Science highlights: insomnia, and maternal mortality

Recent research has probed the biological basis of insomnia.
Recent research has probed the biological basis of insomnia

Sleeplessness is a big problem today; its costs from health problems to lost productivity are huge. Recent research has probed the biological basis of insomnia. From analysis of the genomes of over 1.75 million people, insomnia has been potentially linked to hundreds of genes, specific brain regions, and an overlap with mood disorders (depression, anxiety, etc.).

Read the article (Simon Makin, Scientific American, 12 March 2019).

Maternal mortality in the United States is the highest among all developed countries.
Maternal mortality in the United States is the highest among all developed countries

Approximately 800 women in the U.S. die each year during pregnancy and within 42 days after delivery–all developed countries have a lower maternal mortality rate. More than 60% of these deaths are preventable; the main causes of death vary by race. Suicide, homicide, and drug overdoses are the cause of many postpartum deaths.

Read the article (Anita Slomski, JAMA, 13 March 2019).

Effective leadership and core values

Effective leadership and core values

In 2005, Laura Reave reviewed over 150 studies on leadership effectiveness. A focus was on “spiritual values” and the overlap between religion and business. But, the “spiritual values” noted are universal and do not require a specific religion to teach or instill.

Based on the studies, Reave noted that “leadership success begins with personal integrity, which is then reflected in ethical behavior.”

A leader might use the latest practical guidance for responding to particular situations, but “studies show that followers tend to look first at who a leader is.” “Character and behavior must be integrated, or the leader loses authenticity. Leadership based on strategy and image management can be hollow.”

Leaders may become so wrapped up in crafting an image of themselves or so narcissistic and ego-driven that their “personal identity and convictions may be lost.” “If the approval of followers is the goal, the inner moral compass is undermined.” “They may become actors seeking the next round of applause.”

So, those “old-fashioned” values that include personal integrity, trustworthiness, ethical behavior, showing respect for others, honesty, and humility are very important. For example, studies show that “a high degree of humility is far more evident among exceptional leaders than is raw ambition.” “The presence of a gargantuan ego” contributes to failure or continued mediocrity. “Humble leaders do not seek to develop a personality cult with public attention and devoted followers”, instead they direct people’s attention to shared goals and values.

So, what should we take away from this?

In our era of social media and partisan political divide, there are many “shouters.” Through tweets, posts, speeches, and proclamations some politicians, entertainers, celebrities, radio, TV, and social media personalities, and a host of wannabes throw out provocative words and images to rile up, divide, confuse, condemn, obfuscate, mislead, harm, etc. others–often those in a weaker position and who don’t have the capability and/or platform to defend themselves. The people who do this may appear to be leaders, they may appear to have adoring followers … what they actually have are large egos and the ultimate aim is their own benefit.

An effective leader does not put himself or herself on a pedestal before which all must bow. An effective leader has integrity, is trustworthy, shows respect, and is honest and humble. An effective leader shows depth in a shallow world.

(Kevin Engel, 16 March 2019)

See also:

Narcissism and social media–a match made in heaven?

Science highlights: dwindling seafood, Alzheimer’s/Parkinson’s and inflammation, today’s fast food, and disease-carrying mosquitos

Rising ocean water temperatures are lowering stocks of fish globally

Rising sea water temperatures have lowered the yield of 235 fish stocks globally by 4% since 1930. However, by 2100, water temperatures will increase more than 3 times the current amount since 1930, plus tropical fish haven’t been factored in, and they’re most at risk. The global seafood supply is decreasing.

Read the article (Erik Stokstad, Science, 28 February 2019).

Inflammation may be the root cause behind Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

Both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s may be the result of neuroinflammation; the evidence for that is building. The inflammation–triggered by a virus, gut microbe, infection, stress, aging, etc. (different triggers in different people)–could start a cascade of harm.

Read the article (Karen Weintraub, Scientific American, 4 March 2019).

Today’s fast food is even less healthy than 30 years ago

Not a surprise–fast food menus are less healthy today than they were 30 years ago. Despite small attempts to mix in healthier options, the average fast food meal/portion size (entree + side + desert) is 30% larger, has 43% more calories, and 64% more salt than 30 years ago. Meanwhile, the obesity rate among adults in the United States has reached 40%–a 208% increase since the 1960’s.

Read the article (Tiffany Hsu, New York Times, 3 March 2019).

More and more of us are being exposed to disease-carrying mosquitos

Disease-carrying mosquitos are spreading across the U.S. and Europe at rates of 37-93 miles per year. By 2050, at least half the global population may be at risk of mosquito-borne diseases. Climate change, increasing population density, and urbanization will be major drivers.

Read the article (Chelsea Harvey, Scientific American, 7 March 2019).

Science highlights: job automation, dishonesty, and craving sweets

Job automation in the fast food industry

Job automation is here and is happening in the fast food industry. 70% of fast food sales come from drive-through. From taking orders, customer interaction, even to cooking, machines are taking the place of human beings–all to get your burger 58 seconds faster.

Read the article (Peter Holley, Washington Post, 22 February 2019).

Truth and lies

“Lying or acting dishonestly is a powerful act that is intent on retaining stability and social order.” But, whose order and stability? A corporation? A billionaire? A politician? A political party? Is it for the good of society, or for the benefit of a few?

Read the article (Kevin Engel, 26 February 2019; article by Melody Carter, Nursing Philosophy, July 2016).

Craving sweets when stressed

Why do we crave sweets when we feel stressed? Our brain normally uses half of our daily intake of carbohydrates and, under stress, the brain needs even more energy. Carbohydrates in the form of glucose (like chocolate) provide our bodies with the quickest source of energy.

Read the article (Achim Peters, Scientific American, 27 February 2019).

The power of words …

As we all know, good communication is a bedrock virtue. For families, for organizations, for society to function well, we need to communicate honestly, sufficiently, and effectively.

When communication is deliberately dishonest–for political gain or whatever purpose–it causes short-term and long-term damage. Society, organizations, families suffer.

Communication can involve words, sounds, images, gestures, facial expressions, and more. Today, social media emphasizes images and video … but, words are still and will remain powerful.

So, which words are most powerful for you? Which words, when you hear or see them, can quickly create a sense of security, calm, trust, and well-being?

Please take the survey or comment; please list 5 words (or more, if you would like) that, upon hearing or reading them, can create within you a sense of calm and trust.

Thank you! (Kevin Engel, 23 February, 2019)

Science highlights: food waste, weather forecasting, 2080 climate, and sinking land

Food waste

1/3 of all fruit & vegetables produced annually are thrown away because they appear marked or spoiled. A new edible food coating–already in use–helps food last 2-3 times longer and can cut down on food waste.

Read the article (Charlotte Jee, MIT Technology Review, 14 February 2019).

Weather forecasting

Weather forecasting has improved; accurate forecasts can now be made for 10 days in the future. But, there appears to be a limit. Tiny atmospheric disruptions cause models to diverge after 2 weeks; 14-15 days may be the ultimate limit to weather prediction.

Read the article (Paul Voosen, Science, 14 February 2019).

Climate change …

What will our climate be like in 2080?

Check out this interactive map of 540 urban areas in North America–

Sea rise and sinking land in Louisiana

Sea levels are rising globally from melting ice and warming oceans. The impacts are huge. But, there is another factor–sinking land especially in river deltas. Louisiana, USA is an example; the land is sinking due to compacting soil and groundwater, oil, and gas extraction.

Read the article (Paul Voosen, Science, 30 January 2019).