Hey, all. It's getting pretty cold out there today in Capital City. We may even get some sleet or freezing rain tonight, but it's supposed to start warming back up again already by tomorrow afternoon.
And here's a curious piece of news for you football fans. The Boston University School of Medicine has recently been studying the brain tissue of retired NFL football players (samples taken posthumously), and has been finding that the brain injuries suffered by football players (professional players in this case, although damage is likely occurring in players competing below the professional level) as a result of repeated concussions is much more serious and more widespread than was previously suspected. The damage caused by repeated concussions is referred to as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and it can result in a progressive condition which effects areas of the brain ranging in function from emotion control to sexuality and even to basic functions such as breathing. People suffering with CTE may experience depression, cognitive impairment, and memory problems. Doctors who have studied the brain tissue (and CTE has been found in five out of five NFL players whose brains have been studied thus far) have found that the damage extends much deeper into the brain than they expected, and they've found that some of the damage mimics what is found in much older patients with dementia or Alzheimers (tissue from players who died relatively young, in their 30s and 40s, looks similar to the brain of an 80 year old with dementia).
Even though we're just now gaining medical knowledge about this condition, on some other level it has to sort of fall into the category of common sense (although perhaps common sense which was pushed aside in light of our enthusiasm for the sport). Taking extremely fast, powerful, full grown men and having them bash their heads into things repeatedly just can't really be very healthy when you think about it. (It seemed pretty intuitive to me, even in sixth grade, when the coach explained that I was going to be playing offensive line, and that my main job was to smash headfirst into the guy across from me. Over and over. For hours at a time during practice and games. For months on end every year. Running headfirst into the other biggest guy that an opposing team could find. And other people thought this was fun? I didn't last long in football.)
I know that people aren't going to want to give up the sport of football, so I'm sensing an investment opportunity for the first company that can come up with a new helmet that does a much better job of protecting the brain from injury. (Although I'm not sure of the physics. The padding of the helmet must already be protecting players' heads pretty well or they would walk around with bruises on the outside of their heads all of the time. Maybe the brain injuries and concussions are caused by the sudden jarring and the movement of the brain inside or against the skull? I'm not sure if that's the case, but if it is, that would make it a lot harder to make a safe helmet, I would think. I mean, you can cushion a collision, but it seems like it would be hard to stop the jarring motion of the sudden impacts that occur with football.)
Anyway, if someone can figure out how to make a substantially safer helmet, I would bet that there will be some money in that.
Sometimes I'm pretty happy that I didn't play football.
And is the world is coming to an end in 2012? There are apparently a number of stories about how the Mayan longcount calendar comes to an end in 2012, and predictions that the earth will expire on December 21, 2012. David Stuart, director of the Mesoamerica Center at the University of Texas, states, however, that "there is no serious scholar who puts any stock in the idea that the Maya said anything meaningful about 2012." A number of academics with an interest in Mayan culture have produced books which discount the idea that the Mayans predicted an apocalypse in 2012, but even the authors of those books doubt whether scholarly works can compete against the sensationalism of materials that propagate the doomsday myth. Other tales that have contributed to the 2012 doomsday myth include rumors of a magnetic reversal at Earth's poles, the passing of Earth through the galactic plane of the Milky Way galaxy, and the alignment of the Earth with the sun and the Milky Way's galactic center.
Well, NASA has explained that magnetic poles take thousands of years to shift (meaning some sort of catastrophic magnetic shift on a particular day in 2012 is unlikely), they've verified that we already passed the galactic plane 3 million years ago (meaning we're moving away from the plane at this point, and not toward it), and the alignment of the Earth with the sun and the galactic center is a phenomenon visible only from Earth which will have no greater gravitational or radiational effect than any other solstice (so don't expect fireworks because of this alignment). In short, it seems like the whole 2012 apocalypse thing is pretty much just a series of hoaxes, each one bootstrapping the other. (Then, of course, there are the conspiracy theorists who will say that any number of mysterious forces are colluding in order to refute the theory, but as in the case of all conspiracy theories, facts become meaningless in such scenarios, and that way lies madness.)
Mostly the whole 2012 thing is kind of harmless and indicative, to me, anyway, that there are a lot of people out there who find the thought of the end of the world somewhat appealing. Maybe it's not so hard to understand that impulse. You don't have to worry about the wide spectrum of a bad things that might happen to you if you can just narrow your worries down to one event. And maybe the sting of death is mitigated somehow if you know that you're experiencing it right along with everyone else that you know.
So I think I need to have a 2012 party. December 21, 2012 I need to have a party to celebrate a day in which no one needs to worry about anything, anymore, because tomorrow is never going to come. Someone remind me.