I don’t usually read the Telegraph, but somebody showed me a story in it on Friday, and one thing led to another.

First up we had the news that Scott Kelly is no longer the identical twin to his brother. That’s quite intriguing, isn’t it? Scott spent 340 days on the ISS, and returned to find that 7% of his genes had mutated so they no longer match those of his hitherto identical sibling. He’s also biologically older.

We’ve known for a longer time that long space flights can cause, among other things, loss of muscle mass and decalcification of the bones, but this was a real surprise. There’s some babble about cytokines and proteins and stuff being stressed by increased inflammation, nutrient shifts, and oxygen deprivation, but nobody before had established the genetic changes that result.

Anybody signing up for Elon Musk’s trip to Mars in 2020? Include me out.

Two brain stories now, though the first one suggests a complete absence of grey matter. A woman in China went on a long distance train journey to Guangzhou* from central Hunan province. For the whole journey she was looking at her mobile phone. Twenty hours is a long time, no?

On arrival, she was having difficulty moving one side of her body, and could barely speak. She had blood clots on her brain and needed emergency surgery. The quacks concluded that the problem was caused by her lack of mobility and holding her head inclined to the right for all that time. At least it’s not a ‘mobile phones cause cancer’ story.

Best bit is a news agency photograph of her recovering in hospital. She’s on her phone. Darwin Award is in the post.

Apparently there are special cells in the human brain that fire off in a synchronised connected way when we’re moving. They help us to form an internal map so we can find our way back. As we get older this internal Google Maps app deteriorates, and we get lost more easily.

I’ve always been pretty adept at finding my way about, and most people can navigate a new town, for example, pretty damned quick. On the other hand, I know lots of teens and twenties who don’t have a sodding clue where they are without access to GPS.

They’re a bit like Scott Kelly. Old before their time.

We used to call it Canton. I liked it when I was there yonks ago.

Advertisements