Category Archives: environment

New Evidence That Dark Chocolate is Good For Me!! (and you)

I have a serious addiction to Lindt Swiss Dark Chocolate – a vegan delight if there ever was one.

And now I have further evidence that this addiction is actually a virtue, not a vice. Here’s the story from Science Daily:

 

ScienceDaily (Nov. 12, 2009) — The “chocolate cure” for emotional stress

darkchocolate

Pieces of dark chocolate. The "chocolate cure" for emotional stress is getting new support from a clinical trial. (Credit: iStockphoto)

is getting new support from a clinical trial published online in ACS’ Journal of Proteome Research. It found that eating about an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduced levels of stress hormones in the bodies of people feeling highly stressed. Everyone’s favorite treat also partially corrected other stress-related biochemical imbalances.

Sunil Kochhar and colleagues note growing scientific evidence that antioxidants and other beneficial substances in dark chocolate may reduce risk factors for heart disease and other physical conditions. Studies also suggest that chocolate may ease emotional stress. Until now, however, there was little evidence from research in humans on exactly how chocolate might have those stress-busting effects.

In the study, scientists identified reductions in stress hormones and other stress-related biochemical changes in volunteers who rated themselves as highly stressed and ate dark chocolate for two weeks. “The study provides strong evidence that a daily consumption of 40 grams [1.4 ounces] during a period of 2 weeks is sufficient to modify the metabolism of healthy human volunteers,” the scientists say.


Journal reference:

  1. Martin et al. Metabolic Effects of Dark Chocolate Consumption on Energy, Gut Microbiota, and Stress-Related Metabolism in Free-Living Subjects. Journal of Proteome Research, 2009; 091007113151065 DOI: 10.1021/pr900607v
Adapted from materials provided by American Chemical Society.
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Vegans Are NOT Wimps!

Here’s a reprint of an article from Canada’s Globe & Mail newspaper about Montreal Canadiens’ tough guy, Georges Laraque.

Sean Gordon

MONTREAL — From Wednesday’s Globe and Mail Last updated on Thursday, Sep. 17, 2009 12:45AM EDT

First, the eyebrows arch quizzically, then the legend’s nose crinkles in disapproval.

“Ferguson never would have accepted it,” huffs Henri Richard,

George Laraque

George Laraque

11-time Stanley Cup champion, uber-competitor, the Pocket Rocket himself, speaking of John Ferguson, the former Montreal Canadiens tough guy.

It’s a natural enough reaction from a man whose off-season preparations used to consist of switching from golf to tennis in early August.

He has just been informed that Canadiens forward Georges Laraque, boulevardier, animal-rights activist and perhaps the most feared pugilist in the NHL, is a vegan (“a what?” Richard said), a militant one.

No dairy, no poultry, no fish, no more leather shoes or animal byproducts, Laraque has been on a strict diet of vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes since June 1.

While he says he was partly motivated to improve his health for the hockey season, Laraque insists the decision was made primarily for political, rather than nutritional, reasons.

Everything changed, Laraque said, after he saw Earthlings, a 2006 documentary that is widely celebrated in animal-rights circles.

“It’s unconscionable what’s happening to animals in this country and the way we treat animals we eat. … I realized I had to make some big changes,” Laraque said.

Though Laraque said he will no longer buy leather of any kind, he hasn’t rid his closet or hockey bag of previously purchased leather products because, “that would be a further waste. And this way I don’t forget.”

Laraque, who also does yoga daily, an activity he picked up as a member of the Edmonton Oilers, said he’s never felt better and reported for training camp at a comparatively svelte 245 pounds.

“I’ve lost some weight, but I’ve been working with a really great nutritionist and I’ve never had this much energy,” he said.

“I think it’s also important to break the stereotype that all vegans are skinny people with long hair,” added Laraque, as unlikely a supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals as the NHL has ever seen. (This summer he sent a letter on the group’s behalf to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, protesting the Canadian seal hunt.)

Laraque couldn’t think of any other vegan NHLers off the top of his head.

But the burly winger finds himself among a vanguard of current and former pro athletes who are eschewing most meats.

Laraque cites Major League Baseball player Prince Fielder, former Olympic sprinter Carl Lewis, NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez and retired NBA player John Salley as vegetarians who inspired him.

Richard, who readily admits that he’s often astonished at the lengths to which today’s hockey players go to train, hails from an era when Guy Lafleur prepared for the season by cutting back from three packs of cigarettes a day to two, or so the legend goes. (“It didn’t matter, he was always faster than everyone,” Richard joked.)

And though Laraque is undoubtedly an outlier in the Canadiens dressing room and in the league, he’s not alone in his approach.

Mike Cammalleri, who joined the Habs as a free agent in the summer, strives to eat organic, fresh and local foods.

“I find it helps my energy levels stay high throughout the season,” he said.

Cammalleri also regularly practises Pilates and occasionally will throw in a few yoga exercises, “but I don’t really have the patience for yoga.”

Not all the Habs are in tune with the new ethos. Fourth-year forward Guillaume Latendresse, who has overhauled his off-season regimen in each of the past two seasons, says he switched to a high-protein diet, but that he’s not willing to renounce meat altogether.

“[Laraque] has invited us all out to a vegan restaurant … but if I go, I’m bringing a steak in my jacket pocket,” he joked.

So in a tough-guy, famously hidebound culture like pro hockey, Laraque remains a curiosity, but he’s resolved to carry on spreading the word.

“People still think it’s kind of funny, but I’m not doing this to be funny,” he said. “There are more puppy mills in Quebec than anywhere else in Canada, and no laws to shut them down. People get slapped with a fine and six months later they reopen. Do you think that’s funny?”

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Are you more science-savvy than the average American?

There is a  brief survey at the Pew Center for Research that will allow you to judge your level of basic science awareness. It’s fun and interesting. Let me know how you did.

(Not to brag, but I got 100%.)

_______________________________

THE SCIENCE KNOWLEDGE QUIZ

Take the quiz and find out

To test your knowledge of scientific concepts and recent scientific findings and events, we invite you to take this 12-question science knowledge quiz. Then see how you did in comparison with the 1,005 randomly sampled adults asked the same questions. You’ll also be able to compare your Science IQ with the average scores of men and women; 1276-frontwith college graduates as well as those who didn’t attend college; with people who are your age as well as with younger and older Americans.

This quiz was part of the Pew Research Center’s new study of science and its impact on society, conducted in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The analysis of the findings from the poll can be found in the full report. (No peeking! If you are going to take the quiz, do it first before reading the analysis.) The discussion of the knowledge quiz can be found in Section 7 of the report.

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I’m NOT the centre of the universe?????

This is a very cool youtube video about the relative sizes of things in this wonderful universe in which we live.

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No Males Needed… Is this female heaven or hell?

This is a fascinating ant species. Apparently, THERE ARE NO MALES! None. Zero. Zip.

So, my question is, “Ladies, what do you think of this as a model for which humanity should strive?”  🙂

The article comes from National Geographic.

ALL-FEMALE ANT SPECIES FOUND

April 17, 2009—Save the males? Too late for Mycocepurus smithii (pictured).

Photograph by Alex Wild

Photograph by Alex Wild

This leaf-cutter ant species is all female and thrives without sex of any kind—ever—according to a new study. The ants have evolved to reproduce only when queens clone themselves.

“They appear to have evolved a new mode of reproduction, and the genetic mechanisms have yet to be worked out,” said lead study author Anna Himler, a research associate at the University of Arizona.

In M. smithii the typical muscular reproductive organ of female ants has evolved into a “sort of a ghost of an organ at this point,” Himler added.

No male of the species has ever been found, and “even if a male were theoretically to appear somewhere, we’re not sure they could mate any more,” she said.

Other ants, such as fire ants, that can reproduce asexually have working sexual organs, just in case.

M. smithii also has an idiosyncratic arrangement for that other apparent necessity: food. The ants, which range from northern Mexico to Argentina, are in a codependent relationship with a specific fungus.

“The fungus garden is quite wimpy,” Himler said. “If you remove the ants, the gardens will quickly die.”

The ants keep the gardens weeded, and they “feed” the fungus leaf bits, insect carcasses, and feces, which the ants clean and cut up before offering to the fungus. In return, the fungus provides the sole source of food for the ants’ babies.

—Anne Minard

Findings appeared online April 15 in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.

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Nature Is So Cool: A Frog That Fits On Your Fingertip

How amazing is this?!!  Read the rest of the article from Live Science below.

Noblella pygmaea on a fingertip. The frog is about 0.45 inches (11.4 millimeters) long. Credit: Alessandro Catenazzi, University of California, Berkeley

Noblella pygmaea on a fingertip. The frog is about 0.45 inches (11.4 millimeters) long. Credit: Alessandro Catenazzi, University of California, Berkeley

By LiveScience Staff

A tiny, “midget” frog that can fit on the tip of a finger — and previously only known by its croaking — has finally been found by researchers.

The frog, dubbed Noble’s Pygmy frog (Noblella pygmaea), is the smallest ever found in the Andes and one of the tiniest amphibians in the world.

The amphibian, with an average length of about 0.45 inches (11.4 millimeters) and an unusually long forefinger, was discovered during field work in the highlands of Peru’s Manu National Park.

The frog wasn’t hard to spot solely because of its small size — its brown color keeps it well camouflaged. But locals helped a team of German and Peruvian herpetologists catch their first glimpse of the creature

Noblella pygmaea inhabits the cloud forest, the montane scrub and the high-elevation grasslands at an altitude from about 9,900 to 10,500 feet (3025 to 3190 meters) above sea level in and around the park.

The females of the species lay only two eggs that are about 4 millimeters in diameter. Unlike the eggs of most amphibian species, these are laid in moist, terrestrial microhabitats, such as in moss or leaf litter, and are protected from insect predators by the mother frog.

Also unusual is that the embryos don’t change into tadpoles, but instead lead a fully terrestrial life immediately after hatching.

Because Manu National Park is a well known biological “hotspot,” the scientists that conducted the study, Edgar Lehr of the Senckenberg Natural History Collection Dresden in Germany and Alessandro Catenazzi of the University of California at Berkeley, think that Noblella pygmaea is only one of many undiscovered amphibians in the Andes mountain area. The discovery of Noblella was detailed in the February 2009 issue of the journal Copeia.

Despite living in a nominally protected area, global warming, other human-caused changes to the habitat and the virulent, epidemic fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, threaten amphibians of the Andean region.

Fortunately, the fungus has not been noticed on Noblella so far. Its terrestrial lifestyle may mean the frog is less exposed to the fungus than stream-dwelling frogs.

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The Evolution of Life in 60 Seconds

This is a cool little video from Seed Magazine about the development of life on earth. It really does emphasize how small the part humans have played in earth’s long history. The text below the video is from the Seed website.

The Evolution of Life in 60 Seconds is an experiment in scale: By condensing 4.6 billion years of history into a minute, the video is a self-contained timepiece. Like a specialized clock, it gives one a sense of perspective. Everything — from the formation of the Earth, to the Cambrian Explosion, to the evolution of mice and squirrels — is proportionate to everything else, displaying humankind as a blip, almost indiscernible in the layered course of history.

Each event in the Evolution of Life fades gradually over the course of the minute, leaving typographic traces that echo all the way to the present day. Just as our blood still bears the salt water of our most ancient evolutionary ancestors.

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