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Elephants and Ants Give Hints About Expanding the Human Life Span




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Most tortoises live to be over 100 years in age. A mosquito fish is lucky to live just two short years, and mayflies have one of the shortest life spans, with a birth and death that can happen within 24 hours.  An African forest elephant can live almost as long as a human being, with an average life span of about 70 years. A queen fire ant can live for up to seven years while worker ants might only last 180 days.

A secret all these animals can tell us about human longevity was recently discovered by James Carey, a biodemography specialist at the University of California, Davis. Davis discovered that an animals’ life span can tell us much about whether we’ll die young or manage to clink champagne glasses with other centenarians that outlive even their children.

Age by Species copySo, there’s the obvious observation – that species within a certain group of organisms often have similar lifespans. You wouldn’t usually find a song bird that lives as long as monitor lizard, for example, but here’s what isn’t as overt: species that push the boundaries of their group’s typical life span provide insight into what can prompt the evolution of longevity in us.

Longevity is Related to the Total Energy Expended Over a Lifetime

Animals that survive harsh conditions to live many years, such as life in the deep ocean, or in the arid desert, give some indications about how we can live longer, as do their social habits, but Carey found that the longevity of many species has a lot to do with the total energy an animal exerts over its lifetime, a finding other scientists have hinted at before.

This could also provide some insight as to why the yogic tradition teaches people to breath more like elephants, instead of dogs – with a slow and even respiratory rate, as well as practice yoga asana, which is famous for reversing the heart rate, stress rate, and overall strain on the body as a whole. A big, slow elephant is known to outlast the hard-working, constantly moving, but tiny ant. It isn’t size so much as energy expenditure that is the key.

A 300-Year Old Tortoise Breathes Only Three or Four Times a Minute

If we look at the tortoise – some of the only land vertebrates that can live to be as old as 300 years-of-age, we can gain even more clues as to how this phenomenon works. Firstly, a tortoise is notoriously slow moving. They expend energy to get food, procreate, or move out of the sun only when it is absolutely necessary. A tortoise also withdraws its sensory organs, namely its hands and feet, into its shell on many occasions. This causes the tortoise to reduce the sensory stimulation that it must process.

Here’s the biggest hint as to why a slow-moving tortoise lives so long, though; It breathes only three to four times every minute. An average human being breathes at least 15 times per minute. The respiratory rates for other animals, like dogs and squirrels, is much faster.

The Vedas Held this Secret

It was taught to the Brahmins in the Vedic culture, that the faster we expend our breaths, the faster we should die. Our life force is like money in the bank. We can spend it frivolously, or save it up for a rainy day. When we practice pranayama techniques that aim to lengthen the cycle of the breath and slow the resting heart rate, we can truly extend our lifespan’s.

Though Carey’s research didn’t touch on yogic practices, he’d likely be intrigued to find out that his scientific findings for living longer were echoed in yogic texts that date to more than 5000 years ago. Yogis of this time were notorious for observing the natural world, and the animals within it, to unlock keys to health and longevity.

Look at what Paramahansa Yogandanda, the same yogi who taught the Beatles, and who wrote An Autobiography of a Yogi, said about breathing and life spans:

 “The restless monkey breathes at the rate of 32 times a minute, in contrast to man’s average 18 times. The elephant, tortoise, snake and other animals noted for their longevity have a respiratory rate which is less than man’s. The tortoise for instance, who may attain the age of 300 years, breathes only 4 times per minute.”

What do elephants and ants have to teach us about how to live longer? We can reserve our energy by slowing our breath, or work ourselves ‘to death.’ It’s a simple lesson in the economy of energy.

Featured image: Credit


Biden to Ban Menthol Cigarettes, Citing Health Impact on Youth and Black People

Elias Marat



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The Biden administration is reportedly planning to propose an immediate ban on menthol cigarettes, a product that has long been targeted by anti-smoking advocates and critics who claim that the tobacco industry has aggressively marketed to Black people in the U.S.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that the administration could announce a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes as soon as this week.

Roughly 85 percent of Black smokers use such menthol brands as Newport and Kool, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Research has also found that menthol cigarettes are easier to become addicted to and harder to quit than unflavored tobacco products, along with other small cigars popular with young people and African Americans.

Civil rights advocates claim that the decision should be greeted by Black communities and people of color who have been marketed to by what they describe as the predatory tobacco industry.

Black smokers generally smoke far less than white smokers, but suffer a disproportionate amount of deaths due to tobacco-linked diseases like heart attack, stroke, and other causes.

Anti-smoking advocates like Matthew L. Myers, president of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, also greeted the move to cut out products that appeal to children and young adults.

“Menthol cigarettes are the No. 1 cause of youth smoking in the United States,” he said. “Eliminating menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars used by so many kids will do more in the long run to reduce tobacco-related disease than any action the federal government has ever taken.”

However, groups including the American Civil Liberties Group (ACLU) has opposed the move, citing the likelihood that such an action could lead to criminal penalties arising from the enforcement of a ban hitting communities of color hardest.

In a letter to administration officials, the ACLU and other groups including the Drug Policy Alliance said that while the ban is “no doubt well-intentioned” it would also have “serious racial justice implications.”

“Such a ban will trigger criminal penalties, which will disproportionately impact people of color, as well as prioritize criminalization over public health and harm reduction,” the letter explained. “A ban will also lead to unconstitutional policing and other negative interactions with local law enforcement.”

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Pollution Is Making Human Penises Shrink and Causing a Collapse of Fertility, Scientists Say

Elias Marat



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With many still scoffing at the idea of rampant pollution posing a threat to humanity, a new study could drastically change the conversation: the chemicals across our environment could be the cause of shrinking human penises.

According to a new book by Dr. Shanna H. Swan, conditions in the modern world are quickly altering the reproductive development of humans and posing a threat to our future as a species.

The argument is laid out in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race.

The book discusses how pollution is not only leading to skyrocketing erectile dysfunction rates and fertility decline, but also an expansion in the number of babies born with small penises.

While it may seem like good fodder for jokes, the research could portend a grim future for humanity’s ability to survive.

Swan co-authored a study in 2017 that found sperm counts had precipitously fallen in Western countries by 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. In her latest book, Swan blames chemicals for this crisis in the making.

“Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” she wrote in the new book.

“In some parts of the world, the average twentysomething woman today is less fertile than her grandmother was at 35,” she also wrote, noting that men could have only half the sperm count of their grandfathers.

Swan blames the disruption on phthalates, the chemicals used in plastic manufacturing that also have an impact on how the crucial hormone endocrine is produced

However, experts note that the proper implementation of pollution reduction measures could help humanity prevent the collapse of human fertility.

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Visualizing The World’s Deadliest Pandemics By Population Impact

Elijah Cohen



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Humanity has been battling against disease for centuries.

And while most contagious outbreaks have never reached full-blown pandemic status, Visual Capitalist’s Carmen Ang notes that there have been several times throughout history when a disease has caused mass devastation.

Here’s a look at the world’s deadliest pandemics to date, viewed from the lens of the impact they had on the global population at the time.

Editor’s note: The above graphic was created in response to a popular request from users after viewing our popular history of pandemics infographic initially released a year ago.

Death Toll, by Percent of Population

In the mid-1300s, a plague known as the Black Death claimed the lives of roughly 200 million people – more than 50% of the global population at that time.

Here’s how the death toll by population stacks up for other significant pandemics, including COVID-19 so far.

The specific cause of the Black Death is still up for debate. Many experts claim the 14th-century pandemic was caused by a bubonic plague, meaning there was no human-to-human transmission, while others argue it was possibly pneumonic.

Interestingly, the plague still exists today – however, it’s significantly less deadly, thanks to modern antibiotics.

History Repeats, But at Least We Keep Learning

While we clearly haven’t eradicated infection diseases from our lives entirely, we’ve at least come a long way in our understanding of what causes illness in the first place.

In ancient times, people believed gods and spirits caused diseases and widespread destruction. But by the 19th century, a scientist named Louis Pasteur (based on findings by Robert Koch) discovered germ theory – the idea that small organisms caused disease.

What will we discover next, and how will it impact our response to disease in the future?

Like this? Check out the full-length article The History of Pandemics

Republished from ZH with permission.

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