Could people regrow lost limbs?

Many species can regrow limbs or even more. A flatworm can grow a replacement head and brain. A Mexican salamander can regenerate everything even its spinal cord. And young humans can grow back a sliver of a fingertip.
Michael Levin thinks that humans someday will be able to regrow limbs. Levin is director of the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology at Tufts University. His research specialty is bioelectricity and he has had some amazing results in developmental biology.
The work of his team has so far been with amphibians such as tadpoles. This spring they will start working with mice. If the techniques work on mammals, the research may someday turn into drugs and medical devices that let humans regenerate limbs, eyes, etc.

Education – we can do better

“In 100 years, we have gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching Remedial English in college.” — Joseph Sobran

A former Marine Corps Drill Sergeant took a job as a teacher. Just before the school year started he injured his back and had to wear an upper body cast under his shirt. Assigned to the toughest students in the school, the sergeant walked into the classroom, opened the window and sat down at his desk. When a strong breeze made his tie flap, he picked up a stapler and stapled the tie to his chest.

There was dead silence. He had no trouble with discipline that year.

Which leads us, albeit indirectly, to our schools. A website from the NH Department of Education,, has a wealth of data about individual schools, a school district, or the entire state.

I have been looking at the statewide data but similar data is available for individual schools or school districts such as my town of Sunapee, or Claremont, or the Kearsarge Regional School District. What really caught my eye is the student assessments. The 11th grade numbers are particularly disappointing – only 37% are proficient in math; only 40% are proficient in writing. To put it bluntly, three-fifths of our kids are illiterate.

We can and should do better. There are schools in NH and in other states that score higher. We could learn from those schools. Heck, we probably could do better just by listening to our own school’s teachers. I can’t help thinking that some of our problems are due to bad dictates from our state’s Department of Education.

I have talked with some parents and teachers. One comment I heard more than once is that we set the bar too low. One NH school sets the bar so low that two-thirds of the kids are on the honor roll. Some public school teachers send their own kids to private school to be challenged by higher standards. When faced with difficult challenges most kids can accomplish amazing things.

Marva Collins demonstrated that fact when she started a school in inner-city Chicago. Marva took in learning-disabled, problem children and even one child who had been labeled by Chicago public school authorities as borderline retarded. At the end of the first year, every child scored at least FIVE grades higher. The “borderline retarded” girl went on to graduate from college Summa Cum Laude. Mrs. Collins’ curriculum is based on classical literature, including Aesop’s Fables and works by William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, and even Plato – in 3rd and 4th grades.

Equally amazing is an Alabama family with 10 kids, all entering college by age 12. The first became the youngest graduate ever of Auburn University. Another is on her way to become one of the youngest physicians in American history. A sister became a licensed architect by age 18. One of the boys will complete his masters in Computer Science just after his 17th birthday. The parents aren’t brilliant people. All they did was find out what their kids really enjoyed, and then encourage them to follow their passions. They never pushed their kids to get straight “A”s but just to “have a fun day.” These parents “are convinced that all children have the capacity to learn at the rate theirs have.”

Those two parents and Marva Collins were confident that kids could learn quickly and well when given challenging materials. Internationally, most other countries demand more from their kids and those kids achieve more. High expectations lead to high results. I would very much like to hear from more teachers and parents. Is it just a few, or many, or most of them who think that we should set higher standards?

Which brings us to Common Core Standards. It is touted as setting higher standards but some experts say it actually sets lower standards. The people who developed Common Core had little to no previous experience writing standards. The two most experienced members, Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram, refused to sign off on the new standards and are now actively opposing them.

How is Common Core working out in the real world? The simple fact is that it was never tested in the real world. That is why one Manchester, NH parent complained “Why are you experimenting with my kids? Please don’t tell me this isn’t experimental when my middle school daughter comes home crying because she failed a math quiz because she got the correct answers using the outdated method she was taught last year. This parent respectfully and passionately asks this board to stop experimenting on his kids.”

A mother wrote, “My ten year old daughter asked me what it would take for me to let her stay home from school forever. Forever. Not tomorrow, not this week. Forever. … these Common Core standards … are hurting children, causing them to give up on themselves at ten years old.”

And from a teacher: “Children are drowning in school anxiety, families find their evenings descending into a sea of tears, and the usual joy of school and all it should entail has been vanished … because the “great minds” behind Common Core can’t craft clear homework directions, select age-appropriate curriculum or resist the urge to burden kids with high-stakes testing at every turn.”

Amazing medical device for healing burns

This “skin cell gun” is an amazing device for healing 2nd degree burns. It is so incredible that I wondered if it was a hoax – but it is not. It is a very real, life-saving device.

The skin cell gun is like a paint sprayer but instead of paint it sprays skin cells. Doctors collect adult stem cells from the patient’s undamaged skin, place them in a sterile syringe then spray onto the burnt skin. Temporary dressings provide nutrition for the stem cells to grow and create new skin. Compared to the weeks or months of conventional treatment, the skin gun works in days and weeks.

The FDA still has not approved the device after more than 5 years of development, so it has been used for only a limited number of experimental procedures. Which raises the question of freedom of choice. If you are badly burnt should the decision of how to treat the burn be between you and your doctor or should the government make that choice for you? I suggest that the FDA’s approval be advisory, not prohibitory. If your doctor and you decide that the treatment is best for you, then the government should not have any right to stop you from employing a treatment that could save your life.

Oh, one other thing. ObamaCare created a new tax on medical devices such as the skin gun. People, especially those who have benefited from life-saving medical devices, worry that the new tax will discourage development of future devices.

Chronic back pain often curable with antibiotics

“Up to 40% of patients with chronic back pain could be cured with a course of antibiotics rather than surgery“. Medical researchers after 10 years of hard work discovered that many cases of lower back pain are caused by bacterial infection.

A leading spinal surgeon said “the discovery was the greatest he had witnessed in his professional life, and that its impact on medicine was worthy of a Nobel prize.”

Ten home-schooled children enter college by age 12

Ten children home-schooled. Six entered college by age 12; the other four maybe earlier – the 10-year old plans to take her college exams next year. A doctor – one of the youngest in history, an architect at age 15,  an M.S. by age 17, a college senior at 14. It just goes on and on. An amazing family but they say they are just  ‘average folks’.

“[T]he Harding children insist they are not geniuses. Instead, they credit their achievements to home-schooling, as well as a concentrated focus on their passions, which their parents taught them to hone in on from an early age.”

The parents are “convinced that all children have the capacity to learn at the rate theirs have. [They] have written a book to illustrate their teaching method and launched a website detailing their unique approach.”

A 9-year old talks about the universe

Amazing. A million and a half views on YouTube. A nine-year old kid talks about multiverses, free will, the odds of intelligent life in the universe.

How did it happen? Part of the answer might be that the parents “treat their kids as if they’re intelligent young people, and not children who couldn’t possibly understand how the world (or universe) works.” These kids are encouraged to think out loud, to say what they think, even if they might be wrong.

(I thought I had posted this three weeks ago but apparently I forgot to push the Publish button. It’s a good thing the story is timeless.)

An AMAZING teenager

At age 14 he became the youngest person on earth to create a nuclear fusion reactor. His purpose was to build a fusion reactor small enough, cheap enough and safe enough to produce cancer-fighting medical isotopes as needed, in every hospital in the world.

He has competed in numerous international science fairs, winning more than $100,000.

A rational society would know what to do with a kid like Taylor Wilson, especially now that America’s technical leadership is slipping and scientific talent increasingly has to be imported. But by the time Taylor was 12, both he and his brother, Joey, who is three years younger and gifted in mathematics, had moved far beyond their school’s (and parents’) ability to meaningfully teach them. Both boys were spending most of their school days on autopilot, their minds wandering away from course work they’d long outgrown.

Fortunately, his parents discovered the Davidson Academy, “a subsidized public school for the nation’s smartest and most motivated students, those who score in the top 99.9th percentile on standardized tests.”

At age 13, Taylor sat in upper-division (university) nuclear physics classes. He learned bits of “nuclear and plasma physics, chemistry, radiation metrology and electrical engineering” to design his reactor. Shortly after his 14th birthday, he became the 32nd person in the world to create a nuclear fusion reaction.

Read the whole thing.

RELATED: Does it really make sense to treat all students alike, regardless of their individual abilities, all sorted by age and listening to the same lectures? “Is it time to rethink traditional public schools?”