Scientists just discovered there are ‘bees’ in the oceans.


For the first time, researchers have found evidence that underwater ecosystems have pollinators that perform the same task as bees on land.

Just like their terrestrial cousins, grasses under the sea shed pollen to sexually reproduce. Until now, biologists assumed the marine plants relied on water alone to spread their genes far and wide. But the discovery of pollen-carrying ‘bees of the sea’ has changed all of that.

Over several years from 2009 to 2012, researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico filmed the spring nocturnal wanderings of crustaceans among beds of turtle seagrass, Thalassia testudinum.

Looking through the videos, they spotted more invertebrates visiting male pollen-bearing flowers than those that lacked pollen – just like bees hovering around pollen-producing plants on land.

“We saw all of these animals coming in, and then we saw some of them carrying pollen,” lead researcher Brigitta van Tussenbroek told New Scientist

 Watch the video. URL:https://youtu.be/B7VLBhQ-rQo

The concept was so new, they invented a new term to describe it: zoobenthophilous pollination. Before that, researchers had never predicted that animals were involved in pollinating marine plants.

Wondering if the invertebrates were actually pollinating the seagrasses, or just feeding on it, van Tussenbroek and her team added an assortment of tiny crustaceans to an aquarium of turtle-grass.

In minutes, pollen had appeared on the female flowers, compared with no transfer in the control tank that didn’t have crustaceans in it. The take home message was clear: tiny crustaceans were carrying pollen from flower to flower, helping to fertilise them. In the wild, they think this happens in addition to pollination via water currents.

So what’s going on here? It’s likely that the animals are attracted to the sticky pollen made by the male flowers of seagrass, rather than having any charitable incentive. Gorging on their meal, pollen clings to the crustaceans’ bodies, where it is transferred to other flowers as they continue to feed, just like bees.

So far, the researchers have only shown this relationship with turtle-grass, which have large flowers. It’s yet to be seen if the other 60-odd species of seagrass also rely on ‘sea bees’ to carry their pollen.

Kelly Darnell from the non-profit research group The Water Institute of the Gulftold New Scientist:

“That pollination by animals can occur adds an entirely new level of complexity to the system, and describes a very interesting plant-animal interaction that hasn’t really fully been described before.”

It’s no secret that coastal meadows of seagrass are immensely important ecosystems. Not only do they support diverse communities of animal, from tiny crustaceans to large marine mammals like the dour-faced dugong, but their roots also hold onto sediment and prevent erosion.

Given it takes two hectares of tropical forest to match the carbon contained within a single hectare of seagrass, ecologists are now recognising the significance of their ‘blue carbon’ reserves.

Unfortunately, hidden beneath the waves, our blue ecosystems are often overlooked. Knowing how communities of plants and animal interact in our coastal environments will be important if we’re to have a good shot at protecting them.

NHS England sending anorexic patients to Scotland for treatment.


Mental health experts voice concern over growing trend and say it could increase vulnerable patients’ chances of dying

NHS hospital
The NHS in England has far too few beds to cope with rising numbers of eating disorders, doctors say.

The NHS in England is sending patients who are seriously ill with eating disorders to Scotland for treatment because chronic bed shortages mean they cannot be cared for in England.

Vulnerable patients, mainly teenagers and young adults, are being taken hundreds of miles from their homes in order to receive residential care in Glasgow and near Edinburgh.

Mental health experts voiced deep concern about the trend and said it could damage patients’ chances of recovery, increase their sense of isolation through the separation from their families and even increase their risk of dying.

“I’ve seen a rise in calls from people saying their children have been sent far away, miles away, to be looked after because there are either no services nearby or they are full”, said Jane Smith, chief executive of Anorexia and Bulimia Care. “This is a life-threatening situation for young people. People are in inpatient care because they are at risk of dying. They are in a very fragile, risky state.”

Rebecca Doidge, 20, from St Albans in Hertfordshire, spent six months in the Priory private hospital in Glasgow earlier this year because she was desperate for treatment and could not find anywhere else. The distance had negative side-effects, she said.

Despite being well looked after there, “being sent so far away does compromise care”, she said. “The outcomes are going to be better if you can stay near home. It’s really hard to integrate back home or go to another environment when discharged if you are in a different country. It makes communication between those treating you in hospital and those at home difficult.”

During her stay in the Priory, which has 25-30 beds, “about seven of the people there were from Hertfordshire,” she said. “The number of English people there massively outnumbered Scots.”

Anup Vyas’s stepdaughter has been receiving treatment for a rare eating disorder in Huntercombe private hospital in Livingston, near Edinburgh, since February. After previous stints in units in Watford, London and Colchester in Essex, the 17-year-old’s condition is so serious that “now she is basically being kept alive in Scotland”, said Vyas.

“NHS England acknowledge that her being so far away is not ideal. Her brothers haven’t visited her since June and no friends have gone up. Most people in the unit are from England, especially the north of England – places like York and Manchester.” The family’s home is in Hemel Hempstead, 350 miles from Livingston.

“It is clearly unacceptable for people to be sent hundreds of miles away for care at a time when they need the support of friends and family the most”, he said. “That’s why in April we committed to a national ambition to eliminate inappropriate out-of-area placements by 2020-21.” Ministers had also earmarked £150m for enhanced services in community settings to help ensure that mental health problems in young people were tackled before their health wosens, he said.

NHS England, despite its professed commitment to openness, refused to say how many patients from England were receiving treatment for eating disorders in Scotland. Expanding the supply of specialist beds to treat people with those conditions would take time, it said.

“It’s extremely distressing for parents to have a child who is so unwell that they require inpatient care, and it’s even worse when they can’t easily visit their child because of long travel distances”, said Sarah Brennan, chief executive of Young Minds. “For many young people the distance from family and friends is one of their biggest fears when they are hospitalised. Being separated from loved ones doesn’t help with recovery and makes the stress of hospitalisation worse.”

 Dr Jon Goldin, a consultant psychiatrist in London specialising in children and adolescents, said he had heard of patients being moved long distances. “But it shouldn’t be happening,” he said. “It’s a concern. Patients should be treated nearby and should be in contact with family. They need support and it’s much harder to get that when families have to travel long distances.

“Part of their recovery may involve therapy with their family, especially for children aged 14 and under.”, said Goldin, who is also a spokesman for the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

More young people were developing eating disorders, he said. Genetic factors, personality factors and socio-cultural factors, such as images in the media of models “which glamorise thinness” are among the many reasons for the trend, Goldin said.

A spokeswoman for the Priory hospital in Glasgow said it took patients from all over the UK. “The Priory hospital in Glasgow has a reputation for providing some of the highest standards of mental healthcare in the country, and has been given a ‘very good’ rating by our regulator, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, for staffing, management, information to patients, and the environment it offers those we care for. As such, we support patients from across the UK and overseas.”

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “The NHS recently laid out very clear plans to expand staff and services for specialist eating disorders and other mental health problems, in order to tackle and eliminate distant out-of-area placements. Transformation won’t happen overnight but work is under way to improve services for everyone and to make sure care is available at home or as close to home as possible when a patient needs more intensive therapy.

“To help achieve this, the government has allocated a cumulative £1.4bn to children and young people’s mental health services over the next five years, and the new waiting time for eating disorder patients will ensure patients get better care more quickly.”

Sweden Is Left With No Garbage At All, It’s Importing Waste To Run Recycling Plants.


Sweden has run out of garbage and the Scandinavian country has been forced to import rubbish from other countries to keep its state-of-the-art recycling plants going.

 Sweden garbage

Sweden, which sources almost half its electricity from renewables, was one of the first countries to implement a heavy tax on fossil fuels in 1991. Sweden’s recycling system is so sophisticated, that only less than 1 per cent of its household waste has been sent to landfill last year.

“Swedish people are quite keen on being out in nature and they are aware of what we need do on nature and environmental issues. We worked on communications for a long time to make people aware not to throw things outdoors so that we can recycle and reuse,” said Anna-Carin Gripwall, director of communications for Avfall Sverige, the Swedish Waste Management’s recycling association.

 Sweden has implemented a cohesive national recycling policy so that even though private companies undertake most of the business of importing and burning waste, the energy goes into a national heating network to heat homes through the extremely cold winter.

Sweden garbage

That’s a key reason that we have this district network, so we can make use of the heating from the waste plants. In the southern part of Europe they don’t make use of the heating from the waste, it just goes out the chimney. Here we use it as a substitute for fossil fuel,” Gripwell was quoted as saying by the ‘Independent’.She termed Sweden’s policy of importing waste to recycle from other countries like the UK as a temporary situation.

“There’s a ban on landfill in European Union countries, so instead of paying the fine they send it to us as a service. They should and will build their own plants, to reduce their own waste, as we are working hard to do in Sweden,” Gripwall said.

Sweden garbage

“Hopefully there will be less waste and the waste that has to go to incineration should be incinerated in each country. But to use recycling for heating you have to have district heating or cooling systems, so you have to build the infrastructure for that, and that takes time,” she added.

Swedish municipalities are investing in futuristic waste collection techniques, like automated vacuum systems in residential blocks, removing the need for collection transport, and underground container systems that free up road space and get rid of any smells, the report said.

Engineers have achieved Wi-Fi using 10,000 times less power .


No more draining your phone’s battery.

Wi-Fi is amazing, but there’s no denying that all those hours of Netflix binging and scrolling Facebook can be a real energy suck, rapidly draining your phone’s battery life.

But engineers in the US have just generated Wi-Fi transmissions that use 10,000 times less power than conventional methods, which means you can have everything downloading all the time, without sacrificing battery life. And it can already be used with off-the-shelf smartphones.

So far, the team from the University of Washington has only managed to achieve speeds of 11 megabits per second with the new connection, which isn’t going to break records any time soon (it’s no Li-Fi).

But they’re working on getting the connection faster, and, more importantly, they’ve already shown that their ‘passive Wi-Fi’ technology works in real-world testing – it reportedly integrates “seamlessly” with existing routers and smartphones.

“We wanted to see if we could achieve Wi-Fi transmissions using almost no power at all,” says one of the team, Shyam Gollakota.

“That’s basically what Passive Wi-Fi delivers. We can get Wi-Fi for 10,000 times less power than the best thing that’s out there.”

A paper on the results is being presented in March next year at the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation.

It has yet to be peer-reviewed and independently verified, so we need to take it with a grain of salt, but the technology looks so promising, it’s already been listed as one of the top 10 breakthrough technologies of 2016 by MIT Technology Review.

So far, the team from the University of Washington has only managed to achieve speeds of 11 megabits per second with the new connection, which isn’t going to break records any time soon (it’s no Li-Fi).

But they’re working on getting the connection faster, and, more importantly, they’ve already shown that their ‘passive Wi-Fi’ technology works in real-world testing – it reportedly integrates “seamlessly” with existing routers and smartphones.

“We wanted to see if we could achieve Wi-Fi transmissions using almost no power at all,” says one of the team, Shyam Gollakota.

“That’s basically what Passive Wi-Fi delivers. We can get Wi-Fi for 10,000 times less power than the best thing that’s out there.”

A paper on the results is being presented in March next year at the USENIX Symposium on Networked Systems Design and Implementation.

It has yet to be peer-reviewed and independently verified, so we need to take it with a grain of salt, but the technology looks so promising, it’s already been listed as one of the top 10 breakthrough technologies of 2016 by MIT Technology Review.

So how does it work? Right now, Wi-Fi signals require information to be sent across a digital frequency, known as a digital baseband, as well as an old-school analogue radio frequency (RF).

Those two frequencies work together to send ‘packets’ of information that are decoded by your smartphone.

But while digital baseband technology has gotten a whole lot more efficient over the past few decades, allowing information to be sent using hardly any energy at all, analogue radio frequency devices have stalled, and still suck up hundreds of milliwatts of power.

That’s a problem, because to receive Wi-Fi on your smartphone, you need a digital and an analogue RF receiver, hence your phone’s crappy battery life.

The new University of Washington system overcomes that, by decoupling analogue and digital, and relegating all analogue RF functions to one single plug in device.

That plugged in device generates the Wi-Fi signal using an array of sensors, and those Wi-Fi packets are then reflected and absorbed using a digital switch known as the ‘passive Wi-Fi’ device, which runs on barely any energy at all.

The passive Wi-Fi bounces the information to your smartphone or router, where it can be received by consuming only 15 to 60 microwatts of power – 10,000 times less than current devices.

In real-world tests, the passive reflectors could communicate with off-the-shelf smartphones even at distances of 30 metres (100 feet).

 “All the networking, heavy-lifting and power-consuming pieces are done by the one plugged-in device,” said one of the team, Vamsi Talla.

“The passive devices are only reflecting to generate the Wi-Fi packets, which is a really energy-efficient way to communicate.”

Not only could this save your phone’s battery life, it could also finally make that ‘internet of things’ we’ve all been hearing about so much more feasible – in the past, it would have cost huge battery life to have things like your fridge and washing machine connected to the internet.

Watch the video. URL:https://youtu.be/AZ-tISX-7Cw

World’s Largest Math Proof Solved. And It Takes Up 200 Terabytes


IN BRIEF

Three computer scientists have produced, through the use of a supercomputer, a 200-terabyte file containing the solution to a Boolean Pythagorean triples problem, a puzzle that has eluded mathematicians for decades.

It’s the largest math proof. A supercomputer solved it in just 2 days. And it’s 200 terabytes.

Yes, 200 terabytes. That’s the size of the file containing the computer-assisted proof for a mathematical problem that has boggled mathematicians for decades—known as Boolean Pythagorean triples problem.

The proof was compressed into a 68-gigabyte file, meaning anyone who wants to can download, reconstruct, and verify all the information embedded onto it. And individuals can do so, if they have the space processor time, in just about 30,000 hours.

The 200 terabyte file ultimately beats a previously established record for the largest-ever computer-assisted proof. It had a size of just 13 gigabytes.

PROBLEM BEHIND THE PROOF

According to Ronald Graham, a University of California, San Diego mathematician and previous record-holder of the then biggest proof, having computers assist in creating proofs for combinatorics problems is quite common. He even offered a prize of US$100 for to anyone that could solve it.

As previously mentioned, the 200-terabyte proof solved a combinatorics type of mathematical problem called the Boolean Pythagorean triples. It asks whether each positive integers can be colored either red or blue, so that a combination of three integers a, b, and c, (Pythagorean Triple) can satisfy the Pythagorean equation, + =2, wherein none of the integers have the same color.

Credit: Nature
Credit: Nature

COMPUTER RUN-TIME

Though the problem presented many allowable ways to color integers in different combinations, the scientists took advantage of techniques and symmetries in number theory to lessen the number of checks that the computer had to do. This step minimized the number of runs performed by the computer by almost 1 trillion.

Two days and 800 parallel running processors later, the Stampede supercomputer of the University of Texas produced the 200 terabyte file. A separate computer program was then used to verify the produced proof.

Credit: Nature
Credit: Nature

Despite having cracked the infamous Boolean Pythagorean triples problem, the record-breaking file still fails to provide answers as to why the coloring scheme is possible.

The proof revealed that yes, it was possible to color the integers in multiple ways; however, only up to 7,824. After this point, it’s not possible. This raises more questions: Why is there a cut-off point at 7,825? Why is the first stretch possible?

Russian Doctor Claims Your Immune System Can Recover in Only 15 Seconds! Here’s How


The popular Moscow professor Sergei Bubnovskiym, reveals his innovative method to boost the immune system.

He maintains that soaking the legs in an ice-cold bath for 10-15 seconds as soon as you return home after work can strengthen the immune system and help it combat common colds and flu!

Another English study showed that the daily showers with cold water increase the numbers of disease-fighting white blood cells.

Namely, the team of researchers at the Britain’s Thrombosis Research Institute found that as the body attempts to warm itself during and after the showering with cold water, the metabolic rate is accelerated and the immune system is activated, and thus causes the increased number of white blood cells.

Another German study showed that the occasional winter swim in cold water leads to oxidative stress. Yet, if this becomes a regular routine, it causes an adaptive antioxidant response and the body is able to fight oxidative stress even better as soon as it gets used to cold-water swims.

This is what to do to boost your immune system:

You should pour some cold water in a basin or in the bathtub. Then, add as much ice cubes as you can, and soak the feet in it for 10-15 seconds.

You should repeat this technique every night at bedtime, and you will strengthen the immune system fast. It is extremely useful in the case of weak immunity, and those people should soak their feet in the icy water on every 4 hours.

Physicists Made a ‘Black Hole’ in a Lab That May Finally Prove Hawking Radiation Exists


IN BRIEF

Scientists may have found signs that phonons, the very small packets of energy that make up sound waves, were leaking out of sonic black holes, just as Hawking’s equations predicted.

SURVIVING A BLACK HOLE

Some 42 years ago, renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking proposed that not everything that comes in contact with a black hole succumbs to its unfathomable nothingness. Tiny particles of light (photons) are sometimes ejected back out, robbing the black hole of an infinitesimal amount of energy, and this gradual loss of mass over time means every black hole eventually evaporates out of existence.

Known as Hawking radiation, these escaping particles help us make sense of one of the greatest enigmas in the known Universe, but after more than four decades, no one’s been able to actually prove they exist, and Hawking’s proposal remained firmly in hypothesis territory.

But all that could be about to change, with two independent groups of researchers reporting that they’ve found evidence to back up Hawking’s claims, and it could see one of the greatest living physicists finally win a Nobel Prize.

UNDERSTANDING THE THEORY

Let’s go back to 1974, when all of this began. Hawking had gotten into an argument with Princeton University graduate student, Jacob Bekenstein, who suggested in his PhD thesis that a black hole’s entropy – the ‘disorder’ of a system, related to its volume, energy, pressure, and temperature – was proportional to the area of its event horizon.

As Dennis Overbye explains for The New York Times, this was a problem, because according to the accepted understanding of physical laws at the time – including Hawking’s own work – the entropy and the volume of a black hole could never decrease.

Hawking investigated the claims, and soon enough, realised that he had been proven wrong. “[D]r Hawking did a prodigious calculation including quantum theory, the strange rules that govern the subatomic world, and was shocked to find particles coming away from the black hole, indicating that it was not so black after all,” Overbye writes.

Hawking proposed that the Universe is filled with ‘virtual particles’ that, according to what we know about how quantum mechanics works, blink in and out of existence and annihilate each other as soon as they come in contact – except if they happen to appear on either side of a black hole’s event horizon. Basically, one particle gets swallowed up by the black hole, and the otherradiates away into space.

The existence of Hawking radiation has answered a lot of questions about how black holes actually work, but in the process, raised a bunch of problems that physicists are still trying to reconcile.

“No result in theoretical physics has been more fundamental or influential than his discovery that black holes have entropy proportional to their surface area,”says Lee Smolin, a theoretical physicist from the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada.

While Bekenstein received the Wolf Prize in 2012 and the American Physical Society’s Einstein prize in 2015 for his work, which The New York Times says are often precursors to the Nobel Prize, neither scientist has been awarded the most prestigious prize in science for the discovery. Bekenstein passed away last year, but Hawking is now closer than ever to seeing his hypothesis proven.

The problem? Remember when I said the escaping photons were stealing an  infinitesimal amount of energy from a black hole every time they escaped? Well, unfortunately for Hawking, this radiation is so delicate, it’s practically impossible to detect it from thousands of light-years away.

A WAY FORWARD?

The measured thermal spectrum of the Hawking radiation. The solid curve is the measurement. The dashed curve is the theoretical thermal spectrum.
The measured thermal spectrum of the Hawking radiation. The solid curve is the measurement. The dashed curve is the theoretical thermal spectrum.

But physicist Jeff Steinhauer from Technion University in Haifa, Israel, thinks he’s come up with a solution – if we can’t detect Hawking radiation in actual black holes thousands of light-years away from our best instruments, why not bring the black holes to our best instruments?

As Oliver Moody reports for The Times, Steinhauer has managed to created a lab-sized ‘black hole’ made from sound, and when he kicked it into gear, he witnessed particles steal energy from its fringes.

Reporting his experiment in a paper posted to the physics pre-press website,arXiv.org, Steinhauer says he cooled helium to just above absolute zero, then churned it up so fast, it formed a ‘barrier’ through which sound should not be able to pass.

“Steinhauer said he had found signs that phonons, the very small packets of energy that make up sound waves, were leaking out of his sonic black hole just as Hawking’s equations predict they should,” Moody reports.

To be clear, the results of this experiment have not yet been peer-reviewed – that’s the point of putting everything up for the public to see on arXiv.org. They’re now being mulled over by physicists around the world, and they’re already proving controversial, but worthy of further investigation.

“The experiments are beautiful,” physicist Silke Weinfurtner from the University of Nottingham in the UK, who is running her own Earth-based experiments to try and detect Hawking radiation, told The Telegraph. “Jeff has done an amazing job, but some of the claims he makes are open to debate. This is worth discussing.”

Meanwhile, a paper published in Physical Review Letters last month has found another way to strengthen the case for Hawking radiation. Physicists Chris Adami and Kamil Bradler from the University of Ottawa describe a new technique that allows them to follow a black hole’s life over time.

That’s exciting stuff, because it means that whatever information or matter that passes over the event horizon doesn’t ‘disappear’ but is slowly leaking back out during the later stages of the black hole’s evaporation.

“To perform this calculation, we had to guess how a black hole interacts with the Hawking radiation field that surrounds it,” Adami said in a press release. “This is because there currently is no theory of quantum gravity that could suggest such an interaction. However, it appears we made a well-educated guess because our model is equivalent to Hawking’s theory in the limit of fixed, unchanging black holes.”

Both results will now need to be confirmed, but they suggest that we’re inching closer to figuring out a solution for how we can confirm or disprove the existence of Hawking radiation, and that’s good news for its namesake.

As Moody points out, Peter Higgs, who predicted the existence of the Higgs boson, had to wait 49 years for his Nobel prize, we’ll have to wait and see if Hawking ends up with his own.

Science Says Lasting Relationships Come Down To 2 Basic Traits


Science says lasting relationships come down to—you guessed it—kindness and generosity.

Every day in June, the most popular wedding month of the year, about 13,000 American couples will say “I do,” committing to a lifelong relationship that will be full of friendship, joy, and love that will carry them forward to their final days on this earth.

Except, of course, it doesn’t work out that way for most people.

The majority of marriages fail, either ending in divorce and separation or devolving into bitterness and dysfunction.

Of all the people who get married, only three in ten remain in healthy, happy marriages, as psychologist Ty Tashiro points out in his book “The Science of Happily Ever After,” which was published earlier this year.

Social scientists first started studying marriages by observing them in action in the 1970s in response to a crisis: Married couples were divorcing at unprecedented rates. Worried about the impact these divorces would have on the children of the broken marriages, psychologists decided to cast their scientific net on couples, bringing them into the lab to observe them and determine what the ingredients of a healthy, lasting relationship were.

Was each unhappy family unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy claimed, or did the miserable marriages all share something toxic in common?

Psychologist John Gottman was one of those researchers. For the past four decades, he has studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. I recently had the chance to interview Gottman and his wife Julie, also a psychologist, in New York City. Together, the renowned experts on marital stability run The Gottman Institute, which is devoted to helping couples build and maintain loving, healthy relationships based on scientific studies.

John Gottman began gathering his most critical findings in 1986, when he set up “The Love Lab” with his colleague Robert Levenson at the University of Washington. Gottman and Levenson brought newlyweds into the lab and watched them interact with each other.

With a team of researchers, they hooked the couples up to electrodes and asked the couples to speak about their relationship, like how they met, a major conflict they were facing together, and a positive memory they had. As they spoke, the electrodes measured the subjects’ blood flow, heart rates, and how much they sweat they produced. Then the researchers sent the couples home and followed up with them six years later to see if they were still together.

From the data they gathered, Gottman separated the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages.

When the researchers analyzed the data they gathered on the couples, they saw clear differences between the masters and disasters. The disasters looked calm during the interviews, but their physiology, measured by the electrodes, told a different story. Their heart rates were quick, their sweat glands were active, and their blood flow was fast. Following thousands of couples longitudinally, Gottman found that the more physiologically active the couples were in the lab, the quicker their relationships deteriorated over time.

But what does physiology have to do with anything? The problem was that the disasters showed all the signs of arousal — of being in fight-or-flight mode — in their relationships. Having a conversation sitting next to their spouse was, to their bodies, like facing off with a saber-toothed tiger.

Even when they were talking about pleasant or mundane facets of their relationships, they were prepared to attack and be attacked. This sent their heart rates soaring and made them more aggressive toward each other. For example, each member of a couple could be talking about how their days had gone, and a highly aroused husband might say to his wife, “Why don’t you start talking about your day. It won’t take you very long.”

couple eye contact

The masters, by contrast, showed low physiological arousal. They felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. It’s not that the masters had, by default, a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.

Gottman wanted to know more about how the masters created that culture of love and intimacy, and how the disasters squashed it. In a follow-up study in 1990, he designed a lab on the University of Washington campus to look like a beautiful bed and breakfast retreat.

He invited 130 newlywed couples to spend the day at this retreat and watched them as they did what couples normally do on vacation: cook, clean, listen to music, eat, chat, and hang out. And Gottman made a critical discovery in this study — one that gets at the heart of why some relationships thrive while others languish.

Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support — hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.

People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t — those who turned away — would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper. Sometimes they would respond with overt hostility, saying something like, “Stop interrupting me, I’m reading.”

These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being. Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had “turn-toward bids” 33 percent of the time. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.

couple in love

By observing these types of interactions, Gottman can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples — straight or gay, rich or poor, childless or not — will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later. Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship. Do they bring kindness and generosity; or contempt, criticism, and hostility?

“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

“It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”

Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there.

People who give their partner the cold shoulder — deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally — damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner’s ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships.

Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,” says Shakespeare’s Juliet. “My love as deep; the more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite.” That’s how kindness works too: there’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.

There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work.

“If your partner expresses a need,” explained Julie Gottman, “and you are tired, stressed, or distracted, then the generous spirit comes in when a partner makes a bid, and you still turn toward your partner.”

In that moment, the easy response may be to turn away from your partner and focus on your iPad or your book or the television, to mumble “Uh huh” and move on with your life, but neglecting small moments of emotional connection will slowly wear away at your relationship. Neglect creates distance between partners and breeds resentment in the one who is being ignored.

The hardest time to practice kindness is, of course, during a fight—but this is also the most important time to be kind. Letting contempt and aggression spiral out of control during a conflict can inflict irrevocable damage on a relationship.

old couple

“Kindness doesn’t mean that we don’t express our anger,” Julie Gottman explained, “but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger. You can throw spears at your partner. Or you can explain why you’re hurt and angry, and that’s the kinder path.”

John Gottman elaborated on those spears: “Disasters will say things differently in a fight. Disasters will say ‘You’re late. What’s wrong with you? You’re just like your mom.’ Masters will say ‘I feel bad for picking on you about your lateness, and I know it’s not your fault, but it’s really annoying that you’re late again.’”

For the hundreds of thousands of couples getting married each June — and for the millions of couples currently together, married or not — the lesson from the research is clear: If you want to have a stable, healthy relationship, exercise kindness early and often.

When people think about practicing kindness, they often think about small acts of generosity, like buying each other little gifts or giving one another back rubs every now and then. While those are great examples of generosity, kindness can also be built into the very backbone of a relationship through the way partners interact with each other on a day-to-day basis, whether or not there are back rubs and chocolates involved.

One way to practice kindness is by being generous about your partner’s intentions. From the research of the Gottmans, we know that disasters see negativity in their relationship even when it is not there. An angry wife may assume, for example, that when her husband left the toilet seat up, he was deliberately trying to annoy her. But he may have just absent-mindedly forgotten to put the seat down.

Or say a wife is running late to dinner (again), and the husband assumes that she doesn’t value him enough to show up to their date on time after he took the trouble to make a reservation and leave work early so that they could spend a romantic evening together. But it turns out that the wife was running late because she stopped by a store to pick him up a gift for their special night out.

Imagine her joining him for dinner, excited to deliver her gift, only to realize that he’s in a sour mood because he misinterpreted what was motivating her behavior. The ability to interpret your partner’s actions and intentions charitably can soften the sharp edge of conflict.

“Even in relationships where people are frustrated, it’s almost always the case that there are positive things going on and people trying to do the right thing,” psychologist Ty Tashiro told me. “A lot of times, a partner is trying to do the right thing even if it’s executed poorly. So appreciate the intent.”

Another powerful kindness strategy revolves around shared joy. One of the telltale signs of the disaster couples Gottman studied was their inability to connect over each other’s good news. When one person in the relationship shared the good news of, say, a promotion at work with excitement, the other would respond with wooden disinterest by checking his watch or shutting the conversation down with a comment like, “That’s nice.”

We’ve all heard that partners should be there for each other when the going gets rough. But research shows that being there for each other when things go right is actually more important for relationship quality. How someone responds to a partner’s good news can have dramatic consequences for the relationship.

Super Seniors couple

In one study from 2006, psychological researcher Shelly Gable and her colleagues brought young adult couples into the lab to discuss recent positive events from their lives. They psychologists wanted to know how partners would respond to each other’s good news. They found that, in general, couples responded to each other’s good news in four different ways that they called: passive destructiveactive destructivepassive constructive, and active constructive.

Let’s say that one partner had recently received the excellent news that she got into medical school. She would say something like “I got into my top choice med school!”

If her partner responded in a passive destructive manner, he would ignore the event. For example, he might say something like: “You wouldn’t believe the great news I got yesterday! I won a free t-shirt!”

If her partner responded in a passive constructive way, he would acknowledge the good news, but in a half-hearted, understated way. A typical passive constructive response is saying “That’s great, babe” as he texts his buddy on his phone.

In the third kind of response, active destructive, the partner would diminish the good news his partner just got: “Are you sure you can handle all the studying? And what about the cost? Med school is so expensive!”

Finally, there’s active constructive responding. If her partner responded in this way, he stopped what he was doing and engaged wholeheartedly with her: “That’s great! Congratulations! When did you find out? Did they call you? What classes will you take first semester?”

Among the four response styles, active constructive responding is the kindest. While the other response styles are joy-killers, active constructive responding allows the partner to savor her joy and gives the couple an opportunity to bond over the good news. In the parlance of the Gottmans, active constructive responding is a way of “turning toward” your partners bid (sharing the good news) rather than “turning away” from it.

Active constructive responding is critical for healthy relationships. In the 2006 study, Gable and her colleagues followed up with the couples two months later to see if they were still together. The psychologists found that the only difference between the couples who were together and those who broke up was active constructive responding. Those who showed genuine interest in their partner’s joys were more likely to be together. In an earlier study, Gable found that active constructive responding was also associated with higher relationship quality and more intimacy between partners.

There are many reasons why relationships fail, but if you look at what drives the deterioration of many relationships, it’s often a breakdown of kindness. As the normal stresses of a life together pile up—with children, career, friend, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out the time for romance and intimacy—couples may put less effort into their relationship and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart.

In most marriages, levels of satisfaction drop dramatically within the first few years together. But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward.

Stanford Study: Earth on Its Way to Warmest Temperatures in More Than 120,000 Years


IN BRIEF
  • New study examines Earth’s temperature changes over the past 2 million years.
  • A global temperature increase of about 4°C (7.2°F) could be expected in the next few thousand years if current trend continues.

BACK TO THE PAST

As part of her doctoral dissertation at Stanford University, Carolyn Snyder, a climate official at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), conducted a study that predicts that the Earth will reach record-high temperatures in the next few thousand years, signifying the planet’s hottest mark in more than 120,000 years.

In the study, Snyder created a 2-million-year record of temperature changes, much longer than the previous 22,000-year record. The years were lumped into 5,000-year time periods that go back a couple million years, with Snyder focusing on the average of each 5,000-year segment.

She examined how temperature change correlated with carbon dioxide levels. Her findings include the following:

  1. The average temperature in the most recent 5,000-year segment, which included the last 125 years of heat-trapping industrial emissions, was higher than any in the past 120,000 or so years.
  2. The Earth’s warmest periods happened during two interglacial periods, around 120,000 years ago and about 2 million years ago, and those were about 2°C (3.6°F) warmer than the current 5,000-year period’s average.

By following established trends from the past, Snyder predicted temperature changes in the future. If the same factors from the past affect the future, over the next few thousands years, the temperature of the Earth will increase about 4°C (7.2°F) compared to the average temperature of the current 5,000-year period.

“This is based on what happened in the past. In the past, it wasn’t humans messing with the atmosphere,” Snyder acknowledged.

Credits: NASA

THE WARMTH OF THE FUTURE

Of course, the predictive nature of the study makes it inconclusive, and Snyder herself acknowledges that these are estimates prone to large margins of errors. Still, she believes that her conclusions hold, and whatever the specifics may be, it is clear that the Earth’s temperatures are on a steady rise. Indeed, it is partly a course that nature takes, as evidenced by Snyder’s study.

However, her study also showed how the trend has changed ever since humans started becoming capable of affecting global temperatures in the last 125 years. It’s never too late, of course, to continue affecting it, but this time by mitigating the negative effects we have on the Earth’s changing temperatures. It works both ways, really. We can continue to invest in solutions and means to improve the situation.

Ammonia has been detected in Earth’s lower atmosphere for the first time.


There’s no escaping it.

For the first time, scientists have detected trace amounts of ammonia in the upper troposphere – the lowest of Earth’s atmospheric layers.

Released into the atmosphere as an agricultural emission from livestock farming and fertilisation, ammonia has been found in the highest concentrations above India and China, where population and economic growth has been skyrocketing in recent years.

Earth’s troposphere extends from 7 to 20 km (4 to 12 miles) above sea level, and contains up to 80 percent of the planet’s atmosphere, and all weather phenomena.

A team from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany analysed satellite data collected from various parts of the troposphere between June 2002 to April 2012, and calculated the three-month averages.

They identified atmospheric ammonia – a chemical compound of nitrogen and hydrogen – some 12 to 15 km (7.5 to 9.3 miles) above sea level in the area of the Asian monsoon.

This accumulation of ammonia was found at a concentration of up to 33 pptv (33 ammonia molecules per trillion air molecules) above North India and Southeast China.

Similar levels of ammonia were detected nowhere else on Earth.

“We have presented the first evidence of ammonia being present in Earth’s upper troposphere above 6.2 miles (10 km),” the team reports.

“The region and period of detection is confined to the Asian summer monsoon system.”

The find reveals that ammonia released on Earth’s surface due to agricultural processes survives all the way to the troposphere, where it ends up in monsoons.

“Observations show that ammonia is not washed out completely when air ascends in monsoon circulation,” said lead researcher Michael Höpfner.

“Hence, it enters the upper troposphere from the boundary layer close to the ground, where the gas occurs at relatively high concentrations.”

trop-ammoniaDistribution of the atmospheric ammonia concentration. 

It’s thought that because these traces of ammonia were found in Asian monsoons, the agricultural emission could be playing a role in aerosol formationin the troposphere.

Aerosols – tiny particles made from super-fine solid particles and liquid droplets carried in the atmosphere – often act as ‘cloud condensation nuclei’, around which cloud droplets are formed.

While they’re the smallest particles that are thought to contribute to cloud formation, they also appear to influence the properties of existing clouds.

As NASA explains, aerosols can modify the size of cloud particles, and change how the clouds reflect and absorb sunlight, leading to haze and much redder sunrises and sunsets.

We now know that when ammonia is released as an agricultural emission in high concentrations, it not only pollutes the local ecosystem, it can also drive the formation of new clouds and influence existing clouds in the atmosphere above.

And unfortunately, now that aerosols are building up in our atmosphere, we might actually rely on them to mitigate the effects of global warming.

It’s thought that their accumulation in the troposphere could have a cooling effect, compensating in part for the human-caused greenhouse effect.

Ammonia isn’t the only unexpected gas scientists have detected in Earth’s atmosphere recently – a type of hot atomic hydrogen atom has also been foundin an upper layer of Earth’s atmosphere – and our current understanding of physics says they shouldn’t be able to exist here.

The findings will hopefully give scientists a better basis on which to build their global climate models, and the German team plans to continue modelling the atmospheric ammonia above China and India throughout 2017.

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