a gun? It depends on the explosive. Some bomb materials, like dynamite, are highly sensitive to impact. Others, like C4 or TNT, can be shot with a gun or possibly even set on fire without exploding. ( slate.com )

READ MORE - Could a missile strike on Iran cause an accidental nuclear detonation? - How To Demolish an Atomic Bomb

Who invented the tournament bracket? - A History of Bracketology

A History of Bracketology - Who invented the tournament bracket? - On Sunday, the NCAA unveiled the brackets for this year’s 68-team men’s basketball tournament. An estimated 45 percent of Americans fill out the brackets with their predictions of the results each year, and Barack Obama has referred to the practice as “a national pastime.” When were tournament brackets invented?

In the mid-1800s or before. One of the first single-elimination tournaments in the modern era was the London 1851 chess tournament, organized by the British champion Howard Staunton. Motivated by “the chivalrous anxiety to test the relative skill of the most distinguished champions,” he invited the top players from around Europe to London’s Great Exhibition. In a prospectus, Staunton laid out in some detail how a field of 32 competitors might neatly be whittled to a single champion by matching them in 16 pairs, then eight, then four, and so on—suggesting that the concept of a single-elimination tournament was not yet widely understood. “The mode adopted for pairing the combatants, will, it is hoped, bring the two best players in the Tournament into collision for the chief prize,” he explained.

Have you filled out your bracket yet?
Dave Broberg/Hemera.

Unfortunately, the idea of seeding contestants seems not to have occurred to him, and Staunton reports there were widespread complaints when some of the top players were eliminated in the first round. A diagram in his account of the proceedings shows that there were brackets, though not quite of the modern sort, since the winners of each round drew lots to see who would face each other in the next stage. The vagaries of that method led organizers to switch to a round-robin format in subsequent tournaments.

There had been tournaments before that, of course, but not of the sort that would be conducive to brackets. The word “tournament,” derived from the French word for jousting, came into use in medieval times, when squads of knights would face off on horseback in tests of chivalry. While those left standing often won prizes, the matchups weren’t formalized in advance. There were also brackets in medieval times, but they had nothing to do with tournaments: Certain transcriptions of Chaucer’s poetry use what some scholars call a “tournament bracket” format to highlight the tail rhymes.

One of the sports world’s oldest, ongoing single-elimination tournaments is the Wimbledon tennis championships, first held in 1877. (England’s Football Association held the first rounds of its Challenge Cup tournament in 1871.) Whether any of the 200-odd spectators who attended the first Wimbledon final had drawn up a bracket is doubtful, though: The field comprised 21 contestants, and byes were determined ad-hoc. The first known reference to seeding tournaments appeared in the journal American Lawn Tennis in 1898: “Several years ago, it was decided to 'seed' the best players through the championship draw in handicap tournaments so that the players in each class shall be separated as far as possible one from another." The idea was to sow the best players throughout the tournament field. Wimbledon, for its part, gave defending champions free passage to the final match until 1922. To this day, organizers refer to its tournament grid as a “draw,” not a “bracket.”

The NCAA Tournament began in 1939 with eight teams, arranged in two regional brackets. As the field gradually expanded, public interest grew, and the mainstreaming of the plain paper photocopier made bracketology as we know it more plausible. But it would have been awkward: The tournament in the late 1950s included 23 teams and nine byes, and as sportswriter Steve Rushin notes in a 2009 article for the ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia, UCLA’s dominance of the tournament in the 1960s and ’70s rendered prognostication uninteresting. The end of the Bruins’ reign coincided, he points out, with the tournament’s 1975 expansion to 32 teams, and in 1977 a Staten Island bar started one of the first NCAA Tournament pools. The 1985 expansion to 64 teams turned the event into a marathon and gave underdogs more of an opportunity to advance through at least the early rounds. ( slate.com )

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Superbugs! “Untreatable gonorrhea” joins the ranks of infectious bogeymen

Superbugs!  “Untreatable gonorrhea” joins the ranks of infectious bogeymen. A recent paper in the New England Journal of Medicine called “The Emerging Threat of Untreatable Gonococcal Infection” suggests that gonorrhea is set to join the superbugs, the elite circle of nightmarish infections (MRSA, XDR-tuberculosis, NDM-1) that some fear will sweep civilization off its pins. The new breed of sexually-transmitted infection, first spotted in Japan, is resistant to the cephalosporin class of antibiotics, which puts it in position to run the table on available treatments and knock us back into a Fred Flintstone, pre-antibiotic world.

As an infectious disease specialist, I am sort of flattered by the attention my homeboys are getting. After all, I have been thinking about, worrying about, and dreading these microbes for a long time and have limitless respect for their heartless lethality.

A 2005 colorized SEM depicting numerous clumps of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, or MRSA Scan courtesy the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But I have to ask, people, why all the excitement? As a looming public-health calamity for John Q Citizen as he walks down Maple Street in Middletown USA, the threat is minuscule (particularly if John Q can remember to keep his pecker in his pants). As with the avian flu massacre that never was and the smallpox pandemic that never came, this Superbug fascination seems to be more about our peculiar love of fear itself (cf: Stephen King, Paranormal Activity, the Republican debates) than any sober consideration of the risk before us.

Beyond its fear-factor potential, the superbug story has legs because of something entirely different. The use and misuse of antibiotics has become one of the central morality tales of our time. All the key elements are there—our adolescent inability to control our appetites and the resultant waste of promising youth (alas, penicillin, I knew ye well); individual profligacy creating communal pain; and worst of all, scalding selfishness. Reading about superbugs has come to resemble John Bunyan following the Pilgrim in his progress more than a story of chemistry and microbiology and snippets of DNA that drift left rather than right.

Yet lost in the hurry to embrace this particular sky-is-falling medical story is an important and revealing fact: not all superbugs take the same path to ignominy. Gonorrhea, for example, hasn't moved to the front of the line on account of our pharmaceutical gluttony. There's another mortal sin at work: Lust. People like to have sex, and with each condom-free act, bacteria swarm from this body part to that again and again, yes, and one more time, yes yes. Yes. Simply put, the sheer velocity of people hooking up has overwhelmed our flimsy antibiotic defense.

In contrast, the superbugs that have been long-term headliners earned their stripes (the story goes) through a toxic mix of uncaring doctors, grasping patients, dim-witted public health officials, greedy drug companies, people who don’t wash their hands, and tons of antibiotics shoveled into the mouths of farm animals. In this godless world, available antibiotics are systematically misapplied, too much for some, not enough for others, until, at the far end of the bug-drug wrestling match, the only one left standing is super-whatever. John Bunyan, meet the mother lode: A world where everyone is guilty.

But our dramatic self-flagellation—alas, if only the trustees of medicine’s covenant had been more restrained, more mature, more caring about the real things that matter, then perhaps none of this would have happened—is just so much posturing and mugging for the camera. After all, antibiotic resistance has been with us from the day antibiotics were hatched in Fleming’s moldy lab; it’s an immutable part of the program. Antibiotic activity and antibiotic resistance are like credit and debt—you can’t have one without the other. And, as we learned from highly active antiviral agents against HIV, the more potent the compound, the faster resistance emerges.

In this long-running superbug drama, we humans are giving ourselves far too much credit for making the mess. This is about the power of bacteria, not the weakness of man. Yes, we can do a better job shepherding our patrimony, using common sense and restraint to maintain antibiotics’ fresh edge. But we will lose—always—and not because we are a fat, lazy society that, through indolence, inattention to detail, and blatant disregard of those around us, has created a dark and dangerous world.

Rather we are pawns in a game between bits of microbial DNA, crude chemical structures, and a human body with more bacteria in and on it than that person’s number of normal human cells. Our insistence that we are the ones driving this enormous complex over the cliff disregards the basic facts. More disturbingly it reveals an all-too-familiar Master of the Universe insistence that we are the cause of everything on the planet, good and bad. It's too bad there is no biological phenomenon like drug resistance to undo the suffocating certainty of the narcissist. ( slate.com )

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Death to Word - It’s time to give up on Microsoft’s word processor

Death to Word - It’s time to give up on Microsoft’s word processor. - Nearly two decades and several text-handling paradigms ago, I was an editorial assistant at a weekly newspaper, where a few freelancers still submitted their work on typewritten pages. Stories would come in over the fax machine. If the printout was clear enough, and if our giant flatbed scanner was in the mood, someone would scan the pages in, a text-recognition program would decipher the letters, and we would comb the resulting electronic file for nonsense and typos. If the scanner wasn't in the mood, we would prop up the hard copy beside a computer and retype the whole thing. Technology was changing fast, and some people were a few steps slow. You couldn't blame them, really, but for those of us who were fully in the computer age, those dead-tree sheets meant tedious extra work.

Nowadays, I get the same feeling of dread when I open an email to see a Microsoft Word document attached. Time and effort are about to be wasted cleaning up someone's archaic habits. A Word file is the story-fax of the early 21st century: cumbersome, inefficient, and a relic of obsolete assumptions about technology. It's time to give up on Word.

"Clippy," the office assistant from Microsoft Word. Image from Wikipedia.

It took years for me to get to this point. I came of age with Word. It’s the program I used to write my college papers, overcoming old-fashioned page counts with its magical font-switching technology: Times, tightly justified, if the writing was running too long; airily monospaced Courier if things were too short. In those days, Word was an obedient and resourceful servant.

Today, it's become an overbearing boss, one who specializes in make-work. Part of this is Microsoft's more-is-more approach to adding capabilities, and leaving all of them in the "on" position. Around the first time Clippy launched himself, uninvited, between me and something I was trying to write, I found myself wishing Word had a simple, built-in button for "cut it out and never again do that thing you just did." It's possible that the current version of Word does have one; I have no idea where among the layers of menus and toolbars it might be. All I really know how to do up there anymore is to go in and disable AutoCorrect, so that the program will type what I've typed, rather than what some software engineer thinks it should think I'm trying to type.

Word's stylistic preferences range from the irritating—the superscript "th" on ordinal numbers, the eagerness to forcibly indent any numbered list it detects—to the outright wrong. Microsoft's inability to teach a computer to use an apostrophe correctly, through its comically misnamed "smart quotes" feature, has spread from the virtual world into the real one, till professional ballplayers take the field with amateur punctuation on their hats.

Even so, people can live with typos in their input. (Witness the boom in paraphasic email Sent From My iPhone.) What makes Word unbearable is the output. Like the fax machine, Word was designed to put things on paper. It was a tool of the desktop-publishing revolution, allowing ordinary computer users to make professional (or at least approximately professional) document layouts and to print them out. That's great if you're making a lot of church bulletins or lost-dog fliers. Keep on using Word. (Maybe keep better track of your dog, though.)

For most people now, though, publishing means putting things on the Web. Desktop publishing has given way to laptop or smartphone publishing. And Microsoft Word is an atrocious tool for Web writing. Its document-formatting mission means that every piece of text it creates is thickly wrapped in metadata, layer on layer of invisible, unnecessary instructions about how the words should look on paper. I just went into Word and created a file that read, to the naked eye, as follows:

the Word

Then I copy-pasted that text into a website that revealed the hidden code my document was carrying. Here's a snippet:
<!—[if gte mso 9]>


And it goes on:

UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Strong"/>
UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Emphasis"/>
UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Table Grid"/>

And on:

UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 5"/>
UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 5"/>
UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 5"/>
UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 5"/>
The whole sprawling thing runs to 16,224 characters. When I dumped it back into Word, it was an eight-page document.

Online publishing systems gag on this stuff; gremlins breed in the hidden spaces. Some publishing platforms have a built-in button especially for pasting text from Word, to clear away the worst of it, but they don't work very well. Beyond the invisible code, there are those annoying typographical flourishes—the ordinal superscripts, the directional quotation marks, the automatic em dashes—that will create their own headaches in translation. Multiple websites exist simply to unmangle Word text and turn it into plain text or readable HTML.

When a standard tool requires this many workarounds, we need to find a new standard. Word wants to show that it knows the world isn't merely about paper—you can make documents that have real, live hyperlinks in the text! You just can't necessarily put those hyperlinks up on the Internet for anyone else to click on. Again and again, Word is defeated by the basic job of contemporary writing and editing: smoothly moving text back and forth among different platforms. The fundamental unit of Word is the single, proprietary file, anchored to one computer. Microsoft showed users how it feels about sharing work when it switched its default format from .doc to .docx in Office 2007, locking old and new Word customers out of each other's files. (There are workarounds, of course. There are always workarounds.)

Word's idea of effective collaboration is its Track Changes feature, which makes an uneventful edit read like a color-coded transcript of an argument between the world's most narcissistic writer and the world's most pedantic and passive-aggressive copy editor. No change is too small to pass without the writer's explicit approval, and the editor is psychopathically unwilling to accept a blanket concession: "On page 5: our house style is 'eleven,' not '11,' so I changed your '11' to 'eleven.' Do you understand?" Yes, OK, sure. "On page 9, you wrote '11,' so I changed it to 'eleven,' do you understand?" Yes, yes, house style, got it. "On page 15, you wrote '11' ..."

Some people have already moved on to a post-Word world. One national sportswriter told me he writes everything in TextEdit, because it goes easy on memory and it opens and closes in a snap. (My own latest copy of Word won't launch a new blank document without demanding that I identify which of a half-dozen kinds of project files—most of which are meaningless to me—I'm trying to create.)

When I was writing a book, which required lots of alone time with a giant file—and lots of word-counting, which Microsoft is good at—I stuck with Word. But for everyday projects, I go days or weeks without opening it. This piece started out as a Gmail message, which saved automatically and was easy to access at home, at the office, or on my phone in transit. Then I switched over to TextEdit, which gives me a bigger window to work with and handles line breaks more cleanly than Gmail does. For protracted edits, I create a Google document, so multiple readers can work on it at once. If they want to track the changes, they can read the revision history. For short blog posts, I write straight into the publisher.

If I really want a word count, I open a Word document and paste my work into it. Once I have the number, I dump the document, unsaved, so nothing gets contaminated with Word-iness.

I know only one person who loves working in Word: my 4-year-old. It's valuable to him to be able to put the names of subway lines in their correct colors, or to spell out "autumn" with each letter a different falling-leaf hue, or to jump from Times New Roman to Comic Sans to Chalkboard in midstory. He also loves to write things on my old manual Smith-Corona. A tool that's lost its purpose makes a great toy. ( slate.com )

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The Best Reason Yet for Facebook To Stop Filtering Messages

The Best Reason Yet for Facebook To Stop Filtering Messages - When Anna Lamb-Creasy’s son Rickie went missing in January of this year, she called hospitals and jails to see if he had turned up. One place she didn’t immediately search for answers? Facebook.

Weeks later, according to reports, Lamb-Creasy and her daughter discovered enigmatic Facebook messages from a user named Misty Hancock. Facebook’s software siphoned her message into the Other folder—virtual dungeon of notes from users who are neither friends nor friends of friends (depending slightly on your personal settings). That was partly why it took Lamb-Creasy weeks to retrieve the note.

How often do you check your "Other" inbox?
Screencapture from Facebook

In the messages, Misty directed Lamb-Creasy to call the police. But at first, Lamb-Creasy ignored the messages because the account seemed dubious; Misty’s picture was the Atlanta rapper T.I. Finally, Lamb-Creasy and her daughter dialed the number on Misty’s profile page, discovering that “Misty” was an undercover username associated with the Clayton County Police Department (south of Atlanta).

"They told me that they did the best that they can do [to reach me]” through other means, Lamb-Creasy recalled on WSB-TV. "But I'm not sure about that. (Because) if they can track a criminal down, they couldn't track me down? They could have done better."

But there are two parties here that could’ve done better: the police—and Facebook.

Sure, the actions of the Clayton County Police Department are bafflingly unprofessional. But even if the police department had sent Lamb-Creasy messages from an official account—rather than from some porn star-esque pseudonym in a violation of Facebook policy —she still may have missed those messages without checking her “other” inbox.

Although Facebook rolled out the Other inbox back in 2010, many Facebook users still have no clue it exists. I, for one, learned about it in December of 2011 after I left my new MacBook Air in the back of a New York City cab. After the cab company told me it didn’t turn up at the end of the driver’s shift, I figured it was gone forever. I sobbed over my lost data—and then bought a new laptop.

A few weeks later, a colleague sent me a blog post about Facebook’s “other” box. (You can check it by hitting the messages icon at the top left of the Home page, and then clicking “Other,” which is next to “Inbox.”) The man who found my computer had sent me a slew of Facebook messages, but they all flowed into the other mailbox. I’d never heard of it, and thus never checked its contents. I wrote about my experience on Slate, prompting hundreds of readers to comment that they, too, had no idea the folder existed.

Late last year, Facebook tweaked the filters for the inbox and other folders, ostensibly in response to concerns that I, and other users like me, raised. “We’ve heard that messages people care about may not always be delivered or may go unseen in the Other folder,” a post from Facebook’s Newsroom says. “… we’re replacing the ’Who can send me Facebook Messages’ setting with up-front filters that help to address this feedback.”

They introduced two new filters: Basic and Strict. Basic allows a user to see messages from friends, and friends of friends. Basic filtering is automatically turned on for people who already set their message privacy to “friends of friends” or “everyone.” Strict filtering means you’ll catch only messages from friends. It’s automatically turned on for people who had their privacy set to “friends.”

To access the filters, you can either select the lock icon on the top right of the screen and click “Who can contact me?” or navigate to the “Other” inbox (assuming you know it exists). Once you’ve clicked to “Other”, you can hit “edit preferences” underneath, and then you’ll see the two filtering options.

But here’s the problem: There’s still no option for the user who doesn’t want a filter at all. Someone who would like to receive all messages in their regular inbox, regardless of who sends them, thank you very much.

I can’t see how the filters are useful for any user who isn’t a celebrity or prominent media figure. I consider myself to be an average Facebook user, and the last message I received in my Other folder was in August. Hardly a daily barrage of strange memos. Maybe I’m just extremely unpopular. But Facebook shouldn’t just make it an option to turn off filtering. The default message setting should be unfiltered.

Still, while Facebook claims the motivation for filters is altruistic (saving users from spam), another component of the company’s December announcement makes me wonder if there isn’t something a little impure behind the filter policy.

In December 2012, along with the new settings, Facebook began a little monetization experiment with messaging, as, Will Oremus reported on Slate. As part of this, users can send a message to someone who is not a friend, or a friend of a friend, directly to the user’s inbox—for $1. (You can also shell out $100 to message Mark Zuckerberg directly.) So, perhaps it’s in Facebook’s best financial interest to keep the filters on—if this new message system proves to be a moneymaker.

In the end, the blame still falls on the Clayton County Police Department, not Facebook, for this communication snafu. Facebook declined to comment on the story. But perhaps it will still see the clear message underpinning this tragedy: Let us be our own filters first. ( slate.com )

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Chemicals in plastics linked to early onset menopause

Chemicals in plastics linked to early onset menopause - Man-made chemicals found in a variety of everyday products – from food containers to clothes – may be causing early menopause in women, say scientists.

A study of almost 26,000 – the largest of its kind – found those with high levels of PFCs (perfluorocarbons) were more likely to have gone through the change of life prematurely.

Dr Sarah Knox, of the West Virginia University School of Medicine, said: "There is no doubt that there is an association between exposure to PFCs and onset of menopause, but the causality is unclear.

Higher levels of PFCs were associated with increased odds of having experienced menopause in women between 42 to 64

"Part of the explanation could be that women in these age groups have higher PFC levels because they are no longer losing PFCs with menstrual blood anymore.

"But it is still clinically disturbing because it would imply that increased PFC exposure is the natural result of menopause."

The study to be published in The Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found higher levels of PFCs were associated with increased odds of having experienced menopause in women between 42 to 64.

Women in this age group with more PFCs also had much less of the sex hormone oestrogen compared to those who had low levels which are also found in furniture, carpets and paints.

Their broad use has led to widespread circulation in water, air, soil, plant life, animals and humans – even in remote parts of the world.

A probability sample of adults in the US found measurable concentrations of PFCs in 98 per cent of those tested.

Dr Knox said: "The current study is the largest ever to be done on the endocrine (hormone)-disrupting effects of perfluorocarbons in human women.

"Our data shows after controlling for age, women of peri-menopausal and menopausal age in this large population are more likely to have experienced menopause if they have higher serum concentrations of PFCs than their counterparts with lower levels."

In the study of 18 to 65-year-old women researchers ascertained the menopausal status of the participants and then measured their serum concentration levels of PFCs and oestradiol.

They found an association between PFC exposure, decreased oestradiol and early menopause in women over age 42.

The higher the PFC levels in women of child bearing age the lower their oestrogen also but this link was not statistically significant.

PFCs are known to have multiple adverse health outcomes including increased cardiovascular risk and impairment of the immune system.

Dr Knox said: "Our findings suggest PFCs are associated with endocrine disruption in women and that further research on mechanisms is warranted."( telegraph.co.uk )

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