Why drawing isn’t just an art

  • We often think of drawing as something that takes innate talent, but this kind of thinking stems from our misclassification of drawing as, primarily, an art form rather than a tool for learnin.
  • Researchers, teachers, and artists are starting to see how drawing can positively impact a wide variety of skills and disciplines.
  • Drawing is not an innate gift; rather, it can be taught and developed. Doing so helps people to perceive the world more accurately, remember facts better, and understand their world from a new perspective.

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Most of us have spent some time drawing before, at the very least because of compulsory art classes. It’s also likely that you’ve scribbled curlicues in the margins of your notes during some particularly boring lecture about how the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell or how to graph linear equations.

But at some point, most of us stop drawing. There are people who don’t, obviously, and thank god for that: a world without designers and artists would be a very shabby one indeed. But the vast majority of adults quit doodling when they quit having to take notes, and the closest they get to making something visually creative is applying a wacky font in a PowerPoint presentation.

But some argue that so many adults have abandoned drawing is because we’ve miscategorized it and given it a very narrow definition. In his book, Stick Figures: Drawing as a Human Practice, Professor D.B. Dowd argues that “We have misfiled the significance of drawing because we see it as a professional skill instead of a personal capacity. This essential confusion has stunted our understanding of drawing and kept it from being seen as a tool for learning above all else.”

Dowd argues that we mistakenly think of “good” drawings as those which work as recreations of the real world, as realistic illusions. Rather, drawing should be recategorized as a symbolic tool. In an interview with Print Magazine, Dowd said:

Drawing is an ancient human activity, practiced by all persons. How do I get to the airport? Pretend your phone is dead, so forget GPS. Anyone trying to answer that question is likely to say, “Here, let me show you…” and grab a pencil and an envelope to scribble on. That’s drawing! We use it all the time. Explain the rules of hockey. Describe geology. Help me understand “The Mason-Dixon Line.” These things have to be manifested visually.

Human beings have been drawing for 73,000 years. It’s an inextricable part of what it means to be human. We don’t have the strength of chimpanzees because we’ve given up brute strength to manipulate subtle instruments, like hammers, spears, and — later — pens and pencils. The human hand is an extremely dense network of nerve endings; the somatosensory homunculus (a sculpture of a human being where the body proportions correspond to how sensitive the associated nerve networks are) demonstrates this well. In many ways, human beings are built to draw.

In fact, doodling has been shown to affect how the brain runs and processes information in a significant way. Some researchers argue that doodling activates the brain’s so-called default circuit — essentially, the areas of the brain responsible for maintaining a baseline level of activity in the absence of other stimuli. Because of this, some believe that doodling during a boring lecture can help students pay attention.

Evidence has shown that doodling does actually improve memory. In one study, participants were asked to listen to a list of names while either doodling or sitting still. Those who doodled remembered 29 percent more of the names than those who did not.

It’s not just absent-minded, abstract doodling that helps the brain either; drawing concepts and physical objects forces your brain to engage with a subject in new and different ways, enhancing your understanding. For example, some researchers tested study participants’ ability to recall a list of words based on whether they had copied the word by hand or drawn the concept — like writing the word “apple” versus drawing one. The drawers often were able to recall twice as many words.

There’s also evidence that drawing talent is based on how accurately someone perceives the world. The human visual system tends to misjudge size, shape, color, and angles but artists perceive these qualities more accurately than non-artists. Cultivating drawing talent can become an essential tool to improve people’s observational skills in fields where the visual is important.

In biology, for example, describing and categorizing the shape and form of living things is critical. Prior to the invention of the photograph, biologists were trained draftsmen; they had to be in order to show the world the details of a new species. Now, some biology professors are reintroducing physical drawing in their biology courses. The reasoning is that actively deciding to draw helps people see the world better.

Rather than think of drawing as a talent that some creative people are gifted in, we should consider it as a tool for seeing and understanding the world better — one that just so happens to double as an art form. Both absent-minded doodling and copying from life have been shown to positively affect your memory and visual perception, so raise hell the next time your school board slashes the art department’s budget.


Scientists reverse hair loss by making scalp “smell” sandalwood

  • Scientists treated scalp tissue with a chemical that mimics the odor of sandalwood.
  • This chemical bound to an olfactory receptor in the scalp and stimulated hair growth.
  • The treatment could soon be available to the public.

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A synthetic chemical that mimics the odor of sandalwood could be the key to reversing hair loss, new research suggests. In a paper published in Nature, scientists describe how they were able to stimulate hair follicle growth and slow cell death by essentially getting scalp tissue to “smell” a synthetic sandalwood odorant called Sandalore. The unusual finding is explained by the existence of a particular olfactory receptor in the scalp, OR2AT4, to which Sandalore binds and promotes hair growth.

“This is actually a rather amazing finding,” senior researcher and dermatologist Ralf Paus from the University of Manchester in the U.K. told The Independent. “This is the first time ever that it has been shown that the remodelling of a normal human mini-organ [a hair] can be regulated by a simple, cosmetically widely-used odorant.”

A possible “olfactotherapy” treatment

Sandalore, which is used in perfumes and skin cleaners, is known to have unusually effective wound-healing properties because it interacts with certain kinds of olfactory receptors in the skin. With this in mind, the researchers hypothesized that the chemical could have similar effects on hair follicles.

To find out, the team treated samples of human scalp skin with Sandalore and found that it stimulated a hair-growth factor called IGF-1 when it bound to the olfactory receptor OR2AT4. As further evidence that OR2AT4 plays a key role in hair growth, the researchers showed that hair follicles died more quickly when they “silenced” the receptor.

While it’s still unclear whether Sandalore could continuously stimulate hair growth over a long-term period, Paus said the chemical could soon be offered as an “olfactotherapy” treatment for hair loss, a condition that affects about 80 million men and women in the U.S.

“Sandalore is already offered as a cosmetic product in Italy by the company that has co-sponsored the current study,” Paus told The Independent. “A very small, short and preliminary clinical pilot study performed by an independent CRO [contract research organisation] in 20 female volunteers with topical Sandalore has already suggested a reduction of daily hair loss.”

Early Halloween in this Greek town: 1,000-foot spiderweb

  • Aitoliko, in Western Greece is the town these images are from.
  • Tetragnatha is the genus — known as “stretch spiders” because of their elongated bodies.
  • They can run faster on water than on land. Don’t panic, though: they will be gone in days.

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In a phenomenon that can should only be in nightmares and Halloween horror films, stretch spiders have covered the beach of a Western Grecian island lagoon; it’s a phenomenon that happens every so often — the last time it was here was in 2003. It’s because the spiders are having a bit of a feast right now on swarms of mosquitos. After their gorging, the spiders will follow up with mating.

Lest you think the end of the world is nigh, though, rest assured that they will only be doing this for a few days.

“When an animal finds abundant food, high temperatures and sufficient humidity, it has the ideal conditions to be able to make large populations,” explained molecular biologist Maria Chatzaki from Democritus University of Thrace in Greece. “This phenomenon has arisen from a population explosion of this spider.”

Still, those of us with arachnophobia will probably sleep a little less well this evening knowing that these little buggers are out there… somewhere.

It’s not permanent, and doesn’t harm anything. Aside from… you know, your subconscious mind.

Not to worry about the other living things beneath this all-encompassing web, however.

“These spiders are not dangerous for humans and will not cause any damage to the area’s flora,” Chatzaki told the Newsit.gr website. “The spiders will have their party and will soon die.”

But just because they’re halfway across the world, doesn’t mean it can’t happen in the United States. Spiders turned a quiet roadside in Dallas, Texas, into a web-laden scene.

But seriously, though… is there an upside?

There is an upside to this. These spiders are feasting on mosquitos as they create these vast, 1,000-foot webs.

Anything that does that is A-OK in my book.

Here’s the full video:

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Early Halloween in this Greek town: Massive, 1000-foot spiderwebs

  • Aitoliko, in Western Greece is the town these images are from
  • Tetragnatha is the genus — known as “stretch spiders” because of their elongated bodies
  • They can run faster on water than on land. Don’t panic, though: They will be gone in days

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In a phenomenon that can should only be in nightmares and Halloween horror films, stretch spiders have covered the beach of a Western Grecian island lagoon; it’s a phenomenon that happens every so often — the last time it was here was in 2003. It’s because the spiders are having a bit of a feast right now, since mosquitos are thick near the end of their mating season, and they’ll follow their gorging with a fast mating season.

Lest you think the end of the world is nigh, though, rest assured that they will only be doing this for a few days.

“When an animal finds abundant food, high temperatures and sufficient humidity, it has the ideal conditions to be able to make large populations,” explained molecular biologist Maria Chatzaki from Democritus University of Thrace in Greece.

“This phenomenon has arisen from a population explosion of this spider.”

Still, those of us with arachnophobia will probably sleep a little less well this evening knowing that these little buggers are out there … somewhere.

It’s not permanent, and doesn’t harm anything. Aside from … you know, your subconscious mind.

Not to worry about the other living things beneath this all-encompassing web, however.

“These spiders are not dangerous for humans and will not cause any damage to the area’s flora,” Chatzaki says. “The spiders will have their party and will soon die.”

But just because they’re halfway across the world, doesn’t mean it can’t happen here, as well.

But seriously, though … is there an upside?

There is an upside to this. These spiders are feasting on mosquitos as they create these vast, 1000-foot webs.

Anything that does that is A-OK in my book.

Here’s the full video:

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Calorie information on menus helps diners eat a bit less

  • According to the CDC, obesity is costing the U.S. $147 billion each year in medical costs.
  • The new Cornell study found that knowing calorie information helped diners eat less.
  • Experts believe this could force chain restaurants to offer healthier, low-calorie options.

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Of all the dietary trends, superfood cleanses, high-intensity workouts, fad pills and powders, and metabolic superstar programs guaranteeing weight loss, one tried and true method continues to be a sound means for maintaining a healthy weight: reducing your calories.

A Cornell study, published in August, has discovered that restaurants that list calorie content help customers moderate the amount of food they consume — albeit, by a little. Still, a little can go a long way once you become accustomed to it.

The research team of John Cawley, Alex Susskind, and Barton Willage set up shop in two restaurants for a randomized field experiment. Two different groups were then told to order: a control group with normal menus and a treatment group, which read from menus featuring calorie information. By the end, 5,500 diners contributed to the study.

The treatment group ended up ordering 3 percent fewer calories than the control group — a result of 45 calories per meal. The biggest effect seems to be on consumer awareness. The researchers noted that customers were surprised by how many calories basic meals, such as a tomato soup/grilled cheese combo, has. They continue,

The findings come at a time when most Americans don’t have a precise estimate of how many calories they’re eating, because one-third of their food is prepared outside the home. At the same time, the obesity crisis in America has reached epidemic proportions; the prevalence of obesity in adults has nearly tripled in the past 50 years, to nearly 40 percent of the population in 2016.

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This follows a law requiring chains with 20 or more locations to post calorie content on menus and menu boards, which went into effect earlier this year. The move was set to launch in 2011 as part of the Affordable Care Act’s requirements, yet pushback from lobbying efforts delayed its implementation.

Part of the gripe from restaurant chains (especially pizza establishments) is that it will reduce profits. Yet in the Cornell study researchers found no evidence of monetary loss between the groups. In fact, healthier options often cost more than junk food. That said, patrons realizing which restaurants are not healthy could have a ripple effect. Though the Cornell study is an outlier — other studies have found that the calorie content does not change minds — it might be pushing restaurants to offer more low-calorie options.

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The cost to restaurants does not nearly equate to those on our medical infrastructure. According to the CDC, obesity is costing the U.S. $147 billion each year. This involves direct and indirect medical problems related to being overweight, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, immune system-related problems, and many other ailments.

John Cawley, a professor of policy analysis and management in the College of Human Ecology at Cornell, views the calorie listing on menus as an easy to implement solution.

It’s a cheap policy to put in place, and the fact that there is a reduction in calories ordered makes it appealing.

While not the only solution, it’s a step in the right direction. Awareness is a catalyst for change, and one thing is certain: we can’t keep heading blindly in the direction we’ve been going. The consumption of unhealthy high-calorie foods, beginning with the frozen dinner revolution of post-World War II America right up through pumpkin spice lattes, has made us a sick and diseased nation. Every calorie counts.

Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook.

To save us, half of Earth needs to be given to animals

  • Scientists says our survival depends on biodiversity.
  • A natural climate strategy we often forget.
  • Seeing our place among the Earth’s living creatures.

When we talk about the loss of habitat for animals, it’s usually discussed in altruistic terms. Those who love animals are eager to fix it, while others feel it’s our planet to do with what we will. It turns out that there may be a 100 percent selfish reason to protect massive swaths of earth for non-humans: It could be the only way to save ourselves. That’s the thought-provoking conclusion drawn in a recent article, Space for Nature in the Science. It was written by National Geographic’s chief scientist Jonathan Baillie and zoologist Ya-Ping Zhang, vice president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. They say we should set aside a third of the oceans and land by 2030, and half of the planet by 2050.

Why we should save so much room for animals

Even putting aside compassion for non-human lives, Baillie points out, “We have to drastically increase our ambition if we want to avoid an extinction crisis and if we want to maintain the ecosystem services that we currently benefit from.” Though he doesn’t explicitly say so, we can interpret what he’s talking about as including human extinction.

Our population is currently 7.6 billion people and is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050. How will we be able to put food in so many mouths? The 50 percent proposal, argues Baillie, is our only hope: “That’s why we need an intact planet. If we want to feed the world’s population, we have to be thinking about maintaining the ecological systems that allow us to provide that.”

And it’s not just about our food supply. “We are learning more and more that the large areas that remain are important for providing services for all life,” says Baillie. “The forests, for example, are critical for absorbing and storing carbon.”

Really? Half the earth for animals?

The article written by Baillie and Zhang explains the 50 percent target: “Most scientific estimates of the amount of space needed to safeguard biodiversity and preserve ecosystem benefits suggest that 25 to 75 percent of regions or major ecosystems must be protected.” There’s a significant degree of guesswork in those numbers, “because of limited knowledge of the number of species on this planet, poor understanding of how ecosystems function or the benefits they provide, and growing threats such as climate change.” Still, it’s better to play it safe according to the article, since “targets set too low could have major negative implications for future generations and all life. Any estimate must therefore err on the side of caution.”

Aren’t large areas already protected?

With less than half of the earth’s regions free of human impact, about 20 percent of vertebrate animals and plants are currently considered threatened. Yet only 3.6 percent of the oceans and 14.7 percent of the land, according to the authors, are under formal protection.

That’s not only just a drop in the bucket, but those figures don’t even tell the whole story. Many of these areas are “paper parks,” legally set aside but unmanaged — about a third of even these areas are being “quietly ruined” as a result of “intense human pressure.”

David Lindenmayer of the Australian National University tells New Sciencist, “These protected areas must be well managed. The basis for conservation will need to change so that it becomes a key part of economies and livelihoods.”

Which half of the earth should we give up?

According to Jose Montoya of France’s Station for Theoretical and Experimental Ecology, “The key thing is to protect the right areas.” His concern is that nations will allocate their least-valuable areas. “If we merely protect a proportion of the territory, governments will likely protect what’s easy, and that’s usually areas of low biodiversity and ecosystem service provision.”Baillie and Zhang don’t consider this possibility to be a deal-breaker so long as we hit the proposed targets.

The authors’ focus now is on a meeting of world governments at 2020’s Convention on Biological Diversity in Beijing. They don’t underestimate the difficulty in gaining global support for their goals, but they also see us as having little choice. As they write, “This will be extremely challenging, but it is possible, and anything less will likely result in a major extinction crisis and jeopardize the health and wellbeing of future generations.”

New infographics show how cigarette smokers are socially penalized

  • The home improvement company Porch recently polled 1,009 people on their feelings about smoking.
  • The company recently published the results as infographics.
  • In terms of dating, 80 percent of nonsmokers find the habit a turnoff

Cigarette smoking has had a bad name since the first Surgeon General’s warnings in the 1960s, and a lot of erstwhile buttheads consider themselves more health-conscious by smoking cigars instead. Tobacco smoke, though, regardless of its source, contains dangerous toxins that pose a danger to others via their exposure to secondhand smoke. Thirdhand exposure is also an issue, from contact with clothing and surfaces on which smoke lands. Though marijuana is generally believed to be safer than tobacco — and to have medicinal value — that’s not entirely certain yet. Vaping with tobacco or grass also exposes the vaper to toxins.

The home improvement company Porch recently polled 1,009 people — 570 men and 490 women — on their feelings about smoking, especially cigarette smoking. The recently published the results as infographics.

The high cost of cigarette smoking

When it comes to good-old tobacco smoking, it’s a habit that requires a serious commitment of cash, not to mention health. The average smoker spends $96.22 per month for the privilege of lighting up 8.9 times a day. And that’s without the local cigarette taxes imposed in some areas as a disincentive for the habit.

If that seems like a lot of scratch, Porch found smokers would be willing to spend even more if certain perks were included. They’d pony up another $43.01 to smoke in their homes without getting any flack — not sure who exactly they’d be paying — and tack on another $29.24 per night to hotel bills to be able to smoke in their rooms.

Significant (cough, cough) others

Smokers, nonsmokers and reformed smokers have feelings about hooking up with smokers.

While about 80 percent of nonsmokers find the habit a turnoff, the remainder wouldn’t necessarily spurn a smoker’s attention.

Ex-smokers are iffy, perhaps for fear of backsliding. A little over a third of the male ex-smokers polled said maybe, while only 19.8 percent of women would be okay with dating a puffer.

At the bottom right below sits the most icky pie chart we’ve seen in a while, and appropriately so: that ashtray reveals that 19.2 percent of nonsmokers would rather date a convicted felon!

Porch throws in an extra amusing political tidbit here: A majority of both parties would rather go out with a member of the opposing party than someone with a nicotine habit.

The malady lingers on

Three out of four nonsmokers won’t put a deposit down on a house whose smell reveals that a smoker was a previous inhabitant.

Likewise, remember how smokers would pay extra to be able to smoke in their hotel rooms? Well, nonsmokers staying at those spaces would not be too happy about that. Almost 90 percent of nonsmokers would demand a room switch if their temporary abode smelled like smoke.

But let’s say you’re a nonsmoker and you’ve moved in and have company over: about 43 percent of you don’t want guests smoking anything in Chez Vous. Vaping would be sort of okay, getting high a little less, and 22.6 percent of nonsmokers would find themselves having to awkwardly request their guests put those death sticks away. Of course, famously stinky cigars are the least welcome of all.

A smoker’s home is her/his ashtray

Almost 80 percent of smokers light up in their own domiciles. Question: Is lighting a cigarette on the stove cool or ridiculous? Discuss. How about lighting a match on your teeth (not part of the survey).

Pot smokers are even more likely to smoke at home, which makes sense considering that herbally recreating in public may pose problems, and in some places arrest. Once again, cigar smokers, presumably many of whom live with people who have noses, only smoke at home about half the time.

The dangers of different types of smoking

In general, women consider all forms of smoking slightly more dangerous than men do. Beyond that, the survey’s respondents have the relative dangers in about the right order according to current research. However, it’s likely we have more to learn about thirdhand-cigarette smoke, marijuana, and vaping various varieties of plant matter.

Smoking around children

So playing the odds with one’s own health is one thing, but what about rolling the dice with the well-being of the children who happen to be around when you smoke coffin nails? About two thirds of nonsmoking parents would speak up if you tried it, and about 40 percent of smoking parents.

Of those smoking parents, about two thirds do smoke around their own children, and a third of them in the car — obviously, that’s close exposure, and when the weather is such that the windows are closed, a car is nasty place for a kid who wants to breathe.

Native Americans’ revenge?

Smoking is something that just doesn’t seem to ever want to go away, and that’s been true since ever the early colonists were exposed to tobacco by the locals. Each generation has its own relationship to it, finding it alternately fashionable/cool or repulsive/unhealthy — smoking is currently on the decline. But for many, the oral appeal is undeniable. If you’re a smoker, we’d of course like you to be around as long as possible, and hope you’ll consider quitting — there are lots of ways to making it happen once you can cough up sufficient determination.

Whatever you smoke, it’s somebody’s problem

  • Survey tracks the interaction between smokers and nonsmokers
  • Whether you smoke or not, it’s everywhere
  • How normal is your reaction to smoking?

Cigarette smoking has had a bad name since the first Surgeon General’s warnings in the 1960s, and a lot of erstwhile buttheads consider themselves more health-conscious by smoking cigars instead. Tobacco smoke, though, regardless of its source, contains dangerous toxins that pose a danger to others via their exposure to second-hand smoke. Third-hand exposure is also an issue, from contact with clothing and surfaces on which smoke lands. Though marijuana is generally believed to be safer than tobacco — and to have medicinal value — that’s not entirely certain yet. Vaping with tobacco or grass also exposes the vaper to toxins.

Home-improvement company Porch recently polled 1,009 people — 570 men and 490 women — on, and their feelings about smoking, especially cigarette smoking, and smokers. The recently published the results as infographics.

The high cost of cigarette smoking

When it comes to good-old tobacco smoking, it’s a habit that requires a serious commitment of cash, not to mention health. The average smoker spends $96.22 per month for the privilege of lighting up 8.9 times a day. And that’s without the local cigarette taxes imposed in some areas as a disincentive for the habit.

If that seems like a lot of scratch, Porch found smokers would be willing to spend even more if certain perks were included. They’d pony up another $43.01 to smoke in their homes without getting any flack — not sure who exactly they’d be paying — and tack on another $29.24 per night to hotel bills to be able to smoke in their rooms.

Significant (cough, cough) others

Smokers, nonsmokers and reformed smokers have feelings about hooking up with smokers.

While about 80 percent of nonsmokers find the habit a turnoff, the remainder wouldn’t necessarily spurn a smoker’s attention.

Ex-smokers are iffy, perhaps for fear of backsliding. A little over a third of the male ex-smokers polled said maybe, while only 19.8 percent of women would be okay with dating a puffer.

At the bottom right below sits the most icky pie chart we’ve seen in a while, and appropriately so: that ashtray reveals that 19.2 percent of nonsmokers would rather date a convicted felon!

Porch throws in an extra amusing political tidbit here: A majority of both parties would rather go out with a member of the opposing party than someone with a nicotine habit.

The malady lingers on

Three out of four nonsmokers won’t put a deposit down on a house whose smell reveals that a smoker was a previous inhabitant.

Likewise, remember how smokers would pay extra to be able to smoke in their hotel rooms? Well, nonsmokers staying at those spaces would not be too happy about that. Almost 90 percent of nonsmokers would demand a room switch if their temporary abode smelled like smoke.

But let’s say you’re a nonsmoker and you’ve moved in and have company over: about 43 percent of you don’t want guests smoking anything in Chez Vous. Vaping would be sort of okay, getting high a little less, and 22.6 percent of nonsmokers would find themselves having to awkwardly request their guests put those death sticks away. Of course, famously stinky cigars are the least welcome of all.

A smoker’s home is her/his ashtray

Almost 80 percent of smokers light up in their own domiciles. Question: Is lighting a cigarette on the stove cool or ridiculous? Discuss. How about lighting a match on your teeth (not part of the survey).

Pot smokers are even more likely to smoke at home, which makes sense considering that herbally recreating in public may pose problems, and in some places arrest. Once again, cigar smokers, presumably many of whom live with people who have noses, only smoke at home about half the time.

The dangers of different types of smoking

In general, women consider all forms of smoking slightly more dangerous than men do. Beyond that, the survey’s respondents have the relative dangers in about the right order according to current research. However, it’s likely we have more to learn about thirdhand-cigarette smoke, marijuana, and vaping various varieties of plant matter.

Smoking around children

So playing the odds with one’s own health is one thing, but what about rolling the dice with the well-being of the children who happen to be around when you smoke coffin nails? About two thirds of nonsmoking parents would speak up if you tried it, and about 40 percent of smoking parents.

Of those smoking parents, about two thirds do smoke around their own children, and a third of them in the car — obviously, that’s close exposure, and when the weather is such that the windows are closed, a car is nasty place for a kid who wants to breathe.

Native Americans’ revenge?

Smoking is something that just doesn’t seem to ever want to go away, and that’s been true since ever the early colonists were exposed to tobacco by the locals. Each generation has its own relationship to it, finding it alternately fashionable/cool or repulsive/unhealthy — smoking is currently on the decline. But for many, the oral appeal is undeniable. If you’re a smoker, we’d of course like you to be around as long as possible, and hope you’ll consider quitting — there are lots of ways to making it happen once you can cough up sufficient determination.

The “catch” to being on the keto diet

  • Recent studies showed volunteers lost equal or more weight on high-carb, calorie-restricted diets than low-carb, calorie restricted diets.
  • There might be positive benefits to short-term usage of a ketogenic diet.
  • One dietician warns that the ketogenic diet could put diabetics at risk for diabetic ketoacidosis.

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A few weeks ago I stopped by the Korean stand at my local farmer’s market. I was picking up fermented daikon and tempeh when the seller tells me about a woman that had just stopped by to ask if tempeh has protein. The look on my face answered his non-question. He continues to tell me that she’s on a “no protein” diet because, well, at this point, I just give up.

Humans can be absurd in our dietary beliefs. Every other animal eats due to necessity and availability. Our relative luxury has afforded us the opportunity to partake in eating plans that thwart basic biological needs. Some plans seem to make sense until science steps in.

For a minute it appeared the keto diet had traction. Advocates were seeing drastic weight loss. By their telling, “Big Food” is waging a longtime conspiracy to inject as many big carbs into our bodies as possible. (Not that excess carbohydrates, especially in the form of sugar, isn’t a problem.) My personal experience with keto, which lasted roughly three months, was successful in certain regards. Weight loss wasn’t the intended goal, though that did happen; I did it to address chronic GI issues.

As it turns out, I might have inadvertently nailed the timing, at least according to one doctor that never puts his clients into ketosis for more than three months. Let’s face it: our ancestors never purposefully restricted carbohydrate intake. They just didn’t have a Whole Foods to shop at. Macronutrients weren’t on their minds as they had no awareness of the building blocks of calories to begin with. The question was never “What’s my meal plan this week?” but rather, “What can I catch today? What plant is ripe to forage?”

Now that more research is emerging, the news on keto isn’t good. Scientists leading one 2016 study, led by National Institutes of Health obesity researcher Kevin Hall, confined 17 volunteers to a hospital for a two-month stay. This is important, as self-reported studies are always at risk of being invalidated by faulty data. In this study, volunteers ate plenty of sugary carbs for the first month; during the second they received the same caloric load, replacing the bulk of those carbs with fats.

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infographic of the ketogenic diet

At the end of the two months, Hall was unimpressed.

In this case, we saw daily insulin secretion drop substantially within the first week and stay at a low level. But we only saw a small transient increase in energy expenditure during the first couple of weeks of the [low-carb] diet, and that essentially vanished by the end of the study.

Despite what some expected, it took the volunteers on the high-fat diet 28 days to lose as much weight as those on the baseline diet lost in 15 days. (All volunteers were overweight; the mechanism for their weight loss was lower daily caloric intake.) To be fair, there was no control group and calorie restriction generally has a bigger impact during the first month on any diet. That said, this study provided a serious blow to low-carb advocates.

As dietician Bonnie Taub-Dix told Well + Good, there should be an emphasis on eating the right carbs, such as whole grains. She’s also not a fan of diabetics getting into ketosis, even though this community is specifically targeted by advocates. “It can cause DKA, diabetic ketoacidosis,” she said. “This happens when your body is producing a lot of ketones and can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, feeling faint, and being [excessively] thirsty.”


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The Internet is filled with anecdotal tales of triumph thanks to ketosis. The diet should not be completely written off, as other studies — on mice — have shown positive benefits, such as weight loss and memory improvement. Again, these are short-term fixes, not longitudinal proof.

Besides, a 2018 study, published in JAMA, found that low-carb and low-fat diets were equally effective for weight loss. This isn’t the only evidence of this fact. A 2015 meta-analysis found that low-carb diets barely outperformed low-fat diets.

As Taub-Dix notes, balanced dieting is “boring.” People always want the next great thing, be it a shamanically-blessed Amazonian berry or a supercharged Pacific Northwestern mushroom. I recently had dinner with a fellow who talked about his nootropics regimen, which greatly increases his focus, yet he checked his cell phone every five minutes during our two-hour meal. The distance between our brain and our gut remains too long to traverse.

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For the first time ever, a space junk collector has succeeded

  • It’s a prototype but the test just conducted has proven its viability
  • It was designed by the University of Surrey Space Centre
  • Watch the video below on how it works

The net worked in testing, just as intended. More tests to come.

There are two possible ways for the craft, named — appropriately enough — RemoveDEBRIS, to accomplish its goals.

1) A large net that will capture space junk and drag it down to the Earth’s atmosphere, where it will burn up.

2) A “harpoon,” which will spear potential debris and then reel it in like a fish, then deploy a drag sail to pull objects down out of orbit

Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the Surrey Centre, told the magazine Sky NewsSky News he was delighted that they had overcome the technical challenges involved.

“The difficulty that we have is that you want to capture your piece of debris with the net, you want to envelop the piece of debris, then at the same time you want to draw a string so you actually capture the thing so it can’t escape,” he said. “To synchronise all this, as you can imagine, is a bit challenging.”

For the test, a toaster-sized piece of debris — actually a CubeSat — was released from the craft. The craft deployed its net as intended, and the net captured the debris. It will drag it down to our atmosphere and then burn up upon re-entry. After the harpoon testing, the drag sail will be deployed by RemoveDEBRIS itself, dragging it down to destruction in our atmosphere.

Here’s the thing in action:

The beginning of a solution to the problem?

With over 500,000 space debris objects orbiting Earth, and some of them traveling faster than a speeding bullet at 30,000 mph, this technology is being developed at just the right time. Six years in development, the potential of RemoveDEBRIS is quite tantalizing.

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