Where to go surfing next year in Palm Springs (Yes, Palm Springs!)

December 8, 2021

Seeking waves in the parched California desert sounds like the delusion of a stereotypically stoned and sun-tanned surfer—but it’s about to become a reality, thanks to three high-tech wave pools coming to the Coachella Valley in Riverside County, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

This should come as no to shock to Chris Hemsworth, Shaun White, Diplo, and Oscar-winning Free Solo director Jimmy Chin, who count themselves among the lucky few who already have had the privilege of surfing 100 miles inland, at professional surfer Kelly Slater’s invite-only Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California (not far from Fresno). 

Surf Ranch is the prototype for Slater’s newest project: a wave pool at Coral Mountain—a community planned for La Quinta, California, that will include a 150-room hotel, a wellness spa, and single-family homes starting in the high $2 millions.

“Coral Mountain is meant to be a well-rounded sports and wellness community for the entire family,” says Michael B. Schwab, founder of Big Sky Wave Developments, which, with real estate developer Meriwether Companies, is behind the 400-acre project.

Schwab envisions that “A surf destination will complete the surrounding golf, tennis, event venues, and hiking and biking trails already existing in the area.”

Research contact: @HollywoodR247

Hard luck: Taking Viagra cuts the risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 69%

December 7, 2021

Now we really know it’s a man’s world: A research study conducted by the Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute has found that the a drug used to counteract erectile dysfunction, Viagra, may help to boost brain health and cut levels of toxic proteins that trigger dementia, according to a report by The Sun.

Experts analyzed data on 7.2 million U.S. adults and found regular users had a 69% lower chance of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease over the next six years.

Medics say the findings, published in the journal, Nature Aging, suggest that “the little blue pill” soon could be prescribed to tackle dementia.

The authors are now planning a fresh study to test the benefits of sildenafil—the generic version of Viagra—in early Alzheimer’s patients.

A team from Cleveland Clinic looked at whether any of 1,600 approved drugs could be repurposed to tackle the underlying causes of the disease.

Lead researcher Dr Feixiong Cheng, from Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute, said: “Sildenafil, which has been shown to significantly improve cognition and memory in preclinical models, presented as the best drug candidate.

Two in three cases of dementia are due to Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Jack Auty, lecturer in the Medical Sciences at the University of Tasmania, said: “This is exciting stuff,” adding, ““But we need further research. In the field of Alzheimer’s disease research, we have been excited by many drugs over the years, only to have our hopes dashed in clinical trials.”

However, Dr. Susan Kohlhaas, director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, was more cautious about the findings.

She said: “While sildenafil is most well-known as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, it’s also used to treat high blood pressure in the lungs. In this study, researchers also found that its use is linked with fewer cases of Alzheimer’s disease in American adults. The researchers conducted lab-based experiments to give an indication as to why the drug may have impact diseases like Alzheimer’s, but these early-stage experiments would need follow-up in more thorough tests.”

Meanwhile, health officials in the United States recently approved the first new drug for Alzheimer’s disease in nearly 20 years. Despite controversy over the trial results, the Food and Drug Administration said it granted approval to the drug developed by Biogen.

Research contact: @TheSun

Italian man tries to dodge COVID vaccine by wearing fake arm

December 6, 2021

An Italian man is facing charges of fraud after turning up for his COVID-19 vaccination wearing a fake arm, reports The Guardian.

The anti-vaxxer was so determined to dodge the jab—but still obtain a health pass—that he may have paid hundreds of euros for the silicone prosthetic.

The bizarre episode at a vaccine hub in Biella, a town close to Turin in the northern Piedmont region, came a week after Italy announced measures barring unvaccinated people from a host of social, cultural, and sporting activities.

After completing the bureaucratic formalities—including signing a consent form in front of a doctor—the man, aged 50, sat down and lifted up the sleeve of his shirt as he prepared for a health worker to administer the jab.

Initially, the health worker did not notice anything odd, as the silicone looked similar to skin. But after taking a closer look and touching the arm, the medic asked the man to take off his shirt. His plan foiled, the man, who has not been named, then tried to persuade the health worker to turn a blind eye.

“I felt offended as a professional,” Filippa Bua told Italian daily newspaper La Republica. “The color of the arm made me suspicious and so I asked the man to uncover the rest of his left arm. It was well made but it wasn’t the same color.”

The man said to her: “Would you have imagined that I’d have such a physique?”

She told another Italian daily, La Stampa, that she could not see the man’s veins: “At first I thought I made a mistake, that it was a patient with an artificial arm.”

It is not clear whether he was wearing a whole fake arm or some kind of silicone layer over his skin.

“The promptness and skill of the health worker ruined the plans of this person, who will now have to respond to the judiciary,” Alberto Cirio, the president of Piedmont, said in a joint statement with Luigi Icardi, the regional health councilor.

La Repubblica suggested that the incident might not have been a one-off—citing a recent message on social media that might have been written by the man in Biella.

The Twitter post featured a silicone male chest half-body suit, complete with fake arms and neck, that was on sale on Amazon for €488 (US$552). Alongside the image was the message: “If I go with this, will they notice? Maybe beneath the silicone I’ll even put on some extra clothes to avoid the needle reaching my real arm.”

Cirio and Icardi said the case would “border on the ridiculous” were it not “for the fact that we are talking about a gesture of enormous gravity”.

“It is unacceptable in the face of the sacrifice that the pandemic is making the whole community pay for,” they added.

Research contact: @guardian

Brotherly love? Big sisters are best if you are an elephant

December 1, 2021

It’s always great to have an older sibling looking out for you. And researchers have found that’s particularly true for elephants, reports Treehugger.

A study of elephants in Myanmar in Southeast Asia has found that having older siblings increases calves’ long-term survival. And the young animals seemed to benefit more from having older sisters than older brothers. The results were published in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

“Sibling relationships in animals have traditionally been investigated in the context of negative effects looking at competition effects—for instance in wolves, or in humans,” study co-first author Sophie Reichert of the University of Turku in Finland recently told Treehugger.

“However,” she says, “sibling interaction can also result in beneficial effects, through cooperation effects (to share food or provide protection). For instance, in highly social and cooperative breeders, such cooperative behaviors from helpers—which are often offspring born in previous years—have positive effects on juveniles growth, reproduction, and survival.”

The researchers were fascinated by the relationships between, and the impact of older and younger siblings for several reasons.

“We were particularly interested to study these siblings’ effects in Asian elephants, because associations between siblings may be particularly complex in social species with high cognitive capabilities, but have been little-studied to-date,” Reichert says.

“During one field trip to Myanmar, we noticed how youngs were interacting, which gave us the idea to use our long-term demographic database to investigate sibling costs and benefits on the life trajectories of younger offspring.”

However, it is difficult for researchers to study the long-term effects of having siblings in animals that live long lives. There are challenges to conducting field studies that follow animals for their entire lives.

Researchers overcame that obstacle in this study by following a semi-captive group of Asian elephants in Myanmar. The animals are owned by the government and have thorough history records.

The elephants are used during the daytime for riding, transportation, and as draft animals. At night, they roam in the forest and can interact with wild and tame elephants. Calves are raised by their mothers until they are about fivw years old, when they are trained to work. A government agency regulates the daily and annual workload of elephants.1

Because the elephants spend so much time in their natural habitats with natural foraging and mating behaviors, there are many similarities to wild elephants, the researchers say.

For the study, researchers analyzed data on 2,344 calves born between 1945 and 2018. They looked for the presence of older siblings and studied the effect on the animals’ body mass, reproduction, sex, and the survival of the next calf.

They found that, for female elephants, those raised with older sisters had better long-term survival rates and reproduced about two years earlier on average, compared to elephants with older brothers. Generally, elephants that reproduce earlier have more offspring during their lifetimes.

They found that male elephants that were raised with older sisters had lower survival rates but higher body weight, compared to elephants that had older brothers. The positive increase early on in body weight could end up costing the elephants in survival later on in life.1

“Older siblings are pivotal for the lives of the subsequent calves. Their effects depend on their sex, their presence during weaning and the sex of the subsequent calf,” study co-first author Vérane Berger of the University of Turku tells Treehugger. “We showed that elder sisters improved females’ survival and are associated with earlier age at first reproduction. Moreover, the presence of elder sisters increased males’ body mass.”

The researchers expected some of the outcomes but were surprised by others.

“As expected, we showed that elder sisters have a beneficial effect on the subsequent calf and especially in females,” Berger says. “While, we expected a negative effect of elder brothers, we actually did not detect it.”

The findings are key because it shows that it’s important to include the effects of having siblings when analyzing survival, body, condition, or reproduction, the researchers point out.4

Berger adds, “Our results also show in elephants that family members should be kept together which could be interesting in the field of zoo conservation.”

Research contact: @Treehugger

YouTuber MrBeast recreates ‘Squid Game’ with $456,000 top prize

November 30, 2021

Hundreds of cash-strapped “Squid Game” fans recently competed in a real-life recreation of the dystopian smash-hit Netflix series for a $456,000 cash prize, reports the New York Post.

Popular YouTuber MrBeast, who boasts 81.5 million subscribers, said he spent US$3.5 million on the elaborate reenactment, in which 456 contestants battled for the jackpot.

The social media star, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, said on Twitter that it cost him around $2 million to build and produce, while he spent around $1.5 million on prizes.

In addition to the six-figure first prize, Donaldson doled out $2,000 to every competitor and $10,000 to the runner-up.

The recreation included the same Korean children’s games played in “Squid Game,” such as Red Light, Green Light; marbles and tug-of-war —played within huge sets that took weeks to construct.

However, there was one major difference from the real-life show: No contestants were harmed.

Instead, players were rigged with “wireless explosives” packed with fake blood that burst open when a player was eliminated. In the tug-of-war and glass bridge challenges, losing contestants fell into a foam pit rather than plummeting to their deaths.

Yet, true to form, the real-life “Squid Game” contestants were seen in footage of the game trembling as they tried to carve shapes out of honeycomb in the “dalgona challenge.”

According to the Post, the “Squid Game” reenactment isn’t the first time Donaldson has pulled off an extravagant stunt like this for his YouTube channel. Donaldson is famed for offering outlandish prizes to his online followers willing to compete in absurd challenges, such as when contestants stood in a circle for 12 days for $500,000 cash.

The social media sensation was the second-highest paid YouTube star in 2020—earning about $24 million and garnering some 3 billion views, according to Forbes.

But his latest video has attracted harsh criticism from viewers who slammed Donaldson for reenacting a game about rich people exploiting the poor for their macabre viewing pleasure.

Finally, in the latest, stunning development kickstarted by the original Netflix series, the stunt video was released just a day after a smuggler who sold copies of “Squid Game” in North Korea was sentenced to death by firing squad.

Research contact: @nypost

How long are Thanksgiving leftovers safe to eat?

November 29, 2021

If your turkey lurks for just a little too long in your refrigerator, is it still okay to eat it? And what about stuffing, cranberry sauce, pie, and all your other holiday favorites?

All cooked leftovers should be refrigerated or frozen within two hours after preparation, according to the Food and Drug Administration. And as a general rule of thumb, leftovers should be eaten or thrown out four days after refrigeration. If you freeze your food, it can last from two to six months, reports HuffPost.

In addition to taking food safety into account, these recommendations also consider the quality of your food. In other words, leftover turkey tastes pretty rank after a week, even if it doesn’t give you food poisoning.

If you’re craving more specifics besides “no longer than four days,” here’s what the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service suggests:

  • Discard any turkey, stuffing, or gravy that’s been left out at room temperature for longer than two hours, or one hour in temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Divide leftovers into smaller portions. Refrigerate or freeze in covered shallow containers for quicker cooling.
  • Use refrigerated turkey, stuffing, and gravy within three to four days.
  • If freezing leftovers, use within two to six months for best quality. Turkey, specifically, will last for four months in the freezer.

As for desserts, in general, fruit, pumpkin, pecan, custard, and chiffon pies can be safely stored in the refrigerator for three to four days, according to FDA guidelines. But many pies ― especially fruit ― are best eaten within just a couple of days.

Essentially, you have until the Monday after Thanksgiving to enjoy your delicious leftovers from the fridge. After that, chuck ’em.

Research contact: @HuffPost

Study: Climate crisis pushes albatross ‘divorce’ rates higher

November 25, 2021

Albatrosses, some of the world’s most loyally monogamous creatures, are “divorcing” more often—and researchers say global warming may be to blame, The Guardian reports.

In a new Royal Society study of the large oceanic birds found mainly in the North Pacific, researchers say climate change and warming waters are pushing black-browed albatross break-up rates higher. Typically, after choosing a partner, only between 1% and 3% would separate in search of greener romantic pastures.

But in the years with unusually warm water temperatures, that average consistently rose, with up to 8% of couples splitting up. The study looked at a wild population of 15,500 breeding pairs in the Falkland Islands over 15 years.

For seabirds, warmer waters mean fewer fish, less food, and a harsher environment. Fewer chicks survive. The birds’ stress hormones increase. They are forced farther afield to hunt.

As some of the most loyal partners of the animal kingdom, the love lives of albatrosses have long been a subject of scientific study. “There are all these things we think of as being super-duper human,” says Dr. Graeme Elliot, principal science adviser at New Zealand’s Department of Conservation, who has been studying albatrosses in the country’s waters for three decades.

The birds lend themselves to anthropomorphism: Living for 50-60 years, they have a long, awkward teen phase, as they learn how to seduce a mate through dance; and take years-long trips away from home as they mature. They usually to mate for life, and loudly celebrate when greeting a partner after a long absence.

But now, they increasingly share another rite of passage that may sound familiar to young humans: Under stress from the climate crisis, working longer hours to eat, and faced with the logistical difficulties of a traveling partner, some are struggling to maintain relationships.

Francesco Ventura, researcher at University of Lisbon and co-author of the Royal Society study, said the researchers were surprised to learn that warmer waters were associated with unusually high rates of albatross couples splitting up, even when the lack of fish were accounted for.

Albatross divorce was usually predicted by a reproductive failure, Ventura said. If a pair failed to produce a chick, they had a higher chance of splitting up. Less food for birds could lead to more failures. But the researchers were surprised to find that even when they accounted for that, higher water temperatures were having an extra effect—pushing up divorce rates even when reproduction was successful.

Ventura floated two possible reasons—one that warming waters were forcing the birds to hunt for longer and fly further. If birds then failed return for a breeding season, their partners may move on with someone new. Added to that, when waters are warmer and in harsher environments, albatross stress hormones go up. Ventura said the birds may feel that and blame their partners.

​ “We propose this partner-blaming hypothesis—under which a stressed female might feel this physiological stress and attribute these higher stress levels to a poor performance of the male,” he says.

What’s more, dropping population numbers have changed the birds’ mating patterns in other ways, Elliot said, with more homosexual couplings appearing. “We’re getting male-male pairs amongst the birds on Antipodes Island, which we haven’t had before,” he said. “A few percent of the boys are pairing up with another boy because they can’t find a female partner.”

Now, Elliot hopes that some of the sympathies people have for albatrosses could motivate changes in behavior, to address the environmental threats the birds are facing—particularly climate change, and tuna fishing. “We kind of need an international campaign to save these birds,” Elliot says. “If we don’t turn it around, they’ll go extinct.”

Research contact: @guardian

Army cadets try to get Navy’s goat, again

November 24, 2021

Rivalries among the nation’s military academies have resulted in a long history of mascot-stealing “spirit missions” before football games, despite official condemnations, The New York Times reports.

Under the cover of darkness last weekend, Army cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point crept into a secret compound, on a mission so dear to the cadet corps that it has survived generations of evolving warfare and official rebuke: stealing Bill the goat.

The goat is the mascot of the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA), the 37th in the line of rams of various breeds to hold that distinction. All 37 have been named Bill, and, over the course of the last 70 years, Army cadets have stolen Bill at least ten times, beginning in 1953 with a plan that involved a convertible and some chloroform.\

Navy midshipmen once nabbed the Army’s mule mascots as well. And Air Force Academy cadets have gotten a few heists in.

The pranks, euphemistically called spirit missions, are generally timed to precede the annual Army-Navy football game, where both sides’ mascots are expected to appear.

Officially, mascot stealing is forbidden by a high-level formal agreement signed in 1992, after Navy midshipmen cut phone lines and zip-tied six Army employees while stealing West Point’s mules. But the pranks are so deeply ingrained in the lore of interservice rivalry that leaders of the schools have never been able to stamp them out. And privately, the military leaders that forbid the missions at times have also chuckled with glee.

Sometimes the thefts are elaborate and dazzlingly executed—complete with commando teams with blackened faces and decoys sent to distract guards. One heist was so stealthy that it went unsolved until cadets ran an ad in The New York Times that read, “Hey Navy, do you know where your ‘kid’ is today? The Corps does.”

Others were little more than ham-handed brawls, including a melee in a stadium parking lot in 2015 that landed Bill No. 35 in a veterinary clinic for a week.

Last weekend’s effort was more of a Bay of Pigs-style embarrassment. West Point raiders reconnoitered a private farm near Annapolis, Maryland, and tried to sneak up to the paddock where the current goat mascot, a young angora ram with curly white wool, was pastured with others, including at least one retired Bill.

The noisy assault team spooked the goats into a run, though, and when the fumbling cadets gave chase, they managed to grab only one goa —and not the right one. After a four-hour drive back to West Point, they unveiled not Bill No. 37, but Bill No. 34—an arthritic, 14-year-old retiree with only one horn, according to a joint statement released by the Army and Navy in response to questions from The New York Times.

The usual post-raid gloating has been decidedly muted.

Research contact: @nytimes

Have you heard? Midas, the ‘four-eared’ rescue kitten, has a safe-and-sound home

November 23, 2021

A sweet gray kitten’s unique appearance has earmarked her for Internet fame, reports HuffPost.

Midas, now four months old, has two normal ear canals, but each one has two earflaps, giving her a decidedly “four-eared” appearance. She was born in a backyard in Ankara, Turkey, and ultimately adopted by a family who wanted to make sure Midas found a loving home—fearing others might be put off by her slightly kooky look, owner Canis Dosemeci recently told Reuters.

“We have never thought of buying a cat, we just wanted to rescue a cat from the street, and we wanted to adopt her,” Dosemeci said.

She and her family chose the name Midas in reference to the king from Greek mythology who was said to be able to turn everything he touched to gold. As the myth goes, Midas ended up offending the god Apollo, who punished the king by giving him donkey ears.

While the donkey ears were a huge source of shame to the mythical king, they seem to be a plus for the real cat. Though some people find her look “scary,” Dosemeci said, most are taken with how cute she is. The cat now has more than 82,000 followers on her Instagram account, where some of Dosemeci’s other pets also make the occasional cameo.

Another piece of good news: The extra earflaps don’t cause her any negative health effects, Dosemeci’s veterinarian told Reuters. The news outlet also noted that Midas has a defective jaw―both conditions are believed to be caused by a genetic mutation―but it’s unclear if that causes any problems for her.

That said, Midas is clearly enjoying life, unaware of her fame in the wide world.

“She is a very playful cat. But very friendly as well,” Dosemeci told the Daily Mail, adding that Midas loves to sleep on her chest or shoulder, and is great buds with the family dogs.

Research contact: @HuffPost