24 September 2009

Tipping Point(s)

In 1940, the population of the United States was estimated to be just over 132,000,000.

By 2000, the population of the United States had more than doubled to just over 281,000,000.

In 1940, the population of the world was estimated at just over 2,000,000,000.

By 2000, the population of the world nearly tripled to just over 6,000,000,000.

There is no denying that the population of the world is growing at a tremendous rate. More people means the need for more food, more clean water and more livable space -- demands which bring increased pressure on food and water sources, the environment and the planet as a whole.

Several groups recently released a sobering study "Planetary Boundaries: A Safe Operating Space for Humanity" which examines nine areas of concern, their current states, and the consequences if these areas become unstable.

You can read a press release about the study here.

You can read the study here.

Learn more about an organization involved in the research here.

There is a feature article in today's issue of Nature:
"Planetary Boundaries: A Safe Operating Space for Humanity."

16 September 2009

Red and Yellow and Pink and Green

I have known since I was about eight years old that I am red-green color blind. I see all the colors. I can see pure red and I can see pure green; the problem comes when people start mixing colors: for example, purple made up of blue and a little red looks like blue to me.

This has been no big deal. I cannot always see every color. Oh, well. Many years ago I had a friend tell me she felt sorry for me because I did not see all the colors she saw. I replied that she did not see colors that way I did, so I felt sorry for her. The point being, we deal with it and it is no biggie. (Complete color blindness -- where a person sees nothing but black, white and grey -- is a different issue.)

So today I read an article about how gene therapy has been successfully used to help color-blind monkeys see color they could not see before. In the article, it quotes one researcher as saying "People who are color-blind feel that they are missing out." In doing other research, I see phrases indicating that color-blind people "suffer" and are "bothered" because of their "problem" of not being able to see all shades of all colors.

I take great exception to this. I am not suffering and I do not see this as a problem. Okeh, sure, I used to have trouble matching patterned shirts and pants but that's hardly a problem. It is a little tricky telling red from yellow on stoplights while driving, but I just look at their position -- top is red, BTW. (This took a humorous turn when we were driving in Omaha, Nebraska because their stop lights are horizontal, not vertical.)

So what if I cannot tell if green grapes are ripe? So what if I cannot tell when a piece of meat is no longer pink inside? That's what I have Matt for. (Well, that and a few other reasons.) Look at it from my point of view: Can you read the number in this color-blind-test-sample pictured? I can. (If you have normal color perception, you cannot.) It has even been demonstrated that partial color blindness might have provided early humans an advantage in hunting (not being able to see certain colors means an animal's camouflage would not work). So, see? Things aren't so bad.

So, would I ever take advantage of a treatment to allow me to see color like most everyone else? Probably not. Just like I know I would not want to take a treatment to change my sexual orientation. Being gay and being red-green color blind are just parts of who I am. I certainly don't want to be like everyone else. I mean, ick!

You can read the Live Science article here.

You can read more about color blindness here.

14 September 2009

"Guiding Light" RIP

January 1937 was a really long time ago -- maybe not long in dinosaur years, but a long time in the entertainment world. That's when a new radio show appeared, called "Guiding Light" (pictured) for a light that stayed on at the house of a preacher to offer comfort to those in need.

This Friday, after 72 years and about 18,000 episodes (on radio and then television), the last vestige of the golden age of radio drama will be gone.

Daytime dramas and comedies were an important part of the radio universe because they were aimed at a captive audience: the women who, in the days before the war, stayed home, raised kids and made sure dinner was ready when the breadwinner came home. The housewife had chores to do, with radio often her only companion. This was great for the housewives, but even better for the companies who used radio to sell their products -- like the soap companies which sponsored the short radio dramas that eventually came to be called "soap operas."

"Guiding Light" was just one of hundreds of daily 15-minute slices of life that told the stories of other people leading other lives. Extraordinarily tame by the standards of the 21st century they dealt with the rich and poor, the married and single, the young and old -- but never the gay, just the straight. Why "Guiding Light" survived all these years rather than some other similar show is not known. Many radio soaps transitioned to television, but none lasted. Perhaps it was luck, skill, timing or something else entirely.

Either way, this last tenuous connection to another world and a simpler time will be severed Friday.

Yesterday, CBS News Sunday Morning did a nice recap of the show. You can read the story here.

Today, NPR aired a tribute piece, which you can hear here.

07 September 2009

Polish Movie Posters

If you live in London, you can head on over to Cinéphilia West to see a cool exhibition of cinema posters from Poland. If you don't live in London, you can see a selection from the exhibition here.

The design aesthetic in these posters (like this one for "Fight Club") is a refreshing change from the meat-grinder-quality work pervasive in America. I mean, really: since Saul Bass stopped doing posters for the American cinema, who has been doing any designs worth noting?

06 September 2009

Twenty Things

Woman'sDay recently published a list of 20 things doctors suggest you do to improve your own health.

Although I usually eschew lists like this (everyone is different, so what works for me may not work for you), this one generally makes sense. I was surprised to discover that I already do 18 of the 20 suggestions. I don't worry about hormone therapy (this list is from a publication that caters to women), and I am not a big proponent of sun screen.*

You can read the entire list here.

*I am not a proponent of sunscreen -- even though I live in Arizona (which has the second greatest number of skin cancer cases per capita behind the entire continent of Australia) and I am a poster boy for skin cancer (blonde hair, blue eyes, fair skin). Although there can be negative effects from sun exposure, I think it is more useful to rely on the benefits derived from the naturally occurring cancer-fighter vitamin D (which you get when you are exposed to sunlight) and slight tanning (from melanin in your skin) which protects your skin.

Additionally, studies over the past 10 years have shown an increase in skin cancer in children. Although scientists don't know exactly why, they point to use of sunscreen as a probable cause. Also, a common ingredient in sunscreen has been demonstrated to harm coral reefs -- especially those close to the beaches where so many people use sunscreen. In this, as all things, I try as much as possible to use the natural remedy rather than something artificial.