Category Archives: General Knowledge

Gender Dysphoria

Although it is not something I tend to openly admit to, one of my guilty pleasures is indulging in an episode of Hollyoaks every now and again. I have been watching the show on/off since I was younger, as it was one of the Soaps my sister would watch every day after school without fail.  It is easy to get absorbed with all the intertwining plot lines that are not at all unbelievable and characters that are not as all stereotypical or one dimensional. The reason I have admitted to being a fan of Hollyoaks is because of one of the storylines shed light on a condition I had previously known nothing about, but which has been more focussed on recently by the media, increasing public awareness.

Gender dysphoria is a condition where a person feels that they are trapped within a body of the wrong sex. Those with gender dysphoria may experience anxiety and a persistent discomfort about the gender that they were born with, or may believe that their gender identity is different from their anatomical sex. For example, a woman may be convinced that she is a male, despite having a female body.

The symptoms of gender dysphoria usually begin to appear at a very young age; however the behaviour exhibited, such as a child refusing to wear typical boys’ or girls’ clothes is a phase many children go through, but in cases of gender dysphoria, it persists into later childhood and through to adulthood.  Those with the lifelong conviction that they’re trapped in the wrong body are referred to as transsexuals.

In the UK an estimated 1 in 4,000 people are recieving medical help for gender dysphoria. . On average, men are diagnosed with gender dysphoria five times more often than women.

Treatment for gender dysphoria varies from person to person, as it is fully dependent on what the individual wants to do. Some may choose to dress and live as their preferred gender, whereas some may take hormones that alter their physical appearance. The majority of transsexuals choose to permanently change their biological sex, however a series of steps must be completed before they are able to do this, and they must be over 18. First the person must live as a member of the opposite sex, full time, for at least a year. After this, they would take either male or female hormones (depending on whether they wanted to become male or female) for at least a year – sometimes longer. After this, they could have surgery to become a man or a woman permanently: a ‘sex change operation’.

 The number of people with gender dysphoria is steadily increasing as awareness of the condition  heightens, however many still feel it is something they can not admit to as prejudice and intolerance towards transsexuals is not uncommon.

If you are interested in gender dysphoria, a new documentary on Channel 4 has just begun called “My Transsexual Summer”, tune in Tuesdays at 10pm.

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New Biology – Are Science And Spirituality More Interlinked Than We Think? PART II

Additionally, many would presume that diseases spur either from toxins, or as a result of inherited genes. This is not the case. Only 5% of diseases are hereditary, the majority instigating as a result of the mind. Consider the following:

A man found a black mark on his neck; he thought nothing of it. 22 years later, that black mark remained and a companion of his told him that it was a sign of lung cancer. He went to get it checked out. His friend had been right. He died two weeks later.

Is there not something to say here? The misfortune of lung cancer is put upon a man, who is only diagnosed 22 years later. He manages to lead a happy life in oblivion to his illness, but upon hearing the bad news, negative thoughts and fields of energy begin to take over, perhaps even become programmed into his subconscious mind in the limited time of 14 days. It is most likely that he so strongly believed that he would die very soon of the cancer that it became a truth, so much so that his body gave up the fight two weeks later.

When an individual says that they will get breast cancer because they have inherited the gene, this is strictly untrue. A predisposition to cancer means that the gene, which will most likely lead to the illness is present, however it does not guarantee the presence of said illness in the individual. If what the individual had said were true, why then, did they not begin to develop breast cancer from the moment they were born? The gene was not activated. And if it has been proven that the largest cause of disease is the mind, is it not dangerous to presume that one will get cancer if one has “the gene for it”? Perhaps the man with lung cancer would have died much later had he never found out.

Now, I do not mean to throw you off track by giving a very small introduction to physics, as I am no physicist myself. The two theories of physics that I want to discuss are Newtonian physics (Newton) and Quantum mechanics (Einstein). Newtonian physics is something that most biologists are very fond of, and essentially what they abide by. It focuses on all material things – matter. This is a very straightforward and clear way of thinking, whereby one step follows the next, and where anything that isn’t physical is ignored. Quantum physics, on the other hand, concentrates on the concept that all things are made up of three miniscule particles: protons, electrons and neutrons. These particles are waves of energy, and are therefore invisible. Quantum physics interlinks many different concepts and theories so that, contrarily to Newtonian attitude, there is no clear and strict direction of thought to be followed – it is holistic. So whereas Newtonian physics focuses on all solid, material and visible things, quantum mechanics focuses on energy; what is invisible. Is it fair to decipher our universe and everything on it by ignoring what it is principally made up of (energy)? The New Biology shows us that there will continue to be gaps in our knowledge and limits to our research unless we begin to consider quantum mechanics.

If we were to follow the line of quantum mechanics, for this purpose, we can conclude that every separate entity is in fact merged to create one complex system (reference to Gaia’s hypothesis, Lovelock 1965). Hence one entity affects the next and so on and so forth. The energy, thoughts and signals, emanated by one enter the next.

To conclude, if our brain and our environment control our cells so much more than we thought, but perhaps much less consciously than we thought, should we not be putting much more effort into the state of our mind and the state of our environment in order to maintain a healthy life with a flourishing community of cells? Perhaps the Western society of today places too much emphasis on pharmaceutical companies and not enough in what we consider to be Eastern remedies – those that are more spiritual and concentrate fundamentally on the self-renewal of cells.

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New Biology – Are Science And Spirituality More Interlinked Than We Think? PART I

In the laboratory, a cell is cultured in a medium and contained in a Petri dish. If the cell is dying or unwell, we simply have to remove it from that Petri dish and put it into another, where the medium and other environmental conditions have been altered slightly. Once this step has been accomplished, the cell automatically and autonomously regenerates itself.

Our human body is in fact a highly organized colony of cells. That in which the cells bathe is their medium: the blood. The blood carries messages, signals and hormones emitted by the brain. These enter and affect the cells, allowing us to conclude that the brain controls the wellbeing and the state of its body’s cells.

 For example, when under stress, the pituitary gland in the brain receives signals (via the control centers in the hypothalamus) and causes the secretion of cortisol from the adrenal glands into the blood stream. This steroid hormone has a direct impact on cells, depending where and what function they have. Brain cell production hugely decreases, the immune system is suppressed, and it aids fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism.

So in the same way that an unwell cell in a Petri dish needs to be put into a new medium (different quantities of X & Y nutrients) in order to replenish, poorly cells in the human body would need the blood’s concentration of certain molecules to be altered in order to restore the cells’ welfare. However, similarly to the environment surrounding the Petri dish needing to be controlled for the health of the cell, the environment surrounding our body’s cells also needs to be controlled. By ‘environment’ I mean both our surroundings and our brain. The brain is after all the filter that allows environmental information to be passed through to the body. This could account for something as simple as a temperature change, or something far more complex such as the fields of energy and thoughts created from other organisms in the environs.

On that note, let us introduce the Brain MRI Scan. It consists of a large donut shaped magnetic tube in which the patient places their head while lying on a table. Put simply, it is able to receive fields and waves sent by the brain. However, the magnet does not share any physical contact with the patient’s head. This tells us that whatever electrical activity that takes place in the brain is emitted to its vicinity, thereby being processed by the brains of other individuals nearby. Hence, we can conclude that the thoughts and state of an organism will affect those of another. Therefore, in an environment where people are competing (under Darwinian theory) for survival of the fittest, stress and destructive fields of energy will be present and cause the detriment of cells. Surely this is not the key to evolution?

Hold that thought, and focus instead on this activity that takes place in the brain. As some of you may already know, the brain can be divided into two distinct categories: The subconscious mind, and the conscious mind. The subconscious is responsible for all our habitual behavioral patterns, such as waking up in the morning and brushing your teeth. It is essentially a preprogrammed set of information. The conscious mind is the creative part that is active when we focus on something that steers away from our daily routines. For example, when instructed to produce a painting from a blank canvas.  Less than 5% of our brain’s work takes place in the conscious mind, so in effect we are not nearly as in control as one would presume.

It is possible, however to train (and re-train) your brain to erase certain programs that are in your subconscious, or indeed to create new ones. In the past, Jesuits would take responsibility for children up until the age of 6-7. They would teach them their beliefs and their ways, and eventually return the children to the security of their families. Bizarrely enough, they were spot on in their methodology. Our subconscious mind processes and takes in information from the environment (and those present in it) up until the age of 6, at which point it has collected and created its own set of preprogrammed information. 

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Stop Crying, That’s Why You’re Still Single

Everyone knows how men can’t bear a woman crying but actual evidence was found a few months ago to prove there is a special chemical in tears that result in men actually being “turned off”.

I read an article which described a study carried out which proved the theory that men are less sexually aroused when women shed tears when upset. Six women who could cry with ease watched films like Terms Of Endearment and My Sister’s Keeper (the usual chick flicks, I’m surprised The Notebook wasn’t on here) which, as expected, caused them to weep uncontrollably and these tears were then preserved by absorbing them with pads. Young men then sniffed these pads whilst looking at arousing pictures of women but there was also a control (anyone who does biology should be familiar with this) in the form of a saline solution (water and salt) being inhaled for comparison. The sexual excitement was measured by their heart rate, skin and brain responses and testosterone levels. The results, as you can guess, were that the emotional tears triggered a decrease in all of the criteria. One of the researchers (Israel Weizmann Institute) stated “Basically what we’ve found is the chemo-signaling word for ‘no’ — or at least ‘not now’.”

The message behind this type of behaviour that the tears induce is unclear at the moment. One hypothesis is an evolutionary protection against rape or deterring men from sex when PMSing/menstruating.

Don’t you think the experiment’s a bit biased? Only testing the effects women’s tears have on men? What about the other side? Well, it was initially going to both but the reply to the advertisement searching for male criers was too low. One.

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Could Chocolate Actually Be… Healthy?

Considering it’s Easter, here’s a festive article on a topic you surely can’t dislike: chocolate. Let’s be honest, there’s no going against the fact that it’s the food of the Gods. It’s intoxicated us so much that there are now even chocolate-flavoured fragrances which are supposed to bring us to our knees. Chocolate has a bad reputation for poisoning our body with its harmful substances. However, modern research is now helping chocolate lose this stigma.

Chocolate is held responsible for causing tooth decay and cavities but there has been no evidence proving it is solely the cause apart from the fact that the sugar adds to it but that can be held true for any food with sugar. Actually, there have been suggestions that the cocoa butter covers the teeth and shields them from plaque forming.

On the other hand, the same cocoa butter can contribute to high cholesterol levels due to the saturated fat content. To counter this though, chocolate bears a large amount of phenolics which dilates the arteries and prevents fat obstructing it so decreases the chances of heart disease.

 

That was how chocolate benefitted the workings inside our body but it doesn’t stop there; it is being used increasingly for maintaining our external health too – the skin. The numerous myths about chocolate raising the likelihood of acne are completely wrong. Experiments with students testing chocolate (who would mind that job?!) have shown that chocolate has no effect on the number of spots on a person’s skin, especially since acne is not connected to diet mostly. What’s more, chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is nowadays being used in spa-care for facials and wraps. It’s said to revitalize your skin and can defend against the effects of sun and air pollution due to the selection of phytochemicals and caffeine it contains.

So, why are you wasting precious time reading this when you could be enjoying the addictive taste of chocolate? Go improve your health! Happy Easter!

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Don’t Blame It On The Sunshine… Actually, Do

This is England so, naturally, the first hint of sunshine causes everyone to strip down to their shorts, grab their sunglasses, and hurry out to soak up the sun (and, just maybe, get a slight tan). Problem is, still being in school and this being the peak time before exams, you need to be seen productively revising in the eyes of your parents. Answer: combine the two activities together!

This is what I decided to do today in order to escape from all the distractions in the form of different types of technology surrounding me, calling me temptingly towards them. I was completely prepared with all my books encircling me whilst I lay in the grass on my stomach (a common position for working but also for easily falling asleep in) but, after a while, my mind started to drift and I became extremely tired, surprising as I’d slept well the previous night.

The reason being in the sun causes fatigue is due to the heat resulting in you to become dehydrated as you lose water from your body by the evaporation of sweat (the aim of which is to cool you down). Moreover, because of the heat an inflammatory reaction occurs which drags off more of the water during the process and, as skin is the biggest organ, it contributes significantly to the dehydration. The overall disproportion of salts play a part in it too. Seeing as all the cells in our body are mostly composed of water, the fluids need to be refilled frequently. When this doesn’t happen, the blood becomes thicker (less water means less fluidity) so more energy is required for the heart to pump the blood around the body. As more energy is being used up, it leaves us tired.

Contrary to belief, exhaustion is actually one of the first signs of dehydration, not thirst. Therefore, the best way to keep yourself awake in any situation is to drink more water.

So, if you fail your exams because you were sound asleep instead of studying hard, you know what to hold responsible.

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Cannabis – Is it actually as harmful as we’re all told? Afterall, it is used as a medicine…

Hash/kief/pot/solid/marijuana/grass/ganja/skunk – some of the different forms of cannabis. Smoked/eaten/drank… still has the same effect but what are these effects and why are we told cannabis is bad when in some countries it is used as a prescribed medicine to help people with chronic illness’?

Cannabis will make you “chill out”; make you all giggly and smiley. All your senses will be enhanced and your high will make everything seem different to how things are normally perceived. Cannabis has psychoactive and physiological effects when consumed.

The use of cannabis in medicine is very controversial, some say it has wide-ranging benefits whereas others say it is a potentially dangerous substance that can actually damage health. So what are the benefits/risks?

Claims have been made for its use in treating:Medicinal Cannabis
– Headaches
– Asthma
– Strokes
– Parkinson’s disease
– Multiple sclerosis
– Side effects of chemotherapy treatment
– Alzheimer’s disease
– Alcoholism
– Insomnia

Risks of taking Cannabis include:
– Damaged ability to concentrate
– Decreases motivation
– In teenagers, can affect psychological development
– Users can become anxious, suspicious or paranoid
– Increases risk of psychiatric illness such as schizophrenia
– Same risks as tobacco (if smoked)
– Dangerous addiction

There is some scientific evidence it may be useful, but the complexity of the substance makes it hard for medical research to be able to establish clearly its safety or efficacy. So, its effects are not proven or well understood. There are countries in which medical Cannabis has been legalised: 5 European countries, Canada and 15 US states.

This controversial debate over cannabis leaves one very confused as to whether or not they can have the cheeky joint to chill out or if the risk is too high for their health.  Scientists are always carrying out further research into the pros and cons of cannabinoids (chemical compounds in Cannabis) in order to try and conclude if it should be used as medicine.


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