links for 2010-02-10

  • At the heart of the controversy is John Freshwater, who taught at Mount Vernon middle school for 21 years. Freshwater said he had done the same science experiment to hundreds of students before Zachary Dennis, using a Tesla coil, which gives off an electric spark. The teacher said it was painless and harmless – although a doctor would later testify that Dennis had second-degree burns – and that he had made an X, not a cross, on the boy’s skin.That might have been the end of the matter after the school ordered Freshwater to stop using the coil on children.
    But Zachary Dennis’s parents asked him what else was going on in science class. Out poured accounts of lessons on evolution mingled with creationist theories about “intelligent design”, a euphemism for the hand of God, of questions about religious beliefs and of classroom walls pasted with the Ten Commandments.
  • For seven years the man lay in a hospital bed, showing no signs of consciousness since sustaining a traumatic brain injury in a car accident. His doctors were ­convinced he was in a vegetative state. Until now.To the astonishment of his ­medical team, the patient has been able to ­communicate with the outside world after scientists worked out, in effect, a way to read his thoughts.They devised a technique to enable the man, now 29, to answer yes and no to ­simple questions through the use of a hi-tech scanner, monitoring his brain ­activity.
  • Scientists have been able to reach into the mind of a brain-damaged man and communicate with his thoughts.The research, carried out in the UK and Belgium, involved a new brain scanning method. Awareness was detected in three other patients previously diagnosed as being in a vegetative state. Dr Owen says this opens the way to involving such patients in their future treatment decisions: “You could ask if patients were in pain and if so prescribe painkillers and you could go on to ask them about their emotional state.” It does raise many ethical issues – for example – it is lawful to allow patients in a permanent vegetative state to die by withdrawing all treatment, but if a patient showed they could respond it would not be, even if they made it clear that was what they wanted.

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