Video: Starlings return to Israel in amazing murmuration »
This formation is called a “murmuration” of starlings, and while we understand why the birds do it—to search for food and defend against predators—per Wired, we don’t understand “what physiological mechanisms allow it to happen almost simultaneously in two birds separated by hundreds of feet and hundreds of other birds.”
Until science figures it out, we can certainly appreciate it as part of the magic of nature, which is pretty incredible.
Eating raw will not ruin your life! »
When Megan Rascal sent me this article asserting that a mostly raw diet is inherently unhealthful, I debated whether to write a response or just ignore it. It’s always a toss-up when ill-informed crap ends up in my inbox; I thought I might ignore it because I believe that giving press to bullshit can sometimes just perpetuate the bullshit, but I decided to respond because of the (growing? I hope not) misconception that raw food = crazy people food, and that high-to-fully raw people know nothing about nutrition or how to take care of ourselves, and are basically just all counting our days until our nutritional deficiencies kick in and turn us into vegetables.
The article I’m referring to, also published on a “science” blog, claims that a raw vegan diet is super unhealthful. I’ll be honest, it’s got some good (if obvious, already widely known) points in support of expanding a raw diet to incorporate cooked food. Yes, some cooked food has value, and yes, if you don’t supplement your B12 or take a multivitamin bad things will happen, but how the author takes these points and comes to such rash conclusions makes me wonder if he had a bad break-up with a raw vegan or something. When I read lines like “You have nothing to gain and much to lose by going totally or even mostly raw,” I wonder if this article was written to prove that the author’s target was on the wrong path, damn it, and look! now it says so on the Internet!
The piece completely misses the point of a high-raw vegan diet, which incorporates tons of raw greens, veggies, and fruits in whole, unprocessed form, and just picks on the zealots who refuse to supplement and only eat bananas. It even brings up the “you’ll kill your kids if you feed them raw food!” argument, which we have heard about all forms of vegan diets and continue to prove wrong.
(Side note: I hate it when vegan doctors are cited to prove that one vegan diet is better than another. This article cites Dr. Eseystein and Dr. McDougal, both of whom have made millions hawking their unique brands of veganism, as evidence against a high-raw vegan diet, which has its own doctors rooting for and staking millions in its value.)
I really appreciate Gena Hamshaw’s balanced, science-driven approach to raw food in her post “Why Raw? Revisiting the Question.” I love Vegan RD Ginny Messina’s compassionate post, “Raw or Cooked Foods? Which Is the Best Diet for Vegans?,” on why raw foodists should consider incorporating some (or lots) of cooked vegan foods to round out their diets and have an easier time staying vegan. There are plenty of folks who jettison veganism or raw veganism when health issues come up, and while I have no judgement for them I supremely admire folks who take every measure to hold true to their values while minding their health needs. Bonzai Aphrodite recently posted this beautiful long-read about how she’s navigated health issues while staying vegan. Brava! I wrote a Vegansaurus post about why there are so many ex-raw vegans and advocated for folks to consider adopting a more expansive raw vegan diet. In the context of these articles, the anger and all-or-nothing conclusions made by this article and many like it baffle me and make me think there’s a personal grudge.
Closing thoughts: Some (but not all) raw foodies are inflexible and unrealistic, just like some (but not all) vegans and some (OK, most) meat-eaters. Everyone should be taking B12, and probably a multivitamin, omega-3, and maybe a D supplement, too. Mostly raw vegans can be very happy and healthy. I am doing pretty damn well on a high-raw vegan diet that includes lots of raw greens-rich salads and raw smoothies and juices on the reg, as well as a variety of cooked foods. I just got my bloodwork done as a routine every-few-years thing so I can brag in articles like this, and my doctor said my blood is so groovy it makes her want to go vegan. So to the author of these articles, I say this: Please don’t judge all high-raw vegans based on a tiny fraction of us who go to extremes, and in return, I promise not to call the raw vegan who broke your heart and alert this person that you’re hella casting aspersions on them.
Fake meat future: Hack//Meat takes on the science of legit meat substitutions »
Last weekend, New York hosted the Hack//Meat conference, where experts gathered to “brainstorm the issue of meat.” Per Businessweek:
One of the more interesting proposals to come out of Hack//Meat is from Foodpairing, a food industry research company and app developer. Foodpairing has broken down flavor to its molecular components and has compiled databases that can match the flavor of those ingredients against other completely different ingredients. By compiling “foodpairing trees” its technology can identify vegetable or seafood ingredients that reinforce the flavor of different meats, or in some cases, can act as a substitute for a meat entirely.
Yes, “molecular gastronomy” gives you a case of the eyerolls, but past the “sciencing your food all up” part, this sounds like an interesting way of making meat substitutes that meat-eaters will accept and maybe even embrace. Let’s go science!
[Photo by Rick Harrison via Flickr]
Feeding Nine Billion has created this sensible, easy-to-understand video about food shortages, their causes, and strategies on avoiding them. It’s narrated by Evan Fraser of the University of Guelph in Canada, and it is really interesting. If you don’t think you can watch 12 minutes of video, treat it like a podcast and do something else while you listen. (Which is what I did because my audio-visual attention span is worthless.)
The video doesn’t address explicitly vegan concerns, but we’re all humans, and we certainly believe that access to sufficient, nutritious food is a human right. Check out Feeding Nine Billion to find out more about the project.
[via U.S. Food Policy blog]
Life as a lab animal is the worst: Thousands of NYU’s test rodents drowned this week »
Despite being “one of the largest and most valuable [collection of carefully bred rodents] of its kind in the country,” the thousands of mice and rats living in a cellar in New York University’s Smilow Research Center drowned in the Sandy-related flooding that began on Monday night. The New York Times reports that while most of the test-subject animals housed at the Smilow Center were rescued, workers could not save something like 10,000 rats and mice.
But don’t worry:
Already scientists at two research centers, the University of Pennsylvania and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, have pledged to donate animals to restart some of the Smilow center’s colonies. “That’s the one really positive thing to come out of this,” Dr. Fishell said. “Individuals in the research community, who in most businesses would be considered my competitors, have been eager to help.”
Phew! I know I’m relieved our scientists can get back to torturing those animals in the name of humanity ASAP.
[Photo by Pockafwye via Flickr]
Rejoice! Looking at cute animal photos is good for you! »
Good news, everyone! Time to go find kittens, puppies, and bunnies online!
Wired Science reports on a new study that suggests looking at cute animal pictures can improve your concentration. The research was done in Japan, where cute overload is basically the national condition.
Cute baby animals help you concentrate, but they don’t help you just generally be smarter, though, so probably better to use kitten flashcards while studying but not while at cocktail parties. Though that would make you popular in other ways, so go for it! Bring kitten flashcards!
[Photo via cute overload]
California climate change could put the pika on the endangered species list »
Pikas are related to rabbits. They’re about the size of hamsters, with no tails and round Mickey Mouse ears. They live in rock piles at high elevations, and are adapted to cold temperatures. When it gets too hot, they hide out under the rocks. So [ecologist Joseph] Stewart is trying to figure out if pikas don’t do well in the heat, what will happen to them as the climate continues to warm.
"They’ve been petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act because of climate change," he explains to the students. "But when the Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed that petition, they pretty much said that we don’t know enough about how pikas are doing. We need more data."
KQED’s Quest had a neat story this week about local middle school students learning practical science while helping ecologists study the Pika, which could be the first species in California “to be listed as threatened primarily because of climate change. If the state starts protecting animals because of climate change, things that affect the climate, like new fossil-fuel power plants or clearcut logging projects, could be slowed.”
It’s interesting. And cool to hear kids learn about science. Read (or listen! Radio!) at KQED.
[Photo by Chris & Lara Pawluk via Flickr]
Who’s the fanciest moth of them all? The Venezuelan poodle moth! »
Move over PSY, there’s a new international superstar taking the internet by storm! Everyone, say hello to Venezuela’s own POODLE MOTH.
Go ahead, feast your eyes on this magnificent creature. I can’t get enough, I love this little guy! He’s so fancy. AND JUST LOOK AT THOSE TINY HANDS.
I’m not much of a science buff myself, and I’m not going to embarrass us by trying to fake it. Get yo’ science fill right here!
[Photo by Arthur Anker via Flickr]
International tragedy: Britain’s National Pig Association predicts global bacon shortage »
[T]he European Union pig herd is declining at a significant rate, and this is a trend that is being mirrored around the world. Pig farmers have been plunged into loss by high pig-feed costs, caused by the global failure of maize and soya harvests.
(“maize and soya” means “corn and soybeans,” but you knew that already.)
Global warming is fucking it up for you meat-eaters all over the place: those cows being fed gelatin and sugar instead of corn; the World Water Week scientists predicting our need for water will make eating meat globally untenable. We are running out of water to nourish everything on the planet that needs water (read: everything on the planet), and raising commercial livestock not only requires massive amounts of water, but it contributes to the global warming that makes water even more difficult to get.
It just gets harder and harder to be a meat-loving food-obsessed asshole, doesn’t it. Even with the Today Show inanely calling this whole thing “ham-maggedon” like colossal fuckfaces. At least it’s not “bacon-gate.” I really hate meat-product fetishists.
[Photo: Oklahoma bacon cheeseburger at Native Foods by Jeff Gunn via Flickr]
(Source: The Huffington Post)
Debating the scientific merits of a vegan diet with the Wall Street Journal »
When even Rupert Murdoch’s favorite news producer wants an excuse to be vegan, you know we’ve arrived. The Wall Street Journal invites two professors of nutritional science, the delightful T. Colin Campbell and Nancy Rodriguez, to argue for and against a vegan diet.
The dairy industry has long promoted the myth that milk and milk products promote increased bone health—but the opposite is true. The evidence is now abundantly convincing that higher consumption of dairy is associated with higher rates of bone fracture and osteoporosis.
It’s also worth noting that the government recommendations for certain population groups to increase their protein and iron consumption come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, an agency long known to be subservient to the meat and dairy industries.
I’ve always been a welfare vegan, but it’s nice to have science on our side, for the humanists.
[photo by John Hritz via Flickr]