For some time now it’s been widely suggested that having a glass of wine or a beer or two every now and then is healthy for the human body and mind. It’s been said that moderate amounts of alcohol can boost heart health and even stave off chronic conditions such as diabetes and dementia.

But, no study has ever actually proved these widely-believed myths.

This leads most researchers and scientists to believe that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol isn’t actually causing any sort of health benefit, but that healthier people tend to drink moderate amounts of alcohol.

“The bottom line is there has not been a single study done on moderate alcohol consumption and mortality outcomes that is a ‘gold standard’ kind of study — the kind of randomized controlled clinical trial that we would be required to have in order to approve a new pharmaceutical agent,” says Dr. Tim Naimi, epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In fact, we’ve seen quite the opposite. Alcohol has been linked to breast cancer, liver disease, other cancers, heart damage and stroke.

In one study, researchers decided to see just exactly how alcohol affects the human brain as we consume more and more of it. Seven women and eight men were asked to sip alcohol through a straw as they laid in an MRI scanner, drinking the equivalent of three beers.

Six minutes after they had consumed this amount of alcohol, their brain cells had begun to change. They were feeding off the alcohol sugar instead of the normal glucose that our brains use as food.

Other changes included decreases in concentrations of creatine, which fortifies our brain cells, and choline, another component of brain cells. This has led researchers to believe that alcohol, even in moderate amounts, will trigger actual changes to the composition of the cells in our brains.

“Our follow-ups on the next day showed that the shifts in brain metabolites after moderate consumption of alcohol by healthy persons are completely reversible. However, we assume that the brain’s ability to recover from the effect of alcohol decreases or is eliminated as the consumption of alcohol increases.

The acute effects demonstrated in our study could possibly form the basis for the permanent brain damage that is known to occur in alcoholics,” said researcher Armin Biller.

Published in Human Psychopharmacology, another study looking at the chronic effects of moderate alcohol consumption on the brain discovered that increases in alcohol consumption were correlated with decreases in brain volume. This led researchers to conclude that even low to moderate amounts of alcohol consumption is more detrimental to brain health than it is beneficial.

You might be thinking, “But, red wine is chock-full of antioxidants, so it’s okay.” Red wine does contain resveratrol, a very powerful antioxidant, but the alcohol’s detrimental effects outweigh any benefits resveratrol might provide. Not to mention, there are numerous other sources of resveratrol that are safer for us to consume, including grapes, raspberries, mulberries, and peanuts.

If you’re really trying to bolster your cognitive functioning and give your brain a boost, the best ways to do so do not include alcohol.

They do include eating plenty of vegetables, eating plenty of foods that are high in quality omega-3 fatty acids, exercising on a regular basis, and stimulating your brain with activities like playing instruments, brain games, and traveling to new places.

h/t Reset.Me

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Australia's "Tesla Town" Featuring Solar Roofs and Powerwalls to Be First of Its Kind

The world has slowly been shifting away from dirty-energy in order to adopt more clean energy solutions in the fight against climate change and it has many people daydreaming about what the world will look like once we’ve completely made the transition to renewable energy.

Now, we’re getting a brief look into the future, as Australian property group Glenvill has designed, developed and begun to build the world’s first “Tesla Town.”

What is a “Tesla Town” you ask? Basically, it’s a small housing development in the Melbourne business district where every home features solar panel roofing and built-in Tesla Powerwalls, which provide electricity storage to be used for domestic consumption, load shifting and backup power.

The new development has green energy advocates excited, as it should be one of the most environmentally sustainable developments ever created. Residents who purchase a home within the new suburb, which is being called YarraBend (as the Yarra River passes through it), will enjoy drastic cuts in water usage (about 43 percent) as well as in landfill contributions (by up to 80 percent).

Not to mention, the solar panel electricity generation is expected to allow residents to recharge their electric vehicles for basically zero cost.

The development will feature a combination of single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments, and will cover 16.46 hectares of land or about 2,500 new homes. These homes come at somewhat of a price, however. At the moment, 60 homes are available for purchase ranging from $1.48 million to $2.1 million.

The YarraBend community will feature electric car charging stations and all homes feature energy efficient lights and appliances, and the homes themselves have been designed to have a minimal impact on their environment.

How amazing would it be to see every home in the world outfitted with sustainable energy technology? As Thierry Lepercq of the French energy giant, Engie, recently said:

“The promise of quasi-infinite and free energy is here.”

You can check out more photos here!

h/t Inhabitat

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THIS Is Why We Can't See All of the Space Junk Currently Orbiting Earth

Have you ever wondered why you can’t see all of the space junk that is supposedly floating around the Earth? We often hear about the thousands of satellites that are currently orbiting our planet along with the massive amount of debris that is also caught in Earth’s orbit, but we almost never see any of them in pictures of the Earth itself.

Many are quick to support conspiracy theories, but the truth is actually much simpler and a lot less exciting--even though space debris is actually a huge problem and something to be thinking about.

At the moment, there are around 4,200 man-made satellites that float around Earth. 1,149 are still in operation and a large chunk of these are incredibly small (like CubeSats, which average about four inches on each of their sides). Other satellites can get much, much bigger, but even the big ones that are over a hundred feet in length are simply dwarfed by the massive size of the Earth.

When you’re comparing four square-inches and 100+ feet to a planet that is 7,917.5 miles across.. There’s a good chance that you’re not going to see anything other than the planet, especially from far-off distances.

The International Space Station (ISS) that often takes so many of the amazing photos of the Earth is only about 357 feet long from end to end, making it the largest man-made object currently orbiting the planet. Even the DSCOVR satellite, which is used to observe Earth from about a million miles away, can’t discern the ISS when taking pictures.

The smallest objects that the EPIC camera onboard DSCOVR can detect have to be at least eight to ten kilometers wide.

Jay Herman, who leads the EPIC camera program, explains that satellites are actually designed to avoid collision with one another, meaning they are often nowhere near each other in terms of orbit, even though there are seemingly so many of them. But, he says, that doesn’t mean space junk isn’t a problem.

“There’s a lot of space junk up there. In fact, the ISS has to maneuver occasionally to get out of the way of stuff that NORAD tracks with radar.”

And while much of the debris circling Earth isn’t exactly massive, the tiny stuff is still incredibly dangerous.

“The velocities are so high that if a little piece of junk hit you it would do a lot of damage,” says Herman.

Pictures, like the ones displayed here, illustrate just how crowded Earth’s orbit has become. If you really need convincing that there’s stuff out there, just find a quiet place outside with low light pollution when the skies are clear, and look up. You should be able to spot numerous different satellites steadily floating through the skies with their blinking lights.

h/t Popsci

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This Family Uses a Solar Geodesic Dome to Live Comfortably in the Arctic Circle

When one thinks of the Arctic Circle, it’s easy to picture some of the harshest weather conditions that exist on Earth. You might find yourself wondering why anyone would want to live in a region where temperatures can fall to negative 58°F, but about four million people live in the arctic circle (10 percent of which are indigenous people who have lived in the region for tens of thousands of years).

So, if you’re going to live there, you might as well do it right. Like the Hjertefølger family who moved to Norway’s mountainous island of Sandhornøya in 2013 and began utilizing sustainable living practices to help stave off some of the harsh weather conditions they knew they’d be facing.

Not only is their home built from a mix of organic materials, like sand, water and clay, but they’ve encased their three-story home within a 25-foot-tall solar geodesic dome that helps protect them from heavy snowfall and high winds. And as a bonus, it also retains quite a bit of heat.

The dome works so well that they can even successfully maintain a garden that provides a good portion of their food, including things like apples, cucumbers, tomatoes, grapes, apricots, squash and different melons. Which is pretty impressive when you consider that they go without sunlight for at least three months each year.

“We love the house; it has a soul of its own and it feels very personal. What surprises us is the fact that we built ourselves anew as we built the house,” Ingrid Hjertefølger told Inhabitat. “The process changed us, shaped us.”

The family lives comfortably in one of the least inhabited regions on the planet and get to regularly experience breathtaking views of their natural surroundings as well as the Northern Lights overhead.

“The feeling we get as we walk into this house is something different from walking into any other house,” Hjertefølger shares. “The atmosphere is unique. The house has a calmness; I can almost hear the stillness. It is hard to explain. But it would have been impossible getting this feeling from a house someone else has planned and built for us, or a house with corners and straight lines.”

Who else is ready to go off-grid and live comfortably in a remote part of the world?

Check out Ingrid's blog here!

All image credit: the Hjertefølger family

h/t My Modern Met

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Now Hiring: Cuddle Drug-Addicted Babies to Help Them Survive

Giving back to the world through volunteer work is one of the best ways to spend your free time as well as provide much needed services to your community. There are many different ways to volunteer so it’s easy to find something that you both enjoy and feel good doing.

If you like babies, a new type of volunteer program has emerged to help provide infants with therapeutic healing experiences and the only requisite is that you have to cuddle with them.

As one might imagine, it can be incredibly emotional spending time with these special little ones who have been brought into this world already plagued with a troubled life. These babies have had parents who were drug addicts, meaning they were born addicted to certain substances right out of the womb.

Drug addiction rates all over the United States have rose as of late, leading to more and more children being born with addictions and then suffering from the subsequent neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the prevalence of NAS has increased 383 percent since the year 2000.

Symptoms of NAS vary depending on the substance the baby has become addicted to, but they include things like blotchy skin coloring, diarrhea, fever, issues feeding, seizures, problems sleeping, and inability to gain weight. And in order to survive the process of withdrawal, they need the help and cuddles of volunteers.

Cuddle care volunteer programs are being established across the U.S. as a means to help these afflicted babies, and the nurses who regularly care for these children couldn’t be happier.

“These babies going through withdrawal need to be held for extended periods. They need human touch,” says Pennsylvania nurse Jane Cavanaugh who started a similar program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

The best part is that these programs seem to be working. Maribeth McLaughlin, chief nursing officer and vice president of Patient Care Services at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC in Pittsburgh, says that addicted babies who are held regularly typically need less medication and get to go home sooner than other babies who do not receive such attention.

“Cuddling is helping them manage through these symptoms,” she told Today.com. “They are very irritable; they are hard to console. This is about swaddling them and giving them that comfort and safe, secure feeling.”

Sound like something you might be interested in? Great! Reach out to the local hospitals in your area to see if any cuddle care programs have been established yet and if not, maybe you can raise awareness and even suggest that they start one.

They make all the difference for babies who have been given an unfair start in this world.

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