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Robin Williams's death: a reminder that suicide and depression are not selfish | Dean Burnett

21 July, by Dean Burnett[ —]

News of Robin Williams’s death due to apparent suicide, said to be a result of suffering severe depression, is terribly sad. But to say taking your own life because of such an illness is a ‘selfish’ act does nothing but insult the deceased, potentially cause more harm and reveal a staggering ignorance of mental health problems

News broke today that Robin Williams had passed away, due to apparent suicide following severe depression. As the vast majority of people will likely have already said, this was terribly heart-breaking news. Such an iconic, talented and beloved figure will have no shortage of tributes paid to him and his incredible legacy. It’s also worth noting that Robin Williams was open about his mental health issues.

However, despite the tremendous amount of love and admiration for Williams being expressed pretty much everywhere right now, there are still those who can’t seem to resist the opportunity to criticise, as they do these days whenever a celebrated or successful person commits suicide. You may have come across this yourself; people who refer to the suicide as “selfish”. People will utter/post phrases such as “to do that to your family is just selfish”, or “to commit suicide when you’ve got so much going for you is pure selfishness”, or variations thereof.

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Why are men more likely than women to take their own lives?

https://www.theguardian.com/society/suicide-ratesplay episode download
20 July, by Daniel Freeman and Jason Freeman[ —]

Efforts to prevent suicide, such as those championed by Nick Clegg, must take into account some apparently paradoxical differences between men and women

This week saw the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, appeal for the widespread adoption of a “zero suicide” campaign in the NHS. This is admirable, but a concerted effort to prevent people from taking their own lives would be more effective if we understood why suicide is a particularly male problem. It’s known as the “gender paradox of suicidal behaviour”.

Research suggests that women are especially prone to psychological problems such as depression, which almost always precede suicide. In western societies, overall rates of mental health disorders tend to be around 20-40% higher for women than for men.

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Nasa needs you: space agency to crowdsource origami designs for shield

20 July, by Nicola Davis[ —]

In the search for ways to efficiently pack a radiation shield to protect manned spacecraft on deep space missions, Nasa is looking to the public for help

If you know your crane from your bishop’s mitre, Nasa needs you. The space agency is launching a challenge to crowdsource origami-inspired ideas for a foldable radiation shield to protect spacecraft and astronauts on voyages to deep space, such as missions to Mars.

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UK-built pollution monitoring satellite ready for launch

20 July, by Stuart Clark[ —]

The Sentinel-5P spacecraft is designed to monitor the pollution that causes a reported tens of thousands of deaths every year in the UK

Last year, the European Space Agency launched the Trace Gas Orbiter to Mars. It is designed to look for methane – a key tracer of life – to determine if Martian microbes are present on the red planet.

Now, ESA is preparing to launch another spacecraft to look at methane on another planet: our own.

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Cosmology and particle physics face surprisingly similar challenges

20 July, by Michela Massimi[ —]

Philosophy of science has built an industry around confirmation theory. But unprecedented methodological challenges are forcing philosophers to go back to the drawing-board

The Dark Energy Survey (DES) concluded its biannual Collaboration meeting at University of Chicago in mid-June. DES is one of the largest surveys in cosmology searching for evidence of dark energy, the elusive entity that according to the so-called “concordance model” in cosmology should constitute 73% of the whole mass-energy of the universe. After years of observations at the Blanco Telescope in Chile, spanning the southern sky and mapping 200 million galaxies, DES Year 1 data will soon be publicly released; and there is a lot of anticipation as to whether the data will prove consistent with the current concordance model or not.

DES uses four different probes — baryonic acoustic oscillations (BAO), weak gravitational lensing, Supernova of type Ia, and galaxy clusters — to measure both how fast the universe is accelerating in its expansion and how clumpy the universe was at different epochs after the Big Bang. Precise measurements of both quantities are crucial for establishing whether dark energy is indeed a non-zero vacuum energy responsible for the accelerated expansion of the universe; or, whether instead Einstein’s general relativity needs be modified to account for the observed accelerated expansion.

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The power of framing: It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/trump-administrationplay episode download
20 July, by Steve Rathje[ —]

The 2016 election and a wealth of psychological data show how much our reasoning can be influenced by how information is framed

In March 2016, before Trump was selected as the Republican nominee, cognitive scientist George Lakoff was already concerned about the emerging Trump phenomenon. So he wrote an article called “Understanding Trump” that details the ways in which Trump “uses your brain against you” – and sent it to every member of the Clinton campaign.

Lakoff researches how framing influences reasoning, or how the way we say something often matters much more than what we say. And he has used his research to inform how Democrats can better frame their party positions. He consolidated his advice for Democrats in his book, Don’t think of an elephant! The title conveys one of its main insights: if you negate a frame, you strengthen a frame. In other words, if you say “don’t think of an elephant,” you can’t help but think of one.

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Lifestyle changes could prevent a third of dementia cases, report suggests

20 July, by Nicola Davis[ —]

Researchers admit prevention estimate is a ‘best-case scenario’, but stress that action can be taken to reduce dementia risk

More than a third of dementia cases might be avoided by tackling aspects of lifestyle including education, exercise, blood pressure and hearing, a new report suggests.

Approximately 45 million people worldwide were thought to be living with dementia in 2015, at an estimated cost of $818bn.

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Indigenous archaeological find in Kakadu recasts Australian history – video

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/australia-newsplay episode download
20 July, by Guardian Staff[ —]

A dig at Madjedbebe on the traditional lands of the Mirarr people in northern Australia has unearthed thousands of artefacts, some as old as 80,000 years. The discovery upends decades-old estimates about the human colonisation of the continent (previously estimated at between 47,000 and 60,000 years) and adds western scientific evidence to Indigenous cultural knowledge about the length of time their ancestors have occupied the land

• Australian dig finds evidence of Aboriginal habitation up to 80,000 years ago

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HPV vaccine: anger over decision not to extend NHS scheme to boys

19 July, by Nicola Slawson[ —]

Health bodies condemn panel’s conclusion that more jabs against cancer-causing infection are unlikely to be cost-effective

A decision not to vaccinate boys against a cancer-causing sexually transmitted infection has been condemned by health bodies and campaigners.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which has been reviewing the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination programme, concluded that it was “highly unlikely to be cost-effective” to extend the scheme to include adolescent boys as well as girls.

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Australian dig finds evidence of Aboriginal habitation up to 80,000 years ago

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/australia-newsplay episode download
19 July, by Helen Davidson at Madjedbebe and Calla Wahlquist[ —]

Artefacts in Kakadu national park have been dated between 65,000 and 80,000 years old, extending likely occupation of area by thousands of years

A groundbreaking archaeological discovery in Australia’s north has extended the known length of time Aboriginal people have inhabited the continent to at least 65,000 years.

The findings on about 11,000 artefacts from Kakadu national park, published on Thursday in the journal Nature, prove Indigenous people have been in Australia for far longer than the much-contested estimates of between 47,000 and 60,000 years, the researchers said. Some of the artefacts were potentially as old as 80,000 years.

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