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The "Smokey Bear Effect"

Smokey Bear was created by the U.S. Forest Service in an attempt to prevent forest fires -- and it worked too well. By preventing the small fires that are part of how forests function (clearing out underbrush and small trees), the "Smokey Bear Effect" is causing massive, forest-destroying fires that eradicate large forests. In this short video, NPR explores the effect -- and how we must accept small fires as an integral part of the life of forests.

Representative quote: "For a hundred years, we've been very good at suppressing [forest fires]. And now, we're reaping that fiery maelstrom -- we have fires now we can't stop! And they're going to continue to burn...until there isn't a whole lot left to burn." -William Armstrong, Fire Manager, U.S. Forest Service. Even Smokey Bear himself agrees -- total fire suppression is a recipe for disaster, and small fires "clean" the forest. Check it out:

This video is part of a five-part series.

If you're interested in forest policy, check out Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, in which the author attempts to hike the Appalachian Trail, with long digressions on the history of the U.S. Forest Service.

See also: How Smokey Bear Helped Win World War II, Smokey Bear is no friend to the redwood tree, 3 Things You Might Not Know About Smokey Bear, and 5 Fictional Bears and Whether They’d Kill You. Also, just to clear things up about Smokey's name, he's technically "Smokey Bear," though "Smokey the Bear" is an acceptable alternative that became popular in the 1950s.

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Johan Ordonez, Getty Images
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science
This Organization Wants Your Old Eclipse Glasses
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Johan Ordonez, Getty Images

On Monday, August 21, America hosted what may have been the most-viewed solar eclipse in history. While those of us in the United States are still processing the awesome sight, residents of South America and Asia are just starting to look forward to the next total eclipse in 2019—and anyone who still has their protective glasses on hand can help them prepare.

According to Gizmodo, Astronomers Without Borders is accepting donations of used eyewear following Monday’s event. Any glasses they collect will be redistributed to schools across Asia and South America where children can use them to view the world’s next total eclipse in safety.

Astronomers Without Borders is dedicated to making astronomy accessible to people around the world. For this most recent eclipse, they provided 100,000 free glasses to schools, youth community centers, and children's hospitals in the U.S. If you’re willing to contribute to their next effort, hold on to your specs for now—the group plans to the announce the address where you can send them in the near future. Donors who don't have the patience to wait for updates on the group's Facebook page can send glasses immediately to its corporate sponsor, Explore Scientific, at 1010 S. 48th Street, Springdale, Arizona 72762.

Not sure if your glasses are suitable for reuse? Here’s the criteria they should meet for sun-gazing.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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Health
Here's How to Tell If You Damaged Your Eyes Watching the Eclipse
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iStock

Amid the total solar eclipse craze, experts repeatedly warned spectators not to watch the rare phenomenon on August 21 with their naked eyes. But if you caught a peek sans glasses, pinhole projector, or protective filter, you may be wondering if your peepers were damaged. (After the sky show, "my eyes hurt" spiked as a Google search, so you’re not alone.)

While the sun doesn’t technically harm your eyes any more than usual during a solar eclipse, it can be easier to gaze at the glowing orb when the moon covers it. And looking directly at the sun—even briefly—can damage a spot in the retina called the fovea, which ensures clear central vision. This leads to a condition called solar retinopathy.

You won’t initially feel any pain if your eyes were damaged, as our retinas don’t have  pain receptors. But according to Live Science, symptoms of solar retinopathy can arise within hours (typically around 12 hours after sun exposure), and can include blurred or distorted vision, light sensitivity, a blind spot in one or both eyes, or changes in the way you see color (a condition called chromatopsia).

These symptoms can improve over several months to a year, but some people may experience lingering problems, like a small blind spot in their field of vision. Others may suffer permanent damage.

That said, if you only looked at the sun for a moment, you’re probably fine. “If you look at it for a second or two, nothing will happen," Jacob Chung, chief of ophthalmology at New Jersey's Englewood Hospital, told USA TODAY. "Five seconds, I'm not sure, but 10 seconds is probably too long, and 20 seconds is definitely too long."

However, if you did gaze at the sun for too long and you believe you may have damaged your eyes, get a professional opinion, stat. “Seeing an optometrist is faster than getting to see an ophthalmologist,” Ralph Chou, a professor emeritus of optometry and vision science at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada, told NPR. “If there is damage, the optometrist would refer the individual to the ophthalmologist for further assessment and management in any case.”

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