Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Rare discovery in the City of David and when a tapeworm invades your brain and Happy Chul Amoud

"A plague of Leprosy " (13:2)
As a preface to this important subject, we must note our dread of this fearsome malady and our sympathy
for the man that experienced the symptoms of leprosy and the extreme hardships which he is forced to
endure as a result of his sad condition. Hashem foresaw this reaction by the readers of the Torah, and He
certainly intended to cause such a reaction by means of this Parasha. The fear of leprosy is a cause to Fear
Hashem, and it generates gratitude to Hashem for protecting us from such sad misfortune.
Yet we must understand that the miracle of leprosy is actually a model for all forms of misfortune, which
must be considered the work of Hashem. "When a man sees misfortune come upon him, let him search in
his deeds" ( Berachot 5A ). The purpose of the plague and misfortunes in general, is to make me more
Aware of Hashem and especially to remind them how great was Hashem's Kindness hitherto.
Even if the leprosy had been sent upon a man for no sin that he committed, yet by his affliction he performs
an important service to Hashem; for he provides a lesson and a warning to all men that they take heed and
guard against evil-doing. Similarly, poverty is sometimes visited upon entirely virtuous persons for
some purpose, such as "that we should be rescued by them from the judgment of Gehinom"
(Baba Batra 10A) by aiding them.
Thus, although leprosy or poverty may be Hashem's retribution upon a sinner, yet when an innocent man
is similarly afflicted he may thereby be considered as one chosen by Hashem to perform an important service
of teaching others by his suffering what could come upon them, for which he shall gain a great merit
of reward.
Love Yehuda Lave

Rare discovery in the City of David

2,600-year-old seal impression and stamp bearing names from Biblefound in public building destroyed during the destrucion of First Temple.

A rare and exciting discovery: A bulla (seal impression) and a 2,600-year-old stamp bearing Hebrew names were uncovered in the City of David. The artifacts were discovered inside a public building that was destroyed during the destruction of the First Temple and were uncovered in archaeological excavations of the Givati Parking Lot in the City of David National Park in Jerusalem. The dig was conducted by archeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University.


According to Prof. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority who were responsible for the dig, these special artifacts were found inside a large public building, that was destroyed in the sixth century BCE - likely during the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE. Large stone debris, burnt wooden beams and numerous charred pottery shards were discovered in the building, all indications that they had survived an immense fire. The importance of this building can be discerned, among other things, from its size, the finely cut ashlar stones from which it was built and the quality of the architectural elements found in the layers of destruction - for example, remnants of a polished plaster floor, which had collapsed and caved into the floor below.


The stamp and bulla, which are about one centimeter in size, were deciphered by Dr. Anat Mendel-Geberovich of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Center for the Study of Ancient Jerusalem, who, according to the script, dates them to the middle of the seventh century to the beginning of the sixth century BCE.


The seal impression, dated to the First Temple period, features the words: "(belonging) to Nathan-Melech, Servant of the King" (LeNathan-Melech Eved HaMelech). The name Nathan-Melech appears once in the Bible, in the second book of Kings 23:11, where he is described as an official in the court of King Josiah, who took part in the religious reform that the king was implementing: "And he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entrance of the house of the Lord, by the chamber of Nathan-Melech the officer, which was in the precincts; and he burned the chariots of the sun with fire."


The title "Servant of the King" (Eved HaMelech) is appears often in the Bible to describe a high-ranking official close to the king. This title appears on other stamps and seal impressions that were found in the past. This seal impression is the first archaeological evidence of the name Biblical Nathan-Melech.


Dr. Mendel-Geberovich notes that the fact that this official was mentioned by his first name alone indicates that he was known to all, and there was no need to add his family lineage.


According to Mendel-Geberovich, "Although it is not possible to determine with complete certainty that the Nathan-Melech who is mentioned in the Bible was in fact the owner of the stamp, it is impossible to ignore some of the details that link them together."


Bullae were small pieces of clay impressed by personal seals, used in ancient times to sign letters. While the parchment that they sealed didn't survive the fires that devastated ancient Jerusalem, the bullae, which are made of ceramic-like material, were preserved, leaving evidence of the correspondence and those behind them.


stamp of Ikar son of Matanyahu (Eliyahu Yanai, City of David)


A stamp-seal was also in discovered the same place, made of bluish agate stone, engraved with the name - "(belonging) to Ikar son of Matanyahu" (LeIkar Ben Matanyahu). According to Dr. Mendel-Geberovich, "The name Matanyahu appears both in the Bible and on additional stamps and bullae already unearthed. However, this is the first reference to the name "Ikar," which was unknown until today." She believes that despite the literal meaning of Ikar which is farmer, it most likely refers to a private individual with that name as opposed to a description of his occupation. It is still unclear who this person was. Private stamps were used to sign documents, and were often set in signet rings carried by their owners. In ancient times these stamps noted the identity, lineage and status of their owners.


According to Prof. Yuval Gadot of Tel Aviv University and Dr. Yiftah Shalev of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "Since many of the well-known bullae and stamps have not come from organized archaeological excavations but rather from the antiquities market, the discovery of these two artifacts in a clear archaeological context that can be dated is very exciting. They join the bullae and stamps bearing names written in ancient Hebrew script, which were discovered in the various excavations that have been conducted in the City of David until today. These artifacts attest to the highly developed system of administration in the Kingdom of Judah and add considerable information to our understanding of the economic status of Jerusalem and its administrative system during the First Temple period, as well as personal information about the king's closest officials and administrators who lived and worked in the city."


Moreover, "The discovery of a public building such as this, on the western slope of the City of David, provides a lot of information about the city's structure during this period and the size of its administrative area." The destruction of this building in the fire, apparently during the Babylonian conquest of the city in 586 BCE, strengthens our understanding of the intensity of the destruction in the city."


Both of these artifacts will be presented in full in the Israel Exploration Journal, the archaeological journal published by the Israel Exploration Society.


The dig (Kobi Har'eti, City of David)


See what happens when tapeworms infest your brain

A tragic case report shows the horrifying result when tapeworms don't stay confined to your intestines.

By Sara Chodosh March 29, 2019
pig snout dirt

Pigs are a crucial part of the tapeworm life cycle.


Tapeworms are revolting no matter where you find them. But when they are in your gut, at least the parasites are in their natural habitat. We are, unfortunately, their primary hosts and, as parasites, their job is to colonize our intestines, shed eggs out our bums, and infect other animals.

Normally, they perform this job relatively quietly. They eat your food and hang out inside your guts, but they don't generally want to kill you. That'd reduce their number of potential homes. That's why many people infected with tapeworms stay fairly symptom-free (we regret to inform you that often folks realize they're infected when bits of the worms start coming out in their poop). In the rare event the intestinal infection does cause symptoms, they usually include loss of appetite, weight loss, an upset stomach, and perhaps abdominal pain.

But that's all assuming they stay in your gut.

As one tragic case report in the New England Journal of Medicinethis week shows, that's not always

Tapeworms can get into other parts of your body and cause much more severe symptoms. A teenager in India who had been infected with tapeworms died as a result of numerous cysts—formed by the tapeworms—in his brain (he had them throughout his body as well), which doctors only found when he showed up at the emergency room in Faridabad with generalized tonic-clonic seizures. These full-brain seizures, plus his groin pain, eye swelling, and general confusion are fairly common symptoms for bodily infection with tapeworms.

It is possible for tapeworms to migrate out of human intestines, according to the Mayo Clinic, but this kind of full-body infection results from a different disease pathway and is far more common in another animal: pigs.

The kind of tapeworm infection an animal gets largely depends on which stage of life the worm is in when you ingest the parasite. Tapeworms, specifically the species Taenia solium, have a life cycle that depends on both humans and pigs (there's also a beef tapeworm, but it doesn't cause bodily cysts). T. solium begins life as an egg inside a human, though it quickly departs out the anus. Pigs who consume either feces or infected water also ingest the eggs. Those eggs travel to the pig's guts, where they hatch, burrow through the intestinal wall, and migrate to the farm animal's muscles and organs. There they become cysts. This kind of infection is known as cysticercosis, which is different from what we'd call "having tapeworms" the way most people get them.

Humans usually become infected because they eat undercooked pork with infective cysts, thus leaving the worms (called cysticerci) alive. The cysticerci travel to our guts, where they mature into  adult tapeworms roughly 10 feet long, which in turn lay eggs and start the whole process over.

Technically, though, as this case study proves, if a human eats the tapeworm eggs, we can get cysts just like pigs. That's what happened to this poor boy—he must've eaten the eggs at some point, gotten infected, and not realized until his body was riddled with cysts. (And please note, you can't get these cyst just from eating undercooked pork.)

The specific form of the disease this boy had, neurocysticercosis, is very rare in developed nations because farms in those areas have hygiene standards intended to avoid any potential contamination of both pigs and humans. Unfortunately, that doesn't make it rare worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that roughly 2.5 to 8.3 million people suffer from neurocysticercosis every year, mostly in developing parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Subsistence farmers there don't have access to the same resources to prevent disease, and thus infections are far more common.

If you're reading this in a country like the U.S., though, you're highly unlikely to ever even be exposed to tapeworm eggs unless you travel internationally. Consider yourself lucky.

You can (and should) train yourself to sleep on your back

Get back to basics.

By Eleanor Cummins February 19, 2018


Your sleep position could be hurting you.

Wavebreakmedia via Depositphotos

American adults are in pain. A 2015 study from the National Institutes of Health showed that 25 million U.S. adults cope with chronic pain every day. While everyone's suffering is different—there are as many sources of pain as people—for many, how you sleep plays a crucial role.

Members of my own family are a part of this statistic: My grandma has purchased every pillow on the market to find one that supports her ever-aching neck, and my father relies on physical therapy exercises to keep his shoulder pain in check. I myself have tried purchasing a supportive mattress and pliable pillow, and I eat healthy and exercise regularly, but I still feel sore and stiff in the morning. According to the experts, it might be time to change my sleeping position.

Advice for side-sleepers

Most Americans sleep on their sides, according to the National Sleep Foundation. While many of them presumably do it without pain, this is not the best way to sleep. It can cause shoulder and hip pain, for one.

On top of that, several studies have shown that sleeping on your right side can aggravate heartburn. Scientists think that's because lying in this position loosens your lower esophageal sphincter, the involuntary muscles that keep acid from rising up out of your stomach and into your throat. Sleeping on the left side, however, seems to keep the trap door between the throat and stomach shut, so leftie sleepers are less likely to feel the burn.

Shelby Harris, a sleep medicine expert and a professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says that there's no need to change your sleep position if it's working for you. But if you're waking up in pain, you can take steps to improve your situation.

She says side sleepers should buy pillows that are thick enough to support their heads, taking some of the pressure off their shoulders. If you experience acid reflux or heartburn, try to sleep on your left side. And, Harris says, tuck a pillow under your knees to better support your lower back.

101 on stomach sleeping

Side sleeping is hardly the worst of it. Though they're rare, the seven percent of stomach sleepers are likely doing themselves a world of hurt. Because this position puts pressure on the entirety of their body, they're at risk of numbness and tingling. If they turn their head to one side or another to breathe, that further increases the possibility of muscle and joint pain.

If you're a stomach sleeper, Harris recommends using a flatter pillow to reduce strain on your neck. Other doctors suggest putting a pillow underneath your forehead to elevate your mouth and nose. This lets you sleep with your face straight down, eliminating that crick in the neck altogether.

Back sleeping is best

Only eight percent of people sleep on their backs. If you're naturally one of them, count your lucky sheep. Back sleeping is the best option for pain management, as it allows your body to rest in a neutral position, which is great for reducing aches. It also cuts down on heartburn, as it keeps your head elevated above your chest.

For a back sleeper, Harris recommends resting your head on a pillow that's thick—or thin—enough to keep your skull exactly level with your body. But, she warns, even with a perfect pillow, this position is not great for snorers. Back sleeping can cause sleep apnea or exacerbate existing cases of the disorder. So if you're prone to this problem, or find yourself suddenly suffering from new symptoms while lying on your back, then this isn't the pose for you.

Wikimedia Commons

Find the sleep position that's right for you.

Wikimedia Commons

Switch your sleep position

Even after taking this advice, side- and stomach-sleepers may still wake up sore. As a last resort, Harris says you can actually train yourself to sleep on your back.

When you're ready for bed, put pillows on both sides of your body, and one under your knees. This should hold you in place and keep you from flipping to one side.

If that doesn't cut it, Harris has an advanced method: Sew a tennis ball into the lining of your shirt on whatever side you need to avoid. When you flop onto your side or stomach, the discomfort will ensure you flip back over, even if you're dead asleep.

The proposition of changing the way you sleep seems preposterous. After all, you're asleep. How much can you really control? As an achy side-sleeper, I took the challenge myself, using a knee pillow and side pillows in an attempt to train myself to sleep on my back. I found it took longer to fall asleep, but that when I did, I stayed in place, and when I woke up later in the night, I found my eyes staring at the ceiling.

Back-sleeping significantly improved my neck and shoulder pain—but it was also nearly impossible to commit to. Sleeping on my back didn't feel natural; I craved curling up in the fetal position. And that, Harris says, is where the rubber meets the repose.

"Although it is commonly recommended that sleeping on your back is the best position to sleep in, comfort is key," she says. "If you're in pain or uncomfortable from your sleep position, it can definitely impact your sleep quality." In other words, if changing your sleep position makes you feel better, that's great. But Harris stresses you still need to sleep soundly to stay healthy. "Sleep quality is extremely important in your overall health, memory, mood, and energy," she says. When trying to sleep differently starts disrupting your circadian rhythms, then you know it's not worth it.

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Personally, I'm still trying to start my night sleeping on my back, but I don't get upset if I wake to find I turned over in the night. My hope is that, along with other alterations to my nighttime habits, I'll have more days when I wake up rested—and maybe even ready to jump out of bed.


How a zebra's stripes put bloodthirsty flies into a tailspin

This optical illusion serves a purpose.

By Jessica Boddy February 21, 2019
close-up of a zebra

Zebra stripes are more than just on-trend. They protect zebras from biting flies and lethal diseases.

Tom McNamara

Why do zebras have stripes? Many have considered the classic quandary, Darwin included. Stripes could be camouflage, create herd-wide optical illusions to deter hungry carnivores like lions or Cruella de Vil, or maybe even help manage the animal's body heat. Despite so many plausible solutions, biologists from UC Davis finally cracked the case back in 2014. Their comprehensive study found zebra stripes effectively repel bloodthirsty, biting flies, many of which carry lethal diseases.

Despite having the why of it all, the team couldn't help but wonder how exactly the stripes worked. To find out, they devised a handful of experiments to reveal the behavior and flight patterns of the flies as they circle and land on zebras. Their new study, published Wednesday in PLOS ONE, shows horseflies zoom straight toward their striped meals, and after getting close, wham into them so hard they bounce off like tiny cannonballs.

"Just like when you're flying on an airplane, a controlled landing is extremely important for flies," says Tim Caro, a behavioral ecologist at UC Davis and lead author on the new study. "They don't want to break a leg or damage an eye. So when a fly comes in looking for a blood meal they need to slow down. Somehow stripes are preventing that from happening."

Zebra wild nature safari stripes science

A zebra

butt in its natural habitat.

Tom McNamara

Caro and his colleagues figured this out by studying a motley herd of three captive plains zebras and nine horses on a farm in the United Kingdom. First, they did a purely observational experiment. The team put zebras in one pen and horses in another, and counted the flies that attempted to land on each animal. While around the same number of flies bumped into both species, significantly more managed to actually land and linger on horses. That made Caro think that flies can't really see stripes from far away—and get confused by them up close.

The researchers took the next logical step: they dressed both species in stylish little black, white, and black-and-white striped coats to see how the flies would react. Again, they found that significantly fewer flies were able to successfully land on the zebra coats compared to the solid ones. And flies had no problem landing on the bare heads of horses wearing zebra coats, suggesting it really is the stripes giving the flies trouble. (Of course, more research is needed to say this for sure, since this sample size is pretty small. An ideal test might consist of an entire Kentucky Derby's worth of horses and zebras, and take place on the African savannah instead of blustery old England.)

Finally, the researchers took some high-speed video footage to really dissect how stripes turn flies into miniature bloodthirsty projectiles. Caro says it came down to the final 500 milliseconds before the flies made contact with zebra skin. "They just totally broke down in that last half second," he says. "There was absolutely no deceleration compared to how they'd decelerate to land on a horse."

Horse in zebra's clothing

The researchers dressed their test subjects in the pinnacle of fall/winter 2019-2020 fashion: zebra print.

Tim Caro/UC Davis

Other scientists have performed similarly creative experiments to look at how biting flies respond to stripes. In January, a team published research showing striped body paint could protect humans against horseflies—a conclusion they reached by painting life-sized mannequins with stripes and covering them in glue. After parking the plastic figures in a field, the team catalogued which bugs stuck to which dolls.

But on the zebra front, much more research still needs to be done to understand just how their stripes confuse tiny fly brains. Caro has a lot more questions: Do they think a stripe is a gap, and try to fly through it? Do the stripes create confusing optical illusions like a barber pole that makes flies panic? Are models Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner protected by their zebra print fashions? Will the rest of us be safer when these runway looks finally trickle down to the masses? Only further research can say for sure. "As always in science, once you've answered one question, you get three new ones," he says.

See you tomorrow
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