Your ‘Surge Capacity’ Is Depleted — It’s Why You Feel Awful

By Tara Haelle

It was the end of the world as we knew it, and I felt fine. That’s almost exactly what I told my psychiatrist at my March 16 appointment, a few days after our children’s school district extended spring break because of the coronavirus. I said the same at my April 27 appointment, several weeks after our state’s stay-at-home order.

Yes, it was exhausting having a kindergartener and fourth grader doing impromptu distance learning while I was barely keeping up with work. And it was frustrating to be stuck home nonstop, scrambling to get in grocery delivery orders before slots filled up, and tracking down toilet paper. But I was still doing well because I thrive in high-stress emergency situations. It’s exhilarating for my ADHD brain. As just one example, when my husband and I were stranded in Peru during an 8.0-magnitude earthquake that killed thousands, we walked around with a first aid kit helping who we could and tracking down water and food. Then I went out with my camera to document the devastation as a photojournalist and interview Peruvians in my broken Spanish for my hometown paper.

Now we were in a pandemic, and I’m a science journalist who has written about infectious disease and medical research for nearly a decade. I was on fire, cranking out stories, explaining epidemiological concepts in my social networks, trying to help everyone around me make sense of the frightening circumstances of a pandemic and the anxiety surrounding the virus.

I knew it wouldn’t last. It never does. But even knowing I would eventually crash, I didn’t appreciate how hard the crash would be, or how long it would last, or how hard it would be to try to get back up over and over again, or what getting up even looked like.

In those early months, I, along with most of the rest of the country, was using “surge capacity” to operate, as Ann Masten, PhD, a psychologist and professor of child development at the University of Minnesota, calls it. Surge capacity is a collection of adaptive systems — mental and physical — that humans draw on for short-term survival in acutely stressful situations, such as natural disasters. But natural disasters occur over a short period, even if recovery is long. Pandemics are different — the disaster itself stretches out indefinitely.

“The pandemic has demonstrated both what we can do with surge capacity and the limits of surge capacity,” says Masten. When it’s depleted, it has to be renewed. But what happens when you struggle to renew it because the emergency phase has now become chronic?

By my May 26 psychiatrist appointment, I wasn’t doing so hot. I couldn’t get any work done. I’d grown sick of Zoom meetups. It was exhausting and impossible to think with the kids around all day. I felt trapped in a home that felt as much a prison as a haven. I tried to conjure the motivation to check email, outline a story, or review interview notes, but I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t make myself do anything — work, housework, exercise, play with the kids — for that whole week.

Or the next.

Or the next.

Or the next.

I know depression, but this wasn’t quite that. It was, as I’d soon describe in an emotional post in a social media group of professional colleagues, an “anxiety-tainted depression mixed with ennui that I can’t kick,” along with a complete inability to concentrate. I spoke with my therapist, tweaked medication dosages, went outside daily for fresh air and sunlight, tried to force myself to do some physical activity, and even gave myself permission to mope for a few weeks. We were in a pandemic, after all, and I had already accepted in March that life would not be “normal” for at least a year or two. But I still couldn’t work, couldn’t focus, hadn’t adjusted. Shouldn’t I be used to this by now?

“Why do you think you should be used to this by now? We’re all beginners at this,” Masten told me. “This is a once in a lifetime experience. It’s expecting a lot to think we’d be managing this really well.”

It wasn’t until my social media post elicited similar responses from dozens of high-achieving, competent, impressive women I professionally admire that I realized I wasn’t in the minority. My experience was a universal and deeply human one.

An unprecedented disaster

While the phrase “adjusting to the new normal” has been repeated endlessly since March, it’s easier said than done. How do you adjust to an ever-changing situation where the “new normal” is indefinite uncertainty?

“This is an unprecedented disaster for most of us that is profound in its impact on our daily lives,” says Masten. But it’s different from a hurricane or tornado where you can look outside and see the damage. The destruction is, for most people, invisible and ongoing. So many systems aren’t working as they normally do right now, which means radical shifts in work, school, and home life that almost none of us have experience with. Even those who have worked in disaster recovery or served in the military are facing a different kind of uncertainty right now.

“I think we maybe underestimate how severe the adversity is and that people may be experiencing a normal reaction to a pretty severe and ongoing, unfolding, cascading disaster,” Masten says. “It’s important to recognize that it’s normal in a situation of great uncertainty and chronic stress to get exhausted and to feel ups and downs, to feel like you’re depleted or experience periods of burnout.”

Research on disaster and trauma focuses primarily on what’s helpful for people during the recovery period, but we’re not close to recovery yet. People can use their surge capacity for acute periods, but when dire circumstances drag on, Masten says, “you have to adopt a different style of coping.”

Understanding ambiguous loss

It’s not surprising that, as a lifelong overachiever, I’ve felt particularly despondent and adrift as the months have dragged on, says Pauline Boss, PhD, a family therapist and professor emeritus of social sciences at the University of Minnesota who specializes in “ambiguous loss.”

“It’s harder for high achievers,” she says. “The more accustomed you are to solving problems, to getting things done, to having a routine, the harder it will be on you because none of that is possible right now. You get feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, and those aren’t good.”
That’s similar to how Michael Maddaus, MD, a professor of thoracic surgery at the University of Minnesota, felt when he became addicted to prescription narcotics after undergoing several surgeries. Now recovered and a motivational speaker who promotes the idea of a “resilience bank account,” Maddaus had always been a fast-moving high achiever — until he couldn’t be.

“I realized that my personal operating system, though it had led to tremendous success, had failed me on a more personal level,” he says. “I had to figure out a different way of contending with life.”

That mindset is an especially American one, Boss says.

“Our culture is very solution-oriented, which is a good way of thinking for many things,” she says. “It’s partly responsible for getting a man on the moon and a rover on Mars and all the things we’ve done in this country that are wonderful. But it’s a very destructive way of thinking when you’re faced with a problem that has no solution, at least for a while.”
That means reckoning with what’s called ambiguous loss: any loss that’s unclear and lacks a resolution. It can be physical, such as a missing person or the loss of a limb or organ, or psychological, such as a family member with dementia or a serious addiction.

“In this case, it is a loss of a way of life, of the ability to meet up with your friends and extended family,” Boss says. “It is perhaps a loss of trust in our government. It’s the loss of our freedom to move about in our daily life as we used to.” It’s also the loss of high-quality education, or the overall educational experience we’re used to, given school closures, modified openings and virtual schooling. It’s the loss of rituals, such weddings, graduations, and funerals, and even lesser “rituals,” such as going to gym. One of the toughest losses for me to adapt to is no longer doing my research and writing in coffee shops as I’ve done for most of my life, dating back to junior high.

“These were all things we were attached to and fond of, and they’re gone right now, so the loss is ambiguous. It’s not a death, but it’s a major, major loss,” says Boss. “What we used to have has been taken away from us.”

Just as painful are losses that may result from the intersection of the pandemic and the already tense political division in the country. For many people, issues related to Covid-19 have become the last straw in ending relationships, whether it’s a family member refusing to wear a mask, a friend promoting the latest conspiracy theory, or a co-worker insisting Covid-19 deaths are exaggerated.

Ambiguous loss elicits the same experiences of grief as a more tangible loss — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — but managing it often requires a bit of creativity.


A winding, uncharted path to coping in a pandemic

While there isn’t a handbook for functioning during a pandemic, Masten, Boss, and Maddaus offered some wisdom for meandering our way through this.

Accept that life is different right now
Maddaus’ approach involves radical acceptance. “It’s a shitty time, it’s hard,” he says. “You have to accept that in your bones and be okay with this as a tough day, with ‘that’s the way it is,’ and accept that as a baseline.”

But that acceptance doesn’t mean giving up, he says. It means not resisting or fighting reality so that you can apply your energy elsewhere. “It allows you to step into a more spacious mental space that allows you to do things that are constructive instead of being mired in a state of psychological self torment.”

Expect less from yourself

Most of us have heard for most of our lives to expect more from ourselves in some way or another. Now we must give ourselves permission to do the opposite. “We have to expect less of ourselves, and we have to replenish more,” Masten says. “I think we’re in a period of a lot of self discovery: Where do I get my energy? What kind of down time do I need? That’s all shifted right now, and it may take some reflection and self discovery to find out what rhythms of life do I need right now?”

She says people are having to live their lives without the support of so many systems that have partly or fully broken down, whether it’s schools, hospitals, churches, family support, or other systems that we relied on. We need to recognize that we’re grieving multiple losses while managing the ongoing impact of trauma and uncertainty. The malaise so many of us feel, a sort of disinterested boredom, is common in research on burnout, Masten says. But other emotions accompany it: disappointment, anger, grief, sadness, exhaustion, stress, fear, anxiety — and no one can function at full capacity with all that going on.

Recognize the different aspects of grief

The familiar “stages” of grief don’t actually occur in linear stages, Boss says, but denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance are all major concepts in facing loss. Plenty of people are in denial: denying the virus is real, or that the numbers of cases or deaths are as high as reported, or that masks really help reduce disease transmission.
Anger is evident everywhere: anger at those in denial, anger in the race demonstrations, anger at those not physically distancing or wearing masks, and even anger at those who wear masks or require them. The bargaining, Boss says, is mostly with scientists we hope will develop a vaccine quickly. The depression is obvious, but acceptance… “I haven’t accepted any of this,” Boss says. “I don’t know about you.”

Sometimes acceptance means “saying we’re going to have a good time in spite of this,” Boss says, such as when my family drove an hour outside the city to get far enough from light pollution to look for the comet NEOWISE. But it can also mean accepting that we cannot change the situation right now.

“We can kick and scream and be angry, or we can feel the other side of it, with no motivation, difficulty focusing, lethargy,” Boss says, “or we can take the middle way and just have a couple days where you feel like doing nothing and you embrace the losses and sadness you’re feeling right now, and then the next day, do something that has an element of achievement to it.”

Experiment with “both-and” thinking

This approach may not work for everyone, but Boss says there’s an alternative to binary thinking that many people find helpful in dealing with ambiguous loss. She calls it “both-and” thinking, and sometimes it means embracing a bit of the irrational.

For the families of soldiers missing in action in Vietnam that Boss studied early in her career, or the family members of victims of plane crashes where the bodies aren’t recovered, this type of thinking means thinking: “He is both living and maybe not. She is probably dead but maybe not.”

“If you stay in the rational when nothing else is rational, like right now, then you’ll just stress yourself more,” she says. “What I say with ambiguous loss is the situation is crazy, not the person. The situation is pathological, not the person.”

An analogous approach during the pandemic might be, “This is terrible and many people are dying, and this is also a time for our families to come closer together,” Boss says. On a more personal level, “I’m highly competent, and right now I’m flowing with the tide day-to-day.”

It’s a bit of a Schrödinger’s existence, but when you can’t change the situation, “the only thing you can change is your perception of it,” she says.

Of course, that doesn’t mean denying the existence of the pandemic or the coronavirus. As Maddaus says, “You have to face reality.” But how we frame that reality mentally can help us cope with it.

Look for activities, new and old, that continue to fulfill you

Lots of coping advice has focused on “self-care,” but one of the frustrating ironies of the pandemic is that so many of our self-care activities have also been taken away: pedicures, massages, coffee with friends, a visit to the amusement park, a kickboxing class, swimming in the local pool — these activities remain unsafe in much of the country. So we have to get creative with self-care when we’re least motivated to get creative.

“When we’re forced to rethink our options and broaden out what we think of as self-care, sometimes that constraint opens new ways of living and thinking,” Masten says. “We don’t have a lot of control over the global pandemic but we do over our daily lives. You can focus on plans for the future and what’s meaningful in life.”

For me, since I missed eating in restaurants and was tired of our same old dinners, I began subscribing to a meal-kit service. I hate cooking, but the meal kits were easy, and I was motivated by the chance to eat something that tasted more like what I’d order in a restaurant without having to invest energy in looking through recipes or ordering the right ingredients.

Okay, I’ve also been playing a lot of Animal Crossing, but Maddaus explains why it makes sense that creative activities like cooking, gardening, painting, house projects — or even building your own imaginary island out of pixels — can be fulfilling right now. He references the book The Molecule of More, which explores how dopamine influences our experiences and happiness, in describing the types of activities most likely to bring us joy.

“There are two ways the brain deals with the world: the future and things we need to go after, and the here and now, seeing things and touching things,” Maddaus says. “Rather than being at the mercy of what’s going on, we can use the elements of our natural reward system and construct things to do that are good no matter what.”
Those kinds of activities have a planning element and a here-and-now experience element. For Maddaus, for example, it was simply replacing all the showerheads and lightbulbs in the house.

“It’s a silly thing, but it made me feel good,” he says.

Focus on maintaining and strengthening important relationships

The biggest protective factors for facing adversity and building resilience are social support and remaining connected to people, Masten says. That includes helping others, even when we’re feeling depleted ourselves.

“Helping others is one of those win-win strategies of taking action because we’re all feeling a sense of helplessness and loss of control about what’s going on with this pandemic, but when you take action with other people, you can control what you’re doing,” she says. Helping others could include checking in on family friends or buying groceries for an elderly neighbor.

Begin slowly building your resilience bank account

Maddaus’ idea of a resilience bank account is gradually building into your life regular practices that promote resilience and provide a fallback when life gets tough. Though it would obviously be nice to have a fat account already, he says it’s never too late to start. The areas he specifically advocates focusing on are sleep, nutrition, exercise, meditation, self-compassion, gratitude, connection, and saying no.

“Start really small and work your way up,” he says. “If you do a little bit every day, it starts to add up and you get momentum, and even if you miss a day, then start again. We have to be gentle with ourselves and keep on, begin again.”

After spending an hour on the phone with each of these experts, I felt refreshed and inspired. I can do this! I was excited about writing this article and sharing what I’d learned.
And then it took me two weeks to start the article and another week to finish it — even though I wanted to write it. But now, I could cut myself a little more slack for taking so much longer than I might have a few months ago. I might have intellectually accepted back in March that the next two years (or more?) are going to be nothing like normal, and not even predictable in how they won’t be normal. But cognitively recognizing and accepting that fact and emotionally incorporating that reality into everyday life aren’t the same. Our new normal is always feeling a little off balance, like trying to stand in a dinghy on rough seas, and not knowing when the storm will pass. But humans can get better at anything with practice, so at least I now have some ideas for working on my sea legs.

https://elemental.medium.com/your-surge-capacity-is-depleted-it-s-why-you-feel-awful-de285d542f4c

Scientists develop a super-strong wood that completely reflects the sun’s heat


The new super compressed wood is nearly nine times stronger than its natural counterpart. (Photo: University of Maryland)

Researchers at the University of Maryland have re-designed wood to make it entirely impervious to visible light, while only absorbing the slightest levels of near-infrared light.

Rather than absorbing sunlight, the new wood could bounce it right back into the environment. In effect, homes made from this material would be able to prevent virtually all heat from seeping indoors, potentially easing our reliance on air conditioning in summer months.

“When applied to building, this game-changing structural material cools without the input of electricity or water,” noted Yao Zhai, one of the study authors, in a press release.

We know that air conditioning saves lives, especially in climates where heat takes a deadly toll on air quality. But we also know that as we dial up the AC, we also dial up demand on fossil fuel-burning power plants. And emissions from those plants stir up an atmospheric cocktail that can be just as toxic.

“Reducing human reliance on energy-inefficient cooling methods such as air conditioning would have a large impact on the global energy landscape,” the researchers note in the study abstract.

To make that kind of “cooling” wood, scientists used hydrogen peroxide to strip away the lignin, a support element in the cell walls of trees. That process exposed only the wood’s cellulose, which is a powerful building block of plants and trees. It’s also incredibly impervious to the sun’s energy.

What’s more, the lignin-free wood allows heat produced indoors to escape. That’s because indoor heat occupies a slightly different wavelength than your garden variety sunlight — a wavelength that doesn’t get repulsed by the new wood variant. So by day, the sun’s heat is kept at bay, and at night, indoor heat dissipates into the environment, although the team admits this could be an issue when it comes to actually retaining heat indoors.

Another benefit to wood made entirely of cellulose? It’s incredibly strong. In a previous study, researchers noted that cellulose nanofibers outperform steel and spider silk as the “strongest bio-material” on Earth.

The University of Maryland team claims the new wood packs a tensile strength of around 404 megapascals, or more than eight times that of natural wood. That puts it somewhere in the neighborhood of steel.

“Wood has been used for thousands of years and has emerged as an important sustainable building material to potentially replace steel and concrete because of its economic and environmental advantages,” the authors note.

https://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/stories/cooling-wood-reflects-heat-sun?utm_source=Weekly+Newsletter&utm_campaign=9bbb9aca6f-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_WED0529_2019&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_fcbff2e256-9bbb9aca6f-40844241

Scientists Produce Rigorous Study of Why Grapes Spark in the Microwave

by Ryan F. Mandelbaum

A paper published Monday in a well-known science journal begins with the following sentence: “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a pair of grape hemispheres exposed to intense microwave radiation will spark, igniting a plasma.” A universally acknowledged truth indeed… but what causes this microwave marvel?

If you’re not familiar, putting grapes into a microwave to make sparks has become a popular YouTube trick. This new research from Canadian scientists shows that worthwhile advances can come from anywhere, even by studying something sort of silly.

“This is a regime that hasn’t been significantly studied before,” one of the paper’s authors, Pablo Bianucci from Concordia University in Montreal, told Gizmodo.

The trick usually shows two grape halves connected by a thin sliver of skin. After a few seconds of being microwaved, they begin to spark. Though various explanations exist online, researchers wanted to study the phenomenon more rigorously.

The researcher imaged both sliced grapes and hydrogel beads—made from a material that absorbs lots of water—as they sparked in the microwave. They realized quickly that the grape skin wasn’t required in order to get the sparks, as evidenced by the sparking in the hydrogel beads, held together only by their weight and the shape of the dish they sat in, according to the research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The specific geometry of two touching water-filled circular objects in an electromagnetic field creates resonances concentrated at the point where the spheres or half-spheres intersect. This becomes a very small hotspot with a high energy density, enough to create plasma out of the ions in the region where the objects touch.

Is the research worth publishing in a journal as high-profile as PNAS? The paper’s editor, University of Illinois chemistry professor Catherine Murphy, certainly thought so. “The fact that they were rigorous enough to pass through the process of peer review is a testament that they’re doing a good job on the technical end,” she told Gizmodo.

But the paper is far more than a gimmick, Murphy said. This sort of research on directed energy could find important use in other directed-energy systems, such as explosives or high-intensity laser pulses. Additionally, the paper presents a way to image electric fields in these sorts of physical setups, and could lead to advances in photonics more generally.

https://gizmodo.com/scientists-produce-rigorous-study-of-why-grapes-spark-i-1832660386

The most abundant photosynthetic species on the planet could help us reduce our need for fossil fuel

Oceanographer Penny Chisholm tells the story of a tiny ocean creature you’ve probably never heard of: Prochlorococcus, the most abundant photosynthetic species on the planet. A marine microbe that has existed for millions of years, Prochlorococcus wasn’t discovered until the mid-1980s — but its ancient genetic code may hold clues to how we can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

An explanation of blood sugar

By Alina Bradford

Blood sugar, or glucose, is the main sugar found in blood. The body gets glucose from the food we eat. This sugar is an important source of energy and provides nutrients to the body’s organs, muscles and nervous system. The absorption, storage and production of glucose is regulated constantly by complex processes involving the small intestine, liver and pancreas.

Glucose enters the bloodstream after a person has eaten carbohydrates. The endocrine system helps keep the bloodstream’s glucose levels in check using the pancreas. This organ produces the hormone insulin, releasing it after a person consumes protein or carbohydrates. The insulin sends excess glucose in the liver as glycogen.

The pancreas also produces a hormone called glucagon, which does the opposite of insulin, raising blood sugar levels when needed. The two hormones work together to keep glucose balanced.

When the body needs more sugar in the blood, the glucagon signals the liver to turn the glycogen back into glucose and release it into the bloodstream. This process is called glycogenolysis.

When there isn’t enough sugar to go around, the liver hoards the resource for the parts of the body that need it, including the brain, red blood cells and parts of the kidney. For the rest of the body, the liver makes ketones , which breaks down fat to use as fuel. The process of turning fat into ketones is called ketogenesis. The liver can also make sugar out of other things in the body, like amino acids, waste products and fat byproducts.

Glucose vs. dextrose
Dextrose is also a sugar. It’s chemically identical to glucose but is made from corn and rice, according to Healthline. It is often used as a sweetener in baking products and in processed foods. Dextrose also has medicinal purposes. It is dissolved in solutions that are given intravenously to increase a person’s blood sugar levels.

Normal blood sugar
For most people, 80 to 99 milligrams of sugar per deciliter before a meal and 80 to 140 mg/dl after a meal is normal. The American Diabetes Association says that most nonpregnant adults with diabetes should have 80 to 130 mg/dl before a meal and less than 180 mg/dl at 1 to 2 hours after beginning the meal.

These variations in blood-sugar levels, both before and after meals, reflect the way that the body absorbs and stores glucose. After you eat, your body breaks down the carbohydrates in food into smaller parts, including glucose, which the small intestine can absorb.

Problems
Diabetes happens when the body lacks insulin or because the body is not working effectively, according to Dr. Jennifer Loh, chief of the department of endocrinology for Kaiser Permanente in Hawaii. The disorder can be linked to many causes, including obesity, diet and family history, said Dr. Alyson Myers of Northwell Health in New York.

“To diagnose diabetes, we do an oral glucose-tolerance test with fasting,” Myers said.

Cells may develop a tolerance to insulin, making it necessary for the pancreas to produce and release more insulin to lower your blood sugar levels by the required amount. Eventually, the body can fail to produce enough insulin to keep up with the sugar coming into the body.

It can take decades to diagnose high blood-sugar levels, though. This may happen because the pancreas is so good at its job that a doctor can continue to get normal blood-glucose readings while insulin tolerance continues to increase, said Joy Stephenson-Laws, founder of Proactive Health Labs (pH Labs), a nonprofit that provides health care education and tools. She also wrote “Minerals – The Forgotten Nutrient: Your Secret Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy” (Proactive Health Labs, 2016).

Health professionals can check blood sugar levels with an A1C test, which is a blood test for type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. This test measures your average blood glucose, or blood sugar, level over the previous three months.

Doctors may use the A1C alone or in combination with other diabetes tests to make a diagnosis. They also use the A1C to see how well you are managing your diabetes. This test is different from the blood sugar checks that people with diabetes do for themselves every day.

In the condition called hypoglycemia, the body fails to produce enough sugar. People with this disorder need treatment when blood sugar drops to 70 mg/dL or below. According to the Mayo Clinic, symptoms of hypoglycemia can be:

Tingling sensation around the mouth
Shakiness
Sweating
An irregular heart rhythm
Fatigue
Pale skin
Crying out during sleep
Anxiety
Hunger
Irritability


Keeping blood sugar in control

Stephenson-Laws said healthy individuals can keep their blood sugar at the appropriate levels using the following methods:

Maintaining a healthy weight

Talk with a competent health care professional about what an ideal weight for you should be before starting any kind of weight loss program.

Improving diet

Look for and select whole, unprocessed foods, like fruits and vegetables, instead of highly processed or prepared foods. Foods that have a lot of simple carbohydrates, like cookies and crackers, that your body can digest quickly tend to spike insulin levels and put additional stress on the pancreas. Also, avoid saturated fats and instead opt for unsaturated fats and high-fiber foods. Consider adding nuts, vegetables, herbs and spices to your diet.

Getting physical

A brisk walk for 30 minutes a day can greatly reduce blood sugar levels and increase insulin sensitivity.

Getting mineral levels checked

Research also shows that magnesium plays a vital role in helping insulin do its job. So, in addition to the other health benefits it provides, an adequate magnesium level can also reduce the chances of becoming insulin-tolerant.

Get insulin levels checked

Many doctors simply test for blood sugar and perform an A1C test, which primarily detects prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Make sure you also get insulin checks.

https://www.livescience.com/62673-what-is-blood-sugar.html#?utm_source=ls-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=05272018-ls

How brown fat keeps us warm


Adipose Connective Tissue Stores Fat in Our Body. Credit: Berkshire Community College Bioscience Image Library

A new technique to study fat stores in the body could aid efforts to find treatments to tackle obesity.

The approach focuses on energy-burning tissues found deep inside the body – called brown fat – that help to keep us warm when temperatures drop.

Experts are aiming to find it this calorie-burning power can be harnessed to stop weight gain, but little is known about how the process works.

Previous studies have mainly relied on a medical imaging technique called PET/CT to watch brown fat in action deep inside the body. But the method is unable to directly measure the chemical factors in the tissue.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh developed a technique called microdialysis to measure how brown fat generates heat in people.

The approach involves inserting a small tube into an area of brown fat in the body and flushing it with fluid to collect a snapshot of the tissues’ chemical make-up.

The team tested the technique in six healthy volunteers, using PET/CT to guide the tube to the right location.

They discovered that in cold conditions, brown fat uses its own energy stores and other substances to generate heat.

Brown fat was active under warm conditions too, when the body does not need to generate its own heat, an outcome that had not been seen before.

Researchers hope the technique will help them to analyse the specific chemicals involved, so that they can better understand how brown fat works.

Most of the fat in our body is white fat, which is found under the skin and surrounding internal organs. It stores excess energy when we consume more calories than we burn.

Brown fat is mainly found in babies and helps them to stay warm. Levels can decrease with age but adults can still have substantial amounts of it, mainly in the neck and upper back region. People who are lean tend to have more brown fat.

The study, published in Cell Metabolism, was funded by the Medical Research Council and Wellcome.

Lead researcher Dr Roland Stimson, of the British Heart Foundation Centre for Cardiovascular Science at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Understanding how brown fat is activated could reveal potential targets for therapies that boost its energy-burning power, which could help with weight loss.”

This article has been republished from materials provided by the University of Edinburgh. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.

Reference: Weir, G., Ramage, L. E., Akyol, M., Rhodes, J. K., Kyle, C. J., Fletcher, A. M., … Stimson, R. H. (2018). Substantial Metabolic Activity of Human Brown Adipose Tissue during Warm Conditions and Cold-Induced Lipolysis of Local Triglycerides. Cell Metabolism, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2018.04.020

https://www.technologynetworks.com/proteomics/news/how-brown-fat-keeps-us-warm-304351?utm_campaign=Newsletter_TN_BreakingScienceNews&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=63228690&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9oqDIw3te1NPoj51s94kxnA1ClK8Oiecfela6I4WiITEbm_-SWdmw6pjMTwm2YP24gqSzRaBvUK1kkb2kZEJKPcL5JtQ&_hsmi=63228690

Semir Osmanagić claims he has found the world’s oldest pyramids in Bosnia, and shown that they generate Nikola Tesla’s predicted torison fields of standing energy.

By JON AUSTIN

Scientist Semir Osmanagić claims a series of triangular-shaped hills in his native Bosnia, are artificial pyramids that are bigger and older than those in Egypt.

Despite mainstream archaeologists saying they are just natural rock formations, Mr Osmanagic has made another bold claim that he has found Nikola Tesla’s so-called “torison fields of standing energy” at the Bosnian Pyramids site, which means we could now “communicate with aliens”.

Mr Telsa was a Serbian-American inventor, physicist, and futurist, who contributed to the design of the AC electricity supply system in 1888.

His ideas became more left-field and experimental towards the end of the 1800s, and he devised the theory of “standing waves” of energy coming from Earth that meant electricity could be transmitted wirelessly over long distances.

Mr Osmanagić has claimed the alleged discovery at one of the “34,000 year old” pyramids he calls the Pyramid of the Sun “changes the history of planet” and could lead to intergalactic communication.

He wrote: “The discovery of Tesla’s standing waves at the top of the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun— which are believed to travel faster than the speed of light, while not losing strength as they pass through cosmic bodies—prove the existence of something referred to as a cosmic web or cosmic internet which allow for a immediate intergalactic communication throughout the universe.

“Recorded energetic phenomena above the Pyramid of the Sun at Visoko seek a different definition of a pyramid compared to conventional, dogmatic explanations.

“The pyramids are energy boosters that send and receive information through the Sun.”

Tesla devised a theory of standing waves saying they travel faster than light, meaning they could “move through other cosmic bodies without wasting energy.”

Mr Osmanagić claims on the surface of and underneath the Bosnian Pyramid of the Sun, archaeological digs have found quartz crystals. The crystal is present in the underground tunnels as well, a mineral he says receives then amplifies energy.

He claims there are seven levels of tunnels inside the pyramid and that this amplifies the intensity of the energy.

Osmanagić also supports the ancient aliens theory that advanced beings came to Earth thousands of years ago to help build the pyramids.

He added: “Life originated thanks to an intervention on our planet, species on Earth change in the long term through experiments where evolution plays a minor role, and homo sapiens is the result of genetic engineering.

“And, of course, we are not the first nor the most advanced civilisation in the history of the planet.”

Boston University’s archaeological professor, Curtis Runnels, has been one of many to attempt to put the Bosnian Pyramid claims to bed.

He said: “Early prehistoric cultures, including village farmers of the Neolithic period [back to 9,000 years ago], and before them Stone Age hunters and gatherers, did not have populations large enough or social structures organised in ways that would have permitted the creation of pyramids on a large scale.

“Pyramidal shapes offer the least resistance to such forces, and are common forms in nature.”

https://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/773789/Bosnian-Pyramid-Nikola-Tesla-standing-waves-aliens

Sweden imports waste from European neighbors to fuel waste-to-energy program


Sweden’s waste incineration plants generate 20 percent of Sweden’s district heating.

When it comes to recycling, Sweden is incredibly successful. Just four percent of household waste in Sweden goes into landfills. The rest winds up either recycled or used as fuel in waste-to-energy power plants.

Burning the garbage in the incinerators generates 20 percent of Sweden’s district heating, a system of distributing heat by pumping heated water into pipes through residential and commercial buildings. It also provides electricity for a quarter of a million homes.

According to Swedish Waste Management, Sweden recovers the most energy from each ton of waste in the waste to energy plants, and energy recovery from waste incineration has increased dramatically just over the last few years.

The problem is, Sweden’s waste recycling program is too successful.

Catarina Ostlund, Senior Advisor for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency said the country is producing much less burnable waste than it needs.

“We have more capacity than the production of waste in Sweden and that is usable for incineration,” Ostlund said.

However, they’ve recently found a solution.

Sweden has recently begun to import about eight hundred thousand tons of trash from the rest of Europe per year to use in its power plants. The majority of the imported waste comes from neighboring Norway because it’s more expensive to burn the trash there and cheaper for the Norwegians to simply export their waste to Sweden.

In the arrangement, Norway pays Sweden to take the waste off their hands and Sweden also gets electricity and heat. But dioxins in the ashes of the waste byproduct are a serious environmental pollutant. Ostlund explained that there are also heavy metals captured within the ash that need to be landfilled. Those ashes are then exported to Norway.

This arrangement works particularly well for Sweden, since in Sweden the energy from the waste is needed for heat. According to Ostlund, when both heat and electricity are used, there’s much higher efficiency for power plants.

“So that’s why we have the world’s best incineration plants concerning energy efficiency. But I would say maybe in the future, this waste will be valued even more so maybe you could sell your waste because there will be a shortage of resources within the world,” Ostlund said.

Ostlund said Sweden hopes that in the future Europe will build its own plants so it can manage to take care of its own waste.

“I hope that we instead will get the waste from Italy or from Romania or Bulgaria or the Baltic countries because they landfill a lot in these countries. They don’t have any incineration plants or recycling plants, so they need to find a solution for their waste,” Ostlund said.

In fact, landfilling remains the principal way of disposal in those countries, but new waste-to-energy initiatives have been introduced in Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, and Lithuania.

It is also important, Ostlund notes, for Sweden to find ways to reduce its own waste in the future.

“This is not a long-term solution really, because we need to be better to reuse and recycle, but in the short perspective I think it’s quite a good solution,” Ostlund concluded.

This island is powered entirely by solar panels and batteries thanks to SolarCity


Ta’u Island’s residents live off a solar power and battery storage-enabled microgrid.

by Amelia Heathman

SolarCity was applauded when it announced its plans for solar roofs earlier this year. Now, it appears it is in the business of creating solar islands.

The island of Ta’u in American Samoa, more than 4,000 miles from the United States’ West Coast, now hosts a solar power and battery storage-enabled microgrid that can supply nearly 100 per cent of the island’s power needs from renewable energy.

The microgrid is made up of 1.4 megawatts of solar generation capacity from SolarCity and Tesla and six-megawatt hours of battery storage from 60 Tesla Powerpacks. The whole thing took just a year to implement.

Due to the remote nature of the island, its citizens were used to constant power rationing, outages and a high dependency on diesel generators. The installation of the microgrid, however, provides a cost-saving alternative to diesel, and the island’s core services such as the local hospital, schools and police stations don’t have to worry about outages or rationing anymore.

“It’s always sunny out here, and harvesting that energy from the sun will make me sleep a lot more comfortably at night, just knowing I’ll be able to serve my customers,” said Keith Ahsoon, a local resident whose family owns one of the food stores on the island.

The power from the new Ta’u microgrid provides energy independence for the nearly 600 residents of the island. The battery system also allows the residents to use stored solar energy at night, meaning energy will always be available. As well as providing energy, the project will allow the island to significantly save on energy costs and offset the use of more than 109,500 gallons of diesel per year.

With concerns over climate change and the effects the heavy use of fossil fuels are having on the planet, more initiatives are taking off to prove the power of solar energy, whether it is SolarCity fueling an entire island or Bertrand Piccard’s Solar Impulse plane flying around the world on only solar energy.

Obviously Ta’u island’s location off the West Coast means it is in a prime location to harness the Sun’s energy, which wouldn’t necessarily work in the UK. Having said that, this is an exciting way to show where the future of solar energy could take us if it was amplified on a larger scale.

The project was funded by the American Samoa Economic Development Authority, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior, whilst the microgrid is operated by the American Samoa Power Authority.

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/island-tau-solar-energy-solarcity

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

New superthin material can cool buildings without requiring electricity, by beaming heat directly into outer space.

A new superthin material can cool buildings without requiring electricity, by beaming heat directly into outer space, researchers say.

In addition to cooling areas that don’t have access to electrical power, the material could help reduce demand for electricity, since air conditioning accounts for nearly 15 percent of the electricity consumed by buildings in the United States.

The heart of the new cooler is a multilayered material measuring just 1.8 microns thick, which is thinner than the thinnest sheet of aluminum foil. In comparison, the average human hair is about 100 microns wide.

This material is made of seven layers of silicon dioxide and hafnium dioxide on top of a thin layer of silver. The way each layer varies in thickness makes the material bend visible and invisible forms of light in ways that grant it cooling properties.

Invisible light in the form of infrared radiation is one key way all objects shed heat. “If you use an infrared camera, you can see we all glow in infrared light,” said study co-author Shanhui Fan, an electrical engineer at Stanford University in California.

One way this material helps keep things cool is by serving as a highly effective mirror. By reflecting 97 percent of sunlight away, it helps keep anything it covers from heating up.

In addition, when this material does absorb heat, its composition and structure ensure that it only emits very specific wavelengths of infrared radiation, ones that air does not absorb, the researchers said. Instead, this infrared radiation is free to leave the atmosphere and head out into space.

“The coldness of the universe is a vast resource that we can benefit from,” Fan told Live Science.

The scientists tested a prototype of their cooler on a clear winter day in Stanford, California, and found it could cool to nearly 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) cooler than the surrounding air, even in the sunlight.

“This is very novel and an extraordinarily simple idea,” Eli Yablonovitch, a photonics crystal expert at the University of California, Berkeley, who did not take part in this research, said in a statement.

The researchers suggested that their material’s cost and performance compare favorably to those of other rooftop air-conditioning systems, such as those driven by electricity derived from solar cells. The new device could also work alongside these other technologies, the researchers said.

However, the scientists cautioned that their prototype measures only about 8 inches (20 centimeters) across, or about the size of a personal pizza. “We are now scaling production up to make larger samples,” Fan said. “To cool buildings, you really need to cover large areas.”

The scientists detailed their findings in the Nov. 26 journal Nature.

http://www.livescience.com/48942-cooling-buildings-without-electricity.html