Food Swamp, USA

Highly effective impulse marketing strategies have been perfected for selling junk food. Obesity rates have skyrocketed. 

Woody Allen's character Alvy Singer begins his opening monologue in Annie Hall with an old joke. "Two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions." 


In that little joke lies some of our most complex problems, says Jeff Schechtman in this week's Specific Gravity interview. Schechtman's guest this week is Dr. Deborah Cohen, author of A Big Fat Crisis: The Hidden Forces Behind the Obesity Epidemic — and How We Can End It. "Obesity is the public health crisis of our time," Cohen says, pointing out that two out of every three adults and one out of every three children are either overweight or obese. Obesity leads to chronic diseases and kills hundreds of thousands of people every year. 

So where has the obesity epidemic come from? Cohen points out that in the early 1980s there was a sudden acceleration in the rate of obesity. The number of people considered obese eventually doubled by 2000. According to Cohen, this was due to the food industry mastering certain marketing practices that succeeded in getting more and more Americans to consume junk food. The result, she says, was "the food industry has turned our country into a food swamp."

So what can be done about this? In the podcast below, Cohen says the food industry's marketing efforts cannot easily be countered through appeals to "personal responsibility." That simply hasn't worked. Instead, Cohen argues that limited restrictions need to be placed on the way that certain foods are marketed, similar to the way that restrictions have been placed on the marketing of alcohol. 

Listen to the podcast here:

Click here to listen on your iphone or ipad

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

How to make a black hole

Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.

Videos
  • There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
  • CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
  • Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
  • Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.

Russian reporters discover 101 'tortured' whales jammed in offshore pens

Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.

(VL.ru)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Russian news network discovers 101 black-market whales.
  • Orcas and belugas are seen crammed into tiny pens.
  • Marine parks continue to create a high-price demand for illegal captures.
Keep reading Show less

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less