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Three-Day Work Week May Be Ideal For Those Over 40, Study Finds

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It can be hard to strike a balance between feeling overworked and underutilized, especially for middle-aged and older adults. While holding a job can help keep the brains of adults stimulated, working too much can cause fatigue and mental exhaustion. So, what’s the perfect amount of work for people over 40? According to a recent study published in the Melbourne Institute’s Working Paper Series [PDF], a three-day work week may be ideal for remaining productive without burning out.

The Telegraph reports that researchers from Japan and Australia analyzed the impact of working hours on the cognitive abilities of 3000 men and 3500 women over 40 in Australia. Volunteers from a range of professions were asked to perform a series of cognitive tasks, including reading words aloud, reciting sequences of numbers, and connecting letters and numbers in specific patterns. Researchers found that working approximately 25 hours a week had a positive impact on cognitive functioning, while not working at all, or working more than 25 hours a week, had a negative impact. No statistically significant differences were found between the effects of working hours on men and women.

Their findings imply that, in order for employees over 40 to function at the highest possible capacity, a three-day (or 25 hour) work week may be best. However, researchers note that full time work—approximately 40 hours—seems to be less damaging than not working at all. Working more than 55 hours a week, meanwhile, may be the most damaging, taking a greater toll on cognitive functioning than total unemployment.

Researchers note that, in many countries, the age of retirement has started to increase in recent years. Understanding the healthiest employment habits for middle-aged and older adults could help them continue to work into their later years without too much strain. “In middle and older age, working part-time could be effective in maintaining cognitive ability,” the study explains. “Work can be a double-edge sword, in that it can stimulate brain activity, but at the same time long working hours can cause fatigue and stress, which potentially damage cognitive functions.”

[h/t The Telegraph]

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science
The Prehistoric Bacteria That Helped Create Our Cells Billions of Years Ago
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We owe the existence of our cells—the very building blocks of life—to a chance relationship between bacteria that occurred more than 2 billion years ago. Flash back to Bio 101, and you might remember that humans, plants, and animals have complex eukaryotic cells, with nucleus-bound DNA, instead of single-celled prokaryotic cells. These contain specialized organelles such as the mitochondria—the cell’s powerhouse—and the chloroplast, which converts sunlight into sugar in plants.

Mitochondria and chloroplasts both look and behave a lot like bacteria, and they also share similar genes. This isn’t a coincidence: Scientists believe these specialized cell subunits are descendants of free-living prehistoric bacteria that somehow merged together to form one. Over time, they became part of our basic biological units—and you can learn how by watching PBS Eons’s latest video below.

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Stones, Bones, and Wrecks
Buckingham Palace Was Built With Jurassic Fossils, Scientists Find
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The UK's Buckingham Palace is a vestige from another era, and not just because it was built in the early 18th century. According to a new study, the limestone used to construct it is filled with the fossilized remains of microbes from the Jurassic period of 200 million years ago, as The Telegraph reports.

The palace is made of oolitic limestone, which consists of individual balls of carbonate sediment called ooids. The material is strong but lightweight, and is found worldwide. Jurassic oolite has been used to construct numerous famous buildings, from those in the British city of Bath to the Empire State Building and the Pentagon.

A new study from Australian National University published in Scientific Reports found that the spherical ooids in Buckingham Palace's walls are made up of layers and layers of mineralized microbes. Inspired by a mathematical model from the 1970s for predicting the growth of brain tumors, the researchers created a model that explains how ooids are created and predicts the factors that limit their ultimate size.

A hand holding a chunk of oolite limestone
Australian National University

They found that the mineralization of the microbes forms the central core of the ooid, and the layers of sediment that gather around that core feed those microbes until the nutrients can no longer reach the core from the outermost layer.

This contrasts with previous research on how ooids form, which hypothesized that they are the result of sediment gathered from rolling on the ocean floor. It also reshapes how we think about the buildings made out of oolitic limestone from this period. Next time you look up at the Empire State Building or Buckingham Palace, thank the ancient microbes.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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