Bill Nye / Facebook
Bill Nye / Facebook

5 Things We Learned From Bill Nye’s AMA

Bill Nye / Facebook
Bill Nye / Facebook

Just a week before he’s set to test-launch LightSail, his Kickstarter-funded solar sailing spacecraft, Bill Nye—everyone’s favorite science educator/bow tie connoisseur—spent part of this afternoon taking part in a Reddit AMA, where he talked (scientifically) about everything from climate change to GMOs. Here are five things he told us during the online chat session.

1. THE LINK BETWEEN HUMAN BEHAVIOR AND CLIMATE CHANGE IS UNDENIABLE.

When asked for advice on how one should respond to friends and family members who deny that there’s a link between human behavior and climate change, Nye suggested: “Ask them if they would trust people who denied a connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Climate change and humans causing it is scientifically a little better established than cigarettes and cancer.”

2. REMOVING GMOS SEEMS LIKE A MARKETING PLOY.

In response to whether he thought Chipotle’s recent decision to remove all genetically modified ingredients from their food was a good idea, Nye said that it “seems like a marketing idea. Let's see if it works. If they can provide the quality that customers want at the price customers want, well, that's the free market at work. Consumers may find that they prefer vegetables that have more flavor and more nutritional value from modified crops, in which case Chipotle may have to change back or get out-competed. Also, if other companies are able to raise more food on less land, they may do an end-run around Chipotle's marketing by showing that their crops actually have a lower environmental impact. Let's all stay tuned.”

3. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS RACE.

Expounding a comment he recently made to Larry Wilmore on The Nightly Show that there is “no such thing as race,” Nye posited, “Oh wouldn't it be great, if everyone on Earth understood that we are, in fact, all one species. It feels like that would be a great step toward all of us getting along with each other. We are one species. It's provable. It's science.”

4. TESLA’S POWERWALL COULD EVENTUALLY CHANGE THE WORLD.

When asked for his opinion on Tesla’s new solar panel-powered home battery, Nye confirmed that he thinks “It's a good idea. Energy storage is the key to humankind's future. Tesla has repurposed their car batteries for home energy storage. I have four kilowatts of solar panels. With these batteries, I could keep my food cold for a few days off the grid. It's a good start on a world-changing idea.”

5. YES, YOU CAN SOLAR POWER A BOW TIE.

Is it possible to solar power a bow tie? That's what one participant wanted to know, and Nye didn’t hesitate in responding. “Yes, I do it all the time, he said. We don't see things; we see light bouncing off of things. So whenever a bow tie is out in sunlight, its image is powered by the Sun. If you want to put small solar panels on a bowtie and spin a propeller on your head, well, knock yourself out.”

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Feeling Down? Lifting Weights Can Lift Your Mood, Too
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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.

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Uncombable Hair Syndrome Is a Real—and Very Rare—Genetic Condition
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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.

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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]

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