🐤 Get back up again

Here's how a team of Swiss scientists restored a paralyzed man's mobility.

Friday | May 26th, 2023
Early Chirp

Welcome to Friday, chirpers! If you’re planning to get away for the long weekend, you might want to pack some aspirin for those travel-related headaches.

Whether by air or on the ground, Memorial Day trips are expected to rival or eclipse pre-pandemic totals with an estimated 7% more people traveling than the same time last year.

-Chris Agee

$213.93 (1.71%)
Dow Jones
-$35.27 (-0.11%)
S&P 500
$36.04 (0.88%)
-$0.00 (-0.01%)
$138.61 (0.53%)
$74.42 (24.37%)
*Market data for this issue is from May 25th, 2023 at 6:07pm EST

🏦 Markets: Ongoing debt ceiling negotiations appear to be getting closer to some sort of resolution, and Wall Street was generally happy to hear it.

Along with an overall spike in tech sector stocks, the latest debt-related news helped the S&P 500 and Nasdaq break a days-long losing streak. But the Dow Jones ended the day down by a fraction of a percent.


What's the first thing you do in the morning?

  1. Check text messages
  2. Get out of bed
  3. Turn off alarm
  4. Check emails
  5. Go back to sleep
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The Breakdown

A quick look around the world.

The Breakdown Giphy

🤳 New phone, who Dish?: Amazon carries just about everything else these days, so why not a phone plan offered through Dish Network? The latter company is in talks with the online retail giant to start selling its new service — as soon as next month, according to some reports. There are still some details to work out, so there’s no guarantee about when you’ll be able to purchase a Dish phone if that’s something you’re interested in doing.

💧 In deep water: The Environmental Protection Agency has pursued efforts to more fundamentally regulate the nation’s waterways via legislation known as the Clean Water Act. But there’s been some dispute about the agency’s jurisdiction, and the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the matter this week. In a 5-4 ruling, justices determined that the EPA is not allowed to regulate wetlands without “a continuous surface connection” to adjacent bodies of water.

🎮 Gotta hand it to ‘em: Fans of the PS5 will be able to play the same games on a handheld device later this year, according to new reports. A new product, thus far referred to only as Project Q, is believed to offer an eight-inch LCD screen and buttons similar to those used in the full-size PS5 controllers. The games will need to be streamed, which will require WiFi connections, but if you’ve got that you’ve got an entire console in the palm of your hands.

🛰️ Satellite standoff: The tensions between North and South Korea appear to be escalating this week as both nations ramp up their spy satellite game. Reports indicate that South Korea conducted a successful launch of a commercial satellite on Thursday, marking its first foray into this realm. Meanwhile, the North is believed to be ambitiously pursuing a satellite surveilance system of its own.

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Solve today's crossword and win a prize!

Highest score wins an Amazon gift card!


*Prizes are sent out via email the next day by 11am EST.


Bluetooth Made It Possible For This Paralyzed Man To Walk Again

The experimental surgery could be a game-changer for patients around the world.

Bluetooth Made It Possible For This Paralyzed Man To Walk Again Screenshot/Associated Press

Even if you frequently use Bluetooth with your wireless headphones or to make calls while you’re in the car, you might not know some of the truly incredible things this technology can do.

For one 40-year-old who became paralyzed in a cycling accident 12 years ago, Bluetooth has given him the ability to stand, walk, and even climb stairs again.

An experimental surgery

A team of surgeons and neuroscientists in Switzerland recently conducted the procedure on Gert-Jan Oskam, following a complex but straightforward procedure.

By placing electrodes in his brain and on his spinal cord, the Bluetooth device was able to send and receive instructions that allowed him to move parts of his body that had been paralyzed for more than a decade.

“Within 5 to 10 minutes I could control my hips like the brain implant picked up what I was doing with my hips,” he said. “So that was like, yeah, the best outcome.”

Oskam is clearly appreciative of the team that gave him his newfound mobility, and the experts behind this process are now focused on delivering similar results to others around the world.

Big plans for the future

As neurosurgeon Jocelyne Bloch explained, the results are quick … but not immediate.

“So when everything is installed, the patient has first to learn how to work with his brain signals and we also have to learn how to correlate these brain signals to the spinal cord stimulation,” she said.

It sounds hard, but she said the process is “pretty short,” adding: “In a few sessions, everything is linked and the patient starts training.”

While the promising technique used in Oskam’s case involved invasive surgery, researchers are hoping to make the devices even smaller so they can be worn rather than inserted.

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Translating The Message Your Brain Sends When You’re Hungry

If you've got that "hangry" feeling, scientists think they know why.

Translating The Message Your Brain Sends When You’re Hungry Giphy

We’ve all felt the pangs of hunger that can send our day into a tailspin. But why do we all seem to get grumpy and sluggish when it’s been too long since our last meal?

Recent research into the brains of mice seems to provide some intriguing insight into the matter.

A unique cluster of cells

The feeling — sometimes described as “hangry” — that is so common when we need to eat appears to be directly related to the inherent need to replenish energy. Scientists now believe they know which area of the brain is tasked with monitoring those levels.

A group of cells situated near where blood enters the brain kick into action when mice are deprived of food. The neurons, collectively called AgRP, seem to be directly linked to fatty tissue that provides a gauge for how much energy the body has at its disposal.

When the supply reaches a near-critical level, the cells send out an alarm to the rest of the brain sending it on a quest for food.

What it means for humans

While this is a major milestone in the ability to understand the complex brains of animals, some researchers believe that there’s a much more important application to unlocking the secret of AgRP neurons.

In certain cases of eating disorders, such as anorexia and overeating, these brain cells seem to misfire and send conflicting signals to the brain. If science is better able to understand and correct this neural behavior, it could treat a variety of serious health problems.

Neuroscientist Amber Alhadeff is optimistic, concluding: “If we could control this hangry feeling, we might be better able to control our diets.”

In the recent study, researchers were able to deactivate the neurons (causing the mice to starve) and artificially activate them (leading to overconsumption).

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Despite Big Tech Promises, Insurance Prices Are Still Sky High

As it turns out, there's a lot more to it than just developing an algorithm.

Despite Big Tech Promises, Insurance Prices Are Still Sky High Giphy

Most of us have lamented the price of insurance, whether due to the up-front premiums, the fact that many expenses aren’t covered, or both.

High-tech startups claimed that they could revolutionize the industry and bring down prices for everyone. But so far, that’s not been the case.

What went wrong

Over the past decade or so, a growing number of fledgling companies have touted their supposed ability to use computer algorithms and massive amounts of information to come up with custom policies that will provide the most coverage for the lowest price possible.

In theory, this is one of the few upsides to the fact that the websites we all use are constantly collecting our personal data. In practice, however, the results leave a lot to be desired.

There are many reasons, but here are a few of the biggies:

  • These startups didn’t have access to the historical info used by established companies.
  • Many of the emerging insurers didn’t fully factor in strict government regulations.
  • The big players in the industry had far more money to market their traditional policies.

So it’s fair to say that these companies promising to disrupt the system started out behind the eight ball … but is that a good enough reason to let them off the hook?

A tale of three startups

There are a handful of companies that have launched in recent years with what at first appeared to be a promising take on the insurance business. Lemonade, Root, and Hippo all promised, in their own ways, to use technology in creating a better policy.

Now they’ve been forced to acknowledge that it wasn’t as easy as they made it seem.

As Lemonade co-founder Daniel Schreiber said: “We did a fairly shoddy job of pricing and identifying risks. And we knew we would.”

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Early Chirp

Written by Chris Agee

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