TIME Exercise/Fitness

Athletes Should Not Play With Head Injuries, Say Doctors

Christoph Kramer of Germany receives a medical treatment during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro.
Shaun Botterill—FIFA/Getty Images Christoph Kramer of Germany receives a medical treatment during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina on July 13, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro.

Germany’s decision to let midfield Christof Kramer keep playing in the World Cup final yesterday after being slammed in the head was understandable—if this were 1962, anyway. Back then, a little concussion wasn’t seen as much of a big deal.

That’s not true anymore, and given the fact that everyone from kids’ coaches to the NFL (if grudgingly) recognize that even mild head injuries can have serious consequences, that decision looks close to insane—especially given that Kramer “looked as if he was on another planet and had to be helped off the field,” as TIME’s Bill Saporito observed.

Of course, it’s possible that the German team didn’t realize that this sort of thing can cause permanent brain damage. Or maybe they think that what applies to American football is irrelevant to real football. Except that studies have shown that soccer players are equally at risk.

Clearly, they didn’t read the editorial in The Lancet Neurology published the day before the game reminding coaches and team officials that “cerebral concussion is the most common form of sports-related traumatic brain injury (TBI), and the long-term effects of repeated concussions may include dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and other neurological disorders.” The decision to let players continue in a game, wrote these learned medical experts, should be made solely by doctors.

It turns out that FIFA doesn’t have any clear rules about what to do in case a player suffers an apparent concussion. But the fact that Kramer stayed in the game, no matter how important a World Cup final match might be, was at best highly questionable. “I can’t remember very much but it doesn’t matter now,” the dazed player reportedly said after the game was over.

If the medical professionals are right about how serious concussions can be, Kramer and his teammates might well have a different take on things a few years down the road.

TIME Research

The Alarming Reasons Infants Die in Bed

Teddy bears on crib
Image Source/Getty Images

New study reveals the greatest risks

Sharing a bed and objects in bed are the biggest risk factors for sleeping infants, according to a new study.

The study published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday found that babies aged 0-3 months were most likely to die as a result of bed-sharing. For older infants ages four months to a year, the greatest risk for sleep-related death is objects in the sleep environment, the study found.

The study relied on a database compiled between 2004 and 2012—using information from 24 states—by the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths. Researchers analyzed 8,207 deaths in total.

Of the younger victims, 74% were sharing a bed at the time of their death. The study defines “bed-sharing” as sleeping with a person or an animal. Of the older victims, 39% of deaths happened in a sleep area containing an object such as a blanket or a pillow. And 18% changed their sleeping position from on their side or on their back to prone.

But the study makes it clear that it hasn’t uncovered any clear cause and effect. Instead it states its “objective was to determine any associations between risk factors for sleep-related deaths at different ages.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines on safe sleep environments suggest placing babies on their back on a firm surface, in the same room as their parents, and with no soft objects or loose bedding until the age of one.

TIME space

See the Supermoon from the International Space Station

The Supermoon captured from the International Space Station.
Alexander Gerst—NASA The Supermoon captured from the International Space Station.


Astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted this amazing picture of the above-earth view of a supermoon early Monday, when the moon was still behind the horizon.

Gerst is a German astronaut aboard the International Space Station and among many astronauts using the social media site to share incredible pictures of the view from space. Gerst often uses the hashtag #bluedot, a nod to the iconic image of Earth taken from Saturn. And earlier in July, NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman tweeted above-earth images of Super Typhoon Neoguri. Three astronauts recently spoke to TIME about life above the earth, read their comments in this week’s issue.

TIME natural disaster

7 Quakes Hit Oklahoma in Less Than a Day

Oil Drilling Earthquakes
Sue Ogrocki—AP Computer screens displaying data of real-time monitoring of seismic activity throughout the state of Oklahoma are pictured at the Oklahoma Geological Survey at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., Thursday, June 26, 2014. Earthquakes that have shaken Oklahoma communities in recent months have damaged homes, alarmed residents and prompted lawmakers and regulators to investigate what's behind the temblors — and what can be done to stop them.

The biggest temblor clocked in at 4.3 on the Richter scale

Oklahoma was rocked by seven small earthquakes in a span of about 14 hours over the weekend, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

Three quakes hit between Saturday evening and Sunday morning, centered in the areas of Guthrie, Jones and Langston, and ranging between 2.6 and 2.9 in magnitude. They followed four larger temblors earlier on Saturday, including one near Langston shortly after noon that clocked in at 4.3 on the Richter scale.

TIME Italy

It’s Make or Break for the World’s Biggest Marine Salvage Operation

The Costa Concordia salvage operation has entered its next, most dangerous phase

It’s a record attempt in heavy lifting that nobody wishes to ever be matched. On Monday, the operation to raise and refloat the capsized 114,500-ton cruise ship Costa Concordia was finally started. If all goes well, the vessel will be towed away to the Italian port city of Genoa, where it will be decommissioned. However, after more than two and a half years on the sea floor, experts fear the delicate maneuver will rupture the prone ship’s hull, spewing out its toxic load — including fuel and dangerous chemicals — into the pristine Tuscan archipelago.

The Costa Concordia veered off course and ran aground outside the island of Giglio in January 2012, killing 32 people and leaving the enormous liner partially submerged in the shallow waters. In tandem with a legal process against the ship’s captain, a salvage operation of unparalleled proportions was commenced. All but one of the victims’ bodies have been recovered, and in a massive September 2013 exercise, the ship was turned upright (parbuckled) and secured on an artificial platform.

Now begins the final phase. Giant tanks welded to the sides of the 290-m-long wreck will be emptied of water, slowly raising it out of the water. Every floor surfaced will be cleaned of debris and potentially harmful substances that could spill into the sea. They will also be surveyed for signs of Russel Rebello, the Indian waiter who remains missing.

“I strongly believe they will find the body of my dear brother,” writes Russel’s brother Kevin in a Facebook post.

Weather conditions have delayed the operation on several occasions, but even though the forecast still isn’t ideal, the salvage crew has pushed ahead, since the hulk would unlikely survive another winter. In fact, it could already have deteriorated too badly for the refloating procedure and subsequent 240-km tow to Genoa. The first 2 m of the raising are the most dangerous, and the hull will constantly be monitored for possible cracks and fissures.

Cutting up the ship in place is not an option. “It’s far more dangerous to the environment to leave it where it is than to tow it away,” Italy’s civil-protection chief Franco Gabrielli explained to Giglio residents. With luck, they could bid farewell to their unwanted, view-spoiling neighbor in just a couple of weeks. Refloating Costa Concordia and moving it into open waters is estimated to take between five and seven days, tugging it to safety another four to five.

TIME

Behold the Supermoon: Photos from Around the World

The stunning lunar event occurs when the moon is full at the point in its orbit where it is closest to Earth

TIME Food

Study: Organic Produce Has Fewer Pesticides, More Antioxidants

Organic produce
Getty Images

New research comes down on the side of organic food, but doesn't make any claims about health effects

Organically-grown fruits, vegetables and grains have substantially higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of pesticides than conventionally-grown produce, according to a comprehensive review of earlier studies on the matter.

Organic crops contain 17 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown crops, according to the study, to be published next week in the British Journal of Nutrition.

“It shows very clearly how you grow your food has an impact,” Carlo Leifert, a professor of ecological agriculture at Newcastle University in England who led the research, told the New York Times. “If you buy organic fruits and vegetables, you can be sure you have, on average, a higher amount of antioxidants at the same calorie level.”

The findings contradict a similar analysis published two years ago by Stanford scientists, who found that there are only minor differences in the nutritional content of organic and conventionally-grown foods.

However, the new study does not claim eating organic food leads to better health. However, many studies have suggested that antioxidants have been linked to a lower risk of cancer and other diseases.

Organic food purchases accounted for just over four percent of the total food market in the United States last year, or $32.3 billion.

[NYT]

TIME review

Planet of the Apes: That Couldn’t Happen….Right?

DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, Toby Kebbell, Andy Serkis, 2014. ph: David James/TM and ©Copyright
Twentieth Century Fox/Courtesy of Everett Collection Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the eighth film in the series.

There's science behind the new sci-fi movie—some of it turns out to be pretty sound

Part of the job of any science reporter is to ruin your moviegoing experience. Blown away by Gravity? Here are all the ways they got the science wrong. Charmed by A Beautiful Mind? Sorry, it utterly fails to capture the essence of mathematics (and that moving fountain-pen ceremony is a total fabrication, says Princeton University, where it was supposed to have taken place, so there).

Now comes Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, a film rich in opportunities to take scientific potshots. I mean, c’mon—super-intelligent chimps who form their own breakaway society? Which is in some ways more gentle and noble than the human one they left behind, although they’ll fight if they must? How absurd is that? Could such a thing ever happen?

Well, not next week, but while Dawn isn’t exactly reality based, the science underneath all of that dramatic speculation isn’t entirely bogus either. Take the apes’ transition from ordinary chimpiness to hyper-intelligence, as laid out in 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It comes about through an experimental virus that alters the animals genetically. In fact, deactivated viruses are how doctors attempt to inject new, healthy genes into victims of genetic disorders. The technology is still highly experimental, but there’s no reason to think it won’t be perfected someday.

Moreover, while it’s clear that there’s no single gene governing intelligence—and that intelligence itself comes in different types—it’s equally clear that smarts, however you define them, have a genetic component. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine that we’ll identify the genes in question, and find ways to insert them into the brains of both people and, should we be so insane as to do so, apes as well.

Ok, so apes with enhanced intelligence, check.

As for how these simian Einsteins would actually behave, the film is at least plausible on that score as well—as long as you don’t look too closely. That’s how Frans de Waal sees it. He’s an expert on primate behavior based at Emory University, and he says there are key elements in the movie that ring true.

For one thing, he says, chimps may never be fully as intelligent as humans, gene therapy notwithstanding (“our brains are physically three times bigger—this is not a small difference”). But de Waal adds, “chimps do have many mental capacities—thinking about the future, planning ahead,” which are necessary for the sort of strategic thinking they do in the movie. “So that’s not unrealistic.”

It’s also not at all unrealistic that the primates in Dawn would band together to fight their human antagonists. “Chimps do wage war,” de Waal says. “They’re quite territorial.” As an admirer of chimps and other primates, he was worried that his cross-species friends might be stereotyped. “I was afraid they’d portray the apes as aggressive and the humans as angelic—but it’s the opposite. The apes want peace in the beginning.”

Also realistic is the stormy relationship between noble Caesar, the apes’ leader, and Koba, the cranky ape who was scarred both physically and psychologically by cruel humans. “They fight,” says de Waal, “but they reconcile afterward, which is something chimps really do. I’ve studied this for many years.” In real life, he explains, chimps patch up their differences by kissing on the mouth, whereas in the film they make up with a more conventionally manly hand-clasp. But still, bonus points for truthiness.

De Waal notes a few other, less defensible inaccuracies. Real apes don’t produce tears when they’re sad, but Dawn apes do; real apes don’t walk on two legs nearly as much as the Dawn apes. They don’t use spoken language, either, and while de Waal believes they could if they really wanted or needed to, it’s not clear why they would prefer speaking to signing—something apes are already physiologically equipped for. To the extent that that and other forms of ape body language are shown, they’re misrepresented. “The apes’ nonverbal communication has been humanized,” he says.

De Waal’s other complaint, albeit a minor one: “This is very much a macho movie,” he says. “It has only a few female characters. It’s mostly just males running around and shooting each other.” A true portrayal of ape society—even one based on a science-fictional premise—would include typical behaviors like feeding, grooming and sex. “It disturbed me a little,” he says. “It was just like a Schwarzenegger movie.”

With lots more body hair, of course.

TIME space

You Should Worry (a Little) About Falling Space Debris

Clean up your room: A NASA rendering of the low Earth orbit debris field
NASA/JSC Clean up your room: A NASA rendering of the low Earth orbit debris field

A satellite's fiery reentry over Melbourne is a reminder of the danger of putting too much junk in space

Australia knows a thing or two about getting clobbered by stuff from space. It was in 1979 that America’s out-of-control Skylab space station came auguring in from orbit and scattered its remains across the Australian outback—a story captured by this memorable TIME cover. On Thursday there was a repeat performance, when a truck-sized piece of debris from a Russian rocket streaked across the skies over Melbourne—this time in the era of smartphones, which meant that videos and stills of the fireworks went viral instantly, with all sorts of sky-is-falling commentary.

That, in fairness, is perfectly understandable. There’s no light show quite like an incoming meteor or other hunk of ordnance—equal parts exhilarating and terrifying, depending on the size of whatever’s heading earthward. But we really ought to get used to these events, because there’s no shortage of rubbish in space — and the cosmic junk yard is only growing.

It’s been nearly 60 years since Russia’s Sputnik satellite went into orbit, starting its brief life as the planet’s first artificial moon and ending it as its first bit of space garbage. The satellite itself wasn’t the only piece of rubbish that was involved. Its spent booster fell back toward Earth well before Sputnik reached orbit, but all manner of minor debris—bolts, paint chips and other shards of stuff—made it to space. In the six decades since, those early bits of litter have multiplied exponentially. According to NORAD, NASA and other groups that track space debris, there are at least 21,000 orbiting objects 10 cm (3 in.) or larger currently circling the Earth, at least 500,000 in the 1 to 10 cm range, and more than 100 million smaller than 1 cm. The Union of Concerned Scientists lists 1,167 operational satellites now in orbit—and there may be at least as many dead ones.

All of them, eventually, will have to come home, and that gets people spooked, but it shouldn’t—at least not most of the time. First of all, most satellites will incinerate on their way down, though the bigger a piece of junk is and the denser the materials that make it up, the greater the chance it has of striking the surface. Still, fully 70% of that surface is water and most of the land that’s left is entirely uninhabited or only sparsely so. Yes, a burnt-out satellite falling earthward with central Shanghai in its crosshairs would create a deadly mess, but any one individual’s odds of getting hit (which, like it or not, is how most of us reckon these things) are very low.

NASA’s and NORAD’s continuous surveillance lowers that risk even further by modeling orbits and predicting just which pieces are coming in next, and some websites make it easy for the public to stay up-to-date too. The much greater risk from out of control satellites is not to people on Earth, but to other objects still in orbit. Even then though, collisions are less common than they’d seem. The biggest of the relatively small handful of errors in the blockbuster Gravity was (unfortunately) its central premise, which was that a collision between two satellites had created a high speed storm of debris that was racing around Earth in the same orbit as the shuttle and space station and pummeling both structures on each pass. But orbital physics make that impossible.

All objects in the same orbit move at the same speed, so a collision between them is no more likely than if all of the cars on a highway were moving at exactly 60 mph. The gap between any two would never widen or narrow at all. The moment an orbiting object increases its speed even a little, it climbs to a higher orbit, in the same way a lasso will strain to inscribe a wider circle—and will if you loosen your grip on the rope enough—when you spin it faster. When a satellite slows, it drops to a lower orbit. It’s in those orbital shifts that a collision risk exists.

There’s an even greater danger if two satellites orbiting at the same altitude but at different inclinations—say 23º and 56º above the equator—cross paths. Here the accident is more analogous to a westbound car running a stop sign and colliding with a northbound one in the intersection. Such an accident happened in 2009, when an active American satellite and a defunct Russian one crossed paths 500 miles (800 km) above Siberia.

Both of those ships were utterly demolished—which naturally led to a lot of nervous gulps about what would have happened if one of them had been carrying people, though the same regular satellite tracking that goes on every day would likely allow a crewed ship to take evasive action well in advance. Of greater concern is small debris, the kind that’s way too tiny to see but powerful enough to do real damage. The back-of-the-envelope calculation back in the Apollo days was that a chip of paint moving at orbital speed packs about as much of a wallop as a bowling ball moving at 60 mph (96 k/h), and those physics haven’t changed—and never will. Shielding on big-target structures like the space station helps reduce that risk, though nothing can eliminate it entirely.

Ultimately, the answer, as with any environmental issue on Earth, is for people to quit making such a mess of space and clean up what’s already there. But consider how often we actually follow that straightforward advice on Earth. So again: gulp.

TIME

A Stinky Compound May Protect Against Cell Damage, Study Finds

102120949
Getty Images Cream cheese

The research is early, but the implications are big

Correction appended, July 14.

Scientists from the University of Exeter say that a compound found in the smell of rotten eggs and human flatulence might some day be useful in mitigating the cell damage responsible in part for certain diseases.

The study, published in a recent issue of the journal Medicinal Chemistry Communications, examined the impact of hydrogen sulfide gas—which humans produce in small amounts during digestion—on cells’ mitochondria. Although the gas is noxious in large doses, scientists found that cellular exposure to smaller amounts of the compound may prevent mitochondrial damage. This could have future implications in the prevention of strokes, arthritis, heart disease, among other things, the researchers say.

When disease stresses the body’s cells, the cells draw in enzymes to generate “minute quantities of hydrogen sulfide” that protects mitochondria, the scientists says. Mitochondria essentially act as generators for cells’ energy output, and protecting against mitochondrial damage is central to preventing certain diseases. We have exploited this natural process by making a compound, called AP39, which slowly delivers very small amounts of this gas specifically to the mitochondria,” University of Exeter Professor Matt Whiteman said in a statement. “Our results indicate that if stressed cells are treated with AP39, mitochondria are protected and cells stay alive.”

While this experiment was limited to cell exposure in a lab—as opposed to humans inhaling the scent of rotten eggs—the University of Exeter researchers say that they are “working toward advancing the research to a stage where it can be tested in humans.”

Dr. Mark Wood, another one of the Exeter researchers, went so far as to call the compound a “healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases” in a university press release.

This research is interesting but preliminary. While no conclusions can be made at this time, may this news let you wince just a little bit less the next time you’re assaulted by a rotten-egg smell.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly summarized the findings and implications of this study.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com