Every now and then a viral trend comes along that poses a major health threat. (Remember when people were eating Tide Pods?) This newest Internet fad is no different. Sunburn tattoos are the latest viral hit that you should never, ever try. Seriously, never.
To get a sunburn tattoo, people put stencils on their skin and then head out to lay in the sun without any sunscreen. When you remove the stencil, you'll have a sunburn-shaped design on your skin—like a temporary tattoo.
Sure it looks like harmless summer fun. But no matter how you spin it, sunburn tattoos are extremely dangerous and can put you at serious risk of skin cancer.
"In order for the stencil, or tattoo, to be apparent, you would have to damage the surrounding tissue enough that it either tans heavily or burns," Rachel Nazarian, MD, a New York–based dermatologist and Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology (FAAD), tells Health.
"Both tanning and burning the skin is detrimental to your health; they're signs that the skin is receiving ultraviolet radiation with mutating potential, which increases your risk of developing skin cancer and accelerates skin aging, meaning more wrinkles, sun spots, and loss of collagen, which causes sagging skin," she continues.
Health also spoke with Debra Jaliman, MD, dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, who had a similar take. "Purposefully keeping the area sunscreen-free will do harm to the DNA in your skin cells," Dr. Jaliman says. "Not only will you cause premature skin aging, but you will also be putting yourself at risk for skin cancer."
So listen to these dermatologists and skip the sunburn tattoo fad. Instead, show your skin lots of love by wearing sunscreen every single day, no exceptions.
To make sure you're properly protected, apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before you're going to be in the sun, and slather it on those less obvious body spots, like your lips, feet, eyelids, and underarms. You should also wear at least SPF 15 and reapply every 80 minutes.
Sometimes in life, you just need a good puzzle. They force you to exercise your mind and think about the world from a slightly different angle, and they remind us that sometimes, the key to solving a problem is to simply approach it with fresh eyes.
Plus, they’re a lot of fun, and nothing beats the satisfaction of finally cracking one!
And not only are they fun, but studies have even shown that brainteasers can keep your mind sharp and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Of course, they also require some concentration and a little creative thinking. But the best thing about brainteasers is that they’re fun for everyone, and you don’t need any kind of special talent to try one out.
Brainteasers often times rely on hiding their secrets in plain sight, and on misdirection.
We’ll start off with a puzzle that’s been a longtime favorite.
Study the photo above and try to spot the error.
If you get stumped, or just want to make sure your guess is right, click to reveal the answers.
Olive oil has been hailed as a hair-healing treatment for ages. And today, you'll read about its wonders all over the internet. It makes sense as to why: a hair care cure for dryness and damage, found right in your kitchen? Plus, it contains many of the good-for-you ingredients that you find in commercial products? Especially those looking for easy, natural, DIY options, the appeal is undeniable.
But there is still a lot of misinformation and confusion out there. So we combed through the research (as a forewarning, there's not a ton) as well as talked to a few of our go-to experts to find out the deal. Here, everything you need to know.
What are the benefits?
In order for your hair to remain healthy, it needs to retain moisture and nutrients, and those are often depleted with hot tools, chemical processing, surfactants in shampoos, and daily wear and tear. It also needs protection from environmental stressors, like sun and pollution, as they cause free-radical damage. When your hair is damaged, it can become more porous, meaning it loses water much faster.
Olive oil plays a role in helping hydrate hair but not in the way you might think: Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat. Hair actually has the ability to absorb monounsaturated fats, according to research. (According to one study, they've been able to document the absorption of certain oils by tracking the thinning film that surrounds the strand, and it also shows that doesn't happen with all oils, like mineral for example, so while some smaller oil molecules can penetrate hair, some will only sit on top.)
And when olive oil is absorbed into the hair, it can actually help hair retain hydration. Retain is the key word here: "Oil is not a conditioner, only water-based products can truly moisturize your hair," says hairstylist Gabrielle Corney. "These oils have many hair benefits, but they work best when in conjunction with a water-based hydrating cream." Liken it to using an oil in skin care; they are most hydrating when tapped on top of a lotion or essence to help "trap" in the water.
Olive oil also contains a large amount of antioxidants from vitamins E and K. Free-radical damage not only happens to the skin but hair as well; the oxidative stress can actually cause hair to age faster, according to one study. The antioxidants will help neutralize those and mitigate any future stressors.
Other than helping retain hydration, research suggests, olive oil can also act as a lubricant for strands to reduce breakage. Shockingly, a significant amount of damage to hair can actually happen during the shower: Hair is weakest when wet, then when you add in surfactants from shampoo and the scrubbing motion, you cause friction between strands. This friction can lead to raised cuticles, stretching, and splintering. When you apply an oil before washing, the film helps minimize the chances of this.
It should be noted that these benefits only come when choosing the right type: Opt for extra-virgin organic olive oil, which is the least processed and contains more of the hair-helping nutrients explained above.
What are the downsides?
As with all good things in life, it's not right for everything or every woe.
There are many claims that it can help with dandruff by moisturizing flaky, scaly patches—as well as being antimicrobial. However, most dermatologists refute this. According to board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D., "Dandruff is caused by a yeast on our scalp, and if you use olive oil, you are feeding that yeast, which might make dandruff worse." (She also notes she's not against using olive oil as a hydrator, especially on the ends, but it might not be right for everyone.)
Another potential side effect: If you are acne-prone on your chest or back, and your hair is long enough to touch the area, you might be unintentionally clogging pores and leading to worse breakouts.
Finally, never use olive oil before using hot tools or a blow dryer. Olive oil has a burn temperature starting as low as 320°F. Most hot tools and dryers on the market go well above that. Translation? You are literally cooking your strands.
What hair types should (and shouldn't) use olive oil?
Those with extremely dry hair or those with kinky and curly textures will benefit the most from olive oil, notes Corney, who says it is one of her favorite oils for her clients. This hair texture is naturally more porous and, therefore, loses moisture faster. Also because of the winding strand pattern, it has more points on the hair that are prone to breakage (your hair is more susceptible to damage at curves and turns), so it needs more lubricating, especially during the detangling or washing process.
However, it's too heavy of an oil for those with fine or straight hair. It will weigh down strands and make the style appear greasy, especially when applied at the roots. These hair types would benefit more from a thinner option with less slip, like jojoba or argan oil.
You might be tempted to use olive oil on color-treated hair, specifically if you lighten it, as bleaching hair opens up the hair cuticle, making it more porous as well. However, olive oil has a rich gold tone, which over time, can slowly make hair dye appear warmer or even yellow. "Any hair product that's not clear has the potential to alter color," says colorist and co-founder of the salon Spoke&Weal Christine Thompson. "So if you apply a product, like an oil, that has a specific tone, your hair can adapt that color with repeated use."
How to apply it to your hair.
Using olive oil isn't just as simple as pulling it off your kitchen counter and dosing your strands with it. It can be, but there are a few more effective ways to use it, depending on your needs.
Pre-shampoo treatment: As noted above, washing your hair can actually cause damage to the strands through friction and surfactants. So before you take a shower, evenly apply oil—the amount will depend on length and thickness. If you are especially dry, we recommend coating the whole strand. Or if you are prone to oily scalps, you can just focus on mid-shaft to the ends.
Tending ends: While nothing can fix dry and split ends besides a trim, you can temporarily improve the look of them. It's as easy as applying a tiny bit to the bottom of the hair: The oil adds shine to the area, making it appear less damaged (dullness is a key sign of dead ends). And, while this particular study didn't test olive oil specifically, it showed that regular use of oils in general may help prevent future split ends by protecting it from physical damage.
Smoothing back frizz: Applying oils gives the appearance of frizz reduction by coating and sealing the cuticle. (As a briefer on frizz: It's caused by raised cuticles on the strands, which causes the individual strands to separate.) As we've mentioned before, olive oil is likely too heavy for some hair types to use as a styling agent, but if your hair is prone to extreme frizz, it can help combat fly-aways. To apply: Use a small amount, and with your fingers, comb it through your hair, focusing on your hairline or part, which tend to attract more frizz.
Check this list for TSA-approved foods (pizza is a go!) before packing for your next trip.
There’s nothing less appetizing than airplane food — so it’s no wonder that so many of us prefer to bring our own meals when we fly. Unfortunately though, bringing snacks through security has a tendency to get complicated. You don’t want those delicious leftovers to get confiscated, after all! Luckily, the TSA officially approves of these nine different types of food, so you can go ahead and fill up your carry-on pre-check-in.
Solid foods are perfectly fine, which means you can order up an entire pepperoni pie and bring it through the security checkpoint if you like. The same goes for other delicious solid meals like burgers, sandwiches, cakes, bread or cooked meat. (Just don’t blame us if your seatmates get jealous!)
Fresh Meat and Seafood
The key to this one is the packaging. If the ice keeping your meat fresh is completely frozen, it counts as a solid and you’re good to go. But if it’s partially melted, the package likely won’t be permitted. The TSA has a strict "3-1-1" rule, which says you can bring just one quart-sized bag full of liquids that are 3.4 ounces or less in your carry-on.
Pro tip: You can also use up to five pounds of dry ice to protect your meat, as long as the package is properly vented and marked.
Similarly, ice cream is A-OK as long as it’s frozen solid when it’s presented for its security screening. Making sure it doesn’t melt before you board, however, is another story.
Fresh Fruit and Veggies
In most places, packing a salad for your in-flight meal — as long as the dressing container holds 3.4 ounces or less — is no problem. One thing to keep in mind: Passengers flying out of Hawaii, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands to the mainland U.S. can’t bring fresh fruits or vegetables with them due to the risk of spreading invasive plant pests.
This counts as a liquid, so you’ll just need to make sure it’s packaged in small containers in your quart-sized bag. The same goes for spreadable cheeses and dips. Want to bring a giant jar for your trip? Ship it ahead of time or pack it securely in your checked luggage.
Beverages with less than 70-percent alcohol are permitted in 3.4-ounce containers, so mini liquor bottles are fair game. Sadly though, you aren’t allowed to actually drink them on the plane, as federal law stipulates that you can only consume alcoholic beverages served by the airline.
Technically these are allowed, but we have to warn you: there’s a good chance that they might look like a security concern as they go through the X-ray, and it’s ultimately the TSA officer’s decision on what goes through, no matter what the rules say. All things considered, it’s probably better to play it safe and leave the cans of food at home.
You may get some strange looks, but you are permitted to bring a couple cartons with you on the plane. Just make sure they’re packaged safely, so they don’t end up cracking mid-flight!
As long as it’s transported in a clear, spill-proof, plastic container, you are theoretically able to bring a live lobster through security. However, it’s strongly recommended that you contact the airline ahead of time to inquire about their specific policy.
Still got questions about what’s allowed? Reach out to @AskTSA on Twitter with your specific details and they’ll be happy to help.
Leaving behind your hometown and exploring the great beyond is one of the most important things you'll ever do in your lifetime. It breaks the monotony of your daily routine, pushes you out of your comfort zone, and forces you to appreciate a world completely unlike your own. A great trip can leave you feeling replenished, strengthened, and more open-minded than you've ever been before. The memories made in a land far away from home can last forever. However, while no one doubts the merit in traveling, it doesn't take much to ruin what could have been a perfect vacation. Failing to bring your most vital belongings is one of the most common mistakes people make. Knowing the travel accessory you need, according to your zodiac sign, can make all the difference.
Whether you're staying in a five-star resort right on the beaches of Turks and Caicos or embarking on a spiritual jurney hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada, there are certain travel accessories your zodiac sign just can't go without. Some prefer accessories that enhance their experience while others need help in getting used to the transition. Most simply want something that allows the long and grueling flight to their destination to become a whole lot more bearable. Whatever it is, make sure you don't leave home without it.
Aries: Portable Bluetooth Speaker
DOSS Touch Wireless Bluetooth V4.0 Portable Speaker $29.99, Amazon
An Aries needs to be able to start a party wherever they are. Whether they're lounging on a beach, exploring a lush forest, or walking through city streets doesn't matter. If a tune enters their mind, they'd love to be able to blast it wherever they are.
Taurus: Emergency Travel Snacks
Hard Plastic Hangry Emergency Snack Kit $12.99+, Amazon
Always concerned with their bodily needs, a Taurus would greatly benefit from having an emergency package of snacks on deck. If the food options aren't agreeing with them wherever they're traveling, being able to munch on something familiar will make all the difference.
Gemini: Portable Phone Charger
Anker PowerCore 10000 Charging Technology Power Bank $29.99, Amazon
If you think a traveling Gemini takes a break from checking their social media and texting their friends back home, you're wrong. That's why having a portable phone charger is an absolute necessity for this communicative air sign.
Cancer: Portable Aromatherapy Diffuser
InnoGear Upgraded 150ml Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser $16.95, Amazon
A Cancer has the tendency to get homesick while traveling. A portable essential oil diffusor can make their vacation feel so much more comfortable. Having familiar scents misting throughout their space will remind them that a home away from home is the next best thing.
Leo: Instant-Film Camera
Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera $56, Amazon
Always wanting to document the awesomeness of their travels, a Leo would adore having a Polaroid camera to mess around with while on vacation. Being able to print a film photo straight after taking a shot makes their trip feel so much more monumental.
Virgo: Travel Accessory Organizer
Lonew 7Pcs Packing Cubes, Travel Luggage Packing Organizers $17.98, Amazon
A Virgo is always concerned with keeping things organized, prepared, and detailed. This is why a set of packing cubes would greatly put their mind at ease as they leave behind their comfort zone and adjust to a new environment. It's so easy to make a mess while traveling and a Virgo would rather not.
Libra: Travel-Sized Manicure Kit
Utopia Care Professional Manicure Pedicure Set Nail Clippers Kit $13.99, Amazon
A Libra loves to keep things clean, manicured, and luxurious. A broken or peeling nail would annoy them during every moment of their trip. Being able to remedy the issue the moment it happens allows a Libra to feel comfortable, no matter where they are.
Scorpio: Memory Foam Travel Pillow
Cabeau Evolution Memory Foam Travel Pillow $39.99, Amazon
If a Scorpio isn't comfortable, they'll be extremely grumpy throughout the duration of their travels. Having a memory foam pillow to sink their sleepy head into while embarking on a long road trip or plane ride turns an unhappy Scorpio into a happy one.
Sagittarius: Waterproof Phone Case
JOTO Universal Waterproof Case $7.49, Amazon
A Sagittarius is the greatest traveler of all the zodiac. However, their wild spontaneity sometimes comes at the expense of common sense while on vacation. This is why a waterproof phone case can be a lifesaver for this daring fire sign while they vacation to the fullest.
Capricorn: GPS Tracker
Mengshen Mini GPS Receiver Tracker + Location Finder $35.99, Amazon
A Capricorn is strategic, self-sufficient, and savvy while traveling. They leave nothing to chance, not even the navigation app on their phone. With a legit GPS tracker on their keychain, this earth sign will never get lost.
Aquarius: Foldable Down Jacket
FADTOP Women's Packable Ultra Light Weight Short Down Jacket $25.99+,Amazon
You really never know when it's going to get cold, an Aquarius might say. Being able to yank an efficient, yet stylish down jacket straight out of a tightly packed bag allows an Aquarius to feel like the most innovative traveler there is.
Pisces: Noise Canceling Headphones
Kimitech Active Noise Canceling Headphones $59.99, Amazon
If a Pisces can't daydream, are they even truly on a vacation? Having noise canceling headphones allows this water sign to escape from reality and enter their own world. To them, this is paradise.
Source: Elite Daily
Is it just me, or are we all all great at picking up red flags in our friends' relationships and terrible at spotting them in our own love interests? Especially when it comes to finding red flags in your partner's past relationships — sure, they might talk about their ex like they're a fire-breathing dragon, but they would never talk about you that way... At least, that's what we tell ourselves.
Then, when a rocky relationship inevitably comes to an end, we're left with a million people saying "I told you so," and, "There were so many signs!" But here's the challenge: How do you differentiate between a minor character flaw or past mistake and a signal that someone is going to be an unfaithful or distrustful partner?
One area to examine with a fine-toothed comb, as mentioned, is their past relationships. And no, I don't just mean stalking their exes' prom pictures on Instagram. Look at the patterns they have or have not fallen into, the way they speak about their exes, and their ability to own up to and learn from their past mistakes.
There's so much to consider and unpack when it comes to finding red flags in a partner's past, so I spoke with licensed marriage and family therapist Nicole Richardson to find out exactly what you should be looking out for (and what you can quit stressing about!). Here are four red flags that suggest a potential partner might not make the best SO, based on their past relationships.
1. They speak disparagingly about their exes.
The way a person speaks about others (particularly when those "others" aren't around) is always a much clearer indication of their character than anyone else's. If your potential partner has nothing but rude or insulting comments to make about their exes — and places all of the blame in their failed relationships on past partners — it shows that they likely lack respect as well as self-awareness."I think the most important thing to look out for is the way your partner talks about their ex," explains Richardson. "While we all have a relationship in our past that we are really glad we are out of, it is important to notice to listen to our partner being disrespectful or derogatory towards their former partners."
TBH, I think we've all got at least one ex who left us with nothing but bad memories and a broken heart (I know I've got one!), but be careful not to vilify that person when explaining the situation to future partners.
That said, don't worry too much if your partner's not super open their past relationships, especially in the early days of your courtship.
"Some people are very wary about talking about past relationships with their current partners," Richardson notes. "I don’t see that as a big red flag."
2. If they've had a ton of past relationships.
If your new beau has a long list of ex lovers, à la Taylor Swift, it probably means they either don't know what they want or expect nothing less than perfection from their partners. Be sure to talk about where those flings went wrong, and what they're looking for in their next S.O., before diving head first into what could be a short-lived (and possibly tumultuous) relationship."If a partner has [had] a lot of past relationships, I would wonder if they fall fast and fall out just as quickly," Richardson says. "It could indicate that they have a tendency to see what they want to see in the early stages of a relationship, and cut and run as soon as they realize their idealized traits don’t exist in the other person."
3. Or if they've never been involved with anybody — ever.
There are a lot of reasons why someone may not have had a relationship — maybe they'd moved around a ton, had been heavily focused on their education, etc. But, as Richardson said, if someone's inexplicably never been romantically involved with another person, it suggests that they might be reserved or nervous to get close to others."When someone has never had a relationship and they are over the age of 25, I wonder if it is because they are painfully shy or if they have a fear of being to close to other people," says Richardson.
It's not necessarily a bad sign if your new person has never had a capital-O Official relationship before. But if they've never had a situationship, a fling, or a six-month "what are we?" thing going on, that's a red flag.
4. If they've had an long-running on-again, off-again relationship.
If your S.O. can't pinpoint the problem, it might mean that they lack closure and there's a chance they'll fall back into a relationship with that person. Conversely, if they have a solid sense of where things went wrong, they're likely coming out of that situation with an ever better sense of what they do or do not want from an S.O.As Richardson puts it, an on-again, off-again relationship "could be a red flag if your partner doesn’t have clarity on why it was on-again, off-again."
"If [they] understand why things got complicated and why it wasn’t good for them, it could have actually been a good learning experience for them," Richardson explains. "If there is no clarity, there could be a danger that the door is open to an on-again."
If the door still appears to be open, maybe let that one go... You don't want to stand in the way of a Jelena kind of love, do you?
On the flip side, if your new S.O.'s able to reflect on their past flings — regardless of how many or how few there have been — with a sense of clarity, responsibility, and respect, it's a solid sign that they'll make a great partner to you. Congrats on finding a catch, girl!
Source -Elite Daily
AS VEGAS—Amazon’s Alexa voice software may have won the holidays. But Google’s rival A.I., the Google Assistant, is just getting started—and it’s playing to win.
On the eve of CES, the company has announced a cavalcade of new partnerships that will put Google’s voice in everything from smart displays to smart TVs to cars to headphones. The full list of partners and products is too long to replicate here, but you can read it in Google’s official blog post. The smart displays—from JBL, Lenovo, LG, and Sony—will compete directly with Amazon’s Echo Show, while the headphones—also from Jaybird, LG, and Sony, along with JBL—are poised to take on Apple’s Siri-powered Air Pods.
Oh, and smart speakers? Google already has the Home, Home Mini, and Home Max to rival Amazon’s hit Echo devices. Now it’s announcing plans to integrate the Assistant into voice-powered speakers from no fewer than 13 different companies, including JBL, Jensen, iHome, Altec Lansing, and Bang & Olufsen.
In short, Google wants to make its Assistant ubiquitous, so that you’ll talk to it not only on your Google Home or Android phone, but on your Android TV, Android Auto, and other voice-enabled appliances of all kinds.
This mirrors Amazon’s strategy, which has been called “Alexa Everywhere.”
The success of Amazon’s Echo and Fire TV hardware has given it an edge so far. But Google has a lot going for it that Amazon doesn’t, because so many people already have Android on their phones. And it’s now clear that Google is willing to cannibalize its own Home devices in pursuit of software supremacy—a strategy that mimics its approach with smartphones, where it focused on developing Android for third-party handset makers to compete with Apple’s iOS.
All of these companies—throw in Microsoft (Cortana) and Samsung (Bixby) here—are pushing hard, because A.I. assistants work best when they get to know your personal preferences. But Google, more than the others, appears to be determined not just to keep pace with Alexa but, if possible, to overwhelm it.
To underscore the point, Google also announced a new term for the various things you can use Assistant to do: It’s calling them “Actions.” This matches Alexa’s “Skills” and reinforces Google’s new emphasis on working with third-party developers to make Assistant a major platform in its own right.
A big question now is whether people will actually be comfortable putting Google’s A.I. all over their house and car, and whether those who have already fallen for Alexa can be persuaded to start saying “Hey Google,” instead. Google is certainly determined to find out.
When the land down the road from Lorraine Lewandrowski’s home in New York State’s Herkimer county was sold, it was bought by developers who turned the land into a subdivision.
“The people who bought the lots from us were nice enough, and they all told me that they wanted to be out in the country,” says Lewandrowski a lawyer and a dairy farmer in Central New York. “But they couldn't grasp what they were doing. The meadows that were alive with little bird fledglings the developers were plowing under to make these 10 acre lawns.”
It’s hard to argue that that was an ecological improvement over the land’s previous incarnation as a farm.
For the past month, many Popular Science staff members have engaged in No Red October in which they eschewed eating beef. The reason was not masochism but environmentalism: livestock accounts for 12-percent of global climate change emissions. And beef—which requires 28 times more land and 11 times more water to produce chicken or pork while emitting five times more climate-changing emissions—seems like a natural place to cut back. Especially since Americans annually eat 54 pounds of beef, or a little more than a pound a week.
Let’s say we went a little more drastic, and we all gave up eating beef overnight. What would that actually do to the ecology of the land, and to the rural communities built around agriculture? Would the resulting change really be a good thing?
Nicolette Hahn Niman doesn’t have a problem with people giving up beef for a month—that probably isn’t going to make much of an impact on farm economies. And there’s something to be said about giving up anything for a while that makes us more conscious of what we’re consuming.
“What troubles me is the repetition sort of ad nauseam is that cattle are inherently problematic for the environment and that the best thing we can do is give up beef,” says Hahn Niman. For years, Hahn Niman was an environmental lawyer working with the environmental non-profit Waterkeeper Alliance. As part of that role she was tasked with looking at the environmental impact that livestock, including beef, had on water systems. She looked at the scientific research, traveled all over the country visiting farms, flew over farm operations, and essentially went down the cattle rabbit hole for two years. Her work eventually culminated in the book Defending Beef. Hahn Niman, a vegetarian, also became a rancher herself after marrying Bill Niman the well-known founder of Niman Ranch (which is now owned by Perdue).
“The more time I spent with it, the more time I spent on farms, the more I became convinced the real question is how livestock are produced not whether they're produced,” says Hahn Niman. She says telling people to simply stop eating beef is an oversimplification of the issue.
Take for example the statistic that it takes 11 times more water to raise cattle than to raise pork or chicken. That number doesn’t take into consideration what kind of water is being used. It makes a huge difference if that water is irrigated water, pulled up from groundwater supplies or if it’s just rain water that would naturally occur on a grassland anyway. New York State is relatively wet and has an abundant amount of naturally occurring grassland which is great for grazing and making hay. Because of that, in 2012 the United States Department of Agriculture, along with Cornell Cooperative Extension created a report titled Green Grass, Green Jobs which calls for increasing livestock production in the state.
Similarly, just like all water isn’t the same, land varies too. A large chunk of America’s agricultural lands are grasslands which aren’t suitable for growing much other than grass. Grass is great for ruminants like cows and sheep but less great for people, who can’t actually eat grass.
“Let’s say you drove every rancher in the US off the land. What would happen to the 600 million acres of grazing land?” asks Lewandrowski. “Would it be a Disneyland kind of thing where bison and antelope just take over?”
And, points out Lewandrowski, what would happen to those communities? As farms have consolidated many have been ploughed under to create subdivisions—or, as they’re referred to out west, ranchettes—that fragment ecosystems and are harder on the land. At the same time, when ranchers and farmers suffer economic distress, it dissolves the ties that hold their communities together and themselves. From the droughts in India to the milk crisis of 2010 it’s not uncommon, and incredibly unfortunate for farmers to deal with the dissolution of their livelihoods – and the mounting debts that it creates—by committing suicide. As we lose farms, rural communities lose the economic engine that holds their community together.
“If I said to you what if I got rid of every teacher or any other profession in the United States there'd be an uproar,” said Lewandrowski. “But if I said let’s get rid of every rancher in this country, there are people who are like, ‘oh it would be a good thing.’”
What Lewandrowski is getting at is a real divide between people making the decisions and those who are actually producing our food. And the two sides are generally not talking to each other. Lewandrowski notes that farmers are often excluded from conferences that discuss the future of food and its relationship to climate change.
None of this is to say that when it comes to agriculture, that the status quo is fine.
“There's an enormous problem with the food system and the way it's impacting the environment,” says Hahn Niman. “We know in the United States that the number one source of water contamination is from agriculture. There's a lot of data that the food sector is contributing to climate change in various ways.”
The problem comes from distilling the solution down to a single consumer action, instead of recognizing and fixing the broader system. That means repairing the relationship between purchasers and producers, adjusting feeding operations to be more humane, and literally getting down into the dirt.
“I am increasingly convinced the cornerstone of building or rebuilding a sustainable food system is really about soil health and specifically the biology of the soil and that everything goes up from there,” says Hahn Niman.
The reason is simple – healthy soil is both a sign of sustainable practices and a contributor to a healthy food system. Healthy soils require fewer synthetic fertilizers, for example. And it’s these synthetic fertilizers that contribute so greatly to the annual dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Healthy soils require different grazing practices that move cattle along from region to region. And studies show that when practices like these are employed, that the land itself is healthier. Even the report Livestock’s Long Shadow from The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations which kicked off much of this debate acknowledged that where you have grazing animals you have more biodiversity, and more water in the system.”
This does nothing, of course, to answer the question of whether or not you should eat less beef. But maybe, just maybe, that’s the wrong question. Perhaps, the better question to ask is: do you know the source of your food? And let everything else fall from there.
Web-based games can help people living with severe mental illness return to work, a study has found.
Combining brain-training exercises on the internet with supported employment programs can drastically improve the chances of these patients finding and maintaining jobs, according to the report by Australia’s Westmead Institute for Medical Research.
“There’s a whole group of games that are often oversold to people who have normal cognition and are just anxious about whether their short-term memory is functioning like it used to be,” said lead researcher and clinical psychiatrist Dr. Anthony Harris. “But this study shows they can be useful for people with cognitive problems as a result of severe mental illness to regain some of their thinking skills.”
That, in turn, can boost patients’ employability, the study found. On average, participants using the web-based therapies worked 3 times the number of hours and earned almost $2,000 more than the control group over a 6-month trial.
The study used cognitive remediation therapy, or CRT, which includes games similar to the popular brain-training app Lumosity. They are engineered to improve attention and concentration, response speed, and short-term memory. CRT targets cognitive deficits that individuals may have as a result of their illness. “The gamification makes it a lot easier for people to stick with exercises that can otherwise be quite dry,” Harris said.
In the US, about 80% of people living with a severe mental illness are unemployed, according to a 2014 reportby the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization. The same report also found that roughly 60% of the 7.1 million people receiving public mental health services nationwide want to work, but less than 2% receive supported employment opportunities provided by states.
Unemployment for patients living with a severe mental illness is bad for the individual, bad for the community because of a dependence on social services, and bad for the workforce because of wasted manpower, Harris added. “It’s a triple whammy.”
Being in full-time work is one of the best means to recovery, but a negative feedback loop exists between long-term unemployment and severe mental illness: The poverty and marginalization associated with joblessness can cause further alienation and exacerbate the symptoms of severe mental illness. “You can be presented with regular failure, it can stop you from engaging in social networks, resulting in loss of contact with the working world, loss of status, loss of friends,” Harris said.
Harris said games can be particularly attractive to young patients, who tend to dislike therapy. The symptoms of schizophrenia usually start between ages 16 and 30, according to the National Institute for Mental Health.
“Young people especially don’t want to be seen to be unwell, to have a mental illness and don’t want to be caught going to therapy groups, which aren’t seen as particularly cool.” The web-based therapies are “a way of using the work of software developers, who are oftentimes all too good at getting people hooked into their games, in a positive way.”
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1 in 4 individuals with a psychological condition believe that others are caring and sympathetic to people with mental illness. That stigma can not only prevent patients from getting hired, but it can also stop people from seeking the help they need.
“People are concerned to say that they are depressed or feeling suicidal, and the tabloid press reporting on issues like schizophrenia are usually horrendous,” Harris said. But cognitive remediation therapy on the internet could create a way for patients to seek assistance in the comfort of their own home or discreetly while at work. The growing popularity of telehealth reflects a need to provide specialized health services at a distance, according to Harris. That’s already been happening in psychiatry for some time, he said.
Because the cost of web-based treatment is small compared to, say, in-person therapy groups it would be straightforward and inexpensive to roll out. Then it could reach sparsely populated rural areas where access to treatment tends to be more limited, the report said.
For the best results, the games should be matched with supported employment opportunities. Harris said that is essential. “The cognitive remediation therapies alone only have a small effect,” he noted, “but it’s much better if it’s combined with other psychosocial interventions, like disability support programs.”
The trial was conducted with a sample size of 86 people with a range of severe mental illness—including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and psychotic depression—from across New South Wales, Australia.
The other week, Mark Zuckerberg visited Puerto Rico without leaving California. He stood on the roof of Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park with a virtual reality (VR) headset strapped to his face, and immersed himself in a flooded street 3,000 miles away.
Zuckerberg was livestreaming the event to promote Facebook Spaces, a “social” VR app. But it backfired, badly. Using a humanitarian crisis for a marketing stunt made many people angry. So did the tasteless incongruity of Zuckerberg’s grinning cartoon avatar set against a landscape of profound human suffering.
When Zuckerberg apologized the next day, he clarified his intentions. “One of the most powerful features of VR is empathy,” he wrote. By cultivating empathy, VR “can raise awareness and help us see what’s happening in different parts of the world”.
It would be easy to see this statement as a canned bit of damage control, as another in a long line of half-hearted mea culpas mass-produced by Silicon Valley publicists for their frequently offending bosses. But it’s worth taking Zuckerberg seriously. When he talks about empathy, he means it.
Empathy is a word that suffuses the tech industry. The ability of an engineer or a designer to put themselves in someone else’s shoes is widely considered critical for creating a successful user experience. But with VR, empathy isn’t just a design value – it’s a sales strategy.
Empathy is the cornerstone of the tech industry’s masterplan for mainstreaming VR. It’s the “killer app” that Silicon Valley hopes will transform VR from a fringe curiosity into a technology that’s as deeply embedded in our daily lives as smartphones and social media.
VR enthusiasts often describe it as an “empathy machine”. By creating an immersive and interactive virtual environment, a VR headset can quite literally put you in someone else’s shoes. Text, image, or video offers only partial views of a person’s life – with VR, you can get inside their head. And this high-fidelity simulation, the argument goes, will make us better people by heightening our sensitivity to the suffering of others. It will make us “more compassionate”, “more connected”, and ultimately “more human”, in the words of the VR artist Chris Milk.
Now, this isn’t necessarily true. There’s no reason to assume that a virtual rendering of real suffering will generate empathy. But, as Ainsley Sutherland explains in a recent piece for BuzzFeed, it’s a very useful idea for the tech industry. Tech needs the myth of the empathy machine for two related reasons: to enhance VR’s reputation, and to expand its audience.
Violence and sex have long supplied VR with its most obvious use cases. It’s an excellent platform for gaming and porn. But these specific strengths actually damage VR’s chances of becoming a mass medium, since the technology risks becoming linked with somewhat embarrassing subcultures. Silicon Valley isn’t pouring billions of dollars into VR to give nerds a better way to play games and masturbate – and if those are the only activities that people associate with the technology, it’s dead on arrival.
Empathy offers a more promising approach. Rather than marketing VR as a gaming rig or a sex toy, Silicon Valley can pitch it as a catalyst of deep interpersonal connection. It also suits Silicon Valley’s oft-expressed desire to make the world a better place. By lending you the eyes and ears of someone suffering in San Juan, tech helps you to develop a greater sense of responsibility for them. You feel compelled to act. This is connectivity not merely as a technical concept, but a moral one.
Lately, however, this faith in connectivity has been harder to sustain. In recent months, the media and the general public has gradually awakened to the fact that using technology to connect people doesn’t automatically make the world a better place. In fact, it sometimes seems to make the world considerably worse. Trolls, racists, and fascists are using the connective capacities of Google and Facebook to inject their poisons into the body politic with alarming success. As a result, for the first time in its history, Silicon Valley is facing something of a backlash.
VR offers a way to reset the narrative. At a moment when Silicon Valley sorely needs good press, both to burnish its public image and to forestall a possible regulatory response, the myth of the empathy machine has an important role to play. It helps rehabilitate the idea that connectivity produces socially beneficial outcomes, and that Silicon Valley is an essentially humanitarian enterprise.
With VR, this humanitarianism can be quite explicit. Charities are already using the technology to coax dollars from prospective donors. At black-tie fundraisers in New York, attendees have used VR headsets to travel to destinations as distant as a Lebanese refugee camp and an Ethiopian village. And the United Nations has built its own VR app that teleports users to Syria, Liberia, Gaza and elsewhere, while encouraging them to donate money or time.
VR philanthropy supplies the tech industry with valuable rhetorical ammunition. Companies can point to these initiatives, and partner with the organizations behind them, to boost the technology’s reputation – and their own.
But the empathy machine isn’t just about driving better PR. It’s also about selling headsets – and Silicon Valley needs to sell lots of headsets. Zuckerberg recently said he wants to get one billion people into VR. This may sound impossibly ambitious, but it expresses something of the scale required to recoup Facebook’s enormous investment in the technology.
Of course, VR philanthropy probably won’t become a popular pastime. It may appeal to certain users, but it’s unlikely to spark widescale adoption.
Suffering might, however. Extreme situations are good ways to demonstrate the affective capacity of a medium. A Holocaust movie shows us the emotional power of cinema; a Facebook Live broadcast of the police murder of a black man shows us the emotional power of social video. These representations of pain, by eliciting an intense response from their viewers, teach people what a technology can do. If a medium can make you cry – as VR can, famously – it works.
This isn’t to suggest that crying is all people will do in VR. The purpose of a killer app isn’t to exhaust a platform’s potential, but to offer an entrypoint into it. Once you get a critical mass of people using a technology, they figure out other things to do with it. But VR needs a gateway drug – and virtualized misery can perform that function.
Imagine a VR live stream of a police killing. This, tragically, will soon cease to be science fiction: within years, you will be able to experience an extremely convincing simulation of what it’s like to be murdered by a cop. Will this lead to the cop’s conviction, or to meaningful criminal justice reform? Recent history suggests the answer is no. But the content will probably go viral, as its affective intensity generates high levels of user engagement. And this virality will generate revenue for the company that owns the platform.
This is a far likelier future for VR than the mass moral awakening envisioned by evangelists of the empathy machine. It’s a world where VR enables us to consume ever more realistic depictions of human anguish, whose viral circulation enriches a few big companies. It’s a world where capitalism has found yet another way to monetize its waste – where the suffering that results from a society organized for profit becomes itself a source of profit, and pain is repurposed as a site of economic production.
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