Thinkstock
Thinkstock

How to Navigate by the Stars

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

Explorers have used the stars as a compass for millennia, and if you’re out having adventures at night, you should add the skill to your arsenal. (If nothing else, it’s a killer party trick.) Here’s how to transform the night sky into your personal roadmap.

1) Learn the Big Three

According to the Royal Naval Academy, 58 stars are handy for navigation. You need to know 38 different constellations to find all of them. If that seems daunting, there’s a cheat code. Just learn to spot three constellations: Cassiopeia, Crux, and Orion. Also keep your eye on the Big and Little Dipper.

2) Find the North Star

It’s always within one degree of true north. So use the Big Dipper and Cassiopeia are your guides. Look at the Dipper’s ladle and pretend you’re pouring soup from it. The flow of that space soup will point straight to the North Star. If you hit a constellation that looks like a wonky ‘W,’ you’ve gone too far. That’s Cassiopeia. Recalculate your cosmic GPS and back up. The North Star is smack between Cassiopeia and the Big Dipper.

3) Shoot for the Moon

If you can find Orion’s sword, following its point will show you south. Alternatively, if there’s a crescent moon, draw an imaginary line from between its tips and follow it to the horizon. That’ll point your toward the penguins.

4) Down Under? No Problem!

The North Star isn’t visible below the equator. Instead, look for the constellation Crux—it resembles a kite. If you draw a line from the top of the kite to the bottom, it’ll point you south.

5) Move Like a Star

Like the sun, stars skate east to west. Tracking how they travel across the sky should tell you which way you’re facing. For something more precise, look to Orion’s belt. The star on the belt’s right side—Mintaka—rises close to true east and sets at true west.

6) Take a Survey

Forgot to memorize your constellations? There’s an easy fix. Simply place two sticks in the ground and set them one yard apart. Now pick a star—any star. Line it up with the tops of both sticks, as if you were looking down a rifle sight. The earth’s rotation will make the star “move.” If it runs left, you’re facing north. If it shifts right, you’re south. If it rises, you’re east. If it sinks, west.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Health
Feeling Down? Lifting Weights Can Lift Your Mood, Too
iStock
iStock

There’s plenty of research that suggests that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. In some cases of depression, in fact—particularly less-severe ones—scientists have found that exercise can be as effective as antidepressants, which don’t work for everyone and can come with some annoying side effects. Previous studies have largely concentrated on aerobic exercise, like running, but new research shows that weight lifting can be a useful depression treatment, too.

The study in JAMA Psychiatry, led by sports scientists at the University of Limerick in Ireland, examined the results of 33 previous clinical trials that analyzed a total of 1877 participants. It found that resistance training—lifting weights, using resistance bands, doing push ups, and any other exercises targeted at strengthening muscles rather than increasing heart rate—significantly reduced symptoms of depression.

This held true regardless of how healthy people were overall, how much of the exercises they were assigned to do, or how much stronger they got as a result. While the effect wasn’t as strong in blinded trials—where the assessors don’t know who is in the control group and who isn’t, as is the case in higher-quality studies—it was still notable. According to first author Brett Gordon, these trials showed a medium effect, while others showed a large effect, but both were statistically significant.

The studies in the paper all looked at the effects of these training regimes on people with mild to moderate depression, and the results might not translate to people with severe depression. Unfortunately, many of the studies analyzed didn’t include information on whether or not the patients were taking antidepressants, so the researchers weren’t able to determine what role medications might play in this. However, Gordon tells Mental Floss in an email that “the available evidence supports that [resistance training] may be an effective alternative and/or adjuvant therapy for depressive symptoms that could be prescribed on its own and/or in conjunction with other depression treatments,” like therapy or medication.

There haven’t been a lot of studies yet comparing whether aerobic exercise or resistance training might be better at alleviating depressive symptoms, and future research might tackle that question. Even if one does turn out to be better than the other, though, it seems that just getting to the gym can make a big difference.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Keystone/Getty Images
arrow
science
Uncombable Hair Syndrome Is a Real—and Very Rare—Genetic Condition
Keystone/Getty Images
Keystone/Getty Images

Everyone has bad hair days from time to time, but for roughly 100 people around the world, unmanageable hair is an actual medical condition.

Uncombable hair syndrome, also known as spun glass hair syndrome, is a rare condition caused by a genetic mutation that affects the formation and shape of hair shafts, BuzzFeed reports. People with the condition tend to have dry, unruly hair that can't be combed flat. It grows slower than normal and is typically silver, blond, or straw-colored. For some people, the symptoms disappear with age.

A diagram of a hair follicle
iStock

Although there have been only about 100 documented cases worldwide, one of the world's leading researchers on the condition, Regina Betz, of Germany's University of Bonn, believes there could be thousands of others who have it but have not been diagnosed. Some have speculated that Einstein had the condition, but without a genetic test, it's impossible to know for sure.

An 18-month-old American girl named Taylor McGowan is one of the few people with this syndrome. Her parents sent blood samples to Betz to see if they were carriers of the gene mutation, and the results came back positive for variations of PADI3, one of three genes responsible for the syndrome. According to IFL Science, the condition is recessive, meaning that it "only presents when individuals receive mutant gene copies from both parents." Hence it's so uncommon.

Taylor's parents have embraced their daughter's unique 'do, creating a Facebook page called Baby Einstein 2.0 to share Taylor's story and educate others about the condition.

"It's what makes her look ever so special, just like Albert Einstein," Taylor's mom, Cara, says in a video uploaded to YouTube by SWNS TV. "We wanted to share her story with the world in hopes of spreading awareness."

[h/t BuzzFeed]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios