Plane, train or car? Looking for climate-friendly travels.


We often talk about climate change and its relations with human activities. But how much can travels impact the climate? And, in particular, how much does our personal, business or holiday trip can influence these changes?

A new study by IIASA (International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis) and CICERO (Center for International Climate and Environmental Research) calculates the climate impact for trips of 500-1000 km, comparing planes, trains and automobiles. The study focuses on both the short-lived greenhouse gases and CO2 emissions and shows that our personal choices can make the difference.

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Guidelines about the consumption of junk food in U.S.A. seem to be very useful. A recent research leaded by the University of Illinois at Chicago (published on JAMA Pediatrics) demonstrates that in 43.5 % of schools, without district or state guidelines limiting sugar content in foods, sold sweets. When both district and state guidelines restricted the sale of sweets, only 32.3 percent of schools sold these foods. The research has been conduced on a sample of 1800 in 45 of states of U.S.A..

But what is junk food? Well, candy, ice cream, chips, sugar-sweetened beverages: all these things can describe this kind of nutrition. So, this study shows that correct attention by the policy to the problem of the sell of these foods to the youngest people can limit it. Anyway, the problem is not solved at all: indeed, the researchers found that, of the 121 surveyed schools that were in states with laws “of prohibition”, 22 schools still sold them despite state-wide bans. So the problem still exists in U.S.A.. “There is a lot of room for continued progress,” said Chriqui, lead author of the study, who also noted that this research could be very helpful to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Indeed this department can watch the datas reported on this study and understand the best way of creating new standards of food for the american elementary schools, already regulated by the Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

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Wi-fi internet balloons to reach all the world

Can you imagine wi-fi trasmission by balloons floating in the sky? Google could do it. Infact, the engineers of the topsecret Google X laboratory in the Silicon Valley, California, invented, in a project called Loon, a new way to spread internet connection at 3G speed using thin plastic balloons that gives the chance to tap to the network in a radius of 38 meters. I read in   this article, that this technology is going to be trialed in Tasmania, Australia, from the middle of 2014 after a  pre-existing  service on the sky of New Zeland that  was given free by Google to rural o poor areas. The location where the test will be set it has been chosen for the atmospheric conditions that carachterized this part of  Southern Hemisphere, especially 40th parallel south. “Two thirds of the world – 4.8 billion people – still don’t have the internet. It’s not that we don’t know how to provide internet access, it’s how to provide it over a large area in a cost effective way for everybody in the world” explains Richard Duvaul, one of the founder of Project Loon, on the article of the Sidney Morning Herald online jounal. The future intention of Google is to give the possibility to Africa and other developing  country to utilize web service with a cheaper cost. I rember that I have read also the importance of a similar technology in prevention of disaster like that caused by Hurricane Sandy in this  page of Huffington’s Post of last November.

Here the Project Loon official video

Birth control and the day-after pill, a long story

the day after pill legal battleThe battle between women’s right groups and the USA government seems to have reached a crucial point in the last days: Obama has dropped his opposition to the selling of the day-after pill without age restriction. But what does it mean? It means that soon every girl (not only women above 17 years of age) will be able to buy at the drugstore the day-after pill without any medical prescription.
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the_fat_by_narsul_the_elf-d3jdzf1Woman1: ‘I’m so fat. Look at my thighs!’ Woman2: ‘I should start a diet. I’m so fat!’ Woman3: ‘OMG. I put on so much weight! I’m so fat’. I could continue endlessly.

According to one study, 93% of women engage in fat talk, speaking negatively about the size and shape of their bodies. While women, especially teenagers, seem to be the most concerned about their bodies, this trend is also increasing among men. An online survey pointed out that, though negative body talk is still less frequent among them, its consequences appear no less troubling than those identified among women. Men worry about different issues, like muscular bulk or extreme thinness, but they do fat talk too.

What are the main problems related to this disruptive behaviour? It both reflects and creates body dissatisfaction and thin-ideal internalization. The study I’ve mentioned before, led in 2011 by the Northwestern university, investigated the frequency, content and consequences of fat talk in college women. 168 female students had to complete an online survey which highlighted that one third reported frequent or very frequent fat talk. Researchers found then evidence that this is associated with low self-esteem and a negative attitude towards one’s body. It was shown not to deal with a logical attitude towards weight but with personal perception, indeed. Participants didn’t give BMI much importance: it sounded like a meaningless number to most of them.

Nevertheless, although the evidence of the negative consequences of fat talk, over half of the participants of the study said they believe it makes them feel better about themselves and their bodies. Another common aspect of this trend that emerged in the study are back-and-forth conversations: among two healthy-weight friends each of two denies the other is fat while claiming to be fat himself, which enhances distress and self-criticism.

Who is most likely to fat talk? A study led by the University of Notre Dame showed the role of social comparison as it underlies and motivates much of fat talk. Considering a sample of 143 college women, the researchers found that having a stronger tendency to socially compare directly predicts fat talk. Secondly, if a woman’s concern about her body image increases, her likelihood of engaging in fat talk increases too and it’s intensified if she tends to socially compare.

It’s not easy to stop fat talking, indeed. Having experienced myself overweight when I was younger, I do often worry and complain about diets and my supposed fatness. And I know I’m not alone. It has become a sort of collective social refrain, especially in our Western world. We may know it’s useless, but we keep on indulging in it. Actually, fat talk is not even a good way to motivate someone to change food and lifestyle when it would be really necessary, since it brings you down instead of encouraging effectively a challenge like maintaining a balanced diet and doing some daily exercise.

How shall we cope with it, then? First, as suggested by the campaign promoted by the University of Chicago (not the only one, luckily), we may need to switch our attention to what we like of ourselves and start thinking and talking positively. Beyond physical flaws.

“Is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me.” ~ J.K. Rowling

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Safety is green-colored

ParkCredits: Flickr – Park at sunset in Barcelona – by Moyan Brenn

I have always thought that dense vegetation was positively associated with crime risk because it affords criminals a place to hide. Recently, I have found a study performed by the Temple University and published on Landscape and Urban Planning highlighting the important role of vegetation in crime fighting. Continue reading

Tiny and harmless black holes at CERN

The results of the data analysis of the ALPHA experiment at CERN were published a few weeks ago on Nature Communications. During 2014 a new and upgraded machine will be turned on: it is the 5 million CHF experiment called ALPHA-2. The research aims to investigate gravitation and antimatter, two concepts often associated with black holes.

Cern ALPHA experiment

Some of the phenomena under study have never been investigated before, and scientists do not have specific ideas on what can be produced by those high-energy collisions. This is why alarmist rumors spread so easily, and this is why apocalyptic videos (like this one published two weeks ago) appear on the Internet. Continue reading