Monday, July 28, 2014

Antifragility - Eating Food From Plants That Have Struggled To Survive Toughens Us Up As Well


Organic is a good start. I choose plants with lots of color because they are producing these molecules. Some argue that xenohormesis may explain, at least in part, why the Mediterranean diet is apparently so healthful. It contains plants such as olives, olive oil, and various nuts that come from hot, dry, stressful environments. Eating food from plants that have struggled to survive toughens us up as well.


Warding off the diseases of aging is certainly a worthwhile pursuit. But evidence has mounted to suggest that antioxidant vitamin supplements, long assumed to improve health, are ineffectual. Fruits and vegetables are indeed healthful but not necessarily because they shield you from oxidative stress. In fact, they may improve health for quite the opposite reason: They stress you.

That stress comes courtesy of trace amounts of naturally occurring pesticides and anti-grazing compounds. You already know these substances as the hot flavors in spices, the mouth-puckering tannins in wines, or the stink of Brussels sprouts. They are the antibacterials, antifungals, and grazing deterrents of the plant world. In the right amount, these slightly noxious substances, which help plants survive, may leave you stronger.

Parallel studies, meanwhile, have undercut decades-old assumptions about the dangers of free radicals. Rather than killing us, these volatile molecules, in the right amount, may improve our health. Our quest to neutralize them with antioxidant supplements may be doing more harm than good.

The idea that pro-oxidant molecules are always destructive is “oversimplified to the point of probably being wrong,” says Toren Finkel, chief of the center for molecular medicine at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute in Bethesda, Maryland. “Oxidants may be a primordial messenger of stress in our cells, and a little bit of stress, it turns out, may be good for us.”

Although far from settled, a wave of compelling science offers a remarkably holistic picture of health as a byproduct of interactions among people, plants, and the environment. Plants’ own struggle for survival— against pathogens and grazers, heat and drought—is conveyed to us, benefitting our health. This new understanding begins, in part, on a treadmill.


- More Here

Quote of the Day

Students of social science, must fear popular approval: Evil is with them when all men speak well of them.

- Alfred Marshall

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Forest Bathing - Your Health & Nature

Zarr told me that exhorting patients to “get more exercise” was too vague. Last year, he decided to start trying something different. He stopped asking his patients, “Do you move?” and began asking “Where do you move?” He discovered that many spent very little time outdoors, and he began prescribing time outside for conditions as wide-ranging as ADHD, high blood pressure, asthma, obesity, anxiety, diabetes, and depression.

The Japanese Society of Forest Medicine’s Shinrin yoku plan, an effort to promote health through “forest bathing” (short visits to forests), has been fertile ground for scientific inquiry. Yoshifumi Miyazaki of Chiba University found lower cortisol levels in those who took forest walks when compared with those who walked the same distance in a lab. Qing Li and his colleagues from Nippon Medical School found that visits to the forest (compared with urban trips) can have a long-lasting influence on immune system markers, increasing the activity of antiviral cells and intracellular anti-cancer proteins—and these changes remained significant for a full week after the visit.


- More Here

Quote of the Day

A man always has two reasons for doing anything: a good reason and the real reason.

- J.P. Morgan

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Wisdom Of The Week

I started reading Models of My Life by Herbert A. Simon and the book oozes with wisdom in every page. A sample:

He understood both the uses and the dangers of opportunism. After I had moved to Berkeley, we once had breakfast together when he was visiting the Bay area. He was describing to me some new activities he planning. I asked, "Will the Spellman Fund approve of that?" (The Spellman Fund was, apart from membership dues, ICMA's main source of income.) He turned to sternly, and said, "I earned my living before I ever heard of the Spellman Fund, and I think I could earn it again if they went away." I stored the lesson and usefully recalled it on a number of later occasions.
                                                                                                                                                         

Why Do Americans Stink at Math?

Carefully taught, the assignments can help make math more concrete. Students don’t just memorize their times tables and addition facts but also understand how arithmetic works and how to apply it to real-life situations. But in practice, most teachers are unprepared and children are baffled, leaving parents furious. The comedian Louis C.K. parodied his daughters’ homework in an appearance on “The Late Show With David Letterman”: “It’s like, Bill has three goldfish. He buys two more. How many dogs live in London?”

One of the most vivid arithmetic failings displayed by Americans occurred in the early 1980s, when the A&W restaurant chain released a new hamburger to rival the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the A&W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder; in taste tests, customers preferred A&W’s burger. And it was less expensive. A lavish A&W television and radio marketing campaign cited these benefits. Yet instead of leaping at the great value, customers snubbed it.

Only when the company held customer focus groups did it become clear why. The Third Pounder presented the American public with a test in fractions. And we failed. Misunderstanding the value of one-third, customers believed they were being overcharged. Why, they asked the researchers, should they pay the same amount for a third of a pound of meat as they did for a quarter-pound of meat at McDonald’s. The “4” in “¼,” larger than the “3” in “⅓,” led them astray.

How could you teach math in school that mirrors the way children learn it in the world? That was the challenge Magdalene Lampert set for herself in the 1980s, when she began teaching elementary-school math in Cambridge, Mass. She grew up in Trenton, accompanying her father on his milk deliveries around town, solving the milk-related math problems he encountered. “Like, you know: If Mrs. Jones wants three quarts of this and Mrs. Smith, who lives next door, wants eight quarts, how many cases do you have to put on the truck?” Lampert, who is 67 years old, explained to me.

She knew there must be a way to tap into what students already understood and then build on it. In her classroom, she replaced “I, We, You” with a structure you might call “You, Y’all, We.” Rather than starting each lesson by introducing the main idea to be learned that day, she assigned a single “problem of the day,” designed to let students struggle toward it — first on their own (You), then in peer groups (Y’all) and finally as a whole class (We). The result was a process that replaced answer-getting with what Lampert called sense-making. By pushing students to talk about math, she invited them to share the misunderstandings most American students keep quiet until the test. In the process, she gave them an opportunity to realize, on their own, why their answers were wrong.


- More Here


Quote of the Day

Rush Hour, a board game about search algorithms; Set, a study in higher-dimensional geometry in the form of a viciously competitive card game; and DragonBox, an app for phone or tablet that teaches the formalisms of algebra. Every one of these games shows kids mathematical ideas in a spirit of play, which is a big and often hidden part of the true spirit of math.

These games are difficult, but also, for many kids, kind of addictive. Which means they also teach sitzfleisch, the ability to focus on a complicated skill for the length of time it takes to master it. Math needs that. (Baseball does, too.) It fits with the research of the psychologist Carol Dweck, which suggests that mentors should emphasize effort over native ability. We can’t really teach kids to do things; we can only teach them to practice things.


Don’t Teach Math, Coach It


Friday, July 25, 2014

The Private Habits of a Latter-Day Dictator


He is obsessed with information. The thickest, fattest folders at his request are not intelligence reports: they are press clippings. His hands first open the Russian press digest. The most important papers come at the front: the obsequious national tabloids – such as Komsomolskaya Pravda and Moskovsky Komsomolets. These matter most, with their millions of readers. Their headlines, their gossip columns, their reactions to the latest Siberian train wreck affect the workers’ mood.

[.....]
The President rarely uses the internet. He finds the screens within screens and the bars building up with messages confusing. However, from time to time, his advisers have shown some satirical online videos: he must know how they mock him. His life has become ceremonial: an endless procession of gilded rooms. His routine is parcelled up into thousands of units of 15 minutes and planned for months, if not years ahead. Following his morning review the schedule folders embossed with the eagle are presented to him. After glancing at them, he follows the plan: without a smile or a joy.

Mostly, these meetings are meaningless. There are those who come to pay homage to him: receiving the crown Prince of Bahrain, awarding bronze medals to Udmurt Heroes of Labour, or reviewing promotions in the management of the federal space industry.

[.....] 


There are no stories of extravagance: only of loneliness. The President has no family life. His mother is dead. So is his father. His wife suffered nervous disorders, and after a long separation, there has been a divorce. There are two daughters. But they are a state secret and no longer live in Russia. There are rumours of models, photographers, or gymnasts that come to him at night. But there is a hollow tick to these stories, which no courtier can quite explain.

The President loves animals. He smiles at the sight of creatures that refuse to obey him. The President finds solace in the company of a black Labrador, who is not afraid of him. He enjoys the hunting parties. He enjoys the helicopter rides with camera-crews over the grey-white tundra looking for tigers and bears – the beauty of Russia.


- On Vladimir Putin by Ben Judah author of  Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell In and Out of Love with Vladimir Putin

Quote of the Day

The man whose whole life is spent in performing a few simple operations, of which the effects are perhaps always the same, or very nearly the same, has no occasion to exert his understanding or to exercise his invention in finding out expedients for removing difficulties which never occur. He naturally loses, therefore, the habit of such exertion, and generally becomes as stupid and ignorant as it is possible for a human creature to become.

- Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations: An Inquiry into the Nature & Causes of the Wealth of Nations
 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Don't Fly Drones Here


Currently, the 3 no fly zones are:
  • US National Parks
  • US Military Bases
  • 5 mile radius around medium to large size airports

- via Kottke