Andromeda: New image of our beautiful neighbor


Astrophotographer André van der Hoeven has captured a spectacular image of our beautiful neighbor, the Andromeda Galaxy. A 9.6-hour exposure and post-processing reveal Andromeda’s luster and enchantment. How would our own galaxy, the Milky Way, look from there? Most likely we would be a stellar sight, proudly shimmering throughout our galactic center, central bar, and spiral arms.

Can it be that Andromeda and the Milky Way will merge in 4 billion years? That a gap of 2.5 million light-years will be closed? During the slow cosmic tug, how will Andromeda appear in 1, 2 or 3 billion years? How much of Earth’s sky will it cover?

As a teenager, my first naked-eye sighting of the small fuzzy disk of Andromeda in the night sky was truly arresting. Not another star, but a galaxy far away from our own. Far from all the stars we see, far through deep dark space was another island of stars.

John Oró

Anne-Marie: Year 1 beyond Crohn’s Disease

Anne-Marie’s Crohn’s disease was making her fade away. At 5’8”, her weight went from thin 105 pounds to dangerous 73 as her disease failed to respond to treatment. Writing her story for Mark’s Daily Apple, she continues:

My doctor told me there was one last drug he wanted to prescribe, and if it didn’t work the next step would be surgery to remove the damaged part of my gut. He prescribed a powerful immune-suppressor called Humira.

And later - 

During our engagement, my husband heard Mark give an interview on a podcast that convinced him to buy The Primal Blueprint. He had changed his whole lifestyle after reading it, and when I was finally discharged from the hospital, I went completely Primal. It wasn’t an easy process. The eczema and psoriasis seemed to intensify at first, but I was vigilant and kept following the Primal guidelines. About six months later, when a paperwork mix-up on the part of my insurance lead to my Humira shipment being delayed, I was sure a flare was right around the corner. But that temporary delay turned into a week without my injection, then a month, and now a year.

Orion Spaceship Being Prepped for Launch

Image Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Image Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

NASA’s Orion spacecraft, our future spaceship to Mars and beyond, travels past the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center on its way to Launch Complex 37. After being lifted on top of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket the unpiloted spacecraft will be readied for launch on Dec 4.

Featured book: Against all Grain

Danielle Walker is the author and photographer of the New York Times Best Selling cookbook Against all Grain.

Having battled an autoimmune disease the modern-medicine way for many years, Danielle Walker took matters into her own hands and set out to regain her health through the medicine of food. After four years of turning her kitchen into a laboratory for revamping her culinary point of view, Danielle mastered the art of grain-free, dairy-free and gluten-free cooking—and improved her well-being, eliminating all her ailments.

Paleo Meals to Go

We are happy to announce that finally, there is a place you can purchase freeze-dried meals that adhere to the general principles of the Paleo Diet! Sometimes a snack just isn’t enough and you need a solid meal, whether you are backpacking in the wilderness, camping, competing in ultra marathons, undertaking an epic adventure, participating in extreme events, traveling, or anytime you do not have access to fresh foods and your own kitchen. Paleo Meals To Go are a great option!

Learn more: Paleo Meals to Go

Initially skeptical, Pamela finds a new understanding of human biology

Mark’s Daily Apple is a leading & insightful resource on evolutionary health. If you are new to the site, the menu selection Success Stories is a good place to start. Here are a few snippets of Pamela’s success story:

“Unfortunately, I still kept up my vegetarian ways by day, which led to one of the worst summers of my life. Depression and anxiety were my constant companions. Psychosis would not be too strong a word. And, I was still fat. My diet was, admittedly, atrocious. I remember eating cinnamon rolls, brownies, dipped ice cream, and frozen pizza all summer, with a few iceberg lettuce salads tossed in for good measure.” 

“Around that time, I began writing for LIVESTRONG on health and fitness. I continued to toe the line of conventional wisdom on healthy whole grains and calorie restriction. I even explored veganism and created a vegan food blog.”

“In the course of the job, I began exploring the paleo diet. I was skeptical. Didn’t cavemen die before their 30th birthday? In an effort to confirm that this was all just a fad—that was certainly the opinion of nearly every other health publication—I sent an email to UCLA’s evolutionary biology department and requested an interview. They directed me to Aaron Blaisdell PhD, founder of the Ancestral Health Society.”

“The interview forever altered my perspective and led me down a new path of understanding human biology.”

Read more: Skeptical Journalist Turned Primal Advocate

Paleolithic and Mediterranean diets reduce chances of colorectal adenomas

In a study reported in The American Journal of Epidemiology earlier this year, researchers found “that greater adherence to the Paleolithic diet pattern and greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet pattern may be similarly associated with lower risk of incident, sporadic colorectal adenomas.” The authors suspect “evolutionary discordance” may explain the increase of colorectal neoplasms found in the Western dietary pattern.

Take home: Western dietary pattern is a significant departure from our evolutionary dietary pattern and may lead to more colorectal adenomas.

LANIAKEA: Immesuarable Universe

Scientists studying the motion of the galaxies in our region of the universe have found some are being pulled towards us while others are being pulled away. Our local cluster of galaxies is part of a supercluster believed to be 100 million light years across. Through these gravitational studies, scientists have radically altered the map of our supercluster (show above) and found it to be more than 100 times larger than previously thought.  Our home, the Milky Way (red dot) is nestled in our supercluster, recently christened Liniakae, Hawaiian for Immeasurable Universe. 

Junk food limits intelligence of teenagers

From a study on the dietary patterns and cognitive performance in 602 adolescents performed at The University of Western Australia, researchers found a “higher dietary intake of the ‘Western’ dietary pattern at age 14" was "associated with diminished cognitive performance 3 years later, at 17 years."

Using a food frequency questionnaire administered when the children were 14 years old (2003–2006), ‘Healthy’ and ‘Western’ dietary patterns were identified by factor analysis. Associations between dietary patterns at 14 years of age and cognitive performance at 17 years of age were assessed prospectively using multivariate regression models.

Epoch Times reports:

It was observed that children with higher consumption of takeout foods, processed meats, soft drinks and other refined and sugar-laden fare had decreased psychomotor function, impaired reaction time and problems focusing visually. Junk food eaters also had trouble learning and remembering things compared to those who ate more fruits and leafy green vegetables.

For Women Only: THE WEIGHT LOSS SOLUTION online course

Neely Quinn, Certified Integrative Clinical Nutrition Therapist and author of  The Complete Idiots Guide To Eating Paleo announces a new course For Women Only. 

My name is Neely Quinn. I’m a Certified Integrative Clinical Nutrition Therapist, health entrepreneur, author, and rock climber.

And no matter how you’ve tried to lose weight in the past, I’m here to tell you, just like climbing a rock, there’s always a higher point to reach.

Another level of health, wellness and vitality. And together with these hand-picked weight loss experts, I’ll show you how to reach it.

I’ve worked with thousands of people over the past 10 years, helping them lose weight, fix chronic health issues, and improve athletic performance.

And now I’m excited to be able to bring you the greatest minds on weight loss & optimal health for women.

"Sick of waiting" - NRG to cut emissions in half

Climate Progress reports that NRG, “the second-largest conventional power generation company in the country,” has become “sick of waiting around to see what was going to happen on the policy end” and decided to reduce power plant emissions in half. NRG “has already reduced CO2 emissions by 40 percent since 2005, according to the company.” The “new targets will avoid approximately three billion tons of CO2 emissions by 2050 — the equivalent of offsetting all of New York City’s CO2 emissions, at 2005 levels, for 65 years.”

Learn more: This Major Power Company Just Committed To Cut Its Emissions In Half

Verizon going massive on solar power

Verizon, one of America’s leading broadband and telecommunications companies, has announced that it intends to invest nearly $40 million into its on-site green energy program, which will see the company install 10.2 MW of new solar power systems across eight of the network facilities.

And this new investment puts Verizon on track to be the leading solar power producing communications company in the United States, as well as helping it move towards its goal of cutting carbon intensity by 50% by 2020.

Well, maybe change is coming

Within a few decades, large-scale, centralized electricity generation from fossil fuels could be a thing of the past in Europe.

That’s the word from investment bank UBS, which just released a new report anticipating a three pronged assault from solar power, battery technology, and electric vehicles that will render obsolete traditional power generation by large utilities that rely on coal or natural gas. According to Renew Economy, which picked up the report, the tipping point will arrive around 2020. At that point, investing in a home solar system with a 20-year life span, plus some small-scale home battery technology and an electric car, will pay for itself in six to eight years for the average consumer in Germany, Italy, Spain, and much of the rest of Europe. Crucially, this math holds even without any government subsidies for solar power.

Barcelona leading in sustainability

Nativity façade, La Sagrada Família, Barcelona, Spain

Nativity façade, La Sagrada Família, Barcelona, Spain

"Barcelona has one of the lowest per capita greenhouse gas emission levels in the industrialized world, at under 4 metric tons of emissions per person per year (Houston is at 14.1 and Paris is at 5.2). And the city is still moving forward. 'In 2020 Barcelona could be a more environmentally conscious city,' according to Irma Soldevilla i Garcia of the Barcelona Energy Agency, 'in which careful energy consumption will be a regular part of people’s lives.'"

Learn more: Barcelona: Spain’s Ciudad del Sol

Extreme weather blackouts increasing

Image: David Shankbone. "New York skyline when half the city was in blackout due to a power failure during Hurricane Sandy. Midtown, with the Empire State Building, is in the background with the darkened East Village and other parts of downtown in the foreground." Wikimedia

Image: David Shankbone. "New York skyline when half the city was in blackout due to a power failure during Hurricane Sandy. Midtown, with the Empire State Building, is in the background with the darkened East Village and other parts of downtown in the foreground." Wikimedia

"A tenfold increase in major power outages (those affecting more than 50,000 customer homes or businesses), between the mid-1980s and 2012. Some of the increase was driven by improved reporting. Yet even since 2003, after stricter reporting requirements were widely implemented, the average annual number of weather-related power outages doubled. Non-weather related outages also increased during that time, but weather caused 80 percent of all outages between 2003-2012."

Weather-Related Blackouts Doubled Since 2003: Report

Paleolithic & hunter-gatherer sleep

Are humans evolved to sleep through the night or is natural sleep bimodal or otherwise fragmented? What can we learn from the sleep of Paleolithic hominins and modern hunter-gatherer societies?

Paleo-anatomists studying fossilized skeletons of Australopithecus (3.9-2.9 MYA) and Homo habilis (2.3-1.4 MYA) found they were well adapted to climbing. Although much of their daytime was probably spent on the ground, these hominins likely slept in trees. (Recent findings suggest some early hominins may have created “ground nests” for sleeping.)

Homo erectus appeared 1.9 million years ago and was well adapted to migrating over land. Their vestibular anatomy suggests a primarily ground-based existence. Homo erectus was likely the first hominin to control fire, a technology that would have made sleeping on the ground safer. Richard Wrangham, Professor of Anthropology at Harvard, in his book Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, writes:

"Homo erectus presumably climbed no better than modern humans do, unlike the agile habilines. This shift suggests that Homo erectus slept on the ground, a novel behavior that would have depended on their controlling fire to provide light to see predators and scare them away." 

Once hominins began sleeping on the ground, they slept “as people do nowadays in the savanna”: 

"In the bush, people lie close to the fire and for most or all of the night someone is awake. When a sleeper awakens, he or she might poke at the fire and chat a while, allowing another to fall asleep. In a twelve-hour night with no light other than what the fire provides, there is no need to have a continuous eight-hour sleep. An informal system of guarding easily emerges that allows enough hours of sleep for all while ensuring the presence of an alert sentinel."

Chronobiology blogger Bora Zivkovic believes our natural sleep pattern is bimodal:

"Until not long ago, just about until electricity became ubiquitous, humans used to have a sleep pattern quite different from what we consider "normal" today. At dusk you go to sleep, at some point in the middle of the night you wake up for an hour or two, then fall asleep again until dawn. Thus there are two events of falling asleep and two events of waking up every night (plus, perhaps, a short nap in the afternoon). As indigenous people today, as well as people in non-electrified rural areas of the world, still follow this pattern, it is likely that our ancestors did too."

Is there evidence for this bimodal pattern? What happens to the typical 8-hour sleep pattern when the period of darkness is increased?

In 1992, Dr. Thomas Wehr placed normal volunteers in a setting of 14 hours of dark-period (nighttime) for one month and found the subject’s sleep “divided into two symmetrical bouts, several hours in duration, with a 1–3 h waking interval between.” Wehr concluded that sleep becomes biphasic (bimodal) when the photoperiod (daytime) is shortened.  

Beyond the tendency of sleep to fragment when dark-time is longer, culture also plays a role. Carol Worthman Ph.D., Director of the Laboratory for Comparative Human Biology at Emory University, studied the sleep pattern in various cultures and also found a fragmented pattern. When interviewed by Jane Bosveld for Discover magazine:

"Worthman flipped open a book and showed me photographs of big families piled into large, sprawling huts, little kids peeking up from the arms of Mom, older generations wrapped leisurely around the fireplace. “Forager groups are a good place to start, because for much of human history we’ve been occupied with their mode of existence,” she said. 'There are the !Kung of ­Botswana and the Efe of Zaire. For both of these groups, sleep is a very fluid state. They sleep when they feel like it—during the day, in the evening, in the dead of night.'”

"Sleep, it seemed, was putty—some cultures stretched it out, some chopped it up, and others, like our own, squeezed it into one big lump."

What about sleep in the modern world? Psychiatrist Richard A. Friedman, MD believes interrupted sleep may be normal for some of us:

“Many patients tell me they have a sleep problem because they wake up in the middle of the night for a time, typically 45 minutes to an hour, but fall uneventfully back to sleep. Curiously, there seems to be no consequence to this 'problem.' They are unaffected during the day and have plenty of energy and concentration to go about their lives."

The problem, it seems, is not so much with their sleep as it is with a common and mistaken notion about what constitutes a normal night's sleep.”

Our ancestors began sleeping on the ground over 2 million years ago. Some individuals likely slept for long stretches while others slept in a bimodal or multimodal pattern. With the development of artificial electric lighting in the late 1800s, the photoperiod became longer while dark-period became shorter. For many of us, our circadian rhythms resist this compression of nighttime. Soon enough, the alarm clock reminds us we live in a modern world where dark-time compression is the norm. We continue trying to adapt our mostly Paleolithic genes to the modern world.

What is your sleep pattern? Comment and let me know. 

Initially posted December 02, 2010, Revised August 10, 2014.

Related Entries: The End of Night

Space weather: Know your solar flares

M-class solar flare.  NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory

M-class solar flare.  NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory

“Scientists classify solar flares according to their x-ray brightness in the wavelength range 1 to 8 Angstroms. There are 3 categories: X-class flares are big; they are major events that can trigger planet-wide radio blackouts and long-lasting radiation storms. M-class flares are medium-sized; they can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth’s polar regions. Minor radiation storms sometimes follow an M-class flare. Compared to X- and M-class events, C-class flares are small with few noticeable consequences here on Earth.”


Related post:  Coronal Mass Ejection of 1859

Coronal Mass Ejection of 1859

NASA illustration. 

NASA illustration. 

"This massive CME released about 1022 kJ of energy - the equivalent to 10 billion Hiroshima bombs exploding at the same time - and hurled around a trillion kilos of charged particles towards the Earth at speeds of up to 3000 km/s. However, its impact on the human population was relatively benign as our electronic infrastructure at the time amounted to no more than about 124,000 miles (200,000 km) of telegraph lines. 
Mr Dale makes it clear in the latest issue of Physics World that these types of events are not just a threat, but inevitable. 
Nasa scientists have predicted that the Earth is in the path of a Carrington-level event every 150 years on average."

Read more: From blackouts to transport chaos: Solar superstorms pose a ‘catastrophic’ threat to life on Earth, warns scientist

Natural benefits

"Massachusetts General Hospital has just teamed up with the Appalachian Mountain Club in Boston to prescribe nature as a way to improve wellness. And in Washington D.C., the new Park Rx initiative is designed to help people access nature. "National parks have always been loved for their symbolism and scenery, but we want to increase the awareness of their role in preventative medicine and therapy," said National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis."

Learn more:  Nature - Just What the Doctor Ordered