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Inverting the Fat-Thin Paradigm

Marion Nestle: You know obesity used to be good because if people got infectious diseases they didn’t have much in the way of resources in order to protect themselves from dying if they got sick.  And food was scarce.  It was hard to get.  People had to work hard to get it.  And we . . .  Most evolutionists who look at this kind of thing think that people evolved to keep a reasonable weight when they had to work hard to get their food.  Now that all we have to do is push a shopping cart around, it becomes a liability.  Our evolution becomes a liability.  And so that’s on the whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent side.  I mean we just live in a society in which we’re not as active and are eating much more than we used to.  People really eat a lot more than they used to.

    (35:24) But I wanted to address the question of what happened to . . . When did people start gaining weight in the United States?  People started gaining weight in the early 1980s.  That’s when rates of obesity, which had been relatively constant, suddenly started to rise very sharply.  And I think there are three reasons for why that happened.  The first was women going back into the workforce and it wasn’t . . .  Let’s always blame women first, right?  (Chuckles)  Sorry about that.  But when women went back into the workforce, there wasn’t somebody at home making meals during the day and keeping all that together.  And there was a big push for convenience foods and to make them more convenient.  I actually don’t think that’s nearly as important as the second two factors.  The second was a change in farm policy of all things, which went from paying farmers not to grow food to rewarding farmers for growing as much food as they possibly can.  And that has to do with farm subsidies and other kinds of farm supports. And by the early 1980s farmers had gotten really good at growing as much food as they possibly can.  And there was a very, very sharp increase in the number of calories available in the food supply that started right around the early 1980s, so that it went from 3,200 calories a day to the present 3,900 calories a day.  Well companies had to sell that food, so I’ve already talked about that.  But companies had to sell that food, and they worked hard to do that.  And the third reason also played into that, which was the beginning of what is called . . . this is Wall Street . . . is the beginning of what is called the Shareholder Value Movement.  This was a movement that was attributed to a speech by Jack Welch who was then the head of General Electric in 1981, in which he said enough of this blue chip stock business.  Investors ought to be rewarded for their investment now.  We want immediate and higher turns . . . returns on investment.  And so under those circumstances for a food company already selling food in an extraordinarily competitive atmosphere, it was no longer enough just to make a profit on food sales.  They had to grow, and they had to grow their profits every quarter – every 90 days.  And that,  I think, put food companies into a situation that was really difficult for them.  And that was when they began the intensive marketing efforts that have led to the present situation.  They developed larger portions.  Those were introduced in the early 1980s exactly in parallel with rising rates of obesity.

Our evolution has become a liability, Nestle says.

Remote learning vs. online instruction: How COVID-19 woke America up to the difference

Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.

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Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • If you or someone you know is attending school remotely, you are more than likely learning through emergency remote instruction, which is not the same as online learning, write Rich DeMillo and Steve Harmon.
  • Education institutions must properly define and understand the difference between a course that is designed from inception to be taught in an online format and a course that has been rapidly converted to be offered to remote students.
  • In a future involving more online instruction than any of us ever imagined, it will be crucial to meticulously design factors like learner navigation, interactive recordings, feedback loops, exams and office hours in order to maximize learning potential within the virtual environment.
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New study shows white dwarf stars create an essential component of life.

NASA and H. Richer (University of British Columbia)
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  • White dwarf stars create carbon atoms in the Milky Way galaxy, shows new study.
  • Carbon is an essential component of life.
  • White dwarfs make carbon in their hot insides before the stars die.
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"Forced empathy" is a powerful negotiation tool. Here's how to do it.

Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.

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  • Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss explains how forced empathy is a powerful negotiating tactic.
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How to catch a glimpse of Comet NEOWISE before it’s gone

Unless you plan to try again in 6,800 years, this week is your shot.

Image source: Sven Brandsma/Unsplash
Surprising Science
  • Comet NEOWISE will be most visible in the U.S. during the evenings from July 14-19, 2020.
  • After July 23rd, NEOWISE will be visible only through good binoculars and telescopes.
  • Look in the northwestern sky below the Big Dipper after dusk while there's a chance.

UPDATE: NASA is broadcasting a NASA Science Live episode highlighting Comet NEOWISE. NASA experts will discuss and answer public questions beginning at 3PM EST on Wednesday, July 15. Tune in via the agency's website, Facebook Live, YouTube, Periscope, LinkedIn, Twitch, or USTREAM.

Before last evening, July 14, 2020, the easiest way to see Comet NEOWISE — the brightest comet to zoom past Earth since 1977's Comet Hale-Bopp — from the United States was to catch it about an hour before sunrise. Now, however, you can see it in the evening, where it will remain for until the 19th. This is a definite don't-miss event — NEOWISE won't be coming back our way for another 6,800 years. It's the first major comet of the millennium, and by all accounts, it's unforgettable.

NEOWISE just got back from the Sun

Comet NEOWISE is named after the NASA infrared space telescope that first spotted it on March 27th. Its official moniker is C/2020 F3. It's estimated that the icy comet is about three miles across, not counting its tail.

NEOWISE is now heading away from our Sun, having made it closet approach, 27.4 million miles, to our star on July 3. The heat from that encounter is what's given NEOWISE its tail: It caused gas and dust to be released from the icy object, creating the tail of debris that looks so magical from here.

As NEOWISE moves closer to Earth, paradoxically, it will be less and less visible. By about July 23rd, you'll need binoculars or a telescope to see it at all. All of which makes this week prime time.

An evening delight

star constellation in sky

Image source: Allexxandar/Shutterstock/Big Think

First, find an unobstructed view of the northwest sky, free of streetlights, car headlights, apartment lights, and so on. And then, according to Sky & Telescope:

"Start looking about one hour after sunset, when you'll find it just over the northwestern horizon as the last of twilight fades into darkness."

It should be easy to spot since it's near to one of the most recognizable constellations up there, the Big Dipper. "Look about three fists below the bottom of the Big Dipper, which is hanging down by its handle high above, and from there perhaps a little to the right." Et voilà: Comet NEOWISE.

Says Sky & Telescope's Diana Hannikainen, "Look for a faint, fuzzy little 'star' with a fainter, fuzzier little tail extending upward from it."

The comet should be visible with the naked eye, though binoculars and a simple telescope may reveal more detail.

You may also be able to snap a photo of this special visitor, though you'll need the right gear to do so. A dedicated camera is more likely to capture a good shot than a telephone, but in either case, you'll need a tripod or some other means of holding the camera dead still as it takes a timed exposure of several seconds (not all phones can do this).

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