Investment and university pension funds, cement manufacturers, home heating distributors, tech giants like Google and Amazon, and the ride-hailing firm Lyft all say they are reducing their carbon footprint through similar offsets. Yet some critics worry the programs are an excuse to not take tougher measures to curb climate change. If not done right, the purchase of offsets can act as a marketing campaign that ends up providing cover for companies’ climate-harming practices.
When a company buys offsets, it helps fund projects elsewhere to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such as planting trees in Indonesia or installing giant machines inside California dairies that suck up the methane produced by burping and farting cows and turn it into a usable biofuel. What offsets don’t do is force their buyer to change any of its operations.
Supporters of offsets say they are only an acceptable tool once companies have done everything they can to pollute less, such as tightening up manufacturing processes, cutting down on office heating, or making delivery trucks run on cleaner fuels. Purchasing carbon offsets “is clearly better than doing nothing,” says Cameron Hepburn, who directs Oxford University’s economics of sustainability program. They can also help finance emerging green practices, technologies, and services that otherwise might struggle to find customers. “We know we will have to remove a lot of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and offsets are helpful in priming that market,” Hepburn says. But he and others caution that carbon offsets still need third-party verification to make sure they do what they are supposed to do, and that the specific carbon-reducing action wouldn’t have been taken otherwise.
That’s where it gets messy, says Barbara Haya, a research fellow at UC Berkeley, where she studies the effectiveness of carbon offset programs. “What would JetBlue have done if they couldn’t buy offsets?” Haya says. “Would they have put money into efficiency of the planes, or invested in future biofuels to create a long-term alternative to fossil fuels? That’s the fundamental question we have to ask for voluntary offsets: How much is it taking the place of real long-term solutions?”
Haya points to JetBlue’s investment in sustainable aviation fuel as a big plus, unlike some airlines that only buy the offset and continue with business as usual. Haya is helping the University of California’s 10 campuses become carbon neutral by 2025. To reach that goal, the university system will have to both cut back on energy use and purchase offsets. Because solar and wind power are now price-competitive with fossil fuel-generated electricity in California, using those renewable sources of energy is good for the planet and helps the university reduce its emissions, but it won’t qualify as a carbon offset, Haya says.
Instead, the big push in California now is for forest regeneration (namely, planting more trees) and changing farming practices. Disney, ConocoPhillips, and Poseidon Resources bought $6.7 million worth of offsets to restore and replant a 100-acre parcel of a state park in the mountains west of San Diego. In 2018, the latest year for which data is available, such nature-based solutions accounted for a reduction of 100 million metric tons of CO2 globally, according to a recent report by the nonprofit group Forest Trends. That reflects about $300 million in purchased offsets.
A single Ginkgo biloba tree might drop its distinct fan-shaped leaves every year for centuries, if not millennia. For perspective, one that’s about 1,300 years old — nearing the upper limits of documented ginkgo lifespan — first sprouted when the Byzantine empire was still young.
And as ginkgo age, they don’t just survive — they thrive. Though 600-year-old ginkgos grow thinner annual rings, they’re likely to pump out just as much defensive and immune-supporting chemicals as their younger relatives, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Young at 300
From this data, it appears that Ginkgo biloba, native to China, don’t have a predetermined lifespan. Unlike annuals that die off every year, “there’s no end point in their ability to keep growing,” says Rick Dixon, a biochemist at the University of North Texas and co-author of the paper.
Not only do individual ginkgos grow old, the entire species is prehistoric; some fossilized leaves date to 200 million years ago. Understanding aging in these long-lived, ancient species is difficult, however. Study co-author Jinxing Lin of the Beijing Forestry University was already deploying genome-sequencing technology to decode the ginkgo longevity techniques before Dixon entered the project.
The team focused on the cambium, or the surface layer that grows each year, creating trees’ annual rings. DNA sequences and genome analysis from nine ginkgos — with ages around 20, 200 or 600 years old — showed that genes responsible for thickening each layer were less active in the older trees.
But other signs of aging didn’t appear. Most plants eventually reach senescence — or, as Dixon puts it, a period of “gradually croaking.” Genes responsible for that life phase weren’t any more active in the oldest ginkgo specimen.
Ginkgos, like other trees, produce antioxidants and antimicrobials to stay healthy, too — redwoods have such a high concentration of the latter, the molecules give the species its distinct hue, Dixon says. The various genes needed to produce those compounds appeared to be just as active in the old ginkgo trees as they were in the young ones, as were genes related to the ginkgo immune system.
With a strong immune system and no sign of senescence, “there’s no programmed mechanism for death that we could ascertain from [this] study,” Dixon says.
Secrets to a Long Life
As for how ginkgos have dodged clear signs of decay, Dixon says it’s not clear. If stressed or sick, many types of trees will devote more of their energy stores to immune defense instead of growth, he says. But it’s unclear if ginkgos reallocate resources that way.
Dixon does think it’s possible similar mechanisms are at work in other long-lived species, such as redwoods (which have an average lifespan of 800 to 1,500 years) and English yew (which aren’t considered “old” until they’re 900 or so.)
Dixon points out that they didn’t measure actual levels of antioxidants or immunity boosters in the trees — just the genes indicating their presence. Also, the team only studied the cambium for signs of aging. The root system probably deserves some attention too, Dixon says.
Next up, the team might see if Ginkgo biloba DNA, like our own genetic code, gains mutations as the tree ages. But, who knows: The tree might have a way to prevent that, too.
Delicate spices make flavorful food — but did you know they are also super healthy for you? Herbs and spices come from various parts of a plant, flowers, leaves, seeds, and more — and each one has unique health benefits. An easy way to add a burst of health to your daily routine is to add one of our Raw Herbal Extracts™ to a no-bake recipe. Heat changes some of the components of herbs and spices, so while you can cook with them, you lose some of the health benefits. On the other hand, when you add a dropper or two into a delicious, simple-to-make recipe, you get the best of both worlds: Great taste, plus an easy way to add vitamins, antioxidants, and health to your day.
4 Simple No-Bake Recipes
The following recipes are not only great for anyone with a sweet tooth, but they are plant-based, as well!
Golden Milk Overnight Oats
This recipe is out of this world! The prep time is practically nonexistent, and it’s incredibly delicious. It uses our Turmeric Raw Herbal Extract and a touch of ginger for a slightly sweet, unique breakfast idea. Use the milky version of coconut milk for this recipe, not the canned variety.
Add all ingredients to a large glass container and stir together well.
Store in refrigerator overnight.
If desired, top with chopped nuts or toasted coconut flakes before serving.
Nutty Oatmeal Bars
These homemade granola bars are simple to make. Plus, you know they have no artificial preservatives or high-fructose corn syrup. That means they are healthy snacks for you and your family! It also makes a healthy no-bake dessert recipe.
8×8 baking dish
1 cup Medjool dates (pitted, chopped, firmly packed)
A sprinkle of organic chocolate chips, cacao nibs, or other additions (optional)
Add dates to a food processor. If you use whole dates, make sure to remove the inner pit before processing. Process until it resembles dough; it may ball up.
Add dates to a mixing bowl.
Add half the oats in the food processor and process gently. The finer consistency will help the bars stick together.
Add the processed oats, the unprocessed oats, and the almonds to the mixing bowl where the dates are. Set aside.
Heat salted almond butter and maple syrup over low heat so that it becomes more liquified. Add Tulsi extract.
Pour almond butter mixture over the other ingredients and mix well, breaking up the dates so that they spread throughout the dough.
Place a sheet of parchment paper at the bottom of an 8×8 baking dish. You can also use a loaf pan, but the bars may be thicker.
Press down on the bars using something like the bottom of a glass to help them stick together.
Cover with parchment paper and let firm up in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. At room temperature, they will not stick together as well.
Note: Make sure to use salted almond butter for a great salty-sweet taste for these bars. If you want a delicious chocolate-peanut butter vibe (or almond butter, technically), add cacao nibs or organic chocolate chips.
Morning Mango Chia Pudding
This awesome recipe works great for either a super healthy breakfast or a light dessert — without the guilt!
Reserve a few of the defrosted mango chunks for a topping. Add the rest of the bag to a blender.
Transfer the mango puree into a medium mixing bowl, using a spatula to make sure you get everything.
Open the can of coconut milk (note this is not the “milk” but the canned variety). You can use full-fat coconut milk, but the coconut oil in it will solidify, creating hard chunks of oil in the recipe compared with the reduced-fat variety.
Add coconut milk, chia, and maple syrup to the bowl and stir gently.
Put into a large glass container and top with a few chunks of mango.
Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. Enjoy!
Sleepytime Banana Ice Cream
Finding a good dairy-free ice cream substitute can be a challenge. Many people love one-ingredient banana “ice cream” — sometimes called “nice cream” in the vegan world. Essentially, you take frozen bananas, puree them in a food processor, and you have an instant, healthy frozen treat! You can add ingredients to add flavor. I recommend that you generally like bananas to try this recipe. We’ve created a blend with Valerian Raw Herbal Extract™ plus delicate, sweet spices like cinnamon, vanilla, and cacao. It’s packed full of flavor, and can even help you drift off to la-la land.
3 tablespoons cacao powder (you can substitute organic cocoa powder)
Slice bananas and place parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Freeze for one to two hours. Freezing them individually keeps them from sticking together.
Once the banana chunks are frozen, add them to a blender or food processor. If you are having trouble blending the bananas, add up to ¼ cup of almond milk.
Add in the vanilla, cinnamon, cacao, and Valerian.
Blend until creamy.
Serve immediately or store in the freezer.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.
Taking the steps to go to therapy can feel ambitious, especially when you are struggling with an emotional or mental issue. It takes a lot of courage to speak to someone about your problems and go through the learning process to endure and grow into a stronger person. With Nearly half of American households having had someone seek mental health treatment, it is important that we make the therapy process known. In this blog we are going to talk about what are some types of therapy, how to find a therapist and what to ask the therapist during your first appointment.
Let’s start by looking at some types of therapy as there are many.
Some of the most common therapies are:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – This is where you work with a mental health counselor in a structured way, attending a limited number of sessions, generally between 30 minutes and 2 hours. CBT helps you become aware of negative or uncomfortable thinking, so you can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.
Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT) – This is a comprehensive evidence-based therapy. The standard DBT treatment package consists of weekly individual therapy sessions, approximately 1 hour, a weekly group skills training session, generally 1.5-2.5 hours, and a therapist consultation team meeting between 1-2 hours.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) – This is an individual therapy typically delivered 1 to 2 times per week for a total of 6-12 sessions, although some people benefit from fewer sessions. Sessions can be conducted on consecutive days.EMDR therapy aims to help the mind heal from past psychological trauma by overcoming symptoms and emotional distress that is associated with traumatic memories.
Trying to find a therapist can be overwhelming but remember if you make an appointment with one and realize they are not the best fit for you then you can always find another so keep calm and use some of the tips below to start your therapy journey.
Look on your insurance carrier website. Getting mental health help is not cheap, if you have insurance, sign into your patient portal and look for therapist options. Most insurance companies have directories filled with medical professionals who take your insurance, making the process much more affordable.
Speak with friends. Your friends know you best, if you are comfortable with sharing your struggles and that you are looking for help, then they may be able and willing to support you on your search. Getting a referral from a friend is helpful because they are a trusted source.
Read medical journals. For some specialties there may not be many directories, if this is the case for you, look for medical journals related to the specific situation you are inquiring about and reach out to the professionals listed on the articles for a recommendation and maybe even see them directly.
Check medical centers. Most hospitals, clinics or other trusted medical centers have stands with flyers of therapists and treatment processes that are credible and may be right for you.
Now let’s look at what you ask once you find a therapist you want to see and schedule the appointment.A preliminary conversation with a therapist can help you get an idea of how treatment will proceed and whether you feel comfortable with the therapist.
Below are 5 questions you can ask to get a better understanding of if this therapist is right for you:
What approach will the therapist take to help you? Do they practice a particular type of therapy?
Does the therapist have experience in diagnosing and treating the age group and the specific condition for which treatment is being sought?
What are the goals of therapy? Does the therapist recommend a specific time frame or number of sessions? How will progress be assessed and what happens if you feel you aren’t starting to feel better?
Will there be homework?
Are our meetings confidential? How can this be assured?
These are just a few possible therapies, ways to find it and what to ask during it. Getting help for mental and emotional problems can be a long process but your therapist, counselor or mental health professional only wants to help you grow and build your emotional skill set.
Mayo Clinic. (16 March 2019). Cognitive behavioral therapy. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/cognitive-behavioral-therapy/about/pac-20384610
American Psychological Association. (31 July 2017). Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/ptsd-guideline/treatments/eye-movement-reprocessing
Ponte, K. (8 April 2019). Finding the best psychiatrist for you. [blog post] Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/April-2019/Finding-the-Best-Psychiatrist-for-You
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. (2016). Psychotherapies. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/psychotherapies/index.shtml
For centuries, the interior
of Notre Dame never saw much sunlight. But when Brian Katz stepped inside the
cathedral last July, the place was drenched in light, its famous arched ceiling
open to the sky. Nearly three months before, on April 15, 2019, a fire had
ripped through the Paris cathedral. Now, charred wood lay heaped on the floor,
mingled with toxic lead dust. The acrid scent of fire lingered. But Katz and
his colleague Mylène Pardoen had one main concern: the sound.
fundamental to Notre Dame’s voice was missing: its reverberance, that echolike
quality that the grandest cathedrals are known for. “You didn’t hear the
building anymore,” Katz says.
the fire, the tap of a heel or a cough would hang in the air for many seconds,
a feature that imbued visitors with a tendency to step softly and keep voices
low. Notre Dame de Paris — which translates as “Our Lady of Paris” — had a way
of imposing silence upon her guests. To Katz and Pardoen, the cathedral’s
personality had been erased.
there was reason for hope. Much of the cathedral remained relatively untouched
by the fire; wooden chairs still stood neatly in rows, and paintings and
sculptures — though covered in dust — remained intact.
repairs had already begun. Damaged pillars and flying buttresses were
reinforced, and nets hung high in the arches to catch falling debris. Robotic
devices swept up rubble in places too dangerous for humans to set foot.
architects, builders and historians begin the process of rebuilding Notre Dame,
Katz — an acoustics researcher at CNRS, the Centre National de la Recherche
Scientifique, and Sorbonne University in Paris — is on a mission to help
restore the building’s sonic signature.
work has been happening at other historical places, too. The disaster at Notre
Dame has put a field known as heritage acoustics in the spotlight. Science has
made it possible to document the acoustics and re-create the symphonic grandeur
of destroyed or altered structures. Researchers are wielding their knowledge of
physics to unveil a hidden history of sound in historical buildings.
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past was not a silent place,” says acoustician Damian Murphy of the University
of York in England. “Sound is a fundamental part of our human experience.”
Notre Dame, Katz and colleagues had a fortuitous head start. Using a computer
simulation and acoustic measurements the group made in the intact cathedral in
2013, the researchers had already digitally reproduced the building’s
reverberance. Katz is using that work to predict how choices made during the
reconstruction might alter Notre Dame’s effect on the ears.
can also resurrect the acoustics of Notre Dame of old, showing the impact of
renovations from previous eras in the medieval cathedral’s past, focusing on
how the building would have responded to the sounds within. Meanwhile Pardoen,
of CNRS and the Maisons des Sciences de l’Homme in Lyon, aims to re-create
those long-ago sounds.
is a transient, ethereal phenomenon, and it tends to be neglected in historical
records. While photographs and drawings can preserve the visual impact of a
building or scene, documenting the sonic impact of a space is more complicated.
But for many people, sound provides an intimate part of the sensation, the je
ne sais quoi of being in a particular place. Eyes closed, you can still tell
immediately whether a room is tiny or soaring and grand.
Cathedrals are a classic study subject for heritage acoustics. But sonic scrutiny has been applied to other spaces, including other religious buildings, theaters and even prehistoric caves (SN Online: 7/6/17; 6/26/17). Murphy, for instance, has studied the acoustics of a beloved chocolate factory and an underground nuclear reactor cavern.
cathedrals in particular, “the sound and the feeling you get when you are
inside … is key for the character” of the buildings, says acoustic engineer
Lidia Álvarez-Morales of the University of York. She and colleagues recently
measured the acoustics of four English cathedrals, including York Minster. That
Gothic structure is larger than Notre Dame and suffered a catastrophic fire in
1984. The cathedral was later restored.
The acoustics within a room are all about how the sound reflects off the surfaces inside. When you clap your hands, for example, vibrations of air molecules travel in a wave, causing variations in pressure. Some of those waves travel directly to your ear, which registers an immediate sound. But others travel in all directions until they reach a surface such as a wall, floor or object within the room. Sound waves can bounce off that surface and reach your ear at a later time (SN: 7/13/13, p. 10).
a place with a single reflecting surface, such as the distant wall of a canyon,
the reflected waves produce an echo, a delayed repetition of the original
sound. But in a cathedral, reverberation is the rule. “Reverberation happens
when we have, say, a thousand reflections that are all coming back to us so
fast that we can’t resolve any individual one of them with our auditory
system,” says acoustician Braxton Boren of American University in Washington,
D.C. As a result, the sound is drawn out, slowly trailing off to silence over
Materials that tend to reflect sound waves and enhance reverberation, such as marble and limestone, are common in cathedrals. In contrast, a more typical room has surfaces — carpets, drapes and even the people within the room — that mostly absorb sound waves (SN: 11/15/03, p. 308). Larger rooms also boost sound’s staying power, as the waves take longer to travel between surfaces. Before the fire, with its arched limestone ceiling reaching 33 meters high and a 4,800-square-meter marble floor, Notre Dame was like a giant, mirrored fun house for sound, bouncing the waves around and around.
reverberation time of a room is the number of seconds it takes for an initial,
loud sound to become so quiet that it can no longer be heard. Specifically,
it’s an estimate of how long it takes a sound to fade by 60 decibels. While a
typical living room might have a reverberation time of half a second, and a
concert hall might reverberate for two seconds, cathedrals can have
reverberation times in excess of five seconds.
long reverberation times, fast-moving music or speech can be muddied, with
notes and words stepping on top of one another. Gothic cathedrals were designed
to be grand spaces — their long reverberation may have been a by-product. But
music evolved to fit the space: For organ music or religious chanting, “the
acoustic conditions are really good, because this kind of music has been
designed for those buildings,” Álvarez-Morales says.
fact, Notre Dame’s special sound may have inspired the birth of polyphonic
music — in which different voices sing separate notes, instead of the same
pitch — in the 12th and 13th centuries. The Gregorian chants sung in the
cathedral in medieval times were monophonic, featuring only one note at a time.
But the drawn-out acoustics meant that consecutive notes tended to overlap.
acousticians believe this effect may have provided a chance to experiment with
which notes sounded good together, eventually developing into voices singing in
harmony. This practice is now so common it seems obvious. But at the time, it
was revolutionary. As a result, the roots of modern Western music may have been
shaped by the acoustics of Notre Dame. “It’s incredibly historically
significant,” Boren says.
Sound of silence
On the day of the fire,
Parisians gathered to watch the dramatic blaze. When Katz first heard the news,
he didn’t quite believe it. Like so many others, he decided he had to see for
the throngs, Paris was mostly silent, Katz says. “No one was really talking
above a whisper. To have that many people staring in awe was really strange.”
Katz opens his eyes wide while remembering the scene. “No one knew what to say
or what to do, but we were all standing there.”
The next day, Katz realized there was something he could do. The 2013 data his group had taken were the only detailed measurements of the acoustics of Notre Dame. He also had his computer simulation of the cathedral. Such acoustic models include the locations of the various surfaces within a room along with estimates of how well each material would absorb sound. And despite the destruction of the cathedral’s roof and medieval timbers, talk of restoring the wounded edifice had already started.
the cathedral, Katz had measured a property known as “room impulse response,”
which captures how the sound levels within a room vary over time after a brief
initial noise. From that impulse response, researchers can derive the reverberation
time and subtle characteristics that can affect how a listener perceives a
room. One such property is the length of the delay between when the first sound
waves reach a listener and the arrival of the second, reflected set of sound
these measurements of the cathedral, Katz had calibrated his computer model,
which allowed him to accurately reproduce Notre Dame’s lost acoustics. And now
he could tell architects what they needed to do to ensure the building would
maintain its acoustic splendor.
exudes a nearly constant air of bemusement, as if he can’t fully grasp the
cosmic circumstances that led him to become the foremost expert on Notre Dame’s
acoustics. With a graying beard and long wavy hair tied back in a loose knot,
his look is halfway between musician and physicist. But neither category quite
fits: He doesn’t play any instruments, and he’s not a conventional physicist.
a child, Katz’s attempts at learning musical instruments fizzled: He abandoned
both the cello and the saxophone. While studying physics at Brandeis University
in Waltham, Mass., Katz diverged from his college classmates, who were
fascinated with astrophysics or subatomic particles. “That wasn’t really my
thing,” Katz says: He stuck to the human scale.
Katz stumbled into acoustics thanks to his experience setting up sound systems
for events at Brandeis. With a Ph.D. from Penn State, he eventually became an
acoustics researcher in Paris. But he’s no audio-gear geek either. He declares
that his home audio system is “crap.”
Music from ruins
The acoustic properties of
damaged or demolished buildings have been resurrected before. Murphy and
colleagues re-created the 16th century sound of a ruined church called St.
Mary’s Abbey, founded in 1088 in York. Today, only remnants of the abbey’s
walls endure — arched windows frame sky and trees within a city park. But
Murphy and colleagues pieced together the architecture of the lost church as
best they could, consulting with archaeologists and studying historical
references. By putting that information into a computer simulation, the group
got a sense of how the space would reverberate.
2015, singers performed a concert within the ruins, with the original reverberation
of the abbey applied to their voices in real time. Audience members seated
within the church’s footprint heard what the music would have sounded like in
the intact space.
an acoustic time machine, such techniques can also help researchers understand
how the acoustics of still-intact buildings might have differed in the past, as
a result of either renovations or differences in how the church was used or
decorated, and how that would have altered the music played within them. “For
anyone who’s fallen in love with music from another era, we can’t really
re-create it without re-creating the acoustic conditions,” Boren says.
example, in the 16th century Church of the Redentore in Venice, Italy, music
was composed for a special festival held each July, when citizens packed the
church. All those people could have had a big impact on the sound: Humans “are
actually one of the most absorbent surfaces,” Boren says.
festival still takes place today, but the church uses speakers to amplify the
music, which drastically changes the acoustics, Boren says. He wanted to
understand how the church sounded during festivals of the past.
and colleagues produced an auralization of the church, the acoustic equivalent
of a visualization. The researchers took a musical recording from a space with
very little reverberation and applied the acoustics from their simulation of
the church — both with and without the crowd.
involved a process called convolution, which changes how long various
frequencies hang in the air. The musical recording was broken up into tiny
slices in time, and each slice was multiplied by the room’s impulse response.
Summing up all those slices produced the final sound.
measurements had revealed that the empty church had a reverberation time of
seven seconds. But in Boren and colleagues’ simulation, reverberation time was
cut in half when the church was filled with people and decked out with festive
the church was full, sounds didn’t ring out as long, so the notes came through
more clearly. In the past, when composers wrote music for the Venice landmark,
they may have taken the room’s reverberation time into account, including the
effects of the crowd.
work was made easier by the fact that the building the team was studying is
intact, and the researchers had measurements from within. Whereas Murphy’s team
had to use a fair bit of guesswork to simulate the ruined St. Mary’s Abbey,
Boren’s group used its data to ensure the simulation faithfully re-created the
building’s sound. The same goes for Katz’s Notre Dame simulation, which is why
his prefire measurements are so crucial.
incredibly lucky that Brian [Katz] was able to get into that space and take all
the measurements that he did,” Boren says. “Those are going to be very critical
for actually isolating what the acoustics of Notre Dame were like before.”
The measure of a cathedral
On April 24, 2013, six
years before the fire and 850 years after Notre Dame’s first stone was laid,
Katz and colleagues arrived at the cathedral lugging microphones and other
equipment. Late that night, after a concert had ended and the last of the
musicians and concertgoers had spilled out into the spring evening, Katz and
his team got to work.
stood like silent sentinels in the centuries-old aisles. Orange and black
cables threaded through walkways. A laptop rested on a chair — a seat normally
occupied by the faithful now reserved for technology. And a dummy of a human
head outfitted with microphones in its ears perched on a post, its blank face
surveying the ornate surroundings.
precisely pin down Notre Dame’s room impulse response, Katz’s group played a
sound called a sine sweep, which starts on a low note and slides gradually up
to a higher pitch. It’s designed to test the full range of pitches that humans
can hear, because different pitches can reverberate for different lengths of
measured the cathedral’s response to the sine sweep. That response varies based
on where in a room the sound is coming from, and where the microphone is. So
the researchers moved the speaker and microphones from place to place,
repeating the measurements. Using that data, Katz calculated that Notre Dame’s
reverberation time was around six seconds on average — more than 10 times as
long as a typical living room’s. The reverberation time varied depending on the
pitch; for a note of middle C, the reverberation lasted eight seconds.
Next, Katz and colleagues
turned to the computer simulation, comparing the simulated reverberation with
the reverberation they measured in the cathedral. The results were close, but
didn’t quite match for all frequencies of sound. That’s to be expected: Notre
Dame’s walls might be a little better or worse at absorbing sound than a
typical limestone wall, for example. So Katz and colleagues tweaked the amount
of absorption of various surfaces until the acoustic properties of the
simulated cathedral aligned with reality.
researchers then made an auralization of Notre Dame, using audio from the
concert that took place in Notre Dame the night that Katz made his
measurements. That concert, a performance of “La Vierge,” composed by Jules
Massenet in the late 19th century, was recorded with microphones positioned
very close to the performers. The mics picked up mostly direct sound rather
than the cathedral’s reverberation. Katz used his computer model to re-create
how the concert would have sounded for a listener wandering through other parts
of the church.
Next, Katz and colleagues added visuals to that audio to make a virtual reality re-creation of the performance, which they call “Ghost Orchestra.” They reported the work at the European Acoustics Association’s EuroRegio conference in 2016. Wearing a virtual-reality headset, the viewer flies about the simulated cathedral as the music plays, swooping low over the orchestra. In the far reaches of the building, the individual notes are more muddied. Turn your head, and as your ears move positions, the sound changes too. Since the fire, Katz and colleagues have been working on improvements to the video.
Brian Katz and David Poirier-Quinot/CNRS, Sorbonne University
forward, Katz plans to tweak his model to account for the design and materials
to be used in the proposed cathedral refurbishments. Even relatively minor
choices — such as whether to carpet some of the aisles — could create a
noticeable difference. Katz also aims to adjust his model to understand how
Notre Dame may have sounded in the past, cataloging its progression through a
series of changes. Some of the past renovations could have altered the
cathedral’s acoustics, even cosmetic changes like coatings of paint and the
hanging of tapestries or artwork.
building stands for 850-plus years without damage, refurbishments and aesthetic
tweaks. Once Notre Dame’s construction began in 1163, it continued off and on
for almost 200 years, until the middle of the 14th century. In 1699, King Louis
XIV started a round of updates, including a new marble altar, with statues of
himself and his father flanking the Virgin Mary holding Jesus’ dead body.
the French Revolution, statues were beheaded, and the church was used as a
warehouse, falling into disrepair. Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of
Notre Dame was published in 1831 and may have inspired Parisians to give the
cathedral some TLC. Beginning in 1845, renovations led by architect
Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc shored up the crumbling structure and added the
cathedral’s spire (destroyed by the 2019 fire), among other changes. The fire
is believed to have broken out accidentally during restoration work.
Crafting a soundscape
One thing Katz can’t do is
reproduce the actual sounds that might have been present in those earlier eras.
That’s the specialty of Pardoen, Katz’s companion on the July visit to the
damaged Notre Dame. Calling herself a “soundscape archaeologist,” Pardoen pieces
together the sounds of past environments: battlefields, cathedrals and cities.
close-cropped gray hair and dark clothes, Pardoen seems no-nonsense. But
chatting with Katz over coffee, she breaks the veneer of seriousness by
frequently interrupting the conversation to mimic the noises she studies, like
the “choo click choo click” of a loom or the “crrrrrr” of stone cutters.
magnum opus is a video soundscape of central Paris during the second half of
the 18th century, when Paris streets bustled with people, and bridges were crammed
with buildings several stories high. In the video, the viewer wanders the city
streets, taking in the sounds: the clacking of horse hooves, washerwomen working
at the banks of the Seine, leatherworkers engaged in their craft and even the
buzzing of flies around the fish market.
cultivate this sonic bouquet, Pardoen consulted maps, historical documents and
paintings. She found replicas of the tools that would have been common at the
time and recorded them in use to collect historically accurate sounds.
Pardoen plans to exhume the forgotten sounds of Notre Dame. Rather than
re-creating religious ceremonies or concerts, she’ll focus on the everyday noises.
In earlier times, artisans and merchants crowded the neighborhood around the
cathedral, and the resulting cacophony leaked into the church’s interior. By
filtering these sounds through Katz’s acoustic model, Pardoen and Katz aim to
achieve the ambience of Notre Dame at various periods of its history.
As the cleanup progresses, Katz and Pardoen will return regularly to monitor the acoustics of the damaged building. The two are part of a group — Association des Scientifiques au Service de la Restauration de Notre-Dame de Paris, the Association of Scientists in the Service of the Restoration of Notre Dame of Paris — that aims to consolidate scientific expertise to better understand the cathedral and assist in its reconstruction.
will have to decide which version of the cathedral to aim for, the Notre Dame
that existed just before the fire, a version from an earlier era or something
new and different. Giving architects, politicians and the public a chance to
explore the sonic history of Notre Dame could help inform decisions about its
“No historic building is ever completely static,” says Murphy, of the University of York. “This terrible fire, which is a considerable tragedy, is just the next stage in the life of Notre Dame.”
On our latest episode of our podcast My Favorite Theorem, my cohost Kevin Knudson and I talked with University of Arkansas mathematician and artist Edmund Harriss. I was lucky enough to be in the studio with him because we were both part of the Illustrating Mathematics semester program at the Institute for Computational and Experimental Research in Mathematics (ICERM) last fall.
You can listen to the episode here or at kpknudson.com, where there is also a transcript.
Harriss chose to talk about the Gauss-Bonnet theorem, which relates the topology of a two-dimensional surface to its geometry. The total curvature of a surface—how much it bends and in what directions—is related to a few large-scale properties (topology): whether it is orientable and how many holes it has.
With this episode, the Gauss-Bonnet theorem makes its second appearance on My Favorite Theorem. Our guest Jeanne Clelland picked for her episode almost two years ago. This is the third time we’ve had a repeated theorem, and something I love about our guests and the show is that even when the underlying mathematics is the same, different people talk about their theorems completely differently, and the episodes usually end up having very different flavors.
To overgeneralize a bit, our former guest Clelland took a bird’s-eye view of the theorem and the surfaces to which it applies, and Harriss talked about the theorem in terms of the “turning” (also known as holonomy if you want to be fancy) around loops on the surface and about what it means for real, physical objects in the world. Both are great ways to view and appreciate a wonderful theorem!
Harriss’s point of view fits perfectly into one of his recent artistic/making endeavors, Curvahedra. These are construction toys that you can use to make different surfaces. Harriss has used them to help kids explore the mathematics of surfaces and discover versions of the Gauss-Bonnet theorem for themselves. You can connect the pieces in different ways that give different geometries and topologies to the resulting surfaces.
In each episode of the podcast, we invite our guest to pair their theorem with something. While donuts are a classic pairing for anything topology-related, Harris went a little more sophisticated with a pear-walnut salad. Get all the details on the episode, ideally while eating a fancy salad.
Years ago, I started making many personal care products because I couldn’t find ones with clean ingredients that worked well. I made natural toothpaste, DIY natural shampoo and conditioner, and even soap.
As I shared these recipes, many people asked if it was possible to buy them instead of make them. These homemade versions were effective and natural, but time-consuming to make. In addition, many of the ingredients were hard to find or expensive to buy when only a small quantity was needed for a recipe.
Natural Toothpaste and Haircare… That Works!
A few years ago, I noticed a trend. Many of my friends had switched to clean products in most areas of their lives. They ate mostly organic food, used natural cleaners, and avoided harmful products…. but they still used name brand conventional haircare and toothpaste because the natural options just didn’t measure up.
I understood. I’d tried many natural products that just didn’t work as well. I’d also used many conventional products in the past that worked incredibly well but that contained toxic ingredients I didn’t want to put on my skin or my kids’ skin.
I couldn’t stop there though. From my experience in creating DIY products, I knew it was possible to create natural products that worked just as well as conventional. I became determined to tackle this problem!
Thus Wellnesse was born… the first line of clean personal care products that works as well as conventional alternatives! These products have been in the works for years, and our family is so happy to share them with yours!
What Goes ON Your Body Goes IN Your Body
You’ve likely heard that we absorb a lot of the personal care products we put in our mouth and on our skin and hair. This is often used as a reason to avoid products with harmful ingredients… and I absolutely agree with that idea.
With Wellnesse, I wanted to turn this idea on its head and take it one step further. I set out to create products that actually let good stuff in through the skin. Of course these products would be safe and only contain clean ingredients, but they also would be packed with beneficial ingredients that nourish the body from the outside in.
I set out to create products that are both highly effective and completely safe. After many, many rounds of formulation, I’m so excited to finally get to share these products with you!
At Wellnesse, we do more than just avoid the bad stuff. We focus on creating products that aren’t just safe to put on your skin, on your hair, or in your mouth, but actually benefit and nourish your body too.
With this in mind, I set out to formulate a line of human-safe, environmentally friendly products that worked as well as any conventional alternative.
I was adamant that all products would meet these criteria:
All EWG-Safe Ingredients: Wellnesse products contain only ingredients rated as safe (1 or 2) in the EWG Skin Deep Database. All ingredients are listed on the website here so you always know exactly what you are putting on your family. (In addition, we are in the process of getting all products EWG verified as a third-party verification and hope to have this completed very soon.)
Organic Ingredients: Whenever possible, all ingredients are organic, and we’re working towards the organic certification as well.
Safe for Humans and the Planet: We never compromise on this. We believe it is not only possible, but essential, to create products that are safe and beneficial for both the environment and for people.
Highly Effective: All products must work as well as conventional alternatives.
Sustainable: Since our products are only sold online (for now), sustainability in packaging is a major priority, and we’re using the safest and most environmentally friendly options currently available.
We Are the Gatekeepers for Our Families
You may know that a lot of things are used in personal care products that aren’t tested or approved for safety… but it’s probably worse than you think…
It’s a common misconception that skincare ingredients must be proven safe and effective before they’re allowed on the market. But they are not, by a long shot.
In fact, there are thousands of ingredients approved for use in personal care products that have not been tested for safety at all!
Even worse, the FDA doesn’t have the authority to ban skincare ingredients that show strong evidence of being dangerous or deadly. Talcum powder is the perfect example.
Products that contain talc (a.k.a. talcum powder) include makeup and baby powder. Talcum powder is frequently contaminated with cancer-causing asbestos and recent court proceedings have found that one major company knew this for decades. Millions have already been paid in damages from lawsuits where people got cancer or died because of this. The lawsuits just keep rolling in (so far there are over 15,000 lawsuits!).
It’s obvious the item should be pulled from shelves, right? Nope. Baby powder is still being sold in stores, still being sprinkled on baby’s genitals, and still causing harm for some. The FDA and government oversight agencies usually don’t pull the plug on toxins in skin care.
This is why it’s my personal mission and a Wellnesse core value to stay on top of what’s in our products.
Many companies have caught on to the fact that consumers want safe, natural products for their families. While this is driving positive change, not everything is as it seems. Since the beauty industry is largely self-regulated, skincare companies can dress up labels with natural-looking colors and terms like “vegan” and “all-natural,” while still hiding a bunch of toxins in the ingredients list.
On the Flip Side… Just Because We Can’t Pronounce It …
I always read the ingredients list on skincare products, but I have learned that just because I can’t pronounce it doesn’t mean an ingredient is necessarily bad. For example, alpha tocopherol may sound like a toxic chemical, but it’s actually the antioxidant vitamin E. Shea butter is listed as the tongue twister butyrospermum parkii on skincare labels.
When in doubt, do some research!
Wellnesse: Radical Transparency
To that end, at Wellnesse, we’re dedicated to radical transparency and honesty. We firmly believe that it is possible and essential to create products that are safe for humans and for the planet.
We believe that a well-run business can have a tremendous positive impact on the world. That’s why we run Wellnesse with an unwavering commitment to our core values in every decision we make, and in every step of our process from supply chain to final product.
We never compromise on quality and choose the best options for people and planet. We source the best ingredients and packaging available.
We love the families who use our products and make sure that all of the ingredients we use are rated as safe by the Environmental Working Group so you can rest easy knowing your family is safe! On top of that, we combine the latest in scientific research with the best nature has to offer to add beneficial ingredients that support the body in each product.
We wholeheartedly believe that products can be safe for people and the environment… and take the planet into account in every ingredient we choose and every decision we make. We want to contribute to leaving a world our children and grandchildren can be proud of, so we make decisions that last longer than we will.
Community and Family Focused
We strive to support families at every level of our business: the families of our team members, the families of our customers and the families in our local community. Cultivating a strong community is one of the most important things we can do in this life and we’re working toward this goal in our company culture and our local communities.
We give time and a percentage of profit to our local communities and to organizations that support families and the environment.
Integrity and Transparency
You never have to wonder about the safety of our products or what we put in them… because we will tell you and show you the sourcing!
Think Outside the Box
We believe that it isn’t only possible… but essential… to create products and solutions where the customer wins, the community wins, the planet wins, and the company wins. To this end, we innovate and are uncompromising in our core values.
So what do we make at Wellnesse? Well, just for starters:
Wellnesse Natural Toothpaste
Wellnesse Whitening Toothpaste is the first natural toothpaste that works like “regular toothpaste” without glycerin or fluoride. It was important to me to create a formula that naturally supports the oral microbiome and mineral balance on the teeth without those two ingredients.
Fluoride is controversial and an ingredient I am careful to avoid because of my thyroid issues. We also chose to leave out glycerin, which many natural toothpastes include as a thickener, since some research shows it can coat teeth and keep them from benefiting from minerals in saliva. For both of these ingredients, we found safer and more effective alternatives.
Instead of fluoride, our formula contains green tea leaf extract, which is loaded with antioxidants. Plus, a phytochemical in green tea is shown to fight bacteria that leads to tooth decay.
We combined this phytochemical with hydroxyapatite (a naturally-occurring mineral and main component of tooth enamel) to strengthen teeth and prevent cavities.
Of course, fresh breath is paramount to a good teeth brushing, and for that we included mint leaf extract and neem. Neem helps to prevent bacteria from sticking to teeth and turning into plaque. This protective measure means less bacteria, which leads to… fresher breath!
And of course, this toothpaste is kid-safe and kid-approved!
All four hair care products meet all of our criteria for quality. They work as well as “regular” shampoos and conditioners but without the sulfates, parabens, dyes, artificial fragrances, and other ingredients you wouldn’t want to put on your family.
Instead, they have:
Keratin, quinoa, and chamomile to infuse moisture while natural suds cleanse hair and scalp, so strands stay smooth.
Vitamins like panthenol, a provitamin of B, replenishes and moisturizes locks.
Herbs like lavender make hair silky, soft, and easy to manage and also encourage hair growth and thick hair.
One ingredient you may not have heard of yet, but will grow to love (pun intended) is nettle leaf. Nettle leaves are rich in silica and sulfur, both of which are known to support regrowth and strengthen hair. Sulfur, a component of keratin (the key protein that makes up our hair), lengthens the “growing phase.” It’s also been suggested that nettle leaf can restore hair to its original color.
Our packaging also had to meet our strict standards for quality and sustainability. We’re constantly working to innovate in this area, but for now, we use sustainably sourced and carbon-neutral sugarcane packaging that is compostable in commercial facilities and that can also be recycled. Since we can’t use glass in the shower or with a product as thick as toothpaste, this was the most eco-friendly option available.
And, the cardboard packaging used in shipping is fully compostable, so you can use it in your own compost bin or garden!
Third Party Verification
As I said, transparency is an important core value for us. To this end, we’ve applied for and are in the process of getting:
EWG Verified for all products, which assures that they are all human-safe and environmentally friendly.
Certified B-Corp designation which verifies our commitment to our communities, the environment, and to creating the highest quality products while supporting family and women-owned businesses and manufacturers.
Leaping Bunny certification for household and personal care, verifying that all products are cruelty-free and untested on animals.
Try Wellnesse Products!
Join me in using these revolutionary products with your own family! You can get all of them here. TIP: You lock in a discount if you shop a Wellnesse Essentials bundle or sign up for Subscribe and Save! I’m so grateful that you’re part of this community and hope that you’ll join me in changing the personal care industry for the better!
Keep an eye out for other products coming soon including Dry Shampoo, Deodorant, Sunscreen, Bug Spray, Soap, Shampoo Bars, and much more!
What personal care products would you like to see next? Share below, I’d love to hear your feedback!
Pepla E, Besharat LK, Palaia G, Tenore G, Migliau G. Nano-hydroxyapatite and its applications in preventive, restorative and regenerative dentistry: a review of literature. Ann Stomatol (Roma). 2014;5(3):108–114. Published 2014 Nov 20.
Alzohairy MA. Therapeutics Role of Azadirachta indica (Neem) and Their Active Constituents in Diseases Prevention and Treatment. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2016;2016:7382506. doi:10.1155/2016/7382506
Amazon wildfires are predicted to worsen, doubling the amount of an important region of forest affected by 2050. The result could be to convert the Amazon from a carbon sink into a net source of carbon dioxide emissions.
Paulo Brando at the University of California, Irvine and his colleagues developed a model to predict how climate change and deforestation in the southern Brazilian Amazon, a wildfire hotspot, are likely to influence wildfires and their associated greenhouse gas emissions.
The model predicts a doubling in the area burned by wildfires from approximately 3.4 million hectares across the 2000s to about 6.8 million hectares in the 2040s, in the worst case scenario of deforestation and rapid climate change. By 2050, the total area burned is predicted to reach 23 million hectares – 16 per cent of the existing forests in that part of Brazil.
“We have to reduce deforestation to tackle the biggest problem,” says Brando. In Brazil, 100 per cent of wildfires are started by people, often as part of agricultural practices, he says. “We can do better than we are doing right now.”
“Unlike Australia where bushfires can propagate, in the Amazon they only propagate to a few hundred metres because the forest is very wet,” says Carlos Nobre at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, who wasn’t involved in the study. But it is getting hotter and drier due to climate change and other factors, which means the Amazon is likely to become more vulnerable to spreading wildfires in future, says Nobre.
The Amazon removes between one and two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year, equivalent to 2.5 to 5 per cent of global emissions. If wildfires increase, eventually the total emissions resulting from fire will exceed 2 billion tonnes, turning the Amazon into a net carbon source.
Artificial light is a relatively new development in terms of human evolution. Before we could create “day” out of night, humans woke up with the sun and went to bed when the sun set. Some studies suggest that before artificial light, humans experienced biphasic sleep; they slept in two shifts during the night, using their sleep break for prayer, reflection or reading by candlelight.1
Artificial light permanently changed the way we live, in many ways for the better. But there has been a second change since the invention of artificial light that might be more consequential: the proliferation of electronic devices that create “blue light.” To that end, 96 percent of Americans now own cellphones, mostly smartphones, and 75% own desktop or laptop computers. About 50% own tablets and e-readers.2
Blue light rays are the shortest wavelengths of light and constitute one-third of all the sunlight we see.3 But smartphones, computers, tablets, e-readers, TVs and LED (light-emitting diode) and CFL (compact fluorescent lamp) lighting also emit blue light and have significantly added to the amount of blue light we now receive.4
There are many well-documented risks associated with exposure to blue light from these electronic devices, one being impaired sleep. As such, we’re advised to tone down or completely avoid blue light at night. Interestingly, researchers at Manchester University discovered that blue light associated with twilight actually helped mice sleep better — opposite of current thinking on blue light’s effect on sleep.5
It was a single study using small groups of mice (seven to eight mice in an average group) but if the same proves true for humans, it could change everything we know about using blue light at night, lead researcher Tim Brown told BBC:6
“During the daytime, the light that reaches us is relatively white or yellow and has a strong effect on the body clock and around twilight, once the Sun sets, the bluer the light becomes,” he said. “So if you want to avoid light having a strong effect on your body clock, dim and blue would be the way to go …
“At the moment, often what people are doing is adjusting the colour of lighting or visual displays and making the screens more yellow. Our prediction is that changing the colour is having exactly the wrong effect. It’s counteracting any benefit that you might get from also reducing the brightness of the screen.”
In other words, blue lights may actually induce sleep, rather than impair it. Moreover, the yellow and orange lights with which many people have sought to replace blue lights, especially at night, may actually be the light waves that disrupt and harm sleep.
But before we run off and change the rule books on the topic, at least one scientist says not so fast. For one thing, mice are nocturnal; they’re naturally active at night, while humans are typically sleeping. Blue light helping mice sleep doesn’t necessarily make it true for humans, says Manuel Spitschan, Ph.D., a research fellow with an interest in visual and nonvisual responses to light in humans.
“This is fascinating work, but we really don’t know yet that the same happens in humans,” Spitschan told BBC. “That’s the difficulty with animal work. It should be possible to do tests with people in the future to find out for sure.”
Study Questions a Well-Accepted Hypothesis
Search for “blue light” on the internet and you will find hundreds of health and medical sites that warn you about the harmful effects of blue light on your sleep. Here is what the National Sleep Foundation says:7
“The reason that blue light is so problematic is that it has a short wavelength that affects levels of melatonin more than any other wavelength does.
Light from fluorescent bulbs and LED lights can produce the same effect. Normally, the pineal gland in the brain begins to release melatonin a couple of hours before bedtime, and melatonin reaches its peak in the middle of the night.
When people read on a blue light-emitting device (like a tablet, rather than from a printed book) in the evening, it takes them longer to fall asleep; plus, they tend to have less REM sleep (when dreams occur) and wake up feeling sleepier— even after eight hours of shuteye.”
I have often warned about the effect of blue light on sleep and recommended “blue blocker” glasses to protect your eyes at night. So, if this new research, published in the journal Current Biology,8 is true, it could have far-reaching repercussions on how humans approach the use of blue light at night in the future.
Brown explained the new thinking and the role of melanopsin, a photo pigment expressed in retinal ganglion cells, in light-affected sleep, this way:9
“We show the common view that blue light has the strongest effect on the clock is misguided; in fact, the blue colours that are associated with twilight have a weaker effect than white or yellow light of equivalent brightness.
There is lots of interest in altering the impact of light on the clock by adjusting the brightness signals detected by melanopsin but current approaches usually do this by changing the ratio of short and long wavelength light; this provides a small difference in brightness at the expense of perceptible changes in colour.
… We argue that this is not the best approach, since the changes in colour may oppose any benefits obtained from reducing the brightness signals detected by melanopsin. Our findings suggest that using dim, cooler, lights in the evening and bright warmer lights in the day may be more beneficial.”
More Blue Light Questions From the Study
It has been almost an article of faith that the warmer, “yellow” tones of light will not disrupt your sleep, like the blue ones. In fact, over the last few years, many have protested cities’ conversion to LED streetlights because of their apparent association with poor sleep, higher cancer rates and glare.10 As many as 10% of U.S. municipalities now use LED streetlights for their longer life, energy savings and quality of light.
On a micro level, many computers and smartphones now contain warm, yellow “night tones,” which you can switch on a few hours before bedtime. But according to the Manchester researchers, science may have the light effects backward. They write:11
“We found that changes in phase (activity midpoint) produced by L+S (yellow) stimuli were significantly more rapid than L S+ (blue) for both delay and advance shifts …
… When biased toward S-opsin activation (appearing ‘‘blue’’), these stimuli reliably produce weaker circadian behavioral responses than those favoring L-opsin (‘‘yellow’’) … Contrary to common beliefs, it is yellow rather than blue colors that have the strongest effect on the mammalian circadian system.”
This means that if humans truly are affected the same way mice are, yellow night screens could possibly contribute to the very insomnia we are trying to avoid.
According to the study, the type of glow emitted by yellow and orange flames from a fireplace could paradoxically have a stimulating effect rather than inducing sleep. The findings, if validated, would also explain why people often fall asleep in front of the blue light of the television.
There are two reasons for blue light’s “bad rap,” speculate the Manchester University researchers. First, the effect of the differing wavelengths of yellow and blue light — blue light being much shorter — was confused with, and attributed to, their colors. Second, previous scientists failed to focus on the fact that light becomes very “blue” at twilight so our natural rhythms find it soporific.
But, as the Oxford scientist stressed, we don’t know if this study is applicable to humans or not and, indeed, further research is necessary before we can extrapolate that the effects of blue light on humans have been misinterpreted.
General Sleep Advice Is Still Valid
In the meantime, whether blue light proves to be further implicated in insomnia in humans or not, there are still reasons to disengage from your electronic devices before bedtime — and yellow light is not the answer. Christian Benedict, associate professor at the department of neuroscience at Uppsala University and author of a 2016 study published in the journal Sleep,12 told Consumer Affairs:13
“‘It must however be kept in mind that utilizing electronic devices for the sake of checking your work e-mails or social network accounts before snoozing may lead to sleep disturbances as a result of emotional arousal.”
Benedict’s study suggests receiving daytime bright light exposure, a practice that I encourage, can help offset sleep disturbances caused by exposure to electronic devices at night. Here are some additional important suggestions for a good night’s sleep, regardless of where the blue light controversy ends.
Sleep in complete darkness — Even the tiniest bit of light in the room, such as that from a clock radio LCD screen, can disrupt your internal clock and your production of melatonin and serotonin, thereby interfering with your sleep (and raising your risk of cancer).
Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 70 degrees F — Studies show the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 60 and 68 degrees F. Keeping your room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep. When you sleep, your body’s internal temperature drops to its lowest level, generally about four hours after you fall asleep.
Eliminate electric and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) in your bedroom — These can disrupt your pineal gland’s production of melatonin and serotonin, and are a significant contributor to mitochondrial damage and dysfunction, which is at the heart of virtually all chronic disease.
Move alarm clocks and other electrical devices away from your bed, and avoid using loud alarm clocks — If you need to use these devices, keep them as far away from your bed as possible, preferably at least 3 feet. Keep your cellphone as far away from your bedroom as possible if you feel it must be on, or put it in airplane mode. Better yet, if you keep it in your bedroom, shut it down.
Adopt a neutral sleeping position — If you’re a side- or stomach sleeper and find yourself frequently tossing and turning at night and/or waking up with aches and pains, your sleeping position may be a primary culprit.
Reserve your bed for sleeping — If you are used to watching TV or doing work in bed, you may find it harder to relax and drift off to sleep, so avoid doing these activities in bed.
Consider separate bedrooms — Studies suggest that, for many people, sharing a bed with a partner can significantly impair sleep, especially if the partner is a restless sleeper or snores. If bedfellows are consistently interfering with your sleep, you may want to consider a separate bedroom. You may also need to banish your pets from the room if their presence impairs your sleep.
Beware of Quick-Fix Sleeping Medications
Regardless of what additional research about blue light might reveal, it’s certainly true that more Americans than ever suffer from poor sleep and insomnia. Most reasons stem from an urban, “workaholic” lifestyle that encourages people to squeeze sleep in between their other busy activities, rather than make restorative sleep a top health priority.
Sadly, drug makers have tried to cash in on Americans’ sleep problems by aggressively advertising sleeping pills and other types of sedatives even though they are likely to make the situation worse. For example, in 2013, the Journal of Hospital Medicine reported a strong association between the popular sleeping pill Ambien (zolpidem) and falls.14
More Sleep Medication Dangers
Just as dangerous as falls, “complex sleep behaviors” such as sleepwalking, sleep driving and using a stove while not fully awake, which pose the “risk of serious injury and death,” are associated with three popular sleeping pills (eszopiclone, zaleplon and zolpidem), says the FDA.15 Warnings about such behaviors were already on the drug labels, and strengthened, in April of 2019.
Nevertheless, seeing the great profit in sleep medications, drug makers have rolled out a host of particularized sleep disorders: chronic, acute, transient, initial and middle-of-the-night insomnia, early-morning wakening disorder and non-restful sleep disorder — all of which they claim require specific medications.
The irony is that almost all insomnia and poor sleep can be treated with a healthier lifestyle and sleep hygiene. Moreover, when people try to stop taking sleep medications, they often experience rebound effects and their sleep may become worse, not better, from the drugs.
Adding to the problems, drug makers have also discovered the profit in drugs that treat “excessive sleepiness” and more obscure sleep conditions such as non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder, shift work sleep disorder and narcolepsy. These conditions and the drugs that treat them are now aggressively advertised, a strategy that grows awareness of the so-called conditions, as well as the pool of potential patients.
Since most drugs for these conditions stimulate the body, they likely can cause more sleep problems and lead to more drugs. Is it any surprise, then, that sleeping problems are getting worse, not better, in the U.S.?
Needless to say, coffee and cigarettes also make sleep problems worse. Alcohol can help you fall asleep faster, but it makes sleep more fragmented and less restorative. If you want more information on how to achieve better sleep, don’t forget to refer to my “33 Secrets to a Good Night’s Sleep.”
The Take-Home Message on Blue Light
Studies have linked blue light with many serious effects, including:
So, until actual human studies are done and research on blue light shows similar results to the mouse study, the best thing to do is avoid it and try natural ways to work with your own circadian rhythm, using sleep strategies that we know will work.
A new technique using the Hubble Space Telescope and a feature of general relativity has revealed the smallest clumps of dark matter ever identified – up to 100,000 times less massive than the Milky Way galaxy’s dark matter halo.
And these (relatively) teeny tiny clumps of dark matter nicely agree with one of the leading dark matter theories – what astronomers call cold dark matter.
“We made a very compelling observational test for the cold dark matter model and it passes with flying colours,” said astrophysicist Tommaso Treu of the University of California, Los Angeles.
We don’t actually know what dark matter is. We can’t directly detect it. What we do know is that the Universe doesn’t behave entirely as it should if we apply our current physics to what we can directly observe. Stars on the outer edges of galaxies, for example, move faster than they should, as though under the influence of some invisible mass.
We call this mass “dark matter,” and there are several hypotheses as to how it works. Among them are hot dark matter – where “hot” means “particles moving close to the speed of light”; and cold dark matter, where “cold” means “particles moving at slower-than-relativistic velocities”.
Most observational evidence and current models favour cold dark matter, but the case is far from resolved. One test that can offer clues is whether small dark matter clumps can be found.
Hot dark matter, you see, would be moving too fast to allow for smaller chunks. If the dark matter is moving more slowly – as in cold dark matter theory – those small chunks should be out there.
However, finding them is not so easy. Remember the bit about how we can’t directly observe it? Instead, astronomers infer its presence based on the gravitational influence it has on the observable matter around it – stars that are moving too fast around the outer edges of galaxies, for example.
Another thing that gravity affects is light. If there is something really massive, such as a galaxy cluster, between us and a light source, the gravitational influence of that cluster curves spacetime, bending the path of the light and creating multiple images of the light source.
(NASA, ESA, and D. Player/STScI)
This is called gravitational lensing, an effect predicted by Einstein’s general relativity. In rare instances, the objects involved are lined up in such a way that four distorted images are produced around the lensing object. This is called an Einstein cross.
What’s this got to do with cold dark matter, you are wondering? Well, here is the really cool part. The gravitational influence of small dark matter clumps should, in theory, be observable in differences found in each of the images of the background light source that are bent around the lens.
So, the team used the Hubble Space Telescope to study eight Einstein cross quasars, extremely bright galaxies powered by supermassive black holes, gravitationally lensed by massive foreground galaxies.
“Small dark matter clumps act as small cracks on the magnifying glass, altering the brightness and position of the four quasar images compared to what you would expect to see if the glass were smooth.”
They measured how the light of the quasars is warped by the lens. They looked at the apparent brightness and position of each of the four images. And they compared these against predictions of how the Einstein crosses should look without dark matter.
These comparisons allowed the team to then calculate the mass of the dark matter clumps altering the images. These clumps seem to be between 10,000 and 100,000 times smaller than the mass of the dark matter in and around the Milky Way.
The findings don’t rule out the existence of hot dark matter, of course. (Not to even mention the added complication of mixed dark matter, a model that includes both types.) But these results do add a solid piece of evidence for the existing body of work supporting the existence of cold dark matter.
“Astronomers have carried out other observational tests of dark matter theories before, but ours provides the strongest evidence yet for the presence of small clumps of cold dark matter,” said astronomer and physicist Anna Nierenberg of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
“By combining the latest theoretical predictions, statistical tools, and new Hubble observations, we now have a much more robust result than was previously possible.”