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392 Year-Old Shark Found in the Arctic May Be The Oldest Living Vertebrate 

Image by Julius Nielsen Instagram/juniel85

The Greenland shark has the longest known lifespan of all vertebrate species. Scientists have recently discovered a Greenland shark that is at least 392 years old!  According to reports, the Greenland shark was found living in the arctic and could very well be the oldest living vertebrate creature in the world. 

The researchers measured the creature and estimated that it could have been born as early as 1505. It is known to live in temperatures of -1° Celsius and 10° Celsius. A report by Metro.co.uk, said that the shark can swim as deep as 7,200 feet and weighs more than a ton. 

According to the report, the found shark measured at 18 feet in length. It is this length which reportedly can mean the shark can be anywhere between 272 to 512 years old, as this species grows at a rate of 1 cm in a year. 

A report by The Sun said it was the oldest of 28 Greenland sharks to be analyzed. These sharks have an estimated lifespan of 400 years and they spend their time swimming around looking for mates, report claimed.

Image by Henrik Schurmann

What implications does this astounding creature have on us humans? Scientists are now studying the longevity of Greenland sharks to see if the science behind their longevity can be applied towards humans one day. One possible explanation for the sharks’ longevity is that they spend their lives 2,000 meters down, where the water temperature is around 29 degrees Fahrenheit. Extreme cold is associated with slow metabolism and maturation — Greenland sharks don’t reach adulthood until age 150 — as well as long life spans. 

Of course, humans aren’t about to start living underwater. But scientists think in the future we might be able to incorporate into our own bodies some of the shark’s life-extending biological adaptations. 

What do you think? Would you splice shark DNA into you so you could live longer? Let us know in the comments!

First-seen Neutron Star Collision Crashes So Hard The Whole Universe Wobbles and Flings Out Gold 

Two stars slammed into each other sending out ‘huge amounts of gold’ in an alchemical explosion causing the universe to ‘wobble’ scientists said. 

On 17th August, the neutron stars collided 130 million light years away, expelling ‘precious metals’ and elements such as ‘platinum and uranium’, in turn creating a ‘new chapter in astrophysics’, scientists said. 

According to a report in <em>the Independent</em>, the crash has ‘confirmed theories about the origin of the mysterious neutron stars’. 

The gravitational wave signal, which has been named GW170817, was detected at 1.41pm UK time on 17th August, marking only the fifth time this type of wave have been spotted on Earth. 

Scientists say they not only ‘heard’ this phenomenon by measuring vibrations in space-time, they used telescopes to ‘see light and radiation pouring out of the stellar fireball, called a kilonova’. 

Every other wave detection in history has been ‘traced to black holes’ colliding in more than ‘a billion light years away’. 

The Independent writes the two stars, ‘each about 12 miles in diameter, stretched and distorted space-time as they spiralled towards each other and finally collided’. 

Adding, like ‘ripples from a stone thrown in a pond, the gravitational waves fanned out across the universe at the speed of light’. 

The ripples were picked up on Earth by detectors in Washington and Louisiana, which are operated by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). 

British LIGO scientist Professor BS Sathyaprakash, from the University of Cardiff, said: 

"The 12 hours that followed are inarguably the most exciting hours of my scientific life. This event marks a turning point in observational astronomy and will lead to a treasure trove of scientific results." 

The origins of gold, along with many heavy elements has been a mystery for a long time, but recent evidence suggests colliding neutron stars could well be involved in their creation. 

LIGO’s detectors, consisting of L-shaped tunnels with arms 2.5 miles (4km) long, use laser beams bouncing off mirrors to measure movement across a distance 10,000 times smaller than the width of a proton, the kernel of an atom. 

Dr Samantha Oates, also from the University of Warwick, said: 

"This discovery has answered three questions that astronomers have been puzzling for decades: what happens when neutron stars merge? What causes the short duration gamma-ray bursts? Where are the heavy elements, like gold, made? 

In the space of about a week all three of these mysteries were solved." 

The discovery has also ‘solved the mystery of what creates short wave gamma ray bursts which are picked up on Earth and could help pinpoint how fast the universe is expanding’, according to The Telegraph. 

Her colleague Dr Danny Steeghs said it is a ‘new chapter in The new findings were published in research papers in the journals Nature, Nature Astronomy and Science. 

And professor Laura Cadonati, from Georgia Institute of Technology, US, said: 

"This detection has genuinely opened the doors to a new way of doing astrophysics. 

I expect it will be remembered as one of the most studied astrophysical events in history." 

It is being hailed as the first known instance of multi-messenger astrophysics: one source in the universe emitting two kinds of waves, gravitational and electromagnetic. 

To learn more about the event, check out this PBS video below:

 

Can Silence Heal Your Brain? Science Says Yes 

In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.” 

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”. 

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think. 

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence. 

 A 2013 study on mice  published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice. The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning. 

The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons. 

“We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.” 

In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain. 

The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence 

A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information. 

Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.” 

When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues. 

When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world. 

The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way. 

As Herman Melville once wrote, “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.” 

Silence relieves stress and tension. 

It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones. 

A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

“This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says. 

Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain. 

Silence replenishes our cognitive resources. 

The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving. 

Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills. 

But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise. 

Summation 

Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good. 

What do you think? Will you be practicing silence? Let us know in the comments!

Could a Scientifically Designed Fasting Diet Cure Diabetes? 

On February 15, researchers from the University of Southern California published the results from a randomized clinical trial with regard to diet. The researchers discovered that periodic, five-day fasting diet of their design safely reduced the risk factors for major health issues people face such as: heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other age-related diseases. 

The research conducted placed 71 adults on three cycles of a low-calorie, "fasting-mimicking" diet. The phase II trial, conducted by researchers at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology, demonstrated a host of benefits from the regimen. 

The diet reduced cardiovascular risk factors including blood pressure, signs of inflammation (measured by C-reactive protein levels), as well as fasting glucose and reduced levels of IGF-1, a hormone that affects metabolism. It also shrank waistlines and resulted in weight loss, both in total body fat and trunk fat, but not in muscle mass. 

In effect, the diet reduced the study participants' risks for cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other age-related diseases, according to the findings published Feb. 15 in Science Translational Medicine. 

In a separate study, published on February 23 in the journal Cell, states that the diet reboots the body, which could lead to some potentially very exciting new treatments for diabetes. Scientists caution people to not suddenly go on their own fasting diets, as the diet used in the experiment is specifically and scientifically designed.

The fasting diet used in the experiment is similar to a diet where people spend five days on a low calorie, low protein, low carbohydrate but high unsaturated-fat diet. It resembles a vegan diet with nuts and soups, but with around 800 to 1,100 calories a day. The diet mimics periods of feast and famine, where there are 25 days of eating normally and 5 days of a fasting or fasting-mimicking diet. 

In previous experiments, it has been shown that such a diet can also slow down the aging process. 

So far with regard to how a fasting diet could help cure diabetes - the research has only been carried out on animals. That said, in the experiments, the mice on the fasting diet regenerated a special type of cell in the pancreas called a beta cell, which are the cells that detect sugar in the blood and release the hormone insulin if it gets too high. 

When speaking about the results of the experiment, Dr Valter Longo, from the University of Southern California, said: "Our conclusion is that by pushing the mice into an extreme state and then bringing them back - by starving them and then feeding them again - the cells in the pancreas are triggered to use some kind of developmental reprogramming that rebuilds the part of the organ that's no longer functioning."

Furthermore, what's promising about this experiment is that the fasting diet shows promising results for both Type I and Type II diabetes.  Dr. Longo further commented that the findings are so significant because they show that diet can be used to reverse the effects of diabetes, and that it can be used to re-program cells without the need of any genetic modifications. 

Dr Emily Burns, research communications manager at Diabetes UK, said: "This is potentially very exciting news, but we need to see if the results hold true in humans before we'll know more about what it means for people with diabetes. People with type-1 and type-2 diabetes would benefit immensely from treatments that can repair or regenerate insulin-producing cells in the pancreas." 

 Thus, while this is very exciting and promising news, a lot more work still needs to be done in this area.

Listen to the Song that is Guaranteed to Reduce Your Stress by 65% 

Have you found yourself feeling more stressed out or anxious recently? How do you deal with your stress and anxiety? In the current age - it seems like technology can create more new ways to feel stressed or anxious, rather than helping to cure people's stress or make people's lives easier. A more recent phenomenon that has arisen in the past few years is the concept of FOMO - or "Fear of Missing Out." It has become such a mainstream concept that the Oxford English Dictionary added it in 2013 and defined it as: 

“…‘‘the uneasy and sometimes all-consuming feeling that you’re missing out – that your peers are doing, in the know about, or in possession of more or something better than you’’. Under this framing of FoMO, nearly three quarters of young adults reported they experienced the phenomenon.”
 

This phenomenon began to take off, especially among younger generations, during the rise of social media like Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, etc. In addition to rising numbers of young people feeling FOMO, studies published in 2013 revealed that 57% of women enrolled in American Universities reported feeling overwhelming anxiety. Furthermore, a study performed in the United Kingdom discovered that 1 in 3 young women who participated in the study suffered from anxiety attacks. 

The question then arises - what can be done to relieve the seemingly high amount of stress and anxiety that people experience these days? One solution being explored by researches is the use of music. In fact, neuroscientists have discovered that people can reduce their levels of anxiety by listening to specially crafted music. In a study done by researchers in the United Kingdom, it was discovered that by listening to a particular song, participant's stress levels decreased by 65%, and they also exhibited a 35% reduction in their overall physiological resting rates. 

The song that the researchers used to induce heightened states of relaxation in participants was specially composed through a collaboration between the UK band Marconi Union and a team of music therapists. With the help of the music therapists, Marconi Union identified and used harmonies, rhythms and bass lines in the song that would help to slow down the listeners' heart rates, lower their blood pressure, and in turn, lower stress hormones such as cortisol. 

The song was so successful that TIME Magazine named Marconi Union one of its "Inventors of the Year" in 2011. Since its release, the song "Weightless" has been streamed on Spotify and via Youtube more than twenty million times. 

Want to experience the song for yourself? Let us know if you experience it's relaxing effects. 

Listen here now:


 

January 6, 2016 

Rajmani Sinclair

This Patent Could Save the World and Disrupt Monsanto's Business 

Photo: Charles O'Rear via wikipedia; a plane dispensing pesticides.
 

In the current world, pesticides pervade our homes, schools, parks, and public lands. You name it - pesticides are there. 54 years after Rachel Carson published "Silent Spring", raising public awareness about the danger of pesticides in our environment and on human health, the use of pesticides has only increased. Pesticides have been linked to a wide array of negative health problems ranging from headaches to nausea to reproductive issues to cancer. Pesticides are toxic and harmful to all life, and the continued use of pesticides is not sustainable. 

In the field of agriculture, there has been a resurgence of people looking for alternative means of pest management. Beyond organic options, a growing number of farmers are looking to biodynamic methods of farming that are not only a chemical-free approach to farming, but also produce healthier food and soil.

Photo: Dusty Yao-Stamets via Wikipedia; Paul Stamets holding an Agarikon Mushroom.
 

In the field of mycology, the study of fungi, there have been several exciting advancements that offer another, chemical-free method of pest management. Ten years ago, Paul Stamets patented 200,000 entomopathogenic fungi, a type of fungi that destroys insects. In a talk he gave in 2008, Stamets shared that several executives from the pesticide industry told him that that his work with fungi is the "most disruptive technology" the industry had ever witnessed. The fungi that Stamets developed and patented is able to attract different pests to it and, upon eating it, the pests eventually turn into fungi from the inside out. 

Paul's work with fungi presents a very exciting new avenue for pest management - a method that works with nature to fight off unwanted pests. 

To learn more about Paul Stamet's work, check out his website here: http://www.fungi.com/ 

And be sure to watch his TED talk from 2008 below:



Article by: Rajmani Sinclair, September 27, 2016

 

The First 100% Organic State... Do You Know Where it is? 

No, it's not a state in the United States, nor is it in the Western Hemisphere for that matter. The first 100% organic certified state is in India. Sikkim, located in Northeastern Indian, between Bhutan and Nepal, received this certification back on January 18, 2016, during the Sikkim Organic Festival.

Out of all the countries in the world, India has the most organic farmers, and now it can claim that it has the first, fully organic state. Sikkim is home to 66,000 farmers, all of whom have sworn off GMOs, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. This comes as a significant achievement of the Sikkim Organic Mission Plan, which, in 2003, set a goal for the state to become 100% certified organic. 

India has a long standing tradition of growing products with little to no input and saving seeds that date back centuries. Thus, the idea of organic farming is nothing new to India. However, the concept of "certified organic" is new and has yet to gain much consumer support in the country. Thus, Sikkim, and the rest of India, is in the process of learning how to market organic produce domestically to consumers.

Photo: Anja Disseldorp - Flickr: India Sikkim - view of rice fields

 

Sikkim's organic farming serves as a case study for the Indian government, who is exploring whether statewide organic production is reproducible on a larger scale. In Sikkim, the government worked from 2003 onwards to support farmers in becoming 100% organic by gradually removing subsidies for pesticides and fertilizers, purchasing organic certification for Sikkim farmers, and increasing the integration of organic farming techniques across that state. 

The landscape in Sikkim is not ideal for conventional farming. Most farmers in the state own 4 hectares or less of land, which they cultivate using terraced farming methods due to the hilly features of the land. Thus, the monocultures that dominate nonorganic, conventional farming wouldn't work in the region anyway. 

At the moment, Sikkim, a land-locked state, does not have the infrastructure that would make transportation and export of its organic produce possible. In addition, the mechanisms for marketing and selling organic produce in India are not fully established either. Therefore, this milestone, while significant, marks only the beginning of a long road for organic farming in India.

Photo: Kaushik Das; A view of the winding, switchback roads in Sikkim.
 

As other agricultural products in India also switch to non-GMO and organic, such as cotton, the Indian government will need to look at how it can best support all of its farmers in making the shift to organic while ensuring that the farmer's livelihood is not overlooked; especially since India has a difficult history of farmer suicides. 

While Sikkim presents unique conditions that have supported it in becoming a 100% certified organic state, it does serve as inspiration for the rest of the world. Might India lead the way in creating a 100% certified organic country? We will have to wait and see. 

Article by: Rajmani Sinclair, September 20, 2016
 

 

Meet the Oldest Resident of Europe... 

Meet Adonis, the 1075 year old Bosnian Pine that is a resident in the Pindos Mountains of Northern Greece.
 

Have you met Adonis? On August 19, a group of scientists from University of Arizona, Stockholm University and University of Mainz, confirmed and announced the discovery of the 1075 year old tree. Adonis is a Bosnian Pine that lives in the high lands of northern Greece.  In fact, Adonis, is one of several other ancient pines that have been discovered living in the Pindos Mountains in Northern Greece, near the border with Albania. 

The team of scientists confirmed the tree's age by taking a core of its wood to analyze. After counting the rings in the core, which was 3 meters in diameter, they determined that Adonis is the oldest known, living tree in Europe. 

Paul J. Krusic, the dendrochronologist leading the expedition, is quoted saying: "It is quite remarkable that this large, complex and impressive organism has survived so long in such an inhospitable environment, in a land that has been civilized for over 3,000 years." 

The scientists who discovered Adonis plan to use the information based on the variation of the tree rings to draw conclusions about historical climactic and environmental conditions. 

Article by Rajmani Sinclair, August 23, 2016

The Hidden Lives of Trees  

Photo credit: Rajmani Sinclair
 

Have you ever considered the possibility that tree are social creatures? In his recently published book - The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries From a Secret World - German forester Peter Wohlleben asserts that trees are indeed social beings. In fact, he asserts that trees can even count, learn, remember, nurse sick neighbors, warn each other of danger, and for unknown reasons, keep ancient stumps of long-felled companions alive for 100s of year by feeding them a sugar solution via their root systems. 

In his book, Mr. Wohlleben, uses very human language when describing trees, which makes it very accessible to readers. Since it's release, it sold 100,000s of copies in German, and it has been translated into 19 languages. The English version of the book will be released on September 13, 2016.

Peter Wohlleben in the forest. Photo Credit: Gordon Welters for The New York Times
 

Peter Wohlleben traces his love for trees back to his childhood, and went on to study forestry in school. In 1987 he began working for the State Forestry Administration in Rhineland-Palatinate. After a few years of working on felling old trees and spraying them with insecticides, Peter felt that it just wasn't right and went back to read what he'd learned in school about the behavior of trees. Upon digging deeper into his study of tree behavior, Wohlleben discovered that trees operate as communal beings rather than individuals in nature. Furthermore, as communal beings, trees shared resources and worked together in networks in order to increase their strength and resistance. 

After working for over a decade to try and change the State Forestry Administration's approach to how they treated the forests, Wohlleben decided to leave his job and emigrate to Sweden. Fate had another idea in mind. All of Wohlleben's efforts had actually caught the attention of the forest's municipal owners, so they approached him with a contract to oversee the forest in place of the State Forestry Administration. Peter took the contract and in the past ten years, he  brought in horses, eliminated insecticides and began experimenting with letting the woods grow wilder. Within two years of these changes, the forest went from loss to profit, in part by eliminating expensive machinery and chemicals. 

Through his life experiences, Wohlleben wanted to share his knowledge and appreciation for trees with everyone. Thus, he set out to write the book The Hidden Life of Trees, which so far has been a great success with German audiences and will soon be available for purchase in English. 

Story by: Rajmani Sinclair, July 28, 2016


 

Antibiotic-Resistant Superbug Found in the USA 

                                              The superbug resistant even to "antibiotics of last resort" is a strain of E. coli, pictured above.
                                             (Photo: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recently stated that a superbug, reported to have been discovered in a US woman, could mean the "end of the road" for antibiotics. 

A 49-year-old woman from Pennsylvania went to a military outpatient clinic on April 26, 2016 due to a urinary tract infection. When treated for the infection, doctors discovered that she was resistant to all antibiotics, including Colistin, an antibiotic of last resort that's given to people when treating what are known as "superbugs" - highly resistant strains of bacteria. 

This strain of superbug was later discovered in individual cases in Europe and Canada. Back in November 2015, health officials were alarmed by a number of cases reported from China and from a colistin-resistant strain of bacteria found in some pigs. 

Other patients in the aforementioned Pennsylvania clinic were tested and found negative for the strain of colistin-resistant bacteria. The woman reported to have the superbug had not traveled within the past 5 months, so it's unclear if this superbug is be present within her local community. 

Thomas Frieden, chief of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is reported to have stated that the arrival of the superbug on US soil, "basically shows us that the end of the road isn't very far away for antibiotics—that we may be in a situation where we have patients in our intensive-care units, or patients getting urinary tract infections for which we do not have antibiotics."

                                              Photo Credit: Shutterstock

 

The rise of such superbugs can be contributed to the overprescription of antibiotics by physicians and in hospitals. The use of antibiotics in agricultural livestock also plays a significant role in the crisis of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Al Jazeera reported that within the US, antibiotic resistant bacteria have been cited as the source for over 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths. 

Furthermore, the National Resources Defense Council found that more than 70% of antibiotics sold in the US end up going to livestock and are given to animals who are not even sick, but rather as preventative measures and to promote quicker growth. 

Article by: Rajmani Sinclair, May 31, 2016
 

 

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