The Second Brain: A Groundbreaking New Understanding of Nervous Disorders of the Stomach and Intestine by Michael D. Gershon

The Author
The author is not a gastroenterologist, but a neurobiologist, whose interest in the serotonin neurotransmitter took him down into the bowels of medicine. This book is a history of the development of the understanding of the intestinal nervous system, a history in which the author played a major role.

How Science is Actually Done
The author describes numerous experiments he and other conducted to figure out the intestinal nervous system. There is a great deal of information and the writing gets rather technical at times. This would be a good book for a college undergraduate science major to read.

Autonomic Nervous System
The autonomic nervous system is motor not sensory and controls smooth muscles and glands, not skeletal muscles. It has three parts:
• Sympathetic Nervous System
• Parasympathetic Nervous System
• Enteric Nervous System

Sympathetic Nervous System
• The nerve cell bodies are located near the spine
• Its nerves exit the spinal chord near the thoracic and lumbar vertebra
• Controls eye pupil dilation
• Controls male ejaculation
• Its axons release norepinephrine at their synapses

Parasympathetic Nervous System
• Its nerve cell bodies are located near the innervated organ
• Nerves exit the spinal chord near the cranial and sacral vertebra
• The vagus nerve is part of it
• Its axons release acetylcholine at their synapses

Enteric Nervous System
The intestines contain large numbers of interneurons, that is, neurons that connect via synapses only to other neurons, and not to sensory, muscle or gland cells. One of the main neurotransmitters used by these enteric interneurons is serotonin. Serotonin stimulates the peristalsis of the smooth muscles of intestines.

The colon is also known as the large intestine. It probably evolved to help land animals conserve water. The body moves water from inside the lumen of the colon into the bloodstream by removing salt from the lumen of the colon, which causes the water to follow by osmosis. There are lots of benign, symbiotic bacteria in the colon, but there are few bacteria in the small intestines. The purpose of diarrhea is to cleanse colon of pathogenic bacterial.

Development of the Enteric Nervous System
During embryonic development, the neural crest is formed from cells that migrate from the nearby neural tube. These neural crest cells later migrate to the intestines, where they become the enteric nervous system.

Defects of Intestinal Innervation
• Chagas disease (American trypanosomiasis), a tropical parasitic infection common in Latin America, kills enteric ganglia of Auerbach’s myenteric plexus
• Hirschsprung’s Disease (congenital megacolon): babies lack enteric ganglia in the colon, due to a failure in the embryonic development of the enteric nervous system
• Neuronal Intestinal Dysplasia (NID): a congenital disease causing a lack of sympathetic or parasympathetic innervation of the intestines
• From Wikipedia I found that all newborns are kept in the hospital until they have their first bowel movement, in order to identify babies that have intestinal problems, and that in the United Kingdom there is a charity for NID called the Adele Chapman Foundation

Gastric Intrinsic Factor
Gastric glands in the stomach secrete a glycoprotein called gastric intrinsic factor that helps the small intestine absorb vitamin B12.

Liver and Gall Bladder
The liver secretes bile into the duodenum to emulsify fat, which is then digested by the lipase enzyme secreted into the duodenum by the pancreas. Excess bile is stored in the gall bladder. Gall bladder ganglia are part of the enteric nervous system.

Pancreas and the Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve of the parasympathetic system stimulates the pancreas to increase secretions when eating a meal.

Pancreas and Bicarbonate
• Brunner’s glands of the pancreas produce a bicarbonate alkaline fluid to neutralize the stomach acid in the food that enters the duodenum from the stomach.
• Hormonal regulation: The secretin hormone produced by the duodenal endocrine cells tells the pancreas now much bicarbonate to produce.
• Nerve regulation: The pancreas receives serotonin-releasing neurons from the duodenum which inhibit the release of the bicarbonate.

Pancreas and Digestive Enzymes
• Cholecystokinin is released by endocrine cells in the stomach and travels through the bloodstream to the pancreas, where it stimulates the release of digestive enzymes.
• Gastrin is released by endocrine cells in the duodenum and travels through the bloodstream to the pancreas, where it also stimulates the release of digestive enzymes.

Enterochromaffin Cells
Enterochromaffin cells are found in intestinal lining and were named for the fact that they stain well with chromium dyes, because they have an affinity for chromium. Enterochromaffin cells contain 95% of the body’s serotonin. As was first proposed by the late Edith Bülbring of Oxford University, Fellow of the Royal Society, and pioneer in the study of the physiology of smooth muscle, enterochromaffin cells are sensory receptors that respond to pressure in the intestines by releasing serotonin into the connective tissue of the intestines. The serotonin in the connective tissue then stimulates:
• Secretomotor neurons that in turn stimulate the crypt cells to secrete salt into the lumen, and water then follows the salt into the lumen, due to osmotic pressure
• Enteric nervous system interneurons causing peristalsis
• Neurons that connect to the CNS and cause nausea and vomiting

Serotonin Transporter Protein
Serotonin transporter protein is in the outer membrane of neighbors of the enterochromaffin cells. It removes the serotonin after it has spent enough time stimulating the serotonin receptors.

Interstitial Cells of Cajal
• They are named after are named after the Spaniard Santiago Ramón y Cajal
• They are pacemakers in the enteric nervous system
• They amplify nerve signals
• They originate not in the neural crest, but from mesenchymal precursor cells, from which smooth muscle cells also develop
• Because they are not neurons, the body can produce more of them in adulthood, if some of them become damaged


The Faculty Lounges: and Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Paid For by Naomi Schaefer Riley

History of Academic Freedom
Academic freedom is a solution in search of a problem. There have been few examples of professors who got into trouble for holding unpopular views. Riley mentions two of them. 1894, Wisconsin State Superintendent of Education charged Richard T. Ely of the University of Wisconsin at Madison with teaching and supporting alien and revolutionary doctrines, because he wrote an article in The Nation in favor of organized labor. Ely was acquitted. In 1900, Jane Stanford, the widow of the university’s founder, forced Edward A. Ross of Stanford University to resign, because he supported of socialism.

The Progressive Movement and John Dewey
In 1915, John Dewey and Arthur O. Lovejoy founded the American Association of University Professors. Dewey saw attempts by those outside academia to control the work of professional scholars as being a corruption of the independence of scholars.

Concept of Academic Freedom
Many people have had difficulty coming up with a clear definition of “academic freedom” and stating its limits. Is Holocaust denial an acceptable form of academic freedom? How much does academic freedom prevent administrators from holding faculty accountable for their behavior? Can university benefactors place restrictions on faculty scholarship?

Public Officials and Freedom of Speech
Riley discusses the 2006 U.S. Supreme Court case Garcetti v. Ceballos, which stated that the First Amendment does not allow public officials to keep their jobs, regardless what they say in the performance of their job. It is not clear whether the same principle applies to college professors.

Journalistic Freedom
Journalists are protected from government by the First Amendment. But, unlike college professors, journalists are not protected from being fired by their employer if they publish an article that the owner does not like.

Tenure at the Modern Research University
Stanford University was founded on the German model of a research university, where research was more important than teaching. In most American universities, teaching is regarded as a secondary responsibility of college professors. When research is the main criterion for judging faculty, only professors at other universities who are in the same field can evaluate the performance of professors. Administrators have only limited influence in the granting of tenure.

Adjunct Faculty
Much of the teaching at colleges and universities is performed by graduate students, adjunct faculty, temporary and part-time instructors. Their salaries and benefits are lower than those of full-time, tenure-track faculty. They are often required to share offices. Ph.D.s in the natural sciences can find jobs in private sector, but there is an oversupply of Ph.D. in the humanities, because too many students are admitted to their Ph.D. program. There are also lots of people with masters degrees who can teach, so colleges don’t need to hire humanities doctorates.

Religious Institutions
While it is difficult for administrators to fire tenured faculty at public colleges and universities, at private religious institutions, faculty who violate the religious rules can be fired.

Age Discrimination
In recent years in the United States, the tenure issue has been complicated by the fact that mandatory retirement for tenured faculty has been outlawed by federal age discrimination legislation.

Tenure in the United Kingdom
Maggie Thatcher’s Education Reform Act 1988 abolished tenure for academics appointed on or after November 20, 1987.

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) defends the academic freedom of college professors, including those who are conservative or libertarian.

Center for College Affordability and Productivity
Richard Vedder of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity lead a survey of school ranking based on outputs rather than inputs. Outputs used included the starting salaries of the graduates, the number of awards that the graduates received, and the amount of debt that the graduates were saddled with. The results were published in Forbes magazine. West Point was ranked #1.

American Council of Trustees and Alumni
This organization rates universities on the breadth of the content of their required courses. A poor rating will be given to schools that allow students to satisfy their breadth requirements with courses that are not rigorous or which are too specialized. Anne Neal is the president of ACTA.

The Author’s Recommendations
The author, Naomi Riley, asserts that you have the right to free speech, but not the right to a job, regardless of what you say. She recommends tenure for researchers only, not for teachers. She comments favorably on “professors of practice”, who receive get multi-year teaching contracts, instead of tenure. Riley says that there is no need for tenure to preserve academic freedom in these 3 situations:
• vocational disciplines: teachers are not doing research
• pre-stipulated political goals (similar to religious strictures)
• schools owned by corporations (e.g., the University of Phoenix)

Bottled Lightning: Superbatteries, Electric Cars, and the New Lithium Economy by Seth Fletcher

Each cell in a battery has a negative electrode (anode) and a positive electrode (cathode) separated by a liquid or solid called the electrolyte. A group of one or more cells connected together is called a battery. Originally, batteries were not rechargeable, but some more recent batteries are rechargeable: the nickel cadmium and nickel-metal-hydride batteries. Two problems with these batteries are: (a) they lose energy capacity when not fully run down prior to charging, and (b) they lose charge when not in use. During the 1990s a new kind of rechargeable battery was developed that did not suffer from these problems. It is called the lithium ion battery, and is the main subject of this book.

Exxon Research and Engineering
While at Exxon Research and Engineering, Michael Stanley Whittingham developed the first rechargeable lithium battery. It had a titanium disulfide cathode and a lithium-aluminum anode. Bob Hamlen figured out how to manufacture it at Exxon’s facility in Branchburg, New Jersey. The battery was first used in digital watches in the 1970s.

Moli Energy
This rechargeable battery was developed by Moli Energy, a Canadian (British Columbia) company named after the elements molybdenum and lithium. They replaced the titanium in Exxon’s battery by molybdenum. Molybdenum disulfide is cheaper and easier to work with than titanium disulfide. Starting in 1988, the batteries were used in NTT mobile phones. One battery in a hundred thousand caught fire. The problem was not caught in testing, because the testers did not think of testing under the five-day discharge, ten-hour-recharge cycle that the phone was subjected to in actual use.

In 1979 John Bannister Goodenough of Oxford University developed a lithium ion battery with a lithium-cobalt-oxide cathode and a lithium anode. Goodenough collaborated with scientists and engineers at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Harwell, England. Harwell’s scientists had given him verbal assurances that he would receive a share of the royalties, but when he showed up to sign the paperwork, Harwell’s lawyers were not willing to give him or Oxford University any share of the royalties. But Goodenough signed anyway, because no one else was interested in commercializing his technology.

Compact Power: Lithium Manganese Oxide
Compact Power of Troy, Michigan developed a battery based on the lithium-manganese-oxide research of Michael Thackeray & John Goodenough at Oxford University. Cobalt is toxic, and more expensive than manganese. The batteries have high power and high energy density. CPI is owned by LG Chemical of South Korea. The batteries are used in the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid car. GM tested battery aging using a pack cycler to artificially accelerate the aging process. GM’s earlier electric car, the EV1, used lead-acid batteries, which were very heavy.

Sony’s Carbon Anode
In the 1990s Sony developed a rechargeable lithium ion battery with a carbon anode, instead of Goodenough’s metallic lithium anode. They called it a lithium ion battery, to distinguish it from a lithium battery, which had the reputation for catching fire. Further development of lithium ion batteries usually keeps Sony’s carbon anode, and instead plays with the chemical composition of the cathode.

Lithium Iron Phosphate
A new type of lithium ion battery was developed in the 1990s, the lithium iron phosphate battery. In this battery, the cathode is made of lithium iron phosphate (also called lithium ferrous phosphate). In 1993, John Goodenough, now at the University of Texas at Austin, and his student Akshaya Padhi, started the development of the lithium iron phosphate battery. They ran into some problems with electrical conductivity. They licensed their technology to Michel Armand of Hydro-Québec, who introduced a carbon coating to improve the electrical conductivity and was able to produced a working lithium iron phosphate battery. Lithium iron phosphate batteries have higher energy density, longer lifetimes and are more safe than lithium cobalt oxide.

Lithium Wars
A123 Systems developed and marketed a similar lithium iron phosphate battery, which they claimed increased electrical conductivity not by using a carbon coating, but by doping the cathode with niobium and zirconium. A patent war started. This is a complicated story. The chemistry itself, on the cause of the electrical conductivity enhancement, is still not clear, so there is no point in describing the legal battles.

Tesla Roadster
Tesla designed their car so that the cells of the battery were separated from one another. So if one cell catches fire, it will not ignite any neighboring cells.