3 Things To Know Before You Arm Your Employees With Fitness Trackers

Even the most seasoned and well-adjusted remote workers know the risk: If you’re not careful, working from home can bring your physical activity to a standstill.

Employers know this too. Increasingly, they are looking for ways to bolster their wellness programs by offering fitness trackers, such as those made by Fitbit, Garmin, and Amazon, to help employees log more movement during the day. Another popular option called Oura makes smart rings that can track sleep, fitness, temperature, and even signs of illness. An Oura dashboard even lets employers view the likelihood of illness across their entire workforce.

Employees who log a certain amount of physical activity can then receive insurance discounts through many major health insurance companies, such as UnitedHealth Group, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cigna, and Aetna. Beneficiaries can get reimbursed for prescription co-pays and other health care costs under their deductibles.

But fitness trackers in the workplace, and health surveillance in general, also carry considerable privacy risks. More than 60 million records from Fitbit, Apple, and other companies were compromised in June after a data breach on GetHealth, a third-party group that provides employee fitness incentives.

Data breaches of fitness trackers like Strava have revealed personal details such as the name and location of participants, even in anonymized data. Security risks aside, you may not even want to have so many personal details about your employees at your fingertips. After all, constant surveillance won’t exactly put your team at ease.

Before offering fitness trackers to your employees, here are a few things you should keep in mind:

1. Fitness trackers will save you money on premiums, for now.

Workplace fitness-tracker programs often offer discounts on insurance premiums if employees meet certain fitness goals. Some employees can earn as much as $1,500 a year they can apply toward their health insurance premiums. Workers can get free or discounted wearables, workout clothing, and even gym equipment. On the employer side, a few studies have shown that fitness trackers can help you save money on premiums. But some companies have reported that their insurance costs have remained the same.

At present, there are no laws or regulations in place to stop insurers from using fitness-tracker data to raise premiums. In an article published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers from the AMA raised concerns that such data could increase insurance premiums for some groups.

“Wearables can collect information on physical activity, calorie intake, blood pressure, and weight. Insurance companies are now using this data for rewards programs, but there are no regulations stopping them from doing the opposite,” wrote the authors.

2. The data your employees share isn’t protected by HIPAA.

Health care providers and health insurers are barred from sharing any patient information by HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. But that ban doesn’t extend to Google, Apple, or any private companies through which employees elect to share their health care data. As The Wall Street Journal reports, there’s nothing under HIPAA that would bar third-party companies from analyzing or selling the health care data users voluntarily give up.

If you’re looking to adopt fitness-tracker programs, read up on the device-maker’s privacy policies and be prepared to answer questions from employees. You will have the added responsibility of explaining to workers how much access your own company has to their data, and how it’s being used. Workers need to understand that you will not be using data from the fitness trackers against them, and are under no obligation to sign up for the program.

3. The research on fitness-tracker effectiveness is mixed.

For some people, wearing a device that tracks their activity levels is enough of a reason to get off the sofa. But changing health habits permanently requires a lot more effort. One study published in The Lancet from researchers at the Duke-NUS Medical School found that wearing an activity tracker, along with a cash incentive, improved the fitness levels of employees.

But after the cash incentive was discontinued after six months, employees didn’t maintain their previous fitness levels. The study also compared employees who wore fitness trackers with those who did not, and found no real difference in the amount of activity performed.

But a number of other studies indicate that fitness trackers do help increase activity levels, either by small or moderate amounts. In one analysis of 28 studies with more than 7,000 participants published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found that those with fitness trackers were more physically active than those in groups without. Added features like setting personal goals and text reminders were the most effective in getting people to exercise.

If your company chooses to enroll in a fitness-tracker program, keep in mind that you’re unlikely to entice all of your employees to adopt it. If you want to help improve the health of workers, you can also try methods like subsidized gym memberships, healthy food choices at work, or reimbursement for fitness equipment. While fitness trackers can certainly play a role in improving health outcomes, they are just one tool. Substantive lifestyle changes, including good nutrition, sleep, and fitness, also are required.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the fitness tracker Strava had a data breach that revealed personal details such as the name and location of participants, including in anonymized data. According to Strava spokesman, the company has never had a data breach.

By Amrita Khalid, Staff writer@askhalid

Source: 3 Things to Know Before You Arm Your Employees With Fitness Trackers | Inc.com

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Related Contents:

Böhm, B; Karwiese, SD; Böhm, H; Oberhoffer, R (30 April 2019). “Effects of Mobile Health Including Wearable Activity Trackers to Increase Physical Activity Outcomes Among Healthy Children and Adolescents: Systematic Review”. JMIR mHealth and uHealth. 7 (4): e8298. doi:10.2196/mhealth.8298. PMC 6658241. PMID 31038460.

 

A NASA Scientist Explains Why The Weather is Becoming More Extreme

Across China and Western Europe in July, the amount of rain that might typically fall over several months to a year came down within a matter of days, triggering floods that swept entire homes off their foundations. In June, the usually mild regions of Southwest Canada and the US’s Pacific Northwest saw temperatures that rivaled highs in California’s Death Valley desert. The severe heat was enough to buckle roads and melt power cables.

Yesterday, a landmark United Nations report helped put those kinds of extreme events into context. By burning fossil fuels and releasing planet-heating greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, humans are fueling more dangerous weather. Researchers have been able to connect the dots between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change for decades.

But the new report showcases a big leap forward in climate science: being able to tie the climate crisis directly to extreme weather events like the June heatwave, which would have been “virtually impossible” without climate change according to recent studies.

The Verge spoke with Alex Ruane, one of the authors of the new report and a research physical scientist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. He walks us through the phenomena that’s supercharging extreme weather events. And he explains why scientists have gotten so much better at seeing the “human footprint” in each weather disaster.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

The new United Nations report ties many changes in extreme weather to a more intense water cycle. What is the water cycle and how does it affect the weather?

The water cycle is basically the way that we track moisture moving through the climate system. So it includes everything from the oceans to the atmosphere, the clouds, ice, rivers, lakes, the groundwater, and the way that those things move and transfer moisture and water from place to place.

So when we’re talking about the intensification of the water cycle, we’re basically saying things are moving faster. Air is pulling the moisture out of the oceans and out of the land faster. It’s moving more moisture from place to place on the planet. And when it rains, it can come down hard.

The fundamental difference is that there is more energy in the system. There’s more heat. And as the temperature goes up, there is an overall increase in the amount of moisture that the air is trying to hold. So that means when a storm happens, there’s more moisture in the air to tap into for a big, heavy downpour.

It also means that when air moves over a region, it has the potential to suck more moisture out of the ground more rapidly. So the same phenomenon is leading both to more intensive rainfalls and floods and precipitation, and also to more stark drought conditions when they do occur.

How are people affected by those changes?

So, I personally live in New York City. We are affected by the water cycle, for example, when there’s a heavy downpour it can flood subway stations. It can lead to surface flooding in rivers and streets that can affect transportation.

Other parts of the world have different engagements with the water cycle. They may be concerned about the snow fall or river floods that affect broad areas. And then of course huge parts of the world are concerned about drought. When we look at something like drought, it doesn’t just affect agriculture. It also affects ecosystems and urban parks. It affects water resources and infrastructure like power plants and roads and buildings.

So in all of these climate factors, we see that more than one sector is affected by these changes. We also see that if you take any specific thing that we care about, like agricultural fields, they are affected by more than just one type of climate change.

A specific set of climate conditions can lead to two extremes at the same time. So for example, heat and drought often go together because as conditions become drier, all of that sunshine, all of that energy, all of that heat goes into warming the air. That is a reinforcing cycle that can make hot and dry conditions even more extreme.

The big picture, as we’re seeing it, is that climate change is affecting all of the regions on Earth, with multiple types of climate changes already observed. And as the climate changes further, these shifts become more pronounced and widespread.

I’ve read that “weather whiplash” is becoming more common because of climate change — what is “weather whiplash”?

This idea that you can go from extreme to extreme very rapidly is giving society this sensation of a whiplash. This is part of the idea of an intensified water cycle. The water is moving faster, so when a wet condition comes it can be extremely wet. And then behind it could be a dry condition that can quickly get extremely dry.

That type of shift from wet to dry conditions is something that we explore and understand in our climate models, but the lived experience of it can be quite jarring — and not just uncomfortable, but a direct challenge for ecosystems and other things that we care about in society. They really are connected in many cases to the same types of phenomenon, and this new report connects the dots between this phenomenon and our human footprint.

How do scientists study how climate change affects extreme weather events?

There have been big steps forward in the methodologies and the scientific rigor of detection and attribution studies, which is another way of saying: understanding the human influence on these events.

The basic idea behind the extreme event attribution is that we need to compare the likelihood that an event would have happened without human influences against the likelihood of that event happening, given that we have influenced the climate.

We are able to use observational records and our models to look at what conditions were like before there was strong human influence. We look at what we call a preindustrial condition, before the Industrial Revolution and land use changes led to greenhouse gas emissions and other climate changes.

If we can understand how likely events would have been before we had our climate influences, and then compare it against the likelihoods today with those climate change influences factored in, that allows us to identify the increased chance of those events because of our influence. It allows us to attribute a human component of those extreme events.

How have researchers gotten so much better at attributing extreme weather events to climate change?

This is a really exciting, cutting-edge field right now. Methodological advances and several groups that have really taken this on as a major focus of their efforts have, in many ways, increased our ability and the speed at which we can make these types of connections. So that’s a big advantage.

Every year, the computational power is stronger in terms of what our models can do. We also use remote sensing to have a better set of observations in parts of the world where we don’t have weather stations. And we have models that are designed to integrate multiple types of observations into the same kind of physically coherent system, so that we can understand and fill in the gaps between those observations.

The other thing, of course, is when you look at any single attribution study, you get a piece of the picture. But what the new report does is bring them all into one place and assesses them together, and draw out larger messages. When you look at them all together, it is a much stronger and more compelling case than any one single event. And this is what the scientific community is showing us, that these things are part of a larger pattern of change that we have influenced.

What should we expect in the future when it comes to extreme weather? And what might we need to do to adapt?

First of all, it’s not like drought is a new phenomenon. There are parts of the world that are dealing with these conditions every day of the year. What we’re seeing, however, is that the overall set of expected conditions is moving into uncharted territory.

I want to emphasize it’s not just the record levels that we care about. We also care about the frequency by which these extremes occur, how long they last, the seasonal timing of when things like the last frost occurs, and also the spatial extent of extreme events — so where are conditions going to happen in the future that are outside of the observed experience of the last several generations.

It is a set of challenges that we have to face in terms of how do we adapt or manage the risk of these changes. Also, how do we prepare knowing that they may come in combination or in overlapping ways, with more than one extreme event happening at the same time, or in the same season in a sequence, or potentially hitting different parts of the same market or commodities trade exchange or something like that.

We are facing a situation where we have more information about these regional risks, but also know that every increment of climate change that occurs makes these changes more prominent. That sounds scary, but it also gives us agency.

It gives us the ability to reduce these changes if we reduce emissions, and if we can eventually limit them to something like net zero — no total carbon emissions into the climate system. And in that sense, I still remain optimistic despite all this information that you’re seeing in the report about the changes that could come. The bottom line is we have the potential to reduce those changes, if we can get emissions under control.

Source: A NASA scientist explains why the weather is becoming more extreme – The Verge

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Natural Resources Defense Council, 29 September 2017.

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How Many Senses Do You Have? A Lot More Than 5, Says Science

How many senses does the average human have? Assuming you equate senses with their receptors, such as the retinas in your eyes and the cochlea in your ears, then the traditional answer to this question is five – seeing, hearing, touch, smell and taste. They’re called the ‘exteroceptive’ senses because they carry information about the external world.

But your body also has receptors for events occurring inside you, such as your beating heart, expanding lungs, gurgling stomach and many other movements that you’re completely unaware of. They’re traditionally grouped together as another sense, called ‘interoception’.

Yet a proper answer to this question is even more complex and interesting. For one thing, your body has receptors to carry other types of information, such as temperature, that we don’t usually consider to be senses.

Also, some of your receptors are used for more than one sense. Your retinas, for example, are portals for the light waves you need for vision, but some retinal cells also inform your brain if it’s daytime or nighttime. This unnamed ‘day/night sense’ is the basis for circadian rhythms that affect your metabolism and your sleep/wake cycle.

Even senses that seem fundamental, such as vision, are intimately entwined with other senses that seem separate. For example, it turns out that what you see, and how you see it, is yoked to your brain’s tracking of your heartbeat, which is part of interoception.

In the moments when your heart contracts and pushes blood out to your arteries, your brain takes in less visual information from the world. Your brain also constructs senses that you don’t have receptors for. Examples are flavour, which the brain constructs from gustatory (taste) and olfactory (smell) data, and wetness, which is created from touch and temperature.

In fact, your brain constructs everything you see, hear, smell, taste and feel using more than just the sense data from your body’s receptors. Light waves, for example, don’t simply enter your eyes, travel to your brain as electrical signals, and then you see.

Your brain actually predicts what you might see before you see it, based on past experience, the state of your body and your current situation. It combines its predictions with the incoming sense data from your retinas to construct your visual experience of the world around you.

Similarly, when you place your fingers on your wrist to feel your pulse, you’re actually feeling a construction based on your brain’s predictions and the actual sense data. You don’t experience sensations with your sense organs. You experience them with your brain.

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By

Lisa is a professor of psychology at Northeastern University and the author of Seven And A Half Lessons About The Brain (£14.99, Picador)

Source: How many senses do you have? A lot more than 5, says science – BBC Science Focus Magazine

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Five senses refers to the five traditionally recognized methods of perception, or sense: taste, sight, touch, smell, and sound.

Five senses or The Five Senses may also refer to:

Dubai Is Using Laser-Beam-Shooting Drones to Shock Rain Out of the Sky

The National Center of Meteorology in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, has found a new way to make it rain. It’s using laser-beam-shooting drones to generate rainfall artificially.

Last week the country’s weather service posted two videos offering proof of the heavy downpours in Dubai’s streets.

Here’s how it works: The drones shoot laser beams into the clouds, charging them with electricity. The charge prompts precipitation by forcing water droplets together to create bigger raindrops, essentially electrifying the air to create rain.

This past March, the BBC reported that the UAE was looking to test the drone technology, which it developed in collaboration with the University of Reading in the UK.

Artificially generated rain is crucial because Dubai only gets an average of 4 inches of rainfall annually. This makes farming difficult and forces the country to import more than 80% of its food.

The efforts are part of the country’s ongoing “quest to ensure water security” since the 1990s through the UAE Research Program for Rain Enhancement, according to the center.

Water security remains one of the UAE’s “main future challenges” as the country relies on groundwater for two-thirds of its water needs, according to the National Center of Meteorology website. The arid nation faces low rainfall level, high temperatures and high evaporation rates of surface water, the center says. Paired with increased demand due to high population growth, this puts the UAE in a precarious water security situation, according to the center.

But rain enhancement may “offer a viable, cost-effective supplement to existing water supplies,” especially amid diminishing water resources across the globe, the center said.“While most of us take free water for granted, we must remember that it is a precious and finite resource,” according to the center.

Cloud seeding projects may also be improving the UAE’s air quality in recent years, according to a 2021 study led by American University of Sharjah. So far, rain enhancement projects have centered on the country’s mountainous north-east regions, where cumulus clouds gather in the summer, according to the National Center of Meteorology website.

There have been successes in the U.S., as well as China, India, and Thailand. Long-term cloud seeding in the mountains of Nevada have increased snowpack by 10% or more each year, according to research published by the American Meteorological Society. A 10-year cloud seeding experiment in Wyoming resulted in 5-10% increases in snowpack, according to the State of Wyoming.

The practice is used in at least eight states in the western U.S. and in dozens of countries, the Scientific American reported. The UAE is one of the first countries in the Arab Gulf region to use cloud seeding technology, according to the National Center of Meteorology website.

It also doesn’t help with the country’s sweltering temperatures. On June 6, for example, Dubai recorded a sweltering temperature high of 125 degrees Fahrenheit.

Dubai’s rainmaking technology is not entirely dissimilar to cloud seeding, which has been used in the US since 1923 to combat prolonged periods of drought. Cloud seeding requires crushed-up silver iodide, a chemical used in photography, to help create water clusters in the air.

Forbes reported that the UAE has invested in nine rain-enhancement projects over the past few years, which cost around $15 million in total. The bulk of those projects have involved traditional cloud-seeding techniques.

Critics of the drone technology worry that it could unintentionally cause massive flooding. And they also worry about such technology being privatized, Forbes reported.

In the US, innovative solutions to the extreme effects of the climate crisis have been explored. Billionaire Bill Gates is backing the development of a sunlight-dimming technology that might help to achieve a global cooling effect by reflecting the sun’s rays from the planet’s atmosphere.

In the meantime, more than 80 wildfires are blazing across the US, devastating communities and destroying homes. On July 13, Death Valley in California recorded a temperature high of 128 degrees Fahrenheit, the Earth’s hottest temperature record since 2017.

By:

Source: Dubai Is Using Laser-Beam-Shooting Drones to Shock Rain Out of the Sky

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Climate Crisis: Scientists Spot Warning Signs of Gulf Stream Collapse

Climate scientists have detected warning signs of the collapse of the Gulf Stream, one of the planet’s main potential tipping points.

The research found “an almost complete loss of stability over the last century” of the currents that researchers call the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (AMOC). The currents are already at their slowest point in at least 1,600 years, but the new analysis shows they may be nearing a shutdown.

Such an event would have catastrophic consequences around the world, severely disrupting the rains that billions of people depend on for food in India, South America and West Africa; increasing storms and lowering temperatures in Europe; and pushing up the sea level off eastern North America. It would also further endanger the Amazon rainforest and Antarctic ice sheets.

The complexity of the AMOC system and uncertainty over levels of future global heating make it impossible to forecast the date of any collapse for now. It could be within a decade or two, or several centuries away. But the colossal impact it would have means it must never be allowed to happen, the scientists said.

“The signs of destabilisation being visible already is something that I wouldn’t have expected and that I find scary,” said Niklas Boers, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who did the research. “It’s something you just can’t [allow to] happen.”

It is not known what level of CO2 would trigger an AMOC collapse, he said. “So the only thing to do is keep emissions as low as possible. The likelihood of this extremely high-impact event happening increases with every gram of CO2 that we put into the atmosphere”.

Scientists are increasingly concerned about tipping points – large, fast and irreversible changes to the climate. Boers and his colleagues reported in May that a significant part of the Greenland ice sheet is on the brink, threatening a big rise in global sea level. Others have shown recently that the Amazon rainforest is now emitting more CO2 than it absorbs, and that the 2020 Siberian heatwave led to worrying releases of methane.

The world may already have crossed a series of tipping points, according to a 2019 analysis, resulting in “an existential threat to civilization”. A major report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, due on Monday, is expected to set out the worsening state of the climate crisis.

Boer’s research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, is titled “Observation-based early-warning signals for a collapse of the AMOC”. Ice-core and other data from the last 100,000 years show the AMOC has two states: a fast, strong one, as seen over recent millennia, and a slow, weak one. The data shows rising temperatures can make the AMOC switch abruptly between states over one to five decades.

The AMOC is driven by dense, salty seawater sinking into the Arctic ocean, but the melting of freshwater from Greenland’s ice sheet is slowing the process down earlier than climate models suggested.

Boers used the analogy of a chair to explain how changes in ocean temperature and salinity can reveal the AMOC’s instability. Pushing a chair alters its position, but does not affect its stability if all four legs remain on the floor. Tilting the chair changes both its position and stability.

Eight independently measured datasets of temperature and salinity going back as far as 150 years enabled Boers to show that global heating is indeed increasing the instability of the currents, not just changing their flow pattern.

The analysis concluded: “This decline [of the AMOC in recent decades] may be associated with an almost complete loss of stability over the course of the last century, and the AMOC could be close to a critical transition to its weak circulation mode.”

Levke Caesar, at Maynooth University in Ireland, who was not involved in the research, said: “The study method cannot give us an exact timing of a possible collapse, but the analysis presents evidence that the AMOC has already lost stability, which I take as a warning that we might be closer to an AMOC tipping than we think.”

David Thornalley, at University College London in the UK, whose work showed the AMOC is at its weakest point in 1,600 years, said: “These signs of decreasing stability are concerning. But we still don’t know if a collapse will occur, or how close we might be to it.”

By: Environment editor

Source: Climate crisis: Scientists spot warning signs of Gulf Stream collapse | Climate change | The Guardian

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How To Stay Cool at Night, Even When You’re a Hot Sleeper

You might recognize a particular sensation: You climb into bed and drift off to sleep, your head comfortably rested on the cold side of the pillow. And then, in the middle of the night, you’re roused awake, your limbs sweaty as you toss the covers aside. The struggle for hot sleepers is real.

The good thing is there are measures you can take to reduce your chances of having consistent unpleasant wake-up calls: Your bedding, mattress, and even the time you eat dinner have an affect on your body temperature as you sleep. Here are a few myths to stop believing—and what to do instead to get the best, perfectly cool sleep.

Myth: You Should Only Take Cold Showers

“Contrary to popular belief, a warm shower or bath is a great way to cool down,” says One Medical provider and regional medical director Natasha Bhuyan, M.D. Once you step out of the shower, your body will naturally start to cool down. Cold water might feel great at night on an especially hot day, but since it’s stimulating rather than relaxing, it can make it more difficult to fall asleep, she adds.

Myth: Memory Foam Always Overheats

You’ve likely heard that memory foam mattresses trap heat, making it hard to maintain a reasonable temperature at night. But not all memory foam is made equally. “Look for one with temperature-regulating fibers or a layer of cooling gel,” says Craig Schmeizer, CEO and founder of Idle Group (which includes companies Idle and Haven). Because they’re denser than traditional coil mattresses, many memory foam options allow for less circulation—hence, higher temperatures for sleepers. But the right materials can allow for optimal airflow.

Myth: Being a Hot Sleeper Is Always Natural

Always end up feeling hot when you’re trying to fall asleep? It could just be your natural body temperature—but don’t necessarily jump to that conclusion. “There could be aggravating factors at play,” says Bhuyan. If your room temperature is above average, if you eat right before bed, and if you drink alcohol or caffeine, you can experience restless or hot nights. If you’ve ruled out any other possibilities, then it could be hormonal fluctuations.

Myth: Mattress Protectors Don’t Matter

It’s not just your mattress that matters. “Starting at the base of your bedding is an easy way to make sure every layer of your sleep situation is as cool as ‘the other side of the pillow,’” says Schmeizer. He recommends using a mattress protector made with Tencel fiber, which wicks away excess moisture, leading to overall more comfortable sleep.

Myth: Fans Lower the Temperature in Your Space

If you’re not cranking the AC, Bhuyan recommends opening the window and using a fan to circulate the air in your space. “Although that won’t lower the temperature of the room, it can definitely create a sensation of cooling,” she says. If you’re using an overhead one, make sure it goes counterclockwise for the optimal effect.

Myth: Silky Sheets Are Always Cooling

Slippery satin or microfiber sheets might seem like they would offer the chillest night’s rest, but it’s best to stick to the classics: “Cotton pajamas and sheets are the most breathable and can help keep us cool at night,” says Bhuyan. Percale sheets have a looser weave than sateen, so are best for hot sleepers, and bamboo, hemp, and linen sheets are great options, too.

By: Rebecca Deczynski

Source: How to Stay Cool at Night, Even When You’re a Hot Sleeper

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Content Resources:

Harding, E., Franks, N., & Wisden, W. (2019). The Temperature Dependence of Sleep. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 13. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6491889/

Szymusiak, R. (2020). Handbook of Clinical Neurology (Vol. 156). Elsevier. Retrieved fromhttps://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-444-63912-7.00020-5

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2019, August 13). Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/understanding-Sleep

Walker, H. K., Hall, W. D., & Hurst, J. W. (1990). Clinical Methods: The History, Physical, and Laboratory Examinations (3rd ed.). Boston: Butterworths.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21250045/

Okamoto-Mizuno, K., & Mizuno, K. (2012). Effects of thermal environment on sleep and circadian rhythm. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 31(1), 14. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3427038/

Breus, M. J. (2017, November 30). Hot Nights Can Disrupt Your Sleep. Psychology Today. Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201711/hot-nights-can-disrupt-your-sleep

National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute. (2011, September). In Brief: Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/files/docs/public/sleep/healthysleepfs.pdf

Can Consciousness Be Explained By Quantum Physics?

One of the most important open questions in science is how our consciousness is established. In the 1990s, long before winning the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for his prediction of black holes, physicist Roger Penrose teamed up with anaesthesiologist Stuart Hameroff to propose an ambitious answer.

They claimed that the brain’s neuronal system forms an intricate network and that the consciousness this produces should obey the rules of quantum mechanics – the theory that determines how tiny particles like electrons move around. This, they argue, could explain the mysterious complexity of human consciousness.

Penrose and Hameroff were met with incredulity. Quantum mechanical laws are usually only found to apply at very low temperatures. Quantum computers, for example, currently operate at around -272°C. At higher temperatures, classical mechanics takes over. Since our body works at room temperature, you would expect it to be governed by the classical laws of physics. For this reason, the quantum consciousness theory has been dismissed outright by many scientists – though others are persuaded supporters.

Instead of entering into this debate, I decided to join forces with colleagues from China, led by Professor Xian-Min Jin at Shanghai Jiaotong University, to test some of the principles underpinning the quantum theory of consciousness.

In our new paper, we’ve investigated how quantum particles could move in a complex structure like the brain – but in a lab setting. If our findings can one day be compared with activity measured in the brain, we may come one step closer to validating or dismissing Penrose and Hameroff’s controversial theory.

Brains and fractals

Our brains are composed of cells called neurons, and their combined activity is believed to generate consciousness. Each neuron contains microtubules, which transport substances to different parts of the cell. The Penrose-Hameroff theory of quantum consciousness argues that microtubules are structured in a fractal pattern which would enable quantum processes to occur.

Fractals are structures that are neither two-dimensional nor three-dimensional, but are instead some fractional value in between. In mathematics, fractals emerge as beautiful patterns that repeat themselves infinitely, generating what is seemingly impossible: a structure that has a finite area, but an infinite perimeter.

This might sound impossible to visualise, but fractals actually occur frequently in nature. If you look closely at the florets of a cauliflower or the branches of a fern, you’ll see that they’re both made up of the same basic shape repeating itself over and over again, but at smaller and smaller scales. That’s a key characteristic of fractals.

The same happens if you look inside your own body: the structure of your lungs, for instance, is fractal, as are the blood vessels in your circulatory system. Fractals also feature in the enchanting repeating artworks of MC Escher and Jackson Pollock, and they’ve been used for decades in technology, such as in the design of antennas. These are all examples of classical fractals – fractals that abide by the laws of classical physics rather than quantum physics.

It’s easy to see why fractals have been used to explain the complexity of human consciousness. Because they’re infinitely intricate, allowing complexity to emerge from simple repeated patterns, they could be the structures that support the mysterious depths of our minds.

But if this is the case, it could only be happening on the quantum level, with tiny particles moving in fractal patterns within the brain’s neurons. That’s why Penrose and Hameroff’s proposal is called a theory of “quantum consciousness”.

Quantum consciousness

We’re not yet able to measure the behaviour of quantum fractals in the brain – if they exist at all. But advanced technology means we can now measure quantum fractals in the lab. In recent research involving a scanning tunnelling microscope (STM), my colleagues at Utrecht and I carefully arranged electrons in a fractal pattern, creating a quantum fractal.

When we then measured the wave function of the electrons, which describes their quantum state, we found that they too lived at the fractal dimension dictated by the physical pattern we’d made. In this case, the pattern we used on the quantum scale was the Sierpiński triangle, which is a shape that’s somewhere between one-dimensional and two-dimensional.

This was an exciting finding, but STM techniques cannot probe how quantum particles move – which would tell us more about how quantum processes might occur in the brain. So in our latest research, my colleagues at Shanghai Jiaotong University and I went one step further. Using state-of-the-art photonics experiments, we were able to reveal the quantum motion that takes place within fractals in unprecedented detail.

We achieved this by injecting photons (particles of light) into an artificial chip that was painstakingly engineered into a tiny Sierpiński triangle. We injected photons at the tip of the triangle and watched how they spread throughout its fractal structure in a process called quantum transport. We then repeated this experiment on two different fractal structures, both shaped as squares rather than triangles. And in each of these structures we conducted hundreds of experiments.

Our observations from these experiments reveal that quantum fractals actually behave in a different way to classical ones. Specifically, we found that the spread of light across a fractal is governed by different laws in the quantum case compared to the classical case.

This new knowledge of quantum fractals could provide the foundations for scientists to experimentally test the theory of quantum consciousness. If quantum measurements are one day taken from the human brain, they could be compared against our results to definitely decide whether consciousness is a classical or a quantum phenomenon.

Our work could also have profound implications across scientific fields. By investigating quantum transport in our artificially designed fractal structures, we may have taken the first tiny steps towards the unification of physics, mathematics and biology, which could greatly enrich our understanding of the world around us as well as the world that exists in our heads.

By: / Professor, Theoretical Physics, Utrecht University 

Source: Can consciousness be explained by quantum physics? My research takes us a step closer to finding out

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How an Ancient Design Technique Could Help Us Survive Extreme Heat

In late June, when temperatures climbed to 115 degrees in Portland, Oregon, homes and buildings throughout the Pacific Northwest had been caught method off guard. Most had been designed for a lot cooler temperatures, with insulation and air flow tuned to deal with reasonable highs and lows. Usually, even on sizzling days, the night lows can be chilly sufficient to deliver down the general temperature of buildings, protecting them from turning into roasting ovens. Air con was sometimes irrelevant, and buildings could often keep snug passively, or with out a lot intervention.

However that was earlier than. The warmth wave confirmed that temperatures can and possibly will proceed to be increased than in earlier a long time. The low- or no-effort temperature management that has been designed into the area’s houses seemingly gained’t have the ability to sustain, based on Mike Fowler, an architect at Seattle-based Mithun. “We’re going to part out of that by the tip of the last decade. And this has been eye-opening for lots of oldsters,” he says.

A brand new sort of constructing design might be wanted within the Pacific Northwest before most individuals anticipated, he says, however design approaches which are usually utilized in hotter, extra extreme climates provide some clues for a way structure might want to evolve.

Architects all over the world are designing options to rising temperatures and extra frequent warmth waves. New supplies, superior warmth modeling strategies, and a few longstanding design ideas are exhibiting that even when temperatures hit sudden peaks, our houses and buildings will have the ability to keep cool with out consuming enormous quantities of vitality.

One formal strategy is a constructing customary often known as Passive House. Initially developed in Germany within the Nineties and now modified for nations and climates all over the world, Passive Home is a performance-based customary that depends on creating tight and energy-efficient constructing “envelopes”—the partitions, roof, and home windows which have the next than regular stage of insulation and seal.

With triple-paned home windows, energy-efficient warmth pumps, and extremely insulated wall methods, Passive Home buildings are virtually air tight and scale back the quantity of temperature change inside when it’s extremely popular or very chilly, resulting in long-term financial savings on vitality prices. The concept of passive constructing goes back centuries throughout continents, and it’s an idea that’s taking up new relevance in locations just like the Pacific Northwest.

Fowler is a member and former president of Passive House Northwest, a regional group working to get extra architects and builders to use these ideas. “The pitch is that you simply’ve obtained one likelihood to put money into your constructing envelope—the home windows, roof, and partitions,” Fowler says. “Do it proper in order that one thing you construct now could be going to be resilient into the long run.”

He says the variety of Passive Home tasks within the area is rising. Mithun, the place Fowler is a senior affiliate, has 4 tasks within the works which are being designed to satisfy the U.S. Passive House standard. “There’s much more curiosity, there’s much more data,” he says. “Would like to see it go sooner, however it’s definitely trending upward.”

Even with out assembly the official customary, most of the concepts behind Passive Home are exhibiting up in locations the place extreme warmth is a matter of each day life. In Phoenix, the structure agency Studio Ma has specialised in designing parts into their buildings that passively maintain them cool, utilizing shading, overhangs, and cantilevers to protect them from the warmth of the desert.

Utilizing thermal-imaging software program, the agency has analyzed surfaces in Phoenix and located that present buildings with heavier supplies like stone and masonry on their exterior surfaces maintain way more warmth than buildings with lighter exteriors, akin to wooden. Through the use of lighter, higher insulated supplies on the skin of buildings and limiting the warmth that falls on them, buildings can have way more manageable inside temperatures, based on Christopher Alt, the agency’s co-founder.

“Some individuals name it ‘outsulation’ as a result of the insulation is on the skin, however it’s very depending on the local weather you’re in,” says Alt. “As individuals in Oregon are experiencing 115 levels, their options most likely look completely different than ours, however the identical form of pondering applies.”

They put these concepts into apply in a brand new 16-floor residence hall in Phoenix for Arizona State College. The agency used daylight and vitality evaluation instruments to optimize the orientation of the home windows, and added small aspects to the facade to permit a part of it to shade itself. This permits sufficient daylight to return in for the constructing to cut back its lighting wants whereas additionally minimizing how a lot the solar heats up the constructing.

Christiana Moss, the agency’s co-founder and managing accomplice, says that particularly for big buildings, architects might want to pay extra consideration to the warmth getting into buildings by means of their home windows. “At this level, it’s nearly obviously irresponsible to not contemplate your glazing ratios and scale back the glass in your facades,” she says.

These sorts of passive cooling ideas may also be inexpensive. Marlene Imirzian runs an architecture firm with places of work in Phoenix and Escondido, California, and she or he’s used passive cooling parts in lots of her tasks, together with methods that mix shading, low-lying operable home windows that pull cool air into buildings, and a photo voltaic chimney that vents sizzling air out on the prime.

Imirzian says these design parts can slash vitality use to a couple of quarter of what present houses use. “It’s not about extremely specialised methods. It’s about utilizing pure flows, defending the glazing from direct photo voltaic achieve and designing the [enclosed space] to permit for air motion,” she says.

Imirzian’s agency utilized this concept in its successful entry within the Metropolis of Phoenix’s internet zero vitality dwelling design competitors. They discovered that implementing these ideas right into a 2,100-square-foot dwelling would find yourself costing about the identical to construct as a typical air conditioned dwelling, with out the necessity to use the air conditioner almost as typically. “Value per sq. foot turns into a non issue. It’s actually about designing with this efficiency in thoughts from the start,” Imirzian says. “If we begin doing these single household houses effectively, we are able to considerably scale back vitality use.”

However there are nonetheless some hurdles to implementing these sorts of passive design strategies. Ben Caine is an architect in Perth, Australia, who designs houses to satisfy the Passive Home customary, and he says that a few of the lighter exterior and insulation supplies generally used on Passive Home tasks are nonetheless exhausting to get in Australia. For issues like wooden fiber and hemp insulation, he says, getting supplies despatched over from Europe can take 4 to 5 months, and be 4 to 5 instances as costly as typical supplies. “The availability chains and distribution channels for lots of those supplies simply don’t exist but,” he says.

He’s nonetheless been in a position to implement some passive cooling strategies in tasks, together with a home he’s now having constructed for himself. By specializing in protecting the constructing envelope tight, including excessive ceilings in some areas of the house and utilizing environment friendly ceiling followers, he says he’s been in a position to scale back warmth from entering into the house and likewise lower down on the necessity for air-con, although not fully.

Although air-con is condemned for losing vitality, Caine says that it’s not essentially evil; cooling a home down truly takes less energy than heating it up. That doesn’t imply he’s turning the A/C on full blast, although. By specializing in air-tightness and passive cooling strategies, even houses in sizzling environments like Australia can lower down on the period of time they want air-con to remain snug.

“What we’re seeking to do is enhance what’s referred to as part shift, that’s the time it takes for the extreme warmth on the skin to move by means of the constructing envelope and attain the within,” Caine says. “Even should you do have air-con put in as a backup, you’re utilizing it rather a lot much less by means of the usage of these supplies.”

With extra locations starting to see increased temperatures, these design ideas might quickly develop into extra of a mainstream a part of structure. Imirzian, who’s presently in talks with builders to develop her internet zero dwelling design for Phoenix, says that it’s solely a matter of time earlier than these sorts of design concepts unfold out past extremely popular climates. “I feel it’s very, very transferable all over the world,” she says.

By: Nate Berg

Source: How an ancient design technique could help us survive extreme heat, no

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Critics:

The history of construction embraces many other fields like structural engineering, Civil engineering, cities growing and Population growth that are relatives to branches of Technology science, history, and architecture to investigate the buildings conservation and recorded their accomplishments. Those fields permit use to analyze modern or Latest construction and prehistoric constructions, as their structures, building Materials, and tools used.

History of building is evolving by different trends in time, marked by few key principles : durability of the materials used, the increasing of height and span, the degree of control exercised over the interior environment and finally the energy available to the construction process.

With the Second Industrial Revolution in the early 20th century, elevators and cranes made high rise buildings and skyscrapers possible, while heavy equipment and power tools decreased the workforce needed. Other new technologies were prefabrication and computer-aided design.

Trade unions were formed to protect construction workers’ interests and occupational safety and health. Personal protective equipment such as hard hats and earmuffs also came into use, and have become mandatory at most sites.

From the 20th century, governmental construction projects were used as a part of macroeconomic stimulation policies, especially during the Great depression (see New Deal). For economy of scale, whole suburbs, towns and cities, including infrastructure, are often planned and constructed within the same project (called megaproject if the cost exceeds US$1 billion), such as Brasília in Brazil, and the Million Programme in Sweden.

By the end of the 20th century, ecology, energy conservation and sustainable development had become important issues of construction.

References

 

The 5 Most Commonly Reported Covid-19 Symptoms

 

The official list of Covid-19 symptoms should be expanded as the existing one could “miss many Covid-19 cases”, experts have argued. The UK should follow other countries and include a broader range of symptoms, according to a group of scientists. Classic symptoms of Covid-19, listed on the NHS website, are a high temperature, a new continuous cough and/or a loss or change to a person’s sense of smell or taste.

But the most commonly reported symptoms by people taking part in the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Covid-19 Infection Survey are cough, headache and fatigue. The latest ONS release shows 61% of people who tested positive reported symptoms. Of these, 42% had a cough, 39% reported headache and 38% reported fatigue, according to the ONS.

Muscle ache was reported by a quarter of people and 32% reported having a sore throat. Meanwhile a third reported fever and 21% reported loss of smell and 15% reported loss of taste. A separate study – the Zoe Covid Symptom study – recently reported that a headache, sore throat and runny nose are now the most commonly reported symptoms. These are most likely symptoms of the Delta variant.

Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), Dr Alex Crozier and colleagues – including Professor Calum Semple who is a member of Sage – suggest that limiting testing to only people with fever, cough and a change in taste or smell could “miss or delay identification of many Covid cases”.

They suggest this could “hamper efforts to interrupt transmission” of the virus. The group argue that increasing the symptom list could improve Britain’s pandemic response by expanding the criteria for self-isolation and eligibility for symptomatic testing.

The “narrow” case definition “limits” the early detection of contagious people, which restricts the efforts of the Test and Trace programme, they say. Non-traditional symptoms “often manifest earlier”, they added. The US Centres for Disease Control lists 11 more symptoms than the UK, and the World Health Organisation includes nine more. The testing capabilities are now able to facilitate people with a broader spectrum of symptoms, they added.

They say testing people with a single non-specific symptom could overwhelm capacity in the UK, but “combinations of symptoms could be used to help identify more cases sooner without overwhelming testing capacity”. The authors continue: “The UK’s decision to adopt a narrow case definition was based on ease of communication, avoiding confusion with other infections and preserving testing capacity.

People who had mild symptoms at first can still have long-term problems, says the NHS. The signs of long Covid vary from person to person, but the NHS now lists the following common symptoms: extreme tiredness (fatigue), shortness of breath , chest pain or tightness , problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”), difficulty sleeping (insomnia), heart palpitations, dizziness , pins and needles ,joint pain, depression and anxiety, tinnitus, earaches, feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite, a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste and rashes.

This situation is now different — testing capacity is high. “Covid-19 is associated with a wide range of symptoms. Many patients do not experience the UK’s official case-defining symptoms, initially, or ever, and other symptoms often manifest earlier. Limiting the symptomatic testing to those with these official symptoms will miss or delay identification of many Covid-19 cases, hampering efforts to interrupt transmission.

“Expanding the clinical case definition of Covid−19, the criteria for self-isolation, and eligibility for symptomatic testing could improve the UK’s pandemic response. The Department of Health and Social Care has been approached for comment by PA Media. We will update this piece if there is a response.

The reason women might be more susceptible to long Covid might lie in differences in how our immune systems work – or that’s what scientists hypothesise, anyway. Research is needed to look into this. In a 2016 review on the differences in immune responses between males and females, professor Sabra Klein, of The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and professor Katie Flanagan, of Monash University, said females’ strong immune responses result in faster clearance of pathogens and greater vaccine efficacy compared to males. But it also contributes to females’ increased susceptibility to inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

By:

Source: The 5 Most Commonly Reported Covid-19 Symptoms | HuffPost UK Life

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Critics:

Patients with COVID-19 can present with neurological symptoms that can be broadly divided into central nervous system involvement, such as headache, dizziness, altered mental state, and disorientation, and peripheral nervous system involvement, such as anosmia and dysgeusia. Some patients experience cognitive dysfunction called “COVID fog“, or “COVID brain fog”, involving memory loss, inattention, poor concentration or disorientation. Other neurologic manifestations include seizures, strokes, encephalitis, and Guillain–Barré syndrome (which includes loss of motor functions).

Other neurological symptoms appear to be rare, but may affect half of patients who are hospitalized with severe COVID-19. Some reported symptoms include delirium, stroke, brain hemorrhage, memory loss, psychosis, peripheral nerve damage, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Neurological symptoms in many cases are correlated with damage to the brain’s blood supply or encephalitis, which can progress in some cases to acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. Strokes have been reported in younger people without conventional risk factors.

As of September 2020, it was unclear whether these symptoms were due to direct infection of brain cells, or of overstimulation of the immune system. A June 2020 systematic review reported a 6–16% prevalence of vertigo or dizziness, 7–15% for confusion, and 0–2% for ataxia.

References

How To Keep Your Plants Alive When You’re on Vacation

If you have a home full of plants, it can be hard to have friends reliably take care of them while you’re gone. Plus, what if no one is available to come by every day to give your plants the specific care they need? Here are a few hacks that will keep your plants happy and healthy while you take time away.

How to water your plants while you’re on vacation

The biggest concern people have when leaving their plants alone is regular watering; and if you have a huge family of varying plants, they’ll need to be cared for differently. Thankfully, you can outfit different watering systems for your plants’ needs.

Use a wine bottle to water your plants

For larger plants that require regular watering, the wine bottle option is a great choice. Grab an empty twist-off wine bottle, then poke a hole in the metal cap and fill the bottle with water. Screw the (now pierced) cap back on top. Turn the wine bottle cap-side down into your potted plant and position it deep enough that the bottle will stand up on its own. The water will slowly release over time, feeding your plant while you’re away.

Put plants in a bathtub or kiddie pool as a water reservoir

If you have several tropical plants and perhaps not enough wine bottles, you can give your plants the hydration they need in the bathtub. Garden writer Barbara Pleasant told House Beautiful the best way to care for multiple indoor plants while on vacation is to fill your bathtub with one to two inches of water. Remove any saucers from the bottom of the plants’ pots and place each plant in the tub together. The plants will soak up the water through the drainage hole, drinking as needed while you’re away. The same process works using a kiddie pool for your outdoor plants.

Group plants together by type

Rearrange your plants by type before you head out on your trip. Succulents and cacti should be together with other plants that won’t need any attention while you are gone. Water those before you leave, and they’ll be all set. Keep the more tropical plants together so they can feed off of each other’s moisture and warmth.

How to regulate your plants airflow when you’re gone

The next concern for your plants is oxygen and airflow. (I am not one to leave my windows open when I know I’ll be away for an extended period of time.) There are ways to give your plant the humid or dry environment they need when you can’t regulate the temperature day by day.

Make a temporary greenhouse

Put a plastic container over small plants that love humidity. The plastic container will create a mini greenhouse, allowing the cycle of water and humidity to be maintained while you’re gone. This also works with a plastic bag as a small terrarium.

Move plants away from windows until you get back

Grouping your plants together is the easiest way you can control the airflow and temperature for your plants while you’re gone. The tropical plants go in your tub, and the succulents drying out in a corner as they like. But you’ll want to make sure all plants are away from any variables that could change the temperature at a moment’s notice. Keep plants away from air vents, sunny windows, and heaters. Without you there to move them around, these things could dry out your more sensitive plants faster than you think.

Adjust the heat or AC before you leave plants alone

This step might boost your utility bill for the time you’re gone, not to mention it’s not the most environmentally friendly, but if needed, your plants will thank you for spending a little extra cash on them by adjusting your heat or AC to control the temperature while you’re gone. This could mean coming home to a higher electric bill, but your plants have a better chance of being alive when you get back home.

By: Aisha Jordan

Source: How to Keep Your Plants Alive When You’re on Vacation

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