Stop Worrying About Being Clean, Just be

We are obsessed with cleanliness in he developed world and it is likely killing us. The over use of cleaners in the built environment and the use of biochemical cleansers (like antibiotics) are weakening out immune system. They may also be negatively impacting our mental health as well. So relax with all that germaphobic behaviour.

Just chill. Killing microbes just because they microbes is not a nouns strategy for survival. We need exposure to all those tiny things to improve our health and out well being.

The overall message, then, is not that we should return to living in squalor as to try to embrace good bacteria; we need to be just as vigilant without our homes to keep them free from germs. Instead, Ilkka Hanski, a biologist at the University of Helsinki in Finland, says, it’s important to get out of the house and spend time in woodlands and forests. “Let your children play in places where they have contact with soil and vegetation, which are rich in beneficial microbes,” he says. “If you have a house, don’t maintain a lawn, let native plants take over and grow taller. Cut them once or twice a year.”

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In Plant Photosynthesis, Scientists See Clues for Improving Solar Energy Cells

Solar cells optimized to suit local light conditions, or made more efficient by using a broader part of the solar spectrum, are among the imaginative applications foreseen from ground-breaking new insights into plant photosynthesis pioneered in Canada.

Indeed new, more fully detailed knowledge of how plants and other living organisms convert sunlight into energy and carbon dioxide into biomass may offer clues to addressing both the global energy crisis and global warming, says Dr. Gregory Scholes, among the world’s most renowned scientists in plant photosynthesis.

Dr. Scholes, distinguished professor of Chemistry at the University of Toronto and 2012 recipient of the John C. Polanyi Award from Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), will describe his work in a special public lecture Nov. 26 supported by the Royal Canadian Institute (RCI) for the Advancement of Science, NSERC, and Toronto’s Ryerson University.

“This new bio-inspired understanding will help scientists devise artificial light gathering systems that can far exceed existing solar cells in functionality, and so pave the way to new, environmentally-friendly energy technologies,” says Dr. Scholes.

“We can imagine, for example, solar cells that optimize themselves to suit the local light conditions or that make better use of the solar spectrum by efficiently capturing and processing light of different colours.”

Studies of nature’s “photosynthetic machines” have involved such organisms as fronds in kelp forests (which can grow 15 cm – 6 inches – in a single day), algae growing 20 meters – 60 feet – underwater even in winter when over 1 metre of ice covers the water – and bacteria from the South Andros Black Hole, Bahamas, which have evolved to short circuit photosynthetic light harvesting and thereby warm their local environment.

All have helped science identify some fascinating chemical physics and determine that a chain of reactions involved in photosynthesis starts with hundreds of light-absorbing molecules that harvest sunlight and ‘concentrate’ the fleetingly stored energy at a biological solar cell called a “reaction center.”

And that happens with incredible speed. After sunlight is absorbed, the energy is trapped at reaction centers in about one billionth of a second.

New understanding of the photosynthetic process can also help alleviate the biggest looming threat to humanity — climate change — since photosynthesis makes use of the sun’s energy to convert the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) into useful biomass.

More than 10 quadrillion photons of light strike a leaf each second. Incredibly, almost every visible photon (those with wavelengths between 400 and 700 nanometers — 1 nm equalling 1 billionth of a metre) is captured by pigments and initiates the steps of plant growth.

Says Dr. Scholes: “Photosynthetic solar energy conversion occurs on an immense scale across the Earth, influencing our biosphere from climate to oceanic food webs. Energy from sunlight is absorbed by brightly coloured molecules, like chlorophyll, embedded in proteins comprising the photosynthetic unit.”

“While photosynthesis does not generate electricity from light, like a solar cell, it produces energy – a “solar fuel” – stored in molecules,” he adds. “Solar powered production of complex molecules is foreseen as an important contribution to energy management in the future.”

Concludes Dr. Scholes: “Nature has worked out with astonishing efficiency some the riddles of fundamental importance that vex our species today,” he adds. “If we are hunting for inspiration, we should keep our eyes open for the unexpected and learn from the natural sciences.”

Via the Royal Canadian Institute for the Advancement of Science.

Biological Determinism for Happiness

This is good news for some people and irrelevant news for others. There is new research coming out that hints that biology plays a significant role in how happy we are.

esearchers from the University of Edinburgh and the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane have found our personalities and happiness are largely hereditary and that genetically determined personality traits affect our happiness.

The research, published in the latest issue of the journal Psychological Science, rated the personalities of 973 pairs of twins. The twins were rated using the Five Factor Model of personality, which measures neuroticism, extroversion, conscientiousness, openness and agreeableness.

The study shows identical twins have a very similar personality and well-being. But fraternal twins are only around half as similar.

This suggests that genes are responsible for certain personality traits. Those who are conscientious, extroverted and not overly neurotic are more likely to be happy. People with these personality traits also tend to have a happiness buffer to help them through hard times.

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