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Scientists Develop Tool to Measure a Child’s Connection With Nature

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As people age, they often stumble upon the realization that time spent in nature appears to be directly correlated to feeling better mentally, physically and spiritually. This happens for several reasons, including the presence of negative ions in purified air, a reduction in stress (and, thus, lower blood pressure and heightened mood) and motivation due to the release of feel-good neurotransmitters.

Despite what many adults have realized anecdotally, it is startling to consider that the average child spends less than half of the amount of time playing outside as their parents did at the same age. In fact, a recent study by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute, published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, found that almost 50% of preschoolers lacked even one parent-supervised outdoor play session each day. Furthermore, children aged 10 to 16 now spend a mere 12.6 minutes a day on vigorous outdoor activity while they spend a shocking 10.4 hours being relatively motionless. 

To shed light on the importance of kids spending time outdoors, scientists at the University of Hong Kong and the University of Auckland developed a tool that measures a kid’s connectedness with nature. The 16-part questionnaire for parents is called the CNI-PPC, or Connected to Nature Index-Parents of Preschool Children. According to a statement made by the University of Hong Kong, the tool identifies how well children in Hong Kong relate to nature. 

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Hong Kong was a focal point for the research because it poses challenges for kids when it comes to connecting with nature. With this tool, the scientists hope to inspire policy changes and interventions that will help strengthen interactions between kids and the natural environment. 

The questionnaire was created by Dr. Tanja Sobko for the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Hong Kong and Gavin Brown of the University of Auckland. It identifies four ways in which children usually develop a relationship with nature. These include “enjoyment of nature, empathy for nature, responsibility toward nature and awareness of nature.”

Approximately 500 families with kids between the ages of two and five took part in the study. After the families answered all 16 questions, the researchers measured the data against a well-known child behavior measurement, the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire. As TreeHugger reports, the results didn’t reveal anything new. Rather, it affirmed that the more time kids spend in nature, the happier they tend to be. 

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Parents who saw their child had a closer connection with nature had less distress, less hyperactivity, fewer behavioral and emotional difficulties and improved pro-social behavior,” said the release. “Interestingly, children who took greater responsibility toward nature had fewer peer difficulties.”

The researchers noted that when a child grows up in an urban environment without access to green spaces, they may suffer lasting consequences. It can lead to a condition called “nature-deficit disorder” or “child-nature disconnectedness.” Over time, this can lead to both a deterioration of mental and of physical health. 

This is the first tool of its kind to measure a child’s connectedness with nature in an highly-urbanized Asian city. What are your thoughts? Please comment below and share this news!

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Scientists Prove What Causes Aurora Borealis for the First Time

Elias Marat

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Since the dawn of time, humans have been mystified by what causes the aurora borealis or northern lights. However, a group of scientists have finally uncovered what causes the dazzling lightshow that has captivated people for so long.

Researchers at the University of Iowa have proven that the shimmering auroras are the result of powerful electromagnetic waves during geomagnetic storms, according to a newly published study.

According to the study, phenomena known as Alfven waves propel electrons toward Earth and cause the particles to produce the brilliant display of northern lights seen in the higher latitudes of our planet,

“Measurements revealed this small population of electrons undergoes ‘resonant acceleration’ by the Alfven wave’s electric field, similar to a surfer catching a wave and being continually accelerated as the surfer moves along with the wave,” Prof. Greg Howes, a co-author of the study, told CNN.

Scientists have long understood that the aurora was the likely result of electrons surfing across the electric field, at least since the theory was introduced in 1946 by Soviet scientist Lev Landau.

However, the University of Iowa professors were able to finally put the theory to the test through a simulation at a lab at the Large Plasma Device (LPD) in the Basic Plasma Science Facility of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Using a 20-meter-long chamber to simulate the magnetic field of the Earth through state-of-the-art magnetic field coils, scientists were able to generate plasma similar to that which exists in spac.

“Using a specially designed antenna, we launched Alfven waves down the machine, much like shaking a garden hose up and down quickly, and watching the wave travel along the hose,” said Howes.

While this didn’t result in the type of auroras we might see in the sky, “our measurements in the laboratory clearly agreed with predictions from computer simulations and mathematical calculations, proving that electrons surfing on Alfven waves can accelerate the electrons (up to speeds of 45 million mph) that cause the aurora,” Howes noted.

Scientists across the country were elated by the results of the experiment.

“I was tremendously excited! It is a very rare thing to see a laboratory experiment that validates a theory or model concerning the space environment,” said Patrick Koehn, a scientist in the Heliophysics Division of NASA.

“Space is simply too big to easily simulate in the lab,” he added.

Researchers are hopeful that a greater understanding will allow forecasters to better understand weather conditions in space.

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Tiny Creature Frozen for 24,000 Years is Brought Back to Life

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A microscopic creature has come back to life and reproduced asexually after 24,000 years of lying dormant in the permafrost of Siberia.

Russian scientists found the tiny freshwater creature, called the bdelloid rotifer, in the rich soil of the Alazeya river of Russia’s far northern Siberan region of Yakutia.

The multicellular organism is common throughout the world and is known to be extremely resilient, capable of surviving extreme cold, dryness, starvation and low oxygen.

While previous research found that it could survive a decade when frozen at -20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit), the new study published by the journal Current Biology offers a stunning testimony of the survivability of the tiny animal – which is by far the longest survival period known of any creature in the world.

“Our report is the hardest proof as of today that multicellular animals could withstand tens of thousands of years in cryptobiosis, the state of almost completely arrested metabolism,” said Stas Malavin, an author of the study, in a statement.

Malavin’s Soil Cryology Lab in Pushchino, Russia, used a drilling rig to extract the miniscule organism from roughly a dozen feet below the remote Arctic location.

Once the ancient organism thawed, it reproduced on its own through a process of parthenogenesis. Researchers then found that it could withstand repeatedly being frozen and thawed dozens of times due to its innate processes of cell and organ protection.

“The takeaway is that a multicellular organism can be frozen and stored as such for thousands of years and then return back to life – a dream of many fiction writers,” Malavin said.

“Of course, the more complex the organism, the trickier it is to preserve it alive frozen and, for mammals, it’s not currently possible,” the scientist added. “Yet, moving from a single-celled organism to an organism with a gut and brain, though microscopic, is a big step forward.”

Researchers hope that the knowledge gleaned from studying the microscopic organism will bring further insights on how to preserve animals’ cells, tissues and organs – including those belonging to human beings.

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China’s “Artificial Sun” Sets World Record Running At 120 MILLION Degrees For 101 Seconds

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Chinese researchers have achieved a new world record after scientists developing an “artificial sun” ran the device on Friday at a record-shattering temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius for over 100 seconds.

The experiment was held at the Institute of Plasma Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ASIPP) in Hefei, China.

The exercise is a part of the China’s efforts to develop new clean energy sources through the development of next-generation nuclear fusion reactor technology.

Known as the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST), the “Chinese artificial sun” managed to generate plasma temperatures of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds before scientists also realized a temperature of 160 million degrees Celsius for an additional 20 seconds.

The goal of EAST is to create Sun-like energy using deuterium, a hydrogen isotope that is plentiful in the ocean and can provide a steady flow of clean energy. According to estimates, one liter of seawater contains enough deuterium to produce energy equivalent to 300 liters of gasoline.

China hopes that it can replace fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas with the fusion energy in order to achieve carbon neutrality and a more ecological society.

“It’s a huge achievement in China’s physics and engineering fields. The experiment’s success lays the foundation for China to build its own nuclear fusion energy station,” ASIPP director Song Yuntao said, according to People’s Daily.

The EAST artificial sun is also part of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, a joint effort by global scientists that includes the input of scientists from China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States.

Experts hope that if development proceeds at the current rate, successful nuclear fusion could be achieved within three decades.

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