The Hairy Problem With Drug Testing and Chemical Analysis

Keri Hogan was about to become a police officer when she submitted a sample of her hair to the city of Boston for testing. The city, in turn, gave it to a company called Psychemedics, which washed the hair, dissolved it, and used gas chromatography and mass spectrometry—chemical analysis techniques—to check it twice over for evidence of cocaine. Hogan’s hair tested positive.

Boston police officers whose hair tests positive for drugs usually have two options: admit their substance abuse problems and agree to a stint in rehabilitation, or relinquish their position. But Hogan, who finished her police training prior to 2005, says that she has never used cocaine; when she sent her hair to a private company for more testing, it came back negative. Now, she and nine other black police officers are suing the city of Boston, saying that the practice of testing hair for drugs is discriminatory. Because of the chemistry behind the test, they say, it unfairly targets dark hair. The bench trial for the case began on March 12, and may have long-lasting consequences for the future of drug testing.

The hair test was developed in the late ‘60s, when an Austrian chemist named Werner Baumgartner decided to piggyback on the work of his wife. Annette Baumgartner was working at the Aerospace Corporation, trying to figure out what toxins might be ingested by onlookers during a shuttle launch, and Werner realized that he could look for drug exposure with the strategies she developed. Substances floating around the blood eventually get incorporated into the hair as it grows—either through tiny blood vessels or the oil and sweat glands that surround the hair follicle—and drugs found inside the hair itself, he realized, would be harder to cheat on than urine or saliva tests. They’d linger longer in the sample, too.

Baumgartner demonstrated the full force of the procedure when he used it to identify opiate painkillers in the poet John Keats’ hair, which the lab received from a rare book collection at the University of Texas at Austin. After a Time Magazine story about the Keats test, several businessmen approached Baumgartner with the intent to start a company, and Psychemedics was born.

In 1985, a navy chemist named David Kidwell was tasked with studying the test’s effectiveness—and soon, he began to have reservations. In 1993, he published the results of an experiment in which he soaked the hair in a mix of cocaine derivative and water, then washed it repeatedly before performing the drug test. Despite his attempts to remove the external contamination, the tests came back positive.

Baumgartner argued that Kidwell had used the wrong wash procedure; the test was still reliable. But Kidwell and his research partner lashed back: “At the current level of understanding, the presence of drugs in an individual’s hair indicates exposure to that compound,” they wrote. “Attempting to expand this observation into the suggestion of use or long-term abuse of a drug would seem unwarranted at this time.”

Thus began a scientific back-and-forth that has continued to this day. Scientists like Kidwell argue that both external and ingested cocaine binds to melanin in the hair. People with black hair have more melanin in general, but especially more of the subtype eumelanin, which studies have shown binds particularly well with cocaine and amphetamines. (Gray hair doesn’t have much of any type of melanin, so if you want to get away with using cocaine, aging may be your best bet.) And researchers disagree over whether hair can ever be washed clean of any and all drugs it could have come into contact with from the outside.

Despite those questions, both the Boston and New York police departments, 10 to 15 percent of Fortune 500 companies, court systems, federal reserve banks, and numerous high schools still use the hair test. The FBI phased it out in 2009, then re-implemented it in 2014. About 200,000 drug tests are run on hair in the US every year.

Meanwhile, research from Kidwell and other scientists has shown that both the amount of melanin in the hair and some chemical treatment involved in styling makes a difference in how much contamination the hair can absorb. Kidwell has appeared as an expert witness in many lawsuits about the validity of the tests over the last 20 years.

“I am not sure there will ever be absolute settlement,” says Bruce Goldberger, the chief of forensic medicine and a professor of toxicology at University of Florida Health. He was the first person to find a way to identify the difference between heroin and morphine in a drug hair test.

The law has generally sided with Pyschemedics. But in 2012, the state of Massachusetts ruled that the hair test alone is not enough to terminate employment. Six police officers were reinstated in their jobs, and Hogan finally graduated from the police academy. She and the other plaintiffs are now in a federal court, asserting that the test is specifically discriminatory.

The stakes are high. Everyone wants police officers and other public servants to be as alert as possible, especially in dangerous situations. The FDA has approved Psychemedic’s hair tests for eight drugs, not just cocaine. Raymond C. Kubacki, now CEO of Psychemedics, says that scientific accuracy is the company’s top priority. “Psychemedics is a pioneer in the washing technique,” he says. “It’s important that we don’t have anyone falsely accused because of outside contamination.”

But the hair test puts an undue burden on African Americans, and especially African American women. Common hair styles mean that simply cutting a chunk of hair for the test can be harder for these women. And adding extra hurdles for this group to join and stay in law enforcement could cost the city: Male police officers cost the government between two to five times more in legal fees than female police officers—and only about 13 percent of policy officers identify as women.

Though Hogan has already been reinstated, the risk of future false positives still looms over her peers, both in and out of law enforcement. The result of her discrimination case, which is still ongoing, should inform the use of a potentially flawed test—and hopefully spur the development of others.

Will Cutting Calories Make You Live Longer?

More when compared to a decade ago, researchers at the Pennington Biomedical analysis Center in Baton Rouge started recruiting young, healthy Louisianans to voluntarily get hungry for just two years. As well as cutting their daily calories by 25 %, the dozens whom enrolled additionally decided to a once a week battery of tests; blood draws, bone scans, swallowing a pill that measures internal body’s temperature.

All that sticking and scanning and starving was at the title regarding the Comprehensive Assessment of Long-Term ramifications of Reducing Intake of Energy, or Calerie—the largest individual clinical trial ever to check out the effects of calorie restriction on the aging process. The National Institutes of Health-funded research additionally included sites at Washington University in St. Louis and Tufts in Boston. But just the Pennington individuals must additionally invest 24 sedentary hours in the sealed room that recorded the articles of the every breath.

They are the measures that scientists (plus some study individuals) are prepared to visit know how a spartan diet impacts growing older. Calorie limitation is among the minimum absurd techniques in the burgeoning industry of longevity science. Studies returning to the mid-1930s have shown over and over repeatedly that cutting calories by 25-50 percent let us yeast, worms, mice, rats, and monkeys live longer, healthier lives, clear of age-related condition. But there’s less consensus regarding the mechanisms whereby it really works.

That is probably why tries to mimic fasting with medications have actually thus far all failed Food And Drug Administration approval. Calerie had been built to ask that concern in people and also the first randomized control test to take action. The researchers decided on a 25 % restriction (between 500 and 800 calories) because it seemed humanly feasible whilst still being more likely to show a result, considering past animal studies. With 10,000 Us citizens switching 65 every day, the stakes once and for all technology supporting healthy individual aging haven’t been greater. Regrettably, the newest outcomes don’t exactly clear things up.

In a paper published Thursday in Cell Metabolism, scientists from Pennington reported for the first time on their whole room calorimeter experiments—the sealed metabolic chambers they stuck participants in for a day. Pennington is one of the couple of places in the world with these hotel-room-sized microenvironments, the most rigorous way to determine how many calories someone burns and where they come from—fat, protein, or carbohydrates.

After a nights fasting, individuals joined the calorimeter promptly at 8:00am, and until 8:00am the next day they weren’t permitted to keep or exercise. Researchers delivered dishes via a tiny, air-locked cabinet. As fresh air circulated to the space, the air flowing away experienced some analyzers determine the ratio of skin tightening and to oxygen. Nitrogen measurements from urine samples assist determine a complete image of each participant’s resting metabolic process.

The picture that emerged had been that cutting calories, even modestly, lowered people’s k-calorie burning by ten percent. Some of that could be related to fat reduction (on average people lost 20 pounds over 2 yrs). But in line with the study’s authors, most of the modification had more regarding changed biological procedures, that they observed through other biomarkers like insulin and thyroid hormones. “Restricting calories can slow your basal metabolic rate—the power you will need to maintain all normal daily functions,” states endocrinologist and lead author Leanne Redman. When the human body uses less oxygen to create all its needed energy, it creates less byproducts of metabolic process, things such as free-radicals that may harm DNA alongside mobile equipment. “After two years, the lower metabolic rate and degree of calorie limitation ended up being connected to a reduction in oxidative injury to cells and tissues.”

Now, the research ended up beingn’t long sufficient to exhibit that calorie limitation definitively increased lifespans; That test would just take decades. But Redman contends that this data rejuvenates help for two old but embattled theories of human being aging: the slow kcalorie burning ‘rate of living’ concept and also the oxidative damage theory. The initial claims that the slow an organism’s kcalorie burning, the longer it will live. The 2nd states that organisms age because cells accumulate free radical damage over time.

Other Calerie researchers don’t buy it. “You could have a low resting metabolic rate because you are dying of starvation,” states Luigi Fontana, an internist who led the Washington University test. “Does that make it a biomarker of longevity? No. You may be calorie restricted through eating half of a hamburger and a few fries daily but will you live much longer? No, you’ll die of malnutrition.”

Fontana’s own work with Calerie test information suggests modifications to particular insulin pathways matter significantly more than general metabolic rate decrease. He also points to studies in which rats were built to swim in chilled water all day on a daily basis, dropping their metabolism. They didn’t live any more than space heat rats. In other studies, scientists overexpressed enzymes that safeguarded mice from free-radicals. They didn’t live any further either. Redman’s information is interesting, he claims, but it’s perhaps not the whole image. “Twenty years ago the dogma was the more calorie limitation the better,” he says. “What we are finding now is so it’s perhaps not the quantity that counts. Genetics, the composition regarding the diet, whenever you eat, what’s within microbiome, this all influences the impact of calorie restriction.”

But even when studying what goes on towards human anatomy once you cut calories hasn’t yet explained just how cells age, that does not suggest it willn’t have actually potentially huge health benefits. “Calorie limitation could be the only intervention proven to postpone the onset and development of cancer tumors,” states Rafael de Cabo, chief regarding the National Institute of Aging’s Translational Gerontology Branch. His team recently completed a 25-year research of calorie limitation in rhesus monkeys. As they didn’t see as drastic lifespan improvements as another monkey study, de Cabo’s group did observe lower prices of cancer and metabolic conditions. “If we’re able to get individuals who work with situations by having a large amount of environmental toxins to cut back their calories it might be exceptionally protective,” he claims. “But once we very well know, no one is going to be in a position to withstand consuming so little for their lifetime.”

Maybe no-one understands that significantly more than Jeffrey Peipert. The 58-year-old ob-gyn participated in the Washington University test nine years ago, hoping to bring straight down his fat, which he’d struggled together with life time. When he went in, their blood pressure was 132 over 84; after a month or two for a restricted calorie regime it dropped to 115 over 65. Per year in he lost 30 pounds. But six months later on he quit. It absolutely was just an excessive amount of work. “It took away my power, my strength, it will be took away my sexual drive,” states Peipert. “And tracking calories daily was a total discomfort within the throat.”

Today he’s gained all of the fat straight back and has to take a tablet for hypertension. But at least he feels as though he’s residing well, even though he perhaps won’t live so long.

Live longer and Prosper

The Physics of the Speeder Chase in ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’

I make it my job to hunt through all the best trailers and find some cool physics thing to explore. In this case, it’s the trailer for Solo: A Star Wars Story—the Han Solo-led movie, scheduled to come out in May, that takes place some time before Episode IV: A New Hope. Right at the beginning, we see Han driving some type of speeder in a chase scene, taking a super-sharp turn with another speeder in pursuit. Here’s the interesting physics stuff: Notice how it looks like it is sliding around the curve? Why does it do that? Is that how you would actually drive a make-believe speeder?

To answer these questions, we need to think about the nature of forces. Suppose I push on some object at rest such that my push is the only significant force on that object. This could happen with a boat sitting in still water, a hockey puck on ice, or a small spacecraft out in deep space (don’t worry about how that object got into space). What does the object do? A common answer will be to say that the object moves. That’s not wrong, but “move” is not the best answer. With a constant a force, an object increases in speed—that is to say, it accelerates. Acceleration is a measure of the change in velocity of an object, so we could also say that a force changes an object’s velocity. That’s key.

There’s one more really important idea to understand—velocity is a vector. A vector is a quantity in which the direction matters (other vectors are: force, gravitational field, position). If a quantity doesn’t depend on direction, we call that a scalar (like time or mass or electric charge). Since forces change velocity and velocity depends on direction, this means that it takes a force to change the direction of a velocity. Or you could say it takes a force to turn Han Solo’s speeder.

How about a demonstration to show you how this works? Suppose I take a bowling ball and roll it along the floor (everyone should have a bowling ball handy for physics demos). This ball will essentially act like an object moving with a constant velocity since the frictional force is small. I want to make this ball change directions by hitting it with a stick. Which way should I hit it? Watch this.

Just to be clear, let me include this diagram showing the velocity of the ball and the direction of the force.

This sideways tap makes the ball change direction of its motion, but it doesn’t really change how fast it rolls. So really, you can break forces into two components. Forces in the same direction (or opposite) direction as the velocity either make it speed up or slow down. Forces that are perpendicular to the motion (sideways forces) make the object change direction. But you already knew that: When you swing a ball around on a string, it mostly moves at a constant speed but the sideways force from the string causes it to change direction and move in a circle.

Now back to Han Solo’s speeder. I’m not sure exactly how this vehicle drives, but I can make some assumptions (and you can’t stop me). First, it seems likely that those thrusters in the back of the speeder exert some type of force on it. Second, there has to be some significant frictional force pushing in the opposite direction of the speeder’s motion. f not, the thrust from the engines would just make that thing keep speeding up until it got to ludicrous speeds. My last assumption is that the speeder has to use these same rear thrusters for changing direction—unlike an Earth-bound automobile, which uses friction between the tires and the road to make a turn.

How about a breakdown of this slide turn from the trailer? I can’t really do a proper video analysis because of the camera angle, so instead I will just talk about it conceptually. Let me break down the motion into three moments as seen in the diagram below.

At position 1, the speeder is still moving to the left—but Han has turned the speeder so that the thrust can start to push perpendicular to the motion of the vehicle. Next at position 2 the speeder is in the middle of the turn. You can see that the thrust is making it turn. But you can also see that the vehicle thrust is pushing in a way that only changes the direction of the vehicle and not its speed. Finally, at position 3, the turn is complete. Han just needs to turn the speeder so that the thrust is in the same direction as the motion (I assume to counteract the frictional force).

If you don’t like thinking about moving in circles, you have another option. How about this? In position 2 (above) notice that the speeder thrust is to the left and up. The left-pushing part of this thrust is in the opposite direction as the motion of the vehicle, so that it makes it reduce its right-moving speed. The up-pushing part speeds up the vehicle in the upward direction. In the end, this whole maneuver has to do two things: stop the vehicle moving to the right and speed up the vehicle moving upward (in the diagram). That’s why the thrust has to angle the way it does.

Homework: Yes, I do have one question for you to work on. Suppose this speeder is about the size and shape of a terrestrial car. In that case, you can estimate the thrust force needed to move it along at a constant velocity. Now that same force has to make make the car turn—but the turning force depends on the mass of the car (unlike driving forward which only depends on the shape). Use this to estimate the thrust to mass ratio for the speeder. Yes, I think this can be done. You might need to make some rough estimates of vehicle speed and turning radius.

Area Photos associated with Week: brand new Horizons Breaks a Record for Long-Distance Photography

This abstract glow is not merely a regular old area photo—it ended up being taken a record-breaking 3.79 billion miles away from Earth. NASA’s Pluto-grazing brand new Horizons spacecraft snapped this photo associated with Wishing Well available galactic star cluster coming toward its 2nd location, the Kuiper belt item 2014 MU69. For contrast, the runner-up for distance photography could be the famous Pale Blue Dot, taken by the Voyager spacecraft whilst it was 3.75 billion miles away.

This stunning photo of Jupiter was captured by NASA’s Juno spacecraft on its tenth orbit on December 16. The planet’s odd zigzagged storms are on complete display, plus a white cyclone. Jupiter appears huge within photo, however it’s nevertheless hard to get a feeling of scale—the white cyclone on left could be the size of a entire continent in the world.

This Hubble image looks like an artfully crafted watercolor painting, however it’s a genuine picture of galaxy NGC 7331, which will be located 45 million light years away. NGC 7331 shares a great deal in keeping with our own Milky Way Galaxy—it’s approximately the exact same size and hosts an identical quantity of stars, upwards of 100,000 million.

Hubble is at it once again! This wispy galaxy is officially NGC 7252, but its nickname is Atoms for Peace, after a message provided by President Eisenhower in 1953 because of the objective of a calm quality to nuclear energy. But 1 billion years ago this area ended up being the opposite of calm, whenever two galaxies violently merged together.

Martian avalanche! No body spilled paint on Mars; this is often a naturally occuring function due to dirt moving downhill. The contrast in color is because of there being less dust in darker areas than in the encompassing lighter areas. Therefore whilst the dust it self is not that much darker, the total amount of material changes its observed color.

Recently NASA’s Curiosity rover sent back this image of the stone. However it’s not just any Martian stone; geologists on Earth identified odd star-shaped and swallowtail-shaped crystals on the exterior of the stone. In the world such forms are observed in gypsum, a mineral formed in water. These sesame seed-sized features are characteristic of gypsum-crystals that may form whenever sodium water evaporates—but it’s thought Gale Crater had been home up to a non-salt water lake, making this rocky mystery an open investigation.

Can an Airplane remove for a going Runway?

This real question is probably as old because the airplane itself. It goes something such as this:

An airplane includes a takeoff speed of 100 mph (I just made that number up). What if it gets for a super giant treadmill machine that moves backwards at 100 mph. Could a plane with this giant treadmill machine remove or would it not simply sit there going at 0 miles per hour?

Initial question a reasonable individual would ask is “in which would you get yourself a giant plane-sized treadmill machine that goes 100 miles per hour?” Yes, which indeed a great question—but i will not answer it. Instead, i will offer this question top physics answer I am able to.

Before i actually do that, i ought to explain that others also have answered this question (not surprising as it’s super old anyway). First, there was the MythBusters episode from 2008. In fact, they didn’t answer the question—they did issue. The MythBusters made a giant conveyer belt having plane about it. It had been awesome. Next, there is the xkcd response to this concern (additionally from 2008).

Now you get my answer. I shall respond to with different examples.

A Car on a Conveyer Belt

This isn’t so difficult. Let’s say I put an automobile going 100 mph on a conveyer gear that is also going 100 mph? It could appear to be this (something like this):

Actually, there’s probably no real surprise right here. The vehicle’s tires would roll at 100 miles per hour as the treadmill machine (or conveyer gear) moves back at 100 mph so that the vehicle stays stationary. Really, here is a somewhat cooler example (with the same physics).

Let me reveal an test (also from MythBusters) which they shot a ball at 60 mph out of the back of a truck additionally going 60 miles per hour. You can view your ball stays fixed (with regards to the ground).

Super Brief Takeoff

Here is a airplane from Alaska that takes off in a really short distance.

How exactly does this work? We’ll provide you with a hint—there is definitely a strong wind blowing in to the front side for the plane. Without a headwind, this couldn’t happen. However if you consider it, this brief lose is certainly much such as the vehicle regarding treadmill machine. For the plane, it generally does not drive on the floor, it “drives” in the air. In the event that airplane possesses takeoff rate of 40 miles per hour and is in a 40 mph headwind, it doesn’t even have to go at all according to the ground.

Airplane for a Conveyer Belt

Now let us do it. This is a short clip from MythBusters launching a plane on a going treadmill machine.

Yes, it requires off. A plane takes faraway from a runway relocating the opposite direction? But why? It is because the tires for a plane never really do anything. The only function for the wheels would be to produce low friction between your aircraft together with ground. They do not also push the airplane forward—that is performed by the propeller. Truly the only distinction whenever releasing an airplane for a moving runway is the fact that wheels will spin at twice the standard speed—but that willn’t matter.

Therefore the airplane on a treadmill works, but how about a case where in fact the plane wouldn’t take off? Imagine if the plane ended up being similar to a glider with motorized tires? For a normal runway, these motorized tires would raise the rate for the glider until it reached takeoff speed. However, if you place this on a going runway, the tires would spin on right rate and cancel the motion regarding the treadmill so the airplane would remain motionless and not reach the proper rate for the launch.

okay, making sure that is the response to everybody’s favorite question. But never worry, this answer wont stop the endless discussion—that will go on forever.