Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tool-using monkeys suck shellfish dry

Humans aren’t the only primate to have pushed their prey towards extinction. Monkeys have also over-exploited animals for food.

Long-tailed macaques forage for shellfish on islands off Thailand, then crack them open with stone tools. They target the largest rock oysters, bludgeoning them with stone hammers, and pry open the meatiest snail and crab shells with the flattened edges of their tools.

These macaques are one of three primates that use stone tools, alongside chimpanzees in Africa and bearded capuchins in South America. “Stone tools open up an opportunity for foods they otherwise wouldn’t even be able to harvest,” says Lydia Luncz at the University of Oxford..

Luncz wanted to investigate the impact of the monkeys’ shellfish snacking on the prey themselves. Her team followed 18 macaques on their daily foraging routes along the shores of Koram and NomSao, two neighbouring islands off eastern Thailand, recording their tool selection and use. On Koram – the more densely populated island, home to 80 macaques compared with NomSao’s nine – Luncz’s group saw not only smaller oysters and snails, but also fewer of each species. Multiple prey species were less abundant on Koram than NomSao, with four times as many tropical periwinkles on NomSao as on Koram (eLife, doi.org/cc7d).

“It’s been shown that systematic predation causes prey of smaller size,” says Nathaniel Dominy at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. The oysters on Koram were about 70 per cent smaller than their counterparts on NomSao, and the periwinkles were less than half the size. A single tool-using monkey on Koram can eat over 40 shellfish a day, so Luncz’s group thinks this predation pressure is driving these shellfish changes.

Read more > Tool-using monkeys suck shellfish dry

Food for thought

Low fat, low salt, wholegrain, heart healthy, vegan, organic, free-range, grass-fed, low carb, no added sugar. All these buzzwords, combined with shape-shifting guidelines, befuddling labels and fad diets wrapped up in pseudoscience, can make buying groceries these days fraught. That’s partly why anything that claims to cut a clear path through the confusion has ready appeal: witness the rise of the “clean eating” movement in the past few years. The rigid rules set out by self-appointed blogger gurus have since been shouted down as nonsensical notions of purity rather than coherent nutritional science. But the clean eating evangelists found a following because they promised to simplify, to make decisions about food less overwhelming – and to provide a world view to match.

I may have avoided the nonsense peddled in the blogosphere, but, like many people, I find the current world of food bewildering at times. My goals are simple enough: I want to come home with the ingredients for tasty meals that will make my family healthier, without spending a fortune. And while I’m at it, I’d also like to minimise any harm I might cause to the environment and my fellow humans. That shouldn’t be so hard, right?

I decided to take a close look at my food choices to see whether I could find a healthier, more sustainable diet. Could I meet both those goals, or would they pull in opposite directions? Equally important for an enthusiastic foodie like me, would I end up with a diet I would actually enjoy eating? And would the whole business be so complicated that only an obsessive would ever

I decided to take a close look atmy food choices to see whether I could find a healthier, more sustainable diet. Could I meet both those goals, or would they pull in opposite directions? Equally important for an enthusiastic foodie like me, would I end up with a diet I would actually enjoy eating? And would the whole business be so complicated that only an obsessive would ever bother?

Read more > Food for thought

Monday, September 25, 2017

Kickstart Your Book

Crowdfunding can be an excellent way to raise money to publish a book, whether on your own or with a resource-limited team. For instance, the small press Alliteration Ink and I partnered in an eff ort to crowdfund my fourth novel. Th at campaign earned me a professional-level advance and paid for the book’s production costs, all from just 174 eager backers. Because my advance is paid by someone other than my publisher, I’ll receive royalties within days of when the book goes on sale. Compare that to the thousands of readers who must purchase a mass-market novel before an author earns anything beyond his traditionally structured advance.

My campaign was a modest success built on the strength of my existing readership. Other campaigns have been fi nancial triumphs, earning their authors mad cash and a legion of new readers. But there are horror stories: spurned campaigns that sank like cold lumps of leaden shame in the crowdfunding sea. Or worse, campaigns that seemed wildly lucrative but ultimately drove their creators to bankruptcy and the brink
of sanity.

Naturally, many writers and indie publishers are worried about the risks of crowdfunding … and unsure of which platform to use. For instance, there’s GoFundMe, which is a good resource if you need money due to a sudden fi nancial misfortune. If you can regularly produce new content for supporters, Patreon can generate steady monthly income. Indiegogo is a solid platform best known for funding indie movies.

Source: Writer's Digest November & December_2017

Equifax and the Perils of Password Protection

In the U.S., it's almost comically easy to hack someone's life. All you need are a few numbers to access most smartphones, a string of characters to access most email accounts and a handful of biographical details to steal most identities.

And so when news broke Sept. 7 that Equifax, one of America's largest credit-rating agencies, had been compromised, exposing data from as many as 143 million accounts, people were rightfully concerned. The hack wasn't as large as other high-profile incidents, like the ones at Yahoo and MySpace, which jeopardized an estimated 500 million and 360 million user accounts, respectively. But it's a likely gold mine for identity thieves, especially considering the type of information that was exposed--not just names and addresses, but also Social Security, credit card and driver's license numbers. That's more than enough to open a credit card in someone's name, take out a loan, and more. (Equifax, which is now facing more than 30 new lawsuits in the U.S., did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

There are ways to prevent these calamities. One way, of course, is for companies to do a better job securing users' information so it doesn't get hacked in the first place. But the bigger issue, say industry experts, is that the information we use to establish and verify our identities--passwords, pass codes, biographical details--is simply too easy to steal. And solving that problem requires overhauling the way we think about proving who we are, both online and in real life.

Read more > Equifax and the Perils of Password Protection

Could the Japanese concept of ikigai teach us the secrets of happiness and a longer life?

Not so long ago we went a little bit Danish – snuggling down and getting cosy with hygge, the Scandinavian secret to happiness. But this autumn, if it’s happiness and a longer, more fulfilling life you’re after, you need to look further afield to Japan and its philosophy of ikigai (pronounced “icky guy”).

It comes from the Japanese iki (to live) and gai (reason) and is loosely translated as the reason for waking up in the morning or our purpose in life.

Two new books on ikigai have been published in the UK this autumn and the authors point out that when we know our ikigai we are happier and, like the Japanese who are among the world’s longest-lived people, may survive seven to 12 years longer than those who don’t know theirs.

But what is ikigai and can it be transferred to the West?

“Ikigai is similar to finding our purpose or the meaning of our life,” explains life coach and business strategist Simon Alexander Ong. “The French call it our raison d’etre. It’s what gets us out of bed in the morning. It comes naturally to us and is sometimes seen as a gift. When we’re doing it, we’re in flow and we have no idea where the time went because we were so engrossed.

“For example, Richard Branson loves manifesting new ideas and seeing if they work. He could retire if he wanted to, but he doesn’t because he lives by his ikigai to make people’s lives better. Instead of retiring he is continually opening new businesses and always learning.

Read more > Could the Japanese concept of ikigai teach us the secrets of happiness and a longer life?

Why the beauty guru despairs of young women’s diets

Wellbeing and beauty entrepreneur Liz Earle has been in the health business for nearly 30 years, but even she didn’t know the horrific damage that young women’s faddy diets could cause them in later life.

“Obviously, I’ve always known that looking after our bones is really important,” she says. “But as the mother of two girls, I was shocked to find out that by the end of your twenties, your ability to build calcium in your bones switches off. And if I, as a health writer, didn’t realise that our ability to lock calcium away diminishes then shuts off all together, how many other parents and women out there don’t know it, either?”

That’s why she agreed to front a campaign run by the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS) called A Message to My Younger Self. Assisting her is her 26-year-old daughter Lily, an ex-primary school teacher who now helps run Liz’s Wellbeing magazine. “This is the first time I’ve been involved with a campaign for the NOS,” she says.

“She thought it was for old ladies,” says Liz, laughing. Lily nods quietly and adds, “I never realised how important it was as a young woman to be thinking about bone density. It’s something you hear about in older women.”

Liz agrees. “When you think about osteoporosis, you have a mental image perhaps of someone with a hunchback or shrinking in height in old age with a walking stick. When you’re Lily’s age, you don’t think of issues you are setting up for later life.”

Read more > Why the beauty guru despairs of young women’s diets

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Electric Dreams

You couldn’t confidently claim Ivan Glasenberg, Glencore CEO, is given over to hyperbole. In fact, his group’s grassroots exposure to the markets through its trading division means it’s probably more tuned into the ebbs and flows of the commodity market than most other mining companies.

Yet his comments regarding advances in electric vehicle (EV) technology and its consumption had him audibly excited. Speaking during Glencore’s interim results presentation earlier this year, Glasenberg said the impact of future EV consumption would have a profound effect on the demand of many of the minerals his company mines.

On Glencore’s assumption that 30% of all vehicle sales in 2030 would be EVs – equal to 26m units based on 2016 global vehicle sales of 87m units – an additional 2 million tonnes (Mt) in copper metal demand would be generated. That compares against a current total demand of 23Mt for the red metal of which about 11Mt is generated from China.

The impact on other minerals is even more pronounced.

Source: Finweek 21 September 2017

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