Meet the Bajau sea nomads — they can reportedly hold their breath for 13 minutes
The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.
- The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
- Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
- Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
Picture yourself holding your breath. How long can you last underwater? A minute? Two? You probably imagined yourself sitting a foot or so beneath the surface of a pool during this exercise, but consider how long you can hold your breath actively swimming as deep below the surface of the ocean as you can go. This would probably look like maybe 30 seconds of swimming down followed by a rush to the surface. The Bajau people of the Philippines, though, according to reports, could quite confidently imagine swimming 200 feet below the ocean surface for up to 13 minutes.
These abilities aren't merely the result of dedicated training. The Bajau people have lived their lives at sea for generations, so much so that they've developed special adaptations to their oceanic lifestyle.
Uniquely adapted to a unique life
A Bajau child preparing to dive for coins thrown by tourists. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
The traditional Bajau lifestyle is mainly spent on boats organized into flotillas that meander around the waters of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Here, they engage in subsistence hunting, spearing fish for food when the need arises. In a given day, a Bajau individual might spend five hours underwater in total, where they are complete masters of their environment. The only equipment they use are handcrafted wooden goggles and a speargun.
In order to facilitate their freediving lifestyle, some Bajau deliberately puncture their eardrums to deal with the intense pressure they experience underwater. "You bleed from your ears and nose, and you have to spend a week lying down because of the dizziness," said Imran Lahassan, a Bajau man, to The Guardian. "After that you can dive without pain." Bajau who undergo this procedure tend to become hard of hearing in their old age.
Simply diving frequently also helps them become more capable swimmers. The lung wall and abdomen become more compliant, and diaphragms become stretchier. But researchers have discovered that the Bajau also possess a useful genetic trait. Specifically, the Bajau possess variants of the PDE10A gene and the BDKRB2 gene, variants that are absent from their closest neighbors, the Saluan, who do not live their lives at sea.
This change manifests itself in a few ways. For one, Bajau have spleens that are 50 percent larger than the Saluan. Spleens aren't necessary for survival, but they do play a role in the immune system and act as a kind of filter for the blood, removing old red blood cells and recycling iron. But crucially, the spleen holds a reserve of blood. When mammals dive underwater, the spleen contracts, distributing the reserved, oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. So, a bigger spleen means more available oxygen when diving.
Furthermore, the genetic variants that the Bajau possess is associated with another feature of the diving response: peripheral vasoconstriction, although this phenomenon hasn't been directly observed by researchers. The unique genetic profile of the Bajau may enable them to better constrict noncritical areas of their vascular system. In essence, this means that less blood is used in the more external parts of their bodies such as their limbs, and more blood is sent to critical areas like the heart, lungs, and brain, enabling longer dives.
A way of life at risk
A typical Bajau stilt village. Image source: Fabio Achilli on Flickr
Unfortunately, the nomadic lifestyle of the Bajau people has been dying out for years. Many factors are working against them. First, nomadism itself isn't compatible with modern states, and many Bajau have been made to settle on land or in stilt villages built on shallow seas. What's more, some Bajau engage in fishing practices that directly harm the environments they rely on. Some divers crush up potassium cyanide tablets into plastic bottles full of seawater, which can then be squirted at fish to stun them for an easy catch. The practice easily damages sensitive coral reefs that form the environment for many of the fish species they rely on for food. Industrial fishing, too, is depleting the fish stocks they used to survive. Altogether, the changing world is quickly erasing the Bajau way of life.
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What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
A recent study gives new meaning to the saying "fake it 'til you make it."
- The study involves four experiments that measured individuals' socioeconomic status, overconfidence and actual performance.
- Results consistently showed that high-class people tend to overestimate their abilities.
- However, this overconfidence was misinterpreted as genuine competence in one study, suggesting overestimating your abilities can have social advantages.
Is this proof of a dramatic shift?
- Map details dramatic shift from CNN to Fox News over 10-year period
- Does it show the triumph of "fake news" — or, rather, its defeat?
- A closer look at the map's legend allows for more complex analyses
Dramatic and misleading
Image: Reddit / SICResearch
The situation today: CNN pushed back to the edges of the country.
Over the course of no more than a decade, America has radically switched favorites when it comes to cable news networks. As this sequence of maps showing TMAs (Television Market Areas) suggests, CNN is out, Fox News is in.
The maps are certainly dramatic, but also a bit misleading. They nevertheless provide some insight into the state of journalism and the public's attitudes toward the press in the US.
Let's zoom in:
- It's 2008, on the eve of the Obama Era. CNN (blue) dominates the cable news landscape across America. Fox News (red) is an upstart (°1996) with a few regional bastions in the South.
- By 2010, Fox News has broken out of its southern heartland, colonizing markets in the Midwest and the Northwest — and even northern Maine and southern Alaska.
- Two years later, Fox News has lost those two outliers, but has filled up in the middle: it now boasts two large, contiguous blocks in the southeast and northwest, almost touching.
- In 2014, Fox News seems past its prime. The northwestern block has shrunk, the southeastern one has fragmented.
- Energised by Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, Fox News is back with a vengeance. Not only have Maine and Alaska gone from entirely blue to entirely red, so has most of the rest of the U.S. Fox News has plugged the Nebraska Gap: it's no longer possible to walk from coast to coast across CNN territory.
- By 2018, the fortunes from a decade earlier have almost reversed. Fox News rules the roost. CNN clings on to the Pacific Coast, New Mexico, Minnesota and parts of the Northeast — plus a smattering of metropolitan areas in the South and Midwest.
Image source: Reddit / SICResearch
This sequence of maps, showing America turning from blue to red, elicited strong reactions on the Reddit forum where it was published last week. For some, the takeover by Fox News illustrates the demise of all that's good and fair about news journalism. Among the comments?
- "The end is near."
- "The idiocracy grows."
- "(It's) like a spreading disease."
- "One of the more frightening maps I've seen."
- "LOL that's what happens when you're fake news!"
- "CNN went down the toilet on quality."
- "A Minecraft YouTuber could beat CNN's numbers."
- "CNN has become more like a high-school production of a news show."
Not a few find fault with both channels, even if not always to the same degree:
- "That anybody considers either of those networks good news sources is troubling."
- "Both leave you understanding less rather than more."
- "This is what happens when you spout bullsh-- for two years straight. People find an alternative — even if it's just different bullsh--."
- "CNN is sh-- but it's nowhere close to the outright bullsh-- and baseless propaganda Fox News spews."
"Old people learning to Google"
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox News search terms (200!-2018)
But what do the maps actually show? Created by SICResearch, they do show a huge evolution, but not of both cable news networks' audience size (i.e. Nielsen ratings). The dramatic shift is one in Google search trends. In other words, it shows how often people type in "CNN" or "Fox News" when surfing the web. And that does not necessarily reflect the relative popularity of both networks. As some commenters suggest:
- "I can't remember the last time that I've searched for a news channel on Google. Is it really that difficult for people to type 'cnn.com'?"
- "More than anything else, these maps show smart phone proliferation (among older people) more than anything else."
- "This is a map of how old people and rural areas have learned to use Google in the last decade."
- "This is basically a map of people who don't understand how the internet works, and it's no surprise that it leans conservative."
A visual image as strong as this map sequence looks designed to elicit a vehement response — and its lack of context offers viewers little new information to challenge their preconceptions. Like the news itself, cartography pretends to be objective, but always has an agenda of its own, even if just by the selection of its topics.
The trick is not to despair of maps (or news) but to get a good sense of the parameters that are in play. And, as is often the case (with both maps and news), what's left out is at least as significant as what's actually shown.
One important point: while Fox News is the sole major purveyor of news and opinion with a conservative/right-wing slant, CNN has more competition in the center/left part of the spectrum, notably from MSNBC.
Another: the average age of cable news viewers — whether they watch CNN or Fox News — is in the mid-60s. As a result of a shift in generational habits, TV viewing is down across the board. Younger people are more comfortable with a "cafeteria" approach to their news menu, selecting alternative and online sources for their information.
It should also be noted, however, that Fox News, according to Harvard's Nieman Lab, dominates Facebook when it comes to engagement among news outlets.
CNN, Fox and MSNBC
Image: Google Trends
CNN vs. Fox (without the 'News'; may include searches for actual foxes). See MSNBC (in yellow) for comparison
For the record, here are the Nielsen ratings for average daily viewer total for the three main cable news networks, for 2018 (compared to 2017):
- Fox News: 1,425,000 (-5%)
- MSNBC: 994,000 (+12%)
- CNN: 706,000 (-9%)
And according to this recent overview, the top 50 of the most popular websites in the U.S. includes cnn.com in 28th place, and foxnews.com in... 27th place.The top 5, in descending order, consists of google.com, youtube.com, facebook.com, amazon.com and yahoo.com — the latter being the highest-placed website in the News and Media category.
If you thought your mother was pushy in her pursuit of grandchildren, wait until you learn about bonobo mothers.
- Mother bonobos have been observed to help their sons find and copulate with mates.
- The mothers accomplish this by leading sons to mates, interfering with other males trying to copulate with females, and helping sons rise in the social hierarchy of the group.
- Why do mother bonobos do this? The "grandmother hypothesis" might hold part of the answer.
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