Two more studies suggest that taking vitamin supplements may do more harm than good.

The conventional wisdom for years has been that if you want to stay healthy you should take vitamin supplements every day, but a growing body of evidence is showing that, not only is it not necessary, it could be damaging to your health:

More Evidence Against Vitamin Use – NYTimes.com.

“You go back 15 or 20 years, and there were thoughts that antioxidants of all sorts might be useful,” said Dr. Eric Klein, a Cleveland Clinic physician and national study coordinator for the prostate cancer and vitamin E study. “There really is not any compelling evidence that taking these dietary supplements above and beyond a normal dietary intake is helpful in any way, and this is evidence that it could be harmful.”

This is particularly true for people who take high doses of vitamins because they think that if a little of it is good then a lot of it must be better.

Among the women in the Iowa study, about 63 percent used supplements at the start of the study, but that number had grown to 85 percent by 2004. Use of multivitamins, vitamin B6, folic acid, iron, magnesium, zinc and copper were all associated with increased risk of death. The findings translate to a 2.4 percent increase in absolute risk for multivitamin users, a 4 percent increase associated with vitamin B6, a 5.9 percent increase for folic acid, and increases of 3 to 4 percent in risk for those taking supplements of iron, folic acid, magnesium and zinc.

“Based on existing evidence, we see little justification for the general and widespread use of dietary supplements,” the authors wrote.

If you eat reasonable meals with a wide variety of foods then you’re already getting what you need in the way of vitamins. Really, the only time you should be taking supplements is when you have a vitamin deficiency and are instructed to do so by your doctor. As you can see above the increased risks aren’t huge, but there’s no point in taking the risk at all if there’s no benefit to be gained from it.

New research suggests artificial sweeteners no help in battle against obesity.

Well this just fucking sucks:

Epidemiologists from the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio reported data showing that diet soft drink consumption is associated with increased waist circumference in humans, and a second study that found aspartame raised fasting glucose (blood sugar) in diabetes-prone mice.

“Data from this and other prospective studies suggest that the promotion of diet sodas and artificial sweeteners as healthy alternatives may be ill-advised,” said Helen P. Hazuda, Ph.D., professor and chief of the Division of Clinical Epidemiology in the School of Medicine. “They may be free of calories but not of consequences.”

via Waistlines in people, glucose levels in mice hint at sweeteners’ effects: Related studies point to the illusion of the artificial.

I’ve said before that as a younger man I used to swear that I’d never switch to diet pop because it tasted so awful. Then I hit my early 30’s and got married and my daughter came to live with me and I suddenly was responsible for a lot more than just myself. So when the doctor told me I was borderline diabetic and suggested I switch from regular to diet pop to help me lose weight I took to heart that advice. It took awhile to make the switch, but I eventually did and it did make a difference, at first. I lost close to 40 lbs only to gain it all back within the year.

Given the findings of these studies, I’m not surprised by the the return of the weight:

Measures of height, weight, waist circumference and diet soda intake were recorded at SALSA enrollment and at three follow-up exams that took place over the next decade. The average follow-up time was 9.5 years. The researchers compared long-term change in waist circumference for diet soda users versus non-users in all follow-up periods. The results were adjusted for waist circumference, diabetes status, leisure-time physical activity level, neighborhood of residence, age and smoking status at the beginning of each interval, as well as sex, ethnicity and years of education.

Diet soft drink users, as a group, experienced 70 percent greater increases in waist circumference compared with non-users. Frequent users, who said they consumed two or more diet sodas a day, experienced waist circumference increases that were 500 percent greater than those of non-users.

Given that I’ve cut way back on the amount of sugar I consume I have been surprised to find that my glucose levels still showed as high on blood tests where I’d been fasting beforehand. If the research on mice is any indication then I now know why:

One group of the mice ate chow to which both aspartame and corn oil were added; the other group ate chow with the corn oil added but not the aspartame. After three months on this high-fat diet, the mice in the aspartame group showed elevated fasting glucose levels but equal or diminished insulin levels, consistent with early declines in pancreatic beta-cell function. The difference in insulin levels between the groups was not statistically significant. Beta cells make insulin, the hormone that lowers blood sugar after a meal. Imbalance ultimately leads to diabetes.

“These results suggest that heavy aspartame exposure might potentially directly contribute to increased blood glucose levels, and thus contribute to the associations observed between diet soda consumption and the risk of diabetes in humans,” Dr. Fernandes said.

Well fuck me.

I’ve been working on not drinking as much soda for awhile now, but I’m still not a huge fan of drinking water and it’s difficult to find anything other than water to drink when dining out so I’m still consuming some diet soda on a regular basis. But I am doing better. I regularly have at least two cups of water at work and a couple more at home in the course of a day. Now I guess I’ll have to make an effort to cut out diet pop altogether.

Which is upsetting because a good cold soda is one of life’s little pleasures on a hot summer day. Something that a cold glass of water just doesn’t compare to. But I’ll suck it up and put my big-boy pants on and just deal with it.

But I’m still going to pout about it.

Just face it: The Universe is out to kill you.

Sometimes this is all it takes.

I love my doctor because she’s willing to just lay the truth out for me without beating around the bush. I had to see her on Monday for a checkup because the folks at Blue Care Network, the medical insurance company Anne gets through her job, have decided that in order not to charge us a ridiculous amount of money for a shitty policy we have to jump through hoops to qualify for paying a slightly less outrageous amount of money for a slightly less shitty policy. The upshot being that several months ago we had to go through physicals to see how badly out of shape we are. Which, admittedly, we are.

Apparently, out of the two of us, I’m the bigger (ha!) offender as I had to go back for this recent checkup to see if I’d managed to lose any of the near-300 pounds I’ve been carrying around. For, if I hadn’t, steps would need to be taken if we wanted to keep the slightly less shitty policy. Naturally, I managed to gain four pounds in the interim going from 294 to 298 pounds. Considering the first checkup was just before last Thanksgiving and this one was just after Easter, I suppose it’s probably not much of a surprise given the amount of good eating during those months. My blood pressure was borderline, but still on the “healthy” side, and my disposition was as snarky as ever.

As it turns out, when they said that steps would have to be taken, they meant it literally. I had a choice, my doctor said, if I wanted to keep the slightly less shitty policy to either sign up for Weight Watchers or get a Pedometer and start walking more. The insurance company pays for it either way, but of the two options the get-off-your-ass one was more appealing. If only because I’ve been meaning to do that anyway and now that I’ll be constantly recorded like some alcoholic with a breathalyzer strapped to his wrist perhaps that’ll actually motivate me to STFU and GTFO.

All of that is background to explain why I love my doctor. She’s the one who gave me the title for this entry. She said it after I mentioned a recent study that suggests that sitting too much will kill you. Duh, you’re probably thinking. Lack of movement is what makes you fat and being fat will kill you earlier. Yes, that’s true, but apparently it is much worse than that:  Sitting may be a lethal activity.

Researcher James Levine at the Mayo Clinic wanted to know why it is that some people seem to be able to eat without gaining weight while others struggle with weight issues even if they generally eat the same amount of food. So he got a bunch of both types of people together and had them eat all their meals in a lab where their caloric intake could be controlled. He wired them up with special underwear that were packed with accelerometers and inclinometers to measure the subject’s movements and what positions they spent their time in.  Then he gave them 1,000 more calories than they needed and told them not to exercise. As you’d expect, the folks who tended to eat without gaining weight stayed fairly skinny and the others tended to pack on the pounds:

“We measured everything, thinking we were going to find some magic metabolic factor that would explain why some people didn’t gain weight,” explains Dr. Michael Jensen, a Mayo Clinic researcher who collaborated with Dr. Levine on the studies. But that wasn’t the case. Then six years later, with the help of the motion-tracking underwear, they discovered the answer. “The people who didn’t gain weight were unconsciously moving around more,” Dr. Jensen says. They hadn’t started exercising more — that was prohibited by the study. Their bodies simply responded naturally by making more little movements than they had before the overfeeding began, like taking the stairs, trotting down the hall to the office water cooler, bustling about with chores at home or simply fidgeting. On average, the subjects who gained weight sat two hours more per day than those who hadn’t.

OK, no big surprise there. That’s pretty much what you would expect. Here’s where it gets worse:

People don’t need the experts to tell them that sitting around too much could give them a sore back or a spare tire. The conventional wisdom, though, is that if you watch your diet and get aerobic exercise at least a few times a week, you’ll effectively offset your sedentary time. A growing body of inactivity research, however, suggests that this advice makes scarcely more sense than the notion that you could counter a pack-a-day smoking habit by jogging. “Exercise is not a perfect antidote for sitting,” says Marc Hamilton, an inactivity researcher at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

The posture of sitting itself probably isn’t worse than any other type of daytime physical inactivity, like lying on the couch watching “Wheel of Fortune.” But for most of us, when we’re awake and not moving, we’re sitting. This is your body on chairs: Electrical activity in the muscles drops — “the muscles go as silent as those of a dead horse,” Hamilton says — leading to a cascade of harmful metabolic effects. Your calorie-burning rate immediately plunges to about one per minute, a third of what it would be if you got up and walked. Insulin effectiveness drops within a single day, and the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes rises. So does the risk of being obese. The enzymes responsible for breaking down lipids and triglycerides — for “vacuuming up fat out of the bloodstream,” as Hamilton puts it — plunge, which in turn causes the levels of good (HDL) cholesterol to fall.

So basically what they’re saying is, if you sit around a lot you’re putting your body into a state that is innately damaging to its well being. This isn’t a takes-a-long-time-to-affect-you kind of problem either:

Hamilton’s most recent work has examined how rapidly inactivity can cause harm. In studies of rats who were forced to be inactive, for example, he discovered that the leg muscles responsible for standing almost immediately lost more than 75 percent of their ability to remove harmful lipo-proteins from the blood. To show that the ill effects of sitting could have a rapid onset in humans too, Hamilton recruited 14 young, fit and thin volunteers and recorded a 40 percent reduction in insulin’s ability to uptake glucose in the subjects — after 24 hours of being sedentary.

Over a lifetime, the unhealthful effects of sitting add up. Alpa Patel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, tracked the health of 123,000 Americans between 1992 and 2006. The men in the study who spent six hours or more per day of their leisure time sitting had an overall death rate that was about 20 percent higher than the men who sat for three hours or less. The death rate for women who sat for more than six hours a day was about 40 percent higher. Patel estimates that on average, people who sit too much shave a few years off of their lives.

[…] Sitting, it would seem, is an independent pathology. Being sedentary for nine hours a day at the office is bad for your health whether you go home and watch television afterward or hit the gym. It is bad whether you are morbidly obese or marathon-runner thin. “Excessive sitting,” Dr. Levine says, “is a lethal activity.”

Needless to say I found this to be quite alarming considering that I spend a good portion of my day sitting at my desk and a good portion of my time at home sitting at my desk. Worse, I like sitting. With laying down coming in a close second. I always figured that once I got around to exercising for 30 minutes a day I’d be much better off, but this research suggests that’s not the case at all. Presumably I’d have to spend most of my time walking to offset any sitting I tend to do and I just don’t like walking that much.

So I looked at my doctor and I said to her: I’m doomed. And she said that I had to just face it, the Universe is out to kill you. Everything causes cancer, viral and bacterial infections are an ever present threat, and even if you manage to avoid all of that crap you can still step out your door and get clobbered by a meteorite or a bus or, well, just about anything really.

Still, I thought, if you can find the motivation there are at least things you can do to help prolong your life. I sincerely believed that until I read this article this morning: Heart-Healthy Omega-3s Not Healthy for Prostate: Study.

MONDAY, April 25 (HealthDay News) — High levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in the blood may be associated with an increased risk for developing aggressive prostate cancer, while elevated levels of unhealthy trans-fatty acids may lower the risk, a new study suggests.

Got that? If you’re eating lots of food with omega-3 fatty acids to to avoid coronary disease you may be increasing your risk of prostrate cancer whereas those artery clogging trans-fatty acids may actually reduce your chance of prostrate cancer while increasing your risk of coronary disease. Talk about having to choose between the lesser of two evils. Which is pretty much what they say you’ll have to do:

“We were stunned to see these results, and we spent a lot of time making sure the analyses were correct,” Theodore M. Brasky, a postdoctoral research fellow in Hutchinson’s Cancer Prevention Program, said in a Hutchinson news release. “Our findings turn what we know — or rather what we think we know — about diet, inflammation and the development of prostate cancer on its head and shine a light on the complexity of studying the association between nutrition and the risk of various chronic diseases.”

But, Brasky and his colleagues don’t believe men who are concerned about heart disease should stop using fish oil supplements or eating salmon or other fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

“Overall, the beneficial effects of eating fish to prevent heart disease outweigh any harm related to prostate cancer risk,” Brasky said. “What this study shows is the complexity of nutrition and its impact on disease risk, and that we should study such associations rigorously, rather than make assumptions.”

Still, it’s upsetting to think that you can’t fix one problem without potentially causing a different one in the process. To my inner cynic this is just proof that you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Mind you, I don’t find this depressing. I find it annoying. It’s certainly not the way I’d run the Universe if I were in charge. Still, with so many ways of shuffling off your mortal coil I suppose it’s silly to worry about any particular one to a excessive degree. So I will get my pedometer and I will walk more and take the stairs more, not so much because I think it’ll prolong my life, but because it’ll save us a bit of money on insurance premiums. I will endeavor to eat a healthier diet, but I’ll still be a human with all the failings that entails and indulge in foods I probably shouldn’t because they make me happy.

In the end, given my family history, I’ll probably die from either cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s,  and/or accident of one sort of another. If I’m really lucky, I’ll die from all of them at once and set some sort of familial record. Hopefully it’ll be later rather than sooner, but if my quality of life were to get too shitty for some unforeseen reason then sooner wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing in that case.

But I’m not going to sweat it too much anymore because it’s not like I’m going to get out of life alive in the end anyway. No one does.

New study suggests religion is dieing out in 9 countries. Cue Religious Right freakout in 3… 2…

Here’s a headline that’s sure to rile up the Religious Right: BBC News – Religion may become extinct in nine nations, study says.

A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.

The study found a steady rise in those claiming no religious affiliation.

The team’s mathematical model attempts to account for the interplay between the number of religious respondents and the social motives behind being one.

The result, reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, US, indicates that religion will all but die out altogether in those countries.

Which sounds really encouraging (if you’re one of the Nones), but reading further into the article reveals that this is speculation based on an application of nonlinear dynamics to a whole lot of census data from the countries in question. The end results suggest that countries with a trend of people claiming no religious affiliation will have that trend continue until religion dies out. But then the researchers go on to admit that the model they’re using is somewhat flawed:

However, Dr Wiener told the conference that the team was working to update the model with a “network structure” more representative of the one at work in the world.

“Obviously we don’t really believe this is the network structure of a modern society, where each person is influenced equally by all the other people in society,” he said.

However, he told BBC News that he thought it was “a suggestive result”.

“It’s interesting that a fairly simple model captures the data, and if those simple ideas are correct, it suggests where this might be going.

“Obviously much more complicated things are going on with any one individual, but maybe a lot of that averages out.”

So probably nothing to get too excited about at the moment. It’s going to be a long time before religion is “extinct”, as the headline claims, in any country and I doubt it’ll ever fully pass away anywhere. Too many overly credulous people for that to happen.

But I bet you that the Religious Right will run with this study. There’s so many ways it could be utilized! As a call to arms against secularism here in the States! Or as reason why you can’t trust those dirty, godless European heathens! Why, the possibilities are endless!

New research suggests daily diet soda intake might lead to heart attacks or strokes.

Have a diet coke and a stroke! Yeah, probably not the best advertising slogan.

Well this is just fucking great:

Just as you were starting to feel virtuous for having switched from sugary sodas to low- or no-calorie substitutes, a new study comes along suggesting that diet sodas might be bad for your head and your heart.

The study, which followed more than 2,500 New Yorkers for nine or more years, found that people who drank diet soda every day had a 61 percent higher risk of vascular events, including stroke and heart attack, than those who completely eschewed the diet drinks, according to researchers who presented their results today at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Los Angeles.

via Daily diet soda tied to higher heart attack risk – Health – Diet and nutrition – msnbc.com.

It took a lot of time and willpower to switch from regular sodas to diet and it helped me to lose some weight in the process. As a result, regular sodas now taste like battery acid. Now to learn that I may be increasing my risk for heart attack or stroke by drinking diet makes me wonder why I worried so much about the diabetes from the regular stuff.

That said, the researchers are saying that this is just a preliminary study:

Still, the researchers aren’t ready to tell consumers to skip diet sodas. More studies need to be done before that happens, said the report’s lead author Hannah Gardener, an epidemiologist at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

“I think diet soda drinkers need to stay tuned,” Gardener said. “I don’t think that anyone should be changing their behaviors based on one study. Hopefully this will motivate other researchers to do more studies.”

The article goes on to say that the researchers weren’t able to account for all the possible factors so while the results seem to implicate diet sodas, it’s not confirmed they are the direct cause:

Does this mean there’s something in diet sodas that hurts our blood vessels? Nobody knows the answer to that question, yet, Gardener said. There could be something else that people who drink diet sodas have in common, she explained.

For example, it’s possible that people who drink diet sodas are replacing those saved sugar calories with other unhealthy choices, Gardener said.

That explanation makes a lot of sense to Dr. Nehal N. Mehta, director of inflammatory risk cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania. Although the researchers know the total calories study volunteers were consuming, they weren’t able to account for unhealthy eating habits, Mehta said.

“Maybe along with the diet soda, people are grabbing a Big Mac and a large fries,” Mehta said. “Soda may not be the villain. It may be the other things people consume in association with diet soda. After all, what goes better with pizza or fries than a soda?”

And I’m definitely guilty of ordering a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, fries, and a diet soda at the local McDonalds on occasion.

I’ve said before I have a hard time just drinking water as I don’t like the way it tastes  — and I know it’s not supposed to have a taste, but it does from the glass or the pipes or what have you — and it’s unsatisfying compared to something with some flavor.

But I suppose it’s time to start weaning myself off of diet sodas the same way I did regular soda. Not just because of this report, but due to others that suggest diet sodas might actually contribute to weight gain (though the evidence for that appears to be lacking as well) and other possible health issues.

In the long run it’s healthier to move toward greater water consumption even if it does bug the hell out of me. This is just one more nudge I can use to convince myself to do it.

New study suggest Near Death Experiences likely caused by CO2.

A new study suggest that too much CO2 in the blood during heart attacks is the likely cause of the so-called Near-Death Experience:

In the new study, researchers investigated whether different levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide—the main blood gases—play a role in the mysterious phenomenon.

The team studied 52 heart attack patients who had been admitted to three major hospitals and were eventually resuscitated. Eleven of the patients reported near-death experiences.

During cardiac arrest and resuscitation, blood gases such as CO2 rise or fall because of the lack of circulation and breathing.

“We found that in those patients who experienced the phenomenon, blood carbon-dioxide levels were significantly higher than in those who did not,” said team member Zalika Klemenc-Ketis, of the University of Maribor in Slovenia.

The article goes on to mention that other factors such as age, sex, religious belief, drugs used during resuscitation or how long it took to revive them had no impact on whether or not patients reported an NDE.

The study didn’t speculate on how excessive CO2 would result in an NDE, just that it appears to be the cause. This isn’t too surprising given the fact that people at high altitudes without a pressure suit or who have inhaled a lot of CO2 report NDE-like effects as well.

It’s certainly not conclusive yet, but it is a good start into investigating the phenomena.

Study suggests people attribute their own views to God.

Susan B. Anthony said in 1896: I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.

The above is not news to anyone who is paying attention. Ask most Believers what they feel God’s stance is on a particular moral question and then ask what their own views are on the topic and, more often than not, you’ll get the same answer. Now there’s a study that supports that simple truth:

For many religious people, the popular question “What would Jesus do?” is essentially the same as “What would I do?” That’s the message from an intriguing and controversial new study by Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago. Through a combination of surveys, psychological manipulation and brain-scanning, he has found that when religious Americans try to infer the will of God, they mainly draw on their own personal beliefs.

Psychological studies have found that people are always a tad egocentric when considering other people’s mindsets. They use their own beliefs as a starting point, which colours their final conclusions. Epley found that the same process happens, and then some, when people try and divine the mind of God. Their opinions on God’s attitudes on important social issues closely mirror their own beliefs. If their own attitudes change, so do their perceptions of what God thinks. They even use the same parts of their brain when considering God’s will and their own opinions.

Religion provides a moral compass for many people around the world, colouring their views on everything from martyrdom to abortion to homosexuality. But Epley’s research calls the worth of this counsel into question, for it suggests that inferring the will of God sets the moral compass to whatever direction we ourselves are facing. He says, “Intuiting God’s beliefs on important issues may not produce an independent guide, but may instead serve as an echo chamber to validate and justify one’s own beliefs.”

It’s the sort of thing that prompts a knee-jerk reaction of, Well duh! But it’s probably best that there’s some research that supports what seems obvious to many of us. If nothing else it can act as a jumping off point for challenging believers to truly consider what they think they know about their God(s). Combined with the fact that there’s such a wide-ranging variance between believers on what they think their God’s viewpoints are, it also bolsters the argument that there likely aren’t any God(s) to begin with.

Gods are created in man’s image and always have been as it is only in the mind of man that they exist. Considering some people’s opinions on what God is like, perhaps it’s best that simply wishing for something doesn’t make it real.

Research says milk does not increase mucus production.

How many times have you had someone tell you to avoid drinking milk or consuming other dairy products when you’ve got a cold? It’s one of those bits of conventional wisdom that everyone seems to know, but how accurate is it?

For centuries, milk has been blamed for increased mucus production – and in turn a range of other conditions like asthma and snoring.

But while many people swear milk produces mucus, the effect can’t be explained by science, says allergy specialist Dr Ray Mullins.

A 2005 review of studies concluded that there was no link between milk consumption and mucus production or asthma. In one study, participants infected with the common cold virus reported symptoms of increased in mucus production after drinking milk, but when their mucus production was actually measured there was no statistical difference. In another study, there was no difference in the sensation experienced between drinking soy milk and cow’s milk.

This doesn’t mean people don’t experience the sensation, says Mullins, but rather that there is no actual increase in mucus production.

via Does milk make mucus worse? – Health & Wellbeing.

I have to admit that I’ve had mixed experiences over the years with regards to this phenomena. I have ignored the advice and consumed dairy products while I had a cold to no noticeable effect on how stuffed my head was, but I also find that if I consume a glass of milk immediately prior to going to bed — even when I’m not ill — I’ll often wake up with a clogged nose. Not always, but often enough to draw a correlation. Of course correlation is not causation, but it’s happened often enough that I avoid drinking milk if I’m about to go to bed.

What’s even more interesting than the article itself, however, are the bevy of comments left by vegetarians and creationists who aren’t happy with the statements made in the article itself. A small sample:

Lindsay: As a vegan I am sick and tired of *doctors* proclaiming that it is a bad idea to not consume dairy products because it is unhealthy. That is a complete lie.

BGM: As a practicing veterinarian I do not know of any species other than Man which consumes milk past weaning. On a personal note, many of the skin, bowel and weight issues I experienced resolved when I switched to soy milk and avoided all daily. No way did early man evolve needing dairy products.

Alisha: man did not evolve anyways, but no. I have Bronchitis and I haven’t found it to be worse because I have been drinking milk.

It’s always enlightening to read the comments on a science article. Well, perhaps “enlightening” isn’t quite the word. Entertaining. Yes, that’s a better word.

Swearing appears to lower perceptions of pain. (#Blogathon)

This is another news item that’s been out for awhile and I’ve been meaning to mention it because it deals with a topic near and dear to me: Swearing. For the longest time it was assumed that swearing was a maladaptive response that increased the perception of pain. Then a couple of researchers decided to put that assumption to the test and it appears that the opposite may actually be true:

They recruited 67 undergraduates, and asked to make two short lists of words – one containing five words they might use after hitting themselves on the thumb with a hammer, the other containing five words they might use to describe a table. The participants submerged one of their hands into room temperature water for three minutes, to provide a standardized starting point, then transferred it to a container of cold water and instructed to keep it submerged for as long as they could. In one condition, they were told to repeat the first swear word they had included in their list; in another, they repeated one of the words describing a table.

The researchers measured how long the participants kept their hands submerged in cold water, and asked them to rate the amount of pain they felt. Their heart rates were also recorded after they had submerged their hands in room temperature water as well as after the submersion in cold water. Contrary to their hypothesis, they found that swearing actually reduced the amount of pain felt. The participants kept their hands submerged in the cold water for longer, and also reported experiencing less pain, when they repeated a swear word than when they repeated a word describing a table. Swearing was also associated with increased heart rate.

Granted a good portion of my swearing has nothing to do with being in pain, it’s just one of the few vices I have, but it’s good to know that when I let loose with a stream of invective after stubbing my toe that it’s actually helping me out.

Linux may be the better desktop, but the public doesn’t want to learn it.

The folks over at LaptopMag.com have an interview with MSI’s Director of U.S. Sales Andy Tung about the new MSI Wind Netbook that’s been selling like crazy. One of the topics touched on is the high return rate of the MSI Wind and what the cause happens to be:

You mention the return rates being high. Has that been the case with the Wind as well?
We have done a lot of studies on the return rates and haven’t really talked about it much until now. Our internal research has shown that the return of netbooks is higher than regular notebooks, but the main cause of that is Linux. People would love to pay $299 or $399 but they don’t know what they get until they open the box. They start playing around with Linux and start realizing that it’s not what they are used to. They don’t want to spend time to learn it so they bring it back to the store. The return rate is at least four times higher for Linux netbooks than Windows XP netbooks.

Currently MSI is using SUSE for the MSI Wind and they’re looking at trying a couple of other distros including a tailored version of Ubuntu styled to look like Mac OS X to see if they’ll go over any better, but I found it interesting that a lot of the reason for the returns wasn’t that SUSE wasn’t working just that people didn’t want to learn it.

As an interesting side-note, the instructor for my college networking essentials class doesn’t like Ubuntu at all. He calls it “Dumbuntu” because he thinks it’s been dumbed down too much. As I recall he’s a big fan of SUSE.