What Doesn't Kill Us Makes Us Stronger?

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, in Twilight of the Idols (1888) wrote "What does not destroy me, makes me stronger." But modern research by the Naval Health Research Center shows that's not the case. If you've been assaulted, you're twice as likely to suffer from post traumatic stress syndrome.

Data on exposures and health outcomes were collected as part of the Millennium Cohort Study. Of 55,000 participants, data was anaylzed from from 5324 (881 women and 4443 men) who were in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and had no Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) symptoms before they went.

As reported in the journal Epidemiology, more than twice as many man and women who had been assaulted prior to entering combat suffered from PTSD afterwards than those who had never been assaulted.

In other words, the odds of new-onset PTSD symptoms was more than 2-fold higher in both women and men who reported assault prior to deployment.

Alcohol Abuse Is No Laughing Matter

The returning vet who's become a drunk is a recurring, if sad, stereotype. But until recently there wasn't much data on the problem.

Late last year the Naval Health Research Center published a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association that shows the problem is not a myth.

Data from the Millennium Cohort Study showed that Reserve and National Guard personnel and younger service members who deploy with reported combat exposures are, in fact, at increased risk of new-onset heavy weekly drinking, binge drinking, and alcohol-related problems.

Smoke If Ya Got 'Em

The old black and white war movie admonition to, "smoke if ya got 'em" isn't just a cliche.

American Journal of Preventive Medicine conducted by the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego found that among people who had never smoked, almost twice as many service members sent overseas were likely to start smoking than those who stayed home.

Among those who used to smoke almost half again as many returned to smoking if they were deployed as those who didn't, and those who saw combat were 1.6 times more likely to start smoking than non-smokers. Those who were deployed for more than 9 months and those who deployed multiple times were more likely to start smoking again too, although it didn't seem to affect how much they smoked.

Want To Lose Weight? Go to war!

There are probably easier ways to diet, but women who have seen combat in Iraq or Afghanistan are more than twice as likely to lose 10% or more of their body weight than those who were deployed but didn't see combat. Unfortunately, those who saw combat were almost twice as likely to develop an eating disorder.

The Naval Health Research Center (NHRC) in San Diego recently published these findings in the American Journal of Epidemiology based on data collected as part of a fascinating long term study called the Millennium Cohort Study.

Going overseas didn't seem to stimulate eating disorders in either women or men, but combat did.

Another interesting finding from the data is that low mental or physical health status before combat exposure significantly increases the risk of symptoms or diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after deployment.

Now that we know that, thanks to the Navy's research, more vulnerable service members can be identified and provided training and treatment (interventions) in advance to prevent PTSD.

Bug 1, Bird 0

Man bites dog is a newsworthy event, they say, but not dog bites man. In the same sense, bird eats bug, wouldn't be worthy of a headline. But how 'bout bug bites bird, or better yet bug eats bird?

That's exactly what happened recently, and my sister and brother-in-law caught it on this video.


Patiently becoming a part of the feeder, this preying mantis caught a naïve hummingbird, and within a minute the prey's struggle was over. This amateur video and pictures were taken over a few summer mornings in Albuquerque, NM.

I never thought of Preying Mantids as carniverous or quick, but they're obviously both.

More on hummingbirds here.

• Galaxy Springs a Leak

This interacting group contains several galaxies along with a "cosmic fountain" of stars, gas and dust that stretches over 100 000 light years.

Over the past 19 years Hubble has taken dozens of exotic pictures of galaxies going "bump in the night" as they collide with each other and have a variety of close encounters of the galactic kind. Just when you thought these interactions couldn’t look any stranger, this image of a trio of galaxies, called Arp 194, looks as if of the galaxies has sprung a leak. The bright blue streamer is really a stretched spiral arm full of newborn blue stars. This typically happens when two galaxies interact and tug at each other gravitationally.

Resembling a pair of owl's eyes, the two nuclei of the colliding galaxies can be seen in the process of merging at the upper left. The bizarre blue bridge of material extending out from the northern component looks as if it connects to a third galaxy but in reality this galaxy is in the background and not connected at all. Hubble's sharp view allows astronomers to try and sort out visually which are the foreground and background objects when galaxies, superficially, appear to overlap.

The blue "fountain" is the most striking feature of this galaxy troupe and it contains complexes of super star clusters that may have as many as dozens of individual young star clusters in them. It formed as a result of the interactions among the galaxies in the northern component of Arp 194. The gravitational forces involved in a galaxy interaction can enhance the star formation rate and give rise to brilliant bursts of star formation in merging systems.

Hubble's resolution shows clearly that the stream of material lies in front of the southern component of Arp 194, as shown by the dust that is silhouetted around the star cluster complexes.

The details of the interactions among the multiple galaxies that make up Arp 194 are complex. The system was most likely disrupted by a previous collision or close encounter. The shapes of all the galaxies involved have been distorted by their gravitational interactions with one another.

Arp 194, located in the constellation of Cepheus, resides approximately 600 million light-years away from Earth. Arp 194 is one of thousands of interacting and merging galaxies known in our nearby Universe. These observations were taken in January 2009 with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2. Blue, green and red filters were composited together to form this rather picturesque image of a galaxy interaction.

This picture was issued to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope aboard the space shuttle Discovery in 1990. Hubble has made more than 880 000 observations and snapped over 570 000 images of 29 000 celestial objects over the past 19 years.

• Fox & Friends Undress For Success

In bed by 7 last night, lights off by 8. Kate promptly fell fast asleep, and I went into that aggravating half-awake-half-asleep-waiting-for-the-alarm-to-ring-never-never-land. We both woke up at 11:45 for some reason, but fell back to sleep until the alarm went off at 1:45am.

Coffee and shower, hurried last minute review of notes, and the limo arrived at 2:45. Not much talk in the car, re-read notes wondering what to expect. Asked the driver if this was the main Fox station or was there another downtown. He said where we were going was a contract video studio used for remotes, basically just a room and a camera. And that's what it was.

You'd recognize the camera man instantly. He was the geeky kid that belonged to the AV club in high school and ran the projector when there was a movie in class, just older.

The backdrop, instead of a paper graphic, was huge digital display running a video of the San Diego harbor in broad daylight, of course, not zero dark thirty blackness. Talked about could he show Kate's bunny slipper and my boxer shorts with hearts. Said he'd try, wondered why I'd go on national TV in my underwear. Told him the name of the book. He said, "Oh."

Wired us up with mics, and we sat nervously waiting for something to happen. Finally heard a voice in our ear asking for a sound check. Used the line from 'Sports Night': "Hi, I'm Tom Harnish here with Kate Lister. Those and other stories after the break," and got a laugh.

More nervous waiting listening to the news of the Korean missile, Obama threatening sanctions. Need to pee. Finally they tease our segment and voice says we're on after the commercial. We sit forward trying to look interested and interesting, engaged—trying to avoid the 'deer in the headlights' look that happens when the camera is on and you don't know it.

We'd prepared three talking points, they lead with a question about scams. That's me, we'd decided, so I answer with FTC survey and half billion bucks ripped off from unsuspecting consumers. They say yeah, yeah but what about the scams we have listed on the graphic. Oh? Gee thanks for warning us. I say something, with as much animation as possible, about envelope stuffing and bogus certificates. They ask Kate, basically, "What's with that?" She gives them a nice coherent answer about most of the people scammed are those in debt and desperate. They say thanks, bye, and show book cover while pointing viewers to their site for more info.

Geek say, "Okay, that's it." Overhead lights come on. "Thanks for coming down so early in the morning." We look at each and laugh. Wait! We have a lot more to say.

He plays the segment back and tries to burn a DVD for us, but signal is encrypted and won't record. Kate looks gorgeous, I look old. Really old. What we said sounds coherent, at least, and we never picked our nose.

Figure with the missile and trying to get Obama live they threw us a bone and gave us our 30 seconds of fame even though they really would have preferred to use the time for the President.

Home by 4:30am. Check Fox News website, nothing. Check Fox and Friends website. Nothing. Check host Allison's blog, nothing—but it does say, "I’ll post the websites for working at home after the show." 300 comments from groupies mostly hating Obama, a couple about a bunny with two noses, none about the gorgeous woman, old guy, and a book. Email from someone that wants us to do a book signing at the Carlsbad farmer's market. Oh, puh-leeze.

Our website has 600 visitors within an hour, roughly what we usually receive in a whole day, Amazon book jumps from a rank of about 160,000 to about 2,250 so we sold a few books. Educated guess says 100. Woohoo! We got a ride in a limo, lost some sleep and we're 500 bucks richer. Well, actually not. The $ is deducted from the advance. So we're really just $500 closer to making some royalties, the advance already spent. Maybe it'll lead to other TV spots or media coverage . . .

If ya can't take a joke you shouldn't be in show biz?