Designer babies, the end of diseases, genetically modified humans that never age. Outrageous things that used to be science fiction are suddenly becoming reality. The only thing we know for sure is that things will change irreversibly.
The polar regions are called the “lands of the midnight sun” because in the summer, the sun never sets.
This timelapse was filmed by Witek Kaszkin using an Olympus OMD E-M1 + Zuiko Digital 8 mm f/3.5 ED fisheye lens. The audio is “Hornsund (Earthtones)” by Bill Stankay.
You can learn more about the midnight sun here.
Studies on melatonin have documented that the body’s own melatonin production helps us fall asleep, yet research on supplemental melatonin has been disappointing.
What many have missed is that certain foods provide natural forms of melatonin, which have been shown to raise melatonin blood levels naturally and significantly aid sleep.
An abundance of research has linked higher melatonin levels with the ability to fall asleep. Yet this research has been done on the body’s own melatonin production. Melatonin production is stimulated by the pineal gland as the sun sets and the lights dim during the later evening. This helps us fall asleep, as melatonin helps slow down cellular metabolism.
As most of us age, and especially with higher stress levels, our body’s ability to produce melatonin wanes. This can produce a chronic issue of sleeplessness – which has the potential for producing greater risk of various disorders as we age – as lack of sleep quality has been linked with a myriad of chronic disorders, from chronic fatigue to dementia.
Does Supplement Melatonin Work and Is It Safe?
Yet synthetic melatonin – either produced in the lab or from cow urine – does not produce the same effects as the body’s own (endogenous) melatonin. Some studies have shown that synthetic melatonin can help ones sleep-phase cycles slightly – helping during jet lag or similar situations – when our sleep cycles get messed up.
But as a sleep inducer – synthetic melatonin has been disappointing at best. Some research – such as studies by Dement and Vaughan (1999) – has even found that synthetic melatonin can stunt growth among younger people along with producing a myriad of other side effects such as dizziness and headaches.
Furthermore, supplemental melatonin’s effectiveness as a sleep aid has been shown to be questionable. In an extensive review by researchers from the University of Alberta (Buscemi et al. 2004) prepared for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 932 studies on melatonin since 1999 were analyzed—with 132 being qualified as offering clear results with good protocols. The study concluded that supplemental melatonin was:
- Not effective for treatment of most primary sleep disorders
- Not effective in treating most secondary sleep disorders
- Offered no evidence of effectiveness for jet lag and shift-worker disorders
Certain Natural Foods Provide a Safe Means of Melatonin
Yet little attention has been put on the fact that nature provides another means for increasing blood melatonin levels – by eating certain natural foods.
And recently, research from Thailand’s Khon Kaen University has found that the body’s levels of melatonin can be naturally raised through eating of some tropical fruits.
The researchers used a crossover study design with 30 healthy human subjects to see which fruits – tropical fruits selected for their melatonin content – would naturally raise the body’s melatonin levels.
The researchers tested six tropical fruits among the volunteers, giving them a diet heavy in that particular fruit for one week following a one-week washout. During these periods the researchers analyzed the subjects’ urine levels of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin – also referred to as aMT6s.
Higher levels of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin or aMT6s in the urine indicates higher levels of melatonin circulating within the bloodstream.
With each different fruit, the subjects’ aMT6s levels were tested. The 6-sulfatoxymelatonin (aMT6s) levels after eating some fruits – notably pineapples, bananas and oranges – increased significantly. Pineapples increased 6-sulfatoxymelatonin (aMT6s) levels by over two-and-a-half times (266%) while banana increased aMT6s levels by 180% – almost double. Meanwhile, oranges increased aMT6s levels by 47%.
The other fruits also moderately increased melatonin content among the patients.
Other Foods also Provide Melatonin Safely
Other research – as reported by Realnatural – has shown that natural melatonin from red tart Montmorency cherries (Prunus cerasus) can increase sleep efficiency and quality. A study from an international group of researchers found that drinking tart cherry juice for seven days increased sleep by an average of 34 minutes a night – by speeding up falling to sleep – and increased sleep efficiency by 5-6%.
And like the study from Thailand, the research found that drinking cherry juice increased 6-sulfatoxymelatonin levels naturally – without the need of exogenous or synthetic melatonin supplements.
Other foods that naturally increase melatonin levels include oats, sweet corn, rice, ginger, tomatoes, bananas, mangosteen and barley.
- Johns NP, Johns J, Porasuphatana S, Plaimee P, Sae-Teaw M. Dietary intake of melatonin from tropical fruit altered urinary excretion of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin in healthy volunteers. J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Jan 30;61(4):913-9.
- Howatson G, Bell PG, Tallent J, Middleton B, McHugh MP, Ellis J. Effect of tart cherry juice (Prunus cerasus) on melatonin levels and enhanced sleep quality. Eur J Nutr. 2012 Dec;51(8):909-16.
- Realnatural News. Research Confirms Tart Cherries Help Sleep Quality and Duration. http://www.realnatural.org/research-confirms-tart-cherries-help-sleep-quality/
- Adams C. NATURAL SLEEP SOLUTIONS FOR INSOMNIA: The Science of Sleep, Dreaming, and Nature’s Sleep Remedies. Logical Books, 2011.
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In California, dead trees are big news. In June, the U.S. Forest Service reported that 66 million trees had died since 2010 as the state has experienced a prolonged drought. Drought stress has weakened trees’ natural defenses to native bark beetles, resulting in a pulse of tree mortality. Yet amid all of the media coverage of the tree mortality, there has been little mention of the ecological importance of dead trees.
Dead Trees are Vital
Dead trees can remain standing for decades or more and a standing dead tree—known as a “snag”—provides great habitat for wildlife. Birds and mammals make their homes in openings carved within snags, while wood-boring insects that feed on snags provide the foundation of the food chain for a larger web of forest life, akin to plankton in the ocean.
With so much life abounding, it doesn’t seem right to call a snag “dead.” We commonly associate that word with meaning the end of one’s useful life and yet when a tree becomes a snag, it actually reaches a pinnacle of its beneficial role in the ecosystem. In other words, snags are a vital and vibrant part of the forest.
When many snags are created together in what is known as a “snag forest,” it produces some of the highest levels of native biodiversity of any forest type. Some forest animals, such as black-backed woodpeckers, depend on finding places with large swaths of snags. Unfortunately for them, unlogged snag forests have become quite rare.
The Deficit of Dead Trees
From the perspective of the timber industry, a snag in the forest is a waste, so timber companies and the Forest Service have spent decades cutting down snags as quickly as possible. As a result, there is now a significant lack of snags in our forests and this shortage is harming woodpeckers, owls and other forest wildlife. For them, the recent pulse of snag creation is good news.
At first glance, 66 million dead trees may seem like a very large number, but it is important to remember that there are 33 million acres of forest in California, so the total effect of the recent pulse of tree mortality has been to add an average of only two snags per acre. To put that number in perspective, forest animals that live in snags generally need at least four to eight snags per acre to provide sufficient habitat and some species require even more snags. For example, California spotted owls use forests with eight to twelve snags to nest and rest and they prefer even higher levels of snags in the areas where they gather their food. And black-backed woodpeckers depend on snag forests with at least several dozen dead trees per acre. These points and many others were addressed in a letter from scientists to California Gov. Brown in February.
Cashing in on Fear of Fire
Despite the ecological benefits from the recent pulse of tree mortality, logging advocates have been eager to cut down the snags. In attempting to sway the public to support large-scale logging, they have not highlighted the wildlife habitat created by these snags or the overall snag deficit, but instead they have stoked fears that dead trees will cause severe wildfires. This claim is generally presented by portraying the trees only as “fuel” for fire. Depicting trees solely as “fuel” is a simplistic and misleading approach that reduces the natural complexity of the forest to a single dimension, resulting in erroneous assumptions about what really occurs.
In fact, dozens of published scientific studies of what actually happens when beetle-affected areas burn show that dead trees do not cause severe fires. One recent study even found that areas with tree mortality burn at lower severity than green tree forests. Dr. Dominick DellaSala of the Geos Institute recently published a synthesis of this research and concluded, “There is now substantial field-based evidence showing that beetle outbreaks do not contribute to severe fires nor do outbreak areas burn more severely when a fire does occur.”
The results of the field research are inconvenient for those who try to use tree mortality as a justification for more logging. For example, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who oversees the Forest Service, made no mention of these studies in his June press release about the California tree mortality. Instead, he falsely claimed that the tree die-offs “increase the risk of catastrophic wildfires” and then he used that claim to lobby for increased funding for his agency.
The biomass power industry in California is also trying to cash in on this fire scare regarding dead trees. Biomass power facilities generate electricity by burning trees and other vegetation. This process is remarkably inefficient, with biomass burning facilities contributing to global warming by emitting more carbon per unit of energy produced than coal or natural gas facilities. (Moreover, in contrast to biomass power, renewable energy sources that don’t burn carbon—such as roof-top solar—have no emissions). Biomass power is also economically inefficient, requiring substantial taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies, as well as regulatory loopholes, to keep biomass facilities in business. Thus, the current use of fear of fire to try to justify subsidized logging of snags to fuel biomass facilities is bad news for the climate and taxpayers, as well as for forest ecosystems.
A New Understanding of Forest Diversity
Rather than allowing logging proponents to exploit fear and misinformation about fire, we have a collective opportunity to learn from the current pulse of tree mortality and develop a greater understanding of the full diversity of California’s forests. Dead trees, including large patches of snags, are a vital part of the forest. We should appreciate them, along with the natural processes that create them, such as beetles and wildfires. While forest protection efforts have historically focused on green trees, forests come in a variety of colors that also deserve protection, including trees with brown needles and trees with blackened bark. Their diversity provides the basis for a diversity of forest life.
By Douglas Bevington
Douglas Bevington is the forest program director for Environment Now and the author of The Rebirth of Environmentalism: Grassroots Activism from the Spotted Owl to the Polar Bear (Island Press, 2009).
Is the human body obsolete? The 10 cyborgs on this list certainly think so.
From the man who has given himself night vision, to the double amputee who has become half robot, AllTime10s introduces you to 10 real life cyborgs.
More than 99% of all species, that ever lived on Earth are estimated to be extinct. However, the actions of humans are now driving extinction, faster than species can evolve.