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Posts Tagged "Food"

Anecdotes from the Archive

A Horse Is a Horse, of Course, of (Main) Course

horsehead

Let’s talk about horses. With news of Europe’s horse meat scandal grabbing headlines last month, it’s hard not to have equine on the mind. In 1875 Scientific American published an article, “Shall We Eat the Horse?” hypothesizing the economic benefits of consuming horse meat in the U.S. At the time hippophagy was practiced in Europe, [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Green Thumbery: Water, Sunlight, and Data

Peas in bloom. Photo by KDCosta, 2014 Garden.

All of those concerns I had at the beginning of the season have disappeared. My plants are healthy and flowering—and they’re slowly taking over the backyard, much to my delight. Now, if only I were home more often to enjoy them. My Flower Power has kept watch these past months and it’s been helpful is [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Green Thumbery: Flower Power

Planting officially underway!

Things have been quiet on the Green Thumbery series because I’ve been watching my plants anxiously. The lengthy winter we experienced has made for a sluggish start and it was touch-and-go for a few weeks. But I’m getting ahead of myself; I should take a few steps back and bring you up to speed. We [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Green Thumbery: Death and Destruction

From top to bottom: Dragon beans, sugar snap peas, and Chinese long beans.

Quick Garden Stats: Zone 7 – New York Anticipated last frost date (per local nursery): 5/20 Plants in ground: None It’s been a rough start to the planting season. The seedlings are dead. All of them. It happened essentially within 24 hours: I left for work and came home to find most of them bent [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Green Thumbery: The Seedlings are Coming!

Trinidadian Scorpion and Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Okay, it’s not Friday, but I owe you guys a Green Thumbery post. Plus I spent part of yesterday turning over the soil in the two beds I’ll be planting this spring, and I’m eager to share that the beds were full of earthworms! This is news because when I turned over the beds last [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Green Thumbery: A Gardening Series and Winter Sowing

The initial yield from last year's garden, which then triggered a gardening furor.

Last summer was the first time I had space to have a garden of my own. I had never really tried to grow anything but marigolds prior to that—and that’s only because they insisted on surviving despite being neglected. Because of this history, it wasn’t really all that surprising that S cast a skeptical eye [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

Burger with a side of toys: How is fast food being marketed to children?

CC, click on image for license and information.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) began to heavily legislate cigarette marketing in the 1960s following a report from the Surgeon General’s office on the dangers of smoking. Efforts were largely focused on reducing the ads that targeted children, which often ran during programs for children and teens like The Flintstones. In a story that has [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

What’s stopping us from eating insects?

Can insects feed a growing global population? | CC, click on image for license and information.

How many of you watch Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel? And how many of you have said, “I would never eat that!” Have you ever stopped to think about why you feel that way? What if you had no choice? What if you had been taught differently? As a part of the [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

How does competitive eating represent us as Americans?

Nathan's of Coney Island, home of the International Hot Dog Eating Contest. | Photo by Rebecca Wilson, CC. Click on image for license and information.

The United States marks its independence today with a few activities: parades, fireworks, and competitive eating contests. While there are many variations of the latter, the most famous is perhaps the one held at the Coney Island landmark Nathan’s, where competitors have to consume as many hot dogs (including their buns) as possible in 10 [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

You Are What You Eat: Unraveling the Truth in Food Records

A Roman Feast, Roberto Bompiani late 1800s. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 72.PA.4.

The last time I browsed the cookbook section of a bookstore, the options were dizzying. The present day culinary record of our habits and inclinations is diverse. It reflects the need to both speed up and slow down, have quick meals and lingering dinner parties, and preserve the tried and true and dabble with the [...]

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Anthropology in Practice

The Cost of Healthy Eating

S has taken the lead in preparing our weeknight meals. It helps us get dinner on the table earlier but he’s also interested in helping us eat more healthfully. He’s invested a great deal of time into learning about healthy food options and healthy substitutes for the richer foods he enjoys. Our daily menu has [...]

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The Artful Amoeba

Yeast: Making Food Great for 5,000 Years. But What Exactly Is it?

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Fire was the first force of nature tamed for cooking. Yeast was second. In the early days of ancient Egypt, around 3100 B.C., there lived a ruler named Scorpion, who probably did not look like The Rock. When Scorpion died, pyramids had not yet been invented, so he was buried in a broad, low tomb [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Satisfy Your Curiosity with Our New E-Book, Can We Feed the World? The Future of Food

Future of Food Cover

Still hungry after devouring our September 2013 single topic issue: Food? Engage in some guilt-free gluttony with our new companion eBook: Can We Feed the World? The Future of Food. With global population numbers projected to increase by 2 billion by 2050, a veritable food crisis is on the horizon. In this eBook, we examine [...]

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Cocktail Party Physics

Nobel Vintage: Fundamental Physics Prize Co-Winner Sells No Wine Before Its Time

Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt checks the status of his fermenting grapes.

Last night the winners of the 2015 Breakthrough Prizes were announced, including the $3 million Fundamental Physics Prize — likely the most lucrative such honor in science. And while prior winners have skewed heavily towards string theory and theoretical cosmology, this year’s winners were the Nobel-winning teams responsible for measuring the accelerating expansion of the [...]

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Compound Eye

Six tips for better pollinator photographs

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June 17-22 is National Pollinator Week! Below are six tips for better photographs of flower-loving insects. But first, a digression on why Pollinator Week matters. Pollination- the transfer of genetic material from one plant to another- is important. Pollination is how plants have sex. Without it, many species simply can’t make the fruits, nuts, seeds and [...]

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Dog Spies

How to make people eat dog food

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I have to assume John Bohannon woke up one morning and thought, “What does dog food taste like?” That, or he might have just been out of food and people were coming over. Either way, the outcome was the same. Bohannon gathered eighteen people together to voluntarily consume dog food in a study investigating whether [...]

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Doing Good Science

Scary subject matter.

Death

This being Hallowe’en, I felt like I should serve you something scary. But what? Verily, we’ve talked about some scary things here: Dangers to life and limb in academic chemistry labs, and the suggestion that lab safety is too expensive. My unsavory habit of sending gastropods in my garden to a soapy end Implicit biases [...]

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Doing Good Science

“Forcing” my kids to be vegetarian.

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I’m a vegetarian, which is probably not a total surprise. I study and teach ethics. I’m uneasy with the idea of animals being killed to fulfill a need of mine I know can be fulfilled other ways. In the interests of sharing a world with more than 7 billion other people, and doing so without [...]

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Doing Good Science

Can we combat chemophobia … with home-baked bread?

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This post was inspired by the session at the upcoming ScienceOnline 2013 entitled Chemophobia & Chemistry in The Modern World, to be moderated by Dr. Rubidium and Carmen Drahl For some reason, a lot of people seem to have an unreasonable fear of chemistry. I’m not just talking about fear of chemistry instruction, but full-on [...]

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Doing Good Science

“Are you going to raise the child picky?” Interview with Stephanie V. W. Lucianovic (part 3).

SufferingSuccotash

This is the last part of my interview with Stephanie V. W. Lucianovic, author of Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate, conducted earlier this month over lunch at Evvia in Palo Alto. (Here is part 1 of the interview. Here is part 2 of the interview.) [...]

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Doing Good Science

Scientific knowledge, societal judgment, and the picky eater: Interview with Stephanie V. W. Lucianovic (part 2).

SufferingSuccotash

We continue my interview with Stephanie V. W. Lucianovic, author of Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate, conducted earlier this month over lunch at Evvia in Palo Alto. (Here is part 1 of the interview.) In this segment of the interview, we ponder the kind of [...]

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Doing Good Science

Can science help the picky eater? Interview with Stephanie V. W. Lucianovic (part 1).

SufferingSuccotash

This summer, I reviewed Suffering Succotash: A Picky Eater’s Quest to Understand Why We Hate the Foods We Hate by Stephanie V. W. Lucianovic. This month, with the approach of the holiday season (prime time for picky eaters to sit with non-picky eaters at meal time), Stephanie and I sat down for lunch at Evvia [...]

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Doing Good Science

Book review: Cooking for Geeks.

Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter O’Reilly Media, 2010 We have entered the time of year during which finding The Perfect Gift for family members and friends can become something of an obsession. Therefore, in coming days, I’ll be sharing some recommendations. If you have family members and [...]

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Doing Good Science

Science kits … for girls.

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Via a tweet from Ed Yong, I discovered this weekend (not that I couldn’t have guessed) that purveyors of science kits for kids are still gendering the heck out of them. That is to say, there are science kits, and there are science kits for girls. For all I know, putting science kits in pink [...]

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Doing Good Science

Why does Thanksgiving dinner make you sleepy?

Thanksgiving Desserts

For years, you’ve heard the tremendous fatigue experienced after an American Thanksgiving dinner laid at the feet of the turkey — or more precisely, blamed upon the tryptophan in that turkey. Trytophan, apparently, is the go-to amino acid for those who want to get sleepy. Let me note, before we go on, that for all [...]

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Doing Good Science

Every diet has a body-count: in the garden with the vegetarian killing snails.

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When the demand of my job and my family life allow, I try to take advantage of the fact that I live in California by maintaining a vegetable garden. One of the less pleasant aspects of vegetable gardening is that, every winter and spring, it requires me to embark on a program of snail and [...]

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Expeditions

You wanted to know: what’s the food like on board?

There are 25 scientists on the Knorr, and 24 crew members. (And then me — the weird one with the camera). That’s 50 people altogether…which makes operating the Knorr quite a logistical feat. And that includes feeding us. How is your food? What are they feeding you? Is it like space food or more like [...]

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Expeditions

On digestion: Reflections on the feeding frenzies of seagulls, squid and humans

sea of cortez seagulls stanford biology cruise gilly

Editor’s Note: William Gilly, a professor of cell and developmental biology and marine and organismal biology at Stanford University, is traveling with a group of students on board the Don José in the Sea of Cortez. They will monitor and track Humboldt squid and sperm whales in their watery habitats. This is the group’s eighth [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Tea and Consequences: Unsustainable Cultivation Puts Honeybush Tea at Risk

honeybush tea infusion

The Web sites selling sweet-smelling honeybush tea proudly proclaim its supposed health benefits, which range from lowering cholesterol and improving respiration to controlling the symptoms of menopause. Although none of these claims have been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there is some minor research backing up a few of these benefits. That [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Tourists Are Giving Endangered Iguanas Diarrhea and High Cholesterol

iguana grape

Hop on over to the photo-sharing site Flickr and you’ll find dozens of photos and videos of people eagerly feeding grapes to hungry iguanas on the beaches of the Bahamas. It looks like great fun and the iguanas obviously go crazy for the fruit, which is usually fed to the lizards on the ends of [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Lion Meat Tacos (You Read That Right) Are the Latest Threat to Conservation

lion

Why do U.S. restaurants keep trying to sell lion meat? This month a Florida restaurant called Taco Fusion put $35 lion tacos on its menu, and a California restaurant called Mokutanya announced $70 lion skewers, its second such promotion in the past year. Public outrage rose up almost immediately, forcing both restaurants to remove the [...]

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Extinction Countdown

Lack of food drives human-grizzly conflicts—and human-grizzly fatalities

As their traditional food supply disappears because of climate change and invasive species, Yellowstone National Park’s grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis ) are increasingly seeking sustenance outside their protected home—a move which more than ever puts them in the crosshairs. An estimated 75 Yellowstone grizzlies where killed or "removed from the wild," as the U.S. [...]

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Food Matters

Dear Beverage Industry: Yes, 12-Year-Olds Are Children.

advertising-to-kids

The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity (full disclosure: I work for them) just released the Sugary Drink Facts Report, exhaustively detailing the nutrition of products offered by the beverage industry, and how the industry markets them. The authors are very careful to point out that progress has been made since their last [...]

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Food Matters

My New Fermentation Obsession

Kraut-batch-2-ingredients

It’s been a while since my last post – I was not quite prepared for how busy I would be teaching 3 classes, doing research and planning a wedding would be. But, the wedding is done! The semester is almost over! And my research is rife with blogging possibilities… Plus, I have a new obsession [...]

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Food Matters

Of course a soda tax will work. Why else would the industry fight it so hard? (VIDEO)

child-and-big-soda

Sugary drinks are the single-largest contributor to added sugars in the American diet. Their consumption increases risk of type II diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems. Experts agree that rising sugary drink consumption has been a major contributor to the obesity epidemic, and that reducing consumption is a public health imperative. Over the last [...]

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Food Matters

Judging Food By Its Cover: Nutrition Labels Are One Area Where Consumer Is Not King

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It’s a tired refrain: “It’s all about consumer choice, we can’t limit choice, the consumer is king.”  Every time some pesky public health advocate wants to try to reform the food environment, the industry starts to shriek about limiting choices and taking away people’s freedom.  New York City’s attempt to remove “bucket” as an acceptable [...]

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Food Matters

Follow #SodaSummit14 For a Few Thousand Reasons Not to Drink Sugary Beverages

sodaSummit500

Today marks the beginning of the 2014 National Soda Summit, a conference hosted in Washington D.C. by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The summit runs through June 5th. Researchers, policy makers, and public health advocates are gathering to share the latest science, policies, and practices related to reducing sugary beverage consumption. If [...]

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Food Matters

What if we all just stopped trying to lose weight? (video)

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By focusing on weight, we may be missing the broader picture of what it means to be healthy. Brian Mattson is not the picture of health. Few would look at him and say: “There’s a healthy fellow.” But that’s a shame, because Mattson is a pretty healthy guy. In fact, by a number of measures, [...]

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Food Matters

Investigating the Cheese Microbiome

The rind of Baley Hazen Blue cheese from Jasper Hill Farm in VT

Last week was a monumental one for me – I said goodbye to my old lab, where I’ve worked for the past 5 years. It was harder than I thought it would be to leave. Grad school was rough at times, but it was an overwhelmingly positive and rewarding experience, due in no small part [...]

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Food Matters

Vox Off to a Good Start on GMOs

Vox Logo

Vox.com is a new news site that aims to do things a bit differently. Led by Ezra Klein, formerly of the Washington Post “Wonk Blog,” news stories at Vox are supposed to rely more on data, and actually provide the data behind stories so that readers can judge for themselves. Klein made a name for [...]

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Food Matters

Rising Up: Using Escalating Food Costs To Predict Riots, Revolutions, and Rebellions

A protestor in Cairo demands "Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice"

Since the beginning of 2014, riots have occurred in countries including Thailand and Venezuela. Although they’re different cultures on different continents, these mass protests movements may all have one commonality; increasing food prices may have contributed to their occurrence. The cost of food has been steadily increasing in both Thailand and Venezuela; last month demonstrators [...]

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Food Matters

Book Review: The Diet Fix–Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work

the diet fix cover

  The Diet Fix: why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work, by Yoni Freedhoff, MD, is available March 4, 2014. It starts with a prescription for chocolate. Clearly this is not your average diet book. Over nearly ten years and thousands of hours working with patients with weight management issues at his Bariatric Medical [...]

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Guest Blog

Catching Big Mama Fish Curbs Ocean Fertility

A gravid female cod at the U.K.'s MacDuff Aquarium. (Credit: Bruce McAdam via Flickr)

Scientists recently confirmed what anglers have known for centuries—there’s something special about a big mama fish. The bigger the fish, the better the bragging rights—and often, the bigger paycheck or prize. For centuries, this has led anglers and fishers to selectively target the largest fish in a school. But a new study published in a [...]

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Guest Blog

For Diabetics, Healthy Habits Trump Medicine

syringe sticking up from a pile of granulated fine sugar

Against the backdrop of a government shutdown precipitated by healthcare issues and the rollout of the insurance exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act, a conference called Diabetes + Innovation 2013 took place in Washington, D.C. earlier this month. The gathering, organized by The Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School, focused on prevention and [...]

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Guest Blog

You Say Potato, I Say Double-Stranded RNA

potato

Amidst the outrage, puzzlement and theories caused by the finding of genetically-modified wheat in an Oregon field, USDA is considering whether to commercialize another dinnertime staple–the potato. Last month, Idaho-based J.M. Simplot asked the Agriculture Department to grant a deregulated status for a new variety of potatoes genetically engineered to reduce bruising and develop lower [...]

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Guest Blog

Honeybees and Monoculture: Nothing to Dance About

Beehives stacked and secured on a truck for transportation (Photo: Mark Lehigh)

With all the talk of honey bee decline in the news, you may already know that honey bees don’t just make honey. They also give us almonds, cherries, avocados, raspberries, apples…pretty much everything delicious. Of course, there are plenty of native pollinators that can also do that job. But domestic honey bees (first brought to [...]

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Guest Blog

Stem Rust Ug99–the Agricultural Bully

Remember 1999? It was the year in which the European Union first unveiled its uniform currency and Y2K threatened to bring the technological rapture to global information systems. 1999, the year the artist then-known as Prince declared the benchmark for partying (although he sang it in 1982). It also marked the identification of a new [...]

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Guest Blog

Simply Brilliant Science: Creating Healthier Eggs for a Healthier You

When Omega Eggs (eggs containing Omega fatty acids) first appeared on the mass market in the early 2000s I had this bizarre image in my head of a semi-crazed scientist extracting the yolk with a giant syringe, swirling it about in a beaker with a neon blue solution to extract the bad fat, injecting it [...]

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Guest Blog

When, and Why, Did Everyone Stop Eating Gluten?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the ingestion of gluten induces enteropathy, or inflammation of the gut, in genetically susceptible individuals. This destruction of the gut means that nutrients cannot be absorbed, leading to a variety of clinical symptoms: anemia due to the lack of iron, atherosclerosis due to the lack of calcium, [...]

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Guest Blog

Science in the neighborhood: How to make really good coffee

Sitting at the end of the long wooden bar, I watch with curiosity as Richie begins his pour. He starts the stopwatch on his cell phone and proceeds to pour steaming hot water over the coffee grounds in a precise choreographed motion. The water hits the grounds and starts to seep through while small bubbles [...]

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Guest Blog

Science Cafe spreads understanding of bacteria over beers

Sophia Kathariou is the kind of scientist who can turn food-borne bacteria into great dinner conversation. The associate professor of food science and microbiology at N.C. State University in Raleigh, N.C., spoke about her work Thursday night at Mitch’s Tavern, a longtime haunt for professors and students alike. The talk was one of Sigma Xi’s [...]

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Guest Blog

Food for thought: Musings on sustenance and what makes us human

Euell Gibbons’ Stalking the Wild Asparagus is illustrated only with ink sketches of the plants, so it is hardly a field guide for a modern aspiring forager; and since he suggests adding butter and/or bacon to almost every vegetable he finds, it is not really suitable as a contemporary cookbook either. But it does have [...]

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Illusion Chasers

Fat Tuesday: Hypoglycemia Is Tied To Low Income In Diabetics

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/74/McDonald%27s_French_fries_Potato_%2801%29.jpg

I disagree with this study’s conclusion. It’s not that I don’t believe that low-income is tied to diabetes and hypoglycemia at the end of the pay cycle. I do believe it. But I suspect that these diabetics are eating too much inexpensive high-carbohydrate junk foods at the end of their pay cycle, rather than starving.

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Illusion Chasers

Illusion of the Week: Japanese Burger-Chain Breaks the Curse of OCHOBO!

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Horking down a huge honking burger–American style–is considered unladylike in Japan. So Freshness Burger uses an unconventional approach to maintaining Ochobo–the Japanese cultural practice of maintaining small delicate mouth features in women. They use illusory replacement of the disgusting burger-eating pie-hole with the dainty and ladylike fake ochobo face mask.

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Illusion Chasers

Fat Tuesday: Why stress leads to obesity

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Stress is transient Type II diabetes, even when you’re otherwise healthy.

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Illusion Chasers

Fat Tuesday: Believe in Will Power, and You Shall Have It

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Some people believe that will power is a bodily function that requires glucose to power it. Carol Dweck’s new paper shows that its not so.

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Illusion Chasers

Fat Tuesday: Feed the Addict

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When the substantia nigra is super charged by food restriction, or drugs, or both, you become super motivated to seek out more food, or more drugs… whatever floats the substantia nigra’s boat.

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Illusion Chasers

Fat Tuesday: Does Jet-Lag Make You Chronobese?

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Chronic jetlag, habitual night shifts, and rotating shift work, can have deleterious consequences on circadian organization and metabolic health, says a new report in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science. The reason may be the significant crosstalk between the circadian system and the metabolic system, leading to “chronobesity”.

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Illusion Chasers

Fat Tuesday: Neurosurgery versus bariatric surgery in obesity

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A study in the journal Neurosurgical Focus has calculated thate DBS will have to be 83% effective in order for it to be a better choice than gastric bypass for obese patients.

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Illusion Chasers

Fat Tuesday: Surgery for everyone! How science validated the gastric bypass.

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An important and exciting piece of research just came out in Science Magazine last week showing why gastric bypass surgery has such powerful curative effects on diabetes, beyond the previous belief that the dietary restriction helps diabetes.

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Illusion Chasers

Fat Tuesday: Even if you eat a healthy diet, your genes can make you fat

Three sibling mice. The one on the left has a genetic defect that causes it to grow fat even though it was given the same diet.

Mice that have certain genetic defects can eat exactly the same healthy diet as their genetically normal siblings, yet still become obese.

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Illusion Chasers

Neuroscience in Fiction: Proust and Pixar

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The madeleine episode in Proust’s Swan’s Way exemplifies the power of smells and tastes to bring back memories, and has inspired research and further fiction too.

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Lab Rat

Sauerkraut: bacteria making food

This much sauerkraut!

Last week my husband needed some jars for cooking purposes. Tesco sell jars for somewhere around £3 each. However they also sell large jars full of sauerkraut for £1 each. Which means that last weekend we had an awful lot of sauerkraut to try and get through. I’m not a great fan of sauerkraut, which [...]

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MIND Guest Blog

Looks Can Taste Deceiving: How Color Can Affect Taste

Is it possible that our vision can affect our taste perception? Let’s review some examples of studies that claim to have demonstrated that sometimes what we see can override what we think we taste. From wine to cheese to soft drinks and more it seems that by playing with the color palette of food one [...]

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The Network Central

Passions of Food—Special Day at #SciAmBlogs

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Welcome to the huge and wonderful day here at the Scientific American blog network, where we are having great fun discussing food and trends in modern agriculture and why people are so passionate about these topics. Here is a compilation of all of today’s posts covering these topics, as well as a choice collection of [...]

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Not bad science

Robins Pay Attention To Which Way You’re Looking When Stealing From You

The Wild North Island robin

In a week where gaze-following seems to be the hot topic, there being studies in both primates and dogs, another study took a rather different approach to looking at gaze-following. Wild North Island robins are unusual in that they live on an isolated island and as a result are unafraid of humans and other mammals. [...]

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Observations

Toxins in Nutrition Supplements Still Escape FDA Oversight

Image: Womenshealth.gov

When young and middle-aged adults started showing up at the hospital with liver failure last spring, doctors in Hawaii struggled to find the thread that connected the patients. They found it in the form of a popular sports supplement, OxyElite Pro. The supplement was linked last May to severe hepatitis, but the U.S. Food and [...]

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Observations

Drug-Resistant Superbugs Kill at Least 23,000 People in the U.S. Each Year

Image: CDC

Each year, more than two million people in the United States develop antibiotic-resistant infections, and at least 23,000 of them die as a result, says the first-ever national snapshot of the issue. That toll only rises when other conditions exacerbated by these infections are included in the count. Because it’s difficult to attribute a death [...]

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Observations

Cultured Beef: Do We Really Need a $380,000 Burger Grown in Petri Dishes?

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For the first time, the public has been treated to the spectacle of lab-grown meat cooked and eaten via live Webcast. Backed by Google billionaire Sergey Brin, Dutch tissue engineer Mark Post unveiled his “cultured beef” at a press event on August 5, answering the question posed by a 2011 Scientific American feature: “When Will [...]

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Observations

Global Water Shortages Grow Worse but Nations Have Few Answers

Image credit: José Manuel Suárez/Flickr

As we have been hearing, global water shortages are poised to exacerbate regional conflict and hobble economic growth. Yet the problem is growing worse, and is threatening to deal devastating blows to health, according to top water officials from the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) who spoke before a [...]

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Observations

Nanopowder on Your Doughnuts: Should You Worry?

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There are nano-sized particles in your food. Does this make you nervous? A new report from an environmental health group, As You Sow, raises concern about nanoparticles in some popular sweets. The group says it found particles of titanium dioxide less than 10 nanometers in size in the powdered sugar coating on donuts from Dunkin’ [...]

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Observations

What Is Geodesign–and Can It Protect Us from Natural Disasters?

As New York, New Jersey and other states hit hard during Superstorm Sandy last fall begin their long road to recovery, the decisions they make on how to rebuild are crucial to determining how well they’re weather than next big storm. The choices range from installing large storm-surge sea barriers near Staten Island and at [...]

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Observations

How Corn Syrup Might Be Making Us Hungry–and Fat

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Grocery store aisles are awash in foods and beverages that contain high-fructose corn syrup. It is common in sodas and crops up in everything from ketchup to snack bars. This cheap sweetener has been an increasingly popular additive in recent decades and has often been fingered as a driver of the obesity epidemic. These fears [...]

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Observations

Mealworms: The Other-Other-Other White Meat?

mealworm protein climate change population

Looking for the perfect holiday entrée? Something nutritious yet easy on the Earth? Something with a subtle, yet distinctive, je-ne-sais-quoi flavor? Have you considered the humble mealworm? What about the super superworm? Before you click away in disgust, remember that the creeping, shelled, 10-legged crustacean we now so lovingly dip in butter (ahem, the lobster) [...]

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Observations

New Slice of Wheat Genome Could Help Feed Growing Global Population

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Common wheat (Triticum aestivum) might seem as boring as the sliced bread it is baked into. But genetically, it is vexingly complex. Its genome is about six times as big as our own, and its genes are distributed among six sets of chromosomes (we humans have just two). In fact, the T. aestivum genome contains [...]

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Observations

Fish Shoots Down Prey with Super-Powered Jet [Video]

archer fish water jet

With a juicy insect dinner perched on a leaf above the water, what is a hungry little archer fish down below to do? Knock it down with a super-powered, super-precise jet of water that packs six times the power the fish could generate with its own muscles, according to new findings published online October 24 [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Party with These 8 Famous Octopuses to Celebrate Octopus Awareness Day!

octopus awareness day

It’s Octopus Awareness Day, and although we at Octopus Chronicles treat every day as if it were a celebratory day for the cephalopod, today it gets extra special treatment. So to ring in the best day of the year, here are eight of the most famous—and infamous—octopuses—real and perhaps occasionally mythical: 8. Billye: This hungry [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

First Common Octopus Cannibalism Filmed in the Wild [Video]

octopus cannibalism

Perhaps it’s time we stopped feeling quite so bad about eating octopus. Octopuses dine on other octopuses, too. And for the first time, that behavior has been caught on video in the common octopus in the wild—three times. Cannibalistic behavior in the lab setting is well known. This is one of the reasons octopuses can be so [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

8 Great Octopus Videos! [Video]

It’s Octopus Chronicles‘ 88th post! To celebrate, I’ve gone on an all-arms hunt through the deep crevasses of the internet to find eight of my favorite octopus videos. Some are old classics (such as Roger Hanlon‘s amazing, reverse-vanishing octopus) and others are new and stunning—and one even features an octopus walking (slithering?) on land. Really, [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Scrawny Wonderpus Puts Stranglehold on Mightier Mimic Octopus

octopus

Earlier this week, we learned that female octopuses sometimes strangle—and then possibly eat—their male mates. For a cannibalistic animal with long arms, perhaps we—and the male—should have seen that one coming. (Especially since the female apparently had already gotten what she needed out of the rendezvous.) But an additional report finds that octopus strangulation is [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Female Octopus Strangles Mate, Then Eats Him

octopus

Octopuses do the darndest things. Like kill their mate during mating—by strangling him with three arms, according to new observations from the wild. Enterprising scientists Christine Huffard and Mike Bartick watched wild octopuses in action. They found that, for males, mating can be a dangerous game. Especially when your lady has long limbs. Some of [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Why Don’t Octopuses Get Stuck to Themselves?

octopus sucker

An octopus might be one of the most intelligent invertebrates, but it doesn’t always know what, exactly, its arms are doing. How these animals manage to avoid tangling themselves up is a major feat. But another—of no small concern—is keeping free of the strong grasp of its own suckers. New research, published May 15 in [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Health: Are Octopuses Rocking Too Much Heavy Metal?

octopus

Octopuses are a popular entrée for plenty of predators—including us humans. And for good reason. Octopuses are nutritious, with loads of lean muscle in those amazing arms, and plenty of good minerals. But are they also harboring hazardous heavy metals? Surprisingly, “there is no information on the levels and magnitude of octopus contamination by heavy [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Mating Octopuses Prefer Crab Legs

octopus diet

Male octopuses don’t usually wine and dine prospective mates. But prior to mating, both males and females do seem to be in the mood for one date-worthy food: crab, according to new research published online in the Journal of Shellfish Research. Scientists studied two-spot octopuses (Octopus bimaculatus) in the Bay of Los Angeles in the [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Giant Octopus Checks Out Camera and Diver [Video] [Updated]

The octopus making headlines this week was probably not—contrary to other claims—attempting to wrestle a diver or take a selfie. But then again, nice, curious invertebrates rarely make headlines. Two divers, Warren Murray and David Malvestuto, were photographing wildlife in Bluefish Cove, off the cost of Carmel, California about 80 feet below the surface, NBC News [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Baby Octopuses: Pickier Eaters Than Baby Humans

baby octopus food

Baby octopuses are notoriously difficult to keep alive in captivity—as in, almost impossible. Like their adult parents, they’re sensitive to water pH and temperature and all of that jazz. But unlike grown octopuses in captivity, the babies almost always die of starvation. Often just within a few days of hatching. We humans have tried feeding [...]

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Oscillator

Starters: Fermenting With Finger Yeast

Nico and Charlie's first sourdough, by Wayne Marshall

My friend Wayne and his daughters Nico and Charlie recently made sourdough bread with homemade starters containing wild yeasts and bacteria. They started with just flour and water, capturing microbes from the air that start chewing up the flour, making the bubbles and flavors that give the bread its texture and its kick. I love [...]

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Oscillator

Soil Inspired Cuisine

I’m fascinated by the biology of soil and the history of “dirtiness”–where dirt and bacteria are allowed to be and where we must clean them away. Mary Douglas defines dirt in her classic book Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo as “matter out of place”: [Dirt] is a relative idea. [...]

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Oscillator

Medieval Tines: A Brief History of the Fork

You may have seen the recent news of a sensor-filled smartfork that vibrates to warn you if you’re eating too quickly. I’m going to reserve judgement on the merits of the smartfork, invented by the French company Slow Control and marketed by HAPILABS, but I think it’s interesting to look at this cutlery innovation in [...]

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Plugged In

If Climate Change Was Not Real…

A Scarlet Ibis Water Bird in the once-receding Amazon rainforest. Courtesy: Brandon Hoover.

… there would be a lot of other environmental issues to deal with. This is no big revelation, but it’s a question I’ve been pondering recently: What is the state of the world, not counting climate change? Or rather, what if we managed to reduce CO2 emissions to necessary levels, what would our focus be on [...]

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Plugged In

It’s Time for a Neonicotinoid Time Out

Photo courtesy of  C. Löser via Wikimedia Commons

There’s a mounting pile of evidence that three particular neonicotinoid insecticides, clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, are harming bees. During the late 1990’s this class of pesticides began being used to treat corn and other field crop seeds. Today, they are the most commonly used pesticides in the U.S., and have covered millions of acres. Despite their [...]

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Plugged In

Plenty of Fish in the Sea?

A cluster of tuna off the southern tip of Italy. Photo: Courtesy of the UN FAO

In 2010, people across the globe munched their way through 128 million tons of seafood. That’s according to the latest data coming out of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). This hefty supply of fish equals around 41 pounds per person each year, and is taking its toll on the health of the oceans [...]

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Plugged In

Spring’s First Harvest: local organic produce

Rise ‘N Shine Farm’s first bounty of the year   Spring is here, and with it the first harvest of the season. It’s my family’s second year belonging to a CSA. This time around we chose a farm with a drop off site much closer to home. Our produce now comes from Rise ‘N Shine Organic Farm, [...]

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Plugged In

The Earth Beneath Our Feet

Healthy soil begets healthy plants, says the Dirt Doctor. (photo courtesy of shutterstock)

Some people take Earth Day more literally than others. Howard Garrett is one of them. Better known as the Dirt Doctor, Garrett believes that the health of the planet begins with the earth beneath our feet; it starts with cultivating strong vibrant soil, and blossoms outwards from there. “Without healthy soil, we won’t have healthy [...]

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Plugged In

More on food sourcing and food sustainability

I heard this story on NPR/PRI’s The World while driving home from yoga last night. Here’s the tl;dr of it: a Dutch company is perfecting ways to grow food indoors using LED lights and elaborate climate controls. By optimizing light levels and wavelengths, a range of crops can be grown. One could theoretically grow plants [...]

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Plugged In

Food waste in the land of ‘Man vs Food’

Here is some more food for thought about the modern global food economy. A study recently published by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization found that about one-third of all food produced on the planet is wasted, to the tune of 1.3 billion tons per year. Put another way, planet Earth throws away over 300 [...]

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Symbiartic

Urban Farm Versus the Apocalypse

urban_farm_J_Ellis_mini

Urban Farm on a Rainy Day © Jon Ellis (aka jonorobo). Click each image to see enlarged version on DeviantArt. Most concept art is obsessed with various forms of self-inflicted apocalypse.  If humanity has any hope to avert future catastrophes, that hope lays with designers, architects and engineers. I came across the Urban Farm concept art [...]

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Symbiartic

Your Kitchen Is a Chem Lab and This Is Your Textbook

13-035FEATURE

Maybe you cook, maybe not, but I bet you eat from time to time. If you’re reading articles on Scientific American, I also bet you are at least partially interested in science, and whether you eat gazpacho or goulash, KFC or cronuts, you have to concede this point: cooking is essentially applied chemistry. The beauty [...]

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Symbiartic

Hello!? This is Your Conscience Speaking…

12-038SugarGram

Good ol’ visual.ly. They always know how to ruin a perfectly good Thanksgiving binge! I wonder where mom’s pecan pie fits in… by visually.Browse more infographics.

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Symbiartic

Do you prefer your maggots salty or sweet?

Picture 1

There have been a whole slew of articles about the merits of eating bugs lately. The Atlantic, The New York Times, and The New Yorker have all run articles within the last month on various people in Europe and the US who are trying to reverse our deep aversion to entomophagy, the practice of eating [...]

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The Urban Scientist

#DispatchesDNLee: Culinary Tour of my Tanzanian Meals

salad, mbuzi (goat meat) ugali

You have to eat. No matter what else happens in life, where we go or why we go, we can’t escape the necessity of eating, fueling up. One of the most popular questions I get about my visits to Tanzania is: “How’s the food?” It was different. Not bad at all. My biggest surprises was [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Fork & Knife Politics: 5 Names in the Food Justice Movement you should know

cover_2013-09

The September 2013 Issue of Scientific American Magazine is a special issue devoted to the topic of food and the entire Scientific American Blog Network is celebrating Food Week September 2-6, 2013. As I was writing my post Appreciating what is on my plate (September 4, 2013) I was thinking of how how others are [...]

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The Urban Scientist

Appreciating what is on my plate

Tomatoes from my Mother's garden

Both my maternal and paternal grandmothers grew up during the Great Depression. That lean, harsh economic time made an indelible imprints on them – their spirits, their habits, and outlook on life. Those marks were especially present in each of their relationships to food, so much so, that 40-50 years later that I too was [...]

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