Men lose the ability to sleep soundly as they get older, scientists have discovered

Middle-aged men do not feel as rested in the morning because a reduction in the sex hormone testosterone affects their quality of sleep, according to a new scientific study.

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent of the UK’s Telegraph Online

It has long been thought that a lack of sleep led to a reduction in testosterone but now scientists believe it could be the other way around.

When men reach the age of 30, their testosterone levels drop by one to two per cent every year. By the age of 40, men’s quality of sleep also begins to diminish.

Researchers in Canada have discovered a possible link between decreased testosterone levels and reduced deep sleep.

Zoran Sekerovic, a graduate student from the University of Montreal’s Department of Psychology, has discovered a link between testosterone levels in men over 50 and their quality of sleep, specifically less deep sleep.

He said: “Deep sleep is when the recuperation of body and mind is optimal.”

In young men, “deep sleep” represents 10 to 20 per cent of total sleep. By age 50, it decreases to five to seven per cent. For men over 60, it can disappear altogether.

The University of Montreal researcher said that men in their twenties do not have such a correlation because their neuronal circuits are intact.

Mr Sekerovic said: “With age, there is neuronal loss and the synchronisation of cerebral activity isn’t as good, which is why there is a loss of deep sleep.

“Because deep sleep requires great synchronisation, low levels of testosterone intensify the lack of synchronisation and can explain 20 per cent of men’s inability to experience deep sleep.”

He suggested dwindling testosterone levels are what impact sleep, not vice versa, as other studies have suggested.

He said previous investigations measured daily fluctuations in testosterone levels, which are higher in the morning.

If he is right, his findings could reignite the hormone therapy debate.

Mr Sekerovic said: “The loss of deep sleep is a serious problem that could be treated with testosterone. That would be tremendous progress

“But hormone therapy can have secondary effects. Therefore, it will be essential to better understand the mechanisms leading to the loss of deep sleep.”

The study was conducted under the supervision of Julie Carrier, a professor of psychology at the University of Montreal and director of the Chronobiology Laboratory at the Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montreal.

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[http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7730923/Men-lose-the-ability-to-sleep-soundly-as-they-get-older-scientists-have-discovered.html]

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Black, Brown, and Beige

Duke Ellington’s music and race in America.

By Claudia Roth Pierpont in The New Yorker.

The basement club was cramped, and the bandstand was so small that, by the drummer’s measure, it could hardly hold a fight. The clientele included mobsters, musicians, and star performers from the nearby Broadway shows, slipping in among the crowd from the time the band appeared, at about ten o’clock, straight on “until.” The banjoist who provided the schedule could elaborate no further about how long the night went on: “Until you quit. Until period.” After 3 A.M., you couldn’t get a seat. In the fall of 1926, the craze for Negro music was already sending savvy white New Yorkers up to Harlem, but the Kentucky Club, on West Forty-ninth Street, had the hottest band in town. Trumpets, trombone, saxes, clarinet, tuba, banjo, and drums—nine or so players, huddled on the stand beneath the pipes that ran along the ceiling, plus the handsome young piano player who led the group while dancers surged around him on the floor. But the band did more than keep the temperature high and the dancers moving; its arrangements were so startling that even a familiar number like “St. Louis Blues” sounded new. Variety capped a gushing review of the “colored combo” by noting that the club’s patrons—transfixed “jazz boys” and civilians alike—spent a remarkable amount of time just sitting around and listening.

Duke Ellington and his Washingtonians had been performing in New York, under one name or another, for about three years, but their range and ambition were just beginning to show. As new arrivals, they had practiced the sweet, straight, “under conversation” music that had been in demand at the Washington society dances where the original group members started out, but they had quickly discovered that this sound was all wrong for New York. Not brazen enough, not rhythmically driving; not Negro enough; not jazz. In truth, a New York style of jazz hardly existed. In the mid-twenties, the city offered, instead, a heady variety of musical models, including its own native Harlem stride pianists (who welcomed Ellington as one of their own); the blues musicians who were part of the ongoing mass migration from the South; Fletcher Henderson’s big, polished sound; and the great horn players of New Orleans, who blazed through town now and again like comets. And then there were the resident players who had absorbed the New Orleanians’ famed techniques: the trumpeter Bubber Miley joined the Washingtonians before their first uncertain year was out and, with his waa-waa outbursts and uncannily human shrieks and cries, quickly blew their decorum away. Ellington was inspired by Miley’s wild expressiveness, even if he couldn’t yet meet it or let go the promise of all the other sounds he heard.

The number that caught Irving Mills’s attention at the Kentucky Club one night, as he recalled, was “Black and Tan Fantasy,” a three-minute musical drama jointly credited to Ellington and Miley. It isn’t difficult to figure out which of the authors did what, as a throbbingly mournful blues gives way to a refined society tune—rough and smooth, black and tan, Miley and Ellington—or as Miley’s solos rise to a hectoring beauty that finds ease and release in the band’s response. The trumpeter’s manipulation of a simple rubber plunger cup over the bell of his horn makes for some irresistibly antic sounds (the trombonist, not to be outdone, gives a good impression of a whinnying horse), but the piece delivers an unexpected emotional punch: a concluding riff from Chopin’s “Funeral March” is willfully absurd yet seems to seal the trumpet’s urgent message. (“I like great big ole tears,” Ellington said, teasingly, about audience reactions.) The over-all effect is at once mocking and chilling, like a funeral cortège with skeletons dancing behind.

*****
[Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2010/05/17/100517crat_atlarge_pierpont?currentPage=all%5D

Who Invented the Cocktail?

That depends on how you define invented. And cocktail.

By Wayne Curtis in The Atlantic.

Last fall, I visited a new restaurant and lounge in London called Hix. It specializes in revivals and adaptations of early-19th-century British libations, including a rum shrub of the sort one might have sipped during the reign of King George III. (Shrubs typically involved fresh fruits preserved in vinegar, then mixed with spirits.) I thought it was uncommonly delicious, and immediately felt traitorous for thinking so. The early Brits were famous for guzzling sweetened gin in large and harmful quantities, not for producing mixed drinks of sophistication or quality. The Americans were supposedly the ones who did that.

The drink catechism has long held that cocktails as we know them were created by “Professor” Jerry Thomas, a pioneering and flamboyant American bartender who published the first bar manual in 1862. David Wondrich, the author of Imbibe!, the most comprehensive account of Thomas’s work, did much to secure this reputation. His book advanced the notion, now commonly repeated, that cocktails are a reflection of our native genius, as American as apple pie and baseball.

“And it turns out that’s precisely true,” Wondrich told me recently. “Because they made apple pies in Europe before we did. And they played rounders before we did. Whenever you look into any of these things and poke at the beginning, you’re suddenly earlier.”

While researching Imbibe!, Wondrich had been intrigued by Thomas’s frequent mentions of punch—spirits mixed with citrus juice and other flavorings. Wondrich suspected that such drinks represented a British precursor to the modern American cocktail. He investigated for his next book, Punch: The Delights and Dangers of the Flowing Bowl, due out this fall, and his suspicions were confirmed. “As far as I can tell,” he said, “the British pretty much invented mixology with spirits when they came up with punch.”

In particular, Wondrich now singles out James Ashley, who ran a famous punch house in London from 1731 to 1776, as “the world’s first celebrity mixologist.” Ashley refined the idea of mixed drinks with spirits, even serving his concoctions in smaller, individually mixed cups rather than big bowls. Wondrich found further accounts, from around the same time, of other barmen in England serving up proto-cocktails like sweetened gin mixed with bitters.

*****
[Read the rest; http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2010/06/who-invented-the-cocktail/8105%5D

GOLD TO GO – the Gold Bullion vending machine

By Ben Coxworth in GizMag

This Wednesday saw the official opening of the world’s first permanent gold-dispensing vending machine. Created by German company TG Gold-Super-Markt, the GOLD To Go ATM is located (unsurprisingly) in the lavish Emirates Palace Hotel, in Abu Dhabi. Gold has strengthened 13 percent in 2010 following nine straight annual gains, so now when hotel guests want to exchange their cash for something a little more economically-stable, they won’t have to bother with gold store clerks or business hours.

A computer inside the ATM keeps track of gold prices in real time, and prices its gold accordingly. Because it has less overhead costs than a store, TG Gold-Super-Markt claims the machine is able to offer “very competitive prices.” Besides dispensing 24-carat gold bars in 1, 5 and 10 gram sizes, the ATM also offers gift boxes of gold coins bearing symbols such as the Krugerrand, a maple leaf, or a kangaroo – perhaps market research showed that South Africans, Canadians and Australians like gold? Interestingly, there’s no American eagle.

The machine is finished in gold leaf, making it a “gold vending machine” in more ways than one. It has all the features of regular vending machines, including a touchscreen, cash and card slots, and an illuminated showcase. To keep it from being used for money-laundering, any one user can only access it three times within 24 hours, and must then take a 48 hour break. For purchases over 1,000 €, a scan of the user’s personal identification is required.

The Gold To Go ATM was field-tested in Germany before being installed in the Emirates Palace. TG Gold-Super-Markt plans to install up to 200 more machines in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

*****
[http://www.gizmag.com/gold-to-go-gold-vending-machine/15093/]

Touch-screen Selfridges window displays allow shoppers to try on virtual 3D watches

Selfridges has unveiled two touch-screen window displays which will allow shoppers to “try on” virtual 3D watches without even entering the store.

By Heidi Blake in the UK’s Telegraph Online

Passers-by outside the Oxford Street store will be handed paper wristbands which, when shown to a camera built into the display, will allow them to view an image of themselves “wearing” any watch they select on the touch-screen.

The “virtual watch” is created by real-time light-reflecting technology that allows the consumer to interact with the design by twisting their wrist for a 360 degree view.

*****
[Read the full article; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/7719921/Touch-screen-Selfridges-window-displays-allow-shoppers-to-try-on-virtual-3D-watches.html?utm_source=tmg&utm_medium=TD_3d&utm_campaign=tech1405am%5D

The World’s Largest Swamp

This is Vasyugan, the world’s largest swamp. Located in Russia, it has an area of 53,000 square kilometers which is 20% larger than the area of Switzerland. Scientists believe it sprang up 10,000 years ago and continued expanding in a similar fashion to a desert.

It contains more than 800 lakes and a large number of rivers and streams emanate from it. The amount of peat located in the swamp is enormous – about 2% of the world’s total resource. The area is devoid of people but strewn with cranberries, cloud-berries and bog bilberries. Animals and birds live fear-free.

The major function of the swamp is atmospheric purification, absorbing toxic substances and preventing carbon dioxide emissions.

*****
[See more photos and the article at http://englishrussia.com/index.php/2010/05/12/the-biggest-swamp-in-the-world/#more-13036%5D

Am I man enough for the Marines?

Iain Hollingshead is pushed to the limit trying out the Royal Marines' training camp in Lympstone, Devon

Does UK’s Telegraph Online reporter Iain Hollingshead have what it takes to wear the Marines’ green beret?

If you want to visit the Royal Marines at their training camp in Devon, and prefer not to mount an amphibious assault from the River Exe or a fast-rope descent from an Apache helicopter, you have to take the train.

It chugs south from Exeter along the coast towards Exmouth, via Lympstone Commando, the Marines’ own railway station. Lympstone is a request stop, which means you have to pluck up the courage to inform the conductor of your destination in front of a packed carriage.

“Are you sure?” she asks, looking me up and down in disbelief.

One other person alights, a lean, mean Marine on crutches. I follow at a safe distance as he lurches swiftly towards the armed guard at the end of the platform, past the huge recruiting posters: “Your mind is a weapon. It can beat heat, overcome hunger, eradicate pain, turn soft flesh into hard muscle. Want to know what it takes to earn the green beret? Start with what’s under it.”

I wasn’t visiting Lympstone to earn a green beret – that takes 32 weeks and far more determination and courage than is possessed by this lily-livered desk jockey. I was, however, invited for a day to get a sense of this elite force, some of whose members are taking part in the Windsor Castle Royal Tattoo, a four-day event that opens today.

“We are the thinking man’s soldier,” says Major Jules Rawles, my escort. He introduces me to Lieutenant Colonel Matt Jackson, 37, who is in charge of recruitment and who combines arms like tree trunks with a degree from Cambridge.

These bright, charming, highly trained killers live up to their motto of Per Mare Per Terram, operating everywhere from the Arctic to the desert, Iraq to Afghanistan to the Falklands, where 22 of them famously took on an entire Argentine invasion force. Although constituting only three per cent of the Armed Forces, they make up 40 per cent of Special Forces, after further training. They are also entrusted, at American insistence, with looking after Trident.

*****
[Read the rest at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/industry/defence/7711588/Am-I-man-enough-for-the-Marines.html%5D