Archive for September, 2013

What Is Quinoa?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on September 27, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Post 2465

What Is Quinoa?

By Elizabeth Palermo, LiveScience Contributor   |   September 25, 2013 04:22pm ET
quinoa
Quinoa, shown here in a vegetable medley, is a nutritious “superfood.”
Credit: naD photos | Shutterstock.com 

Native to Bolivia, Chile, Peru and parts of Mexico, quinoa is a species of goosefoot (Chenopodium) whose seeds are traditionally used in soups, made into beer and ground into meal for making porridges and cakes.

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) has been sustaining civilization in South and Central America for thousands of years. The tiny seeds of this plant were highly regarded by the Incas, and played a fundamental role in their empire. The Incas referred to quinoa as chisaya mama, or “mother of all grains,” and believed that the plant provided warriors with strength and stamina in battle. The Incan emperor himself traditionally sowed the first seeds of the season with a special gold implement.

Though the Incas — as well as many present-day quinoa-lovers — referred to quinoa as a grain, the plant is actually an herb that thrives in cold, high elevations. While it’s mostly grown in South America, farmers in the Rocky Mountains and in the Pacific Northwest have recently begun cultivating quinoa as well.

Quinoa production in the United States has been spurred by the recent increase in demand for the tiny seeds from health-conscious consumers. A good source of protein, calcium and amino acids, this so-called “superfood” also contains health-protective compounds such as polyphenols and quercetin, powerful antioxidants believed by some to reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Follow Elizabeth Palermo on Twitter @techEpalermo or on Google+. Follow LiveScience @livescience. We’re also on Facebook & Google+.

 

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What Are Superfoods?

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on September 27, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Post 2464

What Are Superfoods?

Christopher Wanjek, LiveScience Contributor   |   May 24, 2013 05:15pm ET
Superfoods
So-called ‘superfoods’ — such as spinach, beans, sweet potatoes, salmon, fruits, nuts, whole grains and berries — are said to be rich in nutrients.
Credit: Robyn Mackenzie | Shutterstock 

Superfoods are foods — mostly plant-based but also some fish and dairy — thought to be nutritionally dense and thus good for one’s health. The term has no set scientific meaning, however, and any list of “top” superfoods is purely subjective.

Superfoods are healthful, for the most part, aside from possible contamination, added sugars or over-consumption of them.

Lists of superfoods are extensive on the Internet. Some websites list as many as 50 or 100. At this point, the term “superfood” becomes largely meaningless or, at best, synonymous with just about any fruit or vegetable. Another problem with the term is that some so-called superfoods fall in and out of favor with dieticians, such as coffee or eggs.

A generic list of superfoods

At a very basic level, superfoods are said to be rich in particular nutrients. This could be an antioxidant, thought to ward off cancer; a healthy fat, thought to prevent heart disease; fiber, thought to prevent diabetes and digestive problems; or phytochemicals, the chemicals in plants responsible for deep colors and smells, which can have numerous healthful benefits.

 

 

Blueberries
Credit: Stephanie Frey |Shutterstock

Blueberries often top many lists of superfoods. This is because blueberries are rich in vitamins, phytochemicals and soluble fiber. While blueberries are indeed healthful, so are about any kind of (non-poisonous) berry. Blueberries aren’t necessarily better than cranberries or raspberries, but they are usually more readily available and are quite palatable as is.

Kiwifruit also tops many a list. Its benefits are similar, for the most part, to berries, melons, citrus fruit, apples and pears. Kiwifruit is labeled a superfood perhaps because it contains a wider range of nutrients compared to some other fruits.

 

 

Beans and whole grains are standard additions to the superfood lists. Beans are a source of low-fat protein. Beans have insoluble fiber, which lowers cholesterol; soluble fiber, which provides a longer feeling of fullness; and loads of vitamins and trace minerals largely absent in the typical American diet, such asmanganese. Whole grains have similar benefits, although they are inferior in regards to protein.Quinoa is not a grain, but it cooks up like one, and this too is a remarkable source of protein, vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants.

Nuts and seeds contain high levels of minerals and healthy fats. Although these are common additions on superfood lists, the downside is that they are high in calories. Portion control is key. Shelled nuts and seeds, in this regard, are ideal because they take time to crack open and slow you down. A quick handful of shelled nuts or seeds could contain more than 100 calories. [Related: Reality Check: 5 Risks of Raw Vegan Diet]

 

 

Kale lives up to the hype of a superfood. But so do most dark, leafy greens: Swiss chard,collardsmustards (including radish greens),spinach (and others in the amaranth family), and cabbages. Add broccoli to that. It’s in the cabbage-mustard family; the modern version is merely grown for its floret instead of leaves. These dark vegetables are loaded with vitamins A, C and K, as well as fiber, calcium and other minerals.

Sweet potato and squash also usually make the superfood list, for similar reasons. Both kinds of food are generally excellent sources of fiber, vitamin A, and much more. They are also naturally sweet and don’t require the butter, cream, or salt typically added to potatoes.

Salmonsardinesmackerel and certain other fatty fish are rich inomega-3 fatty acids, thought to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Most doctors say the benefits of eating fish far outweigh the risk of harming your health from the mercury these fish contain. If you worry, eat lower down on the food chain, such as sardines, smelt, and anchovy.

 

 

Pomegranate
Credit: kingero |Shutterstock 

The “exotic fruit of the year will surely be on any superfood list, too. This might be acai berry,noni fruitdragon fruitrambutan orpomegranate. These might be healthful but there is no reason to believe they are any more super than blueberries. They might be rich in one particular nutrient; pomegranate has ellagitannins, which have anti-cancer properties. But so do red raspberries.

One could just as easily include green tea, coffee, dark chocolate, yogurt, and olives to the superfood list for a variety of reasons mentioned above.

Criticism of the nomenclature

As healthful as superfoods might be, the use of the term is largely a marketing tool. Scientists do not use the term. For example, a search for “superfood” on PubMed, the repository of most peer-reviewed biomedical journal articles, yields fewer than a dozen results. And several of these studies actually warn of dangers of superfoods, such as arsenic and pesticide residue in imported foods. [Infographic: Pesticides Lurk in Fruits & Veggies]

The first general criticism of the use of the term “superfood” is that, while the food itself might be healthful, the processing might not be. For example, green tea has several antioxidants. But green tea sold in the United States is generally cut with inferior teas and brewed with copious amounts of sugar. The Japanese and Chinese generally do not drink green tea with sugar. Many kinds of super-juices — acai berry, noni fruit, pomegranate — can be high in added sugar.

Similarly, many whole grains are processed in a way to be more palatable and less healthful. According to research by David Ludwig at Harvard University, instant whole-grain oats is as unhealthy as overly processed white bread in that it quickly spikes the sugar levels in the bloodstream once consumed and promotes insulin-resistance, obesity and diabetes.

A second criticism is that, because the term “superfood” is not scientific, it can mean very little and prompt some consumers to eat one kind of food over another. Is broccoli really that superior to asparagus?

Research has shown that the ideal diet is one that is largely plant-based with a wide, wide, wide variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthful animal products. Superfoods might be a good entry into healthy eating, and understanding their nutritional value is enlightening, but other whole foods can be just as healthy.

Tracking Belief in Bigfoot (Infographic)

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on September 27, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Post 2463

Tracking Belief in Bigfoot (Infographic)

LiveScience Staff
About one in three people surveyed say that Bigfoot "probably" exists.

The big hairy monster we call Bigfoot has both eluded and fascinated many, with blurry photos and even blurrier video being some of the best evidence the creature exists.

Bigfoot stories of sightings vary on some details and the type of “evidence.” In 2008, two Georgia men claimed they had a body, photos of the body andDNA evidence of a Bigfoot. A few days later, evidence surfaced that the DNA was that of an opossum and the body was really a frozen gorilla suit.

More recently in 2011, a Charlotte, N.C.-based man named Thomas Byers claimed that, while driving, he and a companion videotaped a Bigfoot crossing the road in front of their truck and at one point it “made a snarling growling sound and looked back at me,” Byers said. Various hints, including the fact that no truck is seen, nor headlights (it was pretty dark in the video), and that the slow-moving creature (or human) seems to be waving in the footage, weighed heavily against the video’s validity.

The most famous recording of an alleged Bigfoot is the short 1967 film shot in Bluff Creek, Calif., by Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin. The video shows a dark, humanlike creature striding through a clearing. It has never been proven real, and in the 45 years since the film was shot, it has remained the best evidence for Bigfoot. (It seems even with today’s technology, quality video of Bigfoot is tough to come by.)

And, of course, these sightings are not confined to the United States.

The legendary woodlands ape, though answering to different names, has been a fascination across the globe. For instance, a group of Chinese researchers announced in October 2010 that they were mounting an expedition to seek evidence of the yeren, the Chinese version of Bigfoot. Other searches for the yeren in pior decades all failed to find conclusive evidence of the beast’s existence. The team, led by a man named Luo Baosheng, is hoping to raise $1.5 million to launch the search.

The so-called Canadian Sasquatch is essentially the same creature as the American Bigfoot, though it is claimed to be primarily nocturnal and a fast runner. Moving to Asia, the Yeti — formerly known as the Abominable Snowman — is said to live in the forest below the snow line of the Himalaya Mountains. Reports suggest the creature is muscular, covered with dark grayish or reddish-brown hair, and weighs between 200 and 400 pounds (90 and 180 kilograms). Compared with Bigfoot, the Yeti is claimed to be relatively short, with an average height about 6 feet (1.8 meters).

The Down Under variety, dubbed Yowie, reportedly stands anywhere from 5 to 11 feet (1.5 to 3.4 meters) tall, and has yellow or red eyes deeply set inside a dome-shaped head.

This lack of evidence hasn’t stopped enthusiasts, however. The reason could be human nature: We want to believe. “The human brain is always trying to determine why things happen, and when the reason is not clear, we tend to make up some pretty bizarre explanations,” said Brian Cronk, a professor of psychology at Missouri Western State University, back in 2008.

And our belief in all things supernatural, from fairies and elves to gods, ghosts and monsters, seems to go way back in human history. The reason, say some social scientists, is the human need to explain that which we don’t understand.

Stunning, Minimalist Science Art from LIFE Magazine in the 1960s

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 27, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Stunning, Minimalist Science Art from LIFE Magazine in the 1960s

ROBERT T. GONZALEZ

Feast your eyes on the artistic musings of graphic designer Kazumasa Nagai. Featured below: “The Mind,” “Growth,” and “The Cell,” three posters in a series of science-themed prints featured in LIFE Magazine’s Science Library during the 1960s. See more of Nagai’s work here.

 

Stunning, Minimalist Science Art from LIFE Magazine in the 1960s

 

 

Stunning, Minimalist Science Art from LIFE Magazine in the 1960s

 

 

Stunning, Minimalist Science Art from LIFE Magazine in the 1960s

 

[LIFE via It’s Okay to be Smart]

The official atomic weights of 19 elements have just been changed

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on September 27, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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The official atomic weights of 19 elements have just been changed

ROBERT T. GONZALEZ   http://io9.com/the-official-atomic-weights-of-19-elements-have-just-be-1401197611

Time to update all your periodic tables.

In their ongoing effort to keep things as mind-numbingly precise as possible, The International Union of Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) and the U.S. Geological Survey announced yesterday that the atomic weights of 19 elements have been officially and oh-so-incrementally changed.

Via USGS:

The standard atomic weights of molybdenum, cadmium, selenium, and thorium have been changed based on recent determinations of terrestrial isotopic abundances. In addition, the standard atomic weights of 15 elements have been revised based on a new assessment of their atomic masses by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics.

Changes in standard atomic weights:

molybdenum: from 95.96(2) to 95.95(1)
cadmium: from 112.411(8) to 112.414(4)
selenium: from 78.96(3) to 78.971(8)
thorium: from 232.038 06(2) to 232.0377(4)

beryllium: from 9.012 182(3) to 9.012 1831(5)
fluorine: from 18.998 4032(5) to 18.998 403 163(6)
aluminium (aluminum): from 26.981 5386(8) to 26.981 5385(7)
phosphorus: from 30.973 762(2) to 30.973 761 998(5)
scandium: from 44.955 912(6) to 44.955 908(5)
manganese: from 54.938 045(5) to 54.938 044(3)
cobalt: from 58.933 195(5) to 58.933 194(4)
arsenic: from 74.921 60(2) to 74.921 595(6)
yttrium: from 88.905 85(2) to 88.905 84(2)
niobium: from 92.906 38(2) to 92.906 37(2)
caesium (cesium): from 132.905 4519(2) to 132.905 451 96(6)
praseodymium: from 140.907 65(2) to 140.907 66(2)
holmium: from 164.930 32(2) to 164.930 33(2)
thulium: from 168.934 21(2) to 168.934 22(2)
gold: from 196.966 569(4) to 196.966 569(5)

According to IUPAC, the changes to the standard atomic weights will be published in a brand spanking new Table of Standard Atomic Weights, to be published in Pure and Applied Chemistry in 2014. If you can’t wait that long, and need to know the accurate weight of these elements to the sixth, seventh, or even – you crazy, reckless bastard – eighth decimal place, the revised values for atomic weights can be found online in the Table of Standard Atomic Weights (xls) at the website of the Commission on Isotopic Abundances and Atomic Weights.

 

There will be an alien cathedral in Barcelona by 2026

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on September 27, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Post 2460

 

When Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí was tragically killed by a train in 1926, he was in the middle of building of his masterpiece—the Barcelona basilica, Sagrada Familia. Eighty-six years later, the church still isn’t complete. But according to Jordi Faulí, the current architect on the magnificent life-sized sand castle, it’ll be done by 2026. This is what it’s going to look like.

Construction on Sagrada Familia began in 1882, and since Gaudí’s death, nine architects have been put on the famously never-ending project. One of the controversial roadblocks to its completion was the fire in the crypt of Sagrada Familia in 1936, which destroyed all the plans, sketches, and models Gaudí had left behind, forcing later designers to interpret what theythought the brilliant Gaudí wanted the basilica to look like.

This video shows what the culmination of the work being funded mainly through public donations, including the massive, yet-to-be-finished 564-foo tower at its center. But a lot can happen between now and 2026—so we’ll believe it when we see it. [Gizmodo ES]

 

Why You Always See Crushed Stones Alongside Railroad Tracks

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on September 27, 2013 by 2eyeswatching

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Post 2459

Why You Always See Crushed Stones Alongside Railroad Tracks

DAVID S. ROSE 

39 minutes ago  http://gizmodo.com/why-you-always-see-crushed-stones-alongside-railroad-tr-1404579779

This is a good question with an interesting answer. The crushed stones are what is known as ballast. Their purpose is to hold the wooden cross ties in place, which in turn hold the rails in place.

Think about the engineering challenge faced by running miles of narrow ribbons of steel track on top of the ground: they are subject to heat expansion and contraction, ground movement and vibration, precipitation buildup from rough weather, and weed and plant growth from underneath. Now keep in mind that while 99% of the time they are just sitting there unburdened, the remaining 1% they are subject to moving loads as heavy as 1,000,000 pounds (the weight of a Union Pacific Big Boy locomotive and its tender).

Put all this together, and you have yourself a really, really interesting problem that was first solved nearly 200 years ago, and hasn’t been improved since!

 

Why You Always See Crushed Stones Alongside Railroad Tracks

 

The answer is to start with the bare ground, and then build up a foundation to raise the track high enough so it won’t get flooded. On top of the foundation, you deposit a load of crushed stone with sharp edges (the ballast). On top of the stone, you lay down (perpendicular to the direction of the track) a line of wooden beams on 19.5 inch centers, 8 1/2 feet long, 9 inches wide and 7 inches thick, weighing about 200 pounds…3,249 of them per mile. You then continue to dump crushed stone all around the beams, effectively locking them in place.

These beams are made of hardwood (usually oak or hickory), and impregnated with creosote for weather protection. In the US we call them “cross ties” (or, colloquially, just “railroad ties”); in the UK they are known as “sleepers”, in Portuguese, “dormentes”. While 93% of ties in the US are still made of wood, heavily trafficked modern rail lines are increasingly trying alternatives, including composite plastic, steel and concrete.

Why You Always See Crushed Stones Alongside Railroad Tracks

Next, you bring in hot rolled steel rails, historically 39′ long in the US (because they were carried to the site in 40′ gondola cars), but increasingly now 78′, and lay them on top of the sleepers end to end. They used to be joined by bolting on an extra piece of steel across the joint, but today are usually continuously welded end-to-end.

It would seem that you could just nail them or bolt them down to the ties, but that doesn’t work because of the non-trivial movement caused by heat expansion and contraction along the length of the rail. So instead, the rails are attached to the sleepers by clips or anchors, which hold them down but allow them to move longitudinally as they expand or contract.

 

Why You Always See Crushed Stones Alongside Railroad Tracks

 

So there you have it: a centuries old process that is extremely effective at facilitating the movement of people and material over thousands of miles…even though nothing is permanently attached to the ground with a fixed connection!

The ballast distributes the load of the ties (which in turn bear the load of the train on the track, held by clips) across the foundation, allows for ground movement, thermal expansion and weight variance, allow rain and snow to drain through the track, and inhibit the growth of weeds and vegetation that would quickly take over the track.

(By the way, as noted in the comment by Isaac Gaetz, the consequences of NOT appropriately providing for the effects of heat expansion and contraction can be pretty drastic. Just imagine what would happen to a train that tried to go down this particular section of buckled track (in Melbourne, during a heat wave…)

 

Why You Always See Crushed Stones Alongside Railroad Tracks


 

Image: ShutterstockKevin Hsieh