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Archive for July 22nd, 2019

Diabetes reversal in Tennessee

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Apparently it’s catching on. Blake Farmer reports for NPR:

Chains, saws and old logging equipment litter the back field of Wendy Norris’ family farm, near the county seat of Altamont, Tenn. Norris used to be part of the local timber industry, and the rusted tools are relics from a time when health woes didn’t hold her back from felling hardwoods.

“I was nine months pregnant,” Norris says. “Me and my husband stayed about 10 or 15 miles in the middle of nowhere, in a tent, for a long time.”

Those outdoor adventures are just a memory now. A few years ago, as Norris turned 40, her feet started going numb. She first assumed it was from standing all day at her job at a nursing home.

“But it wasn’t,” she recalls now. “It was that neuropathy, where my [blood] sugar was high and I didn’t know it.” Norris had developed Type 2 diabetes.

Grundy County, Tenn., has a long list of public health challenges, and Type 2 diabetes tops the list. The county is stunningly scenic; it also has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the region.

Norris was relatively active. She also enjoyed sodas, sweets and frozen dinners. Meanwhile, diabetes runs in her family. So, when her diabetes diagnosis came down, her doctor prescribed insulin shots and told her to watch what she ate.

“You’re sitting there thinking, ‘Well, what does that mean?’ ” Norris says.

Type 2 diabetes can be reversed with weight loss and exercise; but research shows that people need lots of help to achieve control of blood sugar with just a change in diet and lifestyle, and they rarely get enough support. It’s easier for doctors and patients to rely primarily on medication.

Norris says trying to overhaul her diet by herself was confusing and difficult. And when things didn’t change, the doctor just kept increasing her dosage of insulin.

But then Norris lost her health insurance. The injectable insulin cost her hundreds of dollars a month — money she simply didn’t have.

Fortunately, that’s when a couple of nurses who were members of her community stepped in to help — not with cash, but with crucial support of a different sort.

At the nonprofit Beersheba Springs Medical Clinic, a nonprofit clinic founded in 2010 to bring free or low-cost health care to the area, Norris was introduced to an alternative approach to taming her Type 2 diabetes — and the prospect of reversing her diagnosis altogether.

Retired nurses on a mission

In a former parsonage near the clinic, Karen Wickham ladles out lentil stew as a handful of participants in the evening’s health education session arrive.

She and her husband, Steve, are white-haired, semiretired nurses who have dedicated their lives to what they call “diabetes reversal.” They offer six-week seminars to Type 2 patients like Norris, who has also brought along her father and daughter.

“It’s our purpose,” Karen says. “Our purpose in life is to try to help make a difference — first in our community.”

With slide presentations, the Wickhams explain the difference between sucrose and glucose and the science behind the fact that foods like potatoes spike blood sugar, while sweet potatoes don’t. They preach eating as much fiber as a stomach can stand and dropping almost every kind of sweetened beverage.

Then they demonstrate ways to burn all those calories. On one evening, Steve invents the “Beersheba Boogie” on the spot, asking participants to raise their knees and pump their fists in place. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2019 at 5:44 pm

Quantum Darwinism, an Idea to Explain Objective Reality, Passes First Tests

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Darwin’s insight seems to have been much deeper than we knew: it’s a look into the heart of how nature works. Philip Ball writes in Quanta:

It’s not surprising that quantum physics has a reputation for being weird and counterintuitive. The world we’re living in sure doesn’t feel quantum mechanical. And until the 20th century, everyone assumed that the classical laws of physics devised by Isaac Newton and others — according to which objects have well-defined positions and properties at all times — would work at every scale. But Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr and their contemporaries discovered that down among atoms and subatomic particles, this concreteness dissolves into a soup of possibilities. An atom typically can’t be assigned a definite position, for example — we can merely calculate the probability of finding it in various places. The vexing question then becomes: How do quantum probabilities coalesce into the sharp focus of the classical world?

Physicists sometimes talk about this changeover as the “quantum-classical transition.” But in fact there’s no reason to think that the large and the small have fundamentally different rules, or that there’s a sudden switch between them. Over the past several decades, researchers have achieved a greater understanding of how quantum mechanics inevitably becomes classical mechanics through an interaction between a particle or other microscopic system and its surrounding environment.

One of the most remarkable ideas in this theoretical framework is that the definite properties of objects that we associate with classical physics — position and speed, say — are selected from a menu of quantum possibilities in a process loosely analogous to natural selection in evolution: The properties that survive are in some sense the “fittest.” As in natural selection, the survivors are those that make the most copies of themselves. This means that many independent observers can make measurements of a quantum system and agree on the outcome — a hallmark of classical behavior.

This idea, called quantum Darwinism (QD), explains a lot about why we experience the world the way we do rather than in the peculiar way it manifests at the scale of atoms and fundamental particles. Although aspects of the puzzle remain unresolved, QD helps heal the apparent rift between quantum and classical physics.

Only recently, however, has quantum Darwinism been put to the experimental test. Three research groups, working independently in Italy, China and Germany, have looked for the telltale signature of the natural selection process by which information about a quantum system gets repeatedly imprinted on various controlled environments. These tests are rudimentary, and experts say there’s still much more to be done before we can feel sure that QD provides the right picture of how our concrete reality condenses from the multiple options that quantum mechanics offers. Yet so far, the theory checks out.

Survival of the Fittest

At the heart of quantum Darwinism is the slippery notion of measurement — the process of making an observation. In classical physics, what you see is simply how things are. You observe a tennis ball traveling at 200 kilometers per hour because that’s its speed. What more is there to say?

In quantum physics that’s no longer true. It’s not at all obvious what the formal mathematical procedures of quantum mechanics say about “how things are” in a quantum object; they’re just a prescription telling us what we might see if we make a measurement. Take, for example, the way a quantum particle can have a range of possible states, known as a “superposition.” This doesn’t really mean it is in several states at once; rather, it means that if we make a measurement we will see one of those outcomes. Before the measurement, the various superposed states interfere with one another in a wavelike manner, producing outcomes with higher or lower probabilities.

But why can’t we see a quantum superposition? Why can’t all possibilities for the state of a particle survive right up to the human scale?

The answer often given is that superpositions are fragile, easily disrupted when a delicate quantum system is buffeted by its noisy environment. But that’s not quite right. When any two quantum objects interact, they get “entangled” with each other, entering a shared quantum state in which the possibilities for their properties are interdependent. So say an atom is put into a superposition of two possible states for the quantum property called spin: “up” and “down.” Now the atom is released into the air, where it collides with an air molecule and becomes entangled with it. The two are now in a joint superposition. If the atom is spin-up, then the air molecule might be pushed one way, while, if the atom is spin-down, the air molecule goes another way — and these two possibilities coexist. As the particles experience yet more collisions with other air molecules, the entanglement spreads, and the superposition initially specific to the atom becomes ever more diffuse. The atom’s superposed states no longer interfere coherently with one another because they are now entangled with other states in the surrounding environment — including, perhaps, some large measuring instrument. To that measuring device, it looks as though the atom’s superposition has vanished and been replaced by a menu of possible classical-like outcomes that no longer interfere with one another.

This process by which “quantumness” disappears into the environment is called decoherence. It’s a crucial part of the quantum-classical transition, explaining why quantum behavior becomes hard to see in large systems with many interacting particles. The process happens extremely fast. If a typical dust grain floating in the air were put into a quantum superposition of two different physical locations separated by about the width of the grain itself, collisions with air molecules would cause decoherence — making the superposition undetectable — in about 10−31 seconds. Even in a vacuum, light photons would trigger such decoherence very quickly: You couldn’t look at the grain without destroying its superposition.

Surprisingly, although decoherence is a straightforward consequence of quantum mechanics, it was only identified in the 1970s, by the late German physicist Heinz-Dieter Zeh. The Polish-American physicist Wojciech Zurek further developed the idea in the early 1980s and made it better known, and there is now good experimental support for it.

But to explain the emergence of objective, classical reality, it’s not enough to say that decoherence washes away quantum behavior and thereby makes it appear classical to an observer. Somehow, it’s possible for multiple observers to agree about the properties of quantum systems. Zurek, who works at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, argues that two things must therefore be true.

First, quantum systems must have states that are especially robust in the face of disruptive decoherence by the environment. Zurek calls these “pointer states,” because they can be encoded in the possible states of a pointer on the dial of a measuring instrument. A particular location of a particle, for instance, or its speed, the value of its quantum spin, or its polarization direction can be registered as the position of a pointer on a measuring device. Zurek argues that classical behavior — the existence of well-defined, stable, objective properties — is possible only because pointer states of quantum objects exist.

What’s special mathematically about pointer states is that the decoherence-inducing interactions with the environment don’t scramble them: Either the pointer state is preserved, or it is simply transformed into a state that looks nearly identical. This implies that the environment doesn’t squash quantumness indiscriminately but selects some states while trashing others. A particle’s position is resilient to decoherence, for example. Superpositions of different locations, however, are not pointer states: Interactions with the environment decohere them into localized pointer states, so that only one can be observed. Zurek described this “environment-induced superselection” of pointer states in the 1980s.

But there’s a second condition that a quantum property must meet to be observed. Although immunity to interaction with the environment assures the stability of a pointer state, we still have to get at the information about it somehow. We can do that only if it gets imprinted in the object’s environment. When you see an object, for example, that information is delivered to your retina by the photons scattering off it. They carry information to you in the form of a partial replica of certain aspects of the object, saying something about its position, shape and color. Lots of replicas are needed if many observers are to agree on a measured value — a hallmark of classicality. Thus, as Zurek argued in the 2000s, our ability to observe some property depends not only on whether it is selected as a pointer state, but also on how substantial a footprint it makes in the environment. The states that are best at creating replicas in the environment — the “fittest,” you might say — are the only ones accessible to measurement. That’s why Zurek calls the idea quantum Darwinism.

It turns out that the same stability property that promotes environment-induced superselection of pointer states also promotes quantum Darwinian fitness, or the capacity to generate replicas. “The environment, through its monitoring efforts, decoheres systems,” Zurek said, “and the very same process that is responsible for decoherence should inscribe multiple copies of the information in the environment.”

Information Overload

It doesn’t matter, of course, whether information about a quantum system that gets imprinted in the environment is actually read out by a human observer; all that matters for classical behavior to emerge is that the information get there so that it could be read out in principle. “A system doesn’t have to be under study in any formal sense” to become classical, said Jess Riedel, a physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, and a proponent of quantum Darwinism. “QD putatively explains, or helps to explain, all of classicality, including everyday macroscopic objects that aren’t in a laboratory, or that existed before there were any humans.”

About a decade ago, . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2019 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Evolution, Science

Late start, great shave with Creed’s Green Irish Tweed and the iKon 102

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The Wife is away, and so I got a sluggish start. When she’s home, her work schedule keeps me on track. I was so slow that I placed the lid upside down, but from there it all got better. (I just realized that you can’t say either “from there it was all uphill,” which sounds as though things got increasingly difficult, or “from there it was all downhill,” which sounds as though things went to hell.)

The Emperor 3 Super is a fine brush, or at least it was back in the day, and the lather from Creed’s Green Irish Tweed shaving soap is really excellent in both consistency and fragrance.

Three passes with the 102—still perhaps my favorite slant—left my face smooth for a little of the GIT EDT. A fine way to start the week.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 July 2019 at 11:38 am

Posted in Shaving

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