Living Better

Everything you never wanted to know about artificial sweeteners, but were afraid to ask

Preventing muscle loss as we age with strength-training

Walking might be the best exercise

September 13 – Happy Birthday Skye

1503: In Florence, Michelangelo begins work on David.

1759: Battle of the Plains of Abraham: the British defeat the French near Quebec City in the Seven Years’ War.

1899Henry Bliss is the first person in the USA to be killed in an automobile accident.

1962: An appeals court orders the University of Mississippi to admit James Meredith, the first African-American student admitted to the segregated university.

1993: Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization sign the Oslo Accords granting limited Palestinian autonomy.

2001: U.S. officials name Osama bin Laden as “suspect No. 1” in the September 11 attacks. Civilian aircraft traffic resumes in the US.

2004: The first same-sex divorce is granted in Canada.

2007: The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is adopted by the UN General Assembly.

2016: Skye, my scruffy, spunky, intensely tenacious, wilfully stubborn, adventurous Cairn Terrier was born in Kansas. Yes Kansas.

The Economist’s annual ranking of the world’s most livable cities for 2018

Each year, the Economist Intelligence Unit release its annual Global Livability Index which measuring the most livable large cities in the world. In this year’s report, Vienna, Austria has succeeded in displacing Melbourne, Australia from the stop spot, which it previously held for a record seven consecutive years.

The Economist says:

The concept of liveability is simple: it assesses which locations around the world provide the best or the worst living conditions.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s liveability rating quantifies the challenges that might be presented to an individual’s lifestyle in 140 cities worldwide. Each city is assigned a score for over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five broad categories of Stability, Healthcare, Culture and environment, Education and Infrastructure.

The 20 top rankings are populated with cities in Europe (9), Australia (4), Japan (2), New Zealand (1), and Canada (4).

Honolulu was the highest U.S. city at number 23. The next highest American city was Pittsburgh in 32nd position. Manchester was the highest ranked in the UK at number 35.

Here are the top 50:

1. Vienna, Austria

2. Melbourne, Australia

3. Osaka, Japan

4. Calgary, Canada

5. Sydney, Australia Continue reading

If you think you know everything, you can’t learn anything

From PBS:

When students come into Dan Levitin’s lab, he spends most of his time trying to teach them that they don’t know everything they think they do. “Knowledge can only be created in an environment where we’re open to the possibility that we’re wrong,” he says. Levitin shares his humble opinion on the best way to help students.

Going to the office might be bad for your health. A shocking number of killers murder their co-workers

In the US, homicide is the third most prevalent cause of workplace death, after falls and roadway collisions. And it might be for other reasons than you think.

This sobering data point comes courtesy of the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics study on fatal occupational injuries. What’s behind all this shooting (the leading m.o. of workplace murderers, according to the study) and “stabbing, cutting, slashing, piercing” (the runner-up category)? News reports point to doomed love triangles and disgruntled co-workers. Another cause, however, has been largely overlooked: fraud. Imagine a boss who kills his assistant to keep a Ponzi scheme afloat, or a crooked accountant who poisons an especially thorough auditor. In the world of CFEs (certified fraud examiners), these offenses have their own, pulpy label: red-collar crime.

Read more in The Atlantic

Loneliness is a serious public-health problem

Doctors and policymakers in the rich world are increasingly worried about loneliness. Campaigns to reduce it have been launched in Britain, Denmark and Australia. In Japan the government has surveyed hikikomori, or “people who shut themselves in their homes”. Last year Vivek Murthy, a former surgeon-general of the United States, called loneliness an epidemic, likening its impact on health to obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes per day. In January Theresa May, the British prime minister, appointed a minister for loneliness.


Researchers define loneliness as perceived social isolation, a feeling of not having the social contacts one would like. Of course, the objectively isolated are much more likely than the average person to feel lonely. But loneliness can also strike those with seemingly ample friends and family.


Researchers have three theories as to how loneliness may lead to ill health, says Nicole Valtorta of Newcastle University. The first covers behaviour. Lacking encouragement from family or friends, the lonely may slide into unhealthy habits. The second is biological. Loneliness may raise levels of stress, say, or impede sleep, and in turn harm the body. The third is psychological, since loneliness can augment depression or anxiety.

Read more at the Economist (paywall)

Using a shampoo bottle to save the lives of young children stricken with pneumonia

An enterprising doctor is saving the lives of infants stricken with pneumonia in Bangladesh with a device that costs a fraction of traditional ventilator.

The hospital now deploys it routinely and the number of children who die there from pneumonia has fallen by three-quarters. That means the survival rate in the Dhaka Hospital is today almost on a par with that of children treated in rich-world facilities, using conventional ventilators.

Dr Chisti says that, as well as saving lives, his device has cut the hospital’s spending on pneumonia treatment by nearly 90%. The materials needed to make his version of a bubble-CPAP ventilator cost a mere $1.25. The device also consumes much less oxygen than a conventional ventilator.

Read more at the Economist (paywall)

Watch: Isaac Asimov on The David Letterman Show, 1980

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