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.

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.

All 2016 American Nobel laureates are immigrants

❝ In a year in which Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is proposing a crackdown on immigration, all six of the 2016 American Nobel laureates announced to date are immigrants.

“I think the resounding message that should go out all around the world is that science is global,” Sir J. Fraser Stoddart, one of three laureates in chemistry…Stoddart, born in Scotland, credited American openness with bringing top scientists to the country. He added, however, that the American scientific establishment will only remain strong “as long as we don’t enter an era where we turn our back on immigration.”

Stoddart said the United States should be “welcoming people from all over the world, including the Middle East…”

❝ Duncan Haldane, the English Princeton University researcher who won the prize for physics, described the immigration process as a “bureaucratic nightmare for many people” in an interview with The Hill.

The prize in physics was awarded to three British immigrants, Haldane, David Thouless of Yale University and Michael Kosterlitz of Brown University.

❝ Despite procedural challenges, the scientists believe the American educational system will continue attracting researchers from all over the world…

Haldane said top scientists come to the United States because of its research-friendly funding system.

“There’s a tradition of funding very fundamental research without regard for it being ‘useful,’” said Haldane.

❝ The Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to Oliver Hart of Harvard University and Bengt Holmström of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, British and Finnish immigrants, respectively.

I wonder if Trump sheeple follow their master’s contempt for reading and facts. He says he learns everything from watching TV – mostly Fox News. Facts about American immigrants get scant coverage in the world of “fair and balanced” sophistry.

International Day of Peace — 2016

Nations were destined to be co-operating parts in one grand whole. . . . Peace hath her victories much more renowned than those of war: the heroes of the past have been those who most successfully injured or slew; the heroes of the future are to be those who most wisely benefit or save their fellow-men.

Andrew Carnegie, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, October 17, 1905

In 1981, the United Nations designated September 21 as the International Day of Peace to bring awareness to peace efforts around the world. Carnegie Corporation of New York continues to pursue our founder’s vision to advance peace and understanding, and therefore to mark this day, we sought out the perspectives of several leaders in the field…how can we advance peace?

Please read the article. Reflect upon the mission on a day when, frankly, gazing around this nation, this world, the task seems more difficult than ever.

Thanks, Ian Bremmer

In the not-too-distant future, we won’t need sex to reproduce — Get ready!

I’ll give you the beginning of this article – and the end. You really need to read the whole critter to justify pondering the concept.

❝ For 100 million years, all our ancestors reproduced basically the same way. A male reproductive organ deposited sperm into a female reproduction organ, where it could fertilize eggs — leading to baby ancestral tetrapods, mammals, primates, and eventually humans. The past 60 years have seen this begin to change, first with clinically available artificial insemination and then with in vitro fertilization (IVF)…

❝ In the United States today, these two techniques lead to about 100,000 births each year, roughly 2.5 percent of the 4 million children born annually. Within the next few decades, that percentage will skyrocket. Developments in bioscience, galloping forward in most cases for reasons having nothing to with reproduction, will combine to make IVF cheaper and much easier.

These new techniques will allow safe and easy embryo selection – but they will also open doors to genetically edited babies, “their own” genetic babies for same-sex couples, babies with a single genetic parent, and maybe babies from artificial wombs.

❝ Starting in the next few decades, these new methods of reproduction will give people new choices. They will also raise a host of vexing legal and ethical questions, questions we need to start discussing.

Deal with genetic selection of embryos, designer babies, create 100 embryos to choose the best and scrap or recycle the rest, unibabies from a uniparent [not a clone]…you get the idea.

Henry Greely is a professor of law and of genetics. He concludes…

We need to start thinking about these questions. The future is coming. It may not be exactly the future I foresee, but, like it or not, it will certainly feature far more choices, for families and for societies, about making babies.

You now know more about that future than 99.9 percent of humanity. Learn more, pay attention to the relevant news, and talk with your family and friends. The more we consider, debate, and plan for plausible futures, the more likely we are not to create any kind of perfect future, but, at least, to avoid some catastrophes. And that is not a bad goal.

You need to be concerned about “smart” sex toys and privacy – Huh? Wha?


❝ With the internet of things, previously innocuous devices have been rigged up to collect all sorts of data about their users—including sex toys. According to a recently filed US lawsuit, at least some people are unhappy with the privacy risk this could pose.

In the complaint, an unnamed plaintiff claims one “smart” sex toy collected identifiable details on her use of the device without her knowledge, and she is now seeking punitive damages. That data allegedly included details such as when the device was used, and what intensity setting the user selected.

❝ Although this sort of data collection may come as a surprise to some, researchers have discovered that other similar devices are also pooling sensitive information, highlighting a looming privacy threat: What if the company is hacked, and those details are released? Even if the data is kept secure, some customers perhaps don’t want unknown employees to have access to a wealth of data on how they spend their most personal time…

❝ The lawsuit, first reported by the Courthouse News Service, centres around a device called the We-Vibe: a vibrator which can be remotely controlled with a smartphone app.

The complaint alleges that the app was designed to “secretly collect intimate details about its customers’ use of the We-Vibe, including the date and time of each use, the vibration intensity level selected by the user, the vibration mode or pattern selected by the user,” and the user’s email address.

According to the complaint, “Plaintiff would never have purchased a We-Vibe had she known that in order to use its full functionality, Defendant would monitor, collect, and transmit her Usage Information.”

❝ The lawsuit appears to be based on the work of security researchers known as g0ldfisk and followr, who told an audience at the Defcon hacking conference in August how they took apart the We-Vibe and discovered the sort of data it was sending back to the company. At the time, Standard Innovation, the Canadian company behind the We-Vibe, said it collected some of the data for market research purposes. The company gave the example that if lots of customers kept using the We-Vibe’s highest intensity setting, then perhaps the device was a bit too weak overall…

The We-Vibe is far from the only smart sex toy on the market collecting user data. In one case, Pentest Partners found an Android sex toy app that stored very personal temporary images…

“If you lose your phone, or someone pops your SD card, some highly private content could be exposed,” security researcher Ken Munro said.

The wonders of any technological advance pretty much can be guaranteed to provoke greed, profit, salacious abuse and criminal behavior – by human beings.

John Hersey’s Hiroshima revealed the horror of the bomb

This book has never been out of print

At the end of this month 70 years will have passed since the publication of a magazine story hailed as one of the greatest pieces of journalism ever written. Headlined simply Hiroshima, the 30,000-word article by John Hersey had a massive impact, revealing the full horror of nuclear weapons to the post-war generation, as Caroline Raphael describes.

❝ I have an original copy of the 31 August 1946 edition of The New Yorker. It has the most innocuous of covers – a delightful playful carefree drawing of summer in a park. On the back cover, the managers of the New York Giants and the New York Yankees encourage you to “Always Buy Chesterfield” cigarettes.

Past the Goings on About Town and movie listings, past the ritzy adverts for diamonds and fur and cars and cruises you find a simple statement from The Editors explaining that this edition will be devoted entirely to just one article “on the almost complete obliteration of a city by one atomic bomb”. They are taking this step, they say, “in the conviction that few of us have yet comprehended the all but incredible destructive power of this weapon, and that everyone might well take time to consider the terrible implications of its use”.

Seventy years ago no-one talked about stories “going viral”, but the publication of John Hersey’s article Hiroshima in The New Yorker achieved just that. It was talked of, commented on, read and listened to by many millions all over the world as they began to understand what really happened not just to the city but to the people of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and in the following days…

Hersey’s editors, Harold Ross and William Shawn, knew they had something quite extraordinary, unique, and the edition was prepared in utter secrecy. Never before had all the magazine’s editorial space been given over to a single story and it has never happened since. Journalists who were expecting to have their stories in that week’s edition wondered where their proofs had gone. Twelve hours before publication, copies were sent to all the major US newspapers – a smart move that resulted in editorials urging everyone to read the magazine…

All 300,000 copies immediately sold out and the article was reprinted in many other papers and magazines the world over, except where newsprint was rationed. When Albert Einstein attempted to buy 1,000 copies of the magazine to send to fellow scientists he had to contend with facsimiles. The US Book of the Month Club gave a free special edition to all its subscribers because, in the words of its president, “We find it hard to conceive of anything being written that could be of more important at this moment to the human race.”

By November, Hiroshima was published in book form. It was translated quickly into many languages and a braille edition was released. However, in Japan, Gen Douglas MacArthur – the supreme commander of occupying forces, who effectively governed Japan until 1948 – had strictly prohibited dissemination of any reports on the consequences of the bombings. Copies of the book, and the relevant edition of The New Yorker, were banned until 1949, when Hiroshima was finally translated into Japanese by the Rev Mr Tanimoto, one of Hersey’s six survivors.

Please read the book. It is one of the three books reflecting the War that formed much of my life. Certainly my feelings about the cruelty of war. My family still has the free copy we received from the Book-of-the-month club.

Sorry. I can write no more this morning. Too many tears.