September 28, 2016
The Amish asthma anomaly
Today's Lesson
with Homestead Productions
Healthy dust? It may be the answer to one of modern medicine’s puzzles: why the Amish have such low rates of asthma. The mystery dates to a 2012 study which found Amish children have much lower rates of asthma and allergic reactions than Swiss children—a population with extremely similar genetic roots. Now, a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine appears to reveal the answer to the riddle: house dust. This time, the researchers compared Amish subjects to Hutterites, another American farming community with a deep European lineage. Again they found the Amish had much lower rates of asthma—about ¼ that of the Hutterites. But when they analyzed dust from Amish and Hutterite homes they found the Amish dust had much higher levels of endotoxins. Endotoxins are toxins created when a bacterial cell disintegrates. When the researchers exposed lab mice to the Amish dust, the mice’s airways became much less sensitive to irritants. So, how did the Amish cultivate this amazing biological dust? The researchers think it’s from their old-school lifestyle. In Amish country, kids live closer to barns, near traditional farming equipment like horse-pulled plows. This exposes them to unusual flora- and fauna-borne bacteria—bacteria that loves hanging out in the house dust. Mild exposure to these pathogens could cause human immune systems to develop antibodies and resistance to them. In the immunology world, this is called the hygiene hypothesis, and experts warn it is vastly oversimplified. But it does appear to be helping the Amish breathe more easily. I’m a bit suspicious. I grew up around farms in Kansas, but I don’t care what kind of dust you expose me to: it is 100% guaranteed to trigger an allergy attack.
September 27, 2016
Japan’s sleeping problem
Free Daily Lesson
with Es Einsteinium
Do you like to nap at work? Then move to Japan! The practice is so common there, it has its own word: inemuri. Literally, “sleeping while present.” Workers from all occupations partake in the doze-fest. It’s not unheard of to see fully-suited businessmen and women catching shut-eye at their desks or in meetings. What, are Japanese workers not getting enough rest? The National Sleep Foundation conducted a global study in 2013 which found the Japanese sleep the least: 6 hours and 21 minutes on average per night. And while you might be forgiven for thinking that inemuri makes up for the nation’s sleep debt, it isn’t really sleeping in the common sense. One specialist in Japanese studies likens inemuri to a kind of daydreaming. The proper decorum of inemuri mandates fitting in with one’s environment—especially in body posture and dress code. If you want to get in a full-blown power nap, you’d best trek over to a “nap cafe.” Yes, they have those in Japan also.
September 26, 2016
The 100-year war you’ve never heard of
Free Daily Lesson
with William Spaniel
File this one in the “only in Europe” folder. World peace became a little closer to reality on October 28, 1983. That’s the day a village in Spain signed a formal treaty with France, ending a 100-year war. The tiny village of Lijar had been locked in a struggle with France ever since the late 19th century. Luckily it was a bloodless one. The war kicked off in October of 1883, when Lijar’s residents heard their King Alfonso XII had been stoned by French citizens as he passed through Paris. Nevermind that Lijar is located far from the French border, and boasted a population of about 100. The citizens of Lijar quickly demonstrated their loyalty to their king by declaring war on France. Then-mayor Miguel Garcia threatened that the 100 able bodied citizens of Lijar could take down 10,000 Frenchmen. Possibly because France was so intimidated, over the next 100 years France took no hostile actions against Lijar. No blood was shed between the tiny village and the nation of millions. Having made their point, Lijar mayor Diego Sanchez called the whole thing off on the centennial of the dispute—despite protests from some citizens. This isn’t the first ridiculous war to last 100 years. Japan was technically at war with the tiny eastern European nation of Montenegro until 2006, due to a technicality stemming from the Russo-Japanese war. My problem isn’t with ridiculous and pointless bloodless wars… it’s with the ridiculous and pointless bloodful ones, which seems to be pretty much all of them these days.
An amusing daily fact from Justin Kitch, Curious CEO. Learn something amazing and unique every day!
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