Category Archives: Food

The Science Of Being Nice 

By:  Kun Zhao and Luke Smillie of The Conversation 

Originally a term for “foolish”, its meaning over the centuries has morphed from “wanton” to “reserved” to “fastidious”. These days, it has become a somewhat bland and opaque description of personality: “she’s really nice.”

But its common usage hints at the characteristics that matter deeply to us.

Personality psychology can help unsnarl some of these fuzzy concepts. Recent research suggests that our tendency to be “nice” can be separated into two related but distinct personality traits: politeness and compassion.

We see these differences play out in social decision making, where politeness is linked to being fair and compassion to helping others.

A tale of two traits

Decades of research have shown that personality traits describing how well we treat others are often observed together. These are summarised by the term agreeableness, one of five broad dimensions capturing the majority of human personality.

Some of our most valued qualities — kindness, integrity, empathy, modesty, patience, and trustworthiness — are nestled within this dimension. They are instilled in us at an early age and reflect important standards through which we judge others and ourselves.

But are there exceptions to this cluster of “nice” personality traits? What about your big-hearted but foul-mouthed friend, or a well-mannered but distant acquaintance?

It turns out that agreeableness can be meaningfully divided into two narrower traits. Politeness refers to our tendency to be respectful of others versus being aggressive. It’s about good manners and adhering to societal rules and norms — what we’d see in upstanding, decent folks, or “good citizens”, if you will. In contrast, compassion refers to our tendency to be emotionally concerned about others versus being cold-hearted — what we’d see in the proverbial “good Samaritan”.

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New Zealand Authority Pushes To Ban Alcohol In Supermarkets 

By: Eleanor Ainge Roy of The Guardian

The New Zealand Medical Association has called for a ban on selling alcohol in supermarkets, saying that having it next to groceries and food normalises a dangerous drug.

Wine and beer have been widely available in most supermarkets around the country since 1990, although spirits can be bought only in bars and off-licences.

The New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) said having alcohol in supermarkets normalised the drug, and made buying it cheap and easy – meaning people put a bottle of sauvignon blanc in their trolley alongside their bread, milk and toilet paper without a second thought.

According to the association well over half a million New Zealanders consume alcohol in a hazardous way, with many emergency rooms filled on Friday and Saturday nights with alcohol-related admissions.

The NZMA believes it is the government that is best placed to crack down on heavy consumption – a position supported by many health and social policy academics and Alcohol Healthwatch. 

Dr Kate Baddock, the chair of the association, said evidence suggested alcohol was worse than methamphetamine, marijuana and heroin, because it was a cheap, addictive, psychotropic drug.

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Bees May Just Not Be Going Extinct 

By: Alan Bjerga of Bloomberg 

The number of U.S. honeybees, a critical component to agricultural production, rose in 2017 from a year earlier, and deaths of the insects attributed to a mysterious malady that’s affected hives in North America and Europe declined, according a U.S. Department of Agriculture honeybee health survey released Tuesday. 

The number of commercial U.S. honeybee colonies rose 3 percent to 2.89 million as of April 1, 2017 compared with a year earlier, the Agriculture Department reported. The number of hives lost to Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon of disappearing bees that has raised concerns among farmers and scientists for a decade, was 84,430 in this year’s first quarter, down 27 percent from a year earlier. Year-over-year losses declined by the same percentage in April through June, the most recent data in the survey.

Still, more than two-fifths of beekeepers said mites were harming their hives, and with pesticides and other factors still stressing bees, the overall increase is largely the result of constant replenishment of losses, the study showed.

“You create new hives by breaking up your stronger hives, which just makes them weaker,” said Tim May, a beekeeper in Harvard, Illinois and the vice-president of the American Beekeeping Federation based in Atlanta. “We check for mites, we keep our bees well-fed, we communicate with farmers so they don’t spray pesticides when our hives are vulnerable. I don’t know what else we can do.”

Environmental groups have expressed alarm over the 90 percent decline during the past two decades in the population of pollinators, from wild bees to Monarch butterflies. Some point to a class of pesticides called neonicotinoids as a possible cause, a link rejected by Bayer AG and other manufacturers.

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Musk’s Tweet Puts A Spin On Over Polulation 

By: David Gernon of CNBC

Elon Musk usually tweets about mundane topics, from LA traffic to Tesla projects. On Thursday he was more dire.

“The world’s population is accelerating towards collapse, but few seem to notice or care,” Tesla’s CEO tweeted to his nearly 10 million followers. He pointed to a November article in New Scientist magazine titled, “The world in 2076: The population bomb has imploded.”

The piece, written by Fred Pearce points to Japan as a case study for what could go wrong in the relatively near future.

Rather than a meltdown where the Earth’s population outstrips the planet’s ability to feed everyone, we could be headed toward a more subtle but equally disastrous outcome where our population simply does not replace itself fast enough.

“The world has hit peak child,” the late Hans Rosling, a professor at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, said in the article.

Indeed, Japan’s fertility rate is 1.4 children per woman, well below what is required to sustain population growth.

While Japan is perhaps the most well-known example of a country’s population aging, the article in the London-based magazine also points to Germany and Italy, both of which “could see their populations halve within the next 60 years.”

The article spells out some of the problems an older population might bring, including less innovation, cultural shifts and worse and more recession-prone economies.

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Separate Experts Conclude Ocean Temperatures Continue Rising 

By: John Abraham of The Guardian

As humans put ever more heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere, the Earth heats up. These are the basics of global warming. But where does the heat go? How much extra heat is there? And how accurate are our measurements? These are questions that climate scientists ask. If we can answer these questions, it will better help us prepare for a future with a very different climate. It will also better help us predict what that future climate will be.
The most important measurement of global warming is in the oceans. In fact, “global warming” is really “ocean warming.” If you are going to measure the changing climate of the oceans, you need to have many sensors spread out across the globe that take measurements from the ocean surface to the very depths of the waters. Importantly, you need to have measurements that span decades so a long-term trend can be established. 
These difficulties are tackled by oceanographers, and a significant advancement was presented in a paper just published in the journal Climate Dynamics. That paper, which I was fortunate to be involved with, looked at three different ocean temperature measurements made by three different groups. We found that regardless of whose data was used or where the data was gathered, the oceans are warming.

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Stephen Hawkings: Space Colonization Will Unite and Elevate Humanity 

By: Pallab Gosh 

They should also aim to build a lunar base in 30 years’ time and send people to Mars by 2025.

Prof Hawking said that the goal would re-ignite the space programme, forge new alliances and give humanity a sense of purpose.

He was speaking at the Starmus Festival celebrating science and the arts, which is being held in Trondheim, Norway.

“Spreading out into space will completely change the future of humanity,” he said.

“I hope it would unite competitive nations in a single goal, to face the common challenge for us all.

“A new and ambitious space programme would excite (young people), and stimulate interest in other areas, such as astrophysics and cosmology”.

He addressed the concerns of those arguing that it would be better to spend our money on solving the problems of this planet along with a pointed criticism of US President Donald Trump.

“I am not denying the importance of fighting climate change and global warming, unlike Donald Trump, who may just have taken the most serious, and wrong, decision on climate change this world has seen,” he said.

Prof Hawking explained that human space travel is essential for the future of humanity precisely because the Earth was under threat from climate change as well as diminishing natural resources.

“We are running out of space and the only places to go to are other worlds. It is time to explore other solar systems. Spreading out may be the only thing that saves us from ourselves. I am convinced that humans need to leave Earth,” the Cambridge University theoretical physicist explained.

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New Broccoli Pill Reduces Blood Sugar In Diabetics 

By: Andy Coghlan of New Scientist

Doctors frequently tell us to eat our greens, but soon they could be prescribing broccoli. A powder that contains concentrated extract from the vegetable could prove indispensable to people with type 2 diabetes. The extract reduced blood sugar levels by up to 10 per cent in people with the disease.

Type 2 diabetes usually develops around middle age, often in people who are overweight. Their body stops responding to insulin, which controls the level of glucose in the blood. Abnormal insulin regulation causes a rise in blood sugar levels, which can raise people’s chances of heart attacks, blindness and kidney problems.

People with the condition are often prescribed metformin, which helps to lower blood glucose. However, as many as 15 per cent cannot take this therapy because of kidney damage risks.

“More research is needed to see if this repurposed drug can be used to treat Type 2 diabetes, as it was only tested in a small number of people and only helped a subset of those who are taking it,” says Elizabeth Robertson, of the charity Diabetes UK. “For now, we recommend that people continue with the treatment prescribed by their healthcare team.”

Clever greens

A chemical called sulforaphane, found in broccoli sprouts, has previously demonstrated an ability to reduce glucose levels in diabetic rats. Anders Rosengren of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, and his colleagues wondered whether the same might be true for humans. To test the theory, his team gave 97 people with type 2 diabetes a concentrated dose of sulforaphane every day for three months, or a placebo. All but three people in the trial continued taking metformin. Those who didn’t take metformin were able to control their condition relatively well without it.

The concentration of sulforaphane given was around 100 times that found naturally in broccoli. “It was the same as eating around five kilograms of broccoli daily,” says Rosengren.

On average, those who received the broccoli extract saw their blood glucose reduce by 10 per cent more than those on the placebo. The extract was most effective in obese participants with “dysregulated” diabetes, whose baseline glucose levels were higher to start with.

“We’re very excited about the effects we’ve seen and are eager to bring the extract to patients,” says Rosengren. “We saw a reduction of glucose of about 10 per cent, which is sufficient to reduce complications in the eyes, kidneys and blood,” he says.

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5 Officials To Be Charged With Manslaughter For Flint Water Crisis 

By: Oona Goodin-Smith of Mlive 

 Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has charged five water officials — including a member of Gov. Rick Snyder’s cabinet and a former emergency manager — with manslaughter related to their alleged failure to act in during the Flint Water Crisis.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Nick Lyon, former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, former City of Flint Water Department Manager Howard Croft, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s Drinking Water Chief Liane Shekter-Smith and former district supervisor Stephen Busch will all face involuntary manslaughter charges related to their alleged failure to act in the Flint Water Crisis, Schuette announced in a release on Wednesday, June 14.

Involuntary manslaughter is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and/or a $7,500 fine.

The manslaughter charges are connected to the death of Robert Skidmore, who died Dec. 13, 2015, due to the area’s Legionnaires’ disease outbreak.

Charges against Lyon were authorized early on Wednesday, June 14, by Genesee District Judge David Guinn.Earley, Croft, Busch and Shekter-Smith have all previously been charged in connection to the water crisis.

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Canada Helps Their Transient Communites By Teaching Them BeeKeeping 

By: Marilla Steuter of CBC

Helping homeless people in Montreal reintegrate into society by teaching them to care for bees may seem like an unusual approach, but organizers of the Accueil Bonneau honey program say it’s been a real success story.

“When they get to be hands on, they see that it’s all about being confident and being at peace with the bees,” said Geneviève Kieffer Després, director of communications and special projects.

Accueil Bonneau, a local group that offers a drop-in day centre and variety of services for homeless men, partnered with Montreal urban beekeeping company Alvéole four years ago.

Now the program, whose aim is to teach job skills and encourage social interaction, has 60 hives in seven locations across the city. 

“The most important thing is that it’s not just a job. It’s learning to do something you love and getting rewarded for it. That is something we want to teach,” she said.

‘Like therapy

John Levasseur, an apprentice in the program, sees beekeeping as “meaningful” work.

He says bees are “so important, not only economically, but as a barometer” for the environmental state of the world. 

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New CO2 Plant Can Recylce Green House Gases In The Atmosphere 

By: Karla Lant of Futurism 

Yesterday, the world’s first commercial carbon capture plant began sucking carbon dioxide (CO2) out of the air around it. Perched atop a Zurich waste incineration facility, the Climeworks carbon capture plant comprises three stacked shipping containers that hold six CO2 collectors each. Spongey filters absorb CO2 as fans pull air through the collectors until they are fully saturated, a process that takes about two or three hours.

The container then closes, and the process reverses. The collector is heated to 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), and the pure CO2 is released in a form that can be buried underground, made into other products, or sold.

According to Climeworks, the startup that created this carbon capture facility, hundreds of thousands more like it will be needed by midcentury if we want to remain below the limits set by the Paris Agreement. However, to keep the planet’s temperature from increasing by more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), we’ll need to do something more than simply lowering global emissions.

“We really only have less than 20 years left at current emission rates to have a good chance of limiting emissions to less than 2°C,” Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment director Chris Field told Fast Company. “So it’s a big challenge to do it simply by decreasing emissions from energy, transportation, and agriculture.”

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