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An Impossible Scenario: Scientists Watch as Heat Moves at the Speed of Sound

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Shannon Hall writes in Scientific American:

Ryan Duncan froze. He had just performed a new experiment examining common graphite—the stuff of pencil lead—but the results seemed physically impossible: Heat, which typically disperses slowly, had traveled through the graphite at the speed of sound. That is like placing a pot of water on a hot stove and instead of counting down the long minutes until that water starts to simmer, watching it boil almost instantaneously.

It is no wonder that Duncan, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, could not quite believe his eyes. To ensure that he had not made a mistake, he quadruple-checked everything within his set-up, ran the experiment again, and took a mental-health break. “I tried to get some sleep, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to tell if the experiment was successful or not for several more hours, but I was finding it pretty difficult to shut down for the night,” he recalls. When Duncan’s alarm went off the next morning, he ran to his computer (still in his pajamas) and crunched the new measurements only to confront the same result: Heat had still moved impossibly fast.

Duncan and his colleagues published their results last week in the journal Science. The phenomenon, known as “second sound,” has physicists in a state of euphoria—in part because it could pave the way for advanced microelectronics, but mostly because it is so deeply weird.

To understand why, just think about how heat is conducted through the air. It is carried via molecules, which constantly collide with each other and scatter the heat in all directions—forwards, sideways and even backwards. That fundamental inefficiency makes conductive heat relatively sluggish (radiant heat, by comparison, can travel at light speed as infrared radiation). The same sluggishness holds for heat moving through a solid. Here, phonons (packets of acoustic vibrational energy) carry the heat much like molecules in the air, allowing it to scatter in all directions and slowly disperse. “It’s a little bit like, if you take a drop of food coloring and put it into water, it spreads,” says Keith Nelson, Duncan’s advisor at MIT. “It doesn’t just move straight as an arrow away from where you put the drop.” But that is precisely what Duncan’s experiment suggested. In second sound, the backscattering from phonons is heavily suppressed, allowing heat to shoot forward. “That’s the way wavelike motion behaves,” Nelson says. “If you’re in a pool and you launch a water wave, it will leave where you are.… But it’s just not normal for heat to behave that way.”

And for the most part, it does not. Second sound was first detected in liquid helium 75 years ago and later seen within three solids. “All indications early on were that this was something that would really be confined to very few materials and only at very low temperatures,” Nelson says. As such, scientists thought they had hit the end of the road. “It wasn’t super clear what [second sound] could be apart from a scientific statement,” says Nicola Marzari, a materials scientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Lausanne, who was not involved in this study. “So, the entire field went dormant for many years.”

But dramatic improvements in numerical simulations helped to revive the field roughly five years ago—allowing scientists to recognize that the phenomenon might be more widespread. Gang Chen, an engineer at MIT, for example, was able to predict that second sound might be visible within graphite at rather balmy temperatures. That prediction electrified Duncan, who tested it just as soon as he could—eventually putting the rest of his pursuits on the back burner, once the results proved to be so counterintuitive.

First, Duncan deposited heat into the graphite sample using two crossed laser beams to create an interference pattern—alternating bright and dark regions that correspond to crests and troughs in the colliding waves of light. At the outset, the crests heated up the graphite while the troughs remained cool. But once Duncan switched off the lasers, the pattern would begin to slowly diminish as heat flowed from the hot crests to the cool troughs. The experiment would reach its end once the entire sample reached a uniform temperature. Or at least that is what typically happens. But when the lasers stopped shining, the graphite had other plans, continuing to allow the heat to flow until the hot crests became cooler than the troughs. This is rather like a stove top that becomes ice-cold the instant you turn it off rather than gradually cooling to ambient temperature. “That’s weird,” Nelson says. “Heat isn’t supposed to do that!”

And it certainly is not supposed to do that at such high temperatures. Marzari, who predicted the phenomenon at almost the same time as Chen, was therefore fairly confident that it would prove valid. Even so, he was less certain that second sound would be seen at the foreseen high temperatures. “If you had asked me to bet my mortgage on the existence of this effect, I would have said yes,” Marzari says. “But the question is always does it happen at 100 Kelvin, 20 Kelvin or 0.1 Kelvin?” Duncan’s experiment found the effect at 120 Kelvin—more than 10 times higher than previous measurements. “Nobody ever thought that you would actually be able to do this at such high temperatures,” says Venkatesh Narayanamurti, a research professor of technology and public policy at Harvard University who was not involved in the study. “In that sense, it breaks some conventional wisdom.”

It also suggests that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 March 2019 at 4:03 pm

Posted in Science

Walkies—and heart rate

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I’ve mentioned that I am again Nordic walking, and today I lengthened the route a bit: 45 minutes, 4874 steps, a cadence of 108.3, an improvement over the 105.8 I started with 5 days ago.

I also just got a fancy new scale. I had a Withings wi-fi scale that finally died (I’ve had it for a decade), and I got a Withings Body+ scale that has all sorts of readings, with a companion smartphone app that can take your pulse using the camera (with you fingertip pressed against the camera lense).

I turn out to have a slow pulse rate, assuming I’m doing it right. Immediately after awakening it was 47 bpm, and after moving around and making breakfast it was 58. I took it just now immediately after finishing the walk and it was 91 bpm.

After a 15-minute rest, it dropped to 80bpm.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 March 2019 at 12:08 pm

Good enough to eat? The toxic truth about modern food

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Bee Wilson writes in the Guardian:

Pick a bunch of green grapes, wash it, and put one in your mouth. Feel the grape with your tongue, observe how cold and refreshing it is: the crisp flesh, and the jellylike interior with its mild, sweet flavour.

Eating grapes can feel like an old pleasure, untouched by change. The ancient Greeks and Romans loved to eat them, as well as to drink them in the form of wine. The Odyssey describes “a ripe and luscious vine, hung thick with grapes”. As you pull the next delicious piece of fruit from its stalk, you could easily be plucking it from a Dutch still life of the 17th century, where grapes are tumbled on a metal platter with oysters and half-peeled lemons.

But look closer at this bunch of green grapes, cold from the fridge, and you see that they are not unchanged after all. Like so many other foods, grapes have become a piece of engineering designed to please modern eaters. First of all, there are almost certainly no seeds for you to chew or spit out (unless you are in certain places such as Spain where seeded grapes are still part of the culture). Strains of seedless varieties have been cultivated for centuries, but it is only in the past two decades that seedless has become the norm, to spare us the dreadful inconvenience of pips.

Here is another strange new thing about grapes: the ones in the supermarket such as Thompson Seedless and Crimson Flame are always sweet. Not bitter, not acidic, not foxy like a Concord grape, not excitingly aromatic like one of the Muscat varieties, but just plain sweet, like sugar. On biting into a grape, the ancients did not know if it would be ripe or sour. The same was true, in my experience, as late as the 1990s. It was like grape roulette: a truly sweet one was rare and therefore special. These days, the sweetness of grapes is a sure bet, because in common with other modern fruits such as red grapefruit and Pink Lady apples, our grapes have been carefully bred and ripened to appeal to consumers reared on sugary foods. Fruit bred for sweetness does not have to be less nutritious, but modern de-bittered fruits tend to contain fewer of the phytonutrients that give fruits and vegetables many of their protective health benefits. Such fruit still gives us energy, but not necessarily the health benefits we would expect.

The very fact that you are nibbling seedless grapes so casually is also new. I am old enough to remember a time when grapes – unless you were living in a grape-producing country – were a special and expensive treat. But now, millions of people on average incomes can afford to behave like the reclining Roman emperor of film cliche, popping grapes into our mouths one by one. Globally, we both produce and consume twice as many as we did in the year 2000. They are an edible sign of rising prosperity, because fruit is one of the first little extras that people spend money on when they start to have disposable income. Their year-round availability also speaks to huge changes in global agriculture. Fifty years ago, table grapes were a seasonal fruit, grown in just a few countries and only eaten at certain times of year. Today, they are cultivated globally and never out of season.

Almost everything about grapes has changed, and fast. And yet they are the least of our worries when it comes to food, just one tiny element in a much larger series of kaleidoscopic transformations in how and what we eat that have happened in recent years. These changes are written on the land, on our bodies and on our plates (insofar as we even eat off plates any more).

For most people across the world, life is getting better but diets are getting worse. This is the bittersweet dilemma of eating in our times. Unhealthy food, eaten in a hurry, seems to be the price we pay for living in liberated modern societies. Even grapes are symptoms of a food supply that is out of control. Millions of us enjoy a freer and more comfortable existence than that of our grandparents, a freedom underpinned by an amazing decline in global hunger. You can measure this life improvement in many ways, whether by the growth of literacy and smartphone ownership, or the rising number of countries where gay couples have the right to marry. Yet our free and comfortable lifestyles are undermined by the fact that our food is killing us, not through lack of it but through its abundance – a hollow kind of abundance.

With Brexit, food worries in the UK have become political, with panicked discussions of stockpiling and the spectre of US imports of chlorine-treated chicken on the horizon. Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to the UK, has dismissed these worries, suggesting that US food standards are nothing to be concerned about. But the bigger question is not whether American standards are lower than those in Britain, but why food standards across the world have been allowed to sink so dramatically.

What we eat now is a greater cause of disease and death in the world than either tobacco or alcohol. In 2015 around 7 million people died from tobacco smoke, and 2.75 million from causes related to alcohol, but 12m deaths could be attributed to “dietary risks” such as diets low in vegetables, nuts and seafood or diets high in processed meats and sugary drinks. This is paradoxical and sad, because good food – good in every sense, from flavour to nutrition – used to be the test by which we judged the quality of life. A good life without good food should be a logical impossibility.

Where humans used to live in fear of plague or tuberculosis, now the leading cause of mortality worldwide is diet. Most of our problems with eating come down to the fact that we have not yet adapted to the new realities of plenty, either biologically or psychologically. Many of the old ways of thinking about diet no longer apply, but it isn’t clear yet what it would mean to adapt our appetites and routines to the new rhythms of life. We take our cues about what to eat from the world around us, which becomes a problem when our food supply starts to send us crazy signals about what is normal. “Everything in moderation” doesn’t quite cut it in a world where the “everything” for sale in the average supermarket has become so sugary and so immoderate.

At no point in history have edible items been so easy to obtain, and in many ways this is a glorious thing. Humans have always gone out and gathered food, but never before has it been so simple for us to gather anything we want, whenever we want it, from sachets of black squid ink to strawberries in winter. We can get sushi in Buenos Aires, sandwiches in Tokyo and Italian food everywhere. Not so long ago, to eat genuine Neapolitan pizza, a swollen-edged disc of dough cooked in a blistering oven, you had to go to Naples. Now, you can find Neapolitan pizza – made using the right dough blasted in an authentic pizza oven – as far afield as Seoul and Dubai.

Talking about what has gone wrong with modern eating is delicate, because food is a touchy subject. No one likes to feel judged about their food choices, which is one of the reasons why so many healthy eating initiatives fail. The rise of obesity and diet-related disease around the world has happened hand in hand with the marketing of fast food and sugary sodas, of processed meats and branded snack foods. As things stand, our culture is far too critical of the individuals who eat junk foods and not critical enough of the corporations who profit from selling them. A survey of more than 300 international policymakers found that 90% of them still believed that personal motivation – AKA willpower – was a very strong cause of obesity. This is absurd.

It makes no sense to presume that there has been a sudden collapse in willpower across all ages and ethnic groups since the 1960s. What has changed most since the 60s is not our collective willpower but the marketing and availability of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods. Some of these changes are happening so rapidly it’s almost impossible to keep track. Sales of fast food grew by 30% worldwide from 2011 to 2016 and sales of packaged food grew by 25%. Somewhere in the world, a new branch of Domino’s Pizza opened every seven hours in 2016.

But this story isn’t just about one kind of food or one set of people. Across the board, across all social classes, most of us eat and drink more than our grandparents did, whether we are cooking a leisurely dinner at home from fresh ingredients or grabbing a takeaway from a fast food chain. Plates are bigger than they were 50 years ago, our idea of a portion is inflated and wine glasses are vast. It has become normal to punctuate the day with snacks and to quench our thirst with calorific liquids, from green juice and detox shots to craft sodas (which are just like any other soda, only more expensive). As the example of grapes shows, we don’t just eat more burgers and fries than our grandparents, we also eat more fruit and avocado toast and frozen yoghurt, more salad dressing and many, many more “guilt-free” kale crisps.

Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at Chapel Hill University, North Carolina, can identify the year when snacking took off in China. It was 2004. Before that, the Chinese consumed very little between meals except green tea and hot water. In 2004, Popkin suddenly noticed a marked transition from the old Chinese ways of two or three meals a day towards a new pattern of eating. In collaboration with a team of Chinese nutritionists, he has been following the Chinese diet in snapshots of data every two or three years, conducting regular surveys of around 10,000-12,000 people. Back in 1991, Popkin found that at certain fixed times of year, there were treats to supplement the daily diet. During the mid-autumn festival, for example, people would eat moon cakes made from lard-enriched pastry stuffed with sweetened bean paste. But such feasting foods were ritualised and rare, nothing like a casual cereal bar.

In 2004, out of nowhere, as incomes rose, Chinese habits of snacking spread dramatically. The number of Chinese adults between 19 and 44 describing themselves as eating snacks over a three-day period nearly doubled, while the number of children between two and six eating snacks rose almost as much. Based on the most recent data, more than two-thirds of Chinese children now report snacking during the day. This is an eating revolution.

The curious thing about snacking in China is that to start with it actually made people healthier, because they were snacking on fruit: fresh tangerines and kumquats, bayberries and lychees, pineapple and pomelo. These were the foods that people had always aspired to eat, but couldn’t afford in the past. Phase two of snacking in China has been very different. “The marketing comes in,” Popkin tells me, “and boom! boom! boom! the snacks are not healthy any more.” As of 2015, the commercial savoury snack food market in China was worth more than $7bn. When I travelled to Nanjing last year, I saw people consuming the same Starbucks Frappuccinos and blueberry muffins as in London.

China is not alone. Almost every country in the world has experienced radical changes to its patterns of eating over the past five, 10 and 50 years. For a long time, nutritionists have held up the “Mediterranean diet” as a healthy model for people in all countries to follow. But recent reports from the World Health Organisation suggest that even in Spain, Italy and Crete, most children no longer eat anything like a “Mediterranean diet” rich in olive oil and fish and tomatoes. These Mediterranean children, who are, as of 2017, among the most overweight in Europe, now drink sugary colas and eat packaged snack foods and have lost the taste for fish and olive oil. In every continent, there has been a common set of changes from savoury foods to sweet ones, from meals to snacks, dinners cooked at home to meals eaten out, or takeaways. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2019 at 1:44 pm

In Schools All Over the Country, America’s Kids Are Exposed to Water Tainted by Toxic Lead

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Jessica Glenza and Oliver Milman report in Mother Jones:

When Shakima Thomas came home one day last October, she found a piece of paper wedged in her door telling her the water in her home could be contaminated with lead.

Thomas, a social worker in Newark, New Jersey, knew what it meant—that the tap water she and her four-year-old son Bryce had been drinking could have profound effects on their health.

“My kid loves water—he loves it—so it was difficult telling him not to drink the water,” Thomas said. “He’s four years old and doesn’t understand.”

A century-long war to remove lead from Americans’ daily lives has been successful on some fronts, but a lack of regulation, political will and funding has meant the contamination of drinking water remains a public health crisis.

There “is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe,” the World Health Organization has warned. The heavy metal, used widely in the past manufacture of water pipes, can cause serious health problems in adults including high blood pressure and kidney damage as it accumulates in the body at high levels of exposure.

But children are particularly vulnerable to its toxic effects, which can affect the development of the brain and nervous system. Even low levels can impair a child’s IQ, academic achievement and ability to pay attention. US studies have shown lead-exposed children are more likely to be aggressive, leading to bullying, truancy and even jail.

“Unfortunately, it’s a problem that was swept under the rug for many years, even though many experts were well aware there was excess of lead in their tap water,” said Erik Olson, a senior director of advocacy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, about lead in schools in particular.

“Lead is a neurotoxin, it drops IQ scores, it’s linked to aberrant behavior and violence,” said Howard Kessler, a retired doctor based in Tallahassee, Florida, who is part of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

“The concern is that while we are not taking much action, children are being damaged on a generational level. We are supposed to provide them with a safe environment, not poison them,” he said.

Elevated levels of lead have been found in schools across the US in the wake of the toxic water scandal that has roiled Flint, Michigan, since 2014. In Newark, officials had first found lead in school water fountains and taps nearly two years before Thomas was warned of its possible presence in her drinking water at home.

More than half of public schools in Atlanta were found to have high levels of lead, in some cases 15 times above the federal limit for water systems. Schools in BaltimorePortland and Chicago were all found to have significant amounts of lead in drinking water.

The most startling problems arose in Detroit, where the school district shut off water in all 106 school buildings last year. A total of 57 Detroit schools tested positive for lead, copper or both. Students were told to switch to bottled water. The city is now looking to spend $2m on new filters and water fountains.

Communities outside major urban areas have not escaped exposure to lead. Two dozen schools and daycare centers in Maine were found to have high levels, while authorities in Vermont have vowed to test more of its schools after a report found 16 of them had lead contamination.

Often, when schools detect lead in fountains or taps, they are simply temporarily shut down, and children provided with bottled water, or fitted with filters—short-term solutions which experts say have serious flaws.

For Newark’s residents, the water crisis means a burden they can scarcely bear. While some neighborhoods have experienced a renaissance in property values, more than one in four residents live in poverty, double the national average.

It took Thomas, who relies on public transportation, almost two weeks to get a water filter from the city after a computer erroneously showed she had already received one. While filters provide only temporary relief from lead-contaminated water, they are often necessary as cities and residents work together to remove dangerous lead plumbing connecting homes to water mains.

“It’s really unfair and I think it’s sad,” said Thomas. “Kids have to go to school with the water being toxic, and they have to come home and the water is toxic. I just think it’s poor leadership.”

In June, the Natural Resources Defense Council launched a lawsuit against the city, joined by a group of Newark public school teachers, seeking to force its hand in confronting the problem. Mayor Ras Baraka has called on President Trump not to build a wall—but to use that money to fix water infrastructure in places like Newark.

Yvette Jordan is a public school history teacher and one of a handful of plaintiffs in that lawsuit against the city of Newark.

“There wasn’t the public outcry because people were so overloaded with the vicissitudes of life,” she said. The reaction was, ” ‘I gotta worry about water too? Are you kidding me?’ ”

When Thomas found the notice stuffed in her door jamb she was probably unaware a 1988 law—the Lead Contamination and Control Act signed by Ronald Reagan nearly 30 years to the day before she found that slip of paper—was meant to prevent this.

In the US, lead was nearly phased out of gasoline and paint by the mid-1980s. This, alone, was a huge public health victory that was years in the making, and showed nearly immediate benefits.

“When we took lead out of gasoline, the blood lead of Americans went down by 80 percent,” said Ellen Silbergeld, a MacArthur Foundation genius award winner who was at the forefront of toxicology research and advocacy at the time.

“In my life working on environmental problems, I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “Within three months you saw the results. That’s astounding.”

After removing lead from the welds of tin cans, gasoline and paint, “It was almost like, ‘Hey! We solved this,’” said Silbergeld. “We were really overlooking the potential for lead in drinking water.”

The LCCA was meant to further these public health laws by requiring schools and daycares to test for lead-in-water, but in 1996, it was unexpectedly gutted in a New Orleans court. Two families whose children were exposed to lead-tainted water at school sued Louisiana for failing to notify schools in a timely manner about lead-lined water coolers. They won in lower court, but the state appealed, and they were sent before a three-judge panel in the fifth circuit.

Judge John M Duhé, a Reagan appointee, wrote the decision for the majority, and it meant schools no longer had to test for lead in water. Without the obligation to test water, schools and daycare centers did almost nothing to address the problem for decades.

The scale of the problem is only gradually becoming apparent. Across the US, four in 10 school districts did not test for lead in the previous 12 months, a 2017 report by the US Government Accountability Office found.

Of the 43 percent of districts that had tested, which cover 35 million students, more than one-third found lead. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 March 2019 at 7:55 am

How Inuit Parents Teach Kids To Control Their Anger

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Michaeleen Doucleff and Jane Greenhalgh write at Goats and Soda:

Back in the 1960s, a Harvard graduate student made a landmark discovery about the nature of human anger.

At age 34, Jean Briggs traveled above the Arctic Circle and lived out on the tundra for 17 months. There were no roads, no heating systems, no grocery stores. Winter temperatures could easily dip below minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Briggs persuaded an Inuit family to “adopt” her and “try to keep her alive,” as the anthropologist wrote in 1970.

At the time, many Inuit families lived similar to the way their ancestors had for thousands of years. They built igloos in the winter and tents in the summer. “And we ate only what the animals provided, such as fish, seal and caribou,” says Myna Ishulutak, a film producer and language teacher who lived a similar lifestyle as a young girl.

Briggs quickly realized something remarkable was going on in these families: The adults had an extraordinary ability to control their anger.

“They never acted in anger toward me, although they were angry with me an awful lot,” Briggs told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. in an interview.

Even just showing a smidgen of frustration or irritation was considered weak and childlike, Briggs observed.

For instance, one time someone knocked a boiling pot of tea across the igloo, damaging the ice floor. No one changed their expression. “Too bad,” the offender said calmly and went to refill the teapot.

In another instance, a fishing line — which had taken days to braid — immediately broke on the first use. No one flinched in anger. “Sew it together,” someone said quietly.

By contrast, Briggs seemed like a wild child, even though she was trying very hard to control her anger. “My ways were so much cruder, less considerate and more impulsive,” she told the CBC. “[I was] often impulsive in an antisocial sort of way. I would sulk or I would snap or I would do something that they never did.”

Briggs, who died in 2016, wrote up her observations in her first bookNever in Anger. But she was left with a lingering question: How do Inuit parents instill this ability in their children? How do Inuit take tantrum-prone toddlers and turn them into cool-headed adults?

Then in 1971, Briggs found a clue.

She was walking on a stony beach in the Arctic when she saw a young mother playing with her toddler — a little boy about 2 years old. The mom picked up a pebble and said, “‘Hit me! Go on. Hit me harder,'” Briggs remembered.

The boy threw the rock at his mother, and she exclaimed, “Ooooww. That hurts!”

Briggs was completely befuddled. The mom seemed to be teaching the child the opposite of what parents want. And her actions seemed to contradict everything Briggs knew about Inuit culture.

“I thought, ‘What is going on here?’ ” Briggs said in the radio interview.

Turns out, the mom was executing a powerful parenting tool to teach her child how to control his anger — and one of the most intriguing parenting strategies I’ve come across.

It’s early December in the Arctic town of Iqaluit, Canada. And at 2 p.m., the sun is already calling it a day. Outside, the temperature is a balmy minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. A light snow is swirling.

I’ve come to this seaside town, after reading Briggs’ book, in search of parenting wisdom, especially when it comes to teaching children to control their emotions. Right off the plane, I start collecting data.

I sit with elders in their 80s and 90s while they lunch on “country food” —stewed seal, frozen beluga whale and raw caribou. I talk with moms selling hand-sewn sealskin jackets at a high school craft fair. And I attend a parenting class, where day care instructors learn how their ancestors raised small children hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of years ago.

It’s early December in the Arctic town of Iqaluit, Canada. And at 2 p.m., the sun is already calling it a day. Outside, the temperature is a balmy minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit. A light snow is swirling.

I’ve come to this seaside town, after reading Briggs’ book, in search of parenting wisdom, especially when it comes to teaching children to control their emotions. Right off the plane, I start collecting data.

I sit with elders in their 80s and 90s while they lunch on “country food” —stewed seal, frozen beluga whale and raw caribou. I talk with moms selling hand-sewn sealskin jackets at a high school craft fair. And I attend a parenting class, where day care instructors learn how their ancestors raised small children hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of years ago.

Across the board, all the moms mention one golden rule: Don’t shout or yell at small children.

Traditional Inuit parenting is incredibly nurturing and tender. If you took all the parenting styles around the world and ranked them by their gentleness, the Inuit approach would likely rank near the top. (They even have a special kiss for babies, where you put your nose against the cheek and sniff the skin.)

The culture views scolding — or even speaking to children in an angry voice — as inappropriate, says Lisa Ipeelie, a radio producer and mom who grew up with 12 siblings. “When they’re little, it doesn’t help to raise your voice,” she says. “It will just make your own heart rate go up.”

Even if the child hits you or bites you, there’s no raising your voice?

“No,” Ipeelie says with a giggle that seems to emphasize how silly my question is. “With little kids, you often think they’re pushing your buttons, but that’s not what’s going on. They’re upset about something, and you have to figure out what it is.”

Traditionally, the Inuit saw yelling at a small child as demeaning. It’s as if the adult is having a tantrum; it’s basically stooping to the level of the child, Briggs documented.

Elders I spoke with say intense colonization over the past century is damaging these traditions. And, so, the community is working hard to keep the parenting approach intact.

Goota Jaw is at the front line of this effort. She teaches the parenting class at the Arctic College. Her own parenting style is so gentle that she doesn’t even believe in giving a child a timeout for misbehaving.

“Shouting, ‘Think about what you just did. Go to your room!’ ” Jaw says. “I disagree with that. That’s not how we teach our children. Instead you are just teaching children to run away.”

And you are teaching them to be angry, says clinical psychologist and author Laura Markham. “When we yell at a child — or even threaten with something like ‘I’m starting to get angry,’ we’re training the child to yell,” says Markham. “We’re training them to yell when they get upset and that yelling solves problems.”

In contrast, parents who control their own anger are helping their children learn to do the same, Markham says. “Kids learn emotional regulation from us.”

I asked Markham if the Inuit’s no-yelling policy might be their first secret of raising cool-headed kids. “Absolutely,” she says.

Now at some level, all moms and dads know they shouldn’t yell at kids. But if you don’t scold or talk in an angry tone, how do you discipline? How do you keep your 3-year-old from running into the road? Or punching her big brother?

For thousands of years, the Inuit have relied on an ancient tool with an ingenious twist: “We use storytelling to discipline,” Jaw says.

Jaw isn’t talking about fairy tales, where a child needs to decipher the moral. These are oral stories passed down from one generation of Inuit to the next, designed to sculpt kids’ behaviors in the moment. Sometimes even save their lives.

For example, how do you teach kids to stay away from the ocean, where they could easily drown? Instead of yelling, “Don’t go near the water!” Jaw says Inuit parents take a pre-emptive approach and tell kids a special story about what’s inside the water. “It’s the sea monster,” Jaw says, with a giant pouch on its back just for little kids.

“If a child walks too close to the water, the monster will put you in his pouch, drag you down to the ocean and adopt you out to another family,” Jaw says.

“Then we don’t need to yell at a child,” Jaw says, “because she is already getting the message.”

Inuit parents have an array of stories to help children learn respectful behavior, too. For example, to get kids to listen to their parents, there is a story about ear wax, says film producer Myna Ishulutak.

“My parents would check inside our ears, and if there was too much wax in there, it meant we were not listening,” she says.

And parents tell their kids: If you don’t ask before taking food, long fingers could reach out and grab you, Ishulutak says.

Then there’s the story of northern lights, which helps kids learn to keep their hats on in the winter.

“Our parents told us that if we went out without a hat, the northern lights are going to take your head off and use it as a soccer ball,” Ishulutak says. “We used to be so scared!” she exclaims and then erupts in laughter.

At first, these stories seemed to me a bit too scary for little children. And my knee-jerk reaction was to dismiss them. But my opinion flipped 180 degrees after I watched my own daughter’s response to similar tales — and after I learned more about humanity’s intricate relationship with storytelling.

Oral storytelling is what’s known as a human universal. For tens of thousands of years, it has been a key way that parents teach children about values and how to behave.

Modern hunter-gatherer groups use stories to teach sharing, respect for both genders and conflict avoidance, a recent study reported, after analyzing 89 different tribes. With the Agta, a hunter-gatherer population of the Philippines, good storytelling skills are prized more than hunting skills or medicinal knowledge, the study found.

Today many American parents outsource their oral storytelling to screens. And in doing so, I wonder if we’re missing out on an easy — and effective — way of disciplining and changing behavior. Could small children be somehow “wired” to learn through stories?

“Well, I’d say kids learn well through narrative and explanations,” says psychologist Deena Weisberg at Villanova University, who studies how small children interpret fiction. “We learn best through things that are interesting to us. And stories, by their nature, can have lots of things in them that are much more interesting in a way that bare statements don’t.”

Stories with a dash of danger pull in kids like magnets, Weisberg says. And they turn a tension-ridden activity like disciplining into a playful interaction that’s — dare, I say it — fun.

“Don’t discount the playfulness of storytelling,” Weisberg says. “With stories, kids get to see stuff happen that doesn’t really happen in real life. Kids think that’s fun. Adults think it’s fun, too.”  . . .

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There’s much more, and I think parents will find it particularly inteeresting.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 March 2019 at 4:47 pm

Scientists Found Worrisome New Evidence About Roundup and Cancer

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Tom Philpott writes in Mother Jones:

The long-simmering debate about whether the world’s most widely usedherbicide causes cancer has bubbled up anew. Glyphosate is the key component of weedkillers such as Monsanto’s Roundup. On March 12, attorneys made closing arguments in San Francisco on the first phase of a closely watched lawsuit against German chemical giant Bayer, which acquired Monsanto last year. Plaintiff Edwin Hardeman claims his use of Roundup caused him to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a type of cancer.

The jury is expected to decide Friday whether glyphosate-based weedkillers were a “substantial factor” in causing Hardeman’s cancer, as US District Court Judge Vince Chhabria put in his instructions to jurors. If they rule unanimously in Hardeman’s favor, the trial’s second phase will consider Monsanto’s liability in the case. A split decision from the jury will result in a mistrial and likely trigger a new trial for Hardeman.

Major regulatory agencies in the United States and Canada have concluded that glyphosate is not carcinogenic. But the chemical remains under scrutiny. Just weeks before the start of the Hardeman trial, several researchers who once served on a government panel assessing glyphosate’s safety released a new study suggesting people exposed to large doses of the chemical have a heightened risk for NHL. Two of the expert witnesses in the Hardeman case cited the study during their testimony.

The researchers performed a meta-analysis of the epidemiological research around glyphosate and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In a meta-analysis, scientists combine and analyze data from multiple studies and look for broad trends in the research. The team found a “compelling link” between exposure to glyphosate-based weedkillers and NHL. The study concluded that people exposed to glyphosate at the highest levels have 41 percent higher risk of contracting non-Hodgkin lymphoma than people who aren’t, a measure known as “relative risk” in epidemiology.

Rachel Shaffer, a co-author of the paper and a PhD student in environmental toxicology at the University of Washington, put that number into context ina blog post: The results suggest that people who are highly exposed to glyphosate have a roughly 2.8 percent risk of contracting NHL, versus about 2 percent for the overall population.

A spokeswoman for Bayer flatly disputed the study’s findings, writing in an emailed statement that it contains “no scientifically valid evidence that contradicts the conclusions of the extensive body of science demonstrating that glyphosate-based herbicides are not carcinogenic.”

Agencies including the US Environmental Protection AgencyHealth Canada, and the European Food Safety Authority have concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to cause cancer, and they continue to allow its widespread use. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, on the other hand, decided in 2015 that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.” That finding prompted charges that IARC had reached that conclusion by willfully ignoring then-unpublished research that might have exonerated glyphosate, a controversy my colleague Kiera Butler laid out here. IARC, in turn, has pushed back against those allegations.

Monsanto grew into one of the globe’s largest agribusiness firms largely on the strength of its blockbuster glyphosate weedkillers and associated products. In buying the smaller US company, Bayer inherited not only those assets but also lawsuits from approximately 11,200 plaintiffs claiming “personal injuries resulting from exposure to those products, including non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma,” Bayer noted in its 2018 annual report. Last August, a California jury awarded $289 million in damages to a groundskeeper who argued glyphosate exposure gave him NHL. (A judge later reduced the award to $78 million, but didn’t strike down the jury’s judgement that Monsanto had acted with malice—a ruling Bayer is appealing.) Bayer stock has lost nearly 30 percent of its value since last August’s big jury award—a possible measure of just how much the question of glyphosate’s status as a carcinogen hangs over the company.

Glyphosate has had a rocky road through the US regulatory process, a journey all too familiar to three of the new NHL study’s co-authors: Berkeley toxicologist Luoping Zhang, Mount Sinai epidemiologist Emanuela Taioli, and University of Washington biostatistician Lianne Sheppard. All three scientists served on the EPA Scientific Advisory Panel that evaluated the chemical in 2016. While the EPA ultimately declared the herbicide non-carcinogenic, the 15-member panel was divided, as the EPA’s final report on the panel’s feedback and the transcript of its December 2016 meetings show.

Judging the carcinogenic potential of a pesticide is tricky. For one, you can’t ethically dose people with potentially harmful chemicals and then see what happens. And even if you could, cancers can take years to develop. So researchers generally take a three-pronged approach: They study populations known to have been exposed to the chemical and look for disease patterns, a practice called epidemiology; they study the effects on animals like rats or mice dosed with the chemicals; and they test whether the chemical shows potential in a lab setting to harm a cell’s DNA and thus potentially cause cancer, also called genotoxicity.

The EPA’s scientific advisory panel was charged with sifting through studies of all three types and making a judgement based on the weight of evidence. On all three fronts, dissenting voices emerged. The final report noted that based on studies of populations known to be exposed to the herbicide, “some Panel members believed that there is limited but suggestive evidence of a positive association between glyphosate exposure and risk of NHL.” On animal research, the report found that in “the view of some Panel members, there are sufficient data to conclude glyphosate is a rodent carcinogen.” On genotoxicity, members pointed to “remaining uncertainty” about several potential ways glyphosate might damage cells.

“Far from settling the matter” of the carcinogenicity of the chemical, “eight of the 15 experts expressed significant concerns about the EPA’s benign view of glyphosate, and three more expressed concerns about the data,” Bloomberg Businessweek reported in 2017. Ultimately, the EPA “tied themselves in knots to reach the conclusion that they reached—the evidence and the conclusions just didn’t align well at all,” Sheppard, a panel member and co-author of the new NHL study, told me.

Frustrated by the process, Sheppard and co-panelists Zhang and Taioli decided to band together and investigate what they thought was a particular point of concern in the existing epidemiological research: whether glyphosate might be linked to increased risk to non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Three previous recent meta-analyses had detected an association—see herehere, and here. (All three surfaced in testimony during the Hardeman trial.) When Sheppard and her co-authors embarked on their own meta-analysis, they were able to incorporate an important cache of data that the earlier studies had not: the latest results of the Agricultural Health Study, a large, multi-decade project led by scientists at the US National Cancer Institute to track health outcomes among US agricultural workers and their families.

The AHS results had previously been analyzed by a research team led by Gabriella Andreotti of the National Cancer Institute for a 2018 paper that found “no association” between glyphosate and cancer, “including NHL and its subtypes.”

Sheppard’s team focused on one subset of the same AHS data: the study participants who were exposed to the chemicals at the “highest biologically relevant” levels, with a long-enough time lag for cancer to develop. In their statistical analysis, Andreotti and her team sorted participants who had been exposed to glyphosate into two groups—those with a 20-year lag since exposure, and those with a five-year lag. Among those groups, they broke them into four groups, from least exposed to most exposed. Sheppard and her team used data from the highest-exposed, 20-year-lag subset. This group showed a . . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 March 2019 at 3:46 pm

Nordic walking taking hold again

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38.8 minutes today, 106 steps/minute. Beautiful day: shirtsleeves and note cloudless sky in photo below. Three of the blocks I walk along have a cherry tree in front of each house, both sides of the street.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 March 2019 at 2:26 pm

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