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How Long Will You Live?

Dan Buettner, a writer, explorer, and endurance bicycler, gave a TED Talk in September 2009 entitled: How to live to be 100+. In the talk, he cites the Danish Twin Study, suggesting that much of our lifespan (within certain biological limits) is dictated by our lifestyle, not our genes. So what is the optimal lifestyle? Which diet is best? What sort of exercise is best? How do spirituality and social life affect lifespan? Buettner decided to initiate his own study, in which he studied the world's "Blue Zones"—regions of the world where people live to very old age, and remain relatively healthy. The cool part here is that Buettner, at least as far as I can tell, is not a crackpot. He isn't promising to stop aging via pills or any other magical cure. What he's looking at is how to live just a bit longer -- specifically, about 12 years in the US.

So can you live to 100 and beyond? The short answer is: probably not. An individual must have the right genetics AND the right lifestyle to achieve this. But given that we can't currently change our genes, what lifestyle would give us the longest, healthiest lives? That's what Buettner's talk is about.

Discussed: procreative success, myths about aging (including "treatments that stop aging"), how cell replication interacts with aging, typical capacity of the human body (90+ years), life expectancy in the US (~78 years), the Blue Zone in Sardinia (with 10x more centenarians than in the US), the Blue Zone in Okinawa (with the longest disability-free lifespan in the world) and calorie restriction, the Blue Zone in Loma Linda California (Seventh-Day Adventists), a 97-year-old open-heart surgeon, the nine "common denominators" among all the Blue Zones.

If you can make time for this twenty-minute talk, I think you'll be surprised by the last five minutes, in which Buettner shares the nine specific diet and lifestyle factors revealed by the Blue Zones.

What Do You Think?

Do you have relatives who have lived to be 90, 100, or longer? Were those "good years" or years of suffering? What are you doing in your life to extend your lifespan -- if anything?

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Land Cover CCI, ESA
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Afternoon Map
European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
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Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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iStock
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Scientists May Have Found the Real Cause of Dyslexia—And a Way to Treat It
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iStock

Dyslexia is often described as trying to read letters as they jump around the page. Because of its connections to reading difficulties and trouble in school, the condition is often blamed on the brain. But according to a new study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the so-called learning disability may actually start in the eyes.

As The Guardian reports, a team of French scientists say they've discovered a key physiological difference between the eyes of those with dyslexia and those without it. Our eyes have tiny light-receptor cells called rods and cones. The center of a region called the fovea is dominated by cones, which are also responsible for color perception.

Just as most of us have a dominant hand, most have a dominant eye too, which has more neural connections to the brain. The study of 60 people, divided evenly between those with dyslexia and those without, found that in the eyes of non-dyslexic people, the arrangement of the cones is asymmetrical: The dominant eye has a round, cone-free hole, while the other eye has an unevenly shaped hole. However, in people with dyslexia, both eyes have the same round hole. So when they're looking at something in front of them, such as a page in a book, their eyes perceive exact mirror images, which end up fighting for visual domination in the brain. This could explain why it's sometimes impossible for a dyslexic person to distinguish a "b" from a "d" or an "E" from a "3".

These results challenge previous research that connects dyslexia to cognitive abilities. In a study published earlier this year, people with the condition were found to have a harder time remembering musical notes, faces, and spoken words. In light of the new findings, it's unclear whether this is at the root of dyslexia or if growing up with vision-related reading difficulties affects brain plasticity.

If dyslexia does come down to some misarranged light-receptors in the eye, diagnosing the disorder could be as simple as giving an eye exam. The explanation could also make it easy to treat without invasive surgery. In the study, the authors describe using an LED lamp that blinks faster than the human eye can perceive to "cancel out" one of the mirror images perceived by dyslexic readers, leaving only one true image. The volunteers who read with it called it a "magic lamp." The researchers hope to further experiment with it to see see if it's a viable treatment option for the millions of people living with dyslexia.

[h/t The Guardian]

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