Light and myopia

The Myopia Boom – numerous studies, and controlled experiments, point to modern kids’ lack of exposure to sunlight as causing high rates of myopia in recent generations. The mechanism?

The leading hypothesis is that light stimulates the release of dopamine in the retina, and this neurotransmitter in turn blocks the elongation of the eye during development. The best evidence for the ‘light–dopamine’ hypothesis comes — again — from chicks. In 2010, Ashby and Schaeffel showed that injecting a dopamine-inhibiting drug called spiperone into chicks’ eyes could abolish the protective effect of bright light11.

At your local Berkeley cafe: black comedian profiled and told to leave, non-hilarity ensues

A comedian walks away from a cafe…

Back in January, (black) W. Kamau Bell was talking to his (white) wife and her (white) friends who were seated outside at Elmwood Cafe in Berkeley (a place I’ve enjoyed going to before). One of the cafe workers thinks he’s harassing the customers, raps on the cafe window from the inside and indicates, through the glass, that he should stop “selling”. Online mini-tempest ensues; worker fired for neither (1) engaging with, and solving problem for, now unhappy group of customers or (2) reporting the incident to management (the owners found out about it due to Bell’s blog posting).

In the end, the cafe owner (a self-described social justice activist), the Bells, and a bunch of people from the community come together to talk about and work against implicit bias and micro-agressions.

I guess I can go back to Elmwood for those nice hot sandwiches now?

Good news on the climate front: Global CO2 Emissions Flat in 2014

Despite a growing economy, carbon dioxide emissions from the energy sector didn’t rise in 2014.

Such a deal would not will “not get us onto the 2°C pathway,” as Christiana Figueres, the top UN climate official, and others have explained. But it would get us off the catastrophic 6°C path and lead to a permanent decoupling of GDP and CO2. And that would give the next generation a realistic chance at coming close to a 2°C path in the 2020s and 2030s.

Original International Energy Agency press release here.

In related news, the solar panels on my house are saving me lots of money, but that just highlights the crazy prices I’m paying for heat and hot water via natural gas.

When twins have different exercise routines, physical and mental differences occur

Evidence that nurture (or habits or…) can cause changes in things that some would say are genetic (or epigenetic):

“…It turned out that these genetically identical twins looked surprisingly different beneath the skin and skull. The sedentary twins had lower endurance capacities, higher body fat percentages, and signs of insulin resistance, signaling the onset of metabolic problems. (Interestingly, the twins tended to have very similar diets, whatever their workout routines, so food choices were unlikely to have contributed to health differences.)

The twins’ brains also were unalike…”

Leonard Nimoy is Dead

A few days ago, I know.

Over the past few years as various famous people have died and been memorialized online, I’ve seen people on the Internet react emotionally, because they felt some sort of connection or debt with these people that they don’t personally know and generally haven’t met. Sometimes I’ve tried to work out in my head whose death I’d have the strongest reaction to; not necessarily because of any single great thing they did (even if I could point to such a thing), but just because they seem like a welcome part of the background cultural landscape that has shaped me. Leonard Nimoy, and his character Spock, always made the list.

I’ve only read two post-death articles about him (in addition to a little of the Metafilter thread): Leonard Nimoy’s Advice to a Biracial Girl in 1968 and a one-paragraph pointer on Talking Points Memo. For some reason I don’t feel the need to read much about the details or any sort of retrospective. I expect I’ll read a bit more a week, month, or year from now; as Spock might opine, he’s already passed away. Knowing more about it right now isn’t necessary.

Related, if you haven’t read or seen it already, check out Julia Galef’s talk on Spock as a Straw Vulcan. (Video.)

Homan Square: “The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound”

Alleged police practices at Homan Square

  • Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases
  • Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
  • Shackling for prolonged periods.
  • Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.

‘The real danger in allowing practices like Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib is the fact that they always creep into other aspects,’ Siska said.”

Daytime napping – indicator of problems?

No causation determined – and a popular theory seems to be that the need to nap is more a sign of an underlying problem than the cause of health issues – but a recent British study suggests those who nap during the day have a significantly increased risk of death:

“Daytime napping was associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality … independent of age, sex, social class, educational level, marital status, employment status, body mass index, physical activity level, smoking status, alcohol intake, depression, self-reported general health, use of hypnotic drugs or other medications, time spent in bed at night, and presence of preexisting health conditions.”

And in other mortality news, quantifying the reduced risk of death for those who eat many servings of vegetables daily:

“Eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduces your risk of death at any point in time by 42 percent compared to eating less than one portion, reports a new study.”

The green of Google (and other tech) buses

Mother Jones on the environmental impact of the tech commuter buses people complain about:

“The MTA calculated that the shuttles save 757,223 car trips annually, which amounts to about 6,750 fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, the same as taking 1,400 cars off the road. Using Stamen’s numbers, that’s 1.6 million car trips and 14,605 metric tons of CO2—or about 3,075 fewer cars.”

If you’re looking for someone to blame for the battles between Silicon Valley commuting tech workers and San Francisco low-income renters, here’s a non-obvious but credible group: politicians and residents in Silicon Valley who don’t want the denser housing that would allow Google, Facebook, etc. employees live near their jobs.