Leisure, Lifestyle & Wellness
Believe it! We are wired for laziness
While you burn calories at the gym or while running in the neighbourhood park, our brain constantly works the opposite, looking for shortest route or choose to sit rather than stand, researchers report.
 
A team from Simon Fraser University in Canada found that our nervous systems are remarkably adept in changing the way we move so as to expend the least amount of energy possible.
 
In other words, humans are wired for laziness.
 
“We found that people readily change the way they walk - including characteristics of their gait that have been established with millions of steps over the course of their lifetime - to save quite small amounts of energy,” explained lead researcher Max Donelan.
 
This is completely consistent with the sense that most of us have that we prefer to do things in the least effortful way, like when we choose the shortest walking path or choose to sit rather than stand.
 
“Even within a well-rehearsed movement like walking, the nervous system subconsciously monitors energy use and continuously re-optimises movement patterns in a constant quest to move as cheaply as possible,” Bonelan informed.
 
To reach this conclusion, the researchers asked people to walk while they wore a robotic exoskeleton.
 
This contraption allowed the researchers to discourage people from walking in their usual way by making it more costly to walk normally than to walk some other way.
 
More specifically, the researchers made it more difficult for participants to swing their legs by putting resistance on the knee during normal walking, whereas the researchers eased this resistance for other ways of walking.
 
This allowed the researchers to test whether people can sense and optimise the cost associated with their movements in real time.
 
The experiment revealed that people adapt their step frequency to converge on a new energetic optimum very quickly - within minutes.
 
What's more, people do this even when the energy savings is quite small: less than 5 percent.
 
There is a bright side to this.
 
“Sensing and optimising energy use that quickly and accurately is an impressive feat on the part of the nervous system. You have to be smart to be that lazy!” noted lead author Jessica Selinger.
 
The findings, which were made by studying the energetic costs of walking, apply to most of our movements.
 
The paper appeared in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.

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Common cancer drug from rare plant produced in laboratory
Scientists from Stanford University have found a way to produce a common cancer drug -- previously only available from an endangered Himalayan plant -- from an easily grown laboratory plant.
 
The scientists believe that the technique of shifting medicinal properties from rare plants to laboratory plants could be applied to a wide range of other plants and drugs, thereby leading to a more stable supply of drugs derived from rare plants.
 
Elizabeth Sattely, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Stanford, and colleagues identified the genes that enable the leafy Himalayan plant mayapple to produce the chemicals key to producing a widely used cancer-fighting drug called etoposide.
 
The team used a novel technique to identify proteins that work together in a molecular assembly line to produce the cancer drug. 
 
They then showed that the proteins could produce the compound outside the plant - in this case, they had put the machinery in a different plant.
 
"A big promise of synthetic biology is to be able to engineer pathways that occur in nature, but if we do not know what the proteins are, then we cannot even start on that endeavour," Sattely said.
 
The researchers believe that they would be able to eventually produce the drug in yeast which can be grown in large vats in the lab to better provide a stable source of drugs.
 
The findings were detailed in the journal Science.

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Modi expresses regret over Chandigarh shutdown; orders probe
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed regret over the inconvenience caused to people after his four-hour visit to Chandigarh led to the closure of schools and Chandigarh’s main cremation ground, besides causing traffic snarls that paralysed the city.
 
"An inquiry will be held and responsibility will be fixed for the inconvenience caused to the people of Chandigarh," Modi tweeted.
 
“The inconvenience caused to citizens in Chandigarh, especially shutting of schools due to my visit is regretted. It was totally avoidable,” added Modi.
 
Authorities in Chandigarh had ordered the closure of all 187 schools on Friday, blocked roads to ensure smooth movement for the prime minister’s cavalcade and even ordered that ambulances would have to take longer detours to reach hospitals.
 
The main cremation ground of the city in Sector 25, which is located next to the rally ground where Modi addressed his official rally on Friday afternoon, too was out of bounds for people.
 
Those who had to cremate their loved ones were forced to do in cremation grounds in nearby Mohali and Mani Majra.

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