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Inappropriate Eats
October 2011

Fish Consume Plastic from Human Trash

Ocean_GarbageThe Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as dubbed by scientists, is a region of floating trash in the ocean that is twice the size of Texas. It comprises plastic debris that includes toys, cups, wrappers and bottles that slowly degrade from the sun’s rays and wave action into ever-smaller fragments until fish often mistake them for food. This finding, from a new study by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, could have serious implications for the food chain.

Scientists examined 141 fish across 27 species and estimated that small fish were eating as much as 24,000 tons of plastic waste each year, mostly tidbits smaller than a fingernail, and that nearly one in 10 fish in the region had plastic in its stomach. Most fish in the study were lantern fish, which dwell at depths of 650 to 3,200 feet during the day, but then swim near the surface at night to feed on plankton, where they often gulp plastic by mistake.

Small fragments of plastic could leach toxins into the fish, stunt their growth, alter reproduction or even kill them. It is unclear what impact that small, plastic-affected fish have upon larger fish that eat them, and ultimately on human fish-eaters.

 
GPS Biking
October 2011

Mapnificent Will Show the Way

mapWant to know how far it’s possible to travel by biking or using public transit in under 15 minutes? There’s a map for that. Mapnificent shows the areas one can reach from any point in a city at any given time.

Stefan Wehrmeyer, a Berlin-based software architect, has developed a tool that uses public transit data to help users decide on where to live, work or meet up. Using data from the GTFS Data Exchange and overlaying the extracted information on a Google map, Mapnificent visualizes the reach of public transport in the selected city. This becomes especially useful for decision-making purposes, rather than trip planning.

“Let’s say you found a job in San Francisco and want to move there,” Wehrmeyer explains. “Where can you live so that you need less than 30 minutes to go to your work place? Mapnificent is able to answer that question.”

Mapnificent is available in public beta and can be used for major cities in the United States.


Source: TheCityFix.com

 
Practice Makes Perfect
September 2011

Skills Satisfy Body and Soul

PracticeThe difference between a crafter wielding a glue gun obtained from a hobby store and a craftsperson hand-planing a piece of cherry wood to make fine furniture might seem wide, but “It is one of degree, not kind,” advises Monica Moses, editor-in-chief of American Craft magazine. Some people get schooling in their craft, while others are self-taught, with or without a mentor.

Sociologist Richard Sennett estimates that about 10,000 hours of experience are required to produce a master carpenter or musician. He observes in his book, The Craftsman, “As skill progresses, it becomes more problem-attuned, such as the lab technician worrying about procedure, whereas people with primitive levels of skill struggle just to get things to work. At its higher reaches, technique is no longer a mechanical activity; people can feel fully and think deeply about what they are doing, once they do it well.”

 
Tai Chi Can Turn Depression Around
September 2011

Try This Gentle Mind-Body Medicine

Tai_ChiArecent study published in the online edition of The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry reveals that more than 2 million people age 65 and older suffer from depression, including 50 percent of nursing home residents. In seeking an alternative to aggressive drug treatments, researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), turned to a gentle, westernized version of Tai chi, a 2,000-year-old Chinese martial art.

During the study, 112 adults age 60 or older that had been diagnosed with major depression were treated with a standard antidepressant drug for four weeks. The 73 adults that showed only partial improvement continued to receive the medication, but were also assigned to 10 weeks of either Tai chi or health education classes. The group practicing Tai chi experienced greater improvement in their levels of depression, as well as an enhanced quality of life, better cognition and more overall energy than the non-practicing group.

Dr. Helen Lavretsky, the study’s first author and a UCLA professor-in-residence of psychiatry, says, “This study shows that adding a mind-body exercise like Tai chi, that is widely available in the community, can improve the outcomes of treating depression in older adults that may also have other, coexisting medical conditions or cognitive impairment. With Tai chi, we may be able to treat these conditions without exposing them to additional medications.”

 
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