Surprises: good and bad

Surprises: Good and Bad – WHATS IN THIS BLOG:
(1) Opioid deaths in the USA. (2) Using thoughts to move a paralyzed hand. (3) Bird that flies for 10 months without landing.

Last week my blog was ultra-long. To balance that, this blog is relatively short.

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SURPRISE 1: THE SWIFT BIRD. The following notes are excerpted from here, as reported by the radio show Living on Earth.

Swedish Scientists have discovered that the common swift can fly for 10 months at a time without landing. Science knows of no other bird that remains aloft for that long.

These common swifts landed for just two months a year, during the breeding season in central Europe. The remaining 10 months were spent in the air, migrating and spending the winter south of the Sahara Desert.

A Common Swift. (Photo: pau.artigas, Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 2.0)

Data from some swifts showed they did not land at all for 10 months. The scientists said that this new finding raises questions, such as how the birds deal with their high energy needs while flying non-stop for 10 months, and how they sleep in the air. Researchers speculate that the swifts might sleep while gliding down from high altitudes.

This astonishing behavior makes me think again of the wonders of God’s creation.

SURPRISE 2: OPIOID DEATHS IN THE USA. 91 people die every day in the USA from opioids, meaning hydrocodone or oxycodone. That’s 33,000 deaths per year, and more than people killed on roads. You can see why the US government has made this problem a priority.

You can read more about the current epidemic of opioid addiction in a previous blog of mine, if you click here. Explained in the blog is the connection between oxys and roxys and heroin, as well as an addict’s tragedy. It’s a jarring story.

The following words are excerpted from a segment on National Public Radio. Click here.

Bill Kochevar was paralyzed in a bicycle accident when he was in his 40s. And for the next eight years, he was unable to move any part of his body below his shoulders. The damage to his spine meant signals from his brain had no way to reach those distant muscles.

Bill Kochevar received an implanted brain-recording and muscle-stimulating system that allowed him to move limbs he hadn’t been able to move in eight years.
Cleveland FES Center

The idea was to create a new connection between Kochevar’s brain and his right arm and hand. First, surgeons implanted two electrode arrays in Kochevar’s brain. The electrodes detect signals coming from areas of his brain that once controlled his right hand.

“We have an algorithm that sort of transforms those neural signals into the movements he intended to make,” says Robert Kirsch, a professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western.

But movement requires muscles. So doctors also implanted electrodes in muscles that control his arm and hand movements. The final result was a system that could determine which movements Kochevar wanted to perform, then electrically stimulate the appropriate muscles in his arm.

When he’s connected to the system, Kochevar can extend his arm and grasp things with his hand, the researchers report. He’s even found a way to scratch his nose. For Kochevar, this is a big deal. “I’m still wowed every time I do something,” he says. “Amazing.”

The system Kochevar uses has taken scientists more than a decade to develop. “I think what we’ve done, though, is shown that we can put this all together and it’s feasible,” Kirsch says. “We can actually record signals from his brain, determine what he’s trying to do and make that happen.”

I’m reminded that we humans were made in the image of God. I can’t help but rejoice in the creativity of scientists who have discovered a way to convert brainwaves into muscle-movers.

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The Gray Nomad
Think well, and help someone to hope.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. [Book of Romans, chapter 1].

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