Pokémon Go got you to walk 25 percent more than you used to

Ina Fried/ReCode

Pokémon Go’s creators want the hit mobile game to get people out of the house and exploring their neighborhoods. A new study confirms that’s really happening.

In “Influence of Pokémon Go on Physical Activity,” researchers from Microsoft Research and Stanford University studied, over the course of a month, how many steps were recorded by the Microsoft Bands — wearable activity trackers — belonging to Pokémon Go fans. The most engaged fans of the game walked 25 percent more than they did before Pokémon Go’s release…

All told, the study estimates that Pokémon Go players across the U.S. walked an additional 144 billion steps in the game’s first month in the wild. It says that if those players were to keep up the same level of increased activity over a longer period of time, they could add nearly three billion years, collectively, to their lifespans.

I’m a lifetime walking addict. Count in miles spent backpacking, hillwalking, hiking, walking because because I found an interesting place to walk, etc…I’ve spent a good piece of my waking hours walking. It all helps.

Feral cats deployed in war on rats

Click to enlargeRuth Fremson/NY Times

❝ Multitudes of feral cats roam New York City’s concrete jungle, and some now have a practical purpose: They’re helping curb the city’s rat population.

❝ A group of volunteers trained by the NYC Feral Cat Initiative traps wild cat colonies that have become a nuisance or been threatened by construction, then spays or neuters and vaccinates them. The goal is to return them to their home territory, but some end up in areas rife with rats.

Feline rat patrols keep watch over city delis and bodegas, car dealerships and the grounds of a Greenwich Village church. Four cats roam the loading dock at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, where food deliveries and garbage have drawn rodents for years…

❝ About 6,000 volunteers have completed workshops where they’ve learned proper ways to trap cats.

The program is run through the privately funded Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, a coalition of more than 150 animal rescue groups and shelters. It estimates as many as half a million feral and stray cats roam New York’s five boroughs…

❝ The cat population is controlled through spaying and neutering, provided free of charge by the Humane Society of New York and the ASPCA. In most cases, adoption is out of the question for feral cats because they are just too wild to be domesticated.

Thanks to the volunteers, says Marshall, “we’re protecting wildlife in the city, and the cats get a second chance at life.”

Interesting anecdotes in the article – and a common sense approach to feral urban animals. Spayed, neutered, and most important, vaccinated, they stand a chance for a complete lifespan.

American support for legalizing marijuana reaches new highs — Har!

❝ A new Gallup poll released Wednesday shows 60 percent of American adults now say that marijuana should be legal, the highest level of support in nearly a half-century of polling on the question…The Gallup poll tracks closely with numbers from the Pew Research Center released last week showing 57 percent support for legalization…

❝ …Support for legalization has soared in the past decade among nearly every demographic group. Close to 80 percent of 18-to-34 year olds now favor legal weed, up from 44 percent in 2003 and 2005. Gallup finds that Americans age 55 and older are now the only age group with less than majority support for legalization.

❝ Support for legalization has more than doubled among Republicans in the past decade, to 42 percent today. With 70 percent support, independents are the political group most likely to favor legalization, just edging out Democrats at 67 percent.

❝ This fall, five states will decide whether to join Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and DC in legalizing marijuana for personal use…The outcome of the November measures could have a transformative effect on the marijuana policy conversation going forward: “The percentage of Americans living in states where pot use is legal could rise from the current 5 percent to as much as 25 percent if all of these ballot measures pass.”

…The real prize for legalization proponents is California: “If recreational marijuana use becomes legal in California this year, many other states will likely follow, because the ‘Golden State’ often sets political trends for the rest of the U.S.”

The latest polling out of California suggest that the legalization measure is leading by a two-to-one margin.

Who wants to be the last state to board the train to the 21st Century?

Looks like exercise turns white fat into brown — that’s a good thing!

❝ Exercise may aid in weight control and help to fend off diabetes by improving the ability of fat cells to burn calories, a new study reports. It may do this in part by boosting levels of a hormone called irisin, which is produced during exercise and which may help to turn ordinary white fat into much more metabolically active brown fat…

❝ Irisin…entered the scientific literature in 2012 after researchers from Harvard and other universities published a study in Nature that showed the previously unknown hormone was created in working muscles in mice. From there, it would enter the bloodstream and migrate to other tissues, particularly to fat, where it would jump-start a series of biochemical processes that caused some of the fat cells, normally white, to turn brown.

Brown fat, which is actually brown in color, burns calories. It also is known to contribute to improved insulin and blood sugar control, lessening the risk for Type 2 diabetes. Most babies, including human infants, are plump with brown fat, but we humans lose most of our brown fat as we grow up. By the time we are adults, we usually retain very little brown fat.

❝ In the 2012 study, the researchers reported that if they injected irisin into living mice, it not only turned some white fat into brown fat, it apparently also prevented the rodents from becoming obese, even on a high-fat, high-calorie diet.

But in the years since, some scientists have questioned whether irisin affects fat cells in people to the same extent as it seems to in mice — and even whether the hormone exists in people at all.

❝ A study published last year in Cell Metabolism by the same group of researchers who had conducted the first irisin study, however, does seem to have established that irisin is produced in humans. They found some irisin in sedentary people, but the levels were much higher in those who exercise often

❝ So for the new study, which was published in August in the American Journal of Physiology — Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers at the University of Florida turned to white fat tissue from women who had undergone breast reduction surgery at the university hospital (with permission) and also to a very small amount of brown fat from people who had had surgery to treat kidney cancer. Most of our meager stores of brown fat cluster around our kidneys.

The researchers, who had previously studied irisin’s effects in mice, had a form of the human hormone available and now set out to marinate the fat cells with it, using three different dosages…

❝ The results strongly indicate that irisin nudges human white fat to become brown and also suppresses the formation of new white fat, says Li-Jun Yang, a professor of hematopathology at the University of Florida and senior author of the study (which was funded by the scientists themselves). It also seems to promote the formation of bone…

But these were living cells, not living bodies, and the effects of irisin in actual people still need to be established, she says, especially since many studies have shown that exercise rarely results in significant weight loss. Scientists also do not know what types of exercise lead to the greatest production of irisin or what amount of irisin might be ideal for health purposes…

❝ But even now, the science related to irisin is compelling enough, she says, that “my advice is, exercise as much as you can. We know it’s healthy and now we’re beginning to understand better why.”

RTFA for the details. Nothing unsurprising if you’ve read along from earlier studies. I blogged about the original study, hopes, conjecture. And I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Yang.

I’m a Doctor. If I Drop Food on the Kitchen Floor, I Still Eat It

❝ You may have read or heard about the study debunking the five-second rule. It said that no matter how fast you pick up food that falls on the floor, you will pick up bacteria with it.

Our continued focus on this threat has long baffled me. Why are we so worried about the floor? So many other things are more dangerous than that.

❝ There’s no magic period of time that prevents transmission. But even though I know bacteria can accumulate in less than five seconds, I will still eat food that has fallen on my kitchen floor. Why? Because my kitchen floor isn’t really that dirty.

❝ Our metric shouldn’t be whether there are more than zero bacteria on the floor. It should be how many bacteria are on the floor compared with other household surfaces. And in that respect, there are so many places in your house that pose more of a concern than the floor.

❝ Perhaps no one in the United States has spent more time investigating the occurrence of bacteria on public surfaces than Charles Gerba. He’s a professor of microbiology and environmental sciences at the University of Arizona, and he has published many papers on the subject.

In 1998, he and his colleagues investigated how well cleaning products could reduce coliform bacteria counts on household surfaces. As part of that research, they measured various locations in the house before any cleaning.

They found that the kitchen floor was likely to harbor, on average, about three colonies per square inch of coliform bacteria (2.75 to be exact). So there are some. But here’s the thing — that’s cleaner than both the refrigerator handle (5.37 colonies per square inch) and the kitchen counter (5.75 colonies per square inch).

We spend so much time worrying about what food might have picked up from the floor, but we don’t worry about touching the refrigerator. We also don’t seem as worried about food that touches the counter. But the counter is just as dirty, if not dirtier.

Educational, informative, often humorous, RTFA. Reason prevails. That alone makes this a standout.

National Guard [with helicopter], State Police, raid 81-year-old’s backyard to seize one pot plant

Margaret Holcomb and her son Tim Holcomb stand where Margaret's marijuana plant was seized the other day from her backyard in Amherst.
The scene of the crimeAndrew Whitaker/Gazette Staff

❝ All that remains of the solitary marijuana plant an 81-year-old grandmother had been growing behind her South Amherst home is a stump and a ragged hole in the ground.

Margaret Holcomb said she was growing the plant as medicine, a way to ease arthritis and glaucoma and help her sleep at night. Tucked away in a raspberry patch and separated by a fence from any neighbors, the plant was nearly ready for harvest when a military-style helicopter and police descended on Sept. 21.

In a joint raid, the Massachusetts National Guard and State Police entered her yard and cut down the solitary plant in what her son, Tim Holcomb, said was a “pretty shocking” action — one that he argues constitutes unlawful surveillance and illegal search and seizure…

❝ Holcomb said he was told that as long as he did not demand that a warrant be provided to enter the property or otherwise escalate the situation, authorities would file no criminal charges.

“’We just want the illegal contraband,’” Holcomb recalled the officer saying…

❝ Such enforcement actions have become commonplace since the 2012 law that made medical marijuana legal in Massachusetts, according to Northampton attorney Michael Cutler.

“The exact same stuff happened last year,” said Cutler, who specializes in helping clients understand the state’s medical marijuana law and recently participated in drafting the language of the Nov. 8 ballot initiative that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

Looks to me the coppers and other nasties are trying to get in their last licks before democracy takes hold and takes away their toys on November 8th.

RTFA for all the police state details as the guardians of the galaxy moved through the region confiscating a grand total of 44 pot plants in three towns that day. Golly!

Mike Pence kicked off the 21st Century by claiming “smoking doesn’t kill”

Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana and Donald Trump’s running mate, is nobody’s idea of a moderate. This is, after all, the guy who signed a bill into law mandating funerals for aborted fetuses and who compared the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare to the 9/11 attacks.

But perhaps his most dangerous stance has to do with tobacco. In a 2000 op-ed, posted on his personal webpage and unearthed by BuzzFeed’s Andrew Kaczynski, Pence brazenly declared, “Smoking does not kill”:

Time for a quick reality check. Despite the hysteria from the political class and the media, smoking doesn’t kill. In fact, 2 out of every three smokers does not die from a smoking related illness and 9 out of ten smokers do not contract lung cancer. This is not to say that smoking is good for you… news flash: smoking is not good for you. If you are reading this article through the blue haze of cigarette smoke you should quit.

This paragraph is a veritable maze of contradictions. First, Pence asserts that smoking doesn’t kill. To back this up, he bafflingly concedes that a huge fraction of smokers — one in three! — die from smoking-related illnesses, a fact that a casual observer could be forgiven for interpreting as proof that smoking does, in fact, kill, and kills a lot of people at that. (Only one problem: Subsequent research has found that two out of three smokers die from a smoking-related illness — not one in three, as Pence insisted.)…He proceeds, instead, to argue that the evils of tobacco do not compare in scale to the evils of big government…

Pence’s history of promoting tobacco companies and denigrating public health campaigns against smoking came back to bite him in his 2000 congressional race. His opponent, Bob Rock, raised it in a debate. Pence responded, per a local news report Kaczyinski unearthed, by saying that “the article was taken out of context and that while there is no direct ‘scientific causal link medically identifying’ a link between smoking and lung cancer that was not the point of writing it.”

So when directly questioned in a debate, Pence doubled down on the totally erroneous assertion that there isn’t evidence that smoking causes lung cancer. This is truly remarkable science denialism…

As governor of Indiana, a state with the seventh-highest smoking rate in the country, Pence has repeatedly taken pro-smoking positions, ThinkProgress’s Josh Israel finds. He slashed funding for the Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation office, and rejected a proposal from Republican legislators to raise cigarette taxes to fund transportation.

I have no idea what’s behind Pence’s demented anti-science defense of tobacco and smoking. The cynical guess says Follow The Money; but, I imagine folks have already worked that angle. No matter.

The man is a fool. He puts his political skills to work every day to oppose scientific conclusions about health. As a national leader – he is worthless.